How does travel heal itself?

COVID-19 has pressed the accelerator on change, and with it came a wealth of new innovations and experiences to keep pace.

But beyond the apparent trends like contactless, where is travel headed in 2021 and what will it take for us to get there?

Companies have to strike a unique balance of managing through the current disruption while still planning properly for the future. As such, the travel industry’s willingness to embrace new innovation is key to recovery.

The following four trends are poised to redefine the industry in the coming year – and emerging technology has a tremendous opportunity to transform this new travel experience.

Sustainability

The reduction in movement – and subsequently, carbon emissions – throughout the pandemic has further demonstrated the need for sustainable travel solutions.

One area of interest accelerated by this trend is technology that enables customers to track their personal carbon footprint and encourage more sustainable methods of transportation.

Long-term, transportation powered by alternative propulsion systems (such as electric or hydrogen) will flourish in the next decade.

This will lead to new battery technology, the increased use of computer modeling/artificial intelligence to improve aerodynamics and reduce fuel burn, and advanced machine learning to manage new types of aircraft in the sky, such as vertical take-off and landing vehicles and drones.

An online world

When airline business travel plummeted over 90% in the early days of the pandemic, corporations turned to Zoom and similar equivalents to stay connected.

This trend will only continue to gain momentum in the coming year, with widespread distribution of the vaccine not expected until the fall. Conferencing technology that mimics virtual reality has considerable potential to re-engage remote workers this year, allowing them to feel immersed as if they were face-to-face.

Looking forward, these online experiences can work in conjunction with in-person events, creating “hybrid events” that allow participants a similar experience regardless of their physical location.

New revenue opportunities

In 2021, travel companies will have to continue to diversify revenue streams beyond the cost of a ticket (or hotel room, entrance fee, etc.). This trend has potential to both reduce future macroeconomic exposure and increase share of wallet.

Fortunately, new technology can be leveraged to capitalize on these changing preferences: for example, companies like Volantio aggregate airline passenger data allowing for the strategic overbooking flights by leveraging real-time information.

There are also new innovations to be had in loyalty programs during a time when not many are traveling, so that customers can use their points in a wide variety of situations, not just for travel.

Shift in the travel dollar

2020 saw a huge increase in RV and camping gear sales as more and more travelers opted for ground transportation and local trips.

An interesting dichotomy is that many of these off-the-beaten-path attractions may not even have a website or accept credit cards as payment, making it difficult for the average consumer to find and access their services.

Technology can better equip these businesses to handle increased demand this year, should they be willing to embrace the change. Up-and-coming startups like Hipcamp are putting their money where their mouth is to begin to bridge the technological gap.

Travel is one of the first activities many of us want to do when we have disposable  income.

When applied to these trends, new technology enables us to balance the unique challenge of winning back the hearts and minds of customers while maintaining a commitment to health and safety.

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