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Tourism and travel now contribute more than 7 trillion dollars to the global economy, and young people are travelling more than ever before. Driven by disruptive technologies and new business models, the world has never been more open for tourists, and a new generation of travellers is taking full advantage.
By James Bidwell
The priorities have shifted, and the way we now plan and arrange our travel has fundamentally altered, as have the ways in which we experience our destinations. Many people now regard anything other than a highly personalized, bespoke experience as second rate. In this context, the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books, two former staples of any well-planned holiday, have found their once ‘invaluable’ status diminished by online tips and review sites. Newer, digital offerings are now moving away from a one-sizefits-all approach in favour of guides that are truly tailored to each individual trip and the unique interests and priorities of the traveller.
As travellers seek out these ever more personal experiences, local, authentic knowledge has assumed a new premium. Only when equipped with local knowledge can travellers create truly bespoke and unique experiences, and while travel review sites are still a valuable resource, they struggle to provide the depth of knowledge that can come only from a true local in direct response to a traveller’s questions. Western tourists are seeking new experiences that take them away from their everyday lives, gravitating towards new experiences and human connections.
This emphasis on local knowledge and personalized experiences lies behind innovations like Kate’s Goodness – an Instagram-style feed of hotspots as photographed and described by locals – or Nectar & Pulse, which is an Austrian company enabling users to create personal city guides by zeroing in on the suggestions of locals with similar preferences. These innovations unlock local knowledge, enabling visitors to create unique and authentic experiences tailored to them.
New ways of travelling
Airbnb has had a profound impact on the travel industry and on the sharing economy, but it is not the only access economy player in this space. While Airbnb casts its net wide, many of the start-ups we have seen on Springwise are taking that model and applying it to niche areas.
PandaBed, for example, is a peer-to-peer lodging service that enables homeowners to connect with guests who share their cultural or religious ideas. Located in Singapore and operating across Asia, the service lets homeowners open up their spare rooms to travellers and those seeking short-term accommodation. Meanwhile, over in Europe, Hotel Gelem uses the same model to overcome racial tensions, inviting visitors to stay in Romany communities. So-called ‘embedded tourists’ can apply via the website to stay in Romany homes in locations in France, Germany, Macedonia and Kosovo.
The objectives could not be more different. While PandaBed seeks to offer comfort by providing guests with a cultural framework that will be familiar, Hotel Gelem looks to break down barriers and encourage new ways of thinking. These contrasting outcomes are a testimony to how well suited the access economy is to disrupting hospitality as we know it, which will almost certainly see it survive inevitable regulatory challenges in the future. Pearlshare is just one of many innovations that feed directly off the Airbnb revolution.
With access and knowledge increasing, so too is an awareness of the damage tourism and travel can cause to the environment. Many travellers now make environmental concerns a pillar of their trip, doing what they can to offset or prevent pollution and expecting the companies they engage with to have a similar approach. Eco-tourism takes many forms, including staying off grid, volunteering abroad and staycationing.
Ticking the carbon offset box used to be enough for most travellers’ consciences, but for the next generation it is just the start. Environmentally friendly behaviours from travel companies are no longer seen as ‘nice-to-haves’. Rather, there is a now an expectation that, as they help travellers explore the planet, organizations should be behaving responsibly to help protect it.
GreenHotelWorld ranks hotels by their carbon footprint, helping travellers to find the most eco-conscious option. The company will even offer to help offset a traveller’s CO2 emissions from their stay for free. Kind Traveler, meanwhile, enables luxury holidaymakers to donate money to charity in exchange for exclusive deals with sustainable hotels.