Twenty years ago to book a holiday involved a trip to the travel agents, browsing through pages after pages of brochures, selecting a holiday based on what the travel company said and going home with your printed tickets to keep safe until you flew.
Travel Tech is now a massive growth industry – estimated to be worth $13.6 billion by 2027, despite a 35.1% reduction in 2020 as a result of the pandemic halting most international travel.
There’s no doubt that improvements in technology have revolutionised the way that we travel, but have we become too reliant on our tech and are missing out on the joys of undirected exploration?
Before we even set-off, we have become reliant on technology to find and book holidays. 39% of hotel bookings are made on smart phones along with 22” of flights and the amount of research we are doing before even booking has increased exponentially – 70% of us browse travel research on our phones whilst commuting, at lunch or even during the work day (not me I swear!!) but this has turned us in to lemmings – following the set route, doing what everyone else recommends. With 80% of travellers relying on Trip Advisor to determine the destination, restaurants and tourist spots and 66 million reviews left as of 2018 we are relying on other people’s experiences to determine whether we are going to have fun. But almost 1.4 million of these reviews were found to be fraudulent so are we really planning our visits based on others experiences or on what the hotels and restaurants want us to believe?
Booking hotels and rooms has become much more easier through an improvement in tech – 24/7 bookings, chat-bots and even Virtual Reality room viewings mean that you can confident that your room will be suitable for your trip – and that you aren’t next to a random building site to keep you awake all holiday! It is more environmentally friendly too as there is no need to print booking references, boarding passes and with smartphone room entry there’s no need for plastic room keys.
When we arrive at the airport, what used to be a stressful time, can now be made super easy with technology. Straight to gate QR boarding passes, live updates on flight times and pre-booking seats based on on-line seat tracker reviews means we can spend more time browsing the duty free or having that pre-flight drink. With duty-free available to pre-order online you can even skip that – just go straight to the lounge that you have booked online from checking reviews and getting discount vouchers!
On the plane, tech really comes in to its own. In the pre 4th industrial revolution days, everyone watched the same movie from flip down TV screens which meant you were either too close and had to crane your neck or too far away and couldn’t see. Now we have plenty of choice of personal entertainment on most flights, or we load up our tablets and phones with the latest Netflix or Disney+ series and binge-watch our way through the flight. We can order food and drinks from our seats and even browse the in-flight magazine online. This has certainly helped during the Covid-19 pandemic where movement around the plane and contact points were reduced as much as possible. You can even stay connected on flights – check your email or upload the pictures out of the plane windows onto your Instagram account using the plane Wi-Fi.
At your destination, you can take GPS tours of the sights – seeing what you want to see rather than having to follow the group or pay for a private guide. Pull discount vouchers for entry in to places and instantly upload your holiday photos – no more Wish You Were Here postcards. Any issues with your holiday can be instantly fixed through 24/7 Facebook messenger and Whatsapp accounts.
After your holiday, use tech to leave feedback and Trip Advisor Reviews to help the next wave of tourists to the destination and collect reward points instantly using your online accounts to pay for the next holiday.
It’s all so simple. It saves time, it reduces cost, everything is all in one place and the days of uninformed travel are over…….. but what happens if it all goes wrong?
If everything is stored on your phone, what happens if your phone is stolen or you drop it in the pool and it breaks? How do you check in or enter your room or get your flight? What’s the recourse if the Trip Advisor Review that you followed turns out to be fake? What happens if your flight or hotel is cancelled and they aren’t ATOL or ABTA protected?
And what happened to the days of unguided travel, where we took to trains across Europe or packed a backpack and went off in to the great unknown to find ourselves? With tech allowing us to plan our holidays down to the last second, if we don’t switch off our phones are we really switching off?
There is a pushback on the amount of tech being used whilst we are on holidays and a quick online search will give you numerous ways to complete a digital detox but the irony is we are learning how to do it on our devices!
The future looks to see a further reliance on tech in travel – 5 g will allow faster booking and more accurate maps, augmented and virtual reality will allow you to experience the sights without even leaving home and robot tech will improve security queues at airports and make transferring luggage easier.
Finding the balance is key to this. Tech makes travelling simpler and more accessible for us but when you arrive put away the device and open your eyes. Experience the holiday that’s in front of you, not from behind a phone screen.