Looking back on trends that would shape 2016, we discussed how adopting new technologies would influence the travel industry. What were emerging trends just a few years ago, are now part of our daily lives.
Momentum is building in 2017 as airlines, hotels and Travel Management Companies (TMCs), find ways to leverage new high tech such as virtual reality, bots and the mainstream adoption of wearables into marketing and customer engagement and at the same time, create new efficiencies within their business and elevate customer service.
Here are five travel technology trends that I look forward to following in 2017.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
The use of VR and AR is starting to take hold in travel industry content marketing and is providing new ways of engaging customers at each stage of their travels.
Airlines have been using VR to showcase their cabins in order to sell upgrades and premium amenities. For a traveller selecting a hotel room, an immersive experience elevates the traditional 360° virtual tour available on most websites.
Carnival Cruise Lines is aiming to attract new cruise travellers with VR tours of its ships that highlight staterooms, decks, entertainment options, views from the decks as well as popular ports of call.
Travel-think.com recognizes the value high value of VR in inspiration and demonstration and sees it as the future of content marketing as well as user generated content.
The high cost of production is currently a concern but with improvements in technology and accessibility of products such as Oculus, VR is a trend that will see growth in 2017.
Powered by Artificial Intelligence, (AI) a TravelBot, or ChatBot, allows travelers to gain assistance with booking travel through a messaging platform such as Facebook Messenger. Last year, Expedia launched the first Expedia bot through Messenger.
Travelers can enter their destination, travel dates and how many nights. The bot makes recommendations and the traveler can select a hotel and move forward with the booking themselves. Once the booking is complete, the bot will send the traveler their itinerary. In 2017, Expedia bot will launch on Skype.
There are many factors driving the trend towards bots. Thomas Staven, Product Strategist at Unit4, explained that one of the factors is, “This new generation who have been raised with iPhones and Androids as well as super simple web apps have a totally different expectation of software than previous generations.
Software is something that you can get from an app store, download, and start working within 10 seconds. They require simplicity and intelligent software.”
Bots allow TMC’s to engage customers early in the booking process as well as the post booking stage. Offering a convenient traveler self-service option allows travel agency staff to focus more time on higher value tasks without compromising customer service. The potential for bots in travel industry is extensive and advances in AI will only propel adoption across messaging platforms in the future.
Despite a slow start, wearables are gradually growing in popularity and travel brands are increasingly using wearable technology to provide a connected and personalized guest experience. Smartwatch enabled travellers to board a plane or unlock hotel rooms with a flick of the wrist. Stored preferences allow for personalized service, navigation of large event spaces and ease of payment.
Carnival Cruises recently announced the Ocean Medallion class will be launched on Princess Cruise Lines in November 2017. The medallion is worn on the passenger’s wrist, belt or as a pendant and invisibly and seamlessly syncs with an integrated system of proximity sensors that senses the guest as they walk by.
Pre-trip planning streamlines the arrival process, personalization allows for staff to make recommendations based on previous trips or restaurant meals. The medallion enables keyless and tapless room entry, personalized concierge service, wallet-free payments and acts as a social tool so that guests can connect after the trip.
The wearable tech trend not only allows for an elevated guest experience but it also streamlines services and lowers costs.
Voice Interfaces (VI)
Phocuswright reports that the millennials travel more than any other group of travellers. This tech savvy demographic expects to be able to access information as conveniently as possible. AI and Chatbots mean the transformation to VI travel booking is inevitable.
On an enterprise level, TMCs will be able to benefit as we enter an era where our interactions with apps evolve and become more natural as the user interface disappears. Potentially, business will have the ability to access the same information you can see on the screen and manage operations in situations where accessing the screen is not possible.
For example, in the meetings and events space, planners will be able to access information about their projects such as project information, issues and details with projects and forecasting.
Unit4 Chief Architect Claus Jepsen explains, “For the first time, speech recognition available through applications like Alexa gives us the ability to build conversational applications that business customers can and want to use every day.”
As virtual and augmented reality, chatbots and wearables become more ubiquitous, we see travel technology and innovation horizons expand with the move to more natural forms of communicating with it.