OpenSense Labs: Travel industry embracing digital transformation with Drupal

Travel industry embracing digital transformation with Drupal
Maitreayee Bora
Mon, 08/16/2021 – 17:27

We are living in a digital era. Our lives have dramatically changed over the years. Such a digital transformation is also witnessed by the various business industries which are constantly striving to level up their work standards and ethics. Today, let’s look into one of the industries that is flourishing towards digital innovation and transformation: travel and tourism. This article will also give you an insight about how Drupal proves to be the best choice when it comes to technology in the travel industry. 

Emerging digital transformation trends in the travel and tourism industry

A diagram describing the emerging technology trends in the travel and tourism industry
The growing need of digital transformation has given rise to the following trends impacting the travel industry. Here are the following technology trends that are enabling the reshaping of the tourism industry. 

Rise of mobile Integration

Cloud technologies and international mobile plans have made mobile devices highly prevalent and an important part of the travel journey since it provides facilities like online booking, easy mobile payment, and acquiring destination information in real time. It is observed that the mobile’s share of total digital ad spending in the travel industry is gradually increasing over desktop ads and will cover the majority of the travel industry’s ad spending in the future. Due to the facility of mobile responsiveness, the consumption of digital travel content can be seen growing rapidly around the world via smartphones, the most feasible medium to plan the exotic vacations and choose the best travel destination. People are today seen spending hours over their phones scrolling the various social media platforms. Such social media platforms prove to be a good medium to inspire travel and also improve the travel business for the travel and tourism industry. 

Availability of AI and Chatbots

Artificial intelligence and chatbots help customers in digital check-in, voice assistants, easy access to digital concierge services and smart rooms. You can experience a seamless travel by this technology since it provides customised and personalized service according to your preferences. 

Integration of IoT

IoT helps in building a data rich tourism sector that leads to enhancing customer experience. The facilities like interoperability of data, sensors and automation that further helps in producing real time understanding and information for properly managing tourism can be obtained. It also brings improvement in the visitor experiences and increases the operational efficiencies that enable to successfully provide the best travel services to the enthusiastic travelers. One of the unique innovations of this technology is an IoT device called wearable. So, wearables or  wearable technology is adopted by travel agents across the globe to fulfill the growing need of personalized services from travelers. It enhances the communication with the travelers since all they look for is solutions in their fingertips and which is attainable with this technology. Therefore, wearable technology is rapidly growing among the people as it proves to be one of the significant travel innovations of the present world. The main motive of this technology is to  simplify the experience of a traveler and make it frictionless. 

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality helps in capturing the tourism destinations in an immersive and unique way. The users can feel the experience of “being there” with this special technology which the usual images and videos of various destinations cannot offer. A user can witness the most realistic virtual reality travel experience with the VR headsets. The travel agents use this technology to help their clients get a better experience than just viewing regular brochures and computer screens. Here is an example where VR is adopted. In the Marriott Hotels, the guests are offered VR experiences which can be enjoyed from the comfort of their rooms. 

Cloud-based solutions

The cloud-based infrastructure has various benefits. One of the most significant benefits is the cost reduction. For example, TUI, a European travel company, was able to reduce its technology costs at the time of COVID 19 by scaling down the cloud usage.  Another benefit of cloud computing is agility. It helps in reducing the time to deploy new products and services to customers and employees. Due to the pandemic, cloud-based technology proves to be a good option. Since majorly, employees are seen working remotely, this technology provides an easy access to critical information that helps employees to smoothly carry out their work responsibilities. 

Focusing on Data

Digitalization helps in the acquisition, collection and interpretation of the consumer data. This further helps in understanding the customer preferences and behavioural patterns that allows companies to offer best services and experiences to their customers. Here is an example of an Australian airline, Qantas who in partnership with unified customer data platform Umbel, has built a data hub focused on customer behaviours and preferences which will further enhance the customer experience. In-flight services, check-in process and real time ticket booking facilities are personalized for the customers. 

Building reputation

Brand reputation can be built with technology by providing the feedback facility to its customers. On receiving the best services, the customers can share their opinions through various mediums like Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp and travel review websites. This also works as an encouragement for the various brands to provide quality services to maintain a good relationship with their trustworthy customers. It is also found that ninety five percent of people majorly depend on the brand’s reviews before opting for it.

Providing safety and security

Safety and security have always been one of the top-most priorities for the travel and tourism industry. Technology should aim at creating innovation and enhancing security. A traveler’s journey can be made trouble free by providing seamless safety processes. For example, Aruba Happy Flow can be considered as an innovative scheme which requires passengers to show their passport only once on every journey. The primary means of recognizing passengers and helping them throughout the entire airport journey is via facial recognition. The governments of Aruba and the Netherlands, Aruba Airport Security, KLM, Schiphol Group and stakeholders consider it to be an important innovation in security clearance. 

How digitalization can help the tourism industry to recover from the pandemic, COVID 19?

Many companies have felt the need of adapting digitalization post the pandemic, COVID 19. The pandemic is encouraging companies to modify their approaches regarding various functionalities. They look forward to being more resilient. It is important to be able to withstand all the uncertainties that the business encounters because of COVID 19. The companies can find ways with the help of technology like increasing their remote workforce that will stabilize their current hard situations. And being agile is the key to sustenance for the present tough times. The agility in business helps in quickly adapting and scaling the business against the prevailing competition. The companies which have already integrated digital processes into their company culture even before the pandemic, weren’t seen struggling much like the companies which restricted themselves from adopting such essential digital procedures. Therefore, companies are seen embracing digitalization in today’s time. For example, Hyatt hotels are putting an effort to introduce their improved digital facilities via hyatt.com and the World of Hyatt app which will allow its customers to communicate better while revealing their preferences and choices over the different services offered by them. To know more, read about pandemic-driven digital transformation, how businesses are reimagining their business operations, and how to be digitally ready no matter what.

Why choose Drupal?

Illustration diagram describing the Drupal features
Drupal is a safe and highly reliable platform that provides a wide range of features that helps in creating rich digital experiences for the travel and tourism industry. So, let me take you through the exclusive Drupal features explained below.  

Open source

The Drupal project is fully open-source software. Anyone is free to download, use, work on and also share it with others.  It is based on principles like innovation, collaboration and globalism. It can be further distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). There are no licensing fees for Drupal.

The Drupal community is always ready to support its users by answering their questions and concerns. So, if you have any question, somebody will certainly answer it, since it’s a worldwide platform.

Learn more about open source here:

Content workflow

Drupal’s in-built tools enable content creation, workflow and publishing, also allowing the content creators or content managers to smoothly work on it. In this platform, editorial workflows can be managed effectively by permission and authentication that is easily available. The preview provision allows visibility of how the content will be displayed on a device even before approving and publishing the content. It helps in creating content with a WYSIWYG editor. You also get the facility to quickly track all revisions and changes, if you feel the need of maintaining the history of content changes. So, every stage of content, from creating, reviewing, and publishing can be viewed that further helps in managing your roles and responsibilities. Drupal has a special feature where you get the opportunity to create a structured content like describing content elements, tagging content based on any attributes, forming appropriate taxonomy for content so that it can be searched, used, reused if needed to improve the customer satisfaction. 

You get a chance to create a relevant content architecture utilizing the Admin Interface or also do it programmatically. It facilitates you with special mode tools and views, customized menus that provide a comfortable user experience, and also form pathways to content over several devices. 

Read about how layout builder and paragraphs module enhance content workflow in Drupal.

Security

Drupal CMS provides security from all types of web vulnerabilities and threats. It keeps robust security as a priority. You will find a team of security experts that look after all the security concerns with their well structured coding standards and strict review coding procedure. Since, security is given much emphasis by Drupal, it has a broad professional service provider security that makes it one of the most stable and secure open-source platforms. So, Drupal websites are built by maintaining all the required security and privacy for the users. One more important security aspect to be discussed is, ‘Drupal Commerce’ that supports the core payment API, for an easy payment collection process through the check out form while travelling via airways. 

According to the 2020 edition of the Acunetix, Web Application Vulnerability Report, Drupal was found to be the most secure CMS in the open source CMS market.

Illustration with a circle describing the minimal security issues of Drupal CMS
Source: Acunetix

Scalability and performance

The in-built performance features of Drupal when combined with a modern CDN provider performs extremely well under the pressure of supercharged databases, load balancing and advanced caching. Even on the busiest days, Drupal’s scalability allows your website to perform exceptionally well. To know more, read about Drupal’s performance optimisation offerings and how it scales with your needs to govern high web traffic.

Multilingual

Drupal’s automated language translation makes it possible to reach out to different audiences with the facility of localized content. Drupal is an expert in building complex multilingual web applications and customized sites in numerous languages. Drupal’s core modules help in complete translation of each part of a site, content types and their specific fields, users, menus, blocks, taxonomy, comments and contact forms. It further helps in specifying the preferred language in accordance with the user’s IP address, URL, session, browser settings and much more. Read more about Drupal’s multilingual capabilities here.

Accessibility

Drupal facilitates an exclusive feature of building websites that can be accessible by people with disabilities. It ensures that all its features conform with the World Wide Web Consortium guidelines (W3C) guidelines: WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0. This a very significant feature as it helps in providing equal accessibility to everyone regardless of any discrimination. 

Learn more about accessibility here:

Personalisation

Drupal’s users get a special, personalized profile for each visitor like using geolocation, behavior taxonomies, browser history and device type. Drupal also provides a customized experience which helps in tracking and reporting with A/B and multivariate testing, improving ROI by target marketing and also segment users over devices with an aim on the significant user identity for your business goals.

Learn more about personalisation here:

SEO 

The users of Drupal get access to exclusive SEO tools that help in improving the site’s visibility. The tools and modules are discussed below.

To know more, read this definitive guide to Drupal SEO in 2021.

Multisite support 

You can handle various websites over your organization, geographies, brands and campaigns on a single platform, allowing easy, fast website creation and deployment with Drupal. Read this ultimate guide on Drupal multisite to know more.

Marketing automation

By using modules and tools in latest versions, Drupal enables smooth integration with the automation platforms which can collect customer demographics, and convert potential leads within the suitable time. Learn more about how marketing automation can be leveraged with Drupal here.

Mobile first approach and mobile apps

Drupal facilitates in creating web applications and responsive websites that further enhances the user experience. It provides the best practices of responsive design and also makes sure that your users attain excellent content experience each time, on every device. And, there are two ways of building mobile web applications which work with Drupal – integrated with Drupal at the theme layer, or a standalone mobile web app that communicates with Drupal using web services. Even though, both the approaches will work for building mobile web applications, it will be much easier to begin with integrating the mobile web app into Drupal as a theme. To know more, read about mobile-first design approach and mobile apps like that of Flutter-powered delivered by Drupal.

Integrated Digital Tools and Applications

Drupal smoothly integrates with a broad ecosystem of digital marketing technology and other business applications that enable you to select the right set of tools today and tomorrow according to your convenience.

Strong Stack Foundation

Drupal lives upon Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, the latest LAMP technology stack that meet the necessities of flexible, fast-moving agile companies and brands  which further creates the next generation digital platforms.

Facilitates Decoupled Architecture

One of the significant features of Drupal is the content flexibility that helps in easy flow of content over sites, native apps, which can be presented on third party sites and social networks. Since, many CMSes look for managing content in a back-end repository and move it to “front-end” which can provide an experience i.e mostly static. You get an option to to decouple the back and front ends, wherever it’s required. Therefore, Drupal content remains as reusable chunks, which is free from presentation and is also ready for smooth delivery to sites and applications. With the help of Drupal’s presentation i.e. RESTful API and neutral content, the front end developers can build interactive sites and applications without facing any restrictions. There is availability of tools like Node, Angular, Backbone, Ember etc. The third-party content(eg. syndicators and aggregators) can be attained and made available to any site, application, or channel under this free and open source platform. With the help of Drupal’s content-as-a-service capability, the content of Drupal can be consumed easily by any other sites and applications. Additionally, Drupal’s front end developers also get the opportunity of designing content smoothly such as separating back-end content from front-end presentation according to their preferences. 

Learn more about decoupled Drupal here:

Web Hosting

You can select the convenient hosting vendor that suits your needs with Drupal. Also, you get the opportunity to change hosting vendors whenever you want and select to host the website internally. 

Migrations

Drupal upgrades can be considered easy and convenient. Upgrading Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 was very easy, confirmed by the makers. With these four simple steps, you can develop your present site’s functionality, and maintain proper safety standards of Drupal 9 by using the Upgrade Status. With Upgrade Status and Drupal Module Upgrader, the developers can easily make the upgrade themselves. Additionally, you also specify whether your themes and modules are competent for Drupal 8/9, and also convert your custom code suitably.

Learn more about Drupal 9 upgrade here:

Extensibility

Drupal facilitates its users with various essential modules, themes and distributions. Let us first discuss some of the modules offered by Drupal. The first module is IP Geolocation Views & Maps. IP Geolocation Views & Maps (IPGV&M) is basically a mapping engine. This module very easily helps you in creating views-based mapping solutions utilizing the map renderer of your preferred choice (Google, OpenLayers2 or Leaflet) with any location storage module of your wish, e.g., Get Locations, Geofield, Geolocation Field or Location. It enables you in bringing together both modules and feature sets which you wouldn’t be able to combine without this module. Then the second module is Baidu Map. In China, the Baidu Map is considered more accurate than the Google Maps and more complete than the Ali Maps. The Baidu Map module enables geographic and location information to be displayed via the Baidu Map API. It helps to attain geographic coordinates from textual addresses in China (Geocode) and display any type of geographic information via Baidu Maps. As Baidu Map presently provides support only for Mainland China, so the capacities of this module would be restricted to China. But it is still able to cover a vast market of more than 500 million internauts, bringing an availability of great applications starting from Logistics, to Tourism/Hospitality, going through E-Commerce or Real Estates.

There are some well-designed themes and templates which Drupal offers. Let us look into some of the Drupal free themes for travel websites. So, the first theme is Travel Zymphonies Theme. The travel agency or tour operating website are benefited by the Travel Zymphonies theme as it helps to focus on offering various adventure tour packages. This theme is compatible with Drupal 8 and it provides multiple layouts that help in creating multiple pages based on your contents. Also, it is responsive and can be used completely for free. Then next we have Guesthouse Lite. The Guesthouse Lite can be considered as a free mobile-first, Bootstrap 4 based theme for Drupal 8 which is based on the Drupal’s premium, Premium Guesthouse theme distribution that comes along with 200+ theme settings and enables you to build sites for small hotels, guesthouses and businesses in the tourism sector.

Finally, taking you through one of the Drupal distributions for travel i.e. Travel profile. Travel profile is a very modern-looking profile which is a great option for the travel agencies or hotels’ landing pages. The travel theme that is used in this profile is very responsive and looks great on any device.

Support and maintenance, hiring of developers, and partnering with digital agencies

There are numerous Drupal agencies you can opt for. According to your requirements, they tend to provide you with the quality services that will meet your expectations. Below are some of the top 4 Drupal agencies in the global Drupal marketplace.

Illustration diagram describing the top 4 Drupal agencies in the global Drupal marketplace
Source: Drupal.org

                                   
Supporting emerging technologies

Drupal proactively, uses the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence in the   form of chatbots, virtual reality, IoT and Blockchain, cognitive search and digital voice assistants like Alexa on Drupal sites to provide a better experience for it’s users. 

Inspiring stories

In this section, I will take you through some of the case studies that will help you in understanding why you should pick Drupal when it comes to building your dream website. 

Top Deck Travel

Top Deck Travel can’t only be considered as a tour operator but rather they can be addressed as travel enthusiasts who plan exciting trips to exotic destinations for people between the age of 18 to 39. They provide 330 different tours around 65 countries to the travellers and help them make beautiful travel experiences and memories. They wanted Drupal to create their new website that would increase the online presence, help in direct to consumer sales, reduce the reliability of third-party travel agents, availability of Single Sign On process over historical sites, applications, form a digital platform which could be utilized for sister brands, Back Roads Touring, Blue Roads Touring and align their applications architecture with the parent Group i.e. Flightcentre. Drupal successfully enhanced their site performance, reduced page load speed, increased consumer conversion rate, launched Back Roads and Blue Roads and generated incremental sales. 

Content Migration at Scale for Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet is a well known name in the travel industry. They facilitate travellers with extensive resources that include guide books, reliable web content, popular mobile applications and a flourishing online community. Lonely Planet wanted to upgrade their legacy website that was created over a decade and had been custom made on Ruby on Rails. They faced various challenges with caching and site scalability. It was a time-consuming and complex project since the volume of content had been accumulated over a decade. They wanted to streamline and migrate to Drupal 8. They had to take their next step, which was to migrate their custom platform onto Drupal. Some of the reasons why they wanted to migrate to Drupal were because of Drupal’s versatile migration API which helped them to conveniently migrate data from its source to the Drupal system. And, Drupal’s flexibility with numerous types of content modeling approaches makes it the best choice for their project. Eventually, part of the new system was successfully launched. They successfully migrated their WordPress-based portal to Drupal.

Final thoughts

From this article, it is clear that over the past two decades, the travel and tourism industry has experienced a fundamental transformation. Driven by new digital technologies, this industry is able to revolutionize the entire work culture and look forward to efficiently providing personalized customer services. This journey is made a lot easier by Drupal as it is the right technology helping the travel industry to not only retain customers but also win over new travelers by providing the necessary technical assistance with its incredible features and functionality.

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