There are constant changes and innovations in the travel industry. Years ago there was no such things as Airbnb, where you can book a room at someone’s house. Travelers have more options now. And, that’s a good thing.
As a travel professional, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching all the nuts and bolts of the travel industry. Here are the top five (5) things that are changing the way we travel:
- The tiny revolution
The tiny house revolution is here, it’s real and it’s not going anywhere. It’s not something you only see on TV, and say: what the heck are they thinking? Vacationers are also getting in the tiny house action. Tiny hotels are opening now and there are companies renting out tiny houses for short getaways throughout the US, including in the Catskills in New York, and other places throughout the world.
Tiny houses tend to be eco-friendly, help guests connect with nature and provide unique experiences for travelers. Interest in tiny houses continues to increase and that will probably change the way we book accommodations while traveling.
- Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t really new, but it’s becoming more involved in travel planning. Now you are able to immerse yourself in a place before stepping foot by using a VR headset, which is a 360 degree device that places you in a specific location with narrations. Virtual Reality can also be viewed on mobile or desktop as a 360 degree video. It’s an invaluable tool for those who are struggling to make a decision about vacation destinations or just want to “visit” a place before the actual trip.
I had the privilege to check out a trip to Machu Picchu at the NY Travel Show this year and I was very impressed by this technology.
- Thirst for local experience
Travelers have higher expectations and don’t just want to see places. They want to experience them like a local. While it’s fun to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, for example, some travelers are now more interested to learn to cook a French dish, practice French with locals or go on a picnic in the French countryside.
Interest in more authentic and local experiences is rising tremendously. Airbnb recently launched the Experiences program that allows travelers to book activities with local experts. Even hotels now are creating activities to help their guests to travel like a local, such as having local artists performing on site. It’s no longer enough to just provide concierge services, hotels are creating and managing local experiences as well.
- The new travel agent
In the same idea of travelers in search of meaningful experiences, travel agents are making a comeback. With the proliferation of Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) such as Expedia and Booking.com, travelers don’t use travel agents as much as they used to. But, that’s about to change. Booking a specialty trip, for instance, away from major tourist hubs or at locations that are not easily accessible, with exactly the kinds of experiences one wants can be extremely time-consuming and difficult to plan. It’s not something you can just book online. That’s where these travel professionals come in, don’t call them travel agents, call them experience designers.
They usually specialize in one destination and can arrange the trip from A to Z based on the clients’ needs and interests. They also have people on the ground to ensure all goes according to plans. Some of these trips are luxurious and complex. But, luxury can mean different things to different people. For example, luxury can be someone wanting to stay in the mountains close to waterfalls with no electricity somewhere in the Caribbean. Luxury doesn’t always mean a 5-star hotel with opulent decorations and plush amenities. These travel experts provide access to truly unique experiences and are part of the future of travel.
- Language translation
Google Translate is very effective and offers translations of many languages but new technologies are further reducing language barriers. Let’s say you are traveling overseas and you are engaged in a conversation in a foreign language and you are really having trouble communicating using Google Translate. Well, there’s an app that gives access to a live, professional interpreter.
Other options include the SayHi Translate app that allows you to have a conversation in two languages. You speak to the app, it translates what you say and plays it aloud. It’s a good option but it’s very limited. A newer option is the earpiece that’s powered by IBM’s supercomputer Watson, your conversation is translated live in your earpiece but both people have to be wearing one. Learning a few words of a new language before traveling is highly recommended. But, powerful translation options are here and more are on the way to make communicating while traveling much easy.