The breakneck speed of digital development and technological innovation, which one can expect only to further accelerate as the 2010’s progress, continues to impact the travel sector. Holidaymakers now expect more from travel services in relation to both the organisation and delivery of the vacation. They increasingly research and book online, as opposed or in addition to visiting high street/mall outlets; they utilise a growing range of travel-based mobile apps before, during and after the journey; they expect the whole travel experience to be digitally enhanced in ever more inventive ways. The rise of the smartphone and tablet ownership means travellers can now potentially enjoy their own portable concierge in the form of their personal devices – taking smartphones, laptops or tablets with them on their travels and using them at different stages throughout their excursion. In some countries, more than two-thirds of iPad owners now use their device on holiday or while travelling. In the future, the smartphone/tablet will be not just a source of entertainment during the holiday but a problem-solving, efficiency-enriching, convenience-supplying tool all along the way. Today’s consumer is one of Mobile Living, never being without portable net-accessing machinery and all the experiences it offers – will be a defining trend of the rest of the decade and it is expected that, in the future, the smartphone will be the new holiday companion dislodging the traditional travel guide, especially in developed markets where smartphone penetration is fast approaching majority levels. As well as rising smartphone ownership, the evolution of tablet technology will influence the kinds of services consumers seek from travel and tourism providers in the future. The tablet platform is poised to revolutionise customer service propositions and is already being exploited as a concierge device, adding extra value to hotels and attractions. So much technological innovation will enable consumers to eradicate the burdens associated with holidaying – finding the right deal, remembering to check-in on time, sourcing authentic spots to visit, buying the right kind of insurance. Many more services will emerge that help to eradicate any time-wasting, missed planes, fun-less outings etc. Many may well feel that a holiday is the perfect time to remove oneself from digitally connected living. As technology weaves more tightly into the fabric of our lives, it is indeed foreseeable that certain consumers will value the chance to digitally detox from time to time and prefer to holiday without connecting to their devices. But this will be only a minority sport.
Technological Innovation is Everywhere:
From Africa to God Even in Africa, the smartphone market in Africa has enjoyed rapid growth in the last two years. Mobile banking in certain African nations has been introduced to help service low-income populations who would ordinarily have no access to financial services. The rise of mobile living in Africa has also impacted upon travel. In 2010, Kenya Airways joined M-PESA and Airtel Money to enable consumers without a bank account to purchase flights. Elsewhere, the South Africa Tourism Board launched a mobile site targeting other African consumers with select travel deals, while the Nigerian travel agency www.wakenow.com launched Africa’s first dedicated travel app in 2011, including searches for flights, hotels and car rental. In London, each capsule of the London Eye attraction contains a Samsung Galaxy Tab featuring interactive touch-screen guides, key information on landmarks and a 3D view of each sight. In March 2012, the attraction also launched an augmented reality app for smartphone users. Even God is getting on the act.
In 2011, YouTube partnered with the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information to live stream Hajj 2011. Millions of people were able to follow the event live on video. “Wonderful. I feel I am right there amongst the pilgrims” was one of many complimentary comments left on the Hajj Live channel from those who could not attend in person. Gesture recognition technology is at the heart of the Room 3120 concept – Microsoft and Novotel’s vision of the hotel room of the future. The room also comprises foldaway furniture, multimedia tables and a Sensorit interactive mirror. It’s all a matter of innovation everywhere.