The Future of Travel
Assuming the travel industry recovers after the pandemic, we can assume travel to start looking a little different in coming years. Let's take a look at some of the ways travel is already changing and how it may continue to change in the future.
The Sharing Economy and Accommodations
The sharing economy is an economic system in which resources and services are shared between private individuals (peer-to-peer) instead of between private individuals and businesses. It favors access over ownership. AirBnb is the most obvious example of a platform that profits from the sharing economy and it is changing how many people travel. Many people book accommodations through Airbnb instead of traditional hotels for many reasons. Aside from being cheaper, Airbnb offers a different experience than staying in a hotel, it is more of "home away from home". While staying in someone's home, guests often have access to a kitchen, laundry and other home amenities that they don't have access to in traditional hotels. Furthermore, staying in a local's home offers a chance to see how the locals live and have a cultural exchange that would not be present in a traditional hotel. The sharing economy, however, is already here so in the future we can expect to see hoteliers making changes to their business model to compete with sites like Airbnb.com.
When traveling through peer-to-peer rental stays, travelers usually have free connection and will come to expect free Internet connection and phone calls. As such, the first obvious change for hotels to make is to offer more amenities and wave fees that are often associated with them. Hotels may also begin offering more rooms with kitchen amenities which make hotels more attractive, especially for families. Hotels may also make attempts to recreate the "living like a local" experience. This could come in the form of offering unique local tours to guests or partnering with sharing startups like EatWith or Mealsharing to give tourists the authentic local experience they're looking for.
We can expect to see car ownership decrease in the near future. Many people are realizing that it doesn't make sense to own a car when they only use it a couple times per day. Shared mobility can take three forms: car sharing, ride sharing and ride sourcing. Car sharing allows users to pay a fee for temporary access to a car without having any of the costs associated with car ownership. Companies like Zipcar, car2go, and DriveNow are currently operating in this category. Rideshare platforms like BlaBlaCar and Carpooling can be thought of as legitimized hitch-hiking, allowing users to find last minute rides to their destination. In Europe, ridesharing platforms are becoming so popular that people are traveling less by train than they were just a few years ago. Finally, the ride sourcing category includes companies like Uber and Lyft, where passengers are connected with drivers of private vehicles. These services are already here and while we can expect these kinds of services to become more popular in the near future, there are even bigger changes that we can expect to see in the future of road transport.
Automation and Connectivity
Automated driving is generally divided into five distinct levels of automation. These levels designate how much of the Dynamic Driving Task (DDT) is performed by humans and how much is performed by the machine. Level 0 (no automation) is where the DDT is performed entirely by the human and in level 5 (full automation) the DDT is performed entirely by the automated driving system. According to some optimistic estimates, by 2030 "95% of US passenger miles travelled will be served by on-demand autonomous EVs owned by fleet operators, accounting for 60% of the entire US vehicle fleet" (1). This number could be overly optimistic, but in the coming years we can expect different vehicles brands and models to hit the market with varying levels of automation and connectivity (levels 1-3). Even conservative estimates, however, imagine a future world with a great deal of automation where "by 2050, between 50% and 80% of distance travelled will be in AVs, constituting between 40% and 60% of the vehicle fleet."
In the domain of connected and automated mobility, the greatest benefit would come from collective transport over private mobility. As such we can expect to see priority given to urban vehicles, buses and shuttles that are fully automated.
As flying becomes cheaper and more accessible, and the middle class with disposable income to travel becomes larger, popular tourist sites around the world are having to deal with increasingly large crowds. Consider Angkor Wat, a 12th century temple in Cambodia which receives roughly 2.6 million visitors each year. As a result of the large number of tourists, wooden steps were installed over the sandstone temples and limits imposed on the number of people that can visit at any given time. In 2000, international tourist arrivals in Cambodia was just under half a million, while in 2018 that number grew to 6.2 million! (2)
This trend is being seen in many of the top tourist destinations throughout the world and the number is continually increasing. The pressing question then, is how to deal with so many tourists? Efforts will have to be made to manage the increasing flow of visitors to key tourist sites around the world. In order to do so, one of two approaches can be taken. Prices could be raised to a point where they are only accessible to a small percentage of the population. On the other hand, a more egalitarian approach could be implemented in the form of timed tickets and visits that would have to be booked far in advance. Regardless of the strategy, travelling to popular tourist destinations in the future will either become more inconvenient or more expensive.