How technology is enhancing the travel and tourism industry

Augmented and virtual reality have enormous potential implications for enhancing the visitor experience

How technology is enhancing the travel and tourism industry

I’m rather amazed to have been reminded recently that it’s almost 30 years since the first edition of Group Travel Organiser magazine was published.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was leading a team of pioneering individuals who recognised that the group travel sector was not really perceived as a distinct part of the travel industry, let alone worth having its own magazine! With a naive confidence in our vision we started the first dedicated group travel publication.

A great deal has changed in the intervening 29-and-a-bit years. The publishing sector has altered out of all recognition, initially with the coming of new technologies that first changed the production processes and printing of magazines and, more recently, began to challenge them with online information systems and the whole digital agenda.

The travel and tourism industry has changed enormously too, in terms of both the types of holidays and outings that people undertake, how they source them and the suppliers they contract with to deliver them.

These processes of upheaval and disruption are far from having ended. Not only is the business model and customer requirement for information and expert support and service delivery in all kinds of consumer behaviour continuing to evolve, but so is the menu from which people choose their leisure activity.

Whilst it is apparent that more and more is being spent on personal enjoyment and experiences outside the home, the traditional split between travelling, entertainment, leisure pursuits and hobbies and other forms of relaxation has become very blurred.

Engagement, enjoyment, experience and stimulation are perhaps the four best words that could be applied to everything from film and TV, music, eating and drinking to shopping, visiting, trying things out and finding self-expression through active pursuits. But the gap between watching TV programmes such as Blue Planet and going on an Antarctic Exploration Voyage, or between hearing about World War One battles and seeing the trenches brought to ‘life’ has been closing – and looks set to continue to do so.

The magic ingredient of the moment is “augmented and virtual reality” technology, which can transport you to new places and time dimensions by simply putting on a head-set. And even the need to do that may be removed by other kinds of immersive and “surround me” environments.

These kind of systems have enormous potential implications for enhancing the visitor experience and creating new products and connections for consumers to enjoy and learn from.

This theme is going to be explored at the first Future Tourism conference and Exhibition taking place alongside the GO Travel Show at Kempton Park on Tuesday 17th April. It will provide the opportunity for group and travel trade professionals to see what is now available, and hear from early adopters what the customer response has been, and for tourism destinations and attractions themselves to explore new products and concepts that they can add to their existing offerings.

All those in the GTBF network are invited and encouraged to take this important opportunity to get abreast of a rapidly emerging new dimension in the travel and tourism market.

This article was originally published in issue 278 (February 2018) of GTO magazine.