If you’ve recently visited an airport or train station, then you’ll probably have noticed the travel industry’s inclination to keep archaic and outdated technologies, transport and customer services. From old terminals used by airlines to paper ticket printers, the experience of travel, and air travel, in particular, remains an out of date affair.
However, if we go back to the year 2000, planning a holiday would have involved a visit to a travel agent, flicking through a holiday brochure and sitting with them whilst they book your holiday.
Today, thanks to technology updates and breakthroughs, travelers can now book their accommodation and flights and get reviews and recommendations for restaurants and attractions at the touch of a button. Whilst physical travel methods have remained mostly unchanged, how we book and search for holidays and travel has changed.
This advance in technology has provided travelers with more choice than ever before and is encouraging both younger and older generations to travel the world. With new companies, such as Expedia and Airbnb, changing the landscape of travel by providing access to more destinations, accommodation choices and budget-friendly choices, technology has given us access to so much more in terms of travel in this digital era.
Digital disruption has fuelled innovation within the travel industry for years and is something that is set to continue. It is changing travel in a hugely positive way, with technology helping companies, hotels and services provide a first-class service to clients.
For example, a business traveler gets off the plane and walks through the gate using their mobile boarding card. Whilst waiting for their luggage, they book a taxi to their hotel in a few simple clicks. Upon arrival at their hotel, they use automatic check-in and receive keyless door entry for their room.
Inside the room, the extra pillows, room service menu and Earl Grey tea bags that were requested through the hotel’s app before travell are in place. This effortless and convenient experience will likely encourage them to visit again or recommend to friends and family.
With such huge disruptions to traditional travel services already, what else can we expect technology to disrupt in the future?
More Affordable Booking
Those travelers who are familiar with the current process of online booking know that the prices they see whilst browsing are not necessarily the final amount you will pay. The current costs which result from the numerous de facto policies in place mean that added fees and surcharges are the norms.
If you’re looking to book flights or accommodation for a destination, then chances are that you will find yourself using one of the major apps or sites to do so. The bigger companies, such as Expedia, own several different brands along the value chain, which means they are the gatekeepers for most travelers who are looking for a getaway.
Travel Agents and Carriers
Many travel agents have found that the digital age has had a massive disruption in their industry. Traditional high street travel agents, which were once the most dominant business along the high street, have now been completely revolutionized thanks to online travel agent services and booking sites.
Online travel agents and low-cost airlines are perhaps the industries that have seen the biggest digital transitions over the past decade and have changed that way in which consumers book and plan their holidays or trips. To stay relevant, many tour operators are now embracing mobile and online channels to challenge their competitors.
Whilst the rise of the internet has caused many travel agents to cease trading altogether, a few have adapted to fit in with this quick-changing marketplace. Perhaps one of the biggest disruptors within the travel industry is Airbnb, which burst onto the scene in 2008. Since then, over 3 million property listings have been added in 191 countries, with 19% of leisure travelers and 18% of business travelers using an Airbnb property.
This technology revolution has had an impact on almost everything in the world. The concept of staying in other people’s homes whilst traveling is something that can be dated back centuries, so Airbnb isn’t a new concept, but the technology used has turned this into an easily-accessible phenomenon.
Small Travel Businesses
Whilst there have been some disruptions amongst the travel industry, numerous technological advancements have meant that small businesses now have access to a whole range of new opportunities to bring their services to travelers. Worldwide travelers can now simply book a last-minute hotel in Liverpool, or book their luxury holiday to a safari park in South Africa, all with a few clicks.
Luxury travel brands and businesses, especially, have boomed as they are now able to present themselves in a different way right in front of their target market. Luxury Algarve villas, for example, are often in much better locations than the hotels which are offered by travel agents and offer a much more desirable holiday, which means that travelers are becoming more comfortable when it comes to considering luxury. Luxury travel was once something that was reserved for the rich and famous but is now available to everyone, including families.
Just 10 years or so ago, many of us traveled with just our holiday luggage. Our hand luggage comprised a few essentials, our boarding cards and perhaps a book or 2 to read on the plane. Now, our luggage is packed full of technology to make our holiday all that more enjoyable, from laptops and digital cameras to e-readers and portable gaming devices, and the technology companies are all too aware of this.
Not only has technology changed the way in which we travel, but also the way we holiday. More and more travel companies are investing serious money into creating devices and gimmicks to entice and impress their guests, as well as make their holiday as stress-free as possible.
Walt Disney World in Florida offers customizable and wearable MagicBands to all guests and holidaymakers within the Florida parks. These bands, which Disney says forms a central part of the coveted My Disney Experience, provide guests hotel room access, entrance to the theme and water parks, check-in at fast pass entrances and link to a credit or debit card to make in-park purchases.
This means that guests don’t need to carry wallets, but these devices track and monitor the guest’s location around the park and are connected to the park infrastructure, which enables the parks to monitor and track waiting times and crowd control.
Similar to Disney World, Royal Caribbean also offers smart bands to their onboard guests, which act as room keys and store credit and debit card information so that guests can make quick purchases. Guests on Royal Carribean cruises can also download their Royal IQ app to track luggage, book excursions or onboard activities and make dinner reservations.
Whilst technology has had a huge impact on the travel industry, it is predicted that 2020 and the decade following will bring even bigger changes. Automation is predicted to be a huge thing, particularly in terms of road travel and services, so who knows what else the next decade is going to bring.