From finance and education to agriculture and entertainment, new and exciting technology is radically changing industries everywhere. This shift has also well and truly entered the world of tourism, with numerous tourist spots, travel agencies, and local governments doing their best to incorporate innovation and enhance travel experiences across the globe.

Although many of these developments may seem quite flashy and futuristic, at its core, tourism is still very much about meaningful human interactions and great customer service — albeit with a 21st century update that had only previously existed in our dreams. The challenge today, then, is to strike a good balance between innovation and maintaining the humanistic aspect of adventure, which more and more companies are beginning to learn. That said, here are a few ways that technology is changing tourism as we know it today:

Virtual Reality (VR)

No other technology can immerse customers into a whole other world the way VR can. This makes the innovation highly promising for tourism — an industry founded on experiences. One of Europe’s largest tour operators, Thomas Cook, uses VR to give their customers a taste of their dream vacation destinations. Aided by Samsung Gear VR headsets, the “Try Before you Fly” scheme contributed to a 40% return on investment almost immediately after it was rolled out. It also drove a 190% uplift in New York excursions, proving VR’s potential in tapping into travellers’ imagination.

Another fascinating application of this technology is in the actual travel experience itself. For instance, London has made a name for itself as a leader in VR tourism, with classic attractions like the Natural History Museum and the Tower Bridge offering new VR activities that help enrich the overall travel experience. The former makes use of VR tech named Hold the World, which provides a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum with David Attenborough serving as a personal tour guide. Meanwhile, the latter makes use of VR through a free app called TimeLooper. This lets visitors step back in time and witness the construction of the Tower Bridge, along with other events throughout its history.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

One of the most obvious uses for AI is in customer service, elevating chatbot efficiency while allowing travel companies to pick up relevant data based on interactions with customers. This way, not only do they speed up the response time to any problems and inquiries, but it also gives the company a chance to improve and learn more about customer satisfaction.

Robotics

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like tourism and robots have plenty of opportunities to cross paths. But then again, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to customer service. Japan’s Henn-na Hotel is stretching the limits of robotics as the world’s first hotel whose entire staff is made up of robots. From their concierge and bellboys, to the waiters and security guards — visitors depend on robot employees for their every need.

Wearable Devices

Wearable devices have a place outside wellness fashion, too. Travel and tourism companies have started using this technology to craft a more personalised experience, such as Walt Disney Company’s recently launched MagicBands. With an RFID chip stored inside the bands, they connect to the theme park infrastructure and store information about a tourist’s visit. Among some of its perks include reducing wait times, providing an easier payment system, and tracking guests’ locations within the area.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Airports can be incredibly stressful, but a recent Deloitte report is hailing the IoT as the ultimate industry game-changer. Most of its uses are centred on upgrading the passenger experience, from WiFi and iBeacons that can track passengers, to tracking air traffic control. But of course, it’s a win for all parties, with its potential to increase revenue for operators while simultaneously making the flying experience more pleasant.