What can typically on-the-go planners look forward to in the New Year? According to New York City-based marketing communications company JWT, ever-developing electronics and evolving social/geopolitical trends will continue to impact travelers in ways that will ease the journey and/or make it more interesting. Here are some highlights of JWT's 2012 forecast.
1. Connected car services. The days of having to flag a cab are dwindling, thanks to services such as the Uber app and Limos.com. Users simply open the Uber app to initiate a car dispatch; a fresh startup, Uber already is available in Paris and select U.S. cities and has big expansion plans for next year. For its part, Limos.com aggregates private car services, allowing consumers to comparison-shop and then book; Forbes rates it one of America's most promising companies.
2. Women-only hotel floors. With more women traveling solo, many for business, hotels in major destinations such as Vancouver, British Columbia; Copenhagen, Denmark; Singapore, and London are reviving the concept of women-only floors, a quaint idea previously dismissed as sexist in the wake of the feminist movement. But such floors offer guests more security (some hotels even require a key card to access the floor) and add room amenities such as fashion magazines, hair tools (curling irons, flat irons) and additional hangers. Some hotels also provide female room attendants and tables for solo female diners, as well as networking events.
3. Real-time translation. App creators have been seeking new ways to break through language barriers with software that translates two-way conversations in near-real time. Vocre is one such new iPhone app that translates what each speaker is saying in any of (so far) nine languages. For example, you're in France and want to converse with a concierge who doesn't speak English. With a few finger taps you set up Vocre for French/English, ask the concierge a question, and point the iPhone toward him like a mic as he replies. His words, in French, appear on the screen, you then turn the screen upside down, and voila! An English translation of what he just said appears. Can actual vocal voice translation be far behind? This one can be a major game changer in human communication.
4. Smarter check-ins. Forward-thinking hotels and airlines are using RFID (radio-frequency identification) and NFC (near field communication) technology, combined with customer phones, to smooth and speed up the experience. Qantas' frequent flyers now get an RFID-enabled card that functions as a boarding pass; they use it to check in at a kiosk upon arrival, then flight details are sent to their phone. Similarly, hotels such a Starwood's Aloft and Aria in Las Vegas issue RFID loyalty cards that double as room keys (the Aria card also automatically activates in-room amenities, turns on lights, opens curtains and personalizes the TV). Hotels also are enabling guests to use NFC-equipped smartphones as room keys.
5. Myanmar. Look for this long-restricted land to become the newest "it" destination if the current loosening of dictatorial reins continues. The country's magnificent array of Buddhist temples and pagodas will quickly become a focus for incentive planners, and new hotels already are being planned.
Source: JWT's Things to Watch: Travel and Tourism 2012