MSC Cruises has published a report titled The Future of the Guest Experience, created in partnership with The Future Laboratory consultancy, which explores the trends that will impact the future of the travel industry and cruise lines in particular.
The report identifies the ultra-high definition (UHD) experiences that travel companies will need to offer to satisfy the needs of the guest of the future. The authors say trends will include hyper-connectivity, urbanisation and demographic transformation.
“One of the challenges of the cruise industry is that we need to design and build new ships that will still be cutting edge for our guests 30 years from now,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ executive chairman. “As such, innovation and consumer trends are at the very core of our DNA and we need to have a strong and clear vision for the future whilst combining this with timeless style. Through intelligent innovation and design, with strong commitment to sustainable travel, we will be able to facilitate all kinds of future experiences.”
“Luxury will be hyper-luxurious,” MSC and The Future Lab report. “Spas will be hyper-revitalising, entertainment will be 5D and beyond, and purpose-driven travel that enriches the lives and minds of guests will be the norm.”
Further, the report says guests will prize fluidity, freedom and cultural fluency while seeking out discovery and self-improvement.
Another trend, the authors say, is that future guests will be looking for personalisation in their holiday experience. Connected technology will give brands the information they need to tailor experiences to the individual. The report suggests that data ID wallets will enable brands to create a dynamic, seamless and hyper-personalised guest experience. It says cruise ships and resorts will themselves become data touchpoints, assessing guest behaviour to better inform the services offered, and AI assistants and wearables will continue to play an important role in meeting the needs of guests.
MSC Cruises has leveraged voice-activated AI technology to provide guest services. Zoe, a virtual personal assistant, was introduced on board in March 2019. Currently speaking seven languages, with more in development, MSC Cruises says Zoe will evolve to become an integral part of the guest experience, anticipating needs and tailoring information according to each guest’s preferences.
The report goes on to say technology such as Zoe will be key in facilitating the trend for subconscious design, where responsive technologies will seamlessly alter environments to individual guests’ moods.
The cruise cabin of the future could feature biosignal sensors that track heart rates and facial expressions, adjusting light and temperature for maximum comfort. Smart materials could act like living art, changing to create a visually immersive environment aligned with a guest’s emotional state.
Hyper-connectivity will drive people to seek out human connection to avoid dehumanisation, says the report, giving rise to ‘anthropo-tainment’ – human-centric entertainment that places people at the heart of the show, accessible to all ages, genders and nationalities. Driven by a hyperconnected world making travel more accessible, this trend would see entertainment breaking down geographical, cultural and demographic barriers.
MSC is addressing this trend with Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows on board Meraviglia-class ships. All Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows are non-language specific, which makes them accessible to all. Other shows like Exentricks actively invite audience participation.
Sustainability will also be increasingly important as travellers become more conscious of the environmental impact of their travel and seek out eco-friendly holiday options. The guest experience of 2030 will place a significant focus on sustainability, social impact and civic engagement, MSC and The Future Lab predict.
“We’re inherently linked to the sea, and from this perspective, there exists a big opportunity to play a big role when it comes to giving back to the environment and to the planet as a whole,” said Vago. “We are the first cruise line to go carbon-neutral across our marine operations and the emphasis that we place on our commitment to the environment is driven by not only our personal passion to protect the oceans but also the need to provide our guests with a sustainable way to travel.”
The report also identifies a desire for purposeful travel, which would see the growth of repurposed resorts where hospitality brands will transform uninhabited or once-derelict spaces, boosting local economies by turning them into unique destinations.
MSC Cruises points to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in The Bahamas as an example of one of these destinations. MSC Cruises worked to transform an industrial site into an eco-friendly destination for guests. The island has been developed to create a positive long-term impact both in terms of the environment and the local communities. The island sits within 64 square miles of protected waters and the company’s vision is to transform these waters into a flourishing marine reserve. A bio-centre will be established on the island to carry out research into coral health and restoration and plans are underway to develop an academic partnership with The University of The Bahamas. MSC Cruises says Ocean Cay has also created a positive economic impact because materials were sourced locally wherever possible and Bahamians were employed during construction. In the longer term, the staff who live and work on the island include full-time Bahamian employees.
Image: MSC Cruises