Androids or holograms could replace holiday reps by the middle of the century, according to research by World Travel Market – the leading global event for the travel industry – released today (Monday 3 November).
The World Travel Market Industry Report quizzed 1,229 senior industry executives from the travel trade and found that 59% expect robots or holographic images to take over from human reps in the resort of the future.
The survey asked about predictions for travel in 2049 – 35 years from now – because World Travel Market is in its 35th year.
The trend to replace reps with robots or holograms was expected by 21% to be “very likely” and by 38% to be “quite likely”.
Furthermore, virtual reality holidays were tipped by 54% of those polled, with 17% saying they were “very likely” and 37% “quite likely”.
However, it appears that members of the public are less confident about the rise of Star Trek-style cyber-reps or “holodeck” holidays.
The poll of 1,011 UK holidaymakers found that 13% predicted the rise of robots or holograms, and 14% forecast there will be virtual reality holidays by 2049.
Trends towards automation are already evident – many tour operators have reduced overseas staff to cut costs, while virtual call centre assistants are more common as firms streamline services.
However, some operators which still offer help to customers in resort are modernising the reps’ role.
TUI Travel-owned Thomson and First Choice issued iPads to reps to reduce paperwork, and they offer the chance to view welcome meetings via YouTube.
Thomson holidaymakers can also use a texting service called Thomson Travel Buddy to book excursions or find out about their resort.
Elsewhere, as part of a “high-tech, high-touch” strategy, Thomas Cook’s SunConnect resorts offer “ConnectScouts” – “web-savvy holiday hosts” who organise digital activities such as geocaching or Xbox gaming.
Technology that could lead to robot reps is already with us, in the form of virtual assistants such as iPhone’s Siri, which carry out the tasks of a concierge, such as making restaurant reservations or hailing a taxi.
And holographic or android reps could be closer to reality after the launch in September 2014 of an artificially intelligent computer system called Amelia.
It can understand text and solve problems – and could replace humans in a wide range of low-level jobs, say reports.
The developer, IPsoft, even has plans to start embedding Amelia into humanoid robots.
World Travel Market, Senior Director, Simon Press said: “As WTM 2014 is the 35th World Travel Market it is interesting to speculate about the next 35 years in travel.
“Androids and holograms being part of everyday life is still science fiction – yet much of the technology is already available so I am sure they will become science fact.
“If these developments help travel firms to cut costs while maintaining customer services, they will be common in one form or another in years to come.
“The travel industry is always adapting and using the latest technology to improve business models and provide better services for holidaymakers.
“And WTM is the trade’s partner on this journey into the future, helping to turn plans into reality.”
– ENDS –
About World Travel Market
World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.
More than 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.
WTM, now in its 35th year, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals.
WTM 2013 generated more than £2 billion of travel industry contracts, revealed independent research by Fusion Communications.
WTM is owned by the world’s leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions (RE), which organises a other portfolio’s of travel industry events including IBTM Events, the world’s leading showcases for the meetings and events industry and International Luxury Travel Market events.
In 2013, RE held more than 500 events in 40 countries bringing together more than six million people from around the world generating billions of dollars in business.
Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) is the world’s leading provider of exhibitions in the travel and tourism industry, with a wide-ranging portfolio of 21 international events in 14 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa.
Its market-leading, business-to-business events cover all elements of travel and tourism, including leisure travel, luxury travel, meetings, events, incentives and business travel, as well as golf, ski and spa travel.
RTE is part of Reed Exhibitions.