Archive for August 2011

Heart to Heart with Rohit Talwar, South Korean News

August 4, 2011

Q. The Independent Newspaper profiled you as one of the top 10 global futurists. How do you feel?

They compiled the list by talking to other futurists around the world and getting their recommendations and then interviewing those who were rated highest. So it was nice to receive this kind of recognition from my fellow futurists.

Q. You are a futurist, so how do you study the future?

We look at the trends, forces, ideas and developments shaping the future and try to understand how they may combine to create different possibilities. The future has not happened yet, so we talk about different possible future scenarios. We also look for the signs of what is coming to an end and the ‘weak signals’ of trends and developments that are just emerging.

The role of the futurist is to help governments, investors, businesses, NGO’s, individuals and society make sense of the trends, forces, ideas and developments shaping the future. Some futurists focus on making predictions about what’s to come. For others the focus is less on predicting individual events but more on identifying the emerging patterns and different possible scenarios for how the future may play out. Our clients find this far more useful as it helps them prepare for future uncertainties and for the range of possible futures that could emerge.

Futurists are now in great demand as investors, businesses and governments alike recognise that we are entering a hugely uncertain era and that old assumptions and fair-weather strategies are not enough to ensure future survival and growth. We need to find ways of understanding the drivers of change and exploring alternative possible scenarios of how the economies and markets may play out. The role of the futurist is to help clients understand, interpret and navigate these changes and uncertainties and craft viable strategies for a world in transition.

In our work, we look at a range of different factors – encompassing political, economic, socio-demographic, science and technology, environmental and commercial trends and developments. These include persistent and emerging trends – particularly those things that are declining or growing rapidly, feint signals of new changes in the world around us that could be significant, developments emerging in science and technology and the views of experts in specialist domains – for example what are experts on ageing saying about how long we could live? We then use a range of futures tools and techniques to examine these inputs and identify patterns, discontinuities and possible future scenarios. We then use these insights to help clients assess the implications for them – identifying the opportunities and challenges. Typically clients use these insights to drive new product development, determine market entry strategies, shape mergers and acquisitions, and assist with strategic planning and organisational development.

For investors, how you look at the future depends on your appetite for risk. Those who really want to get in early will be looking for very weak signals of future changes and possible science and technology breakthroughs that are at a very early stage in their development. They may be willing to invest 10-20 years ahead of the actual market opportunity developing. The more risk averse you are, the shorter your planning horizon becomes and the more focused you are on backing proven trends.

For forward thinking investors, the trick is not just to focus on what the world might look like in 2021, 2031 or even 2061 but to focus on the patterns of change and transformational shifts in society that will shape the world over the next 50 years. Many of the seeds of what we’ll see by 2061 have already been sown. Indeed it’s instructive to look back 50 years to 1961 and see how much of the world today was already in place or starting to take shape – be it mass passenger transport, information technology or advances in medicine.

Q. what are your interests these days?

I am interested in a lot of things such as personalisation, visual technologies such as 3D holograms and gesture interfaces, changes in society and the global economy. In particular, I am starting to focus more on the medium to long term future – 30-50 years from now. I think five big factors to consider are the changing economic landscape, the political landscape, health and wellness, science and technology and work. These are described in more detail below.

– The Economic Landscape

Many expect that China will be the dominant global economy within the next 20-30 years and that over a 50 year timespan their average incomes  will be around two thirds of those in the richest economies such as the US and Switzerland. A number of other so called developing economies are likely to have emerged into the global top 20 – such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa – alongside more established economies and the much heralded BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) powerhouses.

The financial system will almost certainly have changed – but not out of all recognition. We could well have a single global currency – eliminating forex markets. Markets and regulation will almost certainly be universal – with a strong influence from China over how they operate. Inevitable future financial collapses will lead to different global regulatory models from today with a probable separation of the risk taking elements of banking from the more prosaic basic personal and business banking functions. New financial products will have to be stress tested to failure using complex simulation models before they can be launched and the backers will have to put up surety to guarantee against their failure. Cash is likely to have disappeared in most economies – replaced by credit card payments transacted through our mobile phones and whatever replaces them over the next five decades.

Infrastructure will be a huge focus with estimates of $40-80 trillion of the total infrastructure requirement around the world over the next fifty years – with around half in the emerging markets. This will create huge investment opportunities for those who build, operate, and supply equipment and services to sectors such as road building, rail, utilities and communications.

There is also likely to be a significant shift in wealth from west to east across the planet. This rise of consumer wealth in the emerging economies represents potentially the biggest opportunity for investors – with a focus on the brands and retailers that will come to prominence. There will also be an opportunity presented to invest in the new systems, agencies and testing bodies that will be established to run and monitor the global financial system.

– The Political Landscape

We may well see as wave of mergers between smaller neighbouring countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe as they struggle to manage their finances and seek a more efficient management model. A new breed of country management companies would then emerge from the ranks of the current accounting and consulting firms. These entities would basically take on a full range of service delivery and some policy making. These could potentially be highly lucrative ventures.

– Health and Wellness

Science and technology will transform many aspects of life as we understand it and create a range of investment opportunities in the firms that undertake the basic development, commercialisation and retailing of the resulting products and services. Life expectancy of 120+ will not be uncommon in developed markets – transforming our whole concept of how to structure a life and retirement and creating an industry of service providers to meet the physical, psychological and financial needs of the elderly population. . People will end up working much longer and taking short breaks of 1-2 years throughout their career rather than having a 50-60 year retirement period.

Advances in genetics will mean that we will all carry a full genetic profile with us – this will be used by employers in recruitment – for example selecting those who seem genetically capable of working under stress. Pre-birth testing will identify potential problems and enable them to be corrected in the womb. Advances in nanotechnology should enable us to identify and eliminate individual cancer cells. Advances in stem cell therapy will enable us to replace dead tissue – eliminating the need for facelifts or botox. We will have constant monitoring of everything from oxygen flow to stress levels and pre-emptive medical interventions will be common.

Advances in the cognitive sciences could enable us to fully decode the functions of the brain – thereby allowing us to download information directly to the brain from our computers – no more learning time’s tables or languages – just download what you need!

– Science and Technology

One of the biggest breakthroughs will come from advances in nanotechnology that enable the creation of new clean energy sources. Another fascinating area is 3D printing – machines that can literally print in 3D. These are already available for $1000 and will probably be present in every household – so we’ll either buy the ‘recipes’ or design and print our own goods – from ornaments to clothing.  Our entertainment systems, computers, phones and household devices will have three dimensional displays and we’ll control them with gestures, voice and thought control. Entertainment will be transformed and we’ll be able to actually take part in our computer games – feeling every experience and emotion of the game characters including pain! Using special augmented reality contact lenses we’ll be able to superimpose our own image on characters in a film and so visualise ourselves at the centre of the action.

Our transport systems will have evolved with highly green mass transport. While hypersonic flight will take us from London to Sydney in about four hours, the bulk of flights will still take place in planes that look very similar to those of today. The airline industry will probably not make a profit! Commercial space flight will be an expensive reality. Personal robots are likely to be in far more widespread use for personal domestic chores and roles as diverse as flight attendants and street cleaners.

– Work

Women will play a far more prominent role in the workforce, outperforming and out-earning men in many sectors in the industries of the future. There will be major growth in sectors such as infrastructure, green technologies, education, health, leisure and entertainment, personal care and the food industry. Interesting new jobs we’ll hear about will include climate change specialists, nano-medics, vertical farmers and body part makers. The rise in the elderly population will create massive demand for elder care roles. People will be able to work from literally anywhere and traditional workplace designs will evolve to acknowledge that staff will work from home and work teams will be truly global.

Q. When and what brings you here to Korea?

I am coming in March for the first FCCI Action Forum which Seoul is kindly hosting. I am the Executive Director of FCCI.

Q. How often do you visit Korea? How many times have you visited Korea?

I am typically in Seoul at least once a year. This will be my fifth visit to Seoul. I think it is an exciting and fascinating city and there are always new and interesting things to see and experience.

Work

Q. What are your responsibilities for FCCI?

I am the executive director. My job is to help establish and lead the programme of research work, advise the member cities on topics we should be looking at, chair the regular partner meetings and help ensure that the FCCI partners are getting full value from their involvement. I am also a spokesperson for FCCI liaising with the media and all of the organisations who are taking an interest in what we do.

Q. Why is the business events industry so important? From your point of view as a futurist, what was the reason for you to get involved with this union? Did you sense anything?

The business events industry is a critical industry in the development of any leading economy. It brings in the major events in the key ‘knowledge economy’ sectors such as information technology, medicine, biotechnology, the creative industries and manufacturing. These sectors drive forward economies and by bringing in the most important events in any sector, you can help to bring together the professionals, businesses, investors and researchers in that sector. The conversations and networking that takes place at these events can lead to new business opportunities, new inward investment for the host city, new jobs, new research funding and new export opportunities for businesses in the sector.

I also run the Convention 2020 research programme and it is very clear from our research on the future of business events, that the competition between cities will be critical in shaping the future of the industry.

Q. Could you introduce FCCI? what purpose do you have in FCCI and which cities are involved?

The FCCI members recognise the important opportunity provided by the business events sector. The founding goal of FCCI is to bring together leading future focused cities that want to secure or establish their positioning as leading destinations for key knowledge economy meetings and events. The members are committed to developing and delivering on strategies to help grow the local knowledge economy and to maximising the long term benefits of business tourism through:

  • Using business tourism, and meetings in particular, as a tool to help drive economic development and transformation
  • Facilitating inward investment
  • Creating knowledge economy jobs
  • Helping to establish or enhance a clearly differentiated brand and sense of ‘place’ for their destination.

The current members of FCCI are Seoul Tourism Organization, Visit London, Business Events Sydney, San Francisco Travel Association, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Toronto Convention and Visitors Association and Durban KwaZulu Natal

Q. What are your motives in Korea leading this First FCCI Action Forum?

We had planned to meet for half a day four times a year during major industry events such as the ICCA congress, the PCMA Convention and IMEX. We have made excellent progress so far and Seoul made the suggestion that it would be valuable to spend two full days working together in order to advance our collaboration. Seoul kindly offered to host this important meeting.

Q. How long did it take to prepare your foundation? Did you have any particular difficulties?

We started discussing the idea with Seoul and London at the end of 2009. We developed the concept between us and then approached Sydney in May 2010. Seoul, London and Sydney agreed the scope of the initiative and announced it in the summer of 2010. Since then Toronto Convention and Visitors Association, San Francisco Travel Association, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Durban KwaZulu Natal have all joined the initiative.

We have taken our time launching the initiative and this has proved beneficial as each member can be very clear about what FCCI is and why they should join. FCCI has only been running for nine months and already has seven members. The other major industry alliance has been going ten years and has eight members.

Q. Why is it a union of cities needed not a union of nations ?

For us it was important to focus on cities as key engines of economic growth. We have gone for vibrant cities that are keen to grow their business events sector.

Q. What does this First FCCI Forum mean and prospect?

This is an important stage in the development of FCCI. We have a number of important new initiatives we will be working on and it will help accelerate our development. It is also an important opportunity to help members of the Korean MICE Association to understand what leading cities around the world are doing to create a competitive meetings sector. It is also an important opportunity for the member cities to see what Seoul has to offer.

Q. What do you want to gain from this event?

We want to accelerate our plans, agree some important research projects, discuss how we can deepen our relationship and collaboration.

Q. You are the authority of the future industry of MICE. How will this event affect your area of research?

We will have some important discussions on the future of convention and visitor bureaus and how destinations will compete in the future. This will be a valuable contribution to our research. We also have a chance to see what products Samsung are planning for the industry.

Q. What kind of clients do you have at MICE?

We work with leading cities, convention centres, associations, events and PCO’s in the industry. Our clients include IMEX the leading industry trade show, ICCA – the International Congress and Convention Association, Accor, The Queen Elizabeth II (QEIICC) Conference Centre London, Visit London, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Qatar National Convention Centre, Seoul Tourism Organisation, Athens Convention Bureau, Congrex and BestCities Global Alliance (Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Edinburgh, Melbourne, San Juan, Singapore and Vancouver), Kenes, Adelaide Convention Centre, Intercontinental Hotels, ITB, Amadeus, PCMA and Preferred Hotels.

Q. I heard that you are very interested in researching developing countries like Asia and Africa. Could you tell us why?

I think they will be key engines of growth in the global economy for the next decade.

Q. What decides or changes the future of society?

A mixture of influences – attitudes, wealth, expectations, technology, government policy and what is happening elsewhere in the world.

Q. As a futurist, what is the future of Korea?

Korea has a very bright future if it can harness its capacity for innovation with its design capability and entrepreneurial skills to create the businesses and industries of the future.

Q. Then what should Korea do in order to be alert?

Scan the future, understand the trends and forces shaping the future, develop innovative thinking programs in schools and universities, encourage entrepreneurship and be proud of your achievements.

Q. Is there anything that you would like to tell us?

You know everything I know now! I hope Chelsea will win the European Champions League and the English Premier League!

Personal

Q. You have been giving speeches in 40 different countries in 5 continents. In general, you speak in 20 to 25 countries a year. What was the most memorable speech?

I love traveling around the world and meeting new people. For me it is just as interesting talking to a group of 10 charity workers in India as it is to address 1000 business leaders in Korea or America.

Q. What do you do on your free time?

Family, theatre, cinema, travel.

Q. Why did you become a futurist?

I was always interested in new developments and ‘what happens after what happens next’.

Q. When you say the “future” when is it?

The future is unevenly distributed. For some people, what Korea is doing today will be there future in five years time.

Q. I’m sure you will get this questions a lot. Do people really ask you questions like ‘is this possible?’ or ‘is that possible?’

Yes – I like imagining new possibilities and discussing them

Q. What do want to achieve or what is your plan for this year 2011?

I want to see FCCI grow and develop successfully, I want to deliver excellent outcomes from our Convention 2020 study and to continue delivering inspiring and innovative insights for all our clients.

Rohit Talwar

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research. He has a particular interest in the future of travel, tourism and the meetings industry. He is the author of the Hotels 2020 study and project director of the Convention 2020 research programme.

rohit@fastfuture.com

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Interview with Rohit Talwar for EXAME Magazine, Brazil – 10/06/11

August 4, 2011

 What are the occupations of the future for a country like Brazil, an emerging economy with many natural resources?

As a rapidly modernizing country Brazil will see advances at every level. At the most ‘essential to life’ level farming will need to expand to cater for the demands of a growing and increasingly wealthy population. Brazil will also develop rapidly in sectors such as health, housing and education – leading to massive growth of jobs in healthcare, construction and teaching at all levels from kindergarden to university.

Brazil will also develop in sectors such as professional services, scientific industries, leisure and finance – leading to growth of jobs in fields like law, accountancy, design, research, hotels, restaurants and banking. Brazil’s natural resources will also see growth of jobs in sectors involved in the management, extraction, harvesting and processing of natural resources.
 In your opinion, what are the most radical changes in the job market in the coming years?

Society is ageing in many countries as people are living longer so we will see a boom in jobs involved in caring for the elderly and providing services to them. Education and health are a priority for developing nations and so we could easily see a doubling or trebling of the number of people involved in these sectors. Also there is a growing emphasis on science and technology led growth so we will see heavy investment in these sectors and a heavy increase in research, development and innovation roles.
What will be the impact of longevity and fertility reduction in the labor market?
People will need to work for longer to pay for longer retirement periods and to counter lower fertility. Some countries with very low birth rates will provide incentives for people to have more children. An older society could be more conservative and restrict innovation and also influence governments in how they allocate resources between the needs of the young and older segments of the population. We will also see more innovation in medical treatments, drugs and aids to help us carry on living active lives long into our 80s, 90s or 100s.

 What should be the priority of the new generations when choosing a profession?
We may have 6 or 7 different careers in a working life that spans through to 80-90. Hence the key skills to acquire are learning how to learn, constant acquisition of new skills and knowledge, tolerance of uncertainty, problem solving and cultural adaptation.  I would encourage new generations to look for opportunities that give them these skills early, that encourage them to challenge themselves, to work in international and multicultural environments and which constantly push the boundaries of their comfort zone. We will need to have both specialist expertise and the generalist abilities to inspire, to lead, to collaborate, to solve problems and to work with multiple partners in work swarms that come together for increasingly temporary projects and then break up again.

Will the professions evolve or some activities should disappear? Which?

In reality few professions disappear – some will become smaller and more specialised. Most professions will have to evolve to be more multi-disciplinary and to adopt the latest technologies. For example, in the law more and more of the routine work will be automated and lawyers will act more like consultants to their clients – serving them both face to face and virtually over the web and via video-conferencing, social media and mobile channels.

Rohit Talwar

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research. He has a particular interest in the future of travel, tourism and the meetings industry. He is the author of the Hotels 2020 study and project director of the Convention 2020 research programme.

rohit@fastfuture.com

EXAME Magazine

Launched in 1967 by Editora Abril, EXAME is leading business magazine in Brazil. EXAME is published biweekly and its current circulation is about 200 000 copies. EXAME has approximately 160 000 subscribers.

For more information – http://exame.abril.com.br/

Tax Free World Association Questions for Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future

August 4, 2011

What key messages will you be conveying to the audience at this year’s TFWA Asia Pacific and GATE ONE2ONE Conference?

I will focus on how to drive growth through innovation in the years to come. We are in a very turbulent phase for the global economy and while some economies are booming, others will be flatlining or worse. This will impact consumer behaviour and so the imperative now more than ever is to think broadly about the kinds of innovation we can pursue in the travel retail environment.

I will highlight key consumer trends, discuss case examples of relevant technology and retail advances and provide a set of ideas on how travel retailers can innovate in the years ahead.

 

What are the key challenges and opportunities facing the travel retail sector in the Asia Pacific region over the next decade?

Economic growth is going to drive a boom in consumer spending across the region. The challenge for the sector is to learn how to penetrate beyond the 10-20% of customers that typically make purchases in the airport environment. We have to think hard about how we attract them in with value propositions that encourage them to spend. We also have to make sure we understand the differing mindsets and buying preferences that span a region of over 5 billion people.

 

What practical steps can travel retail businesses take to adapt to a changing world and changing consumers?

Technology is transforming what we can do in the retail environment, how we can reach existing and potential customers and how we can extend our relationship with them beyond individual transactions. Social media in particular provides a platform to hear the voice of the customer and to really engage with them. We also have to recognise that environmental awareness is rising across the planet and customers now expect us to be making real efforts to drive down our ecological footprint. If we can save on packaging, cut waste and emissions, reduce energy consumption and control water usage, these will also help lower our operating costs over time.

The world is also becoming more innovative and experimental – this encompasses everything from store layout and product range to pricing and supply chain management. Not everyone is moving at the same pace and in some cases we have to work hard to help our partners see the opportunities presented by innovation and change. However, the travel retail environment is a perfect place to attempt such innovation and gain instant feedback, as we have a constant flow of new potential customers from around the world every day.

 

What global trends and transformations do you believe are shaping the economic and consumer landscape and what are the implications in Asia Pacific?

The growth prospects for most Asian economies are exciting – over the next few years we can expect to see strong headline economic growth and rising incomes and wealth across the region. With greater spending power we will see a rise in leisure and business travel and consumer tastes will continue to evolve. One particular development we expect to see is a rise in the emergence and popularity of Asian branded products from cosmetics through to clothing. These will increasingly compete on design, quality and price with products from more established western brands.

 

What opportunities are arising from new retail formats and new technologies?

The focus will be on enhancing the customer experience. We will see design formats that stimulate more of the senses, that engage the shopper in imaginative and humorous ways and which encourage people to spend longer in the store. Technologies such as augmented reality enable customers to see themselves in clothes without trying them on, while others such as 3D holograms enable us to display products in innovative ways.

Greater use of the internet will enable customers to browse online and order goods for collection and payment at the airport of their choice.  The growth in smartphones, tablets and mobile internet usage is also going to drive the potential to create tailored offers for passengers as they walk through an airport.

In the not too distant future, advances such as 3D printing will enable us to literally print items on the spot for customers. This means we could create objects customised for each individual. Customers could also submit their own designs either beforehand or in-store and see them being made on the spot.

 

 

Rohit Talwar

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research. He has a particular interest in the future of travel, tourism and the meetings industry. He is the author of the Hotels 2020 study and project director of the Convention 2020 research programme.

rohit@fastfuture.com

 

Fast Future is a global foresight research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Fast Future’s work draws on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them. Clients include tourism and convention bureaus around the world, 3M, Astra Zeneca, E&Y, GSK, Hyland, IBM, Intel, Intercontinental Hotels, ITB, KPMG, Nokia, Novartis, O2, Orange, PATA,  PwC, Preferred Hotels, SAP, Sara Lee, World Tourism Forum and the OECD. Fast Future also works with a range of city and national level government entities around the world.

 

The Tax Free World Association is the world’s biggest duty free and travel retail association, providing high-quality exhibitions, acclaimed conferences and workshops, and in-depth market research to the industry.

For more information visit – http://www.tfwa.com/duty_free/

Technology and the Future of Travel

August 4, 2011

 Rohit Talwar – CEO – Fast Future Research

The future of travel and tourism is being driving by a complex set of converging forces and these are driving new thinking about how technology can reshape the travel experience. For example, declining real incomes in the developed world coupled with rising affluence in the emerging nations are reshaping the visitor profile and driving a shift in emphasis which markets we should be targeting. At the same time, concerns over environmental impacts of tourism, and greenhouse gas emissions from transport in particular, are encouraging travellers to think more carefully about their ecological footprint. For tourism destinations, environmental factors are forcing a rethink of how many tourists to allow in, what to charge and who to target.

Social trends are putting increasing pressure on our available leisure time and driving the desire for personalisation of the experience. On the one hand we want constant connectivity, yet on the other we are looking for stories to tell our friends about the remote new ‘unspoilt’ destinations we’ve discovered! Political upheavals and security concerns are also leading some travellers to rethink the desirability of visiting certain locations. Finally, innovation is reshaping the travel experience by – for example – enabling shorter flying times. Technology is also providing us with augmented reality digital overlays of information on real world objects to enhance our experience. Hence, I can now look at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany and with my phone scan around to see what the Berlin Wall would actually have looked like before it came down.

So, technology now offers the ability to enhance, personalise and deepen the physical travel experience. However, increasingly, it is also offering the potential to address the needs of those who want to experience a destination but without the time, cost or environmental impact of physical travel. Already through virtual worlds, augmented reality, 3D virtual reality and other immersive technologies I can get a feel for a destination and travel experiences through the eyes of other visitors. For example, in soccer, the UK’s Premier League is aiming to launch a 3D television service within the next five years that will give fans the experience of sitting in any part of the stadium they choose and watching the game as it would be experienced by those physically in attendance. Developments such as super wide photography and 3D graphical representations will be combined to recreate the live experience.

Advances in science and technology will continue to extend the potential of virtual experiences. For example, the cognitive sciences are constantly breaking new ground, teaching us more about the functioning of the brain and the electrical impulses that are triggered by each of our senses. Once these electrical patterns have been decoded, we will be in a position to go beyond sharing the audio-visual experience of being in the Galapagos Islands. The next stage in immersivity and augmented experiences will be to recreate electronically the smells, tactile experiences and taste sensations as if we were there for real. Such developments are only a matter of 5-10 years away.

The more immersive the experience becomes, the closer we will be able to mimic the live experience through virtual channels. The Maldives could recreate itself in a virtual word down to the last detail and using multi-sensory virtual reality, enabling virtual tourists to experience something close to the real one. Populating this virtual world with locals, hotels, restaurants, service staff and other visitors will help enhance the experience. New employment opportunities could be created to act as a hotel concierge or tour guide in the virtual world. The virtual holiday can also become a year round ‘any time any place’ experience. Quiet Sunday afternoons, boring daily commutes on public transport and long train rides can all be transformed through immersive technology. Virtual travel on demand will allow us to dip in and out of a travel experience at will. How different might you daily life become if you could tour the Taj Mahal on your way to work, stroll down the banks of the Ganges on your way home and join in the Mumbai Diwali celebrations after dinner?

With the developments described so far, the virtual traveller or ‘user’ will still be able to distinguish between those vacations which they have experienced physically and those which they have only consumed electronically. However, there is the potential to extend the experience to ‘full memory transfer’ – where it will be much harder to distinguish real from virtual. As we deepen our understanding of how we process information and encode our memories, so we are learning how to transfer electronic information directly to the brain. Experiments have already been undertaken where individuals have transmitted numbers, colours and basic images to each other wirelessly. The ultimate goal here is what inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil terms ‘the singularity’ – the point at which we can all connect to each other share information and deepen our ‘collective intelligence’ via the internet or its successor.

Long before the singularity arrives, we should be in a position to capture every aspect of the experiences of a physical tourist, encode them and then enable others to download those experiences directly to their memories. At that point it really isn’t clear whether we’ll still be able to distinguish these new downloaded memories from those based on our own physical experiences. The potential then emerges to offer differently priced categories of experience from backpacker to billionaire or celebrity. Imagine the scene, you walk into the office on Monday morning and begin to recount the amazing week you’ve spent in Venice with Megan Fox or Brad Pitt. To you horror and confusion, you  discover that two other workmates are claiming to have had exactly the same experience down to the magical kiss in the gondola and fantastic spaghetti marinara in that tiny restaurant just off St Mark’s Square!

Rohit Talwar

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research. He has a particular interest in the future of travel, tourism and the meetings industry. He is the author of the Hotels 2020 study and project director of the Convention 2020 research programme.

rohit@fastfuture.com

 

Fast Future is a global foresight research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Fast Future’s work draws on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them. Clients include tourism and convention bureaus around the world, 3M, Astra Zeneca, E&Y, GSK, Hyland, IBM, Intel, Intercontinental Hotels, ITB, KPMG, Nokia, Novartis, O2, Orange, PATA,  PwC, Preferred Hotels, SAP, Sara Lee, World Tourism Forum and the OECD. Fast Future also works with a range of city and national level government entities around the world.