The figures are staggering. By the end of this year, Statista estimates 30% of all travel sales in the U.S. will be made on a mobile device. By the end of 2018, based on the most recent figures I've seen, the percentage of trips that will first be planned using a smartphone will exceed 50%.
The largest users of digital, millennials (ages 18 to 34) have become, since my last column, the largest generation still alive having, according to Pew Research, officially surpassed baby boomers (ages 51 to 69). There are now 75.4 million app-wielding millennials coming our way, and it might be a good idea if we spoke their language.
Even that healthy percentage who values the services of a professional adviser use travel apps. They understand what they can do themselves, and the seller who interacts with them has to be familiar with the very best and latest ones.
Since there are tens of thousands of them, I thought it might be helpful to identify some of the very best.
These are the ones I think every professional consultant ought to know enough about to discuss knowledgeably so that clients and consultants can work together in the digital world:ChefsFeed:
An enticing app for foodies because it is written by a large collection of well-regarded chefs who share their recommendations for restaurants throughout the U.S., Canada and London.Duolingo:
This app is designed to teach the basics of a wide variety of languages in the format of a computer game. You must answer questions correctly before proceeding to the next step. This is a perfect download for first-time visitors to virtually anywhere on our planet. Agents may want to give or lend to traveling clients a preloaded phone with this and other valuable apps. EatSmartGuides:
This app for travelers helps them identify local foods and beverages so they can decipher menus like a local. Akin to having your own menu translator sharing your chopsticks. Eventseeker:
No agent has the ability to know key festivals, art exhibits, foodie events and festivals. This app will give you specifics to share with your clients. FairFly:
Not well known, Fairfly is a fare tracker that follows up when airlines lower the price of the tickets you've booked. Any good agent will do that, but Firefly actually does the necessary paperwork to get you your money back. Foodspotting:
Part foodie app, part in-seat entertainment, Foodspotting features photos of favorite dishes at restaurants in every price range worldwide. TheFork:
Another valuable app for Europe-bound clients. TheFork points out the best restaurants and offers maps, reviews, sample menu items and even discount coupons for many featured restaurants.Foursquare:
Download this one just to see what all the buzz is about. Just tell the app what your favorite foods are and it will show you only places that meet your profile. You can choose to follow those with similar tastes worldwide. You might not want to use this one, but have your kids show you what it's all about.GateGuru:
While not quite as good as having your travel personally monitored by one of the better flight tracking services, Gateguru is a great guide to local airport food along your route, amenities in your terminal, weather and the latest gate and departure information. It also shows you nearest alternate airports, just in case.Google Translate:
This is a rather obvious inclusion. The app enables your clients to simply speak into their phone and have their words instantly translated to the local language. But what is really cool is that this app no longer requires phone service. Some progressive agents are giving their nontech clients a phone to take on their travels and instructing them how to use this one important feature.Hopper:
It isn't hard to find an app that will get you a cheap airfare. But Hopper has a great interface, and it has the ability to forecast when the ticket should be purchased via push notifications. For that reason, this is the cool app to download for air searches.
ICE (In Case of Emergency):
ICE records details about your personal medical conditions along with your doctor's contact and insurance information, which it stores for translation in 10 languages. Best of all, it can be accessed in an emergency even if your phone is locked. A nice precaution for clients with pre-existing conditions. Jetradar:
This is a really popular search engine in Europe, valuable to U.S. agents because it is a really clean interface that includes flights on budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet that are missing from most air search engines.LiveTrekker:
Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve, but this app can create an entire digital journal of one's travels using a red line to trace the exact route. It monitors speed and altitude, and users can add photos, videos and audio en route, returning home with a multimedia journal that can be shared with friends. LOLA:
Some say this is the future: the merging of artificial intelligence and an actual human who knows travel planning. You simply tell the app what you need after first giving LOLA enough information about your personal preferences to enable the computer to make the best possible decisions on your behalf. Seat Alerts:
This valuable app monitors the available seats on a flight up until its departure from the gate. It is particularly valuable for last-minute cancellations or when no-shows open up better seat availability. SeatGuru:
More than just an app, this one is an essential tool. Your clients will never end up in an undesirable seat when you use the seat charts on this powerhouse site. Every aircraft type on every major airline in the world is included. If you are unaware of SeatGuru you must stop calling yourself a travel agent immediately. Skiplagged:
This one is for airline geeks who love deals. The site is adept at finding so-called "hidden city" tickets that will allow stopovers, usually at a lower cost than nonstop flights. Spotted by Locals:
One of my personal favorites, this site offers guides to 55 European cities and 11 in North America curated by locals with the latest information on what is cool and trendy. The best spots for music, shopping, coffee and bars are included. The price of the app includes free updates for life.TimeOut:
Insanely popular with those under 40, TimeOut is a comprehensive repository of things to do and see in cities around the world. It features everything from restaurants and bars to major attractions and events, Travelers to any city will be able to monitor everything going on around them. The app can even book restaurants and concerts. Wolframsunexposure:
This is an app that will really impress clients headed for sun destinations. You enter your skin type, and the app tells you how long you can safely stay in the sun before getting burned. It is based on where you are and the time of day, even taking into account the type of skin cream you are using.