Robots, rockets and… Caravans? The future of travel is here

We’re not scared of the robots, we promise

Robot concierges and Elon Musk’s SpaceX were hot topics at ITB Berlin and the Berlin Travel Festival as exhibitors discussed the future of travel. But it also looks as if caravans could make a comeback, with an extra feature – they can float.

Pepper, the name of the robot built by SoftBank Robotics, is already in use in hotels and on cruise ships around the world. It is designed to carry out repetitive communication with customers, freeing up staff to perform more arduous duties.

“The best shape to interact with people is humanoid,” Nicolas Boudot, SoftBank Robotics Sales and Marketing Director said, “because the robots have a low level of intelligence but they are able to use their entire body to engage with customers and travellers.

“We work in many verticals, and it’s not the future – it’s already present. We have already deployed more than 10,000 robots worldwide. We have Pepper robots onboard Costa Cruise ships welcoming people as they arrive.”

Oliver Dlouhý, Kiwi.com’s CEO and founder, is most excited about the prospects for SpaceX. “The thing I love the most about the future is what Mr Musk is doing with his SpaceX rockets. If he can really get me from Prague to Shanghai in 30 minutes – wow, this is the future of travel.

“And we’ll be connecting Ryanair and easyJet connections to SpaceX, and of course they’ll be covered by our guarantee, so if you miss the rocket, we will cover it,” Dlouhý said.

On the other side of town, in a warehouse hidden in a hipstery industrial district, the Berlin Travel Festival was showcasing their version of the future of travel. “With the internet, everything is available there but there’s also information overload,” the festival’s founder, Bernd Naff, said.

“With this product, you have the option to move on land or on the water to follow your own path," says the floating caravan designer Daniel Straub – Ben Finch
“With this product, you have the option to move on land or on the water to follow your own path,” says Sealander’s designer Daniel Straub – Ben Finch

“Our idea is to bring conversations back, to experience what travel is about and not only have it on your screen but to really feel it and touch it and get to know the people involved.”

“I think the future in general will be more reflective, to be a bit more relaxed, self-confident and valuing more of what you have and not only looking for the next big thing.”

Slower travel could be making a comeback with the reinvention of the caravan by Daniel Straub and his Sealander. “It’s a combination of a caravan and a motorboat,” he said. “With this product, you have the option to move on land or on water to follow your own path.”

“You can lay in the sun, you can swim, you can look up on the starry sky – it’s the dream of doing whatever you want, where you want. This is our vision.”

With people’s increasing acceptance of allowing strangers to stay in their homes through Airbnb, the sharing economy appears to be growing larger by the day. TravelCar are a startup who will offer travellers to drive their car to the airport and hop on a plane by lending it to passengers who are arriving.

Back in the halls of ITB Berlin, Sarah Borsoi, the company’s International Partnerships Manager, said that this was a concept people were becoming comfortable with: “Now people are really used to this system of the collaborative economy. People can rent out their house and now they can rent out their car.

“We have local insurance in case there is any damage to the car so there is no risk at all. And in addition, we offer a free wash at the end.”

Sooner than we think, we will greeted by Pepper as we leave our car at the airport to shuttle to the spaceport. In no time, we will be half-way across the world, searching for our own personal experiences. The future is already here.