Travel companies must move past getting people from A to B, but think about collecting information to build a 360° view of the traveler to create a tailored and memorable experience – right from the moment they are inspired to travel, to the time they return home from their trip.
With the provision of unlimited, uncapped Internet to guests fast becoming the biggest benefit for hotels in future.
Chatbots and artificial intelligence are some of the new technologies to watch out for and are already being used by travel companies to respond to the changing needs of travelers, says Adams.
“Some companies have introduced virtual reality to allow travelers to ‘try before they fly’,” she says. “Amadeus will soon launch the Traveller Notifier tool, which sends important notifications to the traveller’s mobile phone, such as electronic ticket issuance, flight delay, boarding gate assignment and boarding gate change. Virtual reality will also continue to gain moment in 2018 in the travel industry.”
VR does something means consumers can be transported anywhere. For example, Virgin Holidays are using headsets and a 3D camera to build a 360-degrees holiday experience that people can use to explore destinations. You can’t do these types of immersive experiences with any other tech.
The big opportunity for VR will be helping consumers make decision about where to travel, according to analysts at tourism market research firm Phocuswright.
“It can be especially valuable for destinations that may not have a top-tier attraction with a lot of name recognition, but has great natural cultural attractions that can give travelers confidence that this is the place to go,” Douglas Quinby, vice president of research at Phocuswright, told CNBC via email.
An example of this comes in the form of virtual tours, which will allow travelers to experience a holiday destination before booking their trip.
A Uganda tour company, Matoke Tours, a niche African travel operator, launched a virtual travel brochure: an app featuring 360degree videos of six experiences in Uganda, where users will come face-to-face with a gorilla or go up in a hot air balloon.
“This app enables us to convey the intensity and emotion of the travel experience before the journey has even started,” said Wim Kok, director of Matoke Tours Uganda, in a press release. “Travelers are then better able to decide which excursions they want to book.”
There are already several apps offering this kind of experience; Ascape is a free app for the iPhone offering 360degree videos and virtual tours of locations such as Berlin and Botswana.
South African Tourism promotes destination in the UK with VR activity. They took over two bars in Manchester and London last year, inviting customers to watch a short film on the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. The ‘five-minute holiday’ film transports the viewer on to the side of Table Mountain, where they experience what it’s like to abseil down the sheer cliff, with 360-degree views of the sea behind and city in the distance.
Viewers are then absorbed into other adventurous scenes, such as shark cage-diving in Cape Town, kite-surfing, paragliding and feeding elephants, before relaxing into a bar at Johannesburg’s Neighbourgoods Market
Juan Herrada, UK manager of marketing and communications for South African Tourism Board, said “We want to surprise the UK travelling public and Oculus Rift is the ideal partner for us to reach a young, tech savvy market. This is the first time Oculus Rift and binaural sound have been combined to create a unique, immersive holiday experience for the UK public.”
People trying Oculus Rift will be blown away. It’s a great use of creative technology by a tourist board and we are confident it will encourage more people to visit South Africa.