Last year, we saw big names in travel and hospitality refining and extending their use of intelligent and virtual technologies to increase personalisation and successfully drive business forward.
This year the scene is set for the rest of the industry to join them. Here are our picks for the top 3 travel tech trends we’ll all be talking about in 2020.
Artificial Intelligence has transformed consumer behaviour. With instant gratification now a given at home, consumers expect the same level of 24/7 convenience and engagement when it comes to booking their travels.
Fortunately, AI-driven products are falling in price and growing in power, so expect to see a proliferation of next generation chatbots and virtual assistants this year – even amongst small to medium providers. With the ability to ‘learn’ from previous conversations, these smarter chatbots will make it increasingly difficult for consumers to discern the virtual from the human
The latest chatbots won’t be restricted to delivering faster, smoother booking experiences. Now they have the added ability to draw upon AI and machine learning to pre-empt consumer preferences and requirements, creating a far more natural and hyper personalised user experience. How? By crunching through big data sources in real time and spotting and leveraging patterns in user-behaviour that a human might miss – ultimately leading to far more successful upselling and cross selling opportunities for providers.
While other industries still tend to view Virtual Reality as a gimmicky nice-to-have, the travel and hospitality sector has been one of the first to recognise its practical applications.
Last year, BA introduced VR programming on select first class flights, including calming, guided meditations for nervous passengers. Several other airlines are also testing VR products as part of their in-flight entertainment and advertising packages, providing a virtual escape route for long-haul travellers – and more immersive opportunities for advertising partners.
Back on the ground, VR is proving popular with visitors to Rome who can experience the Colosseum as it would have looked 2000 years ago via a virtual reality tour of the arena. As breakthroughs in screen technology bring smaller, cheaper VR headsets to market – we expect to see more travel and hospitality providers delivering virtual, guided tours of far-flung destinations, hotels and tourist hot spots.
The more accessible and even more affordable cousin of VR, Augmented Reality has moved on rapidly from the days of Pokemon Go. Back in 2016, it was common to see hordes of children (and a decent number of adults) holding up smartphones and tablets to see which of the virtual critters would be overlaid onto their surroundings.
Today, travellers can hold up smart devices to see real-time information and visuals superimposed over the environment in front of them. Holiday Inn, Premier Inn, Starwood and Marriott have all used AR to enhance guest stays – from AR room keys, to wall maps that come alive when viewed through a smartphone.
AR is particular popular with tech-savvy Millennials, and as this group of consumers will account for around 50% of travel spending this year, we expect to see more hotels and destinations ramping up their AR game to appeal to guests that are never more than arms-length from their phones.
2020 will be the year when intelligent and virtual technologies start to spread throughout the travel and hospitality sector.
With software and hardware becoming more affordable and accessible – and with the big names having already paved the way – the path is now clear for small to medium providers to experience the benefits for themselves.
From intuitive, AI-powered chatbots, to virtual and augmented environments: intelligent and virtual technologies will be the key to helping providers of all sizes maintain relevance and meet the needs of an increasingly demanding market in the year ahead.
By Travel Forward Team