Where tourism is going 2020
The future of the travel industry sometimes seems like the script from a science fiction movie. Sensationalism, artificial intelligence and robots superimpose the voice of those who will really decide which trends survive and which ones fall by the wayside…
Anticipating the evolution of tourism sector is one of the great challenges for the industry. Projections on tourist growth and the evolution of travellers’ habits have been a generalised practice throughout the history of tourism and even more so when we begin the countdown to a new year. Different levels of business and audiences, with varying degrees of success, have tried to predict the future scenario as a way to maintain confidence and justify the importance and weight that tourism has in almost all major economies.
In recent years, these kinds of prediction on the evolution of the tourism scenario have almost become exercises of “trial and error”. It’s well known that the international scene has undergone a radical change over the last ten years at all levels, social, economic, environmental and political, making it difficult to pinpoint the figures of evolution for the sector.
We’re moving in such a volatile scenario, a complicated environment, one to which we must add the constant change in the habits of the more experienced travellers who are more informed, have more choices, more channels with access to offers, more possibilities of strengthening the preliminary phase and the decision of the destination …
The fact is that, despite all of this, tourism maintains some positive growth perspectives in the future horizon that are already set for 2020. Tourism will continue to be one of the principal activities among the world’s population and one of the priorities among more established and developing societies.
Worldwide figures for 2000 to 2020 show more people travelling for tourism than in all the second half of the 20th century. In 1950, roughly 20 million people travelled abroad for tourism. In 2000, numbers had jumped to 700 million, 35 times more, according to the UNWTO. The associated expenditure would be equivalent to Spain’s GDP. Domestic tourism reached similar figures all over the world. In other words, today, the equivalent of one-third of humanity enjoys holidays within or outside their countries.
Tourism is a growing industry typified by the movement of people over long and short distances and the provision of services to all kinds of tourists. It’s an enormously competitive industry that’s open to a global cycle, where service quality and the price determine the success of any destination, and also the emergence of new destinations with innovative offers and geopolitical ups and downs.
Despite the global financial crisis in the past, Spain has been breaking its own tourism records year on year. Spanish tourism is the most competitive of all the sectors in our economy, and within the industry, one of the most competitive in the world. In recent decades it has maintained a prominent position in the world rankings for receiving tourists and income from tourism, competing only with France, the U.S. and, more recently, China.
Against this background, I would venture to say that everything is looking great for Spanish tourism. But all that glitters is not gold. Our tourism faces internal and external risks, although it also has opportunities ahead of it. On the one hand, it’s commonly known that Spanish tourism focuses on sun and beach tourism. Far from adding my voice to those who use this expression in a derogatory manner, I think we have to admit that it forms the backbone of our tourism and must be enhanced with an offer of better quality of service and landscape, improving beaches where possible and making decisive progress in environmental sustainability.
On the other hand, technology is today the main transforming force that’s redefining the way many business sectors work. Its influence on the tourism sector has even been so great that it has changed business models and processes. Tourism products and services have to adapt to an increasingly knowledgeable and discerning international consumer with a lot of influence who lives at the click of a mouse (demanding products in a digital environment). It’s estimated that in 2020, there will be seven billion people and business connected to the internet through 30 billion devices. This shows us how our lives and work are intrinsically linked to technology, and mobile devices have been the element that have most transformed tourism in recent years. Social status no longer matters. Technology has been democratised, and nowadays nearly everyone in the world has a smartphone, which connects them virtually and continuously with the rest of the planet.
Consumers now demand two-way communication with suppliers, to be able to personalise their experience and to be able to contract and pay for products and services directly from their mobile. Purchases made through mobile phones are not going to stop growing, in fact, very soon we’ll see how they’ll become a standard means of payment in hotels, taxis, tours, restaurants and for leisure and entertainment activities during the trip.
The digital transformation that our society is witnessing means that tourist destinations and businesses must be prepared to operate in a completely digital environment and adapt quickly to disruptive technological changes.
New technologies are changing society, culture, economy and entertainment. There’s a change of paradigm and cycle, which requires a constant process of learning and innovation, and we have to be constantly rethinking our company and questioning what we do to innovate, improve and provide more value to our customers.
And then there’s a topic that I’ve written several posts about here on my blog: Blockchain – the most revolutionary technology in recent decades.
The blockchain is a technological environment that creates a P2P network with a high level of encryption and stores information in a public database. Its benefits include removing intermediaries and reducing costs in operations and transactions. There’s no longer a need for a financial entity to guarantee economic activities. Trust is generated in the blockchain system with its members guaranteeing the operations.
Some people say that it will completely transform our society, moving into an era of the “Internet of value”. It’s is still difficult to explain as it’s still in development – but it will be one of our payment methods in the near future. We’re moving towards a cashless society. Contactless payments, either directly from our mobiles or through biophysical characteristics will cease to be the exception and will become the standard.
Consumers of tomorrow will look for payment methods, where they can avoid having to provide lots of sensitive information. Some options include tokenisation (with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin) or biometric identification, just like with Apple pay and Google.
There’s already talk that facial recognition as a method of identification could do away with the need to carry a passport when travelling in the coming years.
The fourth industrial revolution is described as the application of digitisation to industry and commerce. The fundamental element will be greater task automation and the use of much more intelligent robots, which will perform several tasks at the same time and learn to interact with humans.
The use of robots in factories and production companies will have a huge effect on the work structure and undoubtedly do away with many jobs. People will eventually be replaced by (much more efficient) robots unless they provide added value.
But what’s really going to transform everything is artificial intelligence, because it’s going to change the way we interact with technology. This is going to be a radical change in our societies, and it’s going to help improve the quality of life