Publicis Sapient senior director, strategy and consulting Simon Cox on what will shape travel during the next 12 months
A new year and a brand-new decade give us a brief moment to pause and reflect on what might come next in technology trends within, but not limited to, travel (safe in the knowledge that you have a window of 365 days to be proven right or more likely wrong).
Working in an industry that champions the speed of change, it goes against the grain to admit that big technology-driven forces don’t come along that often – and when they do, they typically get missed, or scoffed at. I’m willing to bet a half-decent lunch that no one can find a trends piece in 2006 that highlighted the release of an Apple mobile phone as the catalyst for a massive shift in how we experience ‘online’, fuelling an always-on society, and changing almost every industry along the way. None more so than travel.
There is a great Jeff Bezos quote which I came across in ‘Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World’. Bezos gets asked about the forces of future change, and responds “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ The second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time”. When looking at tech trends, it’s worth understanding what ‘constant’ consumer needs they benefit.
Here are the underlying technologies that I think will be the drivers of change in 2020, and their likely impact on travellers’ experiences.
This one is a cheat because, by their very definition, exponential technologies will get exponentially more powerful in 2020. Examples include AI, robotics, biotech, and computing. It’s these technologies that will make VR a commercially viable proposition, fuel autonomous travel, and reduces our carbon footprint to create guilt-free travel.
So, what’s the potential impact of these technologies for the travel industry in 2020? These are my top three areas that I believe will be impacted:
Automation and Recognition Tech
Airports and airlines are investing heavily in automation and recognition technology. Getting people through an airport quicker opens capacity, and helps reduce pain points for the passenger. According to a study by OAG 50% of travellers report spending at least 45 minutes waiting in line while at the airport, with 21% saying they spend at least an hour in line, on average (45mins – 1hr when they aren’t boosting passenger spend in the airport).
In 2020, Emirates expect customers flying from Dubai to any of Emirates’ 12 destinations in the US will be able to choose facial recognition technology at the departure gates, reducing the time taken for identity checks to two seconds or less. Passengers will love less friction in their experience, so expect high adoption, alongside the usual fears around personal data security.
Augmented and virtual reality
VR still feels like a tough nut to crack. The potential for improving customer experience seems clear – particularly in an experiential industry like travel. But how do we get around the need for some kind of wearable technology? I look at the positive reviews for last year’s Bose’s audio sunglasses as an example of getting the application (music) and the wearable (sunglasses) right.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has stated he expects Apple to launch an augmented reality headset in 2020. In a similar move to the Apple Watch, he believes the first iteration will be tightly integrated with the iPhone which will allow Apple to keep the headset lightweight. The opportunity for hotels and tour operators to drive top of funnel engagement through a slick VR experience is finally getting closer in 2020.
55% of teenagers in the US use voice search every day. Voice-based shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion in 2022. Amazon has sold 100m Alexa units, effectively building a category from scratch.
Unlike AR & VR, voice finds itself in the position of mass hardware adoption. But what’s the future application that would make Alexa as ubiquitous (and revenue-generating) as the Google search engine? Rohit Prasad, the technology lead on Alexa sees a future where Alexa acts more like a companion – by your side, predicting and responding to your environment.
It’s easy to see how this could benefit travellers helping them feel familiar and safe in new environments, overcoming language barriers, and getting the best from their travel experience. 2020 won’t be the year this comes to fruition but expect Alexa to get better at two-way conversation, as improvement in their AI sets the foundation for a future in which your Alexa accompanies you on your travels.
More: Is Alexa working?
Google is planning to spend $2.1billion to acquire Fitbit. Apple has signalled that health is a key battleground for the iPhone and Apple Watch. CES is often used as a predictor for future tech trends. With a volume of sophisticated sensors likely to be on show, including devices that can scan and measure calorie intake, glucose levels, body temperature, and advanced sleep tech.
As health and technology become more integrated, and consumers rely increasingly rely on technology to manage and optimise their health, I expect more and more people to want to unlock health and wellbeing data on their travels. This will mean that we’ll see luxury hotels offering mattresses with integrated sleep tech, and consumers demanding more personalised food and event itineraries to respond to their individual health needs during their stays.
Whilst I’d love to hear your feedback, comments won’t be for another 365 days.