The future of travel

Emerging trends and technologies that will enhance your travel experience
The future of travel
The future of travel

If I had to sum up the future of travel in one word, &lsquomobile&rsquo would be it. The desktop isn&rsquot quite dead yet, but mobile applications and social media are fast usurping the space that websites once occupied. Mobile apps offer users unprecedented convenience with travel decisions that previously involved a host resources, be they travel agents, ticketing websites or magazines.

The digital revolution has flattened the world. Thanks to media platforms like YouTube, WordPress and Tumblr, anyone can broadcast their views on the Internet and command a following. The podium that was once the preserve of editors and professional tastemakers to draw attention to Bali or Ibiza, the Taj Mahal or The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, is challenged by the voice of relatable fellow-travellers who e-publish their thoughts.

This trend is vital to the future of the travel industry. The digital revolution has paradoxically re-emphasised the importance of human contact. It is now the norm to search for vacation tips on social media, and prioritise advice from fellow-travellers. Customer reviews have silently altered the way we assess airlines, hotels and restaurants.

This desire for personal and insider information about the world, and particularly on a platform where one can communicate with the author organically, has led to the emergence of niche cyber (and mobile-app-operated) clubs like ASMALLWORLD, Reddit and Trip Advisor, which foster groups of like-minded members from across the globe.

You may have scanned your way into the aircraft using a cellular QR code, and checked-in from the backseat of your cab en route to the airport. But imagine booking a flight or hotel room from your phone. Less than a decade ago, this was unthinkable. Everything from booking a seat to ordering a drink at the lounge can now be accomplished on your phone. This is true even if the touch-screen hasn&rsquot quite replaced the human touch.

The ultimate getaway is about experiencing the things that are unique to a place, and experiencing the culture through its people. To achieve this, it helps to have the guiding hand of locals and experts around you who share your tastes and sensibilities. A tour guide may not quite capture what we want we want relationships with the people we meet. Few things feel better than finding a friend in a foreign land.

Social media platforms now facilitate this. They help us find new ways to experience the surprise and serendipity that comes with meeting people who are like you from another part of the world. They also connect you to expert tips from people who you know share your interests. In fact, the demand for niche cyber-clubs is growing so strong that we at ASMALLWORLD decided to expand our membership and accept applications after 10 years. Our members today have more people to meet for tea in Tokyo, or dinner in Dresden.

We are now at the dawn of a new era in social media, which focusses on a return to real-world interaction. In 2004, ASMALLWORLD blazed this trail and established itself as a digital service with a real-world payoff. As a trusted private travel and social club, ASW is for members with similar interests to connect with and develop new relationships both online and in the real world. There is a greater social shift toward collaborative consumption, and people are keen to make extraordinary memories on their vacations with people whom they can trust. The digital revolution has shrunk our world, offering unprecedented advantages to those who are savvy enough to make the most of it.

Sabine Heller (see picture) is CEO of ASMALLWORLD, a travel and social club that offers its members information, privileges, and community in over 100 cities around the world.

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