2020 will no doubt be looked back on by many as one of the most difficult years of our lives. Every industry has been affected by the coronavirus, with some more deeply impacted than others. The travel industry has felt the impact of this pandemic more than most. Travel bans, lockdowns, and health risks all ensured that last year would be the most turbulent that the travel industry has faced in decades.
In order to adapt to the ‘new normal’ caused by the pandemic the travel industry continues to prioritise digital transformation. The sector has seen a rapid increase in technology adoption in the past year. This trend will continue in 2021 as the industry seeks ways to recover from the previous year. This blog will discuss 5 technology trends that the travel industry will be embracing in 2021.
Chatbots are artificial intelligence (AI) programmes that are able to conduct conversations with people through chat interfaces. These chatbots have the ability to assist travellers online in a variety of ways.
Chatbots can provide people with customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a much more efficient manner than traditional human interaction. What’s more, chatbots learn with each customer interaction. This learning enables them to provide greater personalisation of a company’s services to consumers and streamline booking processes.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is an example of a company using chatbots in the travel industry. It developed its ‘BlueBot’ on facebook messenger to help the company’s support staff answer 16,000 enquiries weekly. The bot can deliver information to customers such as booking confirmation, check-in reminders, boarding passes and flight status updates.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to bring significant changes to the travel sector. It has held promise for some time now, but with 5G in development, devices will be faster than ever and more connected to one another.
The IoT involves internet based connectivity between devices. These devices create a network that converses and produces data that can be used to increase efficiency across an endless amount of operations in travel companies.
This improvement in the efficiency of business processes can save a company huge amounts of time and money. For example, Virgin Atlantic has been using a fleet of Boeing 787 planes and cargo equipment connected via IoT devices. The data this produces during a single flight exceeds an astonishing half terabyte. Key findings from this data helps Virgin Atlantic slash delays by 20%, reduces deferred defects by 15%, and on average saves each airline engineer 2 hours every day.
Contactless self-service and biometrics
Many airports are beginning to embed facial recognition and touchless technology within self-service devices. This will enable passengers to use their face as their boarding pass to go from their airport drop off and onto the plane in a seamless fashion.
This process will help passengers to move through the airport much faster and avoid long queues. This is particularly relevant in 2021 as it enables people to social distance and to avoid the need to touch any equipment in the airport ensuring greater passenger safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This technology will soon become widespread in the travel industry and some airports have already begun to implement it in their facilities. Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) has deployed extensive biometric screening to create a contactless experience for travellers. The world’s second busiest airport has automated the passengers journey from check-in through to boarding. Passengers enroll during check-in and then enjoy a fluid journey through the airport with facial recognition enabling them to use their face as a boarding pass.
Another example of contactless technology can be found in Riga airport. It has introduced a portable, contactless Covid-19 testing station. This makes tests more accessible for staff and travellers. Owned by E. Gulbis Laboratory, users can authorise a test on the company’s website. They must confirm their identity before paying for the test. Once these steps have been completed they receive a PIN code on their mobile device and then follow instructions on the testing machine to deliver a sample of saliva. They will then receive their result via email.
While this technology has been mainly associated with finance, its potential to help transform travel operations is beginning to be realised. Blockchain ensures data is decentralised, enabling information to be shared across a peer-to-peer network. Data is not only decentralised it is also time stamped and unalterable ensuring that it is more secure, traceable and transparent.
PWC has estimated that blockchain has the potential to increase revenue in the aerospace industry by 4% or $40 billion. It can also cut global Maintenance Repair and Overhaul costs by around 5% or $3.5 billion. These savings will come from activities such as secure document storage, ensured data privacy, automated workflows and an enhanced on repair time and inventory management.
Blockchain has many potential uses in the travel sector. Firstly, blockchains decentralised nature enables easy tracking of luggage that often changes hands multiple times over the course of a journey. Secondly, it can provide a means for secure, traceable payments. It can also be used to store customer information and use that to improve identification services in airports, which could potentially reduce check-in times and queues.
Digital Health Passports
People planning to travel internationally in 2021 will most likely need to confirm the status of their current health with regards to Covid-19. Many experts believe this health passport will come in an app where travellers will be able to check the Covid-19 entry requirements of their destination country.
This will enable passengers to be prepared for their journey by informing them of the necessary tests, vaccinations and any other provisions needed to travel well in advance of their departure. These apps will also store the person’s Covid-19 status such as if they’re vaccinated or the results of a recent test they got before travelling.
Common Pass is an example of such an app that is currently in development. Large airlines such as United and JetBlue plan to use this health passport to verify passengers' virus test results. These digital health passports will instil confidence in passengers knowing that they and all those travelling alongside them have undergone the required health checks that make it safe for them to travel.
Through improving operations, providing cost saving measures or prioritising the health and safety of all travellers during this pandemic, each of these technologies will play a major role in the travel industry making a comeback in 2021.
Please reach out to us to discuss these or other technology trends that you see being important in travel technology in 2021.