Leading data and analytics company, GlobalData has released a report ‘Technology Trends in Travel and Tourism’. It found that travel companies are using various technologies to engage with customers at every stage of their journey.

Elena Mogoş, Associate Analyst for Digital Travel & Tourism at GlobalData, said, “Travel still revolves around meaningful human interactions. However, to be successful, companies need to create a balance between the technological innovations and the human element. Improving the customer experience must always be on the back of travel and tourism companies’ minds when investing in technology.”

GlobalData found that tourism technology is not just about the smartwatch wearing, internet demanding, tourist. It is about enticing them to book and giving them the options to explore and spend more.

We all like to travel, experience new things, and release the pressures of everyday life. But finding a destination that is exactly what you want is hard.

Note we have avoided reference to social media and so-called ‘independent reviews’ as the smart traveller is now aware of the ‘fake news’ issues.

Here are the six trends to watch out for in travel and tourism industry in 2018:

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR)

The past few years have seen an increase in AR or VR popularity among travel and tourism companies, and the trend will escalate.

These technologies are being used either for content marketing or enhancing the customers’ experiences.

For example, airlines and cruise ships have started using VR technology to show travellers the cabins in advance, to increase ticket or ancillary services sales. Travel operators are showing VR of the hotel rooms, and many of the itinerary highlights.

AR is starting to be used to highlight hidden ‘gems’ when you are on tour. Point the smartphone camera at an alleyway, and it may come alive with emoji or other things to make you want to find that speak-easy.

Interestingly this is being used to augment the face-to-face relationship between the buyer and the seller. Just giving access to a VR site for you to view in the comfort of your own home won’t necessarily get you to sign up for the holiday of a lifetime.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is behind many evolving technologies and innovations in the travel and tourism sector.

How AI helps the industry can be classified into three major categories: Machine Learning, ChatBots or TravelBots, and Robots. Thanks to AI, operations which usually require human intervention and a lot of time to learn new skills, can be automated, speeding up processes, while improving quality and performance, and decreasing costs.

It is also being used by sellers to help identify your dream holiday using metrics gained from Facebook, social media, searches and tailoring offerings to your profile.

After all, why waste time offering a beach holiday to someone who hates the water! The downside is that you can become stereotyped and continue to get similar offers when you crave variety. No problems – a few searches and AI can pick up your wanderlust and make more appropriate offers.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT has a lot of potential to shape the future of the travel and tourism industry. Lufthansa is using IoT to reduce anxiety and stress levels associated with lost bags. Passengers can track their baggage via a link found on their mobile boarding pass in the Lufthansa app.

But more than that its how IoT is used in smart hotels. Winners are those that can serve you better by having the room temperature, lighting and TV/music set to your liking (thanks to the smart band/lock/chargecard they provide at check-in). In fact, there is a lot of work being done to remove check-in and out queues simply by communicating with your smartphone on arrival.

Voice Technology

Voice technology is another digital novelty that is beginning to disrupt the travel and tourism sector. More and more customers switch from typed-in search to voice interactions. More and more hotels have started experimenting with voice-activated devices. Among them are W Austin of Marriott International, Kimpton Alexis Hotel, and Westin Buffalo.

Just as we become acclimatised to the IoT experience, we will expect to use voice activation. You will see a lot more, “OK hotel, turn on the TV to the footy, order me a club sandwich and a beer and set the alarm for 7 am.

Early adopter hotels offering that level of service are gaining a strong following, increased bookings and higher profitability as customers are prepared to pay more.

Wi-Fi connectivity

Travelers always want to be always connected to get destination ideas, options regarding places to visit or eat, find directions to points of interest, or share their experience with friends via social media or other connectivity platforms.

As a result, investing in network services helps companies offer a more seamless and highly personalised experience to customers, boosts operational efficiency, real-time decision making, strengthens the physical (via CCTV) and the cybersecurity, along with data privacy.

It goes further than that. Free Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous, and some hotels have started giving guests a smartphone that can access local carrier 4G networks.

When I first encountered this in Hong Kong, I was surprised at just how good it could be – maps, GPS, messages, local offers and more. That same hotel now can use an app to link your one smartphone to the citywide Wi-Fi with the same benefits.

Further WI-Fi is now about speed and data use. Those hotels that offer high speed – at least 50Mb/s and unlimited data – are selected over those that offer snail speeds and data limits that are hardly enough for email.

Wearable devices

Travel and tourism companies are gradually using this technology to offer customers a more personalised and united experience.

Walt Disney deployed a wearable, customisable, RFID-equipped MagicBand, that connects to the theme park infrastructure, to reduce waiting times and track guests’ locations and activities.

Just like the hotel that provided a smartphone, the hotel smartband will be a convenient way to access hotel facilities, place orders for food, drink and services and extend the hotels ‘influence’ to outside suppliers.

And there is some cutting-edge work being done on smart glasses that offer AR and smartband capabilities.

 

The days of offering a pillow menu or room gift are well and truly over – they are expected. Smart tourism and travel are the next big things.

 

Images from Qantas and Tourism Australia.