In Ancient Greece, philosopher Heraclitus maintained that the very nature of life is change and that to resist change is to resist the essence of our existence. As the world is still crippled by the pandemic, let us spend some time examining the future travel trends and how technological advancement will shape them. The total contribution of the travel and tourism industry in 2019 was approximately 10% of the total GDP worldwide. Because this sector is one of the backbones of the global economy, let’s examine how I believe future trends will shape this area in the years to come.
In the mid- and post-Covid19 world, we will surely witness the rise of enhanced digitalization, the creation of marketplaces and the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). Virtual, augmented and mixed reality will slowly but surely enter our lives for good. This technology has never been so important. Just like the invention of film and television changed our sense of reality, computer-generated imagery in VR helps us have an immersive virtual experience. Virtual reality is interactive and can be very useful when we want to have a unique sensory experience.
A major breakthrough of this technology was seen in 1957 when cinematographer Morton Heilig created the Sensorama. This was the first VR machine that used multiple technologies to stimulate all the human senses. A few years after Sensorama, Heilig also patented the Telesphere Mask, the first VR head-mounted display. In 2010, 18-year old entrepreneur Palmer Luckey created the VR Oculus headset, which was later on acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Oculus was the first headset to feature a 90-degree field of vision.
Contrary to VR, which does not feature the real world, AR is the overlaying of digitally created content on top of the real world. AR can now be experienced through headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens. Mixed reality (MR) experience combines elements of VR and AR, an interaction between digital objects and the real world.
Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for all physical and virtual environments, as well as human-machine interactions. VR, AR and MR all fall within XR, which is expected to grow eightfold and reach a market size of $200 billion by 2022.
Applying this to tourism means that we could experience virtual travel from our living rooms. Being able to visit Louvre in Paris from your sofa in Colorado is something that will surely be possible sooner than you think.
The new world of travel and hospitality can integrate self-service technologies, which allow customers to get service faster and easier, without interaction with service providers.
Airport and hotel self-service check-in kiosks will surely become the norm. Room service ordering systems will need to become more automated, as will housekeeping services. A virtual concierge for guests is another solution that could improve the efficiency and safety of services. Imagine consumers booking a sightseeing tour of Milan or New York while lounging in their hotel room. The virtual concierge could also service people before they even go on a trip abroad.
Artificial intelligence will lead in this field. The AI industry is now growing by more than 50% each year. AI is the main driver of many new emerging technologies, including big data, robotics and IoT. AI is one of the key technological innovators in the foreseeable future. Computer scientist Andrew Ng described the rise of AI very eloquently when he said that “AI is the new electricity.” AI influences customer support, data predictability, enhanced customization, data access and chatbots, which are all essential ingredients of the tourism industry of the future.
The future of travel is linked with more personalized, conscious and sustainable traveling. Gone are the days of irresponsible mass prepackaged travel as we now enter the era of climate-aware travel solutions that immerse us into new experiences. Unique, local and authentic virtual experiences are the new up-and-coming travel trend. Health and wellness awareness is on the rise as well.
Unique and shareable experiences from unusual travel places are what future travelers will be focused on. Either in Finland or back home, someone just might be able to see those Northern lights, either in person or with the help of AR technology.
Digital Nomads And Aspirational Travel
Remote work might become one of the fastest-growing trends in the new travel era. Within that space, there is another emerging trend of young professionals and entrepreneurs looking to relocate and work remotely for a certain period of time. Certain places like Monaco and Dubai have recently been advertising new programs to attract these digital nomads. Highly mobile digital work could also be beneficial for those startups that are launching a new product in a specific local market.
Moving into a new country and staying there for a while during beta launch could be the new way of quickly test releasing new innovative products into local markets. Travel that embraces modern digital nomadism could in a way be perceived as a leap back into history and a shorter or longer shift from settled into nomadic life. It is of voluntary nature, but it can offer a different perspective on how to lead one’s life.
In The Great North American Road Trip, Aaron Lauritsen wrote, „It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.“ It seems we have entered the era when a temporary home could be anywhere — if not in person, then virtually.