The travel industry is still recovering from the pandemic, but one thing is clear – people want to get new stamps on their passports as quickly as possible. After two years of insecurity, airlines and hotels are welcoming tourists at a surprising pace. This prompts tourism boards to reconsider their strategies in order to provide a safer, more adequate, and more exciting service for visitors. At the same time, we need to make sure that the travel industry will be one of the first to embrace more sustainable models, helping people appreciate the beautiful planet we have – not destroy it. Here are a few smart ways in which technology can help us achieve both!
What is the travel landscape in 2022?
As Deloitte projected, 2022 marked the beginning to the ‘return to normal’ in the travel industry. Some areas like corporate travel are not making the steady steps we would like to see as not all road warriors are ready to embrace international travel just yet, but there is a noticeable uptick in longer-term rentals as remoters carry their laptop with them and add a few extra days to their vacation, blending leisure and work.
As the world begins to satisfy its pent-up desire for travel, airlines are struggling with staff and aircraft shortages leading to many delays and cancellations, as well as rising costs. The geopolitical situation in Europe is tense, with many reroutes due to the conflict in Ukraine. Unprecedented inflation can also dampen some travelers’ plans. Unfortunately, these issues might not be resolved soon.
On a brighter note, as travel picks up, hotels and rental companies are thinking of ways to enhance the experience of their guests – incredible boutique accommodations have opened in remote areas, smaller towns that have never been the center of attention are beginning to gain momentum as hotspots. The return to active tourism is led by the younger generation that might be willing to reshape the sector in a more sustainable fashion, too.
Speaking of sustainability, let’s dive into the trends we believe will change the travel landscape in the years to come, beginning with reducing travel’s footprint.
Reducing our travel carbon footprint
Tackling sustainability issues in the travel industry is not an easy task. Air pollution from airplane engines is just the tip of the iceberg (2% of greenhouse gases come from aviation) – destruction of fragile habitats and waste issues are also part of the dark side of tourism. On the other hand, the answer is not as simple as ‘we need to stop travelling’ as this will heavily disrupt the livelihood of communities that rely on tourism, for example. Not to mention the fact that travel is one of the ways humankind has historically connected to nature and is part of the way we learn to appreciate and protect it.
- Go local!
Tourist boards should aim to shift the focus from long-distance to short-distance travel, helping people to get to know their own country. This will not only help us reduce air travel but will also build a healthy local travel community.
- Enhance alternative travel modes.
Train? Why not! Long-distance travel can be done in more comfort on a train (and if we factor in airport waiting times – sometimes just as quickly). Programs to improve train rides are underway and we hope that the glamour of this type of travel will be reignited once again.
- Can this meeting be an email?
In the world of corporate travel, companies need to reconsider their teams’ needs to travel and grant subsidies only for the necessary trips. During the past years, the pandemic taught us that most meetings could be emails (or done via Zoom and Skype) without sacrificing efficiency. We need to learn to get the job done without relying on travel as much as we did!
- Support communities and producers at your destination.
Shopping is an integral part of most people’s travel routine. From souvenirs and gifts to clothing and toiletries, paying attention to the source of the goods can help each traveler contribute to the local economy. Shopping for goods manufactured locally (as opposed to global chain stores), choosing local cultural experiences, and visiting local restaurants (as opposed to Starbucks and Macdonald’s) is a great way to support the destination and tourist boards must aim to encourage such behaviour with targeted marketing efforts.
- Embrace digital products.
Maps? Brochures? Guides? Nowadays, we can have these in digital form! For tourists who have opted to go without a mobile internet package, digital materials should be available so that they can download them before they leave. With smart digital platforms like Telelink City’s City Card, tourist boards can even swap paper tickets for museums and galleries with an all-in-one product.
How can technology help the travel industry flourish?
Apart from sustainability, technology is the other field that the travel industry needs to embrace more fully.
The Internet of Things can have a potential impact in futureproofing not only corporate buildings, factories and personal homes, but also hotels and other types of accommodations. Creating energy efficient travel accommodation is at the heart of an emerging trend in the travel industry – sustainable resorts. These venues are set to not only reduce their carbon footprint but include in their strategy the support and restoration of local communities and nature. To do that, they use state of the art connected systems with sensors to reduce water consumption, reuse as much wastewater as possible, and enhance purification processes. They also use energy-efficient building materials that can even double as natural AC and create safer environment for guests and staff with sophisticated air filtration systems.
IoT can also prove to be just what we need to automate some processes, too – like the creation and serving of food, cleaning, etc.
IoT sensors and other smart technology can help us gather immense pools of data that can be used to enhance travel policies and improve service throughout the hospitality industry. The level of connectedness we have nowadays has already proven to be transformative (reviews can make or break a business) and with Big Data we can leverage the information flow to serve the whole sector.
We can now monitor demand in real time, sophisticated algorithms estimate prices as we type our queries, targeted marketing ensures we discover novel places to visit and to stay at… While companies are still struggling to implement robust security processes it is already clear that data is needed if we want to take travel to the next level.
Accommodation hubs such as AirBnB and Booking now have a spot in every traveler’s heart, and we can expect more and more customization to appear in these and future travel platforms following the massive amounts of customer data that they collect in order to provide better services.
This technology will also help us create more streamlined shopping experiences in the travel industry, combining travel products to ensure that everything related to one’s vacation or work trip can be booked and purchased in one go.
Smart travel products
Tourists are getting more tech-savvy by the minute. Smart applications that cater to their needs are in demand year-round – from booking and flight management to searching for experiences on-the-go. This is why tourist boards are enhancing their smart city card programs to include mobile applications that help guests of the city explore faster and in a more organized way. How?
By compiling a catalogue of tourist venues and connecting it to a map, tourists can have every possible location they might want to visit at a glance, wherever they are in the city and in real time. Paper maps are a thing of the past. What’s more, products like Telelink City’s City Card include a smart card (digital or physical) that grants access to specific locations, including museums and galleries, and in addition gives discounts at restaurants and other venues.
AI and automation
Automation in the reservations sector is not something new. But now we can add another layer of customer service by introducing AI and chatbots to tackle simple requests quickly and efficiently. This can be extremely helpful to businesses whose customers are not in the same time zone, as chatbots can operate 24/7.
How will travel change in the upcoming years? With so many innovative technologies to help the industry grow and evolve, we are certain the future is bright like the Maldivian sun. If you wish to explore the topic of smart travel further, have a read: