4 Tech Trends That Change the Way We Travel
Travel has always evolved with technology. The most obvious innovations have involved more powerful engines to speed up modes of transit. As travelers moved from horse-drawn buggies to steamships to jets, long-distance travel became faster, more comfortable, and more affordable.
On a micro level, however, incremental changes in technology make a big impact from one year to the next. Tech trends affect where people go, how they get around, and what kind of experience they have while traveling. Here are some of the trends to watch now.
Lighting-fast communications through smartphone apps, websites, and social media have caused tremendous changes in the way people network. Just a few years ago, only intrepid wanderers would rent an apartment instead of a hotel or get rides from locals instead of taking taxis. Crowdsourcing apps like Airbnb, Uber, Vayable, and Bla Bla Car have changed the landscape of the travel industry forever.
The new model raises a lot of questions. For instance, Airbnb hosts don’t have to comply with the same fire safety or disability requirements that hotels must follow, creating what the hotel industry perceives as unfair competition.
Hosts also don’t comply with zoning regulations, and that causes problems for residents in areas where tourism is popular. Suddenly, instead of having neighbors, residents live next to a rotating group of strangers and landlords who don’t care about local school referendums. These issues will play out in the courts over the next few years, but for now travelers can enjoy terrific lodging deals and opportunities to mingle with locals.
Smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets have been game changers for independent travel. Google Translate makes it possible to aim your phone at a sign, snap a photo, and instantly translate the text into your native language. Some apps help you sort out ground travel, calculate currency exchange rates, and find the nearest laundromat or medical center. All this, plus the ability to stay in touch back home, makes spontaneous, unplanned adventures easy to arrange.
Many carriers are also more friendly to world travelers. For instance, T-Mobile now offers 4G speeds, data in more than 140 countries, and in-flight compatibility with Gogo Air. Travelers with like T-Mobile’s can pull up GPS maps, public transportation information, and flight schedules anywhere they go.
Your paper passport is already dated. that a SmartGate can read to provide quick entrance to the country, and the nation is considering taking things a step further with virtual, cloud-based passports. These passports would contain biometric data and a digital photo to identify the traveler. You wouldn’t have to carry a physical book or a card, so there would be nothing to lose or steal.
In the U.S., some airports are testing a Mobile Passport Control app. This smartphone technology lets travelers submit electronic information that border control officials can access by scanning a QR code.
When travel was a pastime that only the wealthy could afford, service was part of the pleasure. Flight attendants mixing cocktails and bellhops running to help with bags were key parts of the experience. All that is changing as travel becomes a pursuit that almost anyone can enjoy, and technology is poised to fill the gaps.
In Japan, for instance, you can now stay at . If your flight gets canceled, you’ll probably receive a toll-free number to call rather than talking with a desk attendant. Instead of walking up to a currency exchange, you can make ATM withdrawals by the luggage carousel. It might soon be possible to make a trip without talking to a single human being.
Smartphones, cloud computing, crowdsourcing and self-service options don’t represent as dramatic a change in travel as the steam engine. But these innovations are changing the face of travel in a big way, making it more accessible, more convenient, more independent, and in some ways less posh. It will be interesting to see what changes the next wave of technology brings to the travel industry.