Big Brother travel tech that knows and fulfils your desires
In this digital age, the future of travel will feature a more human-focused approach, with technology as a tool, not an end in itself. That's the view of Greg Oates, an editor at Skift, the online travel intelligence company that's all about predicting megatrends in the leisure and business sectors.
Addressing an audience at Tianguis Touristico, Mexico's week-long showcase of its tourism offerings, he said that "in-destination connectivity is going to grow and grow" - particularly with the advent of lightning-speed 5G phone technology. But it will be human-focused, with your likes and dislikes being catalogued, so you'll be offered services and products tailored to your preferences.
It's a trend that will be most pronounced in the leisure sector, but also for the business traveller, whose wants and needs will be already known before he or she arrives at a business destination.
It will arrive as early as this year, with Oates pointing to the new connectivity model being adopted by luxury line Princess Cruises.
Oates showed the audience in Acapulco how the Big Brother technology - a piece of wearable technology which tracks your movements around the ship, and pushes you information and products - works.
"The man is wearing a medallion on his wrist, the lady on her neck, and 4,000 screens on ships using NFC and Bluetooth tech instantly recognise you from your itinerary," he said.
"They've collected amazing amounts of customer-specific data to learn more about you and sell more to you. The entire ship is a point of sale, and you're geo-located, so if you're at the pool, you'll be offered a margarita, no salt, based on past purchases."
All well and good in leisure - but what's the business angle? Oates revealed that the same wearable tech technology, offering you services, food and drink, will soon be "in every Marriott and every all-inclusive hotel eventually", so watch this space.
It's a view that was shared with this column recently by Eric Hallerberg, UK and Ireland Country Director of business travel management giant Sabre. "Say you're on a business trip to Madrid, the data will show it's raining there, and you can have an umbrella waiting for you on your plane seat." It's useful, for sure, but the bottom line is you're being pushed to spend more and more while away as Big Brother tracks what you need.
Incidentally, Oates gave the thumbs up to Tourism Ireland's digital campaigns, saying the world should look to emulate the Wild Atlantic Way and Ancient East campaigns, as the former saw a "15pc jump in arrivals at Shannon itself -which almost pays for the campaign."
■ Does your company ensure your data roaming is firmly switched off? Do you rely on spotty - and hackable - public wifi when you're on the road? The answer is already at hand, as I discovered during a visit to London.
Staying at the trendy K West boutique in West London, I found a mobile phone by my bed, offering 4G and free phone calls in the UK and to the likes of the US and Canada (sadly, not Ireland yet). Best of all, it's free to use during your stay. And it was a godsend, using Google maps to track down nearby restaurants and shopping hours in nearby Shepherd's Bush.
The 'Handy' smartphone is now poised to be in one million hotel rooms around the world by the end of this year. The devices, created by Tink Labs, can also be used to create a wifi hotspot for other connected devices such as your own smartphone, iPad or laptop. The company aims to have its devices in 500,000 European hotel rooms, a quarter of which will be in UK, by the end of the year, and it has established partnerships with major hotels including IHG, Sheraton, Novotel, Mercure, Intercontinental, Ritz London, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn.
■ Flying seat 43E on a 747, flanked by three bulky guys, isn't easy - and my jet lag from the Mexican west coast to Mexico City to London and on to Dublin will testify to that (28 hours door-to-door).
From my experience, all is not equal in the Willie Walsh-led IAG group. While the Iberia queue was slick and fast-moving, I was surprised by how manic it was for us poor suckers in the not-very-British queuing scramble with British Airways.
Add to that an old 747 on the way out (at least it had a USB plug), and a truly ancient 747 on the way back (no USB, and a broken movie screen the size of a smartphone), and it was a nightmare.
The lesson? If it's South America, look to Iberia and its sleeker Airbus A340-600.
Sunday Indo Business