Report Conclusion

The travel industry is changing rapidly, influenced by advances in technology, shifts in economic and political power, as well as changes in culture and climate.

Many of the advances in technology have been instigated by players outside of the travel industry who have identified a better way of doing things. Brands offering new products that have changed the way people plan, book and carry out travel.

Identifying winners in the continually shifting field of emerging technology is never easy. Development is never linear or predictable, and for every iPhone global success story, there is a Betamax video failure.

But this doesn’t mean that they won’t happen or that we should be complacent because we question a particular version of a technology.

Concepts such as Airbnb aren’t new ideas in themselves. People everywhere have been subletting rooms or villas on social media networks and bulletin boards for years. But it was an idea that happened when the technological changes that made it work were right.

More importantly, it happened at a time when consumers themselves were already familiar with the notion of crowdsourcing ideas, peer reviewing the brands they liked, and using price comparison sites to shop for the best deal.

And so what will become familiar to consumers in the future?

Aircraft cabins zoned to suit your moods, activities and needs, rather than your income and status? Hotel stays where your room with a view is of fish and corals and even the wallpaper is personalized? Or it could be a Digital Travel Buddy embedded in your watch, mobile or Google Glass-style headset.

All are possible, many probable.

To be reminded that Facebook was only launched in 2004, is to be reminded of just how quickly technology changes our habits, the way we see the world and engage with it, and how much can change in a ten year period.

Indeed if the last twenty years was about social media networks, the next twenty will be about Big Friendly Data (BFD); about brands accessing our online profiles and using our data trails to anticipate our needs, travel plans and hospitality desires.

In the future, most of our social media networks will take this approach; rather than pushing data to us, they will use our “Big Data” to determine everything from the hotel room we will like to the kind of drinks we would like to find in our mini bar.

Our research and expert interviews for this report make it clear that the trends and technology of 2024 and beyond will make the travel experience intuitive and easy, bringing the world even closer to TOM.

However, in the short term it is still important to understand that those trends we are still embracing and learning to manage and profit from – the crowd-sourced holiday, the peer-reviewed stay, the price comparison site – will continue to grow until they too become the standard default model that defines the shape and texture of the industry.

In terms of travel itself, as we have seen, consumers are seeking the experiential, the extreme, the risk-friendly and, when you look at the growing appetite for space travel on the one hand, and the lure of undersea worlds on the other, the imaginative and bold.

The hotel of the future will encompass magical, personalized, technology-filled spaces where we really can surround ourselves with the data, imagery and content available on our mobile phones or on our laptops. And rooms that can help us improve our health, or become more relaxed and de-stressed.

The object of this report is to take us forward a decade to the next wave of changes we are about to encounter; not just changes in how we travel, and where we travel, but in how we negotiate them.

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A 2020s Travel Landscape

To understand our 2020s traveler’s journey, we need to consider the technological, economic and social forces that will reshape the global travel industry over the next 10 years.

Perhaps the most far-reaching factor at work is the growth towards digital maturity. In 2014, cyberspace and its associated technologies are no longer as novel and surprising. They are becoming the backdrop to all of our lives.

In China, 464 million people, or 34.5 percent of the total population, now access the internet through smartphones or wireless mobile devices, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Asia will see the biggest growth in the middle class – predicted to triple to 1.7 billion by 2020, according to Brookings Institution – whose spending power will drive new global behavior and attitudes to digital technology.

By 2024, internet connectivity – and the mobile devices that enable it – will be as unremarkable as electric lighting and central heating are today. The technology will be seamlessly enmeshed in the day-to-day world of travelers in both the developed and developing economies. According to Cisco Systems, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020.

Simultaneously, there will be an explosion of travel from the blossoming markets of Asia, South America and Africa – the new emerging economies of each region – as their consumer spending power increases enormously.

By 2030, Asia, the world’s largest and fastest-growing regional economy, will double its GDP to $67 trillion, outstripping GDP projections for Europe and the Americas combined, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Traveling millions from the blossoming markets are ushering in an era of global mobility, with the global travel industry – and therefore demand for travel opportunities and experiences – expanding rapidly in the next decade.

The World Travel & Tourism Council forecast 3.2 percent growth in global travel in 2013, easily outstripping the predicted 2.4 percent growth in global GDP. The gap was even more pronounced in the emerging economies in 2012, where China and South Africa posted 7 percent annual travel growth and Indonesia reported a 6 percent rise.

The financial ebullience of the blossoming markets will be a necessary global antidote to the continuing economic turbulence that will shape the attitude of travelers in the pruned markets – the economies in Europe and the US whose growth has been cut back in the past 5 years by post-crash debt and austerity.

As IPK International’s Global Travel Trends report 2012/2013 says, "An increasing number of these countries are not able to pay their debts, the debt crisis has not reached its end and the resulting negative impacts on travel behavior – so-called ‘downward mobility’ – in Western Europe, the United States and Japan cannot be excluded."

The final factor that will help to define the global travel industry of the 2020s is a social one. A Demographic Timebomb is waiting in the wings as the world’s population ages at an unprecedented rate.

The past century has witnessed the most rapid decline in mortality rates in human history with life expectancy for the world as a whole rising from 47 years in 1950–1955 to 69 years in 2005–2010, according to the UN.

In 1950, there were twice as many children under 15 as adults over 60. By 2050, the 60+ group will outnumber children by two to one.

So, in 2024, our traveler will make his journey in a world in which blossoming market demand for new experiences is counter-balanced by the financial caution of the still-recovering pruned markets of Europe and the United States.

And he will take it as a given that every aspect of travel, from discovery and booking to transit and flying, will incorporate the latest digital technology in the way that he does – seamlessly and unselfconsciously.

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Research Methodology

This Skyscanner report is the work of a team of 56 editors, researchers and futures networkers, across key international cities. This team built a detailed picture of the next 10 years, looking at how breakthrough technologies and exciting new destinations will shape the global travel industry in the 2020s.

The Experts

We explored the travel technologies and behaviors to come, by plugging into the know-how of a range of world-renowned experts, including Futurist Daniel Burrus, author of Technotrends: How to Use Technology to Go Beyond Your Competition, and Travel Futurologist Dr. Ian Yeoman.

We also drew on the background lessons provided by digital strategist Daljit Singh; Microsoft’s UK Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin; Google Creative Lab Executive Creative Director Steve Vranakis; Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University; and Martin Raymond, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory and author of CreATE, The Tomorrow People, and The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook.

From Skyscanner, the following experts were called on for their insights, expertise, and where possible, quoted directly in the report: Margaret Rice-Jones, Chairman; Gareth Williams, CEO and Co-Founder; Alistair Hann, CTO; Filip Filipov, Head of B2B; Nik Gupta, Director of Hotels; and Dug Campbell, Product Marketing Manager.

In tandem with the above, we used The Future Laboratory’s online network, LS:N Global, to supplement research, as well as findings from The Future Laboratory’s annual series of Futures reports on travel, technology, food and hospitality.

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The Future of Travel 2024 - Part 1 PDF (2.5Mb)

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The Future of Travel 2024 - Part 3 PDF (2.5Mb)

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