Remember travel agents? And traipsing around with heavy guidebooks? Or how about pouring over stacks of travel brochures and having to call up hotels to book a room? Not so long ago, this was the norm. How different to the situation now. Digital technology has revolutionised the way we travel, and with it, the entire industry.
Whether travelling for business or pleasure, we have become our own expert travel agents: booking airline tickets, compiling itineraries, tweeting plans, sharing likes and posting reviews. What’s more, we do it all online, on screen, and on the move.
Disruptors, innovators and game-changers
So, how did we get here? While rapid technological developments left some companies behind, others embraced innovation to create new business opportunities. Booking.com is one such game-changer. It started off as a one-man start-up in Amsterdam in 1996. There was no Google. Communication with hotels was done by fax, or even dropped off by bike. Today the company employs some 13,000 people in 184 offices worldwide, and features over 1,000,000 accommodations, from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar.
Let’s get social
The rise of social media is another transformative force, making travel as easy as a quick chat with friends. We can share our experiences online, anytime, anywhere, with our entire network. Any query en route can be answered with insider tips in real time. Our friends and family are trusted authorities on everything from finding the perfect powder-white beach to the best Vietnamese bánh mì. And thanks to Instagram filters we are all travel photographers, immediately uploading scenic proof of our travel prowess.
From A to B
Perhaps the single biggest change to travel is the fact that we no longer get lost. Just think of the hours spent trying to find that campsite, struggling to converse with locals in long-forgotten secondary school French. And of course the heated discussions in the car about which road to take after missing the turnoff. Now GPS navigation and Google Maps get us where we want to be, maybe even saving a few marriages in the process. There are certainly less arguments.
Come stay with me!
Pioneer Airbnb is yet another name that continues to shake the travel world, taking lodging to a completely different place – people’s homes. Why spend the night paying top dollar at an anonymous hotel for service you don’t need when you can opt for a something altogether more personal? What started as a plan to rent out air mattresses just to make ends meet (and was rejected by 15 angel investors who are all kicking themselves), is now here to stay – valued at $30 billion. A lesson in thinking outside the box if ever there was one.
More to come
With better, faster, newer, cooler technology emerging all the time, the next generation of digital services will continue to disrupt and redefine the travel landscape. To survive in the industry you have keep up the pace or risk being left behind.
So, what is on the horizon? Experts foresee ever more personalisation, with travellers seeking out hyper-local experiences and custom niche trips. And don’t forget that ultra-futuristic face of travel tech: VR – heralding a new era that could bring us closer to our dream destination in the blink of an eye.
Ask the experts