Travel Technology in the next decade. Board member, Shaon Talukder, reports on the Joshua Ryan-Saha event in June
“Technology in this decade doesn’t need to look like the technology of the last. We can create a bottom-up movement, creating travel technology that supports local and collective prosperity.”
The future of travel technology will unlikely look like the last decade. The UK has become a thriving scene for new technology companies and entrepreneurs trying to solve problems that exist and for the travel and tourism industry.
Travel tech is still relatively nascent and has the extensive challenge of helping predominantly small and medium, non-technological service providers and businesses hoping to reach and transact with both domestic and international visitors.
The Tourism Society had the pleasure of hosting an engaging seminar with Josh Ryan-Saha, Director of Traveltech for Scotland to explore the challenges and opportunities that exist for the travel and tourism sector in the next 10 years.
Ask any start-up, a year is a long time in technology and future-gazing 10 years down the road can only happen when you consider three things: Sustainability; Business Efficiency; and Fair work practices which do not focus on a race to the bottom on price, but instead harness the efficiency-benefits of digital technology and ensure more money is left for the highly-skilled, but essential customer service provision, since the quality of tourism delivery will be the ultimate driver of sustainable economic growth.
Josh outlined one of the biggest challenges in the UK for tourism – digital adoption.
The gap exists not through lack of innovative solutions, but more from the lack of resources or expertise within the majority of tourism SMEs. Josh offered a fresh perspective called, “Collective Technology” where he envisaged the adoption of platforms that empower the local businesses, not control them. Typically, the benefits of international reach and volume large online operators like Booking.com offer, lead to platform dependency with smaller margins for the local businesses where commissions are everything. An alternative approach, is where local businesses group together as a collective to hire a local digital expert or agency to understand what specific challenges and barriers exist with the aim of developing appropriate technology solutions that meet local needs. Even competing for 5-10% of the wider market can allow sustainable reinvestment into the community. Whether these collectives, and the largest global tech companies can find a way to co-exist will be the story of the next decade in Tourism. Local collectives will not have the manpower to create sophisticated data-engineering powerhouses to harness sufficient data and insights to realise the revenue potential of a destination compared to the Googles of this world. This asymmetric data-relationship will first have to address, who are the custodians of the business critical data that influences the flow of revenue?
There are other converging factors that include the digital readiness of travellers who are increasingly engaging with tourism through their devices, and the pandemic which severed the physical connection between people for a time and accelerated digital adoption through necessity for consumers as well as suppliers.
Hospitality has and will always be about people, technology has always been about access and efficiency, and the appropriate investment in both should ultimately ensure the sector will continue to grow in quality and value.