We've been witnessing the rise of technology to make travel quicker, easier and more enjoyable over the last couple of years but in 2018 it's predicted that we'll start to see an expectation from travellers for the technologies featured below rather than them just being appreciated as a novel added extra.

Voice Activated Devices

Forbes predicts that voice search will be one of the top trends for 2018.  Research conducted in the US has revealed that over half of online travellers already use some sort of voice assistant in their everyday lives.  

Hotel rooms all over the world now offer Amazon's Alexa to help guests to talk to staff and get information about weather and traffic.  As the technology for speech recognition continues to advance to allow the delivery of a more 'natural' experience for the customer, the adoption of voice activated devices will continue to grow.

AI - Chatbots & Robots

We've witnessed a growth of live chat interfaces during 2017 as companies such as Kayak and Expedia have been able to free up staff for higher value activities whilst delivering personalised travel recommendations via chatbots. The growth of live chat interfaces such as Facebook Messenger, allowing travellers to enter destinations and travel dates in real-time will continue to grow in 2018 and it is predicted that AI will power 95% of customer interactions by 2025.  

South Korea's largest airport has been preparing for the Seoul Winter Olympics with two types of robot workers, working alongside human employees.  Guide robots are helping visitors to navigate crowded terminals and cleaning robots have been deployed to keep airport spaces tidy.  We've spotted news of robot baristas already operating in Tokyo and for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics an army of robots at the airport will provide directions, carry luggage and offer translation.

Virtual Reality

Hotels have already grasped the potential of VR with Best Western and Marriot being front runners when it comes to adopting the technology to boost customer service to their guests.  Marriot's VRoom in-destination service provides guests with 24 hour access to VR devices to view VR postcards which show guests experiences to provide inspiration for things to do and see in-destination.

However in 2018 VR will become more commonplace with travellers being able to peer into their rooms and fully explore hotels before booking. On arrival they will also have access to headsets in their rooms.  

We already know that travellers respond to visual experiences and having the opportunity to experience destinations, attractions, hotel rooms and views during the research and planning process is going to become the norm during 2018

Mobile Usage & Engagement

The recent Global Travel Survey by Travelport highlighted that 1 in 3 travellers books a holiday on a mobile device and by 2020 70% of all OTA bookings will be on mobiles. Improved connectivity will help to drive this growth with 3.6bn 4G users, two thirds of the mobile base, expected by 2025.  

Travel brands are expected to exploit location based technology such as beacons to track travellers throughout the journey.  For example, airports can use digital engagement to provide appropriate content on the way, in the airport and post-travel to improve the customer experience.  Taking this a step further and understanding the context of the traveller will be the challenge ie understanding what they actually want at that point in time using social media content and information from previous trips to anticipate their needs.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The travel industry is thought to have led the way when it comes to investment in IoT, driven by its competitive nature and increasing demand for the optimum customer experience.  

Tech-savvy guests in particular will expect to be able to use their smartphones to control the temperature and lighting in their rooms, order wake-up calls and access their rooms via key cards.

The in-flight experience is set to be enhanced with sensors embedded in seats to allow passengers' anxiety level, heart rate, hydration level and temperature to be monitored so that cabin staff can tend to their every need.  In airports, passengers will be able to locate their bags, and vice-versa and missing bags will be easily located by airlines via sensors attached to bags.  There will be sensors everywhere in cities, from restaurants to gardens, collecting data about travellers habits and reactions in order to optimise their experience. Although it's still in its infancy, we expect IoT to make a big impact.

Personalisation

Developments in the collection and analysis of data will impact on the level of personalisation that can be offered, with a growing demand for a true traveller-centric experience.  Increasing sophistication in the tracking of travellers' preferences (and dislikes) will allow providers to fine-tune 'hyper-personalised' itineraries for greater customer satisfaction.

Many of the above are still in the experimentation phase and providers are looking at how a range of these technologies can be combined to achieve the right balance to optimise the traveller journey.  It will be interesting to see if they grow as predicted but there appears to be a world of opportunity to make destinations and providers more appealing to travellers. 
    

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