Holiday of the Future

What does the future hold for the world of travel?

It’s the year 2035 and you’re sitting on-board a pilotless airliner, cruising across the Atlantic at a cool 3,000mph. The trolley service is a robot named Brenda – she speaks 100+ different languages and offers you an eclectic platter of food based on the dietary requirements in your electronic implant. Content with your 3D printed salad, you put your virtual reality headset back on and go for a pleasant coastal stroll across Ipanema beach.

A snippet from a Douglas Adams novel? No, this really could be the holiday of the future. With advancements in technology paving the way for an even sleeker breed of travel, future holidaymakers could be looking forward to a more personable and customised experience. From holiday packages that are designed around our social media activity, to a virtual concierge, we take a look at how technology could shape how we plan, enjoy and return from holiday in the future.

Hop on your hover board, and let’s take a tour of our futurologists' and tech-experts' predictions.

Pre-Holiday

Inspiration

How do you currently find inspiration for holidays and where to go? Is it a case of relying on friends’ word of mouth, stockpiling brochures from the local travel agent or reaching for your phone? Recent studies would suggest the latter.

While most of us would once have relied on the holiday tales spun at parties and pubs, we’re now able to see a visual, real-time representation of friends’ trips away. With the ability to flick and tap through holiday photos and videos via social media, it means we’re able to take inspiration while we’re digitally socialising.

But, how could this effect searching for a holiday in the future?

Well, in the short-term, social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube will undoubtedly continue to try and develop more immersive content, including the likes of virtual and augmented reality. With high-end devices such as Oculus Rift coming to market, along with more affordable setups such as Google Cardboard, immersive experiences could potentially be used to captivate prospective travellers.

Just imagine being able to strap on a headset or augmented contact lenses, and vicariously explore the towering canopy of the Amazon rainforest, or the luscious white beaches of the Caribbean, all from the comfort of home! For travel providers, this means being able to offer immersive storytelling – a way of marketing destinations without giving face-to-face guidance to the viewer.

The future shift from 2D to fully immersive content would reflect the growing importance of social media to younger audiences. For example, in a recent traveller report created by Expedia, 42% of Millennials in the UK agree that holiday photos posted by social media contacts influence their choice of destination. The same report also explains that 60% of the same audience describe experiencing the authentic culture of a country the most important factor in travelling. The commercial use of VR in the future would allow travellers to have a deeper understanding of what a destination ‘feels’ like, before committing to booking a flight. As Rachael Power from Virtual Reality News explains, booking a holiday in the future will allow people to ‘try before they buy’:

“Virtual reality has the potential to radically change travel. People can 'try before they buy' by visiting locations in VR, from the UAE to the Irish Wild Atlantic Way. It also shakes things up for those who are immobile or on smaller budgets; the view from Machu Picchu is now simply the cost of a Google Cardboard headset away.”

Rachael Power (Virtual Reality News)

If VR is at the heart of the buying process in the future, it’s also likely that other authentic experiences, such as live streaming, 3D-TVs and 360-degree tours, will become more widely used; bringing the Seychelles to Sunderland, Southampton and Scotland! Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, has gone one step further. He believes that we will spend more of our time in virtual augmented realities, allowing us to visit each other (even touch each other), despite being hundreds of miles apart.

If Millennials are currently craving more authentic experiences, it means you can also expect travel companies to interact with their customers in a far more personal way. This means that future social media users will most likely see an influx of real-time travel packages and prices that are tailored to their search history, preferences and online activity.

Gary Morrison, Senior Vice President, Retail, Brand Expedia Worldwide, explains:

“The next big thing in travel will be a more personal and predictive consumer experience driven by data and insights. We've built an enormous network of nodes that we call the Travel Graph to identify patterns that can drastically improve the online travel experience. With the introduction of more advanced technologies, we will continue to improve our algorithms and add components that incorporate some of the fundamentals of machine learning.”

Gary Morrison (Brand Expedia Worldwide)

"Technology will also further enhance the travel inspiration and discovery phase. More than 50 percent of Millennials are interested in using VR to help them discover new holiday destinations, and there is a clear expectation for VR to make the standard holiday photo a rich media experience."

The booking process

Frequent travellers will know that a whole host of factors come into play when deciding on a destination: the weather, facilities for kids, budget, activities, and most importantly, past experiences. But, what if a predictive travel booking algorithm could access our online preferences, social media content, and even biometric information to find a package holiday that is tailored to our needs? This may seem a tad sinister - maybe even intriguing - but Futurologists predict there is a likelihood that this will form part of the travel sales process in the future. Global technology company, Sabre, describe that, while this predictive approach to travel booking may seem intrusive, real reactions are key and “accuracy comes from the direct tie to a searcher’s emotions.”

Does this mean that we could see the end of the high-street travel agent? Possibly.

With Expedia’s traveller report showing that 50 per cent of UK Millennials already value socialising over instant messaging as much as - or more than - socialising face-to-face, it’s possible that travel providers will flock to social media in the future to offer real-time customer support. In fact, Expedia have already launched a booking bot that is integrated into the Facebook Messenger app, seamlessly offering customers advice on hotel search requests. As David Fleishman, Vice President of Global Product, describes:

“The bot operates on a structured conversation flow: it analyses information provided and prompts the user to input other relevant data points to complete a search.”

David Fleishman (Global Product)

In the future, chat box functionality could become commonplace in the customer journey, becoming more intuitive and further optimised to personal preferences.

How will we pay?

As human beings, we’ve being trying to work out how to speed up paying for goods and services for centuries – from live-stock, all the way through to the modern day contactless credit cards. If this trend continues, the future traveller could be inundated with fast and easy payment methods that change how we make purchases. From Bitcoins and virtual currency to personal data, legal tender could be redefined.

Futurologists even predict that a crypto-economy could be feasible, allowing people to exchange goods without involving either banks or national currencies.

Packing

The hours that precede a trip to the airport can be a stressful experience for many families. Chaos usually ensues, with suitcases, clothes, toiletries and teddy bears being tossed between bedrooms – not to mention the noise. While it may be a while before Jetson-like robots are sent to our rescue, advancements in technology suggest that we may have a primitive form of domestic aid sooner than we think. Along with robotic hoovers and lawnmowers, the scientists at the University of Cornell have invented a robot that can, among other actions, predict when you’re hungry, refill your cup and even open doors. It may be a while until robots of this kind become readily available to the mass market (and they’re sure to come at a hefty price!), however, there are other forms of technology that could be just around the corner.

According to Future Travel Experience, by 2025 we can expect in-built electronic tags on all of our luggage, allowing us to drop them off at rail stations, hotels and other off-airport locations pre-flight. The benefit of this would be to speed up the travel process, allowing holidaymakers to part with their baggage hours or days before their departure, meeting back up with it when they arrive at their destination. Just think; no more having to drag around those hefty suitcases!

During the Holiday

In the airport

For most, the airport process can be tedious. Long lines, delays, baggage, connecting flights; it can be stressful. However, a look to the future and we can expect a more fluid customer experience that means travellers can enjoy their holiday from the moment they leave their house.

Imagine a fully integrated transport interchange, where passengers can move conveniently via an array of different ground transports. The FTE Think Tank thinks that this is just one of the ways in which we will see airports change in the future. In their vision of 2025, the FTE predicts that all passengers would already be checked-in before arriving at the airport, with the ability to deposit their bags at convenient bag drops within the exchange – no kiosks necessary. Passengers would travel on rapid, high frequency people movers, with the ability to receive mobile push notifications that tell them when their aircraft is ready to board.

In terms of security, the FTE believes that security zones will need to be adapted so that “passenger-friendly ambience” is created, instead of being “sterile” and “prison-like”. This also means being streamlined so that passengers can walk through security without having to unpack or undress; allowing the customer journey to continue unimpeded.

Kevin May, Senior Editor at Tnooz, explains that there is a growing expectation among modern travellers that airports will have to address in the future:

"The modern traveller wants a friction-free, mobile-led experience that offers help when needed."

Kevin May (Tnooz)

The creation of a vast digital ecosystem is something that could eliminate stress from the travelling process. We could see smartphones linking up to real-time information, where travel providers can automatically recognise when a passenger is delayed and immediately rebook his/her flight. A real-life version of this is currently being put to the test at Singapore’s Changi Airport, where real-time customer feedback alerts workers of any issues.

Check-in

There is a stressful ritual known to frequent flyers far and wide; the moment when we hysterically pat our coat pockets down in search of an elusive passport. Of course, it was in a back pocket the whole time, but a nagging voice in our heads has convinced us that it’s crucial we check once every two minutes, just to be sure.

While we have seen many airports in the UK incorporate ‘E-gates’, where facial recognition is used against an electronic chip in your passport, the crux of the matter is that documentation is still needed. This also goes for the updated smartphone apps that allow travellers to scan their mobile when passing through the gates; proof of passport is still required.

If we look to the future, it’s almost certain that we’ll see airports do away with physical documentation. In fact, the U.S Customs and Border Patrol are already testing out biometric programs that rely solely on facial recognition. While airports will be looking to improve the fluidity of a traveller’s journey in the future, one of the biggest driving factors behind using biometrics will be to nullify the threat of terrorism or criminal activity. This versatile form of human identification is certain to be a key factor in future default security. Dana Jones, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Sabre Airline Solutions, believes that biometrics will be widely used by airports in the future:

“Consumers expect their travel experience to be the same as their social, banking and retailing experiences.”

Dana Jones (Sabre Airline Solutions)

“Airports are responding to this, investing in technology to create an intelligent environment that’s connected, immersive, personalized and multisensory. The future experience is more seamless, with one-time security authentication enabled via biometric identification accepted at every security point along the journey.”

The other alternative for quick boarding in the future is the concept of an implant: a grain-like chip that is placed under the skin. While this may seem like a plot for a dystopian thriller, Andreas Sjöström, Global Head of Digital at Sogeti, has trialled this technology first-hand, and described the process as “seamless”. Generated by magnetism, the chip has the potential to be used as a form of authentication in the future.

While there is much to be made of the social impact that implants could have, it’s clear to see that biometric technology certainly has its uses; in particular, helping to find missing people. The advantages here could certainly settle the nerves of the 46% of UK Millennials who worry more for their safety on holiday than they do when at home.

On the plane

Standard flight protocol is familiar to most. The flight attendants give us a run-down of safety procedures, while the captain describes the route and weather conditions in muffled tones. But what if the flight of the future doesn’t require a pilot, or even flight attendants?

With the technology industry predicting that we could have self-driving cars on our roads in only two years, it’s possible that aviation will adopt the same automation. Ben Kepes, a self-confessed technology evangelist, explains:

“If we see what automation and autonomous control has done for the automobile and transportation industries, we can extrapolate out to see how, fundamentally, the aviation industry will be in the years and decades ahead.”

"Pilotless planes and point-to-point travel without much of the hassle of existing transiting paradigms will become the norm."

Ben Kepes (technology evangelist)

“The question isn't around whether technology can deliver this, but whether regulations and current operating models are ready for this upcoming change.”

The idea of pilotless planes is nothing new. In fact, in 2013, technology company BAE Systems flew a Jetstream aircraft, with on-board passengers and no pilot, across UK air space. Called ‘Flying Test Bed’, the flight was completely automated once in the air. We have also seen this technology adopted by the military, with ‘manned’ and ‘unmanned’ modes on planes, as well as autonomous drones.

This could also be coupled with a fully eco-friendly aircraft, the likes of which Airbus predicts will enable every flight in the world to be “13 minutes shorter”.

With our flights safely manned by an empty cockpit, what should we expect an on-board experience to look like? Panoramic views of the skies? Automated seats that shift their construction depending on your body shape? Boeing believes that if airplane manufacturers want to stay “in the game”, then they will have to offer travellers a personal and accommodating experience, especially for those who turn left into business class.

Many clever airplane concepts have been developed in recent years, from ‘SmartTrays’ that are able to hold tablets, to in-flight entertainment displays that wrap around the viewer’s head. While it’s difficult to give an exact picture of how airplanes will adapt to growing technology in the future, there are a few areas where we should expect drastic change – Wi-Fi, for instance. As internet addicts, we now expect to be quickly connected to the cloud, wherever we are. In the future, expectation will undoubtedly grow. Universal Wi-Fi on airplanes won’t be enough: travellers will expect it to be lightening quick and interruption-free. Being ‘connected’ will be crucial for on-board entertainment devices to be able to offer in-flight luxury, with travellers likely to expect instant and seamless access to online video services like Netflix.

Feeling peckish after catching up on some of your favourite viewing? We could see a change in flight food. While in-flight meals have never been much to write home about, the future flyer could be offered an array of organic meals that are tailored to dietary requirements. Emulating the golden age of travel, experts expect more variety in gourmet flight food, with the likelihood of indigenous and culture-focused cuisine becoming incorporated into the ‘authentic’ customer journey. This could also mean passengers designing their own menu, pre-flight, with some believing that we may even be able to 3D print our food in-flight!

On arrival

So we’ve arrived at our destination airport in record time and have hover-boarded out of the exit doors without having to carry our luggage – don’t fret, artificial intelligence has already collected it! Forget exhausting basic language skills in a broken conversation with a native speaking taxi driver: a self-driving car will approach with pin-point accuracy, whisking us off to our hotels. In fact, Tesla’s Elon Musk, believes that we might not have to wait too long for this technology to become readily available.

Payment? Don’t worry, this was sorted days ago. And our bags? It was placed in the boot of the car as we were getting off the plane. Future holidaymakers can look forward to travelling from the airport to their resort both swiftly and safely, allowing us to relish every moment.

For flyers who need to travel that little bit longer, we could see trains change drastically. In ARUP’s vision of 2050, they describe the use of ‘monitoring drones’ for predictive maintenance, energy flooring that generates electricity from footfall, driverless pods that are powered by clean energy, and even intelligent robots that unload and sort cargo. If these developments are juxtaposed with increased speed – potentially using superconducting magnets instead of wheels – then customers can look forward to a swift, immersive and seamless trip from the airport in the future.

At the resort

In the not so distant future, it’s quite possible that we will be able to get right to our hotel room door without the need to speak to another human-being – an exciting prospect for some! But what will the resorts of the future look like, and how will the familiar ‘checking-in’ process change?

In terms of the latter, some experts are of the opinion that front desks won’t require people to manage customers’ bookings. Whether we’re jetting off to futuristic resorts in space or hotels at the depths of the ocean, providers will undoubtedly offer a smooth check-in process that utilises mobile technology. With Marriott and Intercontinental Hotels already testing mobile check-in, the same experts predict that resorts of the future may not even require a key card, relying, perhaps, on biometrics. How about a holographic concierge? Now that could be alarming!

So, we’ve made our way through the hotel lobby without having to speak to a soul. What should we expect to see in your bedroom?

Starwood, a hospitality company that is already making plans for the holiday of tomorrow, is at the cutting edge of hotel innovation. They believe that hotels will become digital ecosystems that are full of quirky technologies that tend to our every need. One example is the ‘Botlr’ – a digitised butler that roams from door-to-door, providing residents with towels and other amenities that are requested via a smartphone app. In our rooms, Starwood predicts that RFID sensors (a hidden paper-thin device) will trigger lights based on our movements and will alert housekeeping to service carts when we’ve finished with them. Whether these will also be robotic remains to be seen.

Perhaps the most remarkable prediction is the development of the ‘smart mirror’; a customised touchscreen display that populates social media updates, news headlines and email notifications.

The hotel of the future will rely on offering the customer a unique and customised experience, with minimal fuss. Utilising touch technology to alter things like temperature and ambience to individual preference, we can expect holiday providers to aim for the ultimate relaxation package.

Post-Holiday

On your return

When the plane lands back on home soil, most digital fanatics are already thinking about which holiday snaps may or may not make the cut on social media. A sepia filter here and an airbrush there, and the whole holiday story is shared with family and friends in a matter of minutes. When we look to the future, we could see the upload phase of a holiday become even more popular, with 31% of current UK Millennials stating that social media comments on holiday photos are of key importance.

If this figure rises, we could see social media becoming an even more integral part of travel; from the buying phase all the way through to returning and sharing. Manu Agrawal from Interglobe Technologies reiterates this point by suggesting that:

"Because travelling is a group activity, it automatically qualifies as a good candidate for end-to-end social media integration."

Manu Agrawal (Interglobe Technologies)

This means that not only should we see more immersive content being shared in the future, but it’s likely that reviews sites like Gogobot will rise in popularity, allowing travellers to view reviews from Facebook friends rather than anonymous people.

How about re-living a holiday experience through VR? That’s a sure way to fight off the post-holiday blues! With travel providers experimenting with ‘try before you fly’ customer experiences, there’s nothing to say that we won’t be able to watch the best bits of our holiday back, as if we were still there. While it may be a while before we’re all strutting around the beach with a 360-degree camera on our head, it’s easy to see that the opportunities are endless.

While we don’t have a crystal ball to describe the exact details of your future holiday, it would be naïve to believe that technology won’t change your experience in some way. From how we gain inspiration for our chosen destination to the process of booking our break and checking-in, we can look forward to an overall sleeker and tech-driven approach to travelling. The driving factor behind this will be a need to captivate the future traveller; an audience who are likely to be more demanding, expectant and impatient.