Once, we were skeptical about booking flights online. Now, an entire generation will find it hard to remember how we bought plane tickets before the Internet. In fact, about 1 out of every 2 Singapore Internet users does online research and book their ticket on the Internet for travel, the highest figure in Southeast Asia according to TechInAsia.
The booming travel industry has been irreversibly transformed by the internet, and we’ve moved way past understanding how technology makes travel booking more convenient. The buzzword of the day is Wi-Fi — once we’re disconnected, we’re lost.
Being connected while travelling is more important than ever. According to a Huffington Post article dated in 2014, 60% of people can’t go without Wi-Fi for more than a day, and when booking hotels, 94% of people cite Wi-Fi as the most important amenity. 38% of people cite Wi-Fi as a deal-breaker when booking hotels, and would rather book elsewhere.
But being connected extends beyond FOMO — it also transforms our fundamental travel habits. Here are the biggest changes to the way we travel.
Before: Wish You Were Here postcards | After: Instagram update
The geotagging craze that first began with the virality of FourSquare has been continued with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The latter’s location-specific filters can only be unlocked when you’re in that very country, and how often have you felt absolute jealousy over someone checking in to a great restaurant in Phuket? Travel-specific features are the new “wish you were here” postcard, except those beach-front photos now say “you know I’m having so much more fun than you now”.
Before: Map and Compass | After: Google Maps
You’d be hard-pressed to find a tourist pouring over a map on the streets when there’s a more discreet option in apps like Google Maps and Citymapper. Pulling out a map staring at it in the middle of the street is like plastering the word tourist on your forehead, making you a prime target for pickpockets and scam artists. With map apps, it’s impossible to tell one phone-checking streetwalker from the next.
Before: Michelin Guide | After: TripAdvisor
Not many know this, but the Michelin star system that is now the top accolade for any restaurant began with the Michelin guide, a free booklet given to motorists by the tire manufacturing company Michelin. The booklet contained useful information like maps and lists of car mechanics, hotels, and petrol stations, in case motorists ran into any trouble while on the road. This eventually expanded to include restaurants in the express desire to help travelers get the information they need. A century after the first Michelin guide was published, we see this same concept in apps like TripAdvisor and Foodspotting, that are regularly updated with crowd-sourced reviews for any restaurant, tourist attractions, and accomodations.
Before: Bus tours | After: Uber
Getting around used to be the most cumbersome thing. We’d either rely heavily on tour groups and tourist buses, or risk our safety and awkwardly approach a local to ask how to take public transport. Now, we can finally forgo bus tours and plan our own trips without having to rely on a travel company to keep us safe. Instead, we can trust that most established cities have their own public transport app to help us navigate. If not, there’s always Uber.
Before: Folders of tickets, brochures, and booking information
Now: Google Docs/Evernote
Remember when you used to print all your bookings and tickets and put them into a huge folder? Before that, you had to write down booking details that you made on the phone, and have to manually organize all your important documents or risk getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Now, all the information you need can go into cloud storage apps like Evernote and Google Docs that you can access through your phone or any desktop. All you need is wifi and your password.
If anything, wifi makes it easier to be free-spirited and relaxed traveler. Check out any travel site, magazine, or blog, and you can be sure technology and wifi access will always be a staple in any travel plan. Now portable wifi routers, like the one available at Changi Recommends’, are the main talk of the town. Being able to stay connected from the moment you touch down in a foreign country to the minute you take off for home helps smooth any creases that you may face while travelling. You could make a conscious effort to go wifi-less, of course, but that comes with the hassle and stress that you could otherwise delegate to your handheld companion and a well-used Wi-Fi router.
Get lost? Never again.
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This article is done in collaboration with Changi Recommends.