With more than a week of 2020 already behind now is the perfect time to peel back the veil of perception and peer into future — of what is the most sci-fi sounding date you will ever experience, lest someone finds a way to hack that tricky mortality problem and we all get to cheer in the year 3000 — and take a look at ten travel tech trends we will be obsessed with this year.
1. Using AI and machine learning to communicate with customers
Today, AI is used to respond to customers quickly and provide valuable information, if a human customer service rep is not available. As carriers strive to grow their footprint while delivering fast service for customers, many have been trialing direct bookings and communication with AI via text and WhatsApp. Mobile has transformed the way in which companies communicate with consumers and AI & machine learning are helping to improve this communication even further. AI allows organizations to deliver in times that would have been impossible to do manually.
2. Social media and travel bookings
Instagram has more than 500 million active users daily sharing an average of 85 million photos a day (National Geographic). Travel photos incite new wanderlust in viewers, so much so actually that 40% of Instagram users under 33 voted that ‘Instagrammability’ was one of their top factors in selecting a vacation destination (Travolution).
With social media taking an increasing hold on society, industry players are working to provide a similar experience. Among younger generations and emerging economies, the smartphone has usurped the laptop as the travel research, booking and content sharing platform of choice, so travel companies must think mobile-first throughout the user experience.
3. Conscious travel
Sustainability has become a deciding factor for individuals purchasing travel and accommodation, and travel companies are adapting their offers to reflect this. From reducing plastic in hotels, to the creation of sustainably-focused package holidays, consumers are offered a wide choice when it comes to an eco-stay and are starting to hold companies accountable if they don’t meet requirements.
Holidaymakers are keen to ensure that their trips will have a positive impact on the globe and there is an increased interest in understanding how tourism negatively impacts or benefits a local economy.
4. Fintech innovation and alternative payment methods
With the growth of on-the-go destination driven purchases and the focus on in-destination support, the travel industry is ripe for payment innovation. Global fintech innovation is happening at a rapid pace and there are now more than 300 different ways to pay for travel across the world.
By embracing new platforms and technologies, travel companies can easily accept the widest range of alternative payment methods, which helps to improve the customer experience and reduce costs. This move is seen to be in response to evolving consumer payment preferences which corresponds with increased mobile usage.
5. Solo travel
Being single has long been considered temporary. But marriage rates are declining, and the singles population – those never married and those divorced – is rising globally. Travel brands need to adjust their offer to meet the needs of these travelers – as travelling solo doesn’t necessarily mean travelling alone – and hospitality brands must cater for a desire for social interaction and the need for solitude.
At the same time, there has been a recent increase in solo female travelers, overtaking men in frequency of solo travel, posing questions not only for travel preferences but also duty of care for business travelers.
6. Voice assistants to transform travel in 2020
Natural conversation – particularly voice – is predicted to play a key role in the customer experience as a major shift is taking place between human and computer action. We see it in our everyday lives with voice assistants in our home and on our mobiles but in the travel sector the customer experience will be transformed during 2020
As corporations continue to invest in voice technology, they will have quicker access to the traveller’s profile, real-time alerts and in-flight amenity checks within a single natural sentence. This means travel consultants or travellers won’t have to go through multiple screens; they can achieve the same goal within a single natural conversation – using voice.
7. Super apps to drive travel sales
Content provides a huge opportunity for travel agencies. The challenge is how to combine relevant travel content from multiple sources so it can be used by both travel vendors and travellers alike.
Super apps (such as China’s WeChat) – a single app that includes multiple apps – is one area that’s growing in popularity, as users can connect to social media, shop, order food or taxis, buy tickets, book rooms, and more. We can expect mobile content and apps to develop even further as 5G networks and devices become more prevalent.
8. VR and travel
Virtual Reality (VR) is going to play a huge role in the travel industry in 2020. As headsets become more affordable, travel companies are able, and are starting, to use VR more and more – even bringing travel to those who might not be able to go abroad. VR has the ability to truly enhance travel, by challenging tradition with a sensory and revolutionary experience.
9. New rules apply for traveller loyalty
Traveller loyalty will be a major battleground in 2020, with technology a key differentiator. Travel brands will need to invest in technology to connect with customers to win their loyalty and lower acquisition costs. At the same time, big travel sellers are becoming ‘megas’, while smaller ones increasingly cover niche traveller needs. With so much choice out there for travellers, travel brands need to be smarter than ever about how they target consumers, and technology will be absolutely key to their success.
10. Machines can’t replace the human touch
While technology will provide unprecedented support for travellers, predicting behaviour, anticipating potential problems and providing solutions, people still prefer to deal with people. Consumer and business travellers’ expectations have been raised by their everyday experiences. The most successful travel brands will be the ones that can prove they understand their audiences inside out using permissioned data and can build personalised, tailored offerings for them.