When Delhi-based chef Akanksha Dean had to recently travel to Singapore to attend the World’s 50 Best awards, she had plenty of free time during her trip to spend. As a solo traveller with no local friend or guide in the city, she decided to Google and discovered the local experience without spending a bomb. “I logged on to the Internet and booked myself an after-dark food tour experience and a local cooking class. I also read here about Chef Malcolm Lee, a foodie who has shined a track on the global gastronomic scene with the dishes his grandmother used to make for him as a child. The restaurant he runs, Candlenut, is today the world’s only Michelin-starred Peranakan eatery. With the help of online recommendation, I booked for a meal experience and it was so amazing. Trust me there is nothing better than being able to tailor-make your itinerary and go around the city with a local more so for its food. Technology helps and how,” quips the chef manager at Imperfecto Shor Café.
Just like Akanksha, a lot of solo as well as group travellers are now utilising the power of technology during trips, leading it to become one of the biggest travel trends in 2019. According to a recent study by Hilton Honors, around 88 per cent of travellers based in Asia Pacific feel their ‘love of travel is a huge part of how they define themselves’, with three in four aspiring to be a ‘travel expert in their social circle.’ The 2019 study revealed that travellers aged between 20-45 now look for adventure and local experiences while planning their vacation. According to Sarah Somerville, Senior Director, at Hilton, “Today’s travellers want to live like locals, feel inspired by the places they visit and experience a transformative journey. They also embrace the role technology can play, not only in making their travel experience more efficient but also in enhancing the planning stage through the use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.”
Over the last couple of years, experiencing local activities and cultures while travelling has only been possible because of the advent of technology. Thanks to online bookings, recommendation platforms, and social media awareness, a lot of tourists now insist on trying out unique activities during a holiday. Frequent traveller and a core member of Road Trips Co (a travel community), Deepak Ananth, mentions how travel and technology goes hand-in-hand.
He points out, “There are a whole lot of websites and apps that provide homestay and other such options across different areas which have made it easier for the travellers. Moreover, people can interact with the stay owners to know more about the local culture and some of them also provide local activities. Since mobile network and wifi is available in almost every part of the country, people find it easier and safer to travel. Thereby the idea of engaging with an unknown local person is no more seen as a taboo. There is also an upsurge in road-trips; both guided and non-guided as online navigation through Google maps has made it super easy to travel these days.”
Nowadays, travellers like to show off their experiences to their online peers by sharing photographs on social media. This also motivates others to go for similar local experiences, and it's a trend seen not just in metropolitan cities but also smaller cities and towns in India. Ashish Mishra, who has worked in travel and hospitality for over two decades and is currently working as a director in a travel company, highlights some trends among domestic travellers. “Technology has changed the face of travel drastically; it has also curbed the chances of third party fraud via middlemen and unauthorized agents. Nowadays we can book our own tickets, hotels, and deals without going through a middle man, which makes our itineraries more flexible and unique. Be it heritage walks, adventure activities, a culinary trail or camping under the night sky, they are ready to go all-out. Travellers, these days, are also mindful while travelling and try to support the local culture and food of the respective places without harming the environment.”
The tech-savvy travellers, not only seek opinion about a destination but they also enquire about deals in different kinds of package, choice of tour operators and local activities. Technologies such as AR and VR give them an insightful peek into what a cruise in Malaysia or a Safari in South Africa will actually feel like. Amit Jain, founder of Rising Star Tours and Travels, mentions, “These days, travellers like to eat traditional cuisines, learn the local language, and minutely observe the every day lives of natives. Vacationing has become a kind of ritual for people that go through several phases. First, a traveller feels the urge to travel, usually triggered by a fascinating blog or a friend's travel diary on social media. The next thing he does is research about the destination on the Internet, things to do there, what it costs, etc. Meanwhile, he stumbles upon many tour and travel websites and mobile apps from which he compares different packages, offers, and discounts to finally shortlist one. So, most of the travellers are motivated by the Internet and social media.”...