by Bianca Ohannessian
As 2018 touches down, a whole new crop of tech trends is taking off and transforming the travel-sphere.
The way we travel is constantly changing and always has been, from the early explorers with their gabardine suits and brass compasses, to today’s adventurous folk armed with apps and smart technology. But the influence of digital innovations has never been more prominent and accessible than it is right now.
One of the most significant ways digital technology has influenced life in the past 12 months has been through smart appliances in the home and the rising popularity of voice activated devices that link everything together, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. But technological advances and changes in the way we use digital technology are also affecting the how we travel.
Where we’re choosing to go, what we do there and how we book trips have all been touched by recent tech trends. Here’s how these transformations are set to continue into 2018 and beyond.
1. Social media and unique travel experiences
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous
Photo by therockskippers.com: 14 Instagram Feeds That’ll Give You Waves of Wanderlust
Whether you’re travelling on shoestring budget or splashing out at luxury resorts, people are becoming more passionate about enriching their trips with unique travel experiences. Jungle-trekking in Myanmar, underwater art galleries in Mexico and remote hilltop towns in Vietnam – value is measured in experience and memories rather than monetary cost. In fact, 75% of Millennials are choosing to spend their money on exciting experiences over material things, according to a 2017 study by Adobe Digital Insights (ADI).
With tourists getting tired of the well-trodden tourist trail and new places becoming more accessible all the time, technology is helping to make it easier to uncover the unexpected. Apps like Avis Untrending can help you discover hidden gems in popular tourist destinations and give you tips on finding your own personal paradise, from charming Val d’Elsa in Tuscany to Mont-Saint-Hilaire poised outside Montreal.
Although people are searching for something new, these secret destinations aren’t closely guarded but are shared generously on social media. At this moment in time, more than 200 million photos have been tagged with #travel on Instagram, and according to Entrepreneur, 97% of Millennials share photos of their travels online. Could this thirst for the unusual be influenced by the domination of social media in today’s lifestyle? Is the desire to get that perfect Instagram shot fuelling people to find new, breathtaking views to snap and share?
Photo by @talktonatasha for @elcaminotravel via Instagram
Some travel companies are tapping into this type of travel attitude. For example, El Camino offers a professional photographer as part of their adventure holiday packages around Latin America. They ensure their guests get a daily delivery of beautiful shots to share on social media, so that they can live in the moment without having to worry about trying to capture it on camera.
Hotels are also starting to tailor their services to accommodate this trench. For example, the Conrad Hilton Resort in the Maldives offers guests and Instagram butler who will help you seek out the best spots to snap your selfies.
2. Travel chatbots
Online booking has been on the increase for years (stats), but this trend has now gone a step further. Powered with AI, travel chatbots can offer a more personal online experience with brands than ever before.
Photo by therockskippers.com: 6 Travel Chatbots to Plan your Next Holiday
From travel inspiration to booking your flights and accommodation, they can talk you through every step of the way and answer any specific questions you might have. Or, at least in theory they can.
Chatbots are getting more intelligent by the minute and are set to become an even more common part of the travel planning process. Popular brands including Kayak, KLM and Expedia have already got onboard with this trend. Expect to see more brands joining them.
3. Smart hotels
Although smart hotels still hold a futuristic feeling, they are fast becoming a modern-day reality. From robo-butlers to holograms and facial recognition replacing door keys, hi-tech hotels around the world are celebrating new ways of making their guests feel welcome and making their stay a more personalised experience.
Photo by @marriotthotels via Instagram
For example, several large hotel chains, including the Marriott and InterContinental Hotels Group, have been testing out a mobile key system where you use your smartphone to get into your room. Or, hotels such ARIA in Las Vegas which lets you control everything from lighting to in-mirror TVs through smart technology. And then there’s Connie, Hilton Hotels’ first robot concierge.
Where some technological enhancements have been embraced, others still represent a future yet to arrive and are perhaps a step too far for today’s traveller. AI robots can come across as intrusive and studies have shown that there are some serious trust issues involved.
So, although the technology is there, human behaviour and attitudes need time to adjust before this type of technology becomes fully integrated in the realms of travel hospitality. It will be interesting to see how this area develops within the next few years.
4. AR, VR and immersive video
There’s a myriad of digital apps out there to help you get more out of your experiences when travelling. From travelling with a stack of heavy guide books to digital guides such as the Lonely Planet app which lets you download and carry around city guides on your smartphone, we’re now seeing the introduction of augmented and virtual reality guides and immersive video experiences for tourists.
According to ADI, social mentions of AR/VR-related travel experiences have increased by 13% year on year.
Photo by @timelooper via Instagram
For example, the Timelooper AR-VR app lets you virtually step back in time when you visit popular historical tourist attractions. Using your smartphone and the Timelooper cardboard viewer, the app allows you to look around you and be transported back to important moments in that attraction’s past, including Tower Bridge in London and the construction of the Empire State Building in New York.
360-degree video tours are also set to continue into 2018. Destinations such as the snowy mountains of ski-destination Whistler are using this kind of technology to give potential visitors a preview of what they can expect with The Whistler Within, in the hopes of enticing them to come and experience the real thing.
Although technology can enhance travel experience, there is still no other substitute for the real thing.
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