An overview of what tomorrow's Tourism could be

Welcome City Lab is a Paris-based travel tech startup incubator led by Laurent Queige, a tourism professional and an innovation expert.

Laurent worked in the travel industry and led the tourism policy of the City of Paris. He is now a member of the board of Skål International Paris.

For a year now, the travel industry has faced the worst crisis in its history since World War II. According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of international visitors fell by 74% in 2020, a figure unthinkable just a few months ago.

The rollback is spectacular: we are back to the levels of the tourism economy of... 1990. In this unprecedented context, tourism professionals struggle to find the appropriate answers to the enormous challenges they are facing.

With the gradual arrival of vaccines, the main question today is: What are the ways to rebuild a viable tourism industry? This question concerns urban tourism mainly. Cities have been among destinations the most affected by the health crisis, with the numbers of leisure and business customers collapsing.

Welcome City Lab, the world's leading travel tech incubator, publishes a yearly "Travel innovation trend-book." This publication's originality is to provide a summary of the lessons learned by reading the hundreds of applications received throughout the year. The massive amount of all these applications enables us to deliver strategic information on innovative projects' development and scope internationally.

Therefore, it is not unusual to spot the same project among startups of different nationalities. This is often a sign that a global need has arisen and that almost identical responses are emerging in several countries simultaneously.

The 2021 book identified five major trends:

1. Take care and reassure visitors and staff.

It is surprising to see the speed and the agility of many startups who have created new services and have adapted to the unique situation. These services meet the travelers' needs to be reassured about the health measures enforced by travel professionals worldwide. These services can also target staff who also need reassurance. Today technology allows to anticipate and manage the flow of visitors while respecting preventive measures.

2. The hybridization between physical and digital events.

Startups have developed new services that allow professionals to hold business events in a real and virtual hybrid model. Throughout 2020, new features have been designed to provide a broader range of digital contact alternatives between participants. The aim is to allow individual contact as if the participants were physically present in the same place. Virtual immersion technologies have found a great playing field here.

3. Low tech.

The health crisis has revealed the fragility of our urban ecosystems. It could be possible to take inspiration from innovations dug out from the past to travel more sustainably. And then, we could update them thanks to the new technologies from today. Thus, startups are increasingly playing the "low tech" card. This does not mean services with no technology, but with low consumption technologies, to move towards a more energy-frugal society.

4. Gamification and virtual immersion.

We often forget that tourism begins with dreams. Gamification and virtual immersion represent a way of enhancing the visitor experience, adding a playful dimension. Therefore, the world of video games and sports competitions represent opportunities to attract young visitors to tourist destinations. Some young people even need to be seduced first into the virtual world to be pulled into the real one.

5. Cities remain on innovation.

If the countryside probably appears safer in these times of health crisis, cities remain an extraordinary field of experimentation to test and develop tourism innovations. Thanks to their density of equipment and services, thanks to the presence of a wide variety of all audiences, thanks to visitors' permanent flows all year long, city centers allow more fragile startups to be profitable. It is also the case for certain brownfields.

Skål International Paris is the leading partner of this trend-book.

To discover all the examples that illustrate these five trends, you can download the guide for free:

Laurent Queige

Director of Welcome City Lab

Web Welcome City Lab - Paris&Co