The idea of digital disruption is a simple one: An existing piece of commerce is almost completely replaced by a new idea, which revolutionises the way we think about it. Netflix, for example was a digital disruptor for the DVD industry; Facebook is an example of digital disruption in the communications industry.
Travel is, of course, not immune to these ideas, and below we will count down eight ways the industry has changed – or is changing – due to digital disruption.
One of the most obvious examples, Airbnb, the world’s largest hotel company. It sums up digital disruption nicely, because the company owns no hotels. It is reported to list almost 800,000 properties on its site. It’s staggering how quickly it changed the hotel industry, but it’s not quite certain if such dominance will be a goof thing.
We sometimes like to feel that digital disruption only takes down other big competitors, but it sometimes can hit the small guys too. Ask yourself this question: Are you likely to buy a map from street seller or small souvenir store now that you are likely to have Google Maps on your phone?
Before, if you were in a strange city, you would be at the mercy of lady luck when it comes to picking a restaurant. Now, we have things like TripAdvisor and OpenTable to guide us along. It should be recognised that these guides are not perfect, and they are open to manipulation at times.
As with the use of smartphone maps, the likes of Uber and Lyft operating in cities across the globe means that travellers no long have the feeling of being stranded. Transport is now usually only a click away. Again, this has raised the ire of traditional taxi drivers in many cities across the globe.
Remember that feeling of elation – or disappointment – when you open the door to the hotel room for the first time? Is it too small? Luxurious? That’s changing with big companies like Virgin Holidays using VR to allow people to experience rooms before they book them.
Could you imagine one day visiting Pretoria and seeing, really seeing, Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech? The key word is ‘mixed reality’ or MR, using holograms to provide context in real historical locations. It’s not quite perfected as a technology yet, but it won’t be long before it’s joining VR as a popular medium of experiencing the real world through virtual means.
Casino resorts and Arcades
Online casinos are attempting to disrupt the big resorts, with even the social element being challenged with online live dealer tables. You can see it with the different types of roulette tables at casino.com/roulette/, where the boundaries are blurring between virtual and real life gaming. Our entertainment is increasingly being let on phones and tablets, and this crosses over to gaming arcades and funfairs too. Sure, one can say it’s difficult to match physical experiences, but, as with MR above, the lines are blurring. Getting children active is important, but we must also accept that entertainment is increasingly digital.
Take a country like Egypt, where a massive amount of the economy depends on tourism. That filters down to the microlevel too, with knowledge taxi drivers and unofficial tour guides creating a sub-economy for themselves. The need for local knowledge is changing though, with electronic tour guides placed in our pockets.
Companies like Travelport believe that the key to future vacations will be linked to A.I bringing you personalised, relevant experiences. It’s almost like you will be able to shape the vacation destination around you, rather than the other way around. Again, one could argue that some of the mystery is taken out of it by having a vacation with everything preordained.
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