I love the quote from noted inventor and businessman Charles Kettering, who said, “My interest is in the future because I’m going to spend the rest of my life there.” For those of us working in travel, the future looks like a place where myriad tools will allow us to shape and deliver highly personalized, immediately relevant and richer experiences that will dramatically enhance the way we see the world.
Mobile and location-based technology are driving the revolution, but it’s also being fueled by the mash-up of social media, booking tools, user- and expert-generated content, virtual reality and face recognition — all aggregated in one elegant, easy-to-use application that is highly curated.
A great example of how this concept is already manifesting is in the travel app MyCityWay that is available for most of the major cities around the world. It’s a real-time platform that provides the user with information to not just navigate within a city, but to discover and enjoy it.
Everything from traffic cameras, to booking restaurants on OpenTable, to finding food trucks, to getting the latest feeds from Yelp are all in one place. It’s a very elegant mixture of content, geo-location and functionality. It also lets you get your information as a “tourist,” “local” or “commuter” or you can customize it to yourself. No wonder BMW has chosen to invest in this company’s approach to mobility.
Louis Vuitton is already establishing its own approach to curation with the Amble app, which recommends travel experiences based on the brand’s distinct and elegant sense of style. It features exclusive tips from friends of the Louis Vuitton brand like Sofia Coppola and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Indeed, the concept of curated content is increasingly the filter through which travelers will be able to successfully navigate the abundance of information that surrounds us. Shaping it to fit our personalities or perhaps choosing some persona or passion that might fill our imagination or needs. Foodie? Click here. Fashionista? No problem. Punk Rocker? All set.
Increasingly, you’ll be able to add other factors like your age. No doubt a 50-year-old fashionista is going to have a different perspective than an 18-year-old one. And the reality is that the word “family” can mean very different things if your kids are age 3 and 5 versus 13 and 17. Content that wraps around these details and speaks exactly to your needs will soon be the norm.
At the same time, the information being served to you will also factor in things like the weather, so that if it’s pouring rain outside and you’re searching for things to do with your kids that day, it will only serve up indoor venues. And if you’re looking for a restaurant at lunch time, it will delete establishments that are only open at dinner.
You’ll also be able to have an incredible array of tools accompany you throughout the destination that will add depth, richness and insights to your travels. The Collectrium app already lets you point at art and learn about the work. Tools like Leafsnap use face recognition technology to help you identify plants and flowers simply by pointing at them with the camera in your cell phone. Can similar apps for birds, insects and other items be far behind? How different that hiking experience or walk through the garden can instantly become. It’s also a great equalizer, enabling people of virtually every income level to traverse a destination as if accompanied by a legendary botanist, historian or style icon.
Language will also become less of a problem, as everyone going into a foreign land can eliminate a good deal of the anxiety by using the already available Word Lens app that lets you point at something like a menu or sign and not only have the text translated but to do it in context, with the same typeface, colors and texture. Plus, continued advances in voice and language recognition surely mean that some kind of reliable, instant translation tool will become a traveler’s most basic companion.
With so many of these technologies now available and others close behind, the future may actually already be here. In fact, it won’t be long before one of the key selling points of staying at a particular property might be its ability to give you a dynamic concierge and tour guide that fits in your pocket and delivers a truly immersive experience in that destination. It will be an experience that extends well beyond the property—offering access, information and tools that are personalized to you and uniquely curated by that brand or business in ways that I believe we’re only starting to fully understand and appreciate.
If Charles Kettering were alive today, he’d not only be thinking about traveling in the future, but quite eager for it to arrive.