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How technology is changing the travel industry in 2016

The abolition of data roaming charges across the EU is drawing closer, with the ban set to begin from June 2017 and an interim 75 per cent cap coming into effect from April 2017. Travellers soon will have more financial freedom to go online whilst abroad, so now is the time for travel brands to look at what is hot right now in the worlds of software and hardware.

The industry has roughly a year left to provide travellers with smartphone applications that extend travel companies’ influence and benefit people’s adventures abroad. The changes in data roaming charges will mean that apps will be a must-have rather than a nice to have in the travel sector. When software inevitably becomes more established in the travel industry, experimenting with the latest in hardware will become necessary for travel companies that want to excel and prove to travellers that they can offer them a new way of seeing the world.

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show introduced the world to the latest in cutting edge hardware, with Virtual Reality (VR) and autonomy being this year’s biggest trends. Innovation is moving at a pace that is paving new ways for people to discover the world around them. VR has already been put to real world use by travel and flight operators, with big names including Thomas Cook and Qantas Airways adopting VR to create experiences that bring budding travellers closer to the adventure. However travel companies need to be ready take the next step by following the development of virtual reality products and making the most of the changes that are continuing to be made today.

The imminent release of the HTC Vive VR headset is imminent and showcases technology with potential to provide the most immersive experience yet and the travel sector needs to keep at the sharp end of VR technology. The HTC Vive is leading the charge for the future of tech in travel with the ground-breaking addition of a forward-facing camera, merging the virtual and physical world together. This is certain to not only change the way travellers not only see the wonders of the world, but also offer them a chance to see what the wonders of the world once looked like. Major landmarks and sites could utilise the forward facing camera by providing tours that allow people to see the landmark as it is today, with the VR headset showing the landmark as it would have been hundreds, or even thousands of years ago! The opportunity to go back in time at world famous historical sites is set to be a major leap forward into the future for the travel industry.

Other new developments of autonomous tech have the potential to drastically change the way we travel and see the world today. The collaboration between Intel, Ninebot and Segway, the Segway Robot, is described as ‘a Segway that sees the world and a robot that gives you a ride’ - and could one day function as the perfect travel companion. The future of reactive personal transport in travel is a bright one. Hotels and resorts could be using Segway Robots to provide guests with a robot led guided tour that acts as both the transport and the tour guide – an entire experience that can be fulfilled without guests needing to book tours as they can now travel on their own terms and experience a tour in a way that no one ever has before.

Apps are also at the forefront of the conversation on what travel brands will be doing with technology this year. Hotel apps could include a selection of tours and recommendations of local places to eat, drink and see. There is a golden opportunity for hotels here, as they have the chance to build an app that acts as the ultimate travel companion, a concept that currently involves more than one app for smartphone users in the UK. Cities Talking is an example of what can be done now to improve the way tourists see the world with the help of software.

The app allows users to tour on their own terms and with different tours voiced by different celebrity guides, providing travellers with a unique experience that they can enjoy in their own time. Hotels need to make the most of software today to extend their influence beyond the stay, should they wish to make a real change to the traveller’s experience and the way people use smartphones abroad.

Now is also the time for the travel industry as a whole to experiment with the latest and hottest creations in hardware to prove themselves as providers of a world’s first and world’s best travel experience.

Julie-Anne Uggla, founder, Cities Talking

Image source: Shutterstock/Willow Dempsey