With a new decade stretching ahead, here are some of the key trends set to shape and define the future of the travel industry.
We are officially entering a new decade, so what can we expect from the year ahead? After a year of poor performance, the global economy is expected to grow 3.4 per cent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund, although advanced countries can only expect 1.7 per cent growth. The Financial Times says: “So far the evidence suggests the slide in the global economy is coming to an end, but the pace of recovery is still expected to be weak.” Recession, hopefully, will be kept at bay.
With social and environmental responsibility now hard to ignore, more and more companies are going to be looking at the way they operate, who they affiliate with and how they travel. After a general election in Britain, the US will be deciding whether or not to keep President Trump in power this coming autumn, while its trade war with China rumbles on. With another year of change – but perhaps no concrete answers – ahead, “uncertainty” needs to be something businesses accept as the new normal.
1. Flight shame
After decades of arrogance and apathy, the public fear of an impending climate crisis is having a very real effect on the travel industry. According to Swiss bank UBS, the Swedish term “flygskam”, which translates as “flight shame”, could halve air traffic growth in the years ahead as people reduce the number of trips they take by plane.
Although business travel will continue, there will be far greater pressure on companies to fly only when absolutely necessary, while greener alternatives such as train travel will become more popular. Carbon offsetting will also take off, with airlines such as EasyJet, British Airways
and Air France attempting to alleviate concerns about harmful emissions by investing in forest conservation and renewable energy projects.
2. Digital currencies
Everyone’s heard of bitcoin but did you know there are about 3,000 different cryptocurrencies being traded around the world? There are high-value ones such as Ethereum, XRP and Litecoin, and there are fake ones such as OneCoin, which a BBC Sounds documentary titled The Missing Cryptoqueen revealed as not being based on a blockchain, meaning it is illegitimate and untrustworthy, despite millions of people around the world investing billions of dollars in it.
Digital currencies are complex, intriguing, controversial – and are not going away. In 2020, Facebook wants to launch its own cryptocurrency called Libra, although criticisms of it from central bankers and world leaders mean it might not manage to. In the meantime, a rising number of future-facing travel companies such as travel management firm Corporate Traveller are accepting bitcoin payments, indicating a shift towards a cash-free culture.
3. Facial recognition
Another sci-fi tech innovation that will be entering the mainstream this year is facial recognition. Airports and airlines such as Heathrow, Gatwick, BA and Delta have already been installing it as a way of replacing passport and boarding pass checks, and now we are seeing it appearing in hotels as a way of bypassing check-in queues.
In Singapore, the Ascott Orchard, Swissotel The Stamford and Grand Park City Hall are all plugging into a new E-Visitor Authentication initiative that uses facial recognition technology to authenticate guests’ identities. In China, facial recognition is already being embraced with gusto by authorities, and hotels such as Alibaba’s FlyZoo in Hangzhou, where you can pay for food and open doors with a smile, are a sign of what’s to come.
4. 5G connectivity
Another proof that we really are living in the future is the arrival of hyper-fast 5G mobile connectivity. It’s not going to be a bit better than 4G – it’s going to be a lot better. Capable of downloading films in seconds rather than minutes, for example, the speed at which it will be able to process data will open up new possibilities for businesses and societies, whereby not only are our smartphones linked to the internet but also to our fridges, cars, homes, offices and streets. In the UK, EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 have all started rolling out 5G, along with networks in the US and South Korea. Meanwhile, Beijing’s new Daxing Airport – the biggest in the world – is using 5G to power its facial recognition system.
5. Generation Z
If you have thought that the average age of people in airport lounges has gone down, you’re right. Millennials have had their moment, and many are now approaching 40. In 2020, a new generation of travellers will be coming of age (the oldest will be 25 this year) and entering the job market. According to FCM Travel Solutions, the value of Generation Z (born 1995–2000) to the global travel industry is estimated to be US$200 billion. They have a very different mindset and approach to travel, so travel companies will need to wise up fast to how these “digital natives” operate.
To learn more about the travel habits and motivations of Generation Z, download the Gen Z Horizons report produced by travel trend forecasting agency Globetrender in association with YouthSight at globetrender.com/gen-z-horizons-report
Five new business hotels for 2020
- HotelBrooklyn, Manchester
Located in a Victorian brownstone building, the 189-room Hotel Brooklyn has been inspired by the New York borough of Brooklyn and will open in February.
- citizenM, Washington DC Capitol
Opening in July (in time for the next US election), this 252-room hotel will have eight spacious meeting rooms, a rooftop bar and an outdoor terrace.
- Tokyo Edition, Toranomon
Debuting in the summer, Marriott International’s 206-room Tokyo Edition hotel will be part of a mixed-use project bringing together offices, residences and a medical centre.
- The Londoner, London
This 16- floor hotel will have 350 rooms and suites, plus two screening rooms, various bars and restaurants, a rooftop terrace and a ballroom. It will open in Leicester Square in June.
- The Westbund, Shanghai
Also coming in 2020 is Rocco Forte’s Westbund hotel, which will occupy the highest levels of the West Bund’s newest tower. It will feature 219 rooms, a spa and an al fresco bar on the 52nd floor.