Traveling with Passion, Dignity and Security: Travel Tech Under the Scope

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Travel is a lifestyle, an escape and passion for millions of people and the current age of constant technological development brought about a new trend into the business: travel technology that makes the experience so much more desirable and enjoyable. Whether it be reserving a nice spot at a prestigious hotel through a smartphone app or visiting a website to get an Indian visa online, travel technology is becoming more important for global tourists on their path to perfect satisfaction squeezed in between a couple of weeks or months, away from life’s dictations and distractions. The digital transformation of travel business most definitely benefits from technological developments in the field on its pursuit of transforming the clueless traveler into a master of research, profit and efficiency. As more travelers enjoy the benefits of using such technologies, the market seems to be flourishing with new ideas and projects that will not only renovate the given technological paradigm in the years to come but also increase competition among rivalling firms to produce better products and services for the sake of the customer and the market alike.

In the old days, travel agencies had loyal customers who relied on them for everything related to their plans and experiences, while today, the introduction of digital tools and technologies created ‘the online traveler’ who does everything on the World Wide Web. One of the primary advantages of using online systems for travel needs is the ‘experience economy’, with 95% of all leisure travelers reading an average of seven reviews before reaching a decision regarding their plans. In today’s world, 27% of all bookings are made through online systems, which shows how the customers direly demand online information to make travel plans. The introduction of ‘Big Data’ into the game has given birth to the ‘Demand-side Platform’ method that allows customers to access a multitude of advertisements and offers through a single interface. The accumulated user data enables marketers to identify customer types and preferences with ease to provide the best deals to them and increase their companies’ sales. Stella Artois has recently released a new app that lets its user locate the nearest bars serving their beer, which is a great idea to promote sales. Timing has become more important than ever in the battle for the highest sales of tickets and packages to travelers, as travel brands spend more time focusing on seasonal realities to attract customer attention. The app, ‘Weather Sync’ for example, enables its users to choose between different scenarios for leisure according to weather  conditions, making it possible for them to make the most out of their time at a touristic site, saving them from dissatisfaction and disappointment due to unforeseen weather events.

The millennials are a fascinating group of global youngster who have made it a necessity for themselves to integrate high technology into every aspect of their lives and travel is no exception. Jeff Fromm of Forbes Magazine has interviewed Michel Karam, CEO of müvTravel, an online travelling platform, to understand how the company is designing its travel-planning platform to target such millennials and understand the changes and challenges facing the travel industry in today’s world. Karam believes that sustainability and personalization are key factors for success in the given paradigm. The first issue is important because local authorities “are looking for ways to limit the impact that the increased influx of tourists may have on the environment, heritage sites and local populations,” leading the millennials to take advantage of seasonal opportunities. The second issue is important because millennials are specifically interested in certain locations, activities and experiences that lead them to plan their travels by relying on personal recommendations and information found on various websites and online services. Millennials are also quite spontaneous in their pursuits of making the best travel plans and thus utilize high levels of social media and online services such as Airbnb to reach decisions. Google Maps, as an example, is a definite favorite for such youngsters on their quests to have a great time in safety and welfare. Online booking systems and price comparators help such millennials save time and money while companies such as Uber definitely help them on a local scale, saving them from the troubles of finding a trustworthy driver at a reasonable price.

Given the global nature of travel in today’s world, airliners are under a significant amount of pressure to provide the most desirable services to their customers. Integrating technology into their services is a necessity for such companies and a recent travel report by Traveloka reveals important findings about the issue. The company compared best 50 airliners “in terms of Wi-Fi speed and cost, power outlet availability, in-flight entertainment and access to text messaging and phone calls” to find out that Qatar Airways is the most technologically advanced company in the game today. Most fliers have a demand of staying connected during their flight, which has initiated Qatar Airways to integrate ‘Super Wi-Fi’ systems into their planes, offering internet access at 50 Mbps to their customers. In a similar vein, Emirates provides TV access including “3,500 channels of movies, TV shows, music and games,” as well as “20MB of free Wi-Fi to be used within two hours.” The US based Delta Airlines also offers free access to mobile applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage while also providing all-day Wi-Fi access for as low as $16. Qatar Airways, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways and Virgin Atlantic provide Live TV to their customers while also providing them with the necessary infrastructure “to make phone calls and send text messages” to keep them connected to the world on their ways to different destinations.

Numerous travelers fly on airplanes with laptops and other crucial portable technological devices for business related and personal needs but following the recent incidents of global terrorism, certain airliners have been banned from allowing their customers from carrying such devices on board. Emirates, Etihad Airlines and Turkish Airlines (THY) were both on the list of such airliners but luckily, both airliners have been removed from such a list as their fliers are rejoiced after hearing the good news. Currently, the UK is still not accepting such technological devices belonging to the mentioned airliners’ passengers while the THY CEO Bilal Eksi believes that such a ban will be lifted soon as well. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has named 10 specific Middle Eastern airports as possible sources of terrorist travel and thus necessitated that such devices will not be brought on board accompanying any passenger regardless of status, occupation or intention. With the addition of the Trump Administration’s travel ban for Muslims, the issue became mainstream again while US airliners flying from such destinations were exempted from such a ban. Interestingly, UK airliners are also subjected to the same policies as their Middle Eastern peers. The paranoia in the States became so widespread that DHS necessitated that European airliners would be subjected to the same policy, later reducing the regulation to “improved screening equipment [and] better explosives-detecting dogs.” Soon, Saudi Arabian Airlines is expected to be exempted from the laptop ban regarding its flights to the US.

Privacy is also a measure of security for travelers and the recent discovery of a hidden camera by a Carnival Cruise passenger during the family’s getaway in 2017 raised significant controversy. Chris White, the passenger of complaint, states that he and his family are extremely disappointed at the fact that Carnival never apologized for the incident, even though they acknowledged it. While having an allergy attack, White moved the TV “to inspect dust” and discovered a small secret camera “sticking out from the wires… with its lens pointing directly at the bed,” while also discovering an antenna broadcasting the live feed to unknown receivers. An officer from the ship’s security team arrived at the scene and tried to convince the family that the camera was not in working condition, claiming that it was left behind by a recent guest, while White stresses the fact that the machine was covered in dust and was in working condition. White also believes that the security staff acted extremely unprofessional regarding the incident, collecting no evidence or securing the room against possible interference. He stated that it was him who reached out to the FBI regarding the incident and not the team, voicing his concerns over the team’s real intentions. Carnival on the other hand insists that the camera was dysfunctional and the security team “conducted a “full investigation” in accordance with U.S. authorities” and notified “U.S. law enforcement, including the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and local police, when the ship arrived in Mobile following the cruise.”

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