With our growing interconnectedness—among economies, cultures, languages, and borders— travel increasingly informs how we view and experience the world.
With an estimated 576 million international tourists traveling worldwide in just the first half of last year, the global tourism and travel industry isn’t only thriving—it has become a place of constant innovation and disruption.
Younger generations are increasingly seeing the value in investing in lived experiences as opposed to material things. With this shift, there’s a growing need to evaluate and improve upon the general experience of travel—from the airports to the destinations themselves. Instead of using travel to unplug, young travellers are leveraging technology to enhance their experiences and stay connected and informed. In the United States, 84 percent of millennial travelers claim to have never used a physical (human) travel agent.
Equipped with the latest in smart travel, younger travelers are taking charge and curating their own experiences. In response, there has been a surge of apps and technologies that help make this goal more reachable. Not only do tourists have a leg up on cultural, financial, and linguistic barriers associated with travel, they can engage with the world in a more thoughtful and authentic way. Here are some interesting examples that have emerged from this behavioral shift:
How We Take Off
Gone are the days when travelers had to scroll through dozens of webpages looking to book the cheapest and easiest flights and accommodation. Today, people are less willing to waste time and energy on finding the perfect itinerary to suit their needs. In response, there’s been a surge of itinerary aggregation apps like TripStreak and Hopper, which help people find the best flight options based on their travel preferences or lowest fares. In addition, other in-airport assistant apps like Flio do everything from providing information about transferring terminals, to locating power outlet locations and automatically connecting to airport WiFi. Less hassle and more ease is the name of the game.
How We Move
Getting from place to place in a new and unfamiliar city can be an exciting but confusing endeavor. Aside from your garden-variety navigation apps like Uber and Google Maps, there are also newer apps, such as Vurb. Vurb is a one-stop shop that allows users to discover must-visit sites, book show tickets and restaurant reservations, and find a ride to get there on time. Though getting lost in a new city can also be part of the fun, it’s good to have backup when you need it. Vurb aggregates and leverages other travel-related apps on your phone and can be a crucial tool—whether you’re in the middle of downtown Tokyo or strolling along the Champs-Élysées.
How We Meet
Until recently, social media has been limited to helping people record and share their experiences, such as posting a photo on Instagram or a status update on Facebook. As our understanding of social networks continues to evolve (enter Tinder), it’s leading to a higher demand for real-life experiences. Travelers want to leverage data from their networks to meet people while abroad. Apps like Tripr do a good job of this, helping travelers, backpackers and locals meet each other. Matching and meeting up with like-minded folks on the road doesn’t just make the prospect of travel more accessible and social, but can enhance our understanding of the places we visit.
How We Communicate
One of the largest barriers to fully immersing in an experience abroad can be the language. Learning a few phrases from the language of the country you’re visiting doesn’t just make it easier to get around; it’s respectful. While Google Translate is a reliable staple, apps like Bravolol provide a quick on-hand dictionary of useful phrases such as “Thank you” and “How much?” to help you hit the ground running. Other more involved apps like Duolingo help expedite the process of learning a language weeks or months before your trip, using unique quiz-like learning experiences. For the motivated traveler in 2017, language can become less and less of a barrier—opening up a whole new domain of possibilities.
Ultimately, the goal of smart travel technology is to break boundaries. For many, travel isn’t just about unplugging from your regular day-to-day, but also plugging into the places you’re visiting. In 2017, we will see travelers leverage technology to create increasingly intuitive, rapid, and personalized experiences that refine and enrich their understanding of the world.