Throughout the last few winding weeks of 2014, travel lovers have been fantasizing about all of the enthralling destinations they will visit next year, prepping their calendars and their wallets.
Skyscanner.net, an international travel comparison search site, took travelers’ imaginations to new heights by publishing a report on what they deem to be the future of travel in 2024.
To no surprise, Skyscanner said that within 10 years, technology and personalization will advance our travel experiences by reinventing hotels and customer service, our desired destinations and how we book travel.
However, how will our Central Jersey tourism tools stack up against travel of the future? The Bernards Inn, the Central Jersey Convention & Visitors Bureau and Liberty Travel Succasunna weighed in on the report to share their plans for evolution and their views on the future of travel.
Skyscanner said that travelers will have “no need to encounter a single human being” for hotel stays. These hotel rooms of the future will be completely personalized through mobile devices, including being equipped with interactive walls that display high-definition images of our families and holographic personal trainers.
Although Joshua Barbee, director of sales at the Bernards Inn, believes it’s foreseeable for guests to not need to encounter one human being upon entering a hotel in 10 years, he believes that they will still want to, especially at upscale properties that differentiate themselves by elevating personalized service through interaction with a guest service agent.
The Bernards Inn is a historic Central Jersey hotel.
“Can automation ever replace a welcoming smile and greeting from a guest service agent, concierge, bellman or housekeeping staff member when arriving at a property?” Barbee asked. “The importance of putting a ‘face’ to the property should never be overlooked or underestimated.”
Barbee said that the Bernards Inn also pays close attention to emerging technologies and looks to integrate them while maintaining the Inn’s “Old World charm, stylish sophistication and modern luxuries,” which will set the stage for the Inn’s future.
“It is important for any hotel and property to keep an eye on and plan for the future, especially in regards to emerging technology. Being complacent can leave one very vulnerable,” he said.
Barbee continued that the Inn ensures guests will easily find that the amenities they see at modern properties can also be found at the historical hotel, which keeps the property competitive with other hotel options.
According to Skyscanner, travelers will have no desire to head to the Jersey Shore for a weekend when underwater resorts, space travel and other “forbidden destinations” will be easily accessible and mainstream. Travelers will finally have the opportunity to venture to former troubled regions of the world, featuring unparalleled and brag-worthy experiences.
However, Lina Llona, president of the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that there are plenty of exceptional travel experiences in Central Jersey, as well, that will always be enjoyed by out-of-staters, even though many Jerseyans take them for granted.
At Duke Farms in Hillsborough, fields around the Farm Barn teem with colorful wildflowers and butterflies.
Llona referenced a particular example she noticed recently during a meeting at Duke Farms. She said, “Many of us don’t think of Duke Farms as unique since the majority of us are very familiar with it, but an outsider wouldn’t know its history or the beauty of its gardens.”
She said she doesn’t believe that smaller-scale travel will ever be replaced by the wonder of faraway destinations because there is room for both, especially for Jerseyans who only have a few days to get away and don’t have the time to get on a plane.
As for out-of-staters, the Convention and Visitors Bureau knows that there are many who come for events such as Big Ten football games, so the Bureau wants to showcase other attractions that visitors can enjoy while they’re here.
“We want them to stay here, not just come here and then head back to New York City, because there are so many interesting sites right in our own backyards,” Llona said.
The ease of booking travel online has outplaced many travel agencies, but according to the future of travel report, it seems that travel agents are back in business — digital travel agents, that is. Skyscanner said that artificial intelligence devices will scan online searches and cross-reference vacation, food, travel and hotel searches while using predictive algorithms to make suggestions tailored to desired price range, peer and gender needs.
Competitive with Internet bookings, travel agencies such as Liberty Travel do not charge any fees to their clients, plus they have a price-match guarantee that matches any price customers find online. Deborah Geiger, Liberty Travel Succasunna travel consultant, said that booking on the Internet lacks several factors that travel agents possess, including personal customer service.
Northlandz in Flemington, the largest model train museum in the world, is an attraction that is unique to Central Jersey.
“As travel agents, we have been to these places that we are recommending to our customers,” she said. “We give personal feedback on what these resorts and beaches are like, plus we can make all of their stay, golf, spa and dinner reservations for them.”
Geiger also said that unlike an Internet booking, human travel agents are there for their customers before, after and during their trip, which comes into play when customers need to voice their grievances about a destination or when things go awry, such as during superstorm Sandy.
“During Sandy, we were there for our customers helping them rearrange their flights or arrange a stay if they were stuck so that they didn’t have to stay on an airline hotline for four or five hours,” she said. “Only a personal travel agent can do that for you.”
Although the future of travel is bright and full of innovation, emerging technologies and fresh destinations, it appears that there will always be a place for travel that is local, personal and traditional.
Jenna Intersimone’s “Life Aboard The Traveling Circus” column appears Tuesdays. Her “Life Aboard The Traveling Circus” blog is at MyCentralJersey.com, as well asLifeAboardTheTravelingCircus.com. Tweet her at @JIntersimone or email her at JIntersimone@MyCentralJersey.com.
Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/29/14