In the past, people planned and booked key services – flights, hotels, car rental, limousine services – required for their trip days ahead of time and then during the trip, they looked up local activities, events and tours in guide books and went to the kiosk or event desk to learn more as well as purchase tickets. So the big picture planning and booking was done ahead of time, at the point of ‘inspiration’ for the trip, via online search and booking or working with a travel agent. Then the day-to-day activities were determined and purchased while en-route after the traveler arrived at his destination and could walk up to the kiosk, learn more and make a purchase. This process was accepted and followed by most travelers, not necessarily because it was their natural inclination, but because it wasn’t feasible to do anything different.
Today, new mobile and big data technologies have broken the constraints of the past. Mobile solutions are enabling travelers to make reservations for key destination services, such as hotel rooms via HotelsTonight or booking.com or arrange car services with Uber, during their trips. Meanwhile, these technologies are also enabling travelers to view and book local destination activities and tours, for example with Viator, prior to walking up to the kiosk, while sitting at home or on-the-go. People can search and scan listings of small, family-operated local services on their mobile devices – view photos, read ratings and reviews, check out menus and other details, and make purchases. So now travelers have the ultimate in flexibility – booking any part of their trip, from their hotel room to the 1 hour factory tour they wander through one afternoon, while sitting on their couch prior to packing or while ordering a coffee from a local barista after arriving.
So what will the new trend be? Will the younger generation growing up with mobile devices attached to the hip choose a destination and then make all their travel plans and reservations post-departure? Or will there be no trend because each traveler will follow his own personal preference for planning and booking each component of the trip – what he wants to do ahead of time versus en-route, which may in fact, change from trip to trip? That is, one traveler may choose to buy tickets for a half day fishing guide from a family of local experts prior to departure, and later while waiting for his bags to appear on the baggage carousel, book a room at a local Bed & Breakfast. Meanwhile, another traveler may book a hotel room with a spectacular view of the beach in the same village weeks before departure, and then wander down to the dock upon waking up one morning to request a half day fishing expedition. What will you do?