Digital transformation provides unparalleled opportunities for both society and industry. While this is apparent across many industries, aviation, travel and tourism, in particular, have been at the forefront of this digital revolution with the transformation of the traveler’s experience.
People have long dreamed of automated helpers to take over life’s mundane tasks. Take the 1960s American animated sitcom, the Jetsons, which portrayed a future with robotics, holograms and whimsical inventions.
While historically people thought of technology as objects, this approach has changed, with technology becoming an integrated part of our daily lives and our infrastructure.
This attitude shift is aligned with the exponential pace of change resulting from the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.
We now live in an era of interconnected system of systems, where disruption is no longer confined to a specific industry, region or country and one innovation can disrupt entire systems. In this new context, communication and collaboration are key to move forward effectively.
Discounting technological progress is not an option. Rather, digital needs to become an integral part of corporate and governmental visions and strategies. In light of the exponential speed of tech cycles, history is no longer a strong predictor of the future.
A survey of 800 tech executives by the World Economic Forum revealed that by 2025, 10% of people are likely to be wearing clothes connected to the internet, the first 3D printed car is expected be in production and the first 3D liver should have been transplanted.
The speed of innovation is complemented by the plummeting cost of technology. A drone that cost US$100,000 in 2007 dropped in cost to just US$700 by 2013. A 3D printer dropped in price from US$40,000 in 2007 to US$100 just seven years later. And DNA sequencing dropped from US$2.7bn to US$1,000 between 2000 and 2014.
The combination of different technologies has further enabled innovation, in turn supporting the creation of opportunities for industry and society as a whole.
While digital has already fueled sectoral transformations, the industry must ensure it is ready for the next wave of disruptions emerging from new technologies, shifting consumer trends and expectations as well as the increasingly complex geopolitical and security landscape.
The ‘Travel & Tourism Competitiveness 2017 Report’ highlights four key industry trends, namely the growth of emerging and development markets as destinations, the continued liberalization of the sector, the sustained environmental degradation and the expectation for constant connectivity.
The recognition, adaptation and influencing of policies around these trends will enable the industry to continue being a driver of growth, job creation, regional integration and tolerance around the world.
At the same time, significant benefits can be derived from digital. Through our research we estimated that digital transformation could unlock more than US$1 trillion of value for the industry over the coming decade (2016-2025). Four main themes emerged when thinking about digital in the aviation, travel and tourism:
With international arrivals forecasted to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, compared to 1.2 billion today, the industry must pursue its commitment to securely and seamless enable the movement of legitimate travelers.
What we need is a smart global approach, one which focuses on collaboration and information sharing to enhance our collective security. Global leaders need to fundamentally rethink policy frameworks and find innovative ways to help people move across international borders.
And while enabling people to discover the world is important, it is imperative that we ensure the safety of national borders and citizens.
The World Economic Forum’s report, ‘Digital Borders’, looks to a future in which eligibility to travel is based on the individual rather than the legacy system of a country of origin. In short, the cover of your passport shouldn’t be the primary factor in defining whether or where you can travel.
In this digital age, technological solutions can and should be created to move the global system from one of physical to digital borders. From digital identification and biometric authentication to seamless airport transfers, “digital” needs to be at the core of every journey. And while a Global Verified Travelers Program would be ideal, much can be done collectively in the meantime to make travel safer.
The report envisions a world in which travel will be safer for millions of people as intelligence and security organizations will be empowered with better tools, intelligence and data to perform their vital work more efficiently and effectively.
Specifically, there is a need for: more intelligence and data sharing between sovereign national governments and international security agencies; the provision of advanced passenger information; the expansion of multilateral agreements, making the traveler part of the solution, utilizing enhanced harmonized biometric standards, and moving to a single digital process including the application and fee.
A few years ago we ran a study with Google to look at whether travelers would be willing to share data information. In the majority of cases, we found that customers and travelers would be willing to share a lot of information if the travel experience were to be more seamless and secure.
Customers are ready and so is technology. Every day we hear of tech advances, from data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, to blockchain, wearables, virtual reality, drones, robots, and more.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here to stay. We must make sure we are ready for the disruptions ahead and stay ahead of the curve to unlock new sources of value and tap into its formidable potential.