From advancing technology and sustainability concerns to a focus on meaningful travel, we take a look at some of the emerging trends that are set to shake up the travel industry.
“Psychographics” – the study of traits such as values, goals and lifestyle choices – will increasingly inform the curation of meaningful journeys and is set to take the lead in luxury travel, according to a recent forecast from Globetrender, commissioned by luxury tour operator cazenove+loyd. Within this will be a rise in social and environmentally responsible travel experiences. Example itineraries include indigenous experiences where travellers can immerse themselves in remote cultures with local tribes, such as in Papua New Guinea.
Those looking to understand their own heritage may embark on ‘DNA pilgrimages’, to learn more about who they are or their ancestry. One itinerary on offer features a visit to Nepal to retrace the steps of a family member who served in the Royal Gurkha Rifles. “Pioneering safaris”, meanwhile, cater to travellers who want their presence to benefit rather than exploit wildlife and ecosystems. Guests at the Casa Caiman in Pantanal in Brazil, for example, will have the chance to monitor Hyacinth Macaw nests and add to knowledge about local birds at the Hyacinth Macaw Institute.
In the travel industry, machine learning is rapidly being integrated to improve processes for both operators and consumers. Behind-the-scenes, IT specialists such as SITA are using AI to monitor things like on-time performance (OTP), baggage tracking and airport passenger flows to improve efficiencies.
As travellers, we’ve seen a huge increase in AI chat bots to help us with our travel queries or hotel requests, from Aloft’s ChatBotlr to Mercure’s Mercure BOT. These services are best suited to simple questions that free up staff for more detailed enquiries, but the tech is advancing all the time. In July, Trip.com introduced its most advanced AI assistant TripGenie, which has been specifically designed to offer more personalised and curated recommendations.
Peer Bueller, CFO of travel search engine Kayak, says: “It’s a ton of work to explain in a search box what you’re looking for. I hope in ten years we’ll have figured out how to have conversational interfaces with technology in a way that it understands us the way we understand each other. It will be the equivalent of speaking to a human travel advisor about your trip, but one that has the knowledge of all travel agents in the world, and that’s a really powerful thing.”
Flashing your face instead of your passport is starting to become commonplace at airports across the world in a bid to reduce congestion and improve security. Singapore Changi airport, regularly voted ‘Best Airport in the World’ by Business Traveller readers, has vowed to go “passport-free” in 2024, with biometric technology and facial recognition used to allow passengers to fly without passports or boarding passes. “Biometrics will be used to create a single token of authentication that will be employed at various automated touchpoints, from bag-drop to immigration and boarding,” said Singapore’s minister for communications and information, Josephine Teo, last September.
Other airports and travel authorities are following suit. In October, for example, Frankfurt airport introduced “full-coverage biometric systems”. Pierre Dominique Prümm, executive director aviation & infrastructure at Fraport AG, said: “We are the first European airport to offer all passengers a contactless and convenient passenger journey using biometrics. Our goal is to equip at least 50 per cent of all check-in kiosks, pre-security, and boarding gates with this new, pioneering technology.”
SAF and eVTOLs
Sustainability is one of the biggest buzzwords in travel right now and a major driving force for change. Within aviation, production lines of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) are ramping up to power air travel within the next decade. At the time of writing, Virgin Atlantic was set to become the first commercial airline to complete a fully SAF-powered transatlantic flight from London Heathrow to New York’s JFK, heralding the start of a new era of sustainable air travel.
Research into hydrogen fuels and electric aircraft is also targeting a 2030s kick off. In its ‘Travel Trends 2024’ report, Amadeus highlighted eVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft) as a key emerging trend. It said: “As cities are more congested and air pollution is more prevalent, a potential solution to fossil-fuel-powered transportation will be the emergence of skyways that allow flying taxis, eVTOL aircraft and other kinds of electric aircraft to provide lower emission air travel options, both within urban areas, to satellite airports, cross-country and between islands.”
German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter is poised to provide one of the first fleets, with its VoloCity eVTOLs being distributed for the Paris Olympics 2024, followed by plans to launch electric air taxis in Singapore in 2024, and subsequently Malaysia and Indonesia. Other eVTOL companies include Toff Mobility, which has plans to launch electric aircraft in South Korea in 2024, while in the US Joby Aviation intends to start commercial eVTOL flights from 2025 after signing agreements with Delta and ANA.
In addition to investment in more fuel-efficient fleets and operations, numerous airlines offer carbon offsets for passengers or businesses to pay extra to decrease the carbon footprint of their flight. These funds are redirected to regenerative practices such as recycling, environmental protection, tree planting and supporting local communities. But carbon offsetting is often criticised and more needs to be done. Intrepid Travel recently published its ‘A Sustainable Future for Travel’ report, in which it painted a dystopian future of virtual vacations, shade-seeking holidays, and carbon passports that restrict individual movement if measures are not taken seriously.
According to the report, experts say individual travellers should be limiting their carbon emissions to 2.3 tonnes each year – the equivalent of a round-trip from Brazil to Saudi Arabia. However, the average carbon footprint of UK travellers alone is 11.7 tonnes.
Hyper-personalised carbon tracking is one of the key tools highlighted to combat this, with Intrepid recently introducing carbon labelling on 500 itineraries to give consumers a ‘nutrition label’ style indicator of the exact amount of emissions their trip would involve. Intrepid predicts this going one step further, with travellers in 2040 likely to have personal carbon tracking counters on their smartphone so they can fully monitor their footprint.
In relation to carbon emissions, there’s a growing push for “multi-modal” journeys that combine more sustainable methods and reduce the reliance on air travel. In early 2023, France instituted a semi-ban on short flights that could be completed by train, while flight-free travel company Byway specifically promotes alternatives to flying. Cat Jones, founder and CEO of Byway, says: “Our at-a-glance flight-comparison feature shows the scale of the carbon savings made by choosing flight-free for specific trips – for example, an 82 per cent [reduction in carbon emissions] for taking the train to Aberdeen – and we hope it will inspire more people to swap flight-based holidays for joyful multi-stop overland journeys.”
Transport hubs are also investing in more opportunities to provide connected infrastructure. According to SITA’s ‘Meet the Megatrends 2022’ report, “intermodal travel ranks high on the investment agenda for airlines,” with 67 per cent of airlines confirming development programmes of this nature.
On the ground, travellers are also showing more interest in sustainable travel. According to a recent GBTA survey on the evolution of ground transport, companies have shown a 38 per cent increase in interest in sustainable and eco-friendly vehicles since 2019. Up to 66 per cent of business travellers said they were interested in using ground transport such as train or car rentals instead of flying, while 37 per cent of European business travellers used an electric scooter, bike, or other type of electric micro-mobility on their last business trip.
At the same time as we lighten our footsteps on this planet, we’ll be taking our first footsteps off it. The stars of the tourism space race include Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, all of which are launching a range of commercial space flights. It’s not quite ready for mass tourism – tickets for a foray into the final frontier start from a cool US$450,000 on board Virgin Galactic – but other players are joining the market. French company Zephalto is set to launch stratospheric journeys 25km above Earth, combining out-of-this-world views with Michelin-starred dining.
Pre-reservation is due to launch soon, with ticket prices at €120,000. It’s not just about floating around in zero-gravity though, with plans for orbiting luxury hotels in the works. The Space Development Company is working on plans to create a luxury space hotel, Voyager Station. Construction is due to start in 2026, with the project touted to provide accommodation for 280 guests and 112 crew members, and shuttles provided by SpaceX.
Menus of the future
Locally sourced ingredients have become a staple on many high-end menus, but the future of dining is set to visit new extremes. To mark its centenary, UK train operator LNER commissioned a survey from Perspectus Global to establish the top five food trends for the next 100 years in partnership with food futurologist Robin Fegen. The food forecast revealed drastic results, predicting that some ingredients such as chocolate will virtually disappear from menus due to its high-carbon footprint. Instead, diners can look forward to “bug burgers, cricket cakes and mealworm macarons”, as nutritionally-sound and environmentally-friendly insects become a major part of our diet.
In the nearer future, Fegen expects to see a vast increase in plant-based cuisine and a rise in genetic modification to create healthier, tastier options. “It’s highly unlikely vegans will become meat eaters, but undoubtedly, we will see more meat eaters become vegans, even after meat has started to be created in labs and insect protein has become more prevalent. We’re looking at a plant-based future with more plants, fungi, algae and more.”
According to Hospitality Investor, the first three months of 2023 saw the fewest office properties sold on record, as the needs of the global workforce continue to adapt in a post-COVID world, while a recent survey by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that 77 per cent of UK workers now desire flexible work arrangements. Communal workspaces are increasingly in demand by the new breed of digital nomads, and hotels are answering that cry, with newer brands building cool co-working spaces into their offering. Ruby Hotels is one such chain, which offers Ruby Workspaces in five of its properties across Europe, with a focus on flexible, all-inclusive memberships, high-speed wifi and bottomless barista coffees.
Other notable options include Zoku Amsterdam, a “home-office hybrid”, and TRYP by Wyndham Dubai with the added benefits of poolside tapas and a cocktail lounge. In London, The Hoxton has Working From_ at its Southwark site, TRIBE Hotels has the Social Hub in Canary Wharf and nhow London in Shoreditch offers a vibrant co-working lobby space.