Social Media,Tourism and the Future

John Hope-Johnstone

Hola, Last week I revisited a book I wrote in 2009 entitled “How to Market Tourism in the 21st Century.”  It is now being used as required reading for several University Hospitality and Tourism programs. (You can still buy it on, shameless plug).  In the last chapter of the book I take a glimpse into the future of tourism to the year 2015, which is not very far. Nearly all the mix of Internet and social media activities are being used right now,  in bits and pieces but not connected, so this glimpse is not so far fetched as it may seem.

A Visit with the Jetson Family in 2015: (All of the technology described here is presently either in use or in beta test.)

Mother Jetson’s family came from southern Italy and she has always wanted to visit the town in which her mother was born.  The Jetson’s “experiential application” keeps a constant eye on the Internet along with an eye on the Jetson’s purchases, searches, hobbies etc. By setting the filter to vacation/Italy the app is able to hone a vast amount of knowledge management tools to help with their vacation planning. The Semantic Web is slowly taking root in 2015. As one of its activities the EA chooses five short travel films for them to view.

Because of the changeover in television to digital back in 2009, the Travel Channel can now be delivered “on demand,” and the Jetson family’s app has alerted them to the time their private viewing of some Italian travel films will begin. Like most families in 2015,  price of travel is still an issue for the Jetson family, it still the era of frugality and they have certain criteria:

According to Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates, more than 90 percent of travel agents working out of hundreds of the company’s offices say they’re seeing customer cutbacks in travel. Agents also say nearly half of travelers are booking their 2015 trips later than in previous years to take advantage of last-minute deals and other concessions. Here are the five ways leisure travelers are saving money, according to the survey:

  1. Flexible travel dates 75.7%
  2. Using all-inclusive resort packages 71.0%
  3. Using frequent flyers miles 63.5%
  4. Taking a cruise 56.3%
  5. Booking only if a promotion or deal is offered 50.9%

(Published: 13 Feb 2009)

A travel film, sponsored by ENIT, the Italian Government Tourist Board begins. The top right hand square of their TV screen also acts as a computer screen, thanks to their Microsoft interconnect software, and using their remote as a mouse they are able to click on a link that takes them to the Destination Marketing Organization’s Web site for the little town, Taranto in southern Italy, where they want to stay.

The Taranto Destination Marketing Organization’s (DMO) Web site has an app that links to the Jetson’s app and downloads all the Jetson’s likes and dislikes that the Jetsons allow for public viewing; it also asks for some basic trip information from the Jetson familia, like when might they be arriving, what kind of things do they usually like to do. What kind of sites do they like to see, and what are their favorite foods in Italy. What is their email and what is their cell phone number for text messages or twitter.

A pop-up at the end of this form tells the Jetsons that their personalized e-brochure of the area and trip planner has just been prepared especially for them and with a click of the remote the TV’s wireless printer in the upstairs home office prints out their tailored destination guide, printed with the title page “For the Jetsons Traveling to Beautiful Taranto, Italy.”

A search of a consumer generated content (CGC) site, gives them an idea of which lodging and area of town would suit them the best, and a double check of some blogs supports their decision. Social media is not the exclusive domain of the young in 2015. EyeforTravel research (2009), shows when it comes to user-generated content, age isn’t a boundary. Roughly as many customer reviews are read by young and old alike with 54% of 18-34 year olds having read customer reviews in the last 30 days, compared with 58% of 35-49 year olds and 57% of 50-64 year olds.

Jetson Jr. is on his social networking app on his smart phone. His app has searched his entire social media contacts and their contacts and found some families with children his age, who like to do similar activities in the little Italian port town and he has started to ask them to be his friends. He has also has written on his new friend’s “wall” to see if there is a lot to do for a teenager of 14.

In contrast, when it comes to social networking sites, like Facebook, there is a definite discrepancy in the age of regular users. EyeforTravel found that 70% of the 18-34 age group have used social networking sites in the last 30 days, compared to only with 35% of 35-49 year olds and 12% of 50-64 year olds.

Using Meta Search engines and aggregators, the Jetsons check the comparative flight costs of different airlines to Italy. Once the meta search engines have provided what seems to be the best cost, Mrs. Jetson insists that they go straight to the airline site itself. This proves that the airline can match the aggregators, and with a swipe of the credit card through the remote credit card fixture on the remote, and a few other key in functions, the reservation is made and a confirmation is sent to the wireless printer upstairs in the home office, and their e-tickets are printed out (not that they are really necessary).

An email is also sent from the airline indicating that if Mr. Jetson wished, his carbon offset for the trip would be about 370 points or $37 and can be paid directly to the airline, which will send it off to the offset company for investment in an alternative energy or reforestation plan of his choice. A confirmation is sent by the offset company when payment is received. Five percent of carbon dioxide emissions in 2015 come from tourism and the United Nations has demanded that tourism must adapt rapidly to curb them.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change and that could climb to 5% by 2050.

The mix of airline exhaust gases including unburned hydrobarbons, particulates, sulfates, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide produce clouds that have two to three times the warming effect of carbon dioxide alone (MIT). This research was started after it was noted that clouds had reduced their greenhouse effect by up to 5% during the week after 9/11 when fewer planes were flying.

Luckily, the aircraft the Jetsons will be flying on is powered by the new fuel blend using the Fischer-Tropsch method which can create fuel from any carbon based materials. This has helped to stabilize fuel costs for the airline community of which the gas to liquid (GTL ) is the most popular and has a cleaner burn than regular jet fuel. Testing was starting on this jet fuel by the U.S. Air Force in the 1990s

With their carbon offset established, it’s time for a communications check, and the Jetsons make sure that all their cell phones will be unlocked for Italy, so communication with the rest of the family can be continued.

Mr Jetson will NOT be taking the almost obsolete laptop so often used in the early 2000s by business travelers. Laptops have fallen out of favor even for business travelers and nearly all email communication, PowerPoint presentations, etc. are made from smaller and more convenient cell phones and cell phone watches. Just look around today during breaks at conferences and see how many people are on laptops checking their email vs. checking email via cell phones.

Mobile Internet extends the audience reach of properly designed Web sites by 13% over PC traffic alone. Mobile devices outsell computers twenty to one. Mobile web browsing is growing 30% per year, and people are moving from online to on-demand information found on the mobile Internet.

About two weeks prior to departure, an email is received by the Jetsons informing them of event updates by the local Taranto DMO and also by ENID the Italian Travel Bureau.

Jeston Jr., has made quite a few new friends in Taranto on his social networking sites, so has his sister, Mary Jetson, and they are excited about meeting their new friends.

On the flight to Rome, the Jetson’s share downloaded podcasts on their MP3 players that tell about the area they are going to and its history and adventures they can have. Their excitement is almost palpable.

The Jetsons step off the plane in Taranto from Rome and when Mr Jetson turns on his cell phone the GPS unit alerts the local DMO that they have arrived, and Mr. Jetson’s text ring goes off; he is informed of a special car deal just for them if they show the car rental agency the number on the cell phone screen. There is also a happy hour at their hotel and a special on a boat tour the next day (not too early). This all comes from the local DMO.

Jetson Jr and Mary are thrilled that there are four people their own age with their parents with signs saying “Benvenuto Jetsons” waiting for them at the local airport.

Translation is not much of a problem as the family has The Talking 14 Language Portable Translator. This is the portable device that articulates 32,200 phrases and 280,000 words into any one of 14 languages. At the touch of a button, they can access translations for pre-programmed words or travel phrases. These cover most emergencies, and the family has also been taking on-line Italian classes.

After they settle into their hotel and attend the happy hour they were informed about on their cell phone, Jetson Sr. and Mother Jetson, secure that the teenage Jetson’s are in good hands, decide to have a nice romantic dinner.

They ask at the front desk and get the name of a local restaurant within walking distance. This seems easier to find than it really is, and within a few minutes of tiny alleys and many steps, the Jetsons are lost. Mrs Jetson pulls out her cell phone and Google’s the name of the restaurant, and the GPS creates a map showing exactly where they are standing and where the restaurant is located, only a few hundred confusing steps away.

After dinner, Jetsons, senior, are able to locate their offspring by their cell phone’s GPS tracking system and realize that they are back at the hotel waiting for them.

On their first full day at their lovely Italian resort town, the Jetson’s receive an email from the DMO director welcoming them and making a few other suggestions to add to their destination guide and also inviting them to come down to the Visitor Center to pick up their free MP3 audio tour of the city and a free family photo. When they visit the DMO, the Jetsons inquire about “Voluntourism” opportunities since they like to do one day of volunteering every time they travel.

On the last day of their visit (as entered into the DMO Web site when they ordered their Visitor’s Guide), the Jetsons are texted a link to a survey (short and simple) and also are asked if they would like their number kept active. If they mark on, the number will be erased the day after they arrive home with a photo taken at the visitor center and a thank you for visiting.

Father Jetson is very excited about using his Nikon Coolpix P6000; the latest feature for digital cameras: built-in GPS. His camera records the exact GPS location of every picture, so he can post and geo-tag his snapshots on Google Earth. Also taking photo-sharing to the next level, Microsoft’s cutting-edge Photosynth can stitch together photo collections to create navigable virtual realities. Imagine: your travel pictures can be part of the collective memory.

The Jetson children are still crazily texting their Italian friends. Texting has become the language of friendship and love in 2015. Twenty-eight percent of texters, ages 18 to 55 who are single and actively dating, indicate that they text at least three times a day with a significant other or spouse. What’s more, 67% have used text messaging to “flirt.”

The advantage of texting and its popularity is simple. You connect more often says AT&T’s dating expert Nicole Beland, “Even if you are both busy, you can still strengthen your bond by touching base several times a day via text.” It is THE social media of 2015.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the future of travel. Please give me any suggestions or comments about the future of tourism that you predict. More on Social Media and Tourism next week. Cheers.


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