Technology and investment tracking service CBInsights recently published a report containing its forecast on innovation and technology developments this coming year.
12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2021 is a broad look at what's likely to have an impact on the business world and how users might be impacted.
It does not tackle one sector of industry in particular but is a general overview of movements in the tech world that are expected to gain prominence this year.
There are a number of elements that make the list pertinent to the travel industry: the sector has been hit massively by the coronavirus pandemic, so any pockets of innovation that can help its recovery are likely to be important ones to consider; and the digital world has accelerated far beyond what may have been predicted this time last year.
Listed below are some of the trends noted by CBInsights and how they might strike a chord with the industry's strategies to move forward in 2021.
We're hiring: the "chief prepper officer"
Pandemic-slammed 2020 illustrated an important aspect of running a business: strive for resilience and preparedness.
In travel, brands already understood that events such as volcanoes could have a devastating impact on operations but many conceded (as our New Reality With... series of interviews with industry leaders revealed) that they had never considered quite how disruptive a health emergency could be - at scale and over a prolonged period of time.
Smart companies are likely to be creating roles in their organizations (or lines of responsibility within existing positions) that are dedicated to examining how supply chains, partnership deals and customers are handled in the future.
Quantum computer of solace
The cutting-edge processing techniques behind quantum computing have many positive benefits but there is a serious requirement that is emerging.
Hackers with a decent quantum computer now have the ability to tap a brand's emails, e-commerce interactions, payments and other records as they move between servers and users.
Companies need to match these abilities with encryption methods of their own, many of which are already being developed by the likes of IBM and Microsoft.
Not a nice-to-have but an increasingly core component of the IT department's strategy.
The rapid rise of Clubhouse over recent months indicates that the role of private networks might be a trend that moves beyond the nerdy world of Silicon Valley and investors with (too much) time on their hands.
Facebook and other semi-open social networks aren't to be written off just yet but companies that ignore a desire by people to meet and discuss issues and trends in secure environments, should do so at their peril.
Allowing customers - read: travelers - to congregate in tribes or packs could be the community aspect of a product (pre- and post-usage) that many brands have strived for over the years.
A world full of Valleys
California's Silicon Valley has held sway over the development of technology and innovation for decades, despite the emergence of tech hubs in other cities around the world such as London, Berlin, Tel Aviv and others.
"Tech-forward cities" are rethinking the hub concept from the ground up (literally), with an emphasis on building digital-first infrastructure, transportation and access to capital that ignores the predefined ideas of locations where cool stuff can happen.
This will have a profound impact on the startup world but also in the Research & Development plans for established tech-led companies in travel. Many will need to get involved or be left behind.
Let's get physical
Although so much of the business of travel is booked and coordinated in a digital environment, users still mostly (unless you count the handful of virtual experiences that emerged in 2020) consume the final product in real life.
Travelers fly, drive, stay and experience a destination in-person. But the outbreak of the coronavirus has shifted the thinking about what to do with physical spaces into a new realm.
Health considerations and protocols are having a major impact on how travelers interact with the actual environment that they use or experience - but brands should be thinking about what else can those areas be used for.
Multi-purpose and efficient use of space (hotels as co-working venues or attractions as learning centers, for example), driven by technology to facilitate and manage, could be one of the key drivers of a recovery. Such changes could signal the convergence or local and tourist that destinations and brands have yearned for over decades.
Other important trends to consider:
- Ambient wellness - The convergence of health and self-care (brought into sharp focus during 2020) will unbundle the spa and bring it into homes, shops and elsewhere.
- Hotelization of the office - when people return to their offices, spaces will be less populated and personal, with the aesthetic shifting away from the collaborative campus model of old.
- Clipping crypto - rewards based on cryptocurrency technology will reshape how brands, loyalty programs and payment companies offer cashback.