The year 2018 will see the continued rise to prominence of five key – often intertwined – technology solutions in the travel industry: mobile-driven experiences, voice search, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and blockchain.
Mobile devices are already important to the digitally-connected traveller. However, as the number of smartphone users continues to grow in 2018 and the devices themselves become increasingly sophisticated, consumers’ ability and willingness to complete more advanced tasks on them will rise exponentially. This will make mobile devices not only the platform of choice for travel research but the preferred means to pay and manage all activities throughout the trip lifecycle. For example, mobile solutions that improve physical travel experiences, like e-tickets, e-check-in and e-concierge, will become increasingly in-demand, especially in the Middle East due to its large pool of tech savvy, travel hungry millennials.
Leaps in technology will see more and more travel apps and hardware integrating voice and natural language search into their user interfaces, sparked by the mainstream success of the Amazon Echo. In 2018, an increasing number of travellers will therefore talk to their digital assistant, whether through their smartphone, desktop, Amazon Echo, Google Home or another device, to check a wide range of travel details, such as flight, hotel and excursion options, and book tickets immediately. Interestingly, according to Travelport’s Global Digital Traveller Research 2017, an independent study investigating demand for digital travel services, half (50 per cent) of UAE travellers already use voice search technology to research trips, more than those in Japan (43 per cent), the United States (41 per cent) and the United Kingdom (33 per cent).
Use of artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning, among travel firms will explode in 2018, further blurring the boundaries between tech companies and travel companies as they increasingly use AI driven by data and analytics to deliver faster and more personalized results. We anticipate this will be well-received in the Middle East due to rising demand from the region’s travellers for ‘ultra-convenience’, delivered seamlessly across multiple platforms.
VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY
The travel industry will be one of the sectors where VR and AR make the biggest impact in 2018. United Kingdom-based Virgin Holidays, for example, has already started using VR as part of its holiday buying process. A number of travel providers are also looking in to how AR can help them to improve the in-trip experience by, for instance, allowing customers to ‘see’ Harry Potter run towards Platform 9¾ during a trip to Kings Cross station in England or ‘witness’ Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech live from the Lincoln Memorial in the United States.
While blockchain is still in the early stages of adoption in the travel industry, we expect this to increase exponentially into 2018 – before the technology becomes mainstream by 2025. In particular, in 2018, more travel companies will start accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. Blockchain will also start to transform the way the travel industry processes and manages online payments, as it can enable direct peer-to-peer transactions.
* Matthew Powell is managing director, Middle East and South Asia at Travelport
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
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