Trends in travel tech

It’s easier, faster and safer than ever to jet set around the globe. But if you think progress stopped at the decline of the high-street travel agent, think again. Buckle up for some of the latest advancements in travel tech.

New kid on the blockchain
For those who can’t get enough of the delightfully secure, automated database that is blockchain, you can now use it to buy a ticket to paradise – providing your idea of paradise is Luxembourg.

For the first time in history, German airline Hahn Air has teamed up with Winding Tree’s open-source travel distribution platform to fly three passengers from Dusseldorf to Luxembourg using blockchain-issued tickets. Together, the two businesses were able to list flight inventory, manage reservations and receive payments in cash, credit card or cryptocurrency – but you can do almost all of that with a regular airline. So, what’s the big deal?

There’s no chance of your booking being tampered with, for a start – it’s 100% secure. All of the information regarding the flight was stored in a decentralised ledger, verified by millions of sources and making it scam-proof. And because everything is open-source, the businesses involved (such as the airline, distribution systems, etc.) can easily connect and exchange transactions without a middleman, making the process much more efficient, much more affordable, and less susceptible to human admin error.

Fancy being the next blockchain plane passenger? You might have to wait a while. The three passengers on board were the founder and the CIO of Winding Tree, plus the head of sales engineering at Hahn Air – who says that blockchain booking is still a little way off hitting the mainstream.

That’ll give you plenty of time to practice your Luxembourgish then…

Ahead of the pack
Regardless of how you book your trip, there’s no getting out of the arduous task that is packing. At least now you don’t have to worry about what to bring, with a little help from coach tour company Contiki.

Together with Amazon, Contiki has launched an Alexa Skill to help customers easily generate bespoke holiday packing lists. Perfectly tailored to the traveller’s destination, the packing list is read out by their voice-assistant as they scramble for forgotten flip flops, or accessed via the Alexa App for viewing at a glance.

Keen to ensure travellers keep the planet in mind during their adventures, the Skill recommends sustainable alternatives to essential products – ocean-safe sun cream, for example – as well as gently discouraging the purchase of single-use plastics.

But Contiki isn’t the only travel industry mainstay jumping on the AI train…

They’re all at it
Pretty much every online travel agent embraces AI-driven software models to help upsell add-ons for your holiday package, or offer round the clock chatbot support to handle those pesky 3AM disasters efficiently and affordably.

However, the world of travel is bursting with ingenious technological features so stealthily brilliant that you probably haven’t even noticed them.

Luxury hotel chain Dorchester Collection recently deployed AI to analyse guest reviews and use the findings to match customers with their food preferences, so they’ll never be stuck with un-crispy bacon or smooth orange juice again.

And why leave the customisation at the breakfast table? Guests at InterContinental Hotels in China are able to control every aspect of their hotel room via voice commands. The system is so fine-tuned that it behaves almost identically to a human interaction, with AI-powered rooms changing the music, adjusting the lights, drawing the blinds and changing the temperature to suit you. It’s like having your very own robot butler. Speaking of which…

Robot takeover
Airports are one of the easiest places to find yourself flustered, lost and stressed – especially if your flight’s delayed.

Guests who travelled to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics were greeted by cutting-edge robots able to hold conversations in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese using voice recognition.

The friendly robots, created by LG, displayed flight and airport information, scanned boarding passes and even escorted lost passengers to the right departure gate. The robots had their run of the airport, alongside smaller, similar robots tasked with keeping the floors shiny and clean.

Far more sophisticated than your run of the mill Roomba, these clever cleaners featured autonomous navigation, and were able to detect and retain information about the areas that required the most frequent cleaning.
LG hinted that it had plans to ‘develop and expand its commercial robot business as a future growth engine’. The airport robots demonstrated exactly what the future might look like with these helpful assistants in tow.

We may be a way off leasing self-driving cars as standard and checking in via telekinesis, but travel tech is embracing the future with open arms. 2020 is set to be a game-changing year, with existing trends in sustainable tourism and package personalisation set to take off (sorry…). So watch this space!