Travelling towards a Sustainable Future: Technology, Transformation & Trends
Mokshita P.
10X Technology

Travelling towards a Sustainable Future: Technology, Transformation & Trends

We anticipate technology and sustainability being the two primary areas of focus for the travel industry this year. From the implementation of AI by the hospitality sector and the use of VR by travel agencies to apps encouraging ecotourism and digital platforms providing sustainable travel options, there is a clear shift in not just the consumer’s mindset but also the overall industry sentiment. SME10X explores further.

Arabian Travel Market [ATM] 2023 will held on 1-4 May at Dubai World Trade Centre. The ATM Travel Tech Stage will host a number of innovation-centric discussions and events throughout the show. It includes sessions like ‘Technology: The Enabler of Sustainable Travel’, where industry experts discuss how online tools are making it easier for consumers to mitigate their environmental impact when purchasing and planning trips. it will also provide the backdrop for a selection of other panels including ‘The Main Trends Impacting Travel in 2023 and Beyond’.

Technology and digital platforms are crucial in enabling sustainable travel and tourism. From the implementation of AI by the hospitality sector and the use of VR by travel agencies to apps encouraging ecotourism and digital platforms providing sustainable travel options, there is a clear shift in not just the consumer’s mindset but also the overall industry sentiment.

For businesses within these sectors, it’s not just about the impact on the environment and meeting their sustainable development goals, and it also makes clear business sense.

Making sustainable choices easier

Businesses within these sectors are increasingly implementing impactful practices to give consumers what they want and make sustainable choices faster, easier, and more cost-efficient.

Alfio Bernardini, General Manager, Grand Plaza Movenpick Media City, Dubai said, “The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve energy use and reduce waste is a growing trend across hotels. AI-powered systems in hotels may automatically adjust lighting and temperature based on occupancy levels and weather conditions, resulting in significant energy savings. Robust data and machine learning algorithms can also assist hotels in more accurately forecasting demand, decreasing food waste and optimizing inventory management.”

According to Bernardini, digital solutions are also on the rise to enhance the guest experience while promoting sustainable practices. “For instance, mobile apps and QR Codes have replaced the need for heavily printed guest service directories, loyalty cards, and more. Digital technologies can also enable guests to control in-room energy usage and reduce waste by opting out of daily housekeeping services,” he added.

Let’s look at some of the staggering numbers:

  • Guests in the hospitality sector are willing to pay up to 75 percent more for an eco-friendly option, according to Operto’s report

  • Up to 37 percent of travelers would like websites to offer a filter option that features sustainable hotels, as highlighted in Avantio’s research

  • reported that 69 percent of people want to reduce their carbon footprint when travelling, and 35 percent want to see travel companies provide more tips on sustainable travel.

Technology as an enabler for sustainable travel

Here are some ways in which technology can contribute to sustainable travel:

  1. Online booking and communication: Online booking systems and communication technologies such as email and instant messaging reduce the need for printed materials, which can significantly reduce the environmental impact of travel. For instance, the largest accommodation booking website in the world, now gives users the option to reserve a rental car and arrange for travel.

  2. Sustainable transportation: Technology can facilitate the development of sustainable transportation options such as electric vehicles and public transportation systems.

  3. Energy efficiency: Smart buildings and energy-efficient systems can help hotels and other accommodations reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint.

  4. AI: AI is used across the industry to increase guest satisfaction, boost revenue and cut costs. The hospitality sector uses AI tools to supply rate recommendations, predict demand, and deploy exclusive offers on its websites. 

  5. Cloud Computing: For decades, the hospitality sector has operated using traditional software for guest management and other operations. In recent years, however, the limitations of these legacy systems have become more evident in supporting remote work and collaboration or installing updates in real-time. The shift towards the cloud has been a natural progression unlocking faster processing times, higher accuracy and enhanced service. In the aviation sector, with a hybrid cloud infrastructure strategy in mind, airlines are focusing on becoming more agile by scaling up or down the infrastructure to meet the new demand. Airbnb, Dubai Airports Company, easyJet are some of the companies that are currently deploying it.

  6. Advanced Analytics: This helps generate data and insights on the environmental and social impact of a product, service, or process. Frontrunners leverage these capabilities to develop and finetune offerings, engage customers, and improve performance over time. According to a market survey, 97.2 percent of aviation companies are working towards deploying big data and artificial intelligence. One of them is Freboom. They decided that big data and analytics could help them improve their travel booking website by offering attractive prices.

  7. IoT and Blockchain: Advanced digital technologies and tools such as connected IoT sensors and monitors, cloud-based data platforms, and blockchain-enabled tracking systems are unlocking new capabilities for measuring and tracking environmental and social impact across value chains. Companies can improve management and investment decisions and performance against ESG goals. Moreover, IoT- and AI-based solutions also optimize energy efficiency in real-time, reducing emissions and saving money simultaneously. Qantas Airlines that has developed a VR application that allows travelers to explore their preferred destination beforehand.

One key trend that stands out is the increasing use of virtual spaces for immersive customer experiences. These virtual spaces allow potential customers to explore the offerings in a more immersive way, while also providing business with a valuable data and insights into customer preferences and behavior.”
Alfred Manasseh, Co-Founder and Chief Metaverse Officer at Shaffra

According to Manasseh, the metaverse is facilitating virtual events and conferences within the hospitality industry. Virtual events are still relatively popular, and the metaverse provides an interactive and engaging platform for hosting such events, enabling the sector to network, collaborate, and learn from one another.

Another trend that Manasseh noticed is the integration of NFTs and blockchain technology within the hospitality sector. Hotels and resorts are beginning to offer unique, limited-edition NFTs as part of their loyalty programs or as exclusive digital souvenirs for guests. This enables businesses to create new revenue streams, as well as increase customer engagement and brand loyalty.