The tourism industry is constantly evolving as new digital technology emerges. In this article, we explore some of the digital trends that are going to be most significant in the industry throughout the next year: from virtual reality, which is changing the booking process, to augmented reality, which is enhancing the in-person experience, to artificial intelligence, which is fundamentally changing customer service.

3 Hot Digital Trends for the Tourism Industry

Every year, certain key trends emerge within the tourism industry, helping to improve the customer experience, change the way people book their travel, or make internal processes quicker, more simple, or more accurate. For 2018, the prediction is that the following three trends will come to define the year:

1. Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality has been one of the dominant technological trends in general throughout the past few years, with VR headsets emerging as a mainstream consumer product. Although the benefits of virtual reality are already being explored in the tourism industry, this is a trend which is likely to continue into 2018.

Essentially, virtual reality is a technology, which serves to make users feel as though they are physically present in a digitally created environment. This means that it has the potential to, for all intends and purposes, change the environment a person is in, allowing them to experience different sights and sounds.

It is easy to see how this digital trend could appeal to the hotel industry, because customers tend to require a lot of information before they book a holiday or a room in a hotel. Through the use of VR, travel companies can help potential customers to experience the hotel environment, or even nearby attractions, before they commit.

We are already increasingly seeing the adoption of VR capabilities within the travel industry. For example, some travel companies are already using virtual reality travel experiences to allow people to experience aspects of a holiday, such as a trip to a famous attraction, using VR headsets and 360 video.

Meanwhile, other hotel booking websites are harnessing the potential of allowing people to use VR technology to explore virtual recreations of hotel rooms. This means that, rather than simply reading descriptions, customers will increasingly be able to experience hotel rooms for themselves, before they even book them.

More recently, hotels have been offering entire booking processes that take place through virtual reality headsets. This could potentially be used to allow guests to seamlessly experience hotel rooms, experience local attractions and then book a room, all from the same basic set of menus.

Example: Atlantis Dubai Virtual Tour VR 360
Best viewed with VR glasses or a Google Cardboard

Find more detailed information and examples about how virtual reality can benefit your business in the articles “How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry” and “10 Amazing Examples of Virtual Reality Hotel Tours”.

2. Augmented Reality (AR)

Another emerging trend in tourism management, which is closely related to virtual reality, is that of augmented reality. Unlike VR, the basic concept behind AR is to use digital technology to alter the experience of real-life surroundings, meaning that, when viewed through an AR compatible device, they are enhanced in some way.

One of the best-known examples of augmented reality so far has been the game Pokemon Go, which allowed people to explore real locations and see and collect Pokemon characters in those locations, through their smartphone. This same technology is increasingly being utilised by travel companies, enhancing the travel experience.

Augmented reality is especially appealing to those in the tourism industry, because it provides the potential to enhance real-life environments through technology. This means that, for example, environments can become interactive and information can be presented when it is most relevant.

Those within the tourism industry are already putting the technology to good use. Among the existing examples of AR in hotels are wall maps which, when viewed through a smartphone app, provide users with more information about local attractions and how to get there. Others are using AR games to enhance guests’ stay in their hotel.

Indeed, gamification is one of the key benefits of augmented reality and within the tourism industry, there is huge potential. For example, AR may allow hotel guests to take photographs with themselves with virtual recreations of famous people or famous characters. It could also allow guests to virtually re-decorate a hotel room.

Moreover, augmented reality has the capacity to enhance surroundings outside of the hotel too. This could allow visitors to point their phone at restaurant to find reviews, or point their phone at an old building and see it as it would have appeared many years ago, which can be especially valuable when looking at ruins or older attractions.

Example: Augmented Reality Quest at the Best Western Kelowna

Find more detailed information and examples about how augmented reality can benefit your business in the article “How Augmented Reality is Revolutionising the Travel Industry”.

3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Finally, another key trend that will continue to emerge in the travel and tourism industry throughout 2018 is the use of artificial intelligence. In simple terms, this means utilising computers to carry out what were traditionally seen as a human tasks, because they required intelligent interactions or the ability to learn.

This is now possible, because advances in technology, combined with the increased amount of data kept by companies, means that computer technology can now adapt to individual customers and situations. In the business world, AI has been especially prevalent in delivering front-facing customer service and this will continue to grow.

Customer service is of the utmost importance within hotels, and this is one of the reasons why AI is so appealing. When utilised effectively, it allows companies to deliver quick response times at any time of the day, because it does not depend on staff being physically present at the time.

To date, the main usage of artificial intelligence within the tourism industry has been with chatbots and direct messaging. When used in this way, AI is able to respond to simple questions and queries from customers almost instantaneously. Chatbot technology also improves over time, as it essentially ‘learns’ from interactions.

However, artificial intelligence’s role does not end there. Already, we are seeing the technology being used to analyse large amounts of data quickly, while companies like Hilton have already began to experiment with artificially intelligent robots, which are able to provide directions and other tourist information in response to human speech. The possibilities with AI are almost limitless and we can expect to see a lot more of it in 2018.

Example: Meet Connie, Hilton Hotels’ First Robot Concierge

Find more detailed information and examples about how artificial intelligence can benefit your business in the article “How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Travel Industry”.

4. Metaverse As a New Type of Travel

The idea of the metaverse is sometimes misunderstood, so it is important to begin with a basic metaverse meaning or definition. The metaverse refers to the creation of a virtual environment or digital world, which people can explore and use to interact with other users in meaningful ways. Often, it is compared to virtual reality technology.

However, the metaverse goes beyond simple VR and actually includes elements of augmented reality, as well as social media functionality and blockchain technology. A user could potentially visit a metaverse environment through a VR headset, or using a digital device, such as a smartphone, tablet, computer, or gaming console.

This opens up the potential for users to enjoy completely new travel experiences. Such experiences could be as simple as a virtual experience, where users gain inspiration for their next trip. However, the metaverse could also be used to actually interact with travel agents, or with hotel reception staff. As an example, a user might be able to explore a digital recreation of a hotel, travel around this environment, and book a hotel room that they visit there.

There is also the potential for this technology to replace some forms of travel. In the future, it may be possible to experience what it is like to be at the top of the Eiffel Tower without ever travelling to Paris. This is why the metaverse is one of the digital trends the tourism industry needs to understand and capitalise on as quickly as possible.

Hotels and travel agents may use the metaverse to enhance the booking experience and to provide a clear idea of what travellers can expect. However, businesses may also need to contend with metaverse experiences replacing some forms of travel, including business meetings that would otherwise require people to travel from different locations.

Check out the “Metaverse Tourism: Overview, Benefits, Examples and More” article for a more comprehensive exploration of what the metaverse means, the ways in which it can be used in tourism, and its main benefits.

More Digital Trends in the Travel Industry

With digital technology continuously evolving, it should come as little surprise that its applications within the tourism industry evolve too. In the articles “Key Technology Trends Emerging in the Travel Industry” and “Tourism Marketing: Brand New Marketing Tips to Boost Your Results”
you can explore more digital technologies which can benefit your business.

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