The travel and tourism1 sector is booming; it
saw more growth in 2018 than all other
economic sectors aside from manufacturing,
and accounted for 10.4 percent of the world’s
Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The industry has had to deal with a backdrop
of political conflict, huge natural disasters and
financial troubles. Despite this, The World
Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president
Gloria Guevara said that the sector was
responsible for creating a fifth of all new jobs
worldwide, and the council believes that the
industry will produce 100 million new jobs
worldwide over the next 10 years.2 Many of the
companies that were struggling in this sector
have moved swiftly to embrace emerging
Let’s take a look at the top technology trends
that are causing disruption in the travel
industry, and are likely to have significant
impact on business outcomes.
Enhancing Passenger Experience with Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality
Several airlines have either tested or are
currently testing Virtual Reality (VR) as part of
their in-flight entertainment offerings. In a
fiercely competitive market, these airlines will
be hoping that a more immersive
entertainment experience, which includes VR
games, movies and experiences, will help
attract more customers.
The technology is also being used as a cabin
crew training tool and a way for passengers to
experience the plane before boarding. Japanese
company First Airlines3 has even created the
first ever VR airline hub, which enables people
to put on a VR headset and imagine they’re on a
flight – with in-flight meals, announcements
and sounds to mimic those on an actual flight.
They can then also experience a 360-degree
virtual city tour on ‘arrival’ at either Paris, New
York, Rome or Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Augmented Reality (AR) has been
used to help passengers ensure that their hand
luggage is the correct size before they leave
their houses, and for the cabin crew to swiftly
access information about a passengers’
destination or allergies while onboard a flight.
Travel organizations will be able to use more
and more data to influence how VR and AR is
used in the future – perhaps tailoring
advertisements or content to specific
Making Security Seamless with Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used for a
number of years to improve customer
experience, with one of the most common uses
being chatbots that utilize machine learning to
resolve queries quickly.
But AI is now becoming more sophisticated and
integrating into other technologies too. A report
from the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security4 states that in the next four years, its
airports will be leveraging AI to scan 97 percent
of the passengers’ faces.
The U.K. government has invested
GBP 1.8 Million5 in AI technologies to boost
security and reduce wait times at its airports.
One of the AI systems can identify suspicious
objects in footwear and hence saves passengers
the inconvenience of removing their shoes
during security check. Another AI project
involves detecting the natural radiation of
passengers, converting the data into images
and assessing whether they have harmful
devices on them.
Personalized content for in-flight entertainment
and fully AI-powered airports where passengers
can seamlessly walk through security without
putting down their bags could become a norm
in the future.
Personalizing Passenger Journeys with Wearables & IoT
Wearables are enabling customers to get
updates about their flight and use a boarding
pass on many journeys without the hassle of
scrolling through their phones. Tourism
companies are using wearables more
extensively than other players in the travel
ecosystem. Disney’s MagicBand6 which gives
customers access to its parks and replaces
almost all transactions inside is one example
of how wearables are emerging as a technology
to invest in.
Hotels are leveraging Internet of Things
(IoT)-enabled sensors to adjust the heat and air
conditioning as per customers’ liking. At some
airports, bags are tagged with IoT sensors to
alert passengers while their luggage is on the
baggage carousel, or give passengers the
opportunity to track them via mobile apps.
Airlines could attach IoT sensors to the seats
to measure the heart rate and body
temperatures of passengers. This can help the
cabin crew assist passengers who need water
or re-assurance. Wearables can alert passengers to move around on long-haul flights to avoid
deep vein thrombosis.
Automating Actions with Voice & Robotics
Voice technology and robotics are already
disrupting the travel industry. Voice-activated
devices in hotel rooms enable guests to check
on traffic and weather conditions, or restaurant
recommendations. At the Wynn hotel in Las
Vegas, guests can call on Amazon’s Alexa to
close the drapes and turn on the lights.
Some hotels already have AI robots helping
guests check in without the need to speak to a
human. A global hotel chain7 leverages an
AI-powered concierge with speech recognition
capabilities to help guests with their enquiries.
A few new hotels are using robots for room
service as well.
Airports have been experimenting with
different types of robots. There are self-driving
trolleys for luggage, robot cleaners, and robots
geared for answering passenger queries about
flight times and departure gates.
Hassle-free Experiences with Biometric Technology
Facial recognition and fingerprints have already
been used for a number of years for security
purposes at airports. The technology could
make its way to hotels, enabling guests to walk
through the hotel and into their room without
the need to check in and use a key card.
Instead, if the guest’s face matches the ID
they’ve already given to the hotel, scanners
throughout the hotel can authorize them to
enter buildings and rooms.
In addition, biometric technology could enable
hotels to keep better track of guests that want
to charge items to their rooms as it would require a thumb scan rather than a signature
and room number. The experience could be
made even more seamless for customers if they
can enter a hotel restaurant and leave, with the
bill charged to the room through facial
recognition – similar to the quick experience
customers get in retail with Amazon Go.8
All of these emerging technologies are exciting
for business leaders. However, these
technologies need to be integrated with the
right data platforms and analytics capabilities
to truly benefit the business. For instance,
hotels would be able to know if a customer will
visit again from the data stored from facial
recognition, and an airline can tell if a VR or AR
experience was enjoyable to the customer so
that it can improve the service if necessary.
Without the right platforms, these technologies
will merely end up as a fad.