There are a lot of glooming theories around when it comes to the future of travel and tourism. But the tourism industry was already facing a significant challenge from growing awareness about the environmental crisis before the coronavirus outbreak grounded planes and curbed travel plans. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism create 1 in 10 of the world’s jobs, over 100 million of which are threatened by the impact of the global spread of coronavirus.
If we think of the worst-case-scenarios, there are plenty like unemployment, businesses folding under the economic pressure, governments becoming very protective of their citizens and keeping borders closed, etc.
One of the main and urgent changes which are already happening is making travel touch-free. While we wait for the vaccine, in order to keep distance and take cleanliness measures, as well as to protect the health of the ones working and traveling, efficient, innovative, and integrated digital tools are necessary.
Some innovative hospitality businesses are already on it, offering contactless check-in and concierge services via a digital butler. There is even a low-cost airline called the Cebu Pacific which has launched contactless flights in the Philippines. Innovations of this kind are to be more and more expected from new but also the existing travel and tourism businesses.
This increasing reliance on digital transactions will bring with it increased concern from consumers about the safety of their data. This is where security initiatives such as Known Traveler Digital Identity (KDTI) from the World Economic Forum could come in and help travelers feel safe. They could as well help in making the processes and exchanges required in the ‘new normal’ more efficient. What KDTI does is that it allows travelers to store and control personal data they need in order to travel. For example, travelers could use the service to store health certificates (which may become essential) and to share these with border staff, hotel management, and other people or services as required.
Very similarly, there are many contact tracing apps that have been developed around the world that will need to be adapted to communicate with one another in order to allow seamless transitions across borders. From this, maybe a new global service of this kind could emerge to fill the need.
The re-designing of interactions and processes will of course be accompanied by a new look and feel for travel and tourism. We can expect the experience to be different when we return to the air. Temporary measures that are being put in place now will likely inform the interiors of airplanes in the future. There already are clever make-shift examples, such as in Fatorydesign’s Isolate Kit which transforms the middle seat of an airplane row into a protective screen.
Not only planes will be affected but similar adaptations will likely be put in place across trains, cruise ships, coaches, and other means of travel to allow people traveling to make the most of freedoms as they are re-introduced.
Another thing several airlines are doing is producing new uniforms with integrated PPE to keep staff safe while in an attempt to maintain the well-known elegance of air travel.
In order to limit contact, it’s also been suggested that food and drink will no longer be sold or offered on transport. This measure will most likely catalyze innovative services from kiosks in airports and train stations.