As we’re approaching the summer holiday season we’ve been thinking about how travel and tourism has evolved over the years and the potential impact tech could have on our holidays in future.
The tourism industry has changed, almost beyond recognition in recent years. Airlines are travelling to more countries than ever before, flights and hotels are getting cheaper and thanks to emerging technology, booking holidays, breaking down language barriers, and navigating airports has never been easier.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most innovative tech set to transform the way we book, travel and experience our holidays of the future.
Try before you fly
Twenty years ago you’d spend hours flicking through brochures before walking into your local travel agent to book a holiday, but with more and more people now choosing to book holidays online, bricks and mortar travel agents are having to think outside the box.
Today, brochures alone will not get customers through the doors, but by harnessing the power of virtual reality, travel agents are recognising the opportunity to bring all aspects of travel including the hotels, destinations and flight experience to life.
Travel giants Thomas Cook have already started to harness the power of virtual reality by opening a number of ‘Discovery Stores’. Thomas Cook said they redesigned their in-store experience to reflect the way in which customers research and book holidays today. In the stores, customers will use virtual reality to look around resorts, hotels and some of the services and experiences they’ll find when they arrive on holiday, such as the Kids Club and evening entertainment.
Who knows, after years of booking holidays online, in the near future, we might just find ourselves walking back into a travel agent.
Skip the luggage check-in queues
So you’ve booked your holiday (in store) and you’ve already donned on your VR headset to explore every inch of the resort and now you just need to get there. Unfortunately this means waiting around in lengthy airport queues, or does it?
Nowadays if you're lucky enough to only be flying with a cabin bag, you can easily skip the check-in queues by doing it all online ahead of time. Sadly, it requires a few more steps if you have to check in hold luggage. You’ll need to queue for a check-in desk, weigh your bags, print your tag, attach it to your suitcase and answer a load of security questions. Thankfully, things are about to get a whole lot easier. German luggage company, Rimowa has designed an electronic tag suitcase and app that allow you to check your bags in from your phone.
The electronic tag is essentially an E Ink display which uses Bluetooth radio to collate data from either Rimowa's dedicated app or supported airline apps. The app can be used for initiation as well as switching the tag to contact information mode so that the E Ink display can still be used even if your airline or airport doesn’t support electronic tags. As for the airline app, you’d simply need to use its luggage check-in tool to sync the electronic tag, then just drop the suitcase off at a dedicated airport counter.
At the moment, Rimowa’s technology only works on Lufthansa, but they’re currently testing out the product with United and Thomas Cook so watch this space!
Language barrier…what language barrier?
You’ve made it to your destination, but this brings with it a whole host of other challenges – the dreaded language barrier.
Waverly Labs has created ‘The Pilot’ - a pair of small cordless earbuds which translate conversations in real time from a foreign language to your native language.
The Pilot may have a way to go before it is more widely adopted but other technologies such as translation chatbots are already taking off.
Google and Skype have been fast to explore the potential of AI in this area. Google has incorporated a translation feature into its Pixel earbuds, using Google Translate, which can also deliver voice translation via its smartphone app.
In January 2019, Google also introduced interpreter mode for its home devices. If users say, “Hey, Google, be my French interpreter” the device will activate both spoken, and, on smart displays, text translation. Google suggests hotel check-in as a possible application – perhaps the obvious example of a practical alternative to speaking travellers’ English, either as a native or as an additional language.
So good news – you no longer need to pack a translation dictionary!
Losing your passport could be a problem of the past
Holidays aren’t always plain sailing and losing your passport is surely one of the worst problems. But you aren’t alone. A staggering 400,000 UK passports go missing every year with many sold on the black market. But what if you didn’t actually need a physical passport to travel?
The concept of virtual passports was initiated in 2015 off the back of an Australian hackathon-style innovation event led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The idea was to store information from Australian passports in the cloud, alongside biometric identifiers, giving Australian citizens the opportunity for document-free travel between Australia and New Zealand.
This would of course mean passengers would no longer need to carry their passports and risk having them lost or stolen. Facial recognition systems would scan your face, much in the same way E-passport gates currently work in the UK’s major airports.
Now if that hasn’t got you excited for your summer hols then I don’t know what will! What’s even more exiting is that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the industry. Smart phone apps, social media, geo-location technology and bitcoin are also set to disrupt the way we travel in future sparking new opportunities for growth and improved customer satisfaction and control.
Posted by Helen Thomas