A glimpse at the future of travel

Robot receptionists, smart hotel rooms that know guests' preferences and virtual postcards are all set to change the way we travel over the coming years, according to a new report.

A study commissioned by the organizers of ITB Berlin, one of the world's largest travel shows, suggests that technological advances are expected to produce some far-reaching changes in the way we plan, book and enjoy our vacations.

The ITB World Travel Trends report said that within ten years, "smart rooms" could be a reality, changing their lighting, air conditioning, colors and even minibar options depending on the preferences of guests.

Using a personal profile code entered using a smart phone or PIN keypad, the room would transform, and if travellers have any questions, they'll need to be directed at the robot receptionist, which Hong Kong University professor Haiyan Song believes will provide "high quality and consistent service" in the not-so-distant future.

Social networking is also expected to play an increasing role in travel, said the report, allowing consumers to plan and share trips in a different way.

Suggesting that Fairmont's attempt to set up a social network for its properties could be an innovation well ahead of its time, the ITB report suggested that in the future, guests will be able to create their own public profiles which will be shared in a travel community, in effect creating "hotel families".

People with the same interests will be able to share recommendations and get services specifically designed for them by hotels, as well as meeting up and undertaking joint activities while on vacation.

The report was compiled by some 50 travel trade professionals in 30 countries and will be presented in full at ITB Berlin 2011, which takes place March 9 - 13 in Berlin, Germany.

Changing the way we travel
Some of the key tech trends from the ITB World Travel Trends Report

Augmented reality - destinations and publishers will increasingly offer interactive guides
Mobile advertising and payment - rich advertising technology such as iAds will combine with ewallets to change the way we buy on the go
Hotel families - groups of travelers with similar preferences, connected and enabled by social media
Smart hotels - rooms that change their environment depending on their guest
Real-time travel - the explosion in apps will lead to new ways to get real-time data of importance to travelers
Social media - holiday tips from friends worldwide are set to become the norm