On World Tourism Day, Suman De shares how smart travel options have changed the way we plan our vacays
Over the past decade, the tourism industry has undergone such a huge transformation that it is almost unimaginable to comprehend what a mammoth task “travel planning” used to be. Booking tickets to a destination, local transportation options, hotels, planning itineraries at the best prices was an effort that involved incessant consultation with everyone, including countless travel agents to the all-knowing neighbour. Yet, a constant sense of dread followed, of being over-charged or left at the mercy of a stranger in an unknown place. A completed vacation left the planner in such a distress that they would seek another one just to get over the feelings of anxiety induced by the last one.
Just like any other industry however, technological intervention has completely reimagined the way we travel today. The entire process, from choosing a destination to even making reservations in the restaurants to be visited takes a few minutes at the most. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have become one-stop platforms to meet each and every need of a prospective traveler, listing a range of options curated on the basis of numerous parameters. From the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, digital tourism has made micro-level customisation possible, substantially empowering travellers and enhancing experiences in the process.
Travel chatbots, a technological solution that has become a great favourite of travel entrepreneurs, have the ability to store the entire information from a conversation with a customer, only to streamline each successive communication by predicting the preferences. For frequent travellers, booking a ticket and a stay of their choice at any place has become as easy as just saying it to an OTA bot. Furthermore, state-of-the-art travel tools driven by AI and machine learning serve as constant virtual assistants, always arranging for facilities that provide for every need of the traveler, from medical needs to their preference for a room with a particular colour pattern. However, the advent of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, machine learning, data analytics are ushering in a fresh revolution, extending the ‘smart’ concept from a product/service at a micro level to a city/nation at a macro level. These ‘Smart Cities’, such as Dubai, have aligned their infrastructure such as e-gate services at airports, integrated public and private transportation systems to facilitate the amount of tourists which visit them each year. Leveraging emerging technologies such as IoT and Machine Learning has the potential to bring the next wave of tourism revenue to underdeveloped economies, while creating jobs in local communities.
Freely accessible Wi-Fi, AR/VR enabled maps, smart assistance kiosks, are some of the numerous tech-based elements that can be expected to be a part of every tourism-focussed destination over the coming years. Industry stakeholders have been amazed at the impact of connecting tourists with brand stores, restaurants, little-known places, and other attractions. The positive response has led to creation of digital access and integration of tech-enabled tourism services like security to tourists, helping local merchants to access more local and global customers to significantly improving the economic prospects of a region, city or country, “smart tourism” has the potential to truly reimagine the prospects of tourism from a macro-perspective. The travel world now awaits its widespread implementation.
(The author is Director, Products, Cleartrip)