September 28, 2018
Travel has always been my soft spot. From quick getaways to long-awaited vacations, luxury escapes to tight budget trips, I find each one fulfilling in its own unique way. My travel experiences continue to evolve with every trip. And that’s what I love the most about it.
In just 10 years, the travel industry has changed dramatically. I remember the days of queuing for tickets, struggling with cobweb-like A3 sized maps, and having to make a hundred phone calls trying to navigate the IVR system and finally get a real person on the line. Not so long ago, the air ticket was a booklet of flimsy carbon paper just begging to be lost!
Today, travel is a breeze. The world is literally at our fingertips. I just booked a trip across four continents – flight tickets, hotels, deals within cities – all on my mobile, without a single human touchpoint.
The (im)possibilities that technology has brought to our lives and the way we travel is nothing short of astounding. There are no longer unknown territories or uncharted journeys. You can have a pretty good feel of what a destination offers, long before you get there. You can rejig your travel plans or evaluate the worth of an experience, before you spend a single dollar. Technology has addressed some of our most pressing concerns about travelling, and made us believe in what was once unimaginable.
If Freakonomics was rewritten in this era, there would be a detailed examination of the correlation between shorter travel times, cheaper flight tickets and faster check-ins and outs, to the escalating spend by travellers. And, it would put a price to the most important part of travel – experience. Which is why smart travel providers are now using the power of technology to build a business around the experience proposition which is far more alluring for travellers than the end destination.
We recently developed What the Tech, a report which zooms in on eight technologies that are helping to deliver amazing travel experiences. As I pack my bags for my next holiday, I’d like to highlight three of these trends that I’m most excited about:
- Artificial Intelligence
Online FAQs haven’t been able to replace the human agent when it comes to on-the-spot questions. But online agents are starting to do a pretty good job of it. When I was applying for a Dubai visa, it was an AI-powered chatbot that saved me from potentially being stranded at Dubai airport for three days next month. I haven’t left for my trip yet, but I cannot wait for my voice-activated assistant in the hotel room in Paris!
Robots are guiding passengers and even cleaning up after them at Incheon Airport in Korea; taking passenger bags from the roadside in Geneva, Switzerland; ferrying baggage autonomously at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in England; and even parking cars in Lyon, France.
Once inside your hotel, you may find a robot behind the bar if you’re at the Hard Rock Hotel in Biloxi, USA, which knows exactly how you like your drink, and make it exactly to your specifications: shaken not stirred. I can’t wait for them to serve me my favourite – whiskey sour.
- Virtual Reality
Last, but perhaps the most exciting of them all, is VR. Travellers may soon be able to choose their next destination from a VR catalogue. Increasingly, historical locations will invest in VR experiences that allow visitors to step into the past, or indeed the future. For those who abhor crowds, travel companies could offer VR tours for a less hectic experience. It might soon become just as common for travellers to find a VR headset in their room as the traditional chocolate on the pillow.