Technology Forecast 2018

White Papers 07 Feb 2018

What will the world of travel technology look like in 2018? Technology is disrupting existing industries and changing the way business is done, in every economy and every sector. The travel industry is no exception and the pace of innovation and technological change will only increase in the coming year. We expect this to be a big year for travel technology, with solutions maturing and gaining traction while others begin to come on the scene. The recent corporate tax cuts in the U.S. seem likely to free up more investment and continued growth in markets like Asia will fuel further expansion.  So with 2017 behind us and 2018 just beginning, FCM takes a look how technology will shape the industry in the year ahead.

Openness

2017 saw travel technology become more open and integrated than ever before. ‘Big travel tech providers are increasingly making their platforms more integrated, and able to be leveraged or used from different systems’ says FCTG Americas Chief Strategy Officer John Morhous.

This trend is being driven by the entry of new players in the market, intensifying competition and pressuring existing companies to offer more customizability and connectivity in their systems. It isn’t hard to see why. Last year was a record for venture capital in travel startups, with total investment coming to a whopping $5.3 billion, and this seems unlikely to stop or slow in the coming year.
Through FCM’s program Little Argas and our relationship with Plug and Play, we are heavily invested in this process. Working together with companies that have innovative solutions to problems, helping them commercialize those solutions and bring them to the consumer.

All this means that means we should expect to see an increasingly open landscape in travel technology as companies are able to shop around for solutions and platforms. This is great for both consumers and travel operators, enabling them to find new and innovative answers to challenges by combining and integrating products and systems in ways that might not have been possible before now.

In our own business, this new openness is allowing us to leverage existing solutions like our ClientBank reporting and analytics suite. Being able to connect with more data sources and platforms allows us to offer our clients a more integrated, more efficient and more versatile offering than we could have before. This is just one of the many opportunities that the growing openness in the travel tech sector offers.

Mobile

We expect to see big developments in the mobile space over the coming year. Mobile technology is already a large and growing part of the travel technology mix. The transition has occurred more fully on the consumer and retail side of travel, but the business and corporate side has not adapted quite so quickly. There are several reasons for this. Compliance, complexity and the realities of integrating a travel policy with mobile technology being the major factors. Despite these challenges, FCM is working hard to bridge this gap with innovative products such as Sam, the highly interactive mobile app. (link to SAM page)

But with increasing adoption rates for mobile technology in corporate travel and a host of new solutions coming online all the time we think 2018 will see mobile technology really come into its own in the corporate travel sector. Another reason the mobile revolution is far from over is the near-term opportunity of 5G networks. These ultra-fast mobile connections might not be available yet, but Verizon, Qualcomm and other mobile operators worldwide are aiming to started limited rollouts this year. This extra bandwidth opens a multitude of new possibilities for travel technology from real time tracking and the transfer of complex navigational information to more reliable mobile video conferencing and customer service.

Greater speed and bandwidth in mobile connectivity could increasingly make the mobile environment resemble the home internet environment for travellers, letting them stay connected and utilize more complex services on the go, offering potential solutions that have never been practical before. It’s this kind of opportunity that is encouraging companies to continue to invest in the mobile space.

Transportation

Travel technology isn’t just confined to software in your pocket. Physical transportation technology is also evolving alongside digital tech. Exciting new innovations are happening in the industry that could offer consumers more choice and provide a better, more efficient service.

Self-driving cars are one of the most talked about areas of transport technology.

What was once considered a space-age, far-off possibility looks tantalizingly close to reality this year. Several companies are competing to bring a practical and versatile form of this technology to market first. Waymo, a division of Google parent company Alphabet, is already starting a trial in Phoenix this year. Commuters will ride in driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans which will take them to work each day, offering ordinary consumers the chance to interact with autonomous vehicles for the first time.

Assuming all goes well, the company plans to broaden this test to more cities and more services this year. Uber Technologies has also committed to launching an entire fleet of autonomous Volvo? XC90 utility vehicles by 2019. And General Motors is looking to deploy its electric Chevy Bolt robo-taxis in the same timeframe. While there are still problems to be resolved before this technology becomes ubiquitous, the sheer number of players in the race, the size of the investments they are making, the speed technological improvement and the vast market to be gained all argue that this will be an area to watch in the coming year.

Driverless taxi’s, pickup services and shuttles could cost less than half as much to run as their human-piloted equivalents, which would offer travellers a very competitive alternative to traditional services. That’s just one reason why analytics firm IHS Markit project the number of driverless cars to reach more than fifty thousand by 2021 and rise to a million by 2025. Expect to see these pilot programs and larger rollouts ramp-up in 2018.

2018 will be a big year for travel technology. Openness and integration will enable us to leverage platforms in ways we haven’t been able to before, providing consumers with even better solutions to their travel needs. The growth in mobile technology and the increasing speed of cellular networks will allow us to keep connect while on the road, broadening the scope of the services we can offer to the traveller on the go. Chatbots, AI and electronic assistants will continue to become more widely used, more sophisticated and more helpful to the consumer, removing friction for the consumer and improving the traveller experience.

New technologies such as driverless cars will start to come on the scene, offering travellers more choice and bringing even more competition into the marketplace. But most exciting are the possibilities for innovative new solutions nobody can foresee, the way technology will touch our lives and effect the experience of the traveller that will come as a surprise to everyone. And it is these that make travel technology such an exciting space to watch in 2018.

FCM’s key takeaway predictions for 2018:
• More openness means more integration, and more opportunities for consumers and TMCs
• Mobile will continue to grow in importance and reach, buoyed by mobile data technology.
• AI and assistants will become increasingly ubiquitous, with more integration and functionality for travellers .
• Autonomous vehicles will start being trial more widely, although large-scale implementation remains at least another year away
• The huge tech investments in the pipeline will lead to more startups and competition in the marketplace

*This article first appeared on FCM Travel Solutions USA.