Opinion by Simon Cox, senior director, strategy and consulting, Publicis Sapient

A new year and a brand-new decade gives us a brief moment to pause and reflect on what might come next in technology trends within, but not limited to, travel.

Jeff Bezos rightly said in ‘Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World’ — when speaking about the future of tech, “What is not going to change in the next ten years?” he said.

Working in an industry that champions change, it goes against the grain to admit that big technology-driven forces don’t come along that often – and when they do, they typically get missed, or scoffed at. I’m willing to bet a half-decent lunch that no one can find a trends piece in 2006 that highlighted the release of an Apple mobile phone as the catalyst for a massive shift in how we experience ‘online’, fuelling an always-on society, and changing almost every industry along the way. None more so than travel.

Here are the underlying technologies that I think will be the drivers of change in 2020, and their likely impact on travellers’ experiences.

This one is a cheat because, by their very definition, exponential technologies will get exponentially more powerful in 2020. Examples include AI, robotics, biotech, and computing. It’s these technologies that will make VR a commercially viable proposition, fuel autonomous travel, and reduce our carbon footprint to create guilt-free travel.

Airports and airlines are investing heavily in automation and recognition technology. Getting people through an airport quicker opens capacity, and helps reduce pain points for the passenger. In 2020, Emirates predicts customers flying from Dubai to any of Emirates’ 12 destinations in the US will be able to choose facial recognition technology at the departure gates, reducing the time taken for identity checks to two seconds or less.

Voice is the most natural, intuitive means of interaction. It is basic communication and yet, it has been almost the last to get there. Using computers and digital devices always meant a familiarity with QWERTY keyboards, basic commands, touchscreens, web interfaces and so on.
It’s easy to see how this could benefit travellers, helping them feel familiar and safe in new environments, overcoming language barriers, and getting the best from their travel experience. The year 2020 won’t be when this comes to fruition but expect Alexa to get better at two-way conversation, as improvement in their Artificial Intelligence sets the foundation for
a future in which your Alexa accompanies you on your travels.

Google is planning to spend $2.1billion to acquire Fitbit. Apple has signalled that health is a key battleground for the iPhone and Apple Watch. As health and technology become more integrated, and consumers increasingly rely on technology to manage and optimise their health, I expect more and more people to want to unlock health and wellbeing data on their travels. This will mean that we’ll see luxury hotels offering mattresses with integrated sleep tech, and consumers demanding more personalised food and event itineraries to respond to their individual health needs during their stays.

Personalisation is the biggest priority among the modern travel industry trends. A personalised approach is now viewed more as an expectation than something extraordinary and is an integral part of the technologies entering the stage of the travel industry