As global travel resumes and people rediscover the joy of exploration, two prominent trends that promise to redefine the future of the travel industry are sustainability and artificial intelligence (AI).
A recent consumer research study conducted by “The Future Laboratory and Marriott Bonvoy” has shed light on the changing habits and preferences of travellers across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, highlighting the vital roles that sustainability and AI will play in shaping the travel landscape in coming years.
The term “ecotourism” began in the late 1980s, and the concept gained popularity in the 1990s.
Ecotourism which aims to promote responsible travel that minimises environmental impact, supports conservation efforts, and benefits local communities has now become a global trend.
In the 2020s, we saw a further acceleration of sustainable travel initiatives. More businesses started prioritising sustainability not only as a response to consumer demand but also as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts.
Additionally, sustainable travel is marked by a deliberate emphasis on meaningful experiences, with sustainability at the core.
What was once considered a “nice-to-have” has transformed into a “must-have” for the modern traveller, especially those under the age of 45.
This shift in mindset is evident in the willingness of travellers to pay over 20% more for environmentally friendly accommodation.
Beyond a mere preference for green options, today's travellers seek accommodations that authentically engage with and benefit local communities.
For instance, The JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge in Kenya serves as an exemplary model, having been developed in collaboration with the local community to minimise the environmental impact while contributing to local infrastructure and economies.
It comes as no surprise that the second key trend shaping the future of travel is the integration of artificial intelligence into the entire travel experience.
AI, particularly generative AI, is already influencing travel plans, with nine in 10 users reporting its impact. Over the next three years, as technology continues to evolve, AI is expected to become a mainstream tool for holiday planning.
In the “Revfine” report focussing on AI and travel it states: “The capacity for artificial intelligence to perform tasks that have traditionally required human cognitive function has made it especially useful for those in the travel industry, because deploying AI can save businesses time and money, while potentially eliminating human error and allowing tasks to be performed quickly, at any time of the day.
“Most hotels and resorts rely heavily on delivering excellent customer service to build their reputation, and AI technology can assist with this in various ways. For example, artificial intelligence can improve personalization, tailor recommendations, and guarantee fast response times, even without staff.“
Travellers are increasingly favouring a streamlined approach to technology, preferring one-stop-shop apps for planning and booking holidays.
Recognising this trend, travel brands are harnessing the power of AI to optimise and personalise experiences. This allows travellers to reshape spaces, itineraries, and services to align with their individual needs and expectations.
Neal Jones, the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Marriott International, EMEA, said: As hoteliers, our attention must be directed towards exceeding expectations and providing value beyond checkout.
“The future promises exciting developments as brands innovate to meet the evolving demands of today's conscious and tech-savvy travellers.”