Automation, authenticity and blockchain to define future of travel: report

Reconciling need for technology and longing for authenticity

In the newly released The Sabre Labs 2018 Emerging Technology Report, Sabre casts the spotlight on three technologies and trends expected to have the most significant impact on travel over the next decade.

Reconciling need for technology and longing for authenticity

While automation is not a new concept, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are offering the potential for step-changes in service amid the digital environment, according to Sabre Labs, an innovation team within Sabre devoted to exploring how new capabilities will impact travel.

Awareness and cognitive capacity for machines suggest a huge range of opportunities for those serving the travel space to completely rethink when and what to sell, how to staff and operate their businesses, and how to anticipate and exceed their own customers’ needs.

In an age where trust is “in low supply”, Sabre Labs says authenticity and experiences are becoming more valuable than ever. At the same time, businesses increasingly need to rely on technology and digitisation to interact with customers at scale. Against this backdrop, Sabre Labs also explores issues such as the perceived tensions between authenticity and technology.

Sabre Labs posits that each stage of a trip is a chance to enable or encourage the traveller to have a more authentic experience, and authentic doesn’t always mean “real”, in some cases it means exceeding or escaping reality.

For instance, some hotels offer escapes from the digital such as through meditation sessions or digital detox rooms. On the flipside, some hotels are going full-digital, and using technologies like virtual reality to give travellers a different kind of experience that might not be available at home.

Still, the on-the-ground experience can be improved through different resources – technological or otherwise – centered on providing a memorable personality for a place. Sabre says every employee in the travel provider space has a role to play in creating that personality. No matter how much personalised data is shared by a traveller, Sabre says they don’t share everything. Finding ways to broaden their experience through asking questions is a powerful way to create an authentic impression of a place, according to Sabre.

Huge volatility in the price of cryptocurrencies has been dominating headlines but serve to overshadow the value in the underlying blockchain technology, Sabre remarked. Separating crypto hype from the actual potential of distributed ledger technology – which enable secure, “trustless” transactions to take place – can be hard to do. But there is significant promise for blockchain as it relates to travel, not the least of which, Sabre says, is the prospect of going on a round-the-world trip without having to bring a passport or wallet.


“Increasingly, people are coming to understand that the travel business is really a technology business,” said Philip Likens, director of Sabre Labs. “Even the simplest journey generates huge amounts of data. Collecting, indexing and understanding that data – and how we apply that understanding to improve every traveller’s experience – is what will drive real innovation across the entire travel ecosystem.

“Whether it is AI and machine learning to automate and optimise tasks, the counter-intuitive ability to deliver authentic experiences digitally, or using new protocols (such as distributed ledgers) so a traveller can head to the airport and leave their wallet and ID at home – on purpose – tech is going to reshape the travel experience,” he continued.

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