“Just Get It Out There” – TUI Talks My Thomson App

IMG_20140402_121304392_HDRYoure probably familiar with the traditional process for holidaymakers: beginning with inspiration and research, moving into planning and booking, then departing and enjoying the holiday itself, before finally returning and reliving the experience by sharing it with friends.

The first two steps have traditionally been well-served by digital, but with its Digital Assistant app, TUI is trying to span all four.

It used to be that on holiday youd go to a rep for info, and youd get to know them and their personality,” said TUI global CIO Mittu Sridhara, speaking today at the Mobile Travel & Tourism Summit. “The challenge for us now is, how do we make our interfaces feel more like that, like your own personal travel assistant?”

First deployed in the UK last year as My Thomson, the app provides users with planning tools for both before and during their holiday, including flight times, destination guides, weather forecasts, and packing tick lists. Of course, the app also provides transactional opportunities for TUI throughout the process, giving customers the opportunity to upgrade their flights or book excursions while theyre abroad.

But the single feature that has proved most popular with users came as something of a surprise: a simple countdown timer which tells the user how many days, hours and minutes are left until their holiday begins.

Sridhara admitted that this was purely accidental: “Its just something we allowed the teams to put in. We said to them, include features you think might be cool and we can always take it out. The countdown certainly wasnt on any feature list.”

This approach is reflective of Digital Assistants origins as a whole. The original prototype was built from scratch in just 12 weeks. “The biggest lesson we learned was to just get it out there,” said Sridhara. “Your customers will tell you what they like and what they dont. Our social media teams watch for that feedback, and we try to incorporate it into the app.”

Social looks set to be a major part of the apps future. Thomson is currently piloting initiatives that encourage travellers to share more once the holiday is over, starting with last years View Maker competition, which offered gift vouchers for the most liked holiday videos shared on Facebook with the #thomsonviewmaker hashtag.

Travel is inherently social,” Sridhara said. “Up to 54 per cent of shares on Facebook are travel-related, and that provides a great opportunity to engage with our customers one on one.”