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Innovation: Foresight is 20/20

Futurists at best hope to give people glimpses of what will be. Peering beyond the horizon, however speculative it might be, is standard operating procedure for the airlines, who have to know with some certitude how travel is changing, or go out of business. If we were to translate what is happening in the air up there into futurist Alvin Toffler’s “wave theory,” we would see that one of the wavelets shifting the travel sands is demographics.

Futurists at best hope to give people glimpses of what will be.

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Peering beyond the horizon, however speculative it might be, is standard operating procedure for the airlines, who have to know with some certitude how travel is changing, or go out of business.

If we were to translate what is happening in the air up there into futurist Alvin Toffler’s “wave theory,” we would see that one of the wavelets shifting the travel sands is demographics.

What kinds of people will populate the travel future? And how far into that future can we say who they will be with any accuracy?-

Answer: 13 years.

The reason I am certain is simple: A study of future travelers, and how technology will shape their travel experience, was issued last week by Amadeus. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I guess foresight must be too because the study is pegged to that year, and thus is called “Traveller Tribes 2020.” In fact, it was a joint project with Henley Centre HeadlightVision, a futures consultancy with offices around the world.

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HCHLV is very good, and the study I refer to is as mouthwatering to a futurist as medium-rare wildebeest is to a savannah stalker.

For one thing, the study says we should regard travelers as tribalists. Airlines and other travel providers will need to not only recognize but customize services for these hunter-gatherers of the tarmac if they expect to secure customer loyalty.

The monikers by which we will know these tribal groups are:

— “Cosmopolitan commuters,” or people who work in one city but live in another, and periodically commute between those work/life places.
— “Global executives,” who may share some data points with the cosmo-commuters, but who are well-off enough to do their commuting on a private jet.
— “Active seniors” are, as described, healthy/wealthy elders who are making up for lost time by jetsetting for leisure, culture, and just plain fun.
— “Global clans,” who are anti-tribal tribalists, to wit, folks who regularly hit the road to visit family/friends who have dispersed around the planet.

Where will you fit into the traveling tribes picture in 2020?

How well will the airlines be able to respond with technology that will intuitively serve your individual needs at each step of your journey?

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Hey, I may be a futurist, but I’m not psychic. What I do know is what I said at the time the study came out: “Airlines that master technology ‘humanization’ over the next decade or two will be well-positioned to exceed customer expectations, build brand loyalty, and drive profits.”

To cool your jets by downloading a copy of the report, click here.

Airline Futurist • Miami • rbuckman@amadeus.com • www.amadeus.com