In a decade’s time the travel agency business could be under threat by “digital travel buddies” according to a senior travel technology figure.
Filip Filipov, head of B2B for travel search site Skyscanner, was speaking to Travolution following the publication of a report about the role technology will play in the future of the travel business.
The Future of Travel 2024, which was commissioned by Skyscanner in association with The Future Laboratory, cited a number areas that were likely to change the face of the sector: semantic search, virtual reality and digital travel buddies supported by wearable artificial intelligence (AI).
The digital travel buddy is a virtual companion that uses AI to accurately suggest and book trips for travellers.
As the consumer would be able to look at hotels, resorts and aircraft seats on their own, the need to consult a travel expert may be diminished.
And wearable technology evolving from the recently launched Google Glass will become so small it will fit onto a contact lens, predicted Filipov.
However, he believes the threat will become an opportunity for those agencies that embrace the technology.
“It will threaten agencies in one way or another. In essence, they (digital travel buddies) will do what an agent does now.
“Agents are well known for being able to develop relationships, but this could replace that.
“However, they say online can never give you entirely what you want. So how great would it be if a digital buddy was assigned to or adopted by a travel agent?
“Forward thinking businesses should be thinking about how to optimise such a service.”
The study also found that advancements in virtual reality technology would offer consumers the opportunity to “try before they buy”.
It suggested a potential booker could take a dive into the Great Barrier Reef before deciding whether to book.
Online tools controlled by voice and gesture technology could also by mainstream by 2024, says the report.
Facial coding algorithms powering search engines may be able to read and react to human expressions and adjust results based on the user’s response.
Filipov said: “The travel industry has evolved a great deal over the past 10 years so trying to predict what the next 10 years has in store has been fascinating.
“With so many emerging technologies it is mind-boggling to imagine just what their impact on travel could be.
The first section of the Skyscanner report can be read or downloaded at skyscanner2024.com.
Sections two and three will be revealed in summer and autumn respectively.