AI will take my job. VR will eliminate the need for travel. AR will enable a new mixed reality travel experience. Travelers demand and expect personalization. Blockchain will put the OTAs and GDS out of business. Voice is the new computer interface.
We are in a constant state of hype around emerging technologies and their impact on the travel industry. As an analyst/consultant specializing in emerging tech for the last 23 years, I have personally witnessed the impact of excessive hype on our industry and the resulting fallout. The problem is not the over-hyping of emerging tech as all industries must deal with this issue. The problem is when the hype bubble bursts and the naysayers in the industry discount the technology completely.
Dismissing emerging tech because of over-hype can be dangerous for any organization. The management at Blackberry and Nokia dismissed the initial introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago as never being practical for business. History has shown this to be a critical mistake costing these companies billions of dollars. In our industry the initial launch of the OTAs was dismissed by the offline community, with some believing no one will ever buy travel online. Even today, many travel companies lack a true mobile strategy or simply repeat the “common wisdom” that mobile is for searching not buying. One has to only observe what has been happening in China and throughout Southeast Asia, to quickly understand that mobile is being used for booking today, especially in countries where the desktop/laptop travel ecosystem never fully developed. In fact, those travel companies who do not embrace mobile as a booking channel today, may be the Blackberries of tomorrow.
With the Wayblazer shutting down, some of these same travel industry naysayers may declare that AI may have a minimal impact on the travel industry. We have seen inflated claims about AI in terms of voice and digital assistants, causing some to dismiss these new technologies as “not ready for prime-time”. On SNL the original cast was called the “Not Ready for Prime-time Players”. The show has now lasted 43 years and has been a major launching pad for comic superstars in movies and TV. The same is true of emerging tech, not ready for prime-time does not mean the tech will have no impact.
What many people miss is the evolutionary nature of emerging technology. During various keynotes I have given over the last few years I often ask the audience if they have every interacted with AI. This generally yields a mixed response. I then ask has anyone talked to (not on) their smartphone, if so you’ve used AI. The same is true for any user of Amazon or Netflix. AI is already part of the technological fabric of our lives.
Over the next few days, I will be addressing specific hype vs reality around VR, AR, personalization, voice and chat interfaces and blockchain. My goal is to cut through the hype and address how these emerging technologies are being applied today and forecast their true impact on the travel industry over the next 2-5 years. Stay tuned.