Transportation is the lifeblood of the hospitality industry. Without flows of people on the move, there’d be no travel. Without travel, the hospitality and tourism industry would just collapse. Thus, whether a day trip, domestic or international travel, whether by bike, car, train or plane, transport and mobility are major cornerstones of our industry.
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Lately, extreme environmental and socio-economic events, such as the current ramping inflation, increasing energy and fuel costs, and heatwaves have emphasized the need to develop transportation solutions that are affordable and sustainable. As a response, the German government have implemented a € 9-month ticket for local and regional public transport to encourage climate-friendly travel during summer at a reasonable price. This initiative has resulted in a reduction of 1.8 million tons of CO2 and replaced 10% of car trips.
Indeed, a more human-centric approach is becoming mainstream in mobility. For example, public transport is globally shifting to fare capping, or giving passengers access to the best fares on their pubic routes and contactless mobility payments to offer more attractive solutions. The success of such initiatives underlines the current momentum around the train travel industry. Different stakeholders are moving towards (re)positioning traveling by train as a valid alternative to intracontinental flights.
The term “rail revolution” has also been used by National Geographic to describe the current evolution of the train travel industry in Europe. The fact is that customers’ needs and expectations are changing, as “increased airport security and a heightened awareness around carbon-intensive flights — coupled with a pandemic-driven change in travel habits — have helped the rail industry to a renaissance of sorts”. Moreover, different political decisions taken lately, such as the EU plans to double high-speed rail use by 2030 or France banning domestic flights that are less than 2.5 hours if a rail alternative exists, push forward toward the rejuvenation of the rail industry.
Despite the momentum for traveling by train, it is clear that rail transport alone cannot cover all the travel needs. Nevertheless, there are solutions for the further development of rail travel. Indeed, more and more airlines and train travel companies are partnering to offer joint offers, such as traveling by train from home to the airport with different kinds of incentives to attract customers, which also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This summer, for example, Thalys and KLM launched a high-speed train between Brussels and Amsterdam airport Schiphol to operate one less flight between these two destinations. Large-scale, ambitious infrastructure projects, such as the Rail Baltic route or the high-speed railroad in California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, require huge investments and stakeholder support, resulting in very slow progress in their construction, despite a potentially enormous role these routes can play in the transportation system.
Sustainable transportation matters to a growing number of customers, and it is they who are spearheading the green change. The future of travel requires radical steps, and not surprisingly, it's driven by a new generation that is "carbon-conscious, dynamic, independent, and tech-savvy”. We all know that the airline industry is highly polluting (picture 1), and the players who can challenge the status quo and offer customers a new breakthrough solution will win.
We all need to be open to change - the new system of transportation and travel will probably also require significant alterations in our behaviors.
Flying vehicles, mobility ventures and the Metaverse
Industry players keep innovating. With the focus on sustainable travel and cutting-edge technologies, Volkswagen launched the Gen.Travel project to create a brand-new vehicle category that combines sustainable and digital in its strategy to develop a seamless door-to-door travel experience. The idea of flying cars is very appealing, and China is already testing the potential of using magnetic levitation for passenger vehicles. This technology is, perhaps, inspired by Hyperloop projects, which are still work in progress. For example, Canadian startup TransPod plans to blend a plane with a train to develop a “FluxJet”, a fully-electric hybrid transportation system that would carry passengers at the maximum speed of up to 1000 km/h in “a plane without wings”.
It is likely that sustainable innovation in airlines can offset the “flight shame” that some people feel about flying because of its carbon footprint. It could also further spur the blended travel, or bleisure, as a mix of business travel with some leisure, which opens up new opportunities for market players.
Traditional railroad companies are also eager to remain competitive and meet changing consumer demands. French railway company SNCF and train manufacturer Alstrom have launched a new high-speed double-decker train, “the TGV of the future”, with a new design and lower energy consumption that will ride the rails internationally. Austria plans to offer more comfortable sleeper trains in summer 2023 to connect European cities overnight with this greener mode of transportation.
The world of transportation and mobility is being revamped at high speed. In September, the flying bike became a reality. According to the study, personal cars sit in a parking lot about 95 percent of the time. This is another win-win for switching to e-bikes which are becoming increasingly affordable and cities can harness the full potential of micromobility innovation by integrating it better with public transport.
On top of all that, it seems that the old futuristic novels are becoming a reality today. We are seeing the birth of new space transportation and space travel. Big automakers are partnering with tech-companies to capitalize on Metaverse ideas. For example, Honda and Sony have signed a JV agreement to launch a mobility tech company and explore digital innovations such as the Metaverse for mobility space. As we know, the Metaverse allows people to interact without physically changing their location. Undoubtedly this technology will change our well-established habits and enrich our experiences, including the way we get around and travel.
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