Remember the days when Michael Palin lead the way to the next big destination? Remember when the travel brochures – the dog-eared travel brochures – in the agencies in the mall would have been your inspiration? Remember when word of mouth told tales of blowouts under the full moon light on secluded beaches on the sands of Thailand? No? Good. Us neither.
The truth is, those days are long gone. They have been for almost a whole generation. And while the wavy-haired digeridoo players and self-proclaimed yogis on a mission of self-discovery will continue to wax lyrical about the long-lost age when travel was "authentic" and "real", we actually quite like the way things have developed in the last couple of decades.
For starters, there are more people traveling the globe now than ever before. Where once you'd catch the odd Englishman, often half-drunk over beers in a dingy Bangkok bar, nostalgic about his colonial roots, you can now meet and mingle with people from a kaleidoscope of destinations and backgrounds: Canadian college-goers; fresh-out-of-school gap yearers from the US; Asian adventure travelers; Belgian beer aficionados. You get the idea.
So, that's one good thing about the way globetrotting has gone in the modern era. Want another? The internet! That's a doozy of a reply for oodles of reasons. As the travel sector has embraced the cyber-sphere, its metamorphosed into something totally anew. It's brought new destinations and new ways of doing things to the fore. It's manufactured cutting-edge travel tech and applications that are revolutionizing the way backpackers go about their adventures. It's given rise to a plethora of exciting new booking tools and flight searches and tour aggregators. It really is the NWO of the wanderlust world.
Here are just some examples why you should let the internet be your travel guide in 2018 and beyond….
It's Like A Nuclear Reactor For Travel Inspiration
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, people would head to the local travel agency and pick up glossy magazines with reams of photos of beaches and hotels inside. They'd pick the page they liked the most, trot over to someone behind a desk, make a few phone calls, transfer their money, and stroll on back home looking forward to their week on the Costa del Sol or Caribbean Coast.
What's the problem, you might ask? The problem is in what's missing from the equation. 195 countries in the world (at least at the time of writing – I'm looking at you Catalonia and Scotland!) and there's only a couple of old travel brochures filled with popular vacation options. Pleeeaaaassse. This Earth of ours deserves more, don't you think?
What about trekking through the mud fields of Sa Pa to see the misty heights of Vietnam's northern karsts? What about meeting resplendent quetzals in the cloud forests of Panama? What about surfing on the gnarly waves of Costa Rica's Pacific coast? What about wandering between golden Buddha statues in Thailand? You can see where we're going with this…
The point here is that no travel brochure could ever offer the same level of possibilities that the internet can and does. Just a couple of clicks on Instagram and you could be gawping at glowing lagoons in the tropics. Just a few Pinterest pages down and you could have already been on a visual odyssey through the Greek Aegean. It's not bad – it's good! Hands off naysayers!
It Will Show You Destinations You Never Even Knew Existed
Don't worry, you don't have to nod and pretend you know where Timbuktu actually is if it's just you and a computer in the room. That's the beauty of finding out new destinations courtesy of the interwebs. No embarrassment; only travel inspiration.
It's not the only beauty of it, though. With thousands – hundreds of thousands – of outlets across the internet for bloggers and writers and photographers to share their recommendations for destinations around the globe, there's certainly no shortage of source material to draw from when you go hunting for that next destination on the net.
Talking of which, you don't even need to go hunting for it these days. The internet can bring it straight to your iPad or smartphone screen. The rise of the so-called social influencer in the online travel sector has seen to that. People now actually vie for your attention with ads, sponsored posts, hash-tagged images, guest blogs, and a whole medley of other things, all just to have the pleasure of revealing that secret new destination before everyone else (and perhaps a little revenue of their own along the way).
A hidden island off the Panamanian coast? Don't mind if I do.
It Could Show You Travel That's Tailor-Made For You
You know those long reams of small print that start with the bold, black-and-white title 'Terms and Conditions', right? Of course you do. You must have read plenty of them, just like everyone else. I mean, we all pore meticulously over each paragraph within, just to know EXACTLY what it is we're getting into when we finally scroll down and click accept. Don't we? Ahem.
Yea, anyway, there's usually something in those about the use of your personal data and the like. Let's focus on that a moment because it could just be single most influential feature of the travel-cyberspace fusion in the coming decades. It could be the thing that knows where you want to go even before you decide you actually want to go there! Spooky, eh?
Not really. It's just the intuitive way that some people envisage the travel industry going in the next few years. The premise is quite easy to digest: You make a big-data cocktail of all your likes on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, [add social media ad infinitum], whizz it up with your past travel history, some online bucket list somewhere, info on the ads you've clicked and items you've purchased, and hey presto – you could have an artificial intelligence that can tailor-make trips, suggest destinations, or direct you to tour organizers that should suit your character PERFECTLY.
It Will Get You Cheaper Travel Deals Than Ever Before
With estimated growth of digital travel sales set to continue on at a pace of between 8%-14% until at least 2020, the rise of the internet as the next big travel agency seems certain. But is it value for money? Are purchases made online really getting you the bang for the buck that so many veterans of the system say they are?
They are, and here's why…Travel tour providers online have gradually been adopting a business model that has let clothes giants like ASOS and computer giants like DELL before them transfer lower costs to customers. It all depends on totally abandoning physical storefronts in favor of digital space. The idea was that by putting information only online, it would be easier to reach targeted audiences, potential globetrotters could research and book simultaneously using the internet, and you’d save money on plush sofas, heating, travel brochures – you know, all the stuff Millennials never really cared about anyway.
Newsflash: It's worked. How else could mobile booking sites be up 1,700% in just four years, or the online travel sector be topping out at a worth of more than $162.4 billion annually?
There's more though. There's more because some clever folk have also spotted the potential of big data over the internet. Using huge amounts – and we're talking in the billions now – of data sets from all across the web, portals can now reveal trends and tricks that will help you bag everything from the cheapest flights to the best-rated hotels for less.
It's possible to pinpoint things to an almost ridiculous degree of statistical accuracy – think conclusions like "it's best to book your flight to Bangkok at 2pm on a Tuesday". Or you can just make use of handy generalized trends that reveal the cheapest seasons, the cheapest airlines, the cheapest departure days, and countless other tit bits.
It Will Ensure The Quality Of Your Travel
Last but certainly not least comes one of the most important reasons that it's a good idea to start using the internet as your travel guide in the coming years. It's all got to do with the quality of your travel. It's something, if you believe the stats, that young folk care about intensely. Poor on money but rich on time, it means plenty to them that those experiences that are paid for are 100% worth it.
For globetrotters like that, only an online travel sector that's obsessed with offering rich, raw, real experiences will do. Catering to Millennials who don't just want another run-of-the-mill tour through the Mekong Delta or the Thai islands means offering something truly unique and nuanced. It means offering something that will leave them gasping for more and seething with memories they will never forget.
We're passionate about this bit because it's not only what we try to offer our travelers but also something we've been saying for years – you know, life BEFORE work and all that. Anyway, it's also true: Stats show that a majority of young people (62% in the US) now value authentic experiences of a place on their travels. No more fair-ground like elephant rides and tourist beaches in the Med then, eh?
There's also another side to the quality aspect of online travel booking. Consider the fact that a whopping 52% of young travelers now consult a review website before purchasing anything online. More than 60% will get in touch with travel agencies or industry experts over the internet to ask their opinion. People traveling for leisure will sometimes read more than seven reviews on average before they click the 'buy now' button.
The upshot is that there's never been a better way to check the quality of the tour or flight or hotel you're thinking about bagging for that next trip. It's no longer about throwing caution to the wind and trusting the travel agent. You can go out, browse the web, and discover it all for yourself.
We love it that the internet is going to be the next big travel guide. Of course we do, what with our online range of tours and whatnot. But that's not the only reason. We also love it because we think it will make more people hit the road in the coming decades, and help others experience our awesome philosophy of life before work!
"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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