With vacation soon within reach, one starts to reflect upon ‘travel experiences’. In the hay days being youngster and backpacker late 80′s and early 90′s, before the omnipresent “Net” you travelled the world with pocket travel guides, and the serendipity of meeting new friends along the road. Yellow notes in youthostels told you true storytelling from travel-companions, cues on what goes and what sucks… Go with the flow, and enjoy!
Since the event of the web in mid nitties, we have never seen so much content and web services dealing with travel/tourism experiences: both business travel, and true leisure. Virtual travel, is something my son (six years old), enjoys in his mind boggling journeys using GoogleMaps and GoogleEarth ;-)
Dad, lets visit the Grand Canyon again before departing to Münich to glanze at ‘his’ cousins house….
What strikes me and others[swedish] is the lack of simplicity when being in pre-travel modality. You have a hunch or a gut feeling on what you are getting at, but fail to be on spot. Almost every travel site or booking site on the web use the very same trope: Business Travel! You know when you are about to depart; where you are going to have your meetings and when you are about to travel to your home sweet home. While being in travel mode you might even use some spare time to recreation? events or whathaveyou. Best Practice amongst the travel & tourism business community, have picked up some early on success stories from business travel sites, and the road have eroded ever since…. For us being in leisure less well planned travel mode. This state of affairs don’t match at all. A ‘Human Companion’, that guides you please? and you reach for the phone to call the travel-agent instead. The problem with the agent, is that he or she have to cope with the very same difficult end-user experience, and in many cases even worse ‘terminal based’ access to pre-Dinosaur relics, while keeping you in the conversation to make the reservation. The incentive! And not to mention, she/he only give you the experiences she has an incentive to book. No kidding ;-)
Simple everyday scenario (me and my beloved wife in conversation about possible nice places to pay a visit):
wife: wouldn’t it be nice go to some warm place in the autumn?
husband: huh! (trying to evaluate the cost benefit analysis of continuing the dialog, having ‘credit crunch’ news stories crispy and clear in mind and with sanity check to the family expenses)
wife: can’t you find a set of ‘affordable travel experiences’ to pick from ( somewhere, in a undefined timesphere? being rainy season here in Sweden)
husband: well I could try Google….(after hours trying different travel portals, and booking sites, he fails to please the wife and her less well defined question to get a nice vacation)
Why don’t we add a ‘smart’ decision support system to help us? It is not information overload, it is filter failure!
The data about world travel, bookings and statistics are all there in the cloud, in conjunction with the ‘storytelling’ from the social media. Heureka, WolframAlpha might be the future solution to our quest? If mathematica have the ability to answer simple questions like ‘San Francisco to Tokyo‘ with simplicity, why on earth not make an investment to infuse all travel and tourism (pre-dinosaur) information systems with brilliant algoritms to compute the question raised from my beloved wife above…..
In pre-booking mode you only need rough guides to what fit for purpose, and when different travel destinations would suite your vacational dream, romatic weekend or whatever you are looking for. If you also added ‘the stream‘ to get the ‘collective mind‘ as your travel companion, boosted with a similar end-user experience as WolframAlpha, combined with GoogleEarth (virtual travel)?! To develop this master travel experience, the travel and tourism industry need to embrace ‘open innovation‘ and release their internal data, work coherently and networked with service providers like WolframAlpha to unleash the beast. In the best of world we would see a change towards simplicity and ease-of-use, where each and every node in the network worked with great interoperability (sharing data) and use similar services.
When being in transactional mode, doing the actual booking: the scenario is pretty much straight forward eCommerce, but there are options to add temporal and contextual experiences from the Net. Similar to Amazon and the world famous cross-linking. Bare in mind, this would best be rendered in a ‘sites network ecology’, not ‘a site’ tinkering.
When you finally do travel and enjoy the treasures of the world of tourism ‘the stream’ will feed you with temporal, spatial and timely triggers to your mobile ubicomp devices. I wrote about similar scenarios in earlier research papers, with the case story for VisitSweden and now the social media extention CommunityofSweden (both being award winners).
If we don’t get killed by the stream I hope that Steven D. Levitt will develop some comprehendible Freakonomics story to make-do to convince the travel and tourism industry to behave more like our travel companion. I wish you all joyful journeys going forward.