If the recent CES show—which showcased everything from smart helmets to infant sleep sensors to meditation headbands—is any indication, 2019 will be a year of tech-human convergence. That goes double on the travel front, where a host of cool, high- and low-tech travel trends are looking to keep forward-thinking carriers on their toes.
With that in mind, we looked into our industry trend gurus’ crystal balls to weigh in on some of the potentially hottest tech and travel trends airlines can expect to hear a lot more about in 2019.
Although some still bristle at the notion of eating in a crowded restaurant or going to the movies alone, solo travel adventures are shaping up to be the next big thing—especially for women.
Whether sparked by social media’s FOMO (fear of missing out) effect or the enduring popularity of best-selling travelogues as Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, solo travel is hitting new heights. In fact, solo travel is so hot right now that Lonely Planet recently published a solo travel guidebook with chapters covering everything from the importance of staying connected with someone back home to the 10 things you need to learn about yourself while traveling solo.
With aspirational social site Pinterest clocking a 600 percent uptick in searches for the term “solo travel” in 2018 alone, carriers should expect to see a lot more parties of one taking flight this year.
Piggybacking on the solo travel trend is the surging popularity of last-minute weekend trips, or micro-vacations. Often spurred by impossibly cheap flash-sale airfares posted online and shared across social media, booking a last-minute weekend trip to Costa Rica the Tuesday before has never been easier or more affordable.
As the natural offshoot of the Airbnb-style home-sharing trend and pack-a-bag-and-go weekend road trips, micro-trips are proving to be popular with budget-conscious passengers across all demographics. And with many micro-vacationers taking several short trips a year rather than one long jaunt every summer, airlines who capture the hearts and minds of this new breed of wanderlust-seeking jet-setters early on could easily differentiate themselves from the pack.
Whether you think personalized digital marketing is creepy or cool, a recent report from CBInsights is predicting that 2019 is the year that personalization goes into hyperdrive.
Hyper-personalization takes the concept of personalized emails, IFEC, and product offerings to the next level using relevant, real-time data to offer consumers highly-individualized experiences via their platform of choice. It could prove to be a game-changer for the airline and hospitality industries, especially if used to offer passengers an artfully curated end-to-end travel experience.
Already making waves on the digital music front thanks to Spotify’s much buzzed-about partnership with Ancestry.com to offer users DNA-curated playlists, the future of next-gen personalization seems wide open.
Although many eco-friendly travelers may embrace the zero-waste movement at home, staying 100 percent green when traveling, especially abroad, has traditionally proven to be a bit more difficult. Until now.
Sustainable travelers are looking to leave the mountains, cities, and beaches they travel to as pristine and untouched as they were when they arrived. In fact, sometimes they leave them even cleaner.
The zero-waste travel movement might be bigger than previously thought. A recent report from Booking.com found that 67 percent of travelers would be willing to pay up to five percent more for green accommodations if they were available.
Look for this trend to sprout all sorts of new ancillary-revenue opportunities for green-minded carriers in 2019 and beyond.
With guided meditation apps like Calm and Headspace currently on about a dozen airline IFE systems, and our new Wellness solution set to take flight soon, it’s clear that the $4.2-trillion global wellness industry is showing no signs of slowing down in 2019.
Emerging travel trends such as grief retreats, momcations, and Shinrin-yoku (AKA Japanese forest bathing) are making waves online by combining immersive wellness with solo travel.
IFE systems and other cabin technologies can become part of these wellness seekers’ travel experience. Relevant content and destination services are a part of it; other solutions include air purification, personalized cabin lighting, customized audio, special music-streaming or podcast playlists, and so on. These options could prove to be just what the doctor ordered in these hectic times.
Augmented reality (AR)
With everyone from Amazon and IKEA to online household goods purveyor Wayfair.com hopping on the AR bandwagon last year, 2019 might be the year the technology finally connects in a meaningful way with consumers. And it’s not just for gaming and social media.
A number of new retail and ecommerce AR apps are already offering users the ability to test drive a new couch, lamp, or even a suitcase with a swipe of their finger. Carriers are following in suit; for instance, KLM uses AR to help passengers determine which suitcase to bring. Virgin, meanwhile, is using it on the training and operational front.
Opportunities will surely abound this year for airlines looking to get in on the AR awesomeness themselves.
After years of just talking about it, Forbes is predicting that AR, VR, machine learning, and blockchain will finally converge in 2019 to “unlock an incredible amount of value for businesses.”
Air New Zealand has tested an inflight AR solution that uses Microsoft HoloLens headsets to help cabin crew better understand how their passengers are feeling. The headset also instantly matches passengers’ faces to their scanned passport pics, which helps ensure that only ticketed passengers are onboard. There’s major potential in using technologies like these to boost ancillaries related to inflight service, shopping, and IFE preferences.
In an age of personalization, there are no more one-size-fits-all solutions. But with new, emerging, and evolving technologies coming to the fore, forward-thinking carriers who strike the right balance between the personal and the digital will reap big rewards in 2019 and beyond.