During a night out earlier this year, a friend and I were consoling each other about the fact we’re both turning (whisper it) 30 in the not-too-distant future. We came up with an ambitious, cocktail-fuelled plan to mark the occasion by visiting 30 countries before we hit the big three-O.
And unlike eating a dodgy kebab, stealing cones or taking a nap on the night bus, this idea still seemed like a good one in the cold light of dawn. 29 countries later and it has been a fun, but obsessive mission.
It’s made me realise that, as much as I love travelling, there are plenty of ways that tech can make holidays easier, smarter and a lot more fun. Here are a few of my predictions for the technology I think will transform travelling in the future:
- Booking a holiday – I recently got a private message on Instagram from a complete stranger who’d seen pictures of my latest trip and wanted to know if I’d recommend the location. While my first reaction was ‘I need to change my settings’ (and potentially my locks), I’ve since come to realise that this approach could be the future of holiday booking. Last year, Expedia launched a booking bot built into Facebook messenger, which allowed you to get travel support and advice without needing to speak to a single human being. The next logical step is being able to ask a genuine local where they’d pick for the most #instabrag-worthy dinner. Creepy or not, getting recommendations on social media from real people could be the future of tailoring your next holiday.
- Parlez-vous English? – Imagine being able to travel freely abroad, conversing with locals like a pro without so much as glancing at a Collins Pocket Dictionary. While there have been apps to assist floundering tourists and lazy students for years, the next generation of this technology is likely to be much cooler and IoT-enabled (bien sûr). Automatic visual translation, built in to wearable devices like Google Glass will mean saying sayonara to dodgy accents, arrivederci to pointing out menu choices and auf wiedersehen to the cringe-worthy last resort of ‘do you speak English?’ Instead of reaching for the dictionary, you’d be able to look at a word and immediately have it translated in front of your eyes, leaving your pockets free for much more important things, like ‘le chocolat’…
- Robot receptionists – From holographic hoteliers to robot receptionists, the idea of machines taking front of house jobs has been around for some time, but isn’t a ‘thing’… yet. To me, the idea of checking into a hotel without needing to interact with another human (even with the ability to do so in any language) sounds appealing. With more and more companies focusing on making the customer experience as positive and effective as possible, it’s likely that these roles will eventually become automated, just like the tills in your local supermarket. While you wouldn’t be able to have a nice chat about your journey with a robot, it would free up other staff to tackle more important issues, such as dealing with complaints, where a human touch would be more useful.
So, as country 30 awaits, I’ll be dreaming of the days when I can use social media to ask Hannah in Hungary for restaurant tips in her native language, jump on flights safe in the knowledge that my bag is definitely on-board and get checked in at my final destination by a mechanical Manuel. I might just have to wait another 30 years to see it…