The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest, with more than US $7.6 trillion spent last year on accommodations, transportation, entertainment, and attractions. And the number of people traveling continues to grow each year, according to Statista’s data on travel, tourism, and hospitality.
Those in the industry try to stay competitive by offering customers a unique experience and exceptional service. To do so, many businesses rely on technology. Here’s how four companies are using tech in an attempt to streamline their customers’ experience.
AUGMENTING AIR TRAVEL
Air New Zealand will equip some of its flight attendants with Microsoft’s augmented-reality HoloLens headsets, according to a Digital Trends article. The headset blends the digital realm with the real world by superimposing 3D images in front of users to provide them with information.
Flight attendants with a HoloLens can have instant access to flight information—which could help them enhance passengers’ experience by informing them of the landing time, local weather, and recommendations for restaurants or sites to see at their final destination.
The headset is designed so that users can shift their gaze, make simple gestures, and use voice commands to control its functions. The HoloLens also relies on facial-recognition software. It can, for example, record passengers’ requests using simple hand movements so that the attendant doesn’t forget who wanted the decaf coffee. It also can help attendants detect people’s moods, such as whether a passenger is nervous or agitated.
Dimension Data, an information technology service provider in Johannesburg, is working with Air New Zealand to customize the HoloLens software.
CRAFTING HIGH-TECH CRUISES
Royal Caribbean International last year unveiled a fleet of what it calls smartships, equipped with a host of technologies.
Four of the cruise ships feature a Bionic Bar, manned by two robots that each can make two drinks per minute and up to 1,000 a day. The robots were designed by Makr Shakr, a company created by researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab and the Carlo Ratti Associati, an invention and design firm in Turin, Italy.
Royal Caribbean guests can order their drink on their phone through the cruise line’s app. They indicate their birth year, pick a drink from a list or create their own, and then the Bionic Bar mixes the drink. The robots extract liquor from bottles attached to the ceiling, while soda and juices are stored in the walls. Once the drink is finished, guests are notified on a screen and flash their Royal Caribbean wristband, which adds the cost to their room tab.
The cruise line this year developed a Snapchat scuba diving mask, the SeaSeeker. A camera begins recording when the diver presses a button on the mask’s upper right-hand corner, according to the video below. It gives users a view of marine life and the ability to create Snapchats underwater.
Royal Caribbean debuted the SeaSeeker in June on its Instagram and Snapchat profiles. Three experienced divers tested the feature and streamed their experiences using the hashtag #SeekDeeper. The company recently applied for a patent to exclusively provide SeaSeeker to its customers.
TUNING UP TRAIN TRANSIT
Eurostar, a high-speed railway service that runs throughout Europe, launched the Sony Sound Menu this year. Eurostar partnered with Sony and Alexandra Lamont, a music psychology lecturer at Keele University, in England.
Using Sony’s 1000X wireless noise-canceling headphones, they created five playlists based on studies of music and mood regulation. Users can also tap the side of the headphones to quickly adjust the volume.
Commuters tested the Sony Sound Menu aboard Eurostar’s e320 and e300 trains. Eurostar spokeswoman Rebecca Alexander told The Institute that the most listened-to playlist was “Getting the Job Done,” which features motivating music patterns and is recommended for promoting focus and limiting procrastination.
VAMPING UP VACATIONS
JetBlue last month began using biometric facial recognition in place of boarding passes, working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection systems.
“The custom-designed camera station will connect to CBP to instantly match the image to passport, visa, or immigration photos in the CBP database and verify flight details,” according to a news release from the company. A screen above the camera notifies the passengers when they can proceed onto the plane.
Also last month, JetBlue Vacations teamed up with Utrip, a digital travel planner, to create a portal for its passengers. The portal uses artificial intelligence combined with locally curated recommendations to help customers arrange their itinerary.