This month, multinational taxi service Uber presented a full-scale model of a flying car. The vehicle will form part of a fleet of Uber Air Taxis that will be flown by a pilot and will be able to accommodate four passengers each. Robots have become prevalent in some of the bigger hotel chains around the world, as well as in selected airports, and we can expect more robots to appear in 2020.
However, even though these futuristic innovations in tourism are spectacular, the South African travel industry will see more far-reaching changes in 2020, according to Jurni CEO Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa.
Dr Songelwa explained that travellers today were always connected, constantly searching for information, continually sharing their experiences on social media and demanding that their needs were instantly gratified. As a result, tourism stakeholders in South Africa have had to keep their finger on the pulse, innovate and apply technology to enhance the traveller experience.
Dr Songelwa points to the following innovations as primary disruptors in the South African tourism industry in 2020:
- Facial recognition enables a frictionless travel experience
Airports around the world are introducing biometric technology and facial recognition to identify travellers and make their trip as frictionless as possible.
In selected airports, travellers can check-in remotely using their smartphone and an enrolment app. The facial recognition technology includes a liveness check, allowing travellers to validate who they are with a few movements of their head. Thanks to this, travellers can enjoy a seamless journey the moment they set foot in the airport.
Facial recognition systems are also on the cards for South Africa, according to digital security company Gemalto.
- Tech connects travellers with more – and often unexpected – experiences
Travellers today use their mobile phones to control every aspect of their lives and travels. They check flight schedules, route options and keep up-to-date with possible delays. In 2020, we can expect them to take it one step further.
Six in 10 travellers have indicated they want technology to offer them a ‘wild card’ option during their holidays, by introducing them to something new or unexpected during their travels. This is according to research by Booking.com, which polled 22,000 travellers across 29 markets around the globe.
Almost half (46%) of travellers admitted to using an app to facilitate booking hotels and trips in real-time while travelling, while 44% are planning to use an app that allows them to pre-plan activities.
- Data-driven intelligence will help uncover new destinations
First-time travellers to South Africa tend to visit tried-and-tested destinations like Cape Town and the Kruger National Park, but the country has a rich vein of sights, experiences and hidden gems, with much more on offer than Table Mountain and the Big Five.
In 2020, data intelligence will become a crucial element to drive tourism to the lesser-known destinations of our country. The padstals of Kakamas and the incredible nature hikes found near Hogsback could attract numerous travellers, but without a record of current visits, they are overlooked by tour operators, travel planners, and even tourism investors.
- New and innovative jobs for an ambitious Gen Z
Travel agents. Tour operators. Chefs. Game rangers. These are typically the careers that are associated with the travel and tourism industry. However, as the industry increasingly embraces technological innovation and data analytics, many exciting high-tech jobs are starting to emerge – a perfect fit for Generation Z, who are predicted to become the biggest consumer market this year.
“South Africa’s travel and tourism industry could benefit significantly from Gen Z’s tech literacy to create and maintain a digital presence. This generation can help the travel industry in South Africa, from sophisticated travel companies in Johannesburg to small rural B&Bs in Mpumalanga, leap into the digital realm. Equally, the travel and tourism industry offers young professionals exciting opportunities, from data analytics to virtual reality and even robotics,” said Dr Songelwa.