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Suwan Tan

Travel through a Millennial’s eye

With technology powering businesses with intelligence, there is much room for the consumer experience to be enhanced by brands. How will they capture the hearts of tourists and the tourism dollar?

Here is one Millennial’s take on it:

  1. Frequent, the ‘F’ in travel

When Richard Branson spoke about Virgin Galactic and bringing back supersonic commercial air travel two years ago, he predicted a not-so distant future when transcontinental air travel may be measured in minutes, not hours. While that might seem ludicrous, Boom Technology, backed by Branson, unveiled a new Concorde 2.0 earlier this month, and claimed that they would halve the time taken to travel from New York to London from eight hours to 3.5 by late 2017.

With the increase in speed and ease of making round the world trips, the frequency of travel would only increase. Along with the lower costs of travel and people increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens, the number of overseas trips taken per person, whether for business, leisure, or commute, could definitely increase exponentially.  Imagine how that number would multiply, if supersonic or hyperloop makes day trips round the world a reality with a reasonable price tag.

A cycle of Google’s five stages of travel would have been completed in the time it took to finish this sentence.

  1. Intelligent yet thoughtful

Imagine arriving in a new city without prior research, you open up an app and instantly you view the city with an overlay of restaurant ratings.

Sounds like something of the future? Since 2009, Yelp Monocle has been showing people great places to go through Augmented Reality as a special hidden feature – users can interact with digital reviews while pointing one’s phone in different directions and exploring the real world.

Just earlier this year, Connie the Robot concierge, powered by IBM Watson’s AI technology, has become the new face of Hilton Mclean in Virginia, offering hotel information, directions, and recommendations about the city. At Disney’s amusement parks, visitors get MyMagic+ wristbands powered by RFID to navigate the grounds, while Disney collects information of to help tailor services for each visitor.

With such technology powering businesses with intelligence, there is so much room for the consumer experience to be enhanced by brands and nations. Keeping records of enquiries, travel habits, questions and preferences allows companies to predict and prepare for the consumer’s next visit, creating the ultimate thoughtful experience for the traveller.

  1. Real-time

Find yourself at Madonna’s surprise performance at Madison Square Garden? Live-stream it on Facebook and share that Instagram Stories or Snapchat right away. Feeling accomplished that you conquered the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Glad you caught some snippets with your Snap spectacles, but if you didn’t, snap a 360 picture, upload it on Facebook and check-in while you’re at it.

Everyone is a social sharer. Not just Millennials, but the baby boomers have caught on as well. From Whatsapp Group chats to Instagram, Facebook to Twitter, sharing of one’s #travel experiences could be both a chance to brag or an expression of individuality.

Real-time updates is not just amongst consumers. Earlier this year, Skyscanner launched a #24hPeriscope campaign to awake the inner travel bug, and start dreaming of the next travel destination.

  1. Smoothen the route

Think of the biggest dampeners to travel – huge amount of research to plan the trip, flight delays, lost baggage. What if you could talk to someone to ask for suggestions, hotel recommendations, flight routes as you’re planning for your upcoming vacation at midnight?

SnapTravel is just a direct message away – be it over Facebook, Slack, or text, you can send your request, and it pulls hotel recommendations for you instantly. AI empowers this travel agent, who is half-bot-half-human, to ask consumers what their budgets are, and texts them pictures, and execute bookings on the back-end, all over chat conversations frictionlessly.

Over the past few years, airports around the world have taken to using Beacons to enhance the passenger experience. Travelers can receive real-time updates of flight times on their phones, enjoy a complete paperless airport experience, use a user-friendly map guide to navigate around the airport, receive actual wait times for passengers in the security and customs queues. Worried about losing your baggage?

Samsonite has also started installing tracking beacons  track of the exact location of your baggage so you will never lose them again. The travel experience has become slickly smooth with the functional implementation of Beacons, that there is no excuse not to travel anymore.

  1. Be trusted

While some travellers like to be surprised and embrace the adventure that awaits, most consumers who travel typically like to have an idea of how their hotel room looks or the neighbourhood they are staying at is like.

Unpleasant surprises should be minimal and one way of ensuring is through Virtual Reality destination testing. With a VR headset, consumers can explore the neighbourhood and set the right expectations of their hotel rooms. They might even think twice of bringing that pair of stilettos if the path to the closest main road is over 400 metres and lined with cobbled stones. A TripAdvisor enhanced with VR would be the trusted advisor a traveller needs for a disappointment-free vacation.

The first ever airplane was flown in 1903 and the first successful human flight to space took place merely 60 years later. While new transformative technology takes the world by storm only once every few decades, consumers’ travel habits have evolved dramatically over a short span of time.

20 years ago, the bulk of overseas trips were made for business, and an average consumer probably took a vacation abroad once a year. These days weekend trips pepper our calendars, with a few long haul trips spread across the year.

The future of travel can only get more exciting with the enhancement of the travellers’ experience. Those who embrace new technology would lead the change, first.

The writer is Suwan Tan, innovation and partnerships, business transformation, Publicis Media



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