The future of travel: young, confident, tech-savvy

Holidays are being made simpler through the application of technology


Yesterday I found myself in the old town of Dubrovnik following a lady with an umbrella. The Pearl of the Adriatic has a complex and often bloody history; its most recent period of turmoil being during the Wars of Independence from 1991-5, when it was badly damaged. So, as we wandered within its mighty sandstone walls, the stream of information from my tour guide was – mostly – extremely helpful. The weather was perfect, so her umbrella remained closed, but it served as a useful point of coalescence for our group of around 30 travel professionals.

Some of us wandered away occasionally, others were left gawping at the gothic and renaissance architecture. Tens of other tour groups, mostly from the Royal Caribbean ship that had just docked in the harbour, mingled around us. But my tour guide never had to raise her voice. In fact she barely spoke above a whisper. How did she manage this? Each of us had been issued with a personal radio tuned to a specific channel. She had a tiny microphone attached to her lapel, so her words were delivered with crystal clarity into my right ear to a distance of about 100m.

It’s a far cry from the tour guides I remember from my childhood, shouting themselves hoarse over a crowd of people, or more recently the appalling innovation whereby the tour guide would broadcast his or her views via a loudspeaker attached to their chest. It’s yet another example of holidays being made better, or more simple, by dint of the application of technology.

Why are we all here in Dubrovnik? Abta – The Travel Association is hosting its annual convention, the 60 in its history. Travel agents and tour operators have converged to discuss the latest trends in travel and how they can be applied to sell the British public more – and better – holidays. Technology is part of that, of course. The herding-them-round approach of my brief tour of Dubrovnik might not be particularly appealing, but it’s part of modern-day travel, and it, like travel in general, is evolving.

Statistically speaking

This year the changing world of technology – apps, social media, smart phones, “big data” - is the dominant theme at the convention. It’s a more optimistic topic than some in recent years, as the industry navigated its way through the financial downturn, brand consolidation and ongoing angst about Air Passenger Duty.

Abta has released chunk of data in its Consumer Holiday Trends Report to accompany the convention. It shows that 96 per cent of us used a PC to book a holiday last year; whereas 11 per cent used a mobile. On the face of it, the statistic on mobile use looks surprising low – and it’s dropped off from last year - until you remember how tedious it is to input data on a phone. According to Victoria Bacon, head of communications at Abta, “The gap appears to have widened between the number of people owning a mobile and tablet devices and those using them to actually purchase a holiday. This suggests that there is an opportunity here for travel business to exploit.” However, until that happens, it seems that the adage about the bigger the cash commitment, the bigger the device used, still applies.

Good to be young?

Guess who’s most likely to book on a mobile phone, though. Yup, the 16-24 demographic. In that case, some of the other statistics produced by Abta might make troubling reading for the travel industry. It’s still the case, apparently, that we’d rather do without sport, clothes, gadgets, home improvement... even eating, than our holidays. Nevertheless, the average number of holidays – both at home and abroad – taken in the 12 months to August 2013 by British people fell slightly compared to the same period in 2012, from 3.5 holidays per year to 3.1. More alarmingly, it’s 16- to 24-year-olds, traditionally the most active holidaymakers, who have made the biggest change to their habits, with one fewer holiday being booked per person in 2013 than in 2012. 

The economic downturn has hit young workers hard – and it’s impossible to book a holiday on your mobile phone or any other device if you don’t have the necessary cash. The need to attract new, younger tourists is a concern that’s long been raised by sectors of the travel industry. Since the beginning of the downturn in 2008, skiing has struggled to bring in fresh new skiers to the slopes; the cruise industry is equally anxious about how to involve the younger market. Abta sounds a note of hope: 16- to 24-year-olds are apparently “cautiously optimistic” about their holiday plans for 2014. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the “Bank of Mum and Dad”: half of 16- to 24-year-olds went on holiday with their immediate family this year.

Can EU do it?

Croatia joined the EU on 1 July this year, a chance to display pearls such as Dubrovnik to a wider tourism market, young or old. The director of the Croatian National Tourist board was certainly keen, saying: “We truly hope that even more UK holidaymakers will be tempted to ... book affordable holidays in our historic cities.” However, given the uncertainties of the eurozone, it’s hardly surprising that on the streets of Dubrovnik they’d still rather we paid with local currency the Kuna, than euros. Chocolate-box tourism might be the life-blood of the city, but with Croatia’s turbulent history, it’s hardly surprising that residents would rather be safe than sorry. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn