I’ve seen the future of travel

Anyone been on a trip which has really changed how you view the world? Having been to the Baltics, I’ve had a taste of what the future of travel has in store. As a free spirit I never like to book more than the first couple of nights of a holiday and prefer to wait until we arrive to plan out our itinerary. The joy of wifi in just about all public areas of the main towns of Estonia was a sheer delight – even the local parks were geared up with internet access.

The amount of time that “always on wifi” takes off looking for a place to stay is significant. Gone are the days when we’d flick through our paper guidebook and travel around the hotels. Wifi enables us to pick an online travel agency (OTA) such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, Agoda, Laterooms or Expedia and check for availability and reviews on the spot.  Many hoteliers appeared unaware of their online rate and wanted to quote us a higher drop in rate. This suggests that many assume that the traveller has not checked online first – another challenge to existing revenue management models. As Google Hotel Finder develops some traction working with the OTAs this suggests hotels seeking to optimise last minute availability will need new strategies as “drop ins” are savvier than they used to be.

When it came to finding somewhere to eat we would click on Google maps to discover a local place with good reviews or a restaurant review site such as Tripadvisor and instantly it would give us a place using our GPS to eat just a few yards away. We have found some amazing places to eat in this way in many corners of the world. If we had checked in we would also have been able to claim a few prizes too. 

As cameras evolve and are integrated into a new generation of contact lenses we’re no longer going to have to spend hours labelling our photos or videos to share them on Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest or YouTube as they are automatically geotagged and uploaded into our personal online spaces in the Cloud.[1]  

Photos can already be tagged with our own identity and those of our friends and connections using face recognition technology. If we could have our photos automatically watermarked too this would help us deal with the raft of UK copyright legislation. This act also nicknamed the Instagram Act may be in the interests of enabling people to use “orphan images” without a traceable copyright holder, but also suggests that our imagery may be at risk if we don’t take steps to protect our copyright [2].
Maybe with "always on wifi" we’ll be able to auto send our hotel location to our nearest and dearest – could be useful for worried parents keeping tabs on their gap year kids, but also of concern if it gets into the wrong hands.

I can see a time when we’ll be using apps to customise our photos as the new greetings cards and postcards to our family and friends on the fly. "Always on wifi" makes so many things possible.
There are already match making apps where we can allow others to connect with us before we board our plane. I’m just waiting for the apps which allow us to dine with fellow travellers whilst we’re on the move. Gone are the awkward days of dinner in the corner of the restaurant as a solo business traveller. We can choose to connect with others in transit and check them out online before we choose to connect with a potential dining or flying companion.  On board wifi has arrived too so now we can reserve our accommodation and tables in the air too. For the “always on wifi” (or AOW) traveller, the opportunities are endless.
One of the big questions is why we would bother with the banks if there are new payment platforms like Paypal and Square and our smartphone is also our payment device. Having just returned from Japan the number of customers using phones to pay in convenience stores was significant and Alipay is ubiquitous in so many places in Asia.

As the original founder of Twitter Jack Dorsay launched the Square Market [3] in 2013, maybe the future of travel without using the bank is closer than we think.  The latest personal vision statement from the founder of Facebook  Over the next decade, we hope to build the commerce and payments tools so that every small business has easy access to the same technology that previously only big companies have had" illustrates a change of focus.

Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in enabling small businesses and What’s App users to trade with each other suggests that this decade will see more alternative payment systems to the banks. I can see the opportunities for those tourism businesses without merchant accounts to get involved.   I’m ready for the next wave of socially connected travel payment instruments – are you?
Does this sound all too spooky or exciting to you? How would "always on wifi" change how you travel?

[1] http://mashable.com/category/project-glass/ 170+ stories about Google Glass

[2] http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2265155/changes-to-uk-copyright-law-put-facebook-twitter-and-instagram-images-at-risk

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/27/us-square-website-idUSBRE95Q14G20130627 Square’s website for small businesses takes on ecommerce giants.



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