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Tech trends in travel: Accenture’s vision


April 19, 2024

Human-centric technologies changing travel landscape

I was at a leading travel industry conference recently, with hundreds of senior leaders from across the fraternity. Some of the most interesting times at such conferences are the networking breaks, where you witness the ‘what’s on everybody’s mind’ conversations. I was surprised that the decibel around ‘new technology’ and the ‘future of travel’ topic was several notches higher than the ‘traveler volume’ and ‘predicted dollars’ typical to industry conferences these days and it was not just established players or optimistic CEOs getting excited about the possibilities of emerging technology; it permeated across levels.

In my previous blog on Accenture’s Technology Vision, I discussed how the travel industry is on the cusp of a new era. Ambitious travel leaders and new players are competing to shape new physical and digital experiences for the travelers. At the same time, rapidly evolving technologies like generative AI are changing the way we approach work trips and vacations. With technology evolving in ways that amplify human-like traits, it is becoming more human. Technology solutions are increasingly demonstrating human-like intelligence, are more intuitive in design and are easy to integrate across every aspect of our lives.

We are witnessing autonomous agents that can act on our behalf; intelligent interfaces that transform how we interact with information; spatial technologies that blend digital and physical worlds—an array of powerful technologies at disposal will surely accelerate a fundamental transition for the industry.

In fact, 97% of airline and travel executives agree that with rapid technological advancements and their combinatorial power, it is more important than ever for organizations to innovate with purpose. An equal number of executives also agree that generative AI will compel their organization to modernize its technology architecture. Not surprisingly, generative AI was on top of the discussion menu at the travel leaders’ conference too!

The evolving interface

Travelers today are looking for more than just ‘information’–they prefer hyper-personalized recommendations, real-time information, and relevant answers to their queries—that necessitate an improved customer service designed to enhance their travel experience. It is signaling towards an evolution in interaction with information, one that I believe will compel businesses to modernize their technology architecture.

And travel businesses are responding, increasingly using AI chatbots to improve customer service that offers instant help. Choice Hotels1 is one good example, which recently fully migrated to cloud and is now streamlining AI-based customer service operations in contact centers and soon plans to power its customer service for personalization.

Trip planning is changing, too. Finding that perfect combination of stunning destination and experiences suiting budget is a daunting task. The advent of AI-assisted trip planning can ease stress. Amadeus Cytric Easy2, for example, is powered by natural language processing and machine learning algorithms. It understands traveler queries in a conversational manner and provides personalized and real-time travel information, such as flight details, hotel options and car rentals—offering instant assistance and enhancing the travel experience.

Biometric interfaces, especially facial recognition technology, are also evolving. Airports are increasingly adopting this technology to streamline passenger transit. Bengaluru International Airport is an example, where passengers can use an app-backed facial recognition interface to automate their entry and verification at all touch points—from airport entry, security screening, to boarding gates. Delta Airline3 customers traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have access to a new similar touchless experience using only their "digital identity"–a convenience enabled by facial technology. These technologies are making travel simple, seamless and efficient with reduced wait times, enhanced security, and improved overall travel experience.

Powerful technologies are helping travel businesses to use data analytics to make informed business decisions. They can identify trends, improve operations and resource allocation, thus helping businesses enhance efficiency and reduce costs. Uber4, the cab-hailing platform, captures large volumes of data from its trips around the world. It applies algorithms to analyze the data to optimize prices, minimize wait times, improve user experience, and guide expansion into new markets.

Rise of agent ecosystem

AI capabilities are expanding, evolving from assisting, to acting independently. More than 95% of airline, travel and transport executives agree to this. Soon, they will begin to collaborate with other agents to accomplish organizational tasks, giving rise to a whole new ecosystem of AI agents that could command certain aspects of business. It is a huge opportunity for travel businesses. We are already seeing airlines and hospitality firms employ AI algorithms for pricing and revenue optimization. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts5 has recently implemented a new Revenue Management System, that leverages real-time data and analytics to make automatic pricing recommendations and adjustments, allowing franchisees to improve their strategies based on their own market insights.

AI is helping airports to operate smarter by boosting efficiency, improving traveler engagement, and enhancing security. Eindhoven Airport6 has deployed AI to improve aircraft turnaround times. By analyzing data real-time from cameras on the flight line, it can provide early insights into potential delays. Changi airport7, in collaboration with Accenture is deploying a mix of technology such as extended reality, machine learning, Internet of Things and edge computing to seamlessly engage travelers through highly personalized communications, experiences and offers. Gatwick8 airport monitors real-time people’s movements to plan layout and lane openings, predict bottlenecks and make informed decisions on the go for smoother transits.

Value in new realities

Another rapidly growing technology is spatial computing. Over 98% of travel executives agree that they plan to use it for competitive advantage. Augmented Reality (AR) can provide interactive wayfinding experiences for travelers. At Zurich airport9, you can use Live View feature on Google Maps to find a gate, restaurant, or amenities. Virtual Reality (VR) is being leveraged for immersive experiences to aid informed decisions. NH Hotels10 has a virtual tour on its website to explore the hotel, its services and even its surroundings.

When it comes to training and maintenance, airlines and airports are deploying Mixed Reality (MR) technology. MR headsets offer real-time guidance and overlay digital info onto physical equipment, enhancing efficiency and accuracy in maintenance tasks. KLM11 ground services at Amsterdam airport is actively using MR across engineering, maintenance, and flight operations.

Bodies electronic – enabling enriched experience

I am amazed and excited at the rapid penetration of human technologies, or bodies electronics. Today, these technologies can read, understand and adapt to humans. There is deep interest among travel executives, with over 96% agreeing that these technologies will let them better understand behaviors and intentions, transforming human-machine interaction.

Biometrics, for example, is an enabler of a true seamless passenger experience. Several airports across the world are increasingly adopting biometrics to verify passenger identities. They deploy it across various touchpoints, such as check-in, security and boarding, providing a seamless and secure travel experience. Changi airport’s FAST (Fast And Seamless Travel)12 is a suite of self-service options for passenger check-in process, using automation, facial recognition and fingerprints of travelers registered with Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore.

Equally exciting is the advent of voice-activated assistants. Powered by natural language processing and machine learning, these assistants are at enhancing guest experience with their intuitive and human-centric interface. The Charlotte Marriott13 now has a specially tailored Alexa for Hospitality, which integrates seamlessly with the hotel’s existing amenities and services and acts as guests’ virtual concierge. It can perform various tasks such as controlling room temperature, lighting and the TV, playing music, setting alarms, ordering room service or housekeeping, calling reception and checking out!

Eye-tracking technology is another fascinating technology, which is helping travel services providers to understand user behavior and improve user experiences. Heathrow airport14 has used insights from data collected through tracking eye movements of passengers to improve their wayfinding at Terminal 5.

Moment of reinvention

The advent of technology, that’s human by design, and its fast evolution is paving the way for greater human potential. It’s giving companies deeper insights into its customers as humans, opening new vistas of big opportunities. To leverage the combinatorial power of such an array of technologies and the massively expanding opportunities, it is important than ever before for organizations to innovate with purpose.

I am positive about the way the travel industry is embracing this generation of technology, adopting it across various dimensions of their business to reshape the future. From improved customer service, enhanced traveler experience, building operational efficiency to better revenue channels—all aspects of a business stand to change as technologies like generative AI, spatial computing and others mature and become more human.

Travel is all about human connections, and when technology also starts behaving the same way - possibilities are endless, and the future is full of promises.


Anshul Gupta

Managing Director – Accenture Technology