AI, sustainability and gamification: travel trends for 2023
With just weeks left of 2022, we asked the OTT team what they thought the new year would bring for the travel trade.
Collins dictionary’s word of the year summed up 2022 as a ‘Permacrisis.’ There were no exceptions for the travel industry - the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the cost of living crisis added to the challenges of recovery from widespread disruption caused by the Covid pandemic.
So what might 2023 hold? Our team look ahead to some of the trends and innovations which are set to influence the travel trade over the next year.
Whatever the changes, it seems one thing remains constant... travel agents’ appetite for learning. Senior Account Manager Priti Gadhia explains: “Travel agents have an appetite to learn more skills and learn through online channels. A lot of them are new to the industry and are keen to learn about destinations, airlines, hotels, events, festivals and what they have to offer so they can pass that valuable information to their clients.”
Sustainable tourism will drive sales
“Responsible tourism - and how to communicate that to the trade - will be a key focus of 2023. At WTM, we heard how the desire for responsible tourism is being led by governments, investors and at board level. It is also a driver in sales conversion for consumers who are less likely to buy travel when they don't have the option to engage in sustainable tourism.”
“AI in marketing is also a focus for 2023. As the travel industry continues its journey of digital transformation, AI will become more important in as we crunch huge amounts of date to identify patterns of consumer preferences, purchasing and choosing everything from flights to accommodation to travel insurance. Crucial to the success of AI will be the gathering and management of large amounts of data across the whole tourism sector - could AI be the catalyst that drives collaboration across this currently fragmented industry sector?”
“Space travel could provide another out of this world travel experience. William Whitehorn, chair of Seraphin Space Investment Trust, is predicting that within a decade, young space tourists will be up there watching robots building solar power stations. The opportunities space provides are so exciting, not least because we are only beginning to think about and develop them. And if we could do this while focusing on the crucial role of space in the battle for a sustainable future, I'm hooked.”
Louise Honan, Product Director
Artificial intelligence will help create personalised experiences
“Travel is finally back. Keeping pace with new trends and innovations will help businesses to stay competitive and cater to the needs of customers. People want more engaging experiences and connections. Travel takes us out of our comfort zones and inspires us to see, taste and try new things. As we journey into 2023, key trends will include virtual tours, the use of artificial intelligence creating personalised experiences, using voice search to find and book flight tickets, hotel rooms or travel experiences, contactless amenities in airports and hotels for example, sustainable and eco-tourism plus influencer marketing in digital marketing creating brand recognition.”
“Cultural experiences, off the beaten track destinations and wellness retreats will be among the key trends for travel. They will be more adventurous in their travel choices travelling for longer durations.”
“Data will play a big part in understanding the needs of a customer allowing us to gain valuable information, look at the behaviour pattern and acting upon those by providing a better service. Digitalisation in travel will be the way forward, keeping our finger on the pulse on how trends in tourism are changing as this will impact on the business, travel agent needs and, in turn, the consumer.”
Priti Gadhia, Senior Account Manager
Interactivity and gamification will liven up agents’ inboxes
“In terms of how we communicate with customers using email marketing, I believe 2023 will be focused on interactive messaging. The industry is moving towards greater interactivity, with video content, sliders that viewers can scroll through, gamification – games embedded within the email body, and more.”
“We will also see more content stories. The art of storytelling is just that, an art. Creating content that caters to audience interests, while also creating relatability and interest, is key.”
“Automation isn’t new, but it is becoming more highly specialised. I see a surge in triggered automation, with increased personalisation, resulting in greater open rates.”
Michelle Marais, Email marketing expert
Rewards schemes will incentivise agent training
“Content will be key to engaging agents in 2023 and we’ll see more video based communications. We’ll also see a greater degree of personalisation within this messaging, which will be directed more specifically towards agents rather than consumers.”
“I think we’ll also see greater use of incentives for training agents, such as a greater use of rewards schemes.”
Angelica Diaz-Arnett, Head of Global Partnerships