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Something is changing about how Australians are travelling. Take Thailand for example: interest in this once-popular playground for Australian tourists has declined, and looks to be declining further. While many countries have seen recent increases in Australian tourism, Aussie arrivals in Thailand were reported to have dropped by about 10% between 2013 and 2015, most likely the result of political uncertainties in the region from 2013 onward. And while, since late 2015, Thailand’s tourism numbers have recovered, the data show that many Australians had begun exploring further afield in South East Asia in the intervening years. Vodafone customers activating Roaming in Vietnam increased by 200% between 2013 and 2016, and Cambodia and Laos are clearly becoming increasingly popular destinations, especially for thrifty travelers.
New Zealand still hits the spot
Since 2013, over a million people have crossed the ditch every year. NZ’s magnificent reputation even spreads to the UK, where readers of the Telegraph voted it the best country in the world to holiday. To the envy of tourist destinations around the world, New Zealand has managed to lock-down a 365-day peak tourist season. Summer sees eager travellers venturing to the picturesque Milford Sound or the metropolitan culture hubs for thrills and spills. Winter welcomes hoards of adventure-seekers braving the temperatures to ski or snowboard some of the freshest powder in snow parks from Cardrona to Treblecone.
Big in Japan
With a magnetic mix of both ancient and hyper-modern culture, Japan is a perennial travel favourite for Australian travelers. Since 2013, visitors from Australia have increased by 60%. That’s 240,000 people a year visiting Tokyo, Osaka, and attractions like the temple of Kinkaku-ji,Tokyo, and the pristine slopes of Hakuba and Happo-One.
Like New Zealand, visitors to Japan are undeterred by season and consistent numbers of people are activating Roaming throughout the year. While tough to weather, Japan’s intense winter season produces such quality powder that tourists simply can’t stay away.
The percentage of Australians aged 40-55 going overseas declined from 30.8% in 2013 to 26.6% in 2015, replaced by a burgeoning group of 60-75+ who went from making up 10.8% to 14.9% (that’s 1.37m departures in 2015). As the first generation to experience affordable travel in their youth, this group now has the means and time to explore the world, so you’re more likely than ever to see a Baby Boomer on a slope near you.
Around 1.42 million Aussies aged 20-29 headed overseas in the last 12 months, and notably, this group is steering away from traditional European getaways towards more fashionable destinations in Africa, South America, and the Middle East.
So we have a rough understanding of who is travelling, and where to – but what does the holiday of the future look like?
Big data, big personalisation
As mobile data goes mainstream, big names around the world are collating information to make your travel experiences as customised as possible. Take travel heavyweight Disney Resorts – it’s My Magic Band +’ keeps track of guest movements and anticipates their needs at every stage, allowing for more flexibility when it comes to dining, riding, and staying in their properties.
Google continues to lead the ‘Great Automation’ of experiences with Google Now Voice Activated Artificial Intelligence system. At the recent Semi Permanent conference in Sydney, Hector Ouilhet, Head of Immersive Design at Google, demonstrated a real-time AI exchange where Google Now was able to book flights and hotels, update passport details, and schedule a transfer for his travel day all by voice request. So when a phone can organise an entire international trip, we need to redefine the human role in our travel booking process. This may become less functional (booking flights and hotels) and more emotional (the ability to find that unbelievable hidden vista or underground bar is yet to be reproduced). There’s a wider implication for how the tourism industry is designed, in which operators could create more ‘secret’ experiences that can’t be automated by a machine.
Your own personal translator
Beyond personalisation, technology revelations are making the world a more accessible place.
Google Translate has been able to read foreign text for a few years – but what if translation could be done in real-time and on the go? Its visual translate app offers more utility, translating visual signage in real time over 27 languages by simply holding your phone up to it. Combine this with an augmented reality technology like Google Glass, and any text – from signage to menus and guides – could be visually translated in real time. Even Skype has an auto-translate service for live calls, though the complexity of the task places it heavily in the ‘still to be mastered’ realm of technology.
Waverly Labs’ Pilot Earpiece is seeking a world without barriers with a ‘Smart Earpiece’ that works to translate languages in real time. Whether this technology lives up to its promises remains to be seen. Hitchhiker’s Guide fans may be disappointed, but in the words of its inventor, it’s “no Babel Fish.”
Sharing is caring
Though apps like Uber and Airbnb are still in their (relative) infancy, the implications for a ‘sharing economy’ are boundless in how they will affect our travel habits. The idea of ‘accommodation’ as a dedicated hotel, or ‘transport’ as a taxi is evolving, shifting our borders and opening up our cities. Uber is doubling its revenue every six months, and Airbnb is celebrating over 15,000,000 stays since its conception.
So what will the future of travel hold? We could see our passports appear in the cloud, and Virtual Reality could change what we look at and when. Data, in general, will become more accessible and less expensive wherever we are. Tesla’s beta Hyperloop is exploring bullet-train technology faster than even the Japanese models (think Sydney to Melbourne in 45 minutes).
Just don’t get us started on space travel…
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