The world’s airports are turning to mobile apps, social media and intelligent technologies, including geolocation services, to "make the passenger experience better", according to industry research.

For the SITA Airport IT Trends Survey, industry technology provider SITA questioned 91 airport operators worldwide, in partnership with Airports Council International (ACI) and Airline Business magazine.

"Improving the passenger experience" is the number one driver of IT investment by the majority (59 percent) of the world’s airports.

An example of changes passengers will see is a "rapid increase" in mobile and social media apps, delivering a more personalised customer experience.

Keeping passengers informed about their flight status and wait times is the top reason for airports providing mobile apps, with 88 percent planning to invest in them by the end of 2015.

During this period, 78 percent of airports also plan to invest in social media with two thirds of these currently focused on evaluations or trials.

Half of the airports see geolocation as a top priority for reducing passenger congestion. Within the next three years, new "way-finding" services are set to become commonplace on mobile devices, allowing passengers to navigate easily through the airport. Just 10 percent of airports provide them today but this is set to jump to 70 percent by 2015.

Airports are also investing in business intelligence solutions to deliver an improved passenger experience. Some 86 percent of airports see it as a priority for sharing information and collaborating with partners, 83 percent to ensure more accurate service information for passengers, and 76 percent to reduce flight delays due to ground operational issues.

Francesco Violante, CEO of SITA, said, “This year’s Airport IT Trends Survey shows that operators are investing in the ‘intelligent airport’ to improve the passenger experience in an operationally efficient manner.

"With airports planning to invest in business intelligence, and using it to better collaborate with partners, it is clear that there is a strong desire among operators to work together with stakeholders, including airlines and ground handlers, to create a better passenger journey.”

Airlines expect to cut their IT spending as a percentage of their overall revenues next year as the recession continues to bite.

The decline in spending is despite airlines expanding their IT operations in growing areas such as social media, smartphone sales and passenger self-service.

At the SITA Air Transport IT Forum in Brussels this year delegates were told just 49 percent of airlines expected to increase IT spending in 2013. This decline compared to 66 percent of airlines planning to increase spending in 2011.