Advances in digital and artificial intelligence for air travel are coming in thick and fast. Virtual assistants, multi-language websites and wearable technology will shape the future of digital travel.
Liam McKay, Director of Corporate Affairs at London City Airport told it won’t be long before biometrics replace paper documents and check-in will be carried out somewhere else.
During a session at WTM 2019 entitled Gathering Storms, Airlines and Airports, he said: “In the future, there will be less space than you expect for check-in. It won’t be done in the future at an airport. It will be done at your office or at home.
“Currently, we have travellers flying from London City who works at Canary Wharf can drop off bags at their offices.“Soon you’ll be able to turn up without your passport. It will be more or less a paperless experience based on biometrics. That future is much closer than you think.”
Hank Jan Gerzee, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, told the moderator John Strickland the airport already has the facility for people to drop off luggage at the car park before they get into the terminal.
In another development, the world’s first automatic bridge to allow passengers to walk off the aircraft and into the terminal has been installed at Schiphol, speeding up the disembarkation process for flyers and helping aircraft to be more punctual.
The themes emerged in a discussion entitled ‘Genesys Session: The Future of Digital Travel’ led by Paul Richer, founder of technology consultancy Genesys.
Daniel Wishnia, chief digital transformation officer at German property company Aroundtown said the $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit by Google two weeks ago illustrated how important wearable health and tracking devices would be in future.
“The message is prediction – to try and understand a person’s behaviour, to see what that person will choose and buy.”
Virtual assistants and voice technology were part of this future, he said. “It’s not only about the weather forecast, but it’s also about where can I go? My assistant knows I like sushi, and recommends restaurants that are nearby. This kind of data will lead us to understand how we approach our future customers.”
Devices like Alexa and Google Assistant will eventually shape travel decisions through learning more about our tastes, lifestyle and health, he said.
“The assistant will be interactive; it will know your calendar and tell you it’s time to take a break.”
Joel Brandon-Bravo, vice president of travel solutions at translation service TransPerfect warned of the need for multi-lingual approaches. He said that of the $30 trillion growth in middle-class consumption predicted between 2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion would not come from Asia. Similarly, there were no English speaking countries among the top 10 emerging markets.
Proxy technology, where an inquiry is redirected to a hosted site in the client’s own language, would permit new market penetration, he said. He also urged companies not to think that no new social media channels would emerge, citing the enormous recent growth of short-form mobile video site TikTok.