Technology has so far disrupted a lot of industries. Health, music, publishing, etc. It’s time to have a look at how it might change the travel industry. How it might impact marketing, but also product and service offering.

On a sales and marketing level, social media is already changing the way people make their purchase decision and plan their travel. Review sites and mouth to mouth referrals have become a lot more prominent. Sites like Tripadvisor, Facebook, Airbnb, Foursquare and Hipmunk have become very important players for the travel industry. Airbnb and Couchsurfing have even introduced new competitors for accommodation. Ridefinder and Roadsharing have given travellers a transport alternative.

Social media is listed as one of the top eight traffic drivers for 78 percent of travel websites. It also influences travelers’ perceptions of different vacation destinations. Tripadvisor currently has more than 32 million marketable members globally, up from 20 million one year ago. in 2012, it reached 75 million reviews and opinions on over one and a half million businesses.

Mobile has had its influence too, with more than 17 percent of people using their mobile devices to research travel information. Out of all the apps people download, 12 percent have a travel-related app. Tripadvisor, Easyjet and have been the most successful with mobile and social technology so far.

The future might hold some important and interesting innovations that will help increase sales and give the travel industry a bigger share of the discretionary spending.
– Optimised location based services and advertising
– Individual person movement tracking
– Advanced push notifications
– Advanced travel disruption management
– Easier and more broadly accepted mobile payments
– Innovative travel suggestions or semi-automated planning
– mood and personality tracking and responsive travel design

On an operational level, we might be able to see a more disruptive trend: travel without travelling. Whether it will ever hit off or form any substantial threat to the travel industry is still a question mark.

The idea is based on the movie Avatar. Where a person jumps into the (whether artificial or not) body of another person/machine located somewhere else, but experiences the world and environment through its own eyes and senses. It could eliminate the need for physical travel all together.

4D cinemas are already delivering an experience that is somewhat immersive and realistic. Smells are transcended, you can feel wind, experience images 360 degrees around you. with some improvements, this technology could be used to give you a realistic idea of how a real life travel experience would be. Imagine you could fly across the Amazon from a simulator cockpit or participate in the Pamplona bull run from a redesigned treadmill. Feel the earth shaking as the bulls come closer, the air getting hot under the Navarra sun. You would control the body that you’re in. So like with paint ball, you’d experience the same adrenaline as you would in real life. or what about It would definitely take the term ‘Experience economy’ to a whole new level.

Nothing to that extent has been done yet though. We do know that mind controlled robots are being used in the military already. But this will be a bit too far fetched to become commercially viable.

On a commercial level, Disney has developed Soarin’, an experience attraction that lets you fly over California. More virtual travelling can be done at corporate level, with Marriot’s Virtual Meeting Studios. With avatravelling being a significant treat to them, they seem to have turned it into a business opportunity. In the future, the companies that succeed in giving their customers the best value & experience, will be most successfull. Whether you’ll be on a deck chair of a cruise or in a custom built tanning studio sipping a Margarita.

Skype, better watch out. This would be a great tool for expats too. Kids, parents and grandparents could all meet in the virtual meeting room.. Actually interact and play together.

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