10 min read
With so many technologies and options available, the biggest struggle for many is simply knowing where to start. In this piece, we focus on some of the top travel tech trends for 2022 and discuss how they might shape the industry moving forward.
The tourism sector has traditionally been slower to adopt new technology but COVID-19 has pushed digitalisation forward at a rapid pace. Industry players have begun experimenting with cutting edge technologies to optimise processes and provide new offerings to visitors.
At the same time, the pandemic has also greatly shaped visitor needs and expectations. With borders beginning to reopen, those that can meet these needs will have a competitive advantage.
But, with so many technologies and options available, the biggest struggle for many is simply knowing where to start. Thus in this piece, we focus on some of the top travel tech trends for 2022 and discuss how they might shape the industry moving forward.
Covid brings new tech, but also new security concerns
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease in many countries, different players are already starting to adopt new tech that will help them welcome tourists back safely. Some of these technologies include contactless solutions, social distancing and crowd management tools, digital health passports, hygiene robotics, QR codes, and contact tracing apps.
Of course, with great new strides in technology also comes new security vulnerabilities. As eager tourists have been keen to make new travel plans, cybercriminals have been making their own plans.
From restaurant menus to coupons, the use of QR codes exploded during the pandemic as a contactless way to share information with guests and customers. But, according to cybersecurity experts, hackers are looking for new ways to sink their teeth into this trend by replacing QR codes on businesses’ websites or luring unsuspecting visitors with promises of free Wi-Fi networks.
Travel focused phishing scams have also been on the rise offering travelers free tickets for flights, tourist attractions, and hotel stays. According to an interview by CNN Traveler, some are using pre-recorded, unauthorized introductions from well-known travel brands.
As other regions open up for tourism, they will need to step up their security efforts. This means adoption of both COVID-related tech and new AI-based cybersecurity and anti-fraud solutions will be a major trend.
Creating smarter, bolder immersive experiences
COVID-19 restrictions also moved events and exhibitions online, resulting in some innovative new uses of VR and AR tech. Although tourists are starting to come back to physical locations, the use of this technology is unlikely to slow down. Instead, we are seeing the blending of physical and digital experiences in a smarter and bolder way.
Some are using this technology to overcome physical barriers. Without the need for large-scale construction and physical space, traveling VR based attractions can lower costs and bring experiences directly to visitors. For example, some tech companies provide robotic arm based VR roller coasters that are portable and can easily be rented for expos, events, and even mounted on cruise ships.
Cultural institutes are using VR and AR to make tourism to historical monuments more sustainable so these sites can be enjoyed for years to come. In the ruin rich city of Rome, a number of AR and VR projects have been carried out to give tourists a deeper look at what monuments and archeological sites may have looked like in the past.
Restaurants are also getting into the trend with new dining experiences that encompass sight, smell, and sound. Sublimotion in Ibiza, Spain was one of the first to introduce multi-sensory dining in 2014. Interestingly, since then, a number of studies have been conducted showing how differences in sensory perception can actually boost diners’ taste and meal satisfaction ratings, pushing more restaurants to adopt this technology.
Meanwhile shopping malls are trialling how AR can drive footfall to their businesses by creating AR-based pop-up ads, personalised discounts, and ‘try before you buy’ applications.
It seems immersive experiences will become even more popular in the future as the tech world is now abuzz with talk about the potential of the metaverse, a global virtual-reality space in which users can interact with each other in a computer-generated environment via VR headsets or their computer. Although this technology is still in the exploratory phase, we can start thinking about how this new trend could impact tourism in the coming years.
While adopting new tech solely for the ‘cool factor’ is not a good idea, when used strategically, immersive experiences can help the travel industry overcome a number of challenges. Stay tuned for our upcoming article that will dive deeper into how industry players can use immersive technology in a smarter way.
Meanwhile, learn more about how other players in the tourism sector are using AR and the National Gallery Singapore’s insights on their phygital journey and how to build an innovative culture for your organisation.
Travel and wellness tech merge
Health and wellness tourism was already on the rise before the pandemic as yoga bootcamps, meditation retreats, and alternative spa treatments became popular. According to the Global Wellness Institute, Wellness Tourism is now projected to reach $919 billion by 2022.
In fact, during a recent event put on by Tcube on ‘Travel Tech Trends in 2022,’ 83.9% of attendees agreed that wellness will be important for the travel sector moving forward (watch the recording below).
We are now experiencing a shift in the way the tourism sector defines ‘wellness.’ Rather than simply spas, major players are now taking a holistic perspective on wellness which includes fitness, lifestyle, nutrition, and mental health.
Some of the more interesting new developments in this space combine wellness with tech such as virtual reality spas that go beyond external treatments to include services like stress management. Data driven skincare treatments that are highly personalized for each individual customer. Finally, alternative protein options are helping to make menus healthier and more sustainable.
These developments are creating new parallels between different industries and partners.
The ‘Physical activity economy,’ for example, is creating new parallels between the tourism, fitness, and tech sectors. Wellness hotels and centres are now experimenting with wearables that provide the user data needed to give yoga or fitness classes an edge. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the market is now forecasted to reach $1.1 trillion by 2023.
Alongside this, we are seeing a massive growth in Workplace wellness which is projected to grow to $66 billion in 2022. As more businesses seek to provide wellness benefits for their employees, we could see more crossovers between the wellness and business travel sectors with wellness-centred retreat packages, tours, and workshops.
Follow us to read more in our upcoming article about how travel and wellness tech are coming together in new ways. In the meantime, check out Grand Hyatt Singapore’s tips on how to integrate wellness into a hotel business through meaningful partnerships.
Blockchain and NFTs are coming, are you ready?
Blockchain has already entered the travel tech scene as a secure way to share visitor data between different travel businesses, verify IDs, award customer loyalty points, and more.
“Blockchain in general helps remove gatekeepers and streamline processes that include multiple stakeholders. This is already a game changer in solving pain points for industries which are fragmented, and travel is deeply fragmented,” said Henry chen Weinstein, General Partner at One Travel Ventures during our ‘Travel tech trends 2022’ event.
For example, if a visitor wants to book a flight with an airline, a car from a rental company, and a tour with a travel agent all on one platform, these businesses need a secure way to share that visitor’s data, and blockchain can help.
Wider spread adoption of this technology is also paving the way for blockchain related tech, including NFTs.
NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens are digital assets that represent real-world items. This could be anything from pieces of art to music to baseball cards. Using blockchain technology, NFTs are unique assets which cannot be traded or replaced.
Some believe the over-the-top digital art sales we have seen in the past year are simply hype (an NFT of a cat sold for $600,000). Some like New York Times’ columnist Shira Ovide take a more balanced view towards NFTs. Regardless, it is interesting to consider how tourism businesses are exploring new ways to leverage this technology.
There are many more potential use cases they can be applied to – imagine the impact of a digital gift store with NFT postcards, commemorative souvenirs, and collectibles.
Some tourist attractions are even using NFTs to gamify the travel experience by awarding visitors with an NFT badge for every monument they visit, ride they go on, or piece of art they see. This ‘Pokemon Go’ style traveling is helping tourist spots generate new buzz amongst young, tech savvy travelers who want to ‘catch em all’ and be able to show their travel stops to friends in a unique way.
Bars and restaurants are getting into the game by selling crypto cocktails, or NFTs that give the owner exclusive rights to a cocktail and access to the recipe upon purchase.
However, one important consideration moving forward will be the potential impact NFT creation can have on the environment. For instance, digital artists found that the carbon footprint of the average NFT is roughly the equivalent of over a month’s electricity for a person living in the EU. Some are experimenting with new ways to create low carbon NFTs so those that do decide to adopt this tech will need to balance it with their sustainability strategy.
All in all, it may still take time until we see real business value for this tech to be widely adopted.
5G is speeding up the future
Finally, 5G is coming and set to make data exchanges run faster with lower latency, higher connection density, and better energy efficiency. Singapore has already begun pilots this year across the nation and expects to reach 50% coverage by the end of 2022 and complete coverage by 2025.
This will be crucial for the wider adoption of emerging tech like IoT, AR/VR, chatbots, and more by providing disruption free connection. And, as with every new technological advancement, it will usher in the potential for new innovation.
Imagine a family arrives at the airport and they are whisked away in an autonomous shuttle service that can react to potential traffic hazards in a fraction of a second. As they drive along, they receive AR based notifications for various tourist attractions, discounts for restaurants, and ads for shopping centers they pass by. When they reach their destination, the historic city centre, they use a VR headset to access a virtual tour guide who brings them to the top tourist attractions.
Of course, as we can see from this overview of the upcoming travel tech trends, there is no shortage of innovations. These days one of the most difficult challenges travel businesses face is deciding what to focus on first. That is something we explored further with Chris Carmichael, Head of Innovation at TUI Musement, during our event. As he said:
“It’s really easy to get caught up in the latest technologies, but that doesn’t mean that they are all relevant for your business.”
To find out more about how TUI Musement separates the hype from the real business opportunities, check out the recording here: https://go.gov.sg/tcube071221re
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