Your Smartphone Is Your Travel Concierge

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Mobile planners. Outer space. Robot hotels. What else does travel tech hold in store for us? By Basia Chow

Hello, future. Technology has become indispensable in nearly every aspect of our lives, especially industries like travel. Jumping aboard the gradual shift from offline to online travel booking, the mobile travel app industry has fast become highly competitive, turning into what Imbert Fung, Director of Kayak in Southeast Asia considers a “fragmented market”.

Kayak is the pioneer of the mobile-directed, online travel search engine business model. It was first introduced in 2004 as growing demand for a platform to compare travel deals emerged in the US. It pulls together a huge variety of travel options to introduce you to the best travel packages out there. “In 2015 we powered over 1 billion travel searches, and we also partner with over 450 airlines worldwide. Our audience is everyone.”

But even Kayak has yet to perfect the art of travel search. The young and growing industry for online travel services is populated by businesses emulating Kayak aspiring to discover a flawless algorithm that can fully cater to the traveller’s every need. To stay on top of things, Kayak plans to develop its app into the ultimate seamless and contextualised travel tool, a personalised guide well-timed and well-placed in its recommendations.

From booking, boarding, to landing, the app tries to ease travel stress by enabling you to do everything from plan hotels to tracking flights. The Asian market will be Kayak’s next port of call. “We know we’re not as well known in Singapore as we are in Europe and the North Americas, but we’re hoping to change that.” says Fung.

Kayak constantly experiments with its programs and interface. “The benefits of experimentation far outweigh the costs. The bulk of Kayak’s personnel are in engineering and development. To understand customers, and make ourselves the most relevant travel tool, we have to invest in technological innovations.”

From hotels built in prisons and under the sea, to increasing access to once-restricted areas like North Korea, the innovations discussed at Kayak’s media event have revealed that there are more travel options than ever before. And development in travel tech has fast accelerated into the realms of what we used to consider sci-fi. Space travel may become commercialised for the masses in the next 20/30 years, and there have been a gradual lowering of communication barriers with globalisation and apps like google translate. The use of robots to service hotel guests and autonomous cars and signals of a shifting world.

Fung uses the analogy of elevators to drive home his point that automatic ground transport would simply become part of everyday life. “No one thinks about elevators. They’re just a way to get us from point A to point B,” he explains
But in spite of the technological marvels we see, Fung still believes humans will still prevail in the workforce. “There is always going to be a place for human interaction, at least until we develop artificial intelligence.” Rather than having tech entirely replacing human services, what Fung foresees is an intermixing of online and offline services.

So, no more looking at your phone every seven minutes to figure out where to sightsee next. This time, your phone will have it all planned out for you.