21 Travel Trends
The next decade of business travel holds evolution and innovation that will transform the way we do things
The next decade of business travel holds evolution and innovation that will transform the way we do things
1. THE NEW SUPERSONIC Concorde may be dead but supersonic is set to make a comeback. US engineering firm Spike Aerospace is developing a 12- to 18-seat jet (the Spike S-512) that could fly between London and NewYork in four hours. It would have“luxurious multiplex digital cabins”with full-length screens along the windowless walls. If all goes to plan, it could be flying by the end of 2018.
Meanwhile, Aerion Corporation is working on a private jet able to reach Mach 1.6 (1,100 mph) for a launch by 2020, and Hypermach Aerospace plans to start work on its SonicStar jet at the start of the next decade. It would be able to go twice as fast as Concorde, reaching speeds of Mach 4 (3,045 mph).
And then there is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which he is pushing ahead with despite a fatal crash last year.
Private jets are entering the mainstream thanks to apps enabling travelers to book seats on aircraft that would otherwise fly half-full or even empty on return trips.
PrivateFly, which launched in 2010, provides access to more than 7,000 jets around the world and claims it can get passengers from the ground to the air in 45 minutes.
JetSmarter, which entered the market in 2013, offers more than 2,500 empty legs a month at a cost of $7,000 per year, plus 3,000 planes available for charter.
There’s also Blackjet, which sells seats on jets travelling between ten US cities (annual membership is $2,500 and grants discounted empty-leg flights), and Surf Air, which has a $1,750 a month payment plan lofting 44 daily flights to eight destinations in the United States.
Fresh Jets doesn’t charge anything to sign up, has more than 1,200 aircraft and flights starting from $799.
3. ECONOMY CLASS SLIMS DOWN
Airlines are cramming more seats into economy class.
Emirates set the trend when it configured its 777s with ten-across instead of nine-across seating, and most airlines plan 3-3-3 layouts on the 787 instead of Boeing’s suggested 2-4-2.
Thanks to new slimline seats, extra rows are being added and legroom is being reduced. Air Asia X has ordered a tenacross version of the new A350, which will enter service in a few years; 11-across seating on the A380 will not be a surprise.
4. PREMIUM ECONOMY 2.0
Premium economy is moving from being an “enhanced” economy seat with extra legroom, amenity kits and better food to a stand-alone product in itself.
Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines recently unveiled new seats, but some airlines are seeing value in taking their designs further. Check out what’s happening at the pointy end of the plane in this month’s Premium Cabin Update (page 30).
In the noughties, a slew of airlines tried and failed to launch all-business class services. Eos, Maxjet and Silverjet all went bust by the summer of 2008 after oil prices went over $100 a barrel. Other carriers then tried the more modest tactic of configuring some of their aircraft solely with business class seats on specific routes.
BA’s all-Club World A318 service from London City to NewYork JFK has now been running for more than five years, while in February last year, Qatar Airways launched its first all-business class A319 from Doha to Heathrow.
However, in 2012, Hong Kong Airlines had to suspend its premium A330 Hong Kong-Gatwick service.
With the economy picking up and oil prices far lower, there is renewed determination for the concept to work. French airline La Compagnie launched on Paris Orly-NewYork Newark last summer, followed by London Luton-Newark in February.
Next year, UK-based, crowd-funded start-up Odyssey Airlines is planning to launch business-class-only flights from London City to the Big Apple.
6. FIRST CLASS HOTEL ROOMS
With business class products improving all the time, first class has to work harder to differentiate itself.
While a number of carriers, such as Singapore Airlines, Asiana Airlines and Emirates, provide personal suites, last year Etihad took it to the extreme with the unveiling of its Residence on the inaugural A380 service from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow in December. In addition, the aircraft is fitted with nine first class Apartments in a single-aisle cabin.
Find more details in our Premium Cabin Update (page 30).
As demand for air travel increases, airports are getting bigger – and better.
Singapore Changi is consistently voted the best in the world, with facilities such as a butterfly garden, rooftop pool and cinemas – and yet its vision for the future is even more ambitious.
The 8.7-acre Jewel extension, set for completion in 2018, will have a domed glass roof under which will sit nearly a quarter-million square feet of gardens, a 130-roomYotel, and 300 shops and restaurants. Highlights will include an air-conditioned Forest Valley with walking trails, and a 130-foot Rain Vortex – the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
The impressive range of facilities at Amsterdam Schiphol – which calls itself an “airport city”– includes a casino, spa, meditation center, art gallery and library, while Hong Kong International has a ninehole golf course and an Imax theatre.
Heathrow’s new T2 is home to Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionist’s Café, which comes complete with its own nitrogen ice cream parlor.
8. BIOTECH AND MICROCHIPS
With more countries issuing biometric e-passports, and greater volumes of passengers flying, increasing numbers of airports will install automated immigration gates and use facial and gait recognition to monitor queues and flows throughout the terminals.
Fingerprint and body scanning may also become more prevalent.
Gatwick has installed electronic eyes from Human Recognition Systems that track how long it takes individuals to get through the security process by scanning their faces and irises, and then converting the information into code (to maintain individual privacy).
Somewhat scarier is the prospect of “embedded biotech,” where by microchips are surgically inserted under the skin – in years to come, travelers may have personal ID chips implanted, which they could use instead of a passport.
9. STATUS FOR SALE
Last summer we reported on how airline and hotel loyalty programs were moving to revenue-based models that reward how much you spend, not how many nights you stay or flights you take.
Fast forward several months, and British Airways, Malaysia Airlines, United and Delta are among the carriers that have already made this change.
10. LOYALTY ATHEISM
The revamping of loyalty programs may have a counter-effect. As frequent flyers become disillusioned with new models, a growing minority are abandoning them, freeing themselves up to choose the airlines that offer the best timings, prices and onboard experiences.
Such “loyalty atheists” gain many of the benefits of having status (such as lounge access) by paying to fly in premium cabins, and on shorter flights don’t mind saving money by flying low-cost carriers.
11. 3D PRINTING
If you haven’t yet got your head around 3D printing, you need to. It’s the “third industrial revolution” allowing individuals and manufacturers to convert CGI imagery into tangible objects through the sequential layering of materials, producing everything from replacement hips to aircraft engines.
In the future, we will be seeing 3D printed architecture. In January, Chinese company Winsun unveiled a 11,800 square-foot villa it had printed in a month with only eight people – a third of the time and manpower required for traditional construction, and half the price.
Adam Kushner, president of D-Shape Enterprises, is printing a four-bedroom residence with a pool in upstate New York; and NASA is experimenting with the technology to quickly build lunar modules for moon exploration.
It won’t be long until hoteliers get in on the 3D printing action – whether for creating interiors and fixtures, or for developing full-scale buildings.
For chains, the possibility of replicating their offering quickly and precisely will hold great appeal. In the meantime, you may find 3D printers appearing in business centers, allowing you to arrive at a presentation with a freshly-made 3D prototype.
12. SMALL ROOMS, BIG VALUE
Tiny sleeping spaces have been big in Japan for decades, with salarymen bedding down in 32-square-foot“capsule hotels” that look more like stacks of washing machines.
Nine Hours recently opened a property at Tokyo Narita airport with 129 units priced from ¥1,500 ($12) an hour.
The concept has also started to take off in the West.Yotel offers cabins from 75 square feet at Heathrow, Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol airports; Bloc arrived in Gatwick a year ago with rooms from 100 square feet; Munich airport offers 40-square-foot Napcab pods; while the new GoSleep capsules at Helsinki airport are even cosier, at three feet high by sixand-a-half feet long.
In London, the first Hub by Premier Inn property opened in November near Covent Garden. Rooms are 124 square feet and cost from £79 ($124), with high-spec, hightech fixtures and fittings. The company has bought another seven sites in the capital, plus three in Edinburgh.
13. LIFESTYLE BRANDS
Thanks to an obsession with“Millennials,” big hotel groups are launching“lifestyle” brands with a more individual feel.
At the top end of the scale, Marriott International debuted Edition in partnership with US hotelier Ian Schrager in Waikiki in 2010. That property has since left the brand, but Editions are open in London, Istanbul and Miami, with New York, Abu Dhabi and Bangkok coming.
Marriott also has the Autograph Collection – with a tagline of“exactly like nothing else”– while at the no-frills end, it unveiled Moxy last September at Milan Malpensa airport, with sexy digital prints and Instagram walls. Another 150 Moxys are set to arrive by 2020.
Hilton Worldwide has two new brands. Curio is a collection of four- and five-star hotels“hand-picked for [their] distinctive character,”which first entered the market last summer. Canopy by Hilton is“all about being local, through design, food and beverage, art and local know-how,”and is expected to debut this year.
Langham Hotels’Cordis (high-end but without the opulence) arrives in Hong Kong later this year, while Hyatt Centric –“for modern explorers”– has launched in Chicago and Miami. IHG, meanwhile, has Even hotels – aimed at“travelers who maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.”
There are two open in the US and three more in the pipeline.
14. LUXURY HOSTELS
A new breed of “poshtels” is also popping up. Carl Michel, executive chairman of Generator hostels, which arrived in Paris in February, says uptake from business travelers has been gradually rising.
Marco Nijhof, chief executive officer of Yoo Hotels and Resorts, is a fan: “My secretary told me I had to stay in a Generator hostel and I said:‘ How low do you want me to go?’ But I was blown away. They have created an experience that is fantastic – I walked in [to the London property] not knowing what to expect, but it was full. I thought with my gray hair I was going to be the oldest man walking around but that was not the case.”
Safestay is another brand to keep an eye out for, along with independents such as the Kex hostel in Reykjavik.
15. SHARING ECONOMY
If you haven’t tried renting someone’s apartment through Airbnb yet, there are plenty who have – the company is now worth more than $20 billion, and has more than one million listings in 34,000 cities in 190 countries.
It has also been branching into the corporate market with a portal for business travelers and a deal with expense management company Concur last year, allowing travel managers to keep track of where employees are staying and making sure properties meet requirements.
One Fine Stay is a similar model but exclusively for the rental of luxury homes in London, Los Angeles, New York and Paris, with staff providing hotel-like services. You can also find sites dedicated to sharing workspace, cars and parking.
Companies such as Sixt, Hertz and Zipcar are embracing mobile apps to facilitate instant pick-ups and drop-offs in city centers and airports.
They have“free floating” fleets so drivers can rent vehicles and drive away without having to go to a bricks-and-mortar rental office or deal with staff.
Google has been working on developing robot cars for some time, testing them in California, while Abu Dhabi’s futuristic Masdar City project has been using solarpowered “autonomous people movers” for the past few years.
In the US, self-driving vehicles are expected to be on the streets of 30 US cities by the end of next year.
The UK Commons transport committee says that both driverless and semiautonomous cars will take to the roads in the next ten years, with trials already under way in Greenwich.
18. INTERNET OF THINGS
Known as the “second digital revolution,” the dawn of web-enabled everyday objects, and the ability to control them with your personal devices, is already upon us.
Whether you are remotely turning on the heat at home (Nest) or letting your fridge make your shopping list (LG Smart Thinq), our gadgets are becoming smart, speaking to our phones, tablets and wearable devices like the new Apple Watch.
In the travel industry, Starwood Preferred Guest is testing a feature on its app that enables guests to open the doors to their rooms with their phone. Air France-KLM is experimenting with luggage tracking tags and devices, while the new Virgin Hotel Chicago’s app, called Lucy, can customize the in-room experience, from setting the thermostat to ordering room service.
19. INSTANT TRANSLATION
Doing business worldwide will be so much easier with instant translation technology.
In December, Skype unveiled a beta version of Translator, a feature that allows two people speaking via video link to hear an artificial voice translating what has been said, live. It’s slow right now and does make mistakes, but in the future it could be integrated with large-scale videoconferencing suites.
Platforms such as Globr offer instant messaging translation, while iTranslate also employs voice recognition. Google Translate recently incorporated Word Lens – hold your smartphone’s camera up to a road sign or restaurant menu, for example, and it will convert what is written into your chosen language.
In a world of fluctuating currencies, buying and selling across borders can often mean you lose out on exchange rates.
The use of crypto or digital currencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) gets around this as they have a real-world value and can be used internationally.
Last summer, Expedia began testing Bitcoins as payment for hotel bookings in the US. The Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn will process Bitcoins at its front desk with BitPay’s payment system, while Airbnb, Uber and OpenTable are tipped to accept digital currencies in the future.
You can buy them at special ATMs such as in London’s Shoreditch to keep in a virtual wallet, or through sites like Bittylicious. At the time of going to press, one BTC was $278.89 but the value has been much higher in the past.
21. THE END OF PRIVACY
Google is using the vast amount of data it has about the world – and us – to transform the way we travel: As Business Traveler reported last Fall, by 2017 fully a third of travel sold will be digital and take place on mobile devices. Currently, 82 percent of research takes place online. “Mobile changed everything,” said Google’s head of travel David Pavelko, speaking at a major travel trade show last July. “It goes with us where we go – it’s where we want it.”
Google is using this information to personalize your online experience, with the aim of making life easier for you, but it is at the cost of keeping your data private.
In the future, most of us will realize resistance is futile. Companies and business people will hire online privacy managers to ensure sensitive information is protected – but even then, the government could well be snooping. BT
From left: Spike S-512 supersonic jet and interior
Clockwise from top far left: Etihad’s Residence butlers and living room; Singapore Changi’s Jewel extension; Air France premium economy
From left: 3D printing; GoSleep capsules; Moxy Milan Malpensa Airport; Generator Copenhagen
From left: Driverless cars in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City; Starwood Preferred Guest Keyless app