Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The best way to see the future, is to be a part of it

I’ve been wanting to write about the future of tourism for a while now, even since the travel fair in January actually. Since I finally found some spare time now, I’ll write a couple of lines about tourism and the future of this wonderful field of work that I plan to work in. These ideas have been brought to my awareness during the travel fair held in Helsinki called MATKA2009.

Tourism is a movement, and tells about people’s want and need to move and look around. Tourism can be something you are forced to do for instance for work, but usually it is done for pleasure, leisure or to be of benefit to somebody or something. Right now there are five prevailing mega trends in the world concerning tourism. There are climate change, globalization & terrorism, digitalization, an ageing population and individualism. These trends all cause a shift in the forms of tourism, set challenges and reform the industry.

Beside these trends, there exists also some so called weak signals that tell us about what might be the trends in tourism of the future. Some say it’s travelling in space, other mean that the wave of extreme travelling or eco travelling will continue to take new forms and increase in popularity. But it might also be as we find ourselves in an ever-changing environment that the travel itself might become more important than the destination. Rumors tell us about another hidden signal. Home switching is gaining popularity. It might be that in the future we might have mobile homes, maybe floating apartments or even more boat hotels. People will become more acquainted with the idea of moving homes on a regular basis. We already know about intelligent and moving apartment buildings, do we really think it is going to stop there?

One of the most important new but still quite weak signals is the slow life movement. Slow life is all about giving oneself time, relaxing, being creative, and improving the quality of life and wellbeing. Many think that slow travel is a trend of tomorrow. In 2003, a new definition was made. Stay + vacation became staycation. Staycation is all about using local services and spending one’s vacation in immediate surroundings.

Tourism doesn’t really have threats in the future. Many fear that the existing “economic depression” will affect tourism. Studies made in Finland however show that tourism is not a field that will be concerned by the depression, since people are willing to save money concerning other things, ordinary life, in order to be able to continue travelling. However, the climate change and the increasing sense of instability will force tourism to emerge in new places and create new work professions. The green markets will offer new professions concerning tourism companies and their structure. Finally we can say that tourism is a stream of needs, feelings, wishes and experiences, enjoyments and appreciations.

When it comes to the future of tourism, much lies in the hands of the youth. It seems that the biggest topic in tourism right now is digitalization. Computers and internet have developed the tourism industry in a way no other field has managed to copy. During the travel fair, we had an interesting lecturer called Teemu Arina. You might want to give a look at his blog at http://tarina.blogging.fi/. He has some quite interesting things to say about understanding the role of social technologies in knowledge work and networked learning in organizations. He is an expert on digitalization and what it might mean for a lot of industries, not merely tourism, but in a big extent also on that field. He means to say that the best way to see the future is to actually make it. He has spent 1/3 of his life as an entrepreneur despite his young age.

What Arina talks about is the effect social media has on our life. We might not think about it, but these kinds of forums, like for instance Facebook, has become a way of knowing about what is going on in the world. Social media is not only a way to spy on other; it is also a mean of communication and sharing information. Some even say that Facebook challenges news casting. The funny part is that I didn’t want to agree with this statement until I realized it was true. When the last school shooting happened here in Finland, I had spent all day in school and nobody had spoken about the day’s happenings. When I came home, I put on my computer, went to FB and noticed that somebody had put as status that that person was sad. When I asked my friend about it, he said “turn on the tv”. And so I did, and that is how I found out about the news. Scary, right? I guess the time when we assumed our school would address these kinds of matters is over, and we can merely rely of WOM (word of mouth).

When we turn to tourism, WOM is getting highly popular. We have sites like Dopplr, Realtravel, Tropsay, Mytripbook.com, Beta farelast, World66, Bezurk (nowadays Wego.com), Virtualtourist, Triphub, Tripadvisor, Flagr, Gusto, Wikitravel, Triptie, Travelistic, Wingbus and so on. The list is endless of sites recommending places to visit in the world. Nowadays travel organizers do not only sell a product or a service, but they need to sell an experience. It is a proven fact that travel organizer sites where travelers themselves can comment on the hotels and services, gain more buyers. The trend is to read what other say about a place before going there. Same concerns services. If nobody else has tried some specific service, it cannot be good. Therefore the lines between a consumer and a producer have been faded out and nowadays we have prosumers.

This epiphany scares many in the tourism industry. If amateurs can give trip advises on the internet, what is then the purpose of having work force in travel agencies? According to Arina, there is difference. Amateurs do not comment on places and services to seem smart or stand out. They comment because travelling is their passion. Experts in travel agencies on the other hand, might not feel the same way. They might travel to places merely because they need to for their job. Taking into consideration this, it is clear that an amateur’s opinion might weight more in the eyes of a traveler.

The secret of staying on top in tourism is therefore to be about to link the consumers back to one’s company by allowing them to share their experiences on internet sites. By improving the communication between consumers and producers, tourism companies are a part of the future.

2 comments:

  1. Great article, thanks for mentioning Bezurk as one of the sites used.

    Thought you might like to know that , Bezurk has been re-branded to Wego.com a better version of Bezurk

    Cheers,
    Ryan :)

    ReplyDelete