Three Lessons From the Future of Travel

On Tuesday this week, I was lucky enough to be a part of a Future Agenda ‘Future of Travel’ event.

This was workshop 100-and-something in a round-the-world tour, with twenty of us spending the day at the RSA (where those ‘Married at First Sight‘ couples got hitched, apparently), debating and discussing what travel would look like in ten years time. I learnt a huge amount, including that Baby Boomers are currently sharing more STDs than Millenials, which was an unexpected yet fascinating fact.


That aside, these were the three other things that stood out the most for me…

The rise of the Sabbatication

The lines between work and home continue to get increasingly blurred, with people checking email for hours before and after ‘work’ has finished as a standard practise. Ubiquitous online access makes this anywhere anytime working pattern the norm, which is neither good for the body nor the mind. And not great for productivity, either.

That might mean more ‘working from holiday’, with hotels making a greater effort to provide co-working spaces and people planning their trips around a couple of hours of work each day. This doesn’t sound appealing.

What does sound appealing, with people giving over and above to their employers, is that we might see more ‘sabbatications’ – people choosing (and encouraged) to take longer 4-8 weeks breaks from work or between jobs, doing some of those trips they’d planned for retirement. Why wait?

(Check out Stephen Sagmeister’s TED talk on ‘The power of time off’)

my travel bucket list

Customer-led airports

Patrick Harris made a great point at the start of the workshop. Why are airports full of shops? Did we miss the memo that said the only acceptable way to spend a couple of hours before an eight hour flight is to wander around shops that I wouldn’t normally go in to to buy clothes I wouldn’t normally buy? The advantages for the retailers of a captive audience out of their normal routine are obvious. For the traveler, less so.

Perhaps airports could give some of their space over to a library or reading room? Maybe a book swap area, where arriving passengers could leave the books they’ve finished on holiday for departing passengers to take with them (including margin notes, of course).

They could have small stages set up for local bands to play gigs or comedians to entertain bored and nervous to-be fliers. That might make me want me to stay there a bit longer, not minding if my flight was delayed.

Or how about interactive learning rooms, hosting mini lecture sessions on taking great photographs, learning different languages, or even a simulator to practise driving an automatic car on the wrong side so that you don’t spend the first ten minutes feeling as if you’re on a rollercoaster ride whilst the locals shout and swear at you. (Maybe that’s just me…?)


Virtual Reality becomes a reality

This wasn’t a big one picked up by the group, but is a slight obsession for me at the moment so I’m including it anyway.

Forget TripAdvisor and Street View, why not just sit in your living room and spend fifteen minutes wandering around your potential hotel, beach, and town to decide if you want to go there?

Your travel agent simply loads up your prospective itinerary and sends it your way, allowing a true ‘try-before-you-fly’ experience.  This could work for potential excursions too, giving you a taste of what’s on offer before you select which one you want to go for. And all from the comfort of your own sofa…


So, the future is one of month-long, perfectly planned holidays with the Foo Fighters playing you onto your plane. Or, it’s one where we work all of the time whether in Manchester, Morocco, or Mauritius, get lectured on language before we fly, and spend hours at home with a headset on ruining any surprises our holiday would hold.

I know which one I’d prefer…

The Future Agenda programme is the world’s leading open foresight project, and throughout 2015 it is bringing together multiple experts around the world to share and discuss different perspectives of the world in 2025. As with the previous project in 2010, the aim is to build a rich, multi-regional and cross-sectorial view of the next decade for all that encompasses a range of different topics.


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2 Thoughts

  1. Hi John, an excellent post, as usual. Very kind of you to give a mention to both Future Agenda and myself. ’twas great to have you in the room on the day.

    Can’t really add any intel to the posts that you’ve made, except a rule of thumb that I learned long ago about driving on the left, then right, then left (in my case, USA, UK, Spain, was a regular summer, it seemed). I was told this – no matter where you are, keep the steering wheel side of the car in the centre of the road and hey presto!

    Of course, this only works if you are driving a left hand drive vehicle in a left hand drive country – and vice versa – but you get the idea….

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