Benjamin Boesch continues his in-depth look at how technology has shaped the travel industry. In the previous part, he discussed the impact AI has had on travel, addressing the myriad ways it has contributed to a more efficient and effective experience for users.
The future is voice
Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have been trail-blazers, helping you to book a car or a flight, tell the time, or find a recipe, all with a simple voice command. Voice-activated searches are becoming ubiquitous, especially as they are found on most smartphones today.
These voice processing engines can recognise contemporary language usages, accents, colloquialisms, translations, and tonality, thus allowing them to have a highly nuanced response, as close to a human interaction as possible. A simple example is, irrespective of if you ask “How are you today?” or “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?”, a voice assistant’s response would be the same, along the lines of “I’m fine”, though the original question is phrased differently.
No wonder then that in 2016, Google reported that 20 percent of its mobile app queries in the US were voice searches. Travel-related companies are already making technology investments in such apps and other AI-powered features as end users come to depend more on such services.
Travel planning at your fingertips
With the proliferation of online processes and platforms, planning any travel is literally at your fingertips. We are already seeing websites and mobile apps, which can assist you at every step of filling up a visa application form, or produce customised stay or flight options based on your past preferences, and help you navigate through foreign cities.
There is even greater access to flexible and speedy services, making it simpler to manage any travel needs at short notice, on the go. The Super Priority Visa service, for instance, allows UK visas to be processed in a single working day. This visa can be accessed via a seamless journey through our websites and at our centres, providing any traveller convenience and speed at the same time.
Whilst digital has greatly improved the ways in which businesses communicate with customers, customers still place a high value on personalized face-to-face interactions for services like visas, for example. Providing an easy and simple booking experience in such cases becomes imperative to drive customer experiences, and ensuring a high level of customer-centricity across all our visa application websites is a continuous and ongoing process.
Customized services are not only the expectation online, but are also being asked for in offline, face to face experiences. Hence, VFS Global is constantly innovating with new niche customer touchpoints to cater to all travellers. Once such example is Premium Lounges, which are frequently used by business travellers as they offer a more personalised visa application experience, including one-on-one attention from dedicated staff, who guide applicants through the entire application journey.
Taking personalization a step further, our game-changing Visa At Your Doorstep service, is enjoying tremendous popularity amongst visa applicants the world over. The service, which allows you to complete the entire visa application process, including enrolling biometrics, in the comfort or privacy of your home or office, is highly popular among travellers who may find it inconvenient to visit centres because of their busy schedules, or family commitments.
Not only convenience, digital technologies have also increased the cost effectiveness across the travel sector worldwide. Transaction costs have lowered because of economies of scale and 24-hour availability of online service providers, allowing travellers to develop a comprehensive itinerary across various price ranges.
Enhanced security of data and identity
With the increasing benefits that the Information Age has brought around organizing and securing data, there is even more consciousness around the security and usage of such data. With the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union in May 2018, there is greater scrutiny on responsible handling of personal data. VFS Global was in fact one of only 15% companies globally that was already compliant when the regulation was introduced – highlighting our commitment since inception to keeping robust frameworks in place for data protection.
Along with data protection, there is increasing awareness around identity and document management. New technologies, like blockchain, have the potential to dramatically improve management and security of documents, minimizing dependence on physical requirements.
Biometric features like facial, fingerprints and iris scan are being used across different industries, as digital identity for recognition and validation. VFS Global already supports various governments for biometric enrolment for visas as well as national ID purposes.
Going forward, as technology continues to advance, the travel industry is bound to undergo further evolution and disruption – curb-to-gate biometric airports, digital lockers for documentation, even space travel, and many other such ideas, are no longer solely in the domain of science fiction, but rather very near possibilities.
As long as customers place a high value on experience and efficiency in travel, there will always be need for new timely, seamless and agile services, both online and offline.
For modern travellers perennially running short on time, these new ideas will go a long way in allowing them to experience the joy of travel from ‘inspiration’ to ‘execution’, keeping convenience at their fingertips, literally!