Digital payments, virtual services, and transatlantic trains – these are some of the technologies Americans predict they would see in travel by the year 2030, according to a survey conducted by Marriott Rewards Credit Card from Chase. The survey polled 1,002 Americans, ranging from Millennials to Gen X and Boomer generations, about what the future of travel would look like. A few of the findings are a given: For example, 65 percent of all participants believe Wi-Fi will become widespread, while 57 percent believe mobile-based booking tools will allow you to select a specific room – both already common now.
What’s more curious is when we get to topics like virtual reality and space travel. While they may sound sci-fi, they are actually becoming more science than fiction. Although the survey sample is small and not indicative of the entire population (and it is a marketing survey, after all), the questions are interesting. Here some of the results; we explore how likely they’ll show up in 15 years.
Hologram personal trainers
Thirty-seven percent believe we’ll be able to call up a virtual personal trainer in our room.
Hear the word hologram and you might instantly think of Princess Leia asking for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s help or that testy doctor from Star Trek Voyager. But holography, which uses a light field to create a 3D image, has been studied since the 1900s, although there haven’t been any notable applications. A couple years ago, companies with names like Prsonas and HolograFit promised hologram-based products, with the latter announcing in 2013 a fitness program that uses life-sized holographic trainers. Both companies, however, seem to have gone silent. Disney recently used a hologram of founder Walt Disney to greet visitors at Disneyland, while Rite-Aid announced it would install kiosks that use holograms for marketing purposes.
What we’re more likely to see by 2030 are hologram-like technologies, such as mixed or augmented reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens. Using headsets, users can overlay digital data onto what they see in reality. In this scenario, you can pull up a variety of applications, including perhaps that holographic personal trainer.
Digital passports and face recognition
Fifty-eight percent believe passports will be part of digital devices, while 50 percent think face-recognition will replace passports.
Several countries, including the United States, are testing biometric passports, also called a digital passport or e-passport. They look like ordinary passport books, but embedded inside is an RFID chip that stores important information, and allows the passport holder to use automated border control systems to enter a country. The systems include utilize technologies that include facial recognition. E-passport users in Australia and New Zealand, for example, can travel between countries without interacting with a live customs officer. However, there are privacy concerns, i.e. stolen wireless information.
As for passport replacements, we seem to be heading in that direction. United last year introduced the ability to scan a passport via its mobile app. For international passengers, instead of having to see a gate agent, they can scan their passports and, once it’s been verified, receive a mobile boarding pass. It’s not a complete replacement solution, as passengers are still required to carry a physical passport.
Forty percent think we’ll be sleeping with the fishes in the next 15 years.
No need to wait until 2030, it’s already here. The Atlantis resort at the Palm in Dubai has suites with window views of various sea-life. There are similar lodgings in the Maldives, Key West, Florida, and even Sweden. Proposed projects, like the Poseidon Underwater Report in Fiji and Planet Ocean Underwater in Florida, would build entire hotels below water, but these grander concepts have yet to materialize.
Thirty-five percent (of mostly men) think we will be traveling to an outer-space destination.
Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey incorrectly predicted space travel and moon colonization, but civilization is playing catch-up. NASA is researching the possibility of sending humans to Mars and back to the moon, while private companies like Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, and SpaceX are building spacecrafts for suborbital travel. Whether we can achieve these by 2030 is questionable, although the Obama administration, which supports new space exploration programs, thinks we can reach Mars by then.
Technically short-distance space travel is already available, if you have the cash. Several civilians have already traveled to the International Space Station as space tourists via Russia’s space agency. The program ceased in 2009, but there are plans to resume these tours in 2018.
24/7 virtual hotel concierges
Sixty-one percent believe all their needs can be met 24/7 via virtual concierge services.
This question posed to survey participants is somewhat nebulous, since a 24/7 hotel concierge technical already exists. But this is most likely in reference to the various mobile-based concierge services that are being used at various hotels around the world, such as ALICE, Hyatt’s Twitter-based @HyattConcierge, and Marriott’s Mobile Request app. From checking in to checking out, and ordering room service, towels, and car rides, a guest can stay at a hotel without ever mingling with staff – perfect for those who want to keep a low profile.
The recently opened Henn’na Hotel in Japan takes the virtual concept even further. The entire facility is operated mostly by robots and computers, with a goal of eventually having almost 100 percent of the property staffed by non-humans.
Fifty-eight percent think smartwatches and mobile payment systems will become popular for travel.
According to Forrester Research, mobile payments in the U.S. are expected to grow from $52 billion to $142 billion by 2019. Major travel-related companies are already taking notice: Marriott announced earlier this year that it will accept Apple Pay via iPhones and Apple Watches, and JetBlue is also getting onboard. If mobile payments like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and the upcoming Samsung Pay take off as predicted, mobile payments will become as ubiquitous as cash.
Personalized mobile travel guides
Forty-seven percent think we’ll use personalized mobile travel guides.
There is already plenty of desktop and mobile apps that help you build personalized travel guides, such as Jauntful. But these still require some sort of user input. What if there was an app that plans out your itinerary for you, from landmarks to restaurant reservations? That is a highly likely scenario, with all the big data that companies are amassing. One company that’s providing personalized data and analytics to travel companies is Boxever, along with other big-data companies like IBM and Oracle. The info can be used to create more personalized relationships with consumers, so it’s possible to use the same kind of data to create custom travel guides.
Extreme hotel experiences, eco-travel destinations
More than 50 percent think we’ll stay in tree houses, while 71 percent say we will choose eco destinations for vacations.
Ever thought about staying in a rustic hut or in a tree house, or vacationing in a place that’s more about the rainforest than luxury shopping? A large number of respondents think that will become norm by 2030, but you can already stay in such hotels or travel to eco destinations today.
Travel to London by train
Only 26 percent think transatlantic train travel will become real.
A transatlantic tunnel linking North America and Europe has been conceptualized (or fantasized, rather) since the 1800s, but it’s impractical. However, proposed technologies like the Hyperloop could make it a reality. SpaceX is planning to build the first Hyperloop test track, and, if successful, could spur further development. Whether this all happens by 2030 is questionable, and some experts believe the Hyperloop is practical for short distances, like Los Angeles to San Francisco.