The Future of Travel
Many organizations are wondering how the travel and tourism industry can secure longevity during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. While human interaction is inherent in this industry, technological advancements can mitigate customer concerns related to the virus and ensure that the industry stays afloat.
These advancements can even improve the customer experience long after the pandemic is over, ensuring profits in the long-term.
As travel restrictions are slowly lifted, labor-intensive sectors, such as travel and tourism, must take greater safety precautions to customer concerns surrounding the virus. Innovative applications of technology can address these worries. In the short term, we can expect to see more focus on no- and low-touch services.
For example, the app AtYourGate operates in 10 airports including JFK, La Guardia, Newark, and San Diego to deliver food or goods to customers.1
Moviebill, Regal Cinemas’ augmented reality (AR) partner, created an app that uses AR software development kits to provide touchless menus, magazines, and safety cards for passengers.2
In hotels, we can expect more facial recognition technology, which was already on the rise prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, even with these changes, the losses the travel and tourism industry is predicted to incur may take years to recover.
However, groups like the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) have requested governments to financially support the industry, paving way for a virtual reality (VR) and AR focused future.3 Travel companies are embracing AR and VR with hopes of improving the customer experience and securing long-term gains - more accessible information, captivating advertising, and enriching experiences will shape their future.
The majority of the upcoming technologies will be based on our smartphones. Apps using AR will make following directions easier and provide information on tourist hotspots. World Around Me, for example, shows its users nearby restaurants, museums, and shops just by holding up your phone.4
The app designers are also working on further expanding into tourism through their app as they include audio tours at select locations.5 Meanwhile, Blippar’s beta app AR City expects to further transform “the experience of exploring a city” by using computer vision and AR technology to give 3D-directions and help users learn about tourist hotspots.6 Our smartphones will soon function as tour guides for cities and museums, perhaps eliminating the need for in-person tours.
While improvements in AR focus on app development, those in VR will further enrich the advertising and marketing experience for potential travelers. Through VR, travel agencies will be able to showcase a destination, resort, or hotel to better market the travel experience. While not many companies have taken advantage of what VR has to offer, NJ-based Travel World VR has already begun to use the technology to “inspire people to travel more.”7
Even so, the vast potential of VR extends far beyond this area. One study suggested that VR can serve “to create substitute experiences that may be extremely useful for heritage and natural preservation.8” VR tourism could even allow us to experience space or the deep ocean—experiences that would be impossible otherwise.
Another popular technological trend expanding into our daily lives is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT describes objects, or things, embedded with technology so that they can exchange data across other devices via the internet. IoT can not only increase travelling efficiency, but also create a more satisfying experience.
In fact, Delta has already released improvements such as live-tracking luggage on our smartphones9. Additionally, KLM’s goal for FlightBeat is to embed sensors into seats to check if a passenger is experiencing anxiety10; similar technology is also being developed to determine if seats require cleaning11. Furthermore, hotel guests will be able to check in and out without assistance or simply adjust the temperature to their desire, all through their smartphones.
Written by Corina Perez-Cobb
Edited by Alexander Fleiss & Glen Oh