Online travel agents help you book your transportation and accommodation. Travel websites and apps help you create customized itineraries. GPS apps such as Waze enable travelers to navigate to their destinations without getting lost. Downloadable maps and GPS enable the same, even when an Internet signal is not available. Smartphones serve as cameras and social media as albums commemorating trips, with 76 percent of travelers posting photos from their vacations.
It’s no secret that technology has had a significant impact on travel and tourism.
Here is the next round of tech trends projected to transform the way people travel in the coming years:
Mobile Payment Methods
Whereas international credit cards have done away with travelers’ checks, mobile payment methods are poised to transform payments while traveling.
QR codes are printed codes scanned by customers to enable effortless mobile payment. Taxis are integrating this technology in order to simplify the payment process at the end of a trip and to improve the customer experience.
For example, the South African company, Zapper has developed a mobile phone app that lets customers use QR codes to pay for taxi rides. When a taxi driver signs up, Zapper installs a QR code in their taxi cabin. At the end of a journey, passengers can make a payment at the touch of a button, by taking a picture of the QR code.
Hotels also offer QR codes as a means of directing their guests to promotional pages. For example, they may have a sign that reads – “scan this QR code in order to receive 20 percent off drinks at the bar during happy hour”.
eWallets offer a highly convenient and safe method for making payments while traveling. Often protected by multiple security methods, such as PIN number, biometric identification or security questions, eWallets are gaining popularity amongst travelers.
In the US, 79 percent of millennial business travelers are likely to use eWallets as a payment method. Service providers are also developing solutions geared specifically towards travelers, such as TravelersBox kiosks which allow travelers to credit their eWallets with their currency preference, in exchange for loose change they deposit in these kiosks at international airports, saving travelers potential losses from unused change.
Mobile Points of Sale (mPOS)
Mobile points of sale convert smartphones or mobile devices to remote payment terminals, enabling service providers to offer additional services, on the spot.
For instance, a tour guide can offer his customers additional tours or activities while out on a trip, without the need for troublesome bureaucracy, such as returning to the office to finalize payment. And restaurant wait staff can accept customer payments right at the table, quickly and easily.
The advantages of mPOS include increased convenience for improved customer experience, as well as a safe method for accepting a variety of payment methods on the go. mPOS also helps reduce fraud, as payments are processed right in front of the customer and are highly secure.
Chatbots are text interfaces, powered by rules, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing (NLP) that offer 24/7 accessible service to customers over websites and social media. Hotels can utilize chatbots to offer suggestions and recommendations on local events, nearby shows and dining options.
Smart chatbots integrated in OTAs can receive data from a potential traveler and offer travel suggestions based on the details provided in the text message. Airlines are also offering immediate response chatbots to help travelers with flight schedules or baggage allowance.
For example, the KLM chatbot allows customers to simply tick a box to receive all of their digital boarding perks. Once you book your ticket the chatbot launches a series of messages with your:
● Booking information
● Check-in reminders
● Boarding passes
● Flight status announcements
Due to their immediate and responsive nature, as well as the ease with which they are accessible, chatbots are a useful tool for on-the-go travelers. Travelers can request assistance with rescheduling, or ask for itinerary details via their mobile phone, receiving help with their specific travel needs. Integrating chatbots greatly increases customer satisfaction, and travelers who make use of these tools will enjoy better experiences thanks to these digital assistants.
Many new real-time translation devices are being created by integrating speech recognition and machine translation technologies. These include the earpiece or translation apps enable travelers to carry on conversations with locals, while traveling abroad. You can use Google Translate, TripLingo, iTranslate or sayhi to have smoother conversations abroad.
With 88 percent of millennial travelers who travel overseas between 1-3 times a year, and 86 percent of this demographic interested in experiencing new cultures, these technologies hold much value in improving the travel experiences to foreign countries.
Cloud passports offer the new generation of travel documentation. These passports store identity and biometric data in the cloud. The data can be checked digitally, eliminating the need for carrying around a physical passport, which could potentially be stolen.
The first rollouts of this new technology can be found in a pilot for cloud passport based travel between Australia and New Zealand, and the eResidency application process adopted in Estonia. In addition, Gemalto, an international digital security company, offers an electronic passport which includes a microprocessor that stores a digital ID photo and data on the first page of the paper passport and can add digital fingerprint data, creating a biometric passport.
A great addition to existing itinerary apps and sites, Google Trips integrates with the user’s email storing and organizing travel plans as well as sending helpful reminders to the user through his different devices.
The app is available online and can be downloaded for offline access when the traveler is not near a WiFi hotspot. Google Trips stores travel information, confirmation numbers and the user’s itinerary, enabling them to look up addresses or find contact info quickly and easily. The app allows users to define their “must see” sights and suggests daily itineraries based on distance and recommended visiting times.
Google Trips also offers access to maps for easy navigation and additional information such as weather tips. Users can access proximity-based searches for wherever they want to go next, or tap the magic wand for endless suggestions of nearby attractions.
A host of wearable devices offer numerous benefits to today’s digital traveler. Here are just a few novel wearable devices and how they affect travel experiences:
Similar to Disney’s Magic Band, where guests use their bands to access and order everything on their Disney visit, Ocean Medallion offers Princess Cruises guests a highly personalized and hassle free trip.
Each guest receives a Medallion which interacts with 7,000 sensors connected throughout the ship. The technology anticipates what the guests want to do and offers suggestions to the guests on the screens found in their proximity. The system learns the guests’ habits, offering suggestions with the frequency dictated by actual use. The system also anticipates where the guest is going and what he will do next, such as automatically turning on lights and air-conditioning in the room, as the guest approaches.
A wearable earpiece, inspEar offers numerous applications for its users. From enhancing hearing by allowing users to zero in on specific sounds, to instant translation, and IoT implementation for receiving data on demand, inspEar is a powerful tool for travelers.
For example, the inspEar can be used as a tour guide, delivering information on points of interest while sightseeing. The device also comes with a sleep mode, which helps ensure absolute silence for better sleep, even in loud environments such as airplanes.
Apple and Android Smart Watches
Smartwatches are paired to users phones, allowing them to keep their hands free while traveling, all while remaining connected. This can be a significant advantage for a traveler.
Smartwatches offer navigation capabilities, access to travel apps, and translation services. Integrating voice responsiveness, these watches enable users to ask questions, and receive relevant answers directly to their watch, such as “How do you say ‘table for two’ in French?” or “How do I get to the London Tower?”
Integrating advanced technologies such as personalization, geo-location, NLP, AI, cloud computing, biometric identification and mobile payment solutions will continue to transform the travel experience. Today’s travelers have a host of solutions allowing them to do things with ease that many people could have only once dreamed of.
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