In the next five to ten years, technology will give us many new ways to enjoy travel--from the planning phase to the actual trip. Tomorrow's travel will look nothing like it does today, and the travel adventures anyone can go on will be limited only by our imagination.
So what are some of these drastic changes I'm referring to? The following is a good idea of what you can expect:
- Semantic Voice Search Technologies. These will revolutionize how people discover, discuss and plan their travel. This technology is already working fairly well with Apple's Siri and Google's voice search tools, and it will improve even further in the near future thanks to the advances of the Three Digital Accelerators: processing power, digital storage and digital bandwidth. Within the next five years, most of our searching will be with voice to what I have called an ultra-intelligent electronic agent (an audio and/or visual version of Siri and the others).
- Ultra-Intelligent Electronic Agents. Think of this electronic travel buddy as your virtual concierge, troubleshooter and travel guide. If you don't have your own ultra-intelligent electronic agent, you will be able to rent one as part of your travel package via the travel agent or company you're booking with. These travel buddies will help you with everything from securing movie, show or park tickets at your destination to making restaurant reservations to hailing taxis to helping you if you get lost. You'll never again travel alone.
- Virtual Reality Experiences. VR will allow you to experience (see, hear and even smell) your chosen destination months before you arrive. Within the next five years, you will be using virtual reality technology to have 3D experiences of your favorite destinations as if you were there. Keep in mind, this won't reduce the need for travel; if anything, it'll entice you to want to experience the real thing, becoming a form of what is called "showrooming" in retail outlets today--a way to plan a trip knowing exactly what you will want to see, do and experience.
- Airport Security. The pain of waiting to go through body scanners will quickly become a thing of the past. Thanks to the use of biometrics, airports will become a more enjoyable part of the travel experience. Fingerprint reading and face recognition will be implemented to keep people moving and reduce the long lines. It already exists to some degree. For example, you already use your fingerprints as a pass to get through international security when you arrive back in the U.S., so in the future there is no reason why you could not do the same for boarding a plane once you're checked in. This will be an option that will save time, prompting many to opt into this type of program.
- Social Travel. Traveling with a mobile social media element will happen in a formal way within the next five years. We currently have websites such as TripAdvisor that are community marketplaces for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world. Technological advances will make this sort of peer-to-peer booking more seamless and user-friendly.
- Intergalactic Tourism. Believe it or not, space tourism will begin to launch. Currently, you can book a space flight for about $250,000 USD, but you only get a few minutes in Low Earth Orbit before you return to Earth. To go up and enjoy your stay will take some time--most likely closer to the ten-year mark. But if you want to go there for a few minutes to see the Earth and experience weightlessness with out-of-this-world bragging rights, that will begin to happen on a mass scale quite soon.
- Augmented Experiences. Digitally aided adventures using AR will become popular thanks to the use of Google Glass-style wearable technology. These devices will detect virtual reality and data apps embedded in the landscape, adding a new layer to a hike in the hills. If you really think about it, this would essentially make getting lost a thing of the past.
- Created Travel Environments. Finally, we'll see a future of human-made travel environments, from Qatar's Desert Park to conceptual architects such as Jean-Marie Massaud, suggesting a new generation of slow-travel luxury airships and dBox's zero-impact floating islands. Disneyland was the first to do this on a large scale decades ago. We will likely see even more impressive examples that incorporate digital technology and especially the Internet of Things (IoT) happening around the world.
While travel will certainly transform over the next few years, as an entrepreneur, how can you anticipate business innovation in all of this? The answer is simple: pay attention to the Hard Trends already shaping the travel industry, and ask yourself what changes are you already seeing and what are you most looking forward to?