THE CONNECTED TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
THE CONNECTED TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
By Simone Spilka
Simone Spilka is a staff writer at PSFK, a media and consulting company specializing in trends that inspire readers to live, work and play better. She is the creator of The Constant Wanderings, a digital meeting space for strangers to share enriching travel experiences give us a heightened awareness of the world. Simone aspires to breathe more mindfulness into her life by being aware of her relationship to technology and the people around her. She invites you to join her.
“CONVENIENCE AND EFFICIENCY ARE TOUCHPOINTS CONSUMERS CAN NO LONGER EXIST WITHOUT.”
The location of the hotel was a convenient, ten minute walk from trendy Shoreditch, the neighborhood of London rich with artisan bakeries, independent retailers, hybrid coffee-cum-clothing shops and arthouse cinemas. I just showed up with my suitcase in tow; a PR assistant had booked my accommodation for me. Fifteen minutes at check-in, I handed over my credit card information in exchange for a set of keys and access to (very limited) amenities. Room 147 was dimly lit and sparse. The wifi password didn’t work, and I’d have to make my way downstairs to collect my room service or a spare toothbrush, the operator explained. She mentioned I’d also need to go to the nearest convenience store to purchase a power adapter myself: they’d put a hold on loans for hotel guests. My jetlag and exhaustion increased exponentially with each pressing minute. The juxtaposition of the hotel’s vibrant surroundings to the hotel experience itself left me perplexed. This, I thought, was not the Future of Travel.
"IN ORDER TO EFFECTIVELY MEET THE NEEDS OF A MODERN CONSUMER - TECH-SAVVY, DESIGN-ORIENTED, ON-THE-GO - THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY LOOKS TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR TECHNOLOGY TO EMPOWER GUESTS THROUGHOUT EVERY POINT OF THEIR STAY. ”
While there are obvious instances of technology hindering our travel experiences - capturing photos of a sunset in lieu of savoring the actual sight before us - thoughtful integration of technology is central to an upgraded hospitality experience. As humans continue to embrace new services and apps that offer instant access and personalized everything, hospitality brands must cater to these commonplace expectations. Within travel today, a hotel experience that provides less than the convenience and efficiency we are accustomed to in the on-demand world of Uber feels foreign.
In order to effectively meet the needs of a modern consumer - tech-savvy, design-oriented, on-the-go - the entire industry looks to new opportunities for technology to empower guests throughout every point of their stay. So, how might you design a travel experience that speaks to the mobile guest? By future-proofing every touchpoint from virtual travel agents who help you find the cheapest flights, best hotels and restaurants for your personal palate to city-audio tour apps that reveal hidden stories about people and places around the world.
Starwood Worldwide Hotels & Resorts have launched the keyless room entry, a service that enables guests to bypass the front desk altogether and unlock their hotel room directly from their mobile phone. At Aloft Cupertino and Aloft Sunnyvale, a robotic ‘Botlr’ can navigate guests, use the elevator and deliver amenities.
When a guest requests a toothbrush, housekeeping can load up Botlr and send him to drop off items in an effortless and systematic transaction. These type of upgrades free hotel employees from trivial tasks in order to focus on more meaningful exchanges with the guests.
As technology advances in worlds outside of hospitality, diverse industries are making leaps and bounds for hopeful travelers and enthusiasts alike. Say, for instance, immersive travel in virtual reality. You’re sitting at a hotel bar in San Paulo, sipping a cocktail and simultaneously taking the city’s urban bicycle tour that you couldn’t fit into your day’s itinerary, all by sporting a portable VR headset. Alternatively, an elderly couple who spent their youth abroad and are physically unable to explore as they once did might use virtual reality to join an acclaimed publication on a safari tour in Africa. These virtual travels and powerful instances of virtual storytelling bridge destinations by transporting participants to new locations in real-time.
Travel is a $7 billion industry, with billions more being poured into online travel management, the sharing economy and apps that help you navigate a foreign city exactly like a local. Places that were physically difficult to explore, too expensive to bring the kids along, 10,000 ft below the ocean’s surface have now become feasible points of interest. The lens and opportunities of travel have widened, thanks to the technology that exists to support and fuel it. And new content that technology enables, real or virtual, provides context to our world and powers the travel memories we create and share. These “experiments” in technology and travel are no longer experiments; we ourselves are shaping the Future of Travel as we demand to experience it. //