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When the Baedeker Travel Guide launched in 1827 it gave tourists the opportunity to access information on touring the world, closely followed by Thomas Cook and his package holidays. Since then the tourism sector has constantly evolved, reacting to consumer trends. What will holidays look like in 2050? Here are some expert opinions.

John Askew, solutions architect, Dept
Without wanting to sound too Philip K Dick, the advancements in virtual reality really could open up the holiday market in ways only usually approached in dystopian sci-fi films. 

As the technology matures and takes over more senses (particularly touch), it will inevitably provide the opportunity to take a holiday to imaginary places and do otherwise impossible things. If we can share such an experience with other participants and remove the need to disconnect for feeding or sleeping, then perhaps we could be present for longer periods and be truly immersed. 
There are infinite possibilities; we could spend a weekend in the Mesozoic era on a Dinosaur safari, or a week sailing with the Spanish Armada, or even relive a childhood trip with loved ones we’ve lost. Maybe holidays won’t be about the destination at all, but about who we are. Anyone fancy a week on Elton John’s yacht as David Beckham?

 

Tamara Gillan, chief exec, Cherry London
The future of travel will be virtual; necessary to save our planet and to recapture places and environments lost. By 2050 holidays for the majority will be discovering and experiencing the multi-sensory wonders of our world from the comfort and environmentally-friendly position of our sofa.

 

Andy Owen-Jones, chief exec and co-founder, bd4travel
To generate brand loyalty and recognition, travel brands need to use their customers data in a way that generates obvious value for the shopper. Today’s users won’t accept giving away their data without a benefit – even if it’s done in a GDPR compliant way.
Listen to your users. Being respectful means understanding the detailed information they are trying to give away and reacting individually with the most relevant service. This is what customers expect from a good brand. It’s more than putting their name in a generic or segmented emailing. There is nothing creepy about being personal with a customer if a brand is very transparent about how their data is used and why the products shown are relevant. This is particularly important in travel where there are enormous volumes of products – think 365 days a year x 14 occupancy lengths x 1600 airports x 650 airlines x 2m hotels and 40 room types...   
Retargeting has been around for several years. But innovation in this field has been slow, and sloppy retargeting methods are annoying. Using real-time user profiling of live user sessions enables a far more intelligent retargeting which supports users with individually relevant information and recommendations – while significantly increasing the ROI on each interaction for the travel brand.
Over the last years websites were built for the average user. A/B tests make this certain – you choose one variant each time and change the whole site for everyone. Today we can build the best web experience for each individual user – and what is best will change during their shopping process as they move from inspiration to planning.

Arianne Donoghue, strategy director, Epiphany 
I foresee a holidays future where we don’t know where we’re going until we get to the airport. In a world increasingly populated by incredibly smart digital assistants and companions (think Samantha in Her or Joi in Bladerunner 2049), our holidays will be chosen for us. 
Even better than the best friend or partner who books you a surprise holiday, our digital assistants know every detail and nuance of our behaviour. With access to your online history and social graph they will know whether you want a holiday that is Instagrammable, or off the beaten track; whether you want to party the nights away or find seclusion somewhere quiet. 
Tie that up with the ability for our assistants to make bookings for us and you end up with a really sophisticated travel agent that ‘gets you’ and is able to pre-empt your holiday needs before you’re even fully aware of them. 
They’ll even arrange for your perfect holiday wardrobe to be packed and dispatched to meet you off the plane – all with your preferences and style in mind. 
We see the beginnings of this today, with chatbot technology from the likes of Skyscanner and Expedia and Amazon trying to pre-empt our purchase needs. I’m sure it won’t be long before we’re asking Alexa or Cortana where we’re going next. 
I also love the idea of the airport as a destination – like some sort of weird cross between Tom Hanks in the The Terminal and the Oasis in Ready Player One. 
Imagine if the airport is where you went to have your travel experiences – outfitted with the latest in VR and systems to mirror the sounds, textures and smells of anywhere we might want to go. 
Rather than being restricted to any place we can travel to today, all barriers would be removed – allowing us to visit anywhere in the world at any time.
 Fancy visiting New Orleans before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina? How about seeing the Pyramids just after their completion thousands of years ago? Or do you just want to admire St Mark’s Square in Venice without the tourists? Once you’re done for the day, log out and relax in five-star spa surroundings in the airport, or go clubbing with the world’s finest DJs. 
VR isn’t up to this standard today, but by the time we get to 2050 there’s no knowing how good it could be. With the ability to customise the weather, your surroundings and even have a digital tour guide – once VR gets good enough, would we want to put ourselves through the stress of actually having to travel ever again? 

James Pruden, studio director, Xigen
 While I expect the travel industry to change drastically by 2050, largely driven by evolving technology, it’s much more important in the shorter term for travel companies to be competitive online to increase sales.
This means that as a matter of course they provide a standout user friendly, fast and reliable website that delivers a strong customer experience. In the travel sector any site on any device and platform that’s slow to load, with poor navigation and unable to cope with multiple users researching and buying will not be part of the future of the travel.
To improve speed and connectivity in the increasing mobile world we live in, travel companies should seriously consider investing in progressive web apps (PWAs) – currently a hot topic in the e-commerce world. Delivered through the web they function like native apps. They combine everything that’s good about native mobile applications with everything that’s good about a mobile site. With research revealing that over half of consumers leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load, a PWA can be launched from a home screen and can be ready in less than a second often beating native apps in load times. And speed is not only important in selling holidays, it’s vital as part of the wider user experience – for example providing fast access to your online boarding card when going through security. PWAs also work in areas of poor connectivity, or when connectivity comes and goes, such as on the move on a train or in the car due to pre-cached content being made available. This is handy for travellers on road wanting to source online information from their travel provider.
The time has come for the travel industry to effectively future proof itself online before it takes bigger disruptive steps into the future.

Ronak Mokhtassi, strategist, Rapp UK
With the exception of a few very high-end travel agencies offering one-to-one personalised experiences, the majority of online travel agencies force consumers to sift through thousands of different holiday packages. Online travel agencies should properly interrogate all the data they collect from their customers to treat travel as a completely individual, curated experience – as every person’s reason for travelling, and what they want out of that experience is different. As we continue to create and save an exponential amount of data, this is something we will definitely see in the future. By 2050 they’ll be no excuses for the travel sector – the sheer amount of data and sophisticated technologies at our disposal will be mind-boggling. The development in automation, machine learning and robotics will also be utilised by travel companies to curate experiences and the first travel company to use these tools will win big.
 

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Travel Special. For more information on how to get involved, please contact tehmeena.latif@thedrum.com