As the year winds down, it also closes the chapter on a
decade of immense evolution within the travel industry. Change has been the
only constant throughout the 2010s, and there’s no sign of it slowing down.
Just five years ago, not many people in the travel industry
knew the degree to which Instagram‐worthy photos and overtourism would affect
travelers’ destination choices - or how dramatically short‐term rentals would
disrupt the hotel business. In the transportation sector, the rise of low‐cost
airlines and the unbundled services now offered have allowed travelers to
customize their experiences even further.
This culture of sustained, rapid change will continue to
lead to increased innovation. We’ll see the culture of commerce - the way people
spend and make money on travel - expand to include new ways of customization, as
well as increased efficiencies in the booking process across the board.
Course‐correcting the trend of overtourism
The rise of the Instagram travel influencer, low‐cost
airlines and the sharing economy have created overtourism in popular
destinations across the world. But we’ll see a rise of course‐correcting in the
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As the backlash against overtourism in more remote parts of
the world leads to regulation in areas like the Galápagos Islands or the Angkor
Wat temple in Cambodia, it will provide a unique opportunity for travel
companies to discover and open new destinations.
As these new destinations across the world start to pop up,
I expect to see the options for travelers multiply tenfold over the next
decade. This presents an immense opportunity for world economies to scale their
tourism abilities if they have the necessary infrastructure in place.
Value of sharing amenities grows
A perennial disruptor in the travel industry, the sharing
economy will continue to evolve. The next phase of that evolution takes these
accommodations to a new level - one that offers services that compete even more
directly with traditional hotels, like a seamless check‐in process or private
access to amenities. Many of these sharing accommodations can present travelers
with a more complete experience, including options like tapping into hosts’
golf or beach club memberships.
In a survey commissioned by Airbnb last year, 97% of
United States respondents said amenities impact their travel experience. In terms of
what factors affect vacation quality, accommodations were the top response,
with amenities second. Airbnb reports that amenities rank higher than shopping
and dining, location, culture and even family and friends.
Earlier this year, Guesty COO Vered Raviv Schwarz told
Forbes.com: “These ‘new’ vacation rental guests are accustomed to hotel
services and products, and thus will be demanding more hotel‐like services from
their rentals, from bathrobes to concierge‐like communication.”
economy isn’t slowing down, and we can expect to see many more rental home
owners take the concept to the next level by monetizing these benefits or
memberships that they aren’t using all the time.
Faces will launch journeys
The use of biometrics in the travel industry is exploding.
Two million passengers in the U.S. were scanned using facial recognition in
April, and that number grew to 25 million just four months later. Offerings
such as digital fingerprint matching, retinal scanning and facial recognition
offer benefits for travelers and travel companies alike. Authenticating
travelers in this way brings frictionless, seamless, more secure travel closer
to reality in the next decade.
When it comes to hotels, checking in using facial
recognition means a faster experience for guests and an easier way for a
property to ensure that frequent guests are acknowledged and have their
preferences accommodated. While the technology isn’t yet perfect, this is where
we will see these capabilities evolve and change as hotels work to further
streamline the travel experience.
Biometrics have a role in secure payments, too. Mastercard,
which used fingerprints for the first biometric cards in 2017, is now testing
systems that use smartphone cameras to confirm identities. Travelers can check
out of their hotel, pay for meals and confirm their participation in loyalty
programs without the risk of a plastic card being lost or duplicated.
Our industry has undergone tremendous change over the past
few years, and trips are well on their way to becoming both curated and
frictionless. We have a sharing economy and technology that allow us to find a
very specific type of accommodation anywhere or open a door with a simple scan
of our facial features.
Yet what remains constant is that travelers want a
memorable experience, and they want the process to be easy. That expectation
will carry over as we head into 2020 regardless of the new technologies we
start to see.
About the author...
Pratt is senior vice president of travel solutions at WEX
* Check out our interview with WEX's product portfolio manager, Macaire O'Brien, during The Phocuswright Conference 2019.
Partner Interview: WEX