Guest post by Singapore Tourism Board
As the tourism industry continues its post-pandemic recovery in an increasingly uncertain travel market, a question that has dawned upon us is — what’s next? Naturally, many of us are looking towards technology for more opportunities. In 2023, we saw the generative AI boom and further growth of emerging technologies like extended reality (XR) and 5G.
While these advances are already shaping the travel sector, there is much more to come as more use cases emerge while the technology further matures.
Looking forward into 2024, we can expect teams to do more with less, streamline their businesses, and offer visitor experiences they hitherto never could have imagined.
Here are the top four tech trends that could shape travel in 2024.
New network technologies will deliver enhanced guest experiences
As tourism businesses look to various technology solutions to rejuvenate experiences and attract repeat visitors since the COVID-19 years, 5G and XR are essential in defining Singapore as a smart tourism destination. However, as the technologies mature, new challenges are arising.
In the space of network technologies, STB has received industry feedback on the challenges in onboarding to 5G solutions due to the need to bring multiple tech vendors together with telco companies. This results in high costs to deliver a single 5G XR experience. This month, Singtel has announced the launch of a 5G package for tourism businesses that are keen to roll out new digital experiences seamlessly within months.
Through the partnership with STB in this service bundle, tourism businesses can now have a one-stop 5G XR solution leveraging Singtel’s 5G network and content creator partner SFX. STB believes this would be particularly beneficial for tourism businesses such as attractions that are looking to launch new and unparalleled digital experiences within a short period of time. Interested stakeholders may wish to contact the Singtel 5G product team for more information (Jayden Kwong – [email protected]; Peng Teng Liang – [email protected] )
One example is the pilot rollout with Sentosa Development Corporation at Fort Siloso where the team launched the world’s first 5G-powered film-grade extended reality in an outdoor setting, through a wearable. A preview of the experience can be seen below:
Additionally, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced it will allocate new airwaves in the 6GHz band to support the deployment of the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard by the third quarter of 2023.
What this means is that there will be another band available to Wi-Fi networks, rather than just the 2.4GHz and 5GHz ones in current existence. This new band will reduce congestion in areas with lots of Wi-Fi signals, which can improve network performance and reliability. It goes further than that though. The move will provide a golden opportunity for Singapore-based hospitality and tourism businesses to enhance the guest experience.
Wi-Fi 6 itself is already being used in various hospitality environments, and 6E will only improve this. For example, the Hard Rock Hotel in Amsterdam leverages WiFi 6 to offer guests modern, digitally-driven amenities. This enables a range of services, such as guest registration, in-room dining requests, remote check-outs, and coordinated housekeeping.
XR and AI combine to create unique and thrilling experiences
The reveal of Apple’s Vision Pro and the proliferation of ChatGPT have laid the groundwork for the expansion of XR and AI, with both consumers and businesses becoming increasingly familiar with the technology over the past 12 months in many sectors.
The convergence of these two trends creates an opportunity for the tourism sector to provide incredible, personalised experiences with significant cost savings. Developing XR experiences is often costly and manpower-intensive. This barrier can be mitigated as the rise of generative AI enables tourism businesses to efficiently develop content and narratives on the back end to feed into the front-end visitor-facing XR models without intensive amounts of manual work.
For example, tourism businesses could create XR-based digital concierges or tourist guides. Think AR models that engage with visitors via wearables like smart glasses and can respond to questions through generative AI-powered answers, rather than relying on time-intensive pre-populated libraries of responses by humans.
Projects blending XR and AI are already coming into existence in other sectors. For example, Niantic released Wol, a mixed-reality experience featuring a 3D owl driven by AI. When users put on a headset, their surroundings are transformed into a redwood forest. From there, they’re introduced to Wol, an AI-enabled owl who engages with users on questions about the woodland and its ecosystem. Wol was created by an AI platform whose engine is composed of several machine learning and character AI models designed to mimic human aspects like gestures and speech.
While these use cases are still nascent in the tourism sector, the concept and approach are transferable and we can expect a wider adoption by tourism players to reimagine the visitor experience very soon.
Convergence of data-driven crowd management and hidden gem discoverability
Managing large crowds and boosting the discoverability of hidden gems are two areas that have been at the forefront to ensure a positive visitor experience. As tourism businesses become more confident and keen to wield real-time data, these two trends are increasingly becoming linked and growing at scale together.
Studies have shown that travellers are increasingly seeking experiences away from the overly beaten tourist routes. Booking.com’s 2023 Sustainable Travel Report found 75% of survey participants want, “authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture.” Meanwhile, the American Express 2023 Global Travel Trends Report discovered travellers want experiences, “that give them a taste of local culture and let them explore hidden gems that friends back home don’t know about.”
Tourism hotspots are taking advantage of this desire by adopting new AI-based apps to encourage smart, sustainable travel to lesser-known areas. For example, schemes like the ‘Feel Florence’ app use sensors to work out how busy an area is and redirect travellers to alternative landmarks, activities and attractions. This includes the sharing of itineraries to be discovered by foot, bike, e-bike, etc. that pass through the city and the smaller municipalities nearby.
Similarly, Barcelona introduced the CheckBarcelona app that gives visitors real-time information about how busy popular tourist sites are and the availability of tickets, while also offering alternatives.
We can expect more tourism businesses like attractions and hotels in Singapore to leverage such technology to manage crowds and boost the discoverability of hidden gems to enhance the visitor experience.
MICE professionals using digital twins to increase events revenue
Digital twins are digital models of products or spaces that exist in the physical world — and they could open up an entirely new revenue stream for MICE professionals in 2024.
Firstly, digital twins allow event planners to experiment with different layouts, seating arrangements, and exhibitor configurations. Combined with new IoT and data integration, this can lead to more efficient space usage and understanding of the environment. This can then enable new exhibitor pricing models or even an increase in attendees, both of which can have a positive impact on revenue.
Another benefit of digital twins is how they can help deliver a more impressive virtual event. EXPO360’s platform, for example, provides additional revenue streams for event planners through virtual venue tours and by allowing exhibitors to promote their stands virtually by adding rich media and interactive “hotspots.”
This can also be extended to improving the quality of the experience for virtual attendees. With the increase in good quality XR headsets, attracting attendees to an event online opens up a new, larger market — and with that a new revenue stream.
On top of that, digital twins can also extend the timeframe of an event. Rather than having something that goes on for a day or two, the event can last as long as the organizer wants. This elongates the options for virtual attendees, meaning they can come at a time that suits them.
An exciting year ahead
Ultimately, 2024 is going to be an exciting year for the travel sector. The constant advances in technology will enable businesses to do more with less. It will allow them to change with the times and deliver consumer experiences that would’ve felt like magic a mere decade ago.
Looking to adopt new and emerging technologies in 2024 but don’t know where to start? STB’s hybrid innovation platform, Tcube can help you identify the right partners, develop a technology roadmap, and launch successful pilots!
Reach out to us via the Tcube interest form now: https://go.gov.sg/tcubecommunity