Digitalisation needed to future-proof tourism industry: leaders

Young girl in coat with suitcase and binoculars on a rural road near cornfield.

The tourism industry needs to embrace the digital age to thrive as travel resumes, as it lags behind other sectors, experts at Travelport’s recent The Future of Travel Retail Thought Leadership event in Dubai claim.

“It’s time for our industry to undergo huge transformation,” said Greg Webb, CEO of Travelport.

The tourism industry needs to evolve digitally

“Even though the industry is a leader in experiences, it lags in terms of the technology to deliver those experiences.”

In a recent Travelport survey, respondents perceived the travel industry to be lagging in digital innovation, falling below even finance in rankings.

Jennifer Catto, Travelport’s chief marketing officer, said: “Travel has not evolved digitally at all. The time to start thinking about this is now because the last two years have totally accelerated the depth of digital in all our lives.”

The industry is also being urged to tap into rapidly advancing technology that has the potential to transform the sector.

Steve Bambury, Metaverse and Web3 consultant, said “future-proofing” the industry now is key as virtual worlds advance. For example, introducing virtual reality (VR) to showcase destinations is a trend predicted to rapidly gain momentum.

“Harnessing VR technology, whether showing simple footage or 3D content, takes people to another level of immersion and gives them a taste of what to expect,” he opined.

He added that the Metaverse is the next big thing, with international brands, such as Nike, Gucci and McDonalds, snapping up plots of land inside the virtual world.

“This is very forward thinking,” added Bambury. “You have a virtual space where people can walk in and enquire about a hotel or destination. If they want to know about Sri Lanka, suddenly the walls disappear and you’re surrounded by Sri Lanka.”

Destinations are already developing their own virtual world. For example, Metaverse Dubai hosted the world’s first economic summit in Metaverse last month.

Bambury said the opportunities are endless, predicting in the next 15 years “virtual trips to impossible places”, such as Ancient Rome, Mars or the Kingdom of Atlantis, will become an option.

“This won’t replace real-life travel but real-life travel will be supplemented by crazy stuff like this. This is innovation that opens up whole new worlds in the way that we engage with digital content. You can wait or future-proof yourself and act now,” he said.

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