It’s always fascinating to imagine what our futures might hold as technology changes our world. Travel is an area where innovation is always occurring, but it does feel as though the next 20 years might see a step change in how we take long-distance journeys that is far bigger than the changes we’ve seen in the last 20 years.
You might well feel as though the fundamental processes of travel aren’t really so different from how they were in the 1980s or 1990s. We still travel by cars, trains and airplanes that are still largely the same type of vehicle, it still takes a similar amount of time to get from point A to point B and a lot of the frustrations of travel (delays, luggage, security) are much as they always were.
Innovations like Concorde, the airplane which reduced flight times across the Atlantic significantly have come and gone without becoming mainstream. So, what is going to change and how is it going to really impact us as travelers?
Let’s look at three facets of travel to see how they might be radically different in the future.
How will we choose and book our vacations?
The internet has already given us an information revolution that has fundamentally changed our ability to choose and tailor our travel experiences. 20 years ago, we were still reliant on the limited information in a glossy brochure and the advice of a travel agent. Now we can call up real-time information from fellow travelers on the ground, watch vlogs capturing their experience or get a street view of just about any town or city and see it for ourselves as if we were stood right there.
This kind of advance experience is only going to become richer and more immersive in the next 20 years as virtual reality and augmented reality take us on journeys that never actually involve us leaving our homes, with the potential to use all our senses to experience a place before we are physically there.
The other change which is inevitable is the rise of artificial intelligence to help us navigate the enormous amounts of information at our disposal. Do you ever feel at the moment when you’re looking at travel options that there is just too much choice? Hundreds of hotels to select from, multiple flight options and thousands of reviews to read and consider. Computer algorithms will undertake a lot of this work in the future, with the ability to understand our needs and desires ever more intuitively and recommend the perfect itinerary. The travel agent we rely on in future may not be human at all.
How will our travel experience be different?
If our pre-travel experience is already undergoing its revolution, the process of physical travel feels as though it’s the area with the most potential to change in the next 20 years. Airport queues are still vast, economy class aircraft seats are still a cramped, horrible experience and we still have to cope with hauling our luggage by hand. Does it have to stay that way?
The answer for sure is no, you’ll be pleased to hear. We are starting to understand how to use technology to improve real-world processes. We’ve already seen it happen with Uber and others revolutionizing the possibilities of a simple cab journey. Just because it still involves another human and a vehicle with four wheels doesn’t mean it can’t feel very different as an experience.
The same will happen with long-distance travel. Freight will be increasingly delivered by drones so our luggage can be collected from our homes, travel separately to us but arrive and return simultaneously. The need to rely on human checking of physical documents (i.e. your passport) at airports will also disappear, whether via facial recognition or a tiny microchip implant under our skin.
Gone will be the need to sit in an airport lounge staring at departure boards, all our travel information will be delivered straight to our mobile devices. Once we’re in transit, by whatever means, we’ll need less human involvement. Driverless car technology is now moving swiftly forward, pilot-less planes will follow. The same streamlining of processes will mean journey times are reduced, experiences will be more relaxing, even in-flight food will improve!
Artificial intelligence and robotics will enable non-human flight attendants and holographic hotel concierges. The “Internet of Things” will deliver smart hotel rooms which can personalize our stay and the very ambience of our experience. It’ll be up to us to ensure that we still retain some humanity to our travel experience, but the efficiency will surely be taken care of.
Where will we go?
Our planet has now been explored and mapped in amazing detail. There are relatively few places where people have never been so are there any new destinations left to explore? It seems safe to say that we’ll rediscover some old places anew as geopolitics changes and different parts of the world become more or less accessible. Today, countries like South Africa are massively popular destinations, when for much of the 1980s they were shunned. Ancient cultures currently off-limits due to instability in places like Iraq and Afghanistan may once again be peaceful and open to visitors. Let’s hope so.
The new frontiers of travel in the future may well involve our oceans. They remain full of mystery (perhaps that’s why we haven’t always treated them as well as we should). But we are a blue planet and as we seek to protect our seas from the effects of global warming hopefully we’ll develop the benign technologies that will allow us to spend more time coming to know the underwater world in person.
We can’t end without mentioning the final frontier, travelling outside our planet. The concept of space tourism has been around for a while but progress has been painfully slow, as is inevitable with such an enormously ambitious undertaking. Of course, it will happen, but even 20 years is likely too short a span of time for this to have become mainstream. But let’s keep dreaming!
However you want to connect and share your travel experiences in the future, you can ensure you stay connected with home by using a Tep portable wifi device. The device is only $8.95 per day for unlimited data usage, plus, you and your friends or family can all share one device (up to 5 gadgets can connect at a time). Tep’s portable device is amazingly travel-friendly too, it will slip into a handbag, pocket or rucksack.
However you want to connect and share your travel experiences in the future, you can ensure you stay connected with home by using a Tep portable wifi device. The device is only $8.95 per day for unlimited data usage, plus, you and your friends or family can all share one device (up to 5 gadgets can connect at a time). Tep’s portable device is amazingly travel-friendly too, it will slip into a handbag, pocket or rucksack. Find out more or buy/rent a device here.