Primarily, it was a publicity stunt for a brand new British car, the Triumph TR2. Secondly, it was to get a signature from each newspaper editor in all the 48 continental state capitals, in under a month, to show the exceptional ability of the new sports car.
The stunt backfired (bad choice of words, sorry) when a driver backed out of a side road in Connecticut and hit the Triumph, making it largely undrivable. Just one state away from the finish.
Then vs now
The trip took three years to plan, with fuel stops, overnight stays, and precision maps for every state. With GPS, mobile apps for fuel and rest areas, and collision avoidance technology, I wonder how successful the same trip would be today. I wonder if the travel industry would support another attempt?
On the rise
Recently, the travel and tourism industry has been decimated, but while people were unable to spend their cash on vacations and adventure trips, the industry ramped up its services to be ready for the next onslaught of travelers and tourists.
More to the point, the travel and tourism industry are expecting to see consumers take longer vacations, with more stops and upgraded hotel reservations, than they would have taken before. With the high rate of inflation, especially in Europe, some are taking the YOLO approach and are aiming at a real top quality experience in an exotic location, and they will find plenty of travel technology to welcome them. Of course, low cost carriers will be happy to fill seats, and tour operators and travel companies will start to smile again.
Your vacation, upgraded
Today, I would like to look at some of the technological advancements that the hospitality industry is going to be using to make your vacation a truly memorable and personalized experience. They are going to hit the sweet spot and greatly improve your customer experience.
The increasing use of QR codes
We’ve all seen those little boxes that look like Tetris on steroids, but they are ubiquitous, with all sorts of clever applications for the travel industry.
Take, for example, a restaurant menu. You have the description of the dishes and the prices, but add a bunch of QR codes and the customer can do so much more, depending on the format. Scan a code to order a meal without speaking to a waiter, almost like using virtual assistants. Your order will be delivered to you as your table number is included in the QR code.
Taking it one step further, scan another QR on the menu to watch a short video about how the food is prepared and what it will look like when it is presented at your table. With this digital technology, a restaurant will increase its competitive advantage.
They can provide directional information along a hiking trail, or historical insights at a heritage site. QR codes can be used to direct the user to a website or landing page for a series of addresses, hotel brochures, feedback forms, and social media pages. Some hotels use them for providing a list of services available, negating the need for calling the front desk.
The use of dynamic QR codes means that they can be changed on the fly to adjust for discounts, payment changes, or up-to-date information. They are one of the latest travel technology trends. By the way, QR means ‘quick response’. I had to look that up.
Forming up on a virtual queue
If you have ever been to a theme park or large exhibition, you will have experienced one of the biggest time wasters – the long queues. When I was in China, I went to the Forbidden City, and had to wait 75 minutes in 30C temperatures and heavy smog to buy an entry ticket from a travel agency. I didn’t speak enough of the language to be able to use online bookings, and mobile technology was not an option for me. It took the shine off the visit.
Nowadays, businesses can provide a virtual queue online, to control customer flow and make it more comfortable for those waiting. We have all been in a virtual queue probably without realizing it. Think of the telephone call to your bank and holding for the next available agent. But that situation is completely different to the travel industry usage.
Physically waiting in line is tiring. Smart travel and hospitality businesses, like museums, galleries and heritage sites, know that they might lose some customers if the line is too long, so by using an online tool, they can guarantee a reserved spot for the customer and will let them know on their mobile device when to approach the sales desk, ticket booth or checkout area.
Virtual reality tourism
Try before you buy. It was a great idea and has been re-invented for travel and tourism. Companies involved in the industry present virtual reality tourism guides to prospective clients, so that they are able to look around different destinations before choosing the perfect match.
Using VR as an emotional marketing tool brings the customer and the destination together and enhances the desire to visit. Go to a travel agency, and take a stroll through the back streets of Kowloon, maybe learning a little of the language before you book your flight to Hong Kong. Have an in-depth look at cooking styles in Thailand and go for a culinary workshop.
If tourism to you means going to museums, you will really appreciate some of the VR tours that have been developed by some famous museums. Look around first before you actually go to the city and visit it in person.
Moving from the virtual to the physical, augmented reality can be extremely beneficial to the travel industry, as the client is now on location and will be looking for information, tips and other snippets about the destination.
Before booking a holiday, customers require a lot of information to help them evaluate the trip in all ways, from room comfort to checkout, tipping to transport, places to see and things to do.
But not everything is online, and here’s the opportunity for using augmented reality to enhance the whole experience. Hotels can put a wall map in hotel rooms, and by using augmented reality functions, a guest can scan the map with their smartphone to get precise information about the surrounding areas. There might be a best restaurant locator for example. The map would enhance any traveler’s experience.
At the beginning of May 2022, Google showcased a demo of their new upgraded Google Glass, the AR headwear. The new version apparently will have instant translating capabilities on the glass screen, as well as the usual AR markers for places of interest.
Whether Google Glass takes off or not, it shows that the industry players are still keen on travel trends.
Blockchain infrastructure for connectivity
Although most people connect blockchain with cryptocurrency, it is actually a stand alone technology that can really help the travel and tourism industry, and therefore the customers, in a number of ways. Because it is immutable and secure, trust and transparency issues are gone. This new technology will help in automating travel, and can only be for the best.
Blockchain can be used to process payments between customer and provider, taking out the middleman (the travel agents, management systems, credit card charges, etc) and reducing costs. Customers will feel more secure in these transactions, and that secure feeling will improve customer experience.
Personal ID transactions
It can be used to make it easier for you to move through the various ID checkpoints that are necessary to travel, by securing your personal identification from the beginning, to check in with airlines, board flights, get your hotel room and so on.
Breakfast in London, lunch in New York, baggage in Cyprus? Not any more. Travel technology using blockchain is operating right now to track your valuables from departure to arrival and back.
Reduction in fraud
Blockchain is immutable and highly secure. There is no way that any ledger can be manipulated for fraudulent activities, because if one part is changed, all of the subsequent parts must also be changed, and that is nigh on impossible. There is no single person or entity that has control over a blockchain, being a distributed ledger technology.
While cryptocurrency is having a bumpy ride at the moment, with some people losing their shirts, blockchain in travel technology is moving forward nicely and is rapidly becoming very acceptable to the travel industry.
Part of the Internet of Things, or IoT, beacon technology allows the sending of informational messages to users. For example, while taking a walking tour, messages can be sent about a particular place a user is walking through, giving the age and history of the area. This technology can also be used really well for corporate services, providing location information and saving time for customers and attendees at expos, conferences and trade fairs.
A beacon pumps out a signal to any bluetooth enabled device within range. It can be programmed for information, weather updates, shopping promotions and suchlike. Like all great technological advances, the use of beacons in the travel industry will continue to expand.
Just in case you think you are going to get bombarded with bluetooth messages, the beacon is a polite little guy, and always asks permission first. It doesn’t have any artificial intelligence, but it does its job very well.
Spreading far and wide
More and more cities are placing beacons next to famous buildings, historical areas and sites of interest as an inclusive way to tell the story of the city environs. It’s a great way of adding a really personalized experience to your vacation, raising your customer experience and helping you stay connected to your surroundings.
It’s like your own tour guide, accompanying you with the internet of things connection. And your kids will love travel technology too!
Personalized news services
On vacation, my greatest pleasure is having breakfast on my balcony with a daily newspaper to read, listening to the hustle and bustle below. But if the newspaper is not in English, part of the fun is taken away.
If the hotel is keen to offer a personalized experience, they will have subscribed to one of the several digital newsprint providers, who serve up all the big names in journalism and periodicals for your reading pleasure. A tablet would be best, but a smartphone will suffice. In many upmarket hotels, they provide the tablet as well. Online reviews of these digital newsprint providers is very positive, and it would make my trip perfect.
Unlike pre-determined online news services like Google and Yahoo, you get to choose your own supplier of news. From the front page to the sports page and obits, everything you would expect to find in your local daily. You don’t get the rustling of the pages turning though. Pity.
Some may think this to be an invasion of privacy, but in 2021, the Tokyo Olympics used this technology to control access to participants and spectators, and to gain valuable customer data about gender, age, and whether or not they were in a good mood! A lot of marketing planning for future events was enabled. Technological advances in facial recognition have improved so much in the past few years that it is virtually flawless.
Imagine using your face to check in to your hotel, gain access to your room and enjoy the amenities that the hotel offers. The technology allows for speedy ‘transactions’ and therefore reduces waiting times.
Using the hotel restaurant would also be a breeze, as all you would have to do would be to leave after enjoying your fine dining experience. The facial recognition technology would capture your image and charge the cost to your room. It would even be able to remember dietary requirements and little things like extra hot sauce on your gourmet burger.
The people who benefit most
Entire communities are affected by tourism, and bathe in the glow of successful enterprises that attract tourists to the region. It’s not just the hotels and restaurants that benefit, but the dry cleaners, food suppliers, bakeries, souvenir shops, transportation industry, even the waste disposal teams. For every hospitality worker, there are many more that have a connection to the tourism industry and therefore grow the economy. A cruise ship requires many land based services.
I can’t imagine how these tourist ‘towns’ have had to suffer during the health crisis, and their losses must be immense. It will take years, if not decades, to return to normal. Travel agencies sit empty, and even the online travel agencies have struggled.
The travel industry, the hospitality industry and the tourism industry have been sleeping for two years, and it’s now time to reawaken these giants and let them serve us as only they can.