You’re responding to an email, when your watch beeps.
It’s an alert that the flight you searched for is on sale. Your digital buddy has saved the flight in your shopping cart, checked your budget and accounts to ensure adequate funds and is awaiting your approval.
You smile. Minutes later, your confirmation and a tentative itinerary pop into your inbox.
According to Skyscanner, this is the future of travel.
An environment where our desires are filled by artificial intelligence using shared and gathered information. In the first segment of “The Future of Travel,” Skyscanner provides three focal points for the greatest progress: digital buddies, virtual reality and semantic search.
While future advances will push segments of the travel industry forward, other sectors should start looking for ways to adapt.
Hold on to your seats because it’s about to get weird.
The Future Of Travel According To SkyScanner
Digital Travel Buddies
Each day we share tons of information through the articles we read, posts we share on social media, purchases we make and topics we search for.
We’re realizing how this information is used by companies like Facebook and Amazon as targeted marketing. In the future, digital travel buddies will use this data to help us book trips.
Daniel Burrus, author of Technotrends: How to Use Technology to Go Beyond Your Competition, says the digital buddy “could have the face, voice and personality of our favorite actor or comedian and appear to us as a 3D hologram image, or inside a virtual environment, at our verbal command.” These devices will be small and in the form of a watch or key chain.
The gadget will intimately know us and book trips based on your likes and dislikes – not the Top Ten Lists or recommendations of others.
A travel buddy who understands your needs, books your travel and troubleshoots your issues. Sound familiar?
Travel agents should pay close attention to future developments. These digital buddies will compete with agents, who are disadvantaged by not having access to unlimited consumer data and who don’t work 24 hours a day!
The silver lining? Travel agents can corner the rental market for people who can’t afford to purchase this fancy equipment.
I’m hoping for a “Surprise Me” feature. This option would create an itinerary of travel experiences you haven’t tried.
For example, if you watch Shark Week, your digital travel buddy may book a surprise cage diving experience where you can view sharks up close. This feature would keep travel from getting monotonous, and increase anticipation for a new destination or activity.
Other travel devices will get smaller and more advanced. Tiny retinal cameras will allow you to track a child or follow a loved one on a particular tour from the comfort of your home – although I suspect tour companies would ban these.
Alistair Hann, Skyscanner’s Chief Technology Officer, says ”Imagine wearing a device that is able to provide a simultaneous verbal translation of what your taxi driver is saying to you in Chinese. Or a device that is able to translate your restaurant menu from Russian into English in seconds? The possibilities of these technologies are endless.”
Virtual Becomes Reality
If you think you’ll be able to put on goggles and feel as if you’re walking through the Costa Rican rain forests – you’re correct.
Future travel will allow people to use special equipment to visit websites offering “try before you buy” experiences.
Travel agencies will have an opportunity to offer virtual reality showcases for people who can’t afford to purchase the 3D gear.
Can you envision entering a showroom and walking across a virtual sandy beach? You won’t only see palm trees, and hear the waves, but you’ll feel the sand between your toes.
I can imagine stopping after a long day at work and spending an hour or so lying on the beach, enjoying the sun and the soothing waves. It will be a much cheaper way to escape!
Virtual reality is also perfect to teach children about travel and help them complete research projects using their personal experience – in addition to second hand knowledge from others.
“In 10 years’ time, a traveler will be able to take a virtual reality walk through the hotel he is planning to book in real time,” says Skyscanner’s Nik Gupta.
These advances take the guess work out of travel destinations, hotels and restaurants, and gives us more confidence when making travel decisions.
Semantics is the study of the meaning of words and symbols, and how they relate to each other.
From food purchases to travel activities, your search history will remember your preferences based on the words and symbols used to describe these events.
“At the airport it will guide you through the terminal, tell you where to check in, track your luggage, exchange your currency and let you plan your arrival, book a room and rent a car, as well as providing you with all the information you will need when you get to your destination,” says Stefan Rust, CEO of Exicon.
I would guess your travel buddy would also remind you of things that slipped your mind, such as calling your bank to let them know you’re traveling. Or make course correcting adjustments by suggesting a closer airport.
Of course your buddy would solve real time problems based on how much independence you allow it to have. It notices if you’re a laid back or control freak type – and adjusts its actions accordingly.
I fantasize a travel buddy guiding me from home through traffic to the airport terminal where he alerts me to the Jamba Juice around the corner. After getting my fix, I’m lead to my gate and provided with flight updates. It sounds like a dream!
So with this handy device taking care of our travel research and decisions, is there still a place for travel bloggers?
I predict that this technology will turn travel bloggers into endangered species.
The future traveler won’t need me to tell her how much a vacation to Japan costs or the coolest things to do in Toronto. Without having to type anything into a search box, a digital buddy will provide this personalized information.
In addition to booking trips, semantic search will guide your travel purchases.
Imagine Amazon suggesting a new swimsuit based on your past purchases, tailored to the styles worn in your travel destination and suited for the types of activities you usually book for your trips.
Hopefully, search results will also tell us who we might want to connect with at a traveler’s meet-up or if our favorite New Orleans restaurant will be closing in two months.
Are you ready for “technology that reads facial expressions or builds DNA of traveler preferences”?
This is how semantic search works. It understands your reaction to the answers and solutions based on your facial expressions. A scowl or lip smack will prompt an alternative suggestion.
“Current travelers and users are wary of online systems having this level of in-depth understanding of their thoughts and feelings. But teenagers and the under-10s are puzzled about why people are so worried. They expect technology to work intuitively, to offer them solutions as they need them without ever being directly asked to do so,” says Martin Raymond, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory.
Fear of change is normal. Travelers from 100 years ago would feel apprehensive about airplanes, underwater hotels and TripAdvisor. Now, we wouldn’t give these products up for a penthouse suite upgrade.
Travelers and industry professionals must figure out how we’ll benefit from the travel world of the future.
I can’t definitively tell you what the next decade holds, but when it comes to technology you can get with it or get run over. So, get ready!
Check out the report and sign up to get an alert when Part 2 on airports and airlines comes out!
Until then, tell me what cool things you hope the digital travel buddy will do!