I remember as a child, my mother was an avid planner of all our trips. She would gather books, notes and information in a large file, preparing our trips with a great deal of care and attention. Travelling then involved carrying around a great deal of papers, books and notes that would also form proof of the experience and was collected with great care. Perhaps seeing this notebook grow added to my anticipation of travel, but today my own two children don’t have a notebook to watch expand. With the advent of E-documents, e-tickets, and e-reservations, there’s hardly a need to print and collect anything into a book these days. Instead, my children like many of the 1.32 billion users, get and share their vacation excitement on Facebook and/or their other social networks. Let’s face it, the way we travel and experience travel has already changed, and our mindset is changing along with it.
For those (rapidly diminishing few) who prefer to do things the traditional way, you can still go to the travel agent and book your holiday in a jiffy, ending up with a competitive deal. However, if you are a traveler who has already made the Hypershift in thinking towards modern-day travel, you can book you entire holiday from your device of choice without ever leaving your arm-chair, all the while taking control of your vacation. The resources offered to the traveler today are endless, and we travelers have access to some of the best rates that anyone (including travel agents) can find. Skyscanner, booking.com, tripadvisor, Airbnb, Couchsurfing.com, Lonely Planet, to name a few. We can explore the whole world from our digital devices, compare, select and choose our favorite choices and see what strangers, friends and family and have said about the places we are thinking of choosing.
However like all good things in life, this too comes with two caveats. The first one is time: the industry has turned self service! The internet forces us to do all the work. If you consider the time and effort it now takes to plan a holiday it seems to have increased disproportionally compared to the good old days of the travel agent. This time and energy gives you a sense of power and control, but sometimes you have less control than you think. The second one is the danger of not reading the fine print – or getting something wrong. Have you ever clicked on the booking confirmation button only to find out a few minutes later that you selected the wrong departure or arrival date? Often this simple mistake can be very costly. Airlines have become unforgiving if you make the slightest error in filling the information on your flight. Recently I had written the wrong name for one of my family on a ticket, when I tried to correct my mistake the airline told me I would need to purchase a new ticket (which by now had doubled in cost). It took several hours of persuasion as well as trip to the airport to get the change done free of charge. However nowadays, a click feels like a simple way to close a transaction, but sometimes we are just too quick to click and this can cost us dearly.
However regardless of where we stand, the internet has transformed travel as we know it.
Around the same time that the internet changed from top-down information to down to top content consumption, it pinned a tendency that people commonly understood. There are no more barriers to information, and that we as a community have all the resources we need to become our own experts by using the tools we have around us. Making a Hypershift in thinking made us realize, maybe don´t need a hotel anymore to sleep in while away. Airbnb is an example of the Hypershift in thinking. It is a simple digital service that enables you to rent out your home or spare room to travelers and make some supplementary income, and like many social platforms it is socially governed by its own experts, people like you and me.
A passing fad? Don’t argue against the Oracle. Warren Buffet has recently steered his own people from Berkshire to Airbnb as a way of protecting them from price-gauging by big hotel chains during mass events. According to an Airbnb spokesperson at the last SXSW in Austin, over 11.000 attendees turned to Airbnb for lodging. Just the other day a colleague of mine booked a stay on Airbnb, and not 5 hour after the booking was confirmed did he receive a list of things to do while abroad. One of the opportunities being a private meal cooked by a qualified award winning chef in his own home at a 70% discount to what he would expect to pay in a Parisian restaurant for the same meal. Wine included! The Chef is clearly taking advantage of the opportunity Airbnb offers, and Hyperlinked his service to the platform at hand.
Hyperlinking or connecting and embracing the technology that surrounds us every day not only betters our travel experience, but is also a great way to connect with and build the travel communities around us. The Hypershift in thinking towards travel forces all travelers to be experts and make informed travel decisions that create a better experience while abroad using earned or shared expert knowledge at no or little cost. If the tourism industry wants to keep up with its tech savvy travelers – and this will soon be the majority of travelers – it had best adapt. Tourism related businesses, particularly some of the smaller hotel and travel SMEs have been in a rut for some time, losing millions of Euros to the larger hotel chains year after year. The travel industry is one of great competition, and to be successful, you need the right tools, networks and mindset to succeed.
I was recently invited to be a keynote speaker at a travel related event for a European initiative called TOURISMlink. TOURISMlink is a European Commission sponsored initiative out to connect the SMEs in the digital tourism supply chain with one another in order to better share information and to expand more competitive pricing for the consumer. In a nutshell, the aim is to bring the smaller travel players in to the global arena, finally taking the digital advantage to work for them and growing their own business networks along the way. This kind of changing mindset can not only create new opportunities and business, but most importantly, make our holidays better and potentially easier on the wallet. When we Hyperthink from a business perspective, we can then realize, that if one small business lacks a resource, why not make it available and offer it from another small competitor? Hyperthinking, and “hypercompeting”.
When my own mother booked our family holiday, she was quick to use an expert opinion, usually a travel agent. Today, you’re the expert and so are the people around you. With the tools we have and the connections we make, travelers and businesses alike can both benefit the holiday-goer together. Our shift from having been customers seeking advice to becoming customers giving advice, provides for a more informed and even safer trip abroad for you and your whole family. So, go out this year and do some research for us all, and when you get back from holiday this year, think about all you have learned while away and Hyperlink your expert opinion to your community. Happy holidays…