Technology has truly changed the way our world works and whether we realize it or not, it has seamlessly managed to seep into every single aspect of our lives. Out of the innumerable ways in which it seems to mould our experiences, travel is that one area which takes the crown single-handedly for having been showered with the most benefits of technology. It is nearly impossible to even imagine travelling without any access to google maps, transportation booking systems, hotel booking platforms or even something as basic as not being able to read information on popular travel blogs and review platforms.
With the number of people travelling increasing at an unprecedented rate, according to a report by the World Tourism Organisation, it is estimated that by 2030, a global population of a whopping 8.5 billion people will take approximately 2 billion international trips! Instead of just relying on plain, old boring statistics, read on further to know how technology is like an unexpected breath of fresh air for every kind of traveller out there.
The first and probably the most dreaded aspect of travelling is planning a trip. Technology has made planning a breeze for everybody from meticulous planners to spontaneous enthusiasts who can now rely on online digital platforms or mobile phone applications for gaining important information regarding bookings, accommodation, useful travel tips and advice.
With just a swipe of the touch-screen, every bit of one’s travel needs can be taken care of. Online travel communities are brilliant as they give a glimpse into the experiences of tens of thousands of travellers.
In today’s day and age, travellers have access to virtually everything on the internet within their fingertips. The choices are plenty and it makes it all the easier to browse and compare flights without having to physically drop by an actual travel agency, whew!Technology has paved the way for people to grab the cheapest deals possible and has also made it ridiculously easy to have alternative options to avoid being charged exorbitant rates just because one happens to be a tourist on a foreign land.
Gone are the days when people were required to mandatorily carry multiple documents which included the airline tickets, boarding pass, train and hotel reservations along with the million other things in a hard copy format. Technology has saved us yet again by way of having made facilities like online check-ins, e-tickets, reservation coupons etc. possible. Having such important documents in a digitised format clearly makes travelling not just eco-friendly, but a lot more safe as well.
STREAM-LINING ONE’S TRAVEL ITENERARY:
It is only after the explosion of the world wide web that travellers can now instantly read reviews on what to do, where to go, and can easily zero in on unique and fun things to do which match their travel style. Essentially, technology has made it possible for everybody to be able to customise their travel itinerary which makes trips more personal and exclusive!
DOCUMENTING ONE’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES:
While travelling is all about immersing oneself in new cultures and experiences and staying in the moment to absorb the essence of a place, technology has stepped in to enhance this experience further by making it possible to capture memories in the most innovative ways possible.
Be it posting pictures on social media, or trying a hand at travel journaling, the options for documenting one’s journey are plenty which do not fade away as time passes. Just looking back at a photo can magically transport a person to a specific place and can instantly make them go back in time and reminisce.
EASIER TO STAY CONNECTED WHILE TRAVELLING:
Thanks to technology, meeting new people and staying in touch with them has become as easy as busting out your Facebook and sending them a friend request. Oh, well, for all the cool kids belonging to Generation Z out there, Instagram and Snapchat are definitely more viable options.
In addition to that, irrational fears of concerned parents can be easily laid to rest by using apps that offer free online calls (or video calls) like Viber, Google Duo, Skype and WhatsApp. Parents thankfully do not have to rely on letters, snail mails or phone booth calls to stay in touch. An app can be a life saver when it comes to being connected with loved ones back home.
BRIDGING LANGUAGE BARRIERS:
Back in the day it was a common practice for travellers to be walking around with a phrasebook on holiday, struggling to converse in the local language and basically miming their way through the journey. Our smart phones comein handy now and with apps like Google Translate, iTranslate or Waygo, interacting with locals and imbibing their culture comes with perfect ease. Technology has dissolved boundaries across nations causing individuals to come together and have a gala time.
Last but not the least, technology has made going cashless a perfectly normal phenomenon. Electronic payments through secure apps such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet makes it convenient for travellers to travel without a lot of cash and saves them the trouble of having to stay in queue for ATM withdrawals or to deal with the inconvenience of losing a wallet. One doesn’t have to worry about credit card frauds/changing cards or getting stranded somewhere without any cash.
This list is non-exhaustive, meaning, and we could go on and on about how else technology has changed the way we all travel, for the better. Although people make the bold claim that technology is changing our lives, the truth is that it completely depends on how one chooses to use the gift of technology. As long as travellers do not become too dependent on it and remember that not everything has to be captured on social media and not every experience can be found in a guidebook, they shall be fine and are sure to experience the best.
On 31st May 2019, India got a new tourism minister, Mr Prahlad Singh Patel. Mr Patel is a career politician and a four-time MP. He was a member of several committees in the previous Narendra Modi government like Committee on Public Undertakings, Committee on Government Assurances Member, Standing Committee on Rural Development Member. He was also a member of Executive Council of V.V. Giri National Labour Institute and member of the Consultative Committee in the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The Ministry of Tourism is an independent ministry and has a plethora of opportunities to work on and make it one of the highest revenue generators. For this to happen, the new minister and his team must focus on an integrated approach to developing tourism in the country.
The Ministry must bring together all travel and tourism industry stakeholders to work together to understand the future challenges well in advance and prepare with a long-term vision of a decade or two in mind. The speed of change in the travel and tourism industry has been incredible over the decades. The pace of that change will be much faster, thanks to the growth in travel technology, in the coming decade compared to the changes that have come over the last three decades.
Building Narratives Around Different Areas
It is significant for Indian tourism (centre & states) to be proactive and well planned about the kind of tourists they want, carrying capacity of the destination, the experiences they offer, and the kind of memories visitors take back. For example, a lot of the average traveller coming from other countries, hear only about Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Red Fort, frequently, while India as a destination has so much more to offer in every state. Fascinating, yet factual, stories around nature, landscape, history, people, cuisine etc. must be created to generate curiosity & interest in the minds of the people to visit the destination. Ministry of Tourism will do well to introduce short term courses in subjects like “art of storytelling”, “historical importance”, geological inheritance”, etc.
Long Haul & Short Haul Source Markets
The Ministry must encourage short haul source markets as there are stronger trends in travel from rest of Asia to the South Asian region. Various reports indicate that Asian travellers percentage is likely to increase in the next five years as there is a decline from the European travellers market into Asia. India also requires a specific tourism strategy to tap the Chinese market which brings in a huge potential. Data shows Indian economy could have received an additional US$8.7billion to its GDP over the last decade if Chinese tourism potential had been better leveraged.
Focused approach to tourism-associated economic and social infrastructure – hotels, connectivity, human resources, hygiene, health facilities, etc are largely underdeveloped in India. The poor quality of infrastructure is reflected in India’s 112nd rank in the ICT readiness component and 104th rank in the health and hygiene components of the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017. The prime reason for this apathy is the poor allocation of financial resources.
Safety and Security
Safety and security of all tourists is a major roadblock to the tourism development. Attacks on foreign nationals, especially on women, raise questions about India’s ability to welcome tourists from far away countries. Among the 130 countries surveyed, India was placed at the 114th position in terms of safety and security aspect in the WEF Index 2017. This requires measures to be taken on a war footing if our ranking has to improve.
Many of the tourist spots in the country are not accessible to the poor, specially abled and elderly. This is because of high costs of travelling, poor connectivity and a series of permissions required for various reasons. It is a fact that Divyangs, who constitute more than 2 per cent of the population, cannot access many of the tourist spots in the country. The Ministry should be able to put together a public private partnership to encourage this category of citizens to travel across the length & breadth of India.
Tourism & hospitality not only create jobs in the tertiary sector, they also encourage growth in the primary and secondary sectors of industry. Hence, it is high time, the government encourages the participation of the private sector in a big way for the all-round development of the tourism sector that has the potential to act as the key driver of inclusive growth.
India’s share in international tourist arrivals is a meagre 0.50%, while the share in the global international tourism receipts is around 1.30% only. Mr Prahlad Singh Patel can make it his Ministry’s mission to increase these percentages in the next three years and make the Ministry of Tourism truly a Ministry to reckon with.