Innovation That Matters

Top 7 Travel and Tourism Innovations From 2020

Innovation Snapshot

Travel has been limited this year, but the creative travel innovations continue. Check out our top seven from 2020.

For much of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forbade us from visiting other households, let alone travelling to a different location or holidaying abroad. This had a devastating effect on the travel and tourism industry, with its global revenue dropping by a massive 42.1 per cent from 2019.

The impact of this has been manifold, touching communities who rely on tourism for survival, as well as multiple travel companies who have had to shut down. However, the upside of this has been the positive environment impact of travellers and tourists staying put.

Here, we have collected seven of our most creative travel and tourism innovations of the past year. Some seek to help those communities who rely on tourism by providing virtual experiences; some aim to make travelling in the future COVID-proof; and some hope to maintain the positive environmental impact of this year, by helping travel to become more sustainable.

Photo source: Kirstin Vang / Visit Faroe Islands


Going a bit stir crazy from the lockdown? Missing your travel fix? The Faroe Islands, a Denmark territory, have come up with a way to allow people around the world to go on a self-guided tour of the archipelago. Camera-wearing locals respond to sight-seeing commands from people at home, allowing virtual tourists to control their own route.

Virtual visitors control their tour guide using a free app and have two minutes of control over the guide, who also provides a commentary. After their two minutes are up it is someone else’s turn, although virtual tourists can rejoin the queue for another two minutes any number of times. The tours are available for an hour twice each day, at 2 pm and 5 pm (BST). Guides may be in kayaks, on horseback or hiking around the mountain villages.

The remote North Atlantic islands depend heavily on tourism to augment traditional trades such as fishing and sheep-herding, and this year the Faroe Islands had planned to ramp up tourism with two new 200-room hotels in the capital, Tórshavn. Although the coronavirus pandemic has ended that ambition for this year, the Faroese hope the virtual tourism app will encourage people to come to visit in the future.

Read more about the virtual tour.

Photo source: Goodwings


The Denmark-based, hotel booking platform Goodwings offers subscription-based access to more than one million hotels worldwide at wholesale rates. However, Goodwings is more than the average booking site; the company is a B Corp–certified member aiming to turn the hotel industry into a catalyst for sustainable change. With Goodwings, all hotel stays are 100 per cent carbon compensated, supporting people and the planet for free.

Its business model is built on partnerships, with a global network of 100 nonprofit partners in over 40 countries acting as their ambassadors and marketing channels. The money saved on advertising then gets redirected towards projects and people who are actively working towards the SDGs.

Lara Mulady, Head of Communications at Goodwings, told Springwise that “We wanted to take the focus away from radical innovations and instead look at how we could change existing services to make it easier for people to have an impact every day”. 

Read more about Goodwings.

Photo source: citizenM


As part of the company’s coronavirus-related adaptations of services, guests can now enjoy contactless stays at all citizenM Hotel worldwide locations. Free to download, the citizenM app allows visitors to choose a comfortable level of social interaction. All locations within the business’ portfolio are now cashless, and guests use the app to select a room before arrival.

Check-in and check out is completed in-app, and all entertainment and ambient systems in the rooms are controlled via the guest’s smartphone. Additional safety measures installed within the hotels include hourly cleaning of high traffic areas including elevators and the removal of carpets in all guest rooms. Room cleaning service is now opt-in, so visitors can avoid having anyone enter their room during their stay. The app also provides a walking distance search filter and local discounts that highlight nearby attractions.

Read more about the citizenM app.

Photo source: Snøhetta/Plompmozes


The new hotel, “Svart”, (named after the Svartisen glacier) will be the first hotel to be built after the energy positive “Powerhouse” standard in a Northern climate, producing more energy than it uses. Moreover, it will have a demand for energy that is 85 per cent lower than a typical modern hotel. 

Designed by the leading Norwegian sustainable design studio Snøhetta, Svart will be built at the foot of the Svartisen glacier in the unspoiled municipality of Meløy in northern Norway. The hotel was commissioned by Arctic Adventures of Norway, a company operating in the eco-sustainable and naturalistic tourism sector, and plans to be completed by 2023. 

The hotel will stand on a stilt construction built with weather-resistant wooden poles that extend several metres below the surface of the fjord. Thanks to its many large windows, the circular-shaped hotel will offer panoramic views of the fjord, providing direct contact with nature. The ring-like shape is inspired by the local architecture of the “fiskehjell” (a wooden structure used to dry fish) and the “rorbue” (a traditional type of seasonal house used by fishermen). 

Read more bout the Svart hotel.


French cabin equipment supplier Safran Aerosystems has partnered with British seating designer Universal Movement to create an “Origami” seat that makes partitions around economy-class seats.

The design – which is officially called Interspace Comfort System – features two wings within the seat-back that can be unfolded to offer lateral support and prevent movement, leaving the middle seat of three vacant and creating a privacy barrier between seats.

The concave padded shells, which are the same height as the seat, can be installed on 90 per cent of economy seats, says Safran. Safran Seats executive vice-president strategy and innovation Quentin Munier said he hopes to have the product on the market in the next few months, and the premium-economy concept later in the year. 

Read more about the Interspace Comfort System.

Photo source: Tookki app


It can be difficult to maintain a focus on sustainability when travelling, especially in an unfamiliar place. The French startup Tookki has a solution – a free mobile app that allows users to find environmentally-friendly restaurants, hotels, transport and more.

Tookki vets establishments and activities for their commitment to sustainability before listing them on its site. In addition, users can share places and experiences on the platform by acting as “ambassadors”. Once suggestions are validated by Tookki, the ambassador earns points, which unlocks discounts and other perks in Tookki partner brands’ e-shops.

The Tookki app allows users to search the nearby area for sustainable establishments and includes a map. Details such as opening times and phone numbers are also included. In addition to the app, Tookki also offers ‘green’ experiences, such as zero waste workshops and 100 per cent organic meals. These are intended for companies to use for away days and perks.

Read more about Tookki.

Photo source: Kenta Toshima


Kenta Toshima, a researcher at the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology Inami-Hiyama Laboratory, has developed VR technology that allows elderly and nursing home patients to travel to places in the world they once visited or wish to see.

The experiment started when, working in a nursing home, Toshima was inspired to take panoramic images and videos with the 360-degree camera, which could be viewed through a VR headset by the care home resident. This idea grew in popularity.  

The aim, according to Toshima, is to help and inspire elderly patients who are prevented from travelling due to physical or mental impairments, or who wish to reminisce on past experiences from the safety of their care home.

“The VR experience makes them feel like they are out of the nursing home and can help ease their anxiety and loneliness,” he said in a conversation with, whose camera he used to shoot the panoramas. The process of creating the shots also involved Toshima adding narration and names, to put the viewer at their ease.

Read more about the VR experience.

Written By: Holly Hamilton