Imagen | Adapted from OK Apartments
After landing in Bangkok with no plan except a backpack and a free month ahead of her, Maria entered the first cafe she saw with wifi, took out her cell phone and started browsing. She had heard that a city in the north – Chiang Mai, to be exact – was a favorite destination for laid-back backpackers.
After searching Google a few times and putting the hashtag on Instagram to see what people there were saying, it was clear to her what her first destination would be and she took the next step: finding a place to sleep. She looked for “hotels in Chiang Mai”, did a quick comparison of prices and availability and, after deciding, booked directly on the hotel website.
In just over half an hour and thanks to her mobile phone, Maria was able to complete three of the four trip stages, according to experts: she explored content shared by others, planned her destination and made a hotel reservation. Sharing her experience online would be the fourth step.
Incorporating mobile phones into traveling
Maria is one of the thousands of people who have made a phone their must-have travel tool. At the opposite end of the spectrum is her coworker, Javier. So I have a month’s vacation? I’m going to the most remote beach on the planet, with not even a trace of internet, to disconnect. Javier does not want to hear anything about his mobile phone while traveling (although buying tickets and sharing photos upon his return will require an internet connection).
Maria and Javier put a face on a recent report by Adobe on the travel industry. The study analyzes fifteen billion US visits to vacation sites between 2013 and 2015, offering two interesting figures. Though they may appear contradictory, together they allow us to better understand today’s traveler. In 2014 one in five transportation or accommodation bookings was made via a mobile device… but one out of three travelers went to places without internet because they wanted to disconnect.
There are four stages of travel: informing, planning, paying and sharing. With the planning already having been replaced (internet and smartphones have killed guidebooks), the trend seems clear: mobile purchases are the new opportunity. The question is when does it happen: before or during the trip?
The industry players have long wondered what role smartphones and applications play in the process. As we have reported recently, some experts see potential in the “improvement of the user experience and personalized local information”. That is: the destination, content and their interaction.
However, the Adobe study warns about the trend of disconnection. Their recommendation is to optimize social networks (so that users can plan, wherever they are) and have one website that works on all devices (to book, wherever they are). Tamara Gaffney, manager of Adobe Digital Index, remarked “vendors must reconsider their strategies: our advice is that they optimize their social networks and downplay things like search.”
Globally the tourism sector comprises 20% of all online transactions, so it is not surprising that online strategy is given importance, be it before or during the trip. And tourism has always been a remarkable digital student: after coming to the web and revolutionizing the industry, the mobile’s time has come.