How the Internet Will Change Travel

By Nomadic Matt | Published November 24th, 2008

internet cafeBlogs. Message Boards. Online maps. Couchsurfing. Online booking. Homeaway. Twitter. It seems you can do everything on the web nowadays. With all the travel plans you can make online, it’s no wonder that many people say the future of travel is on the Internet. While these services and tools have not completely changed how people travel (just mostly), as more people get wired, they will. The groundwork has already been laid. Nowadays, the majority of people look online for travel information before they head to buy a guidebook.

For starters, look at the broader picture. Internet connectivity and speed is drastically increasing. Singapore has country-wide Wi-Fi, and broadband providers around the world are increasing their connection speed all the time. Everywhere you go now seems to be a Wi-Fi hot spot. Many cities in the U.S. now offer Wi-Fi. Every cafe in the world seems to offer Wi-Fi. Even in less developed countries, connectivity is increasing and you can scarcely walk five feet without tripping over an Internet café. Though the majority of the world’s citizens may not have Internet at home, they can get access to it relatively easily. And, with the rise of smart phones, it becomes even easier.

Furthermore, companies continue to increase their Web profiles as more people use the Internet for information, business, and maintaining social relationships. Many of the most savvy companies already use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to advertise and keep consumers aware of developments. Kids, who are increasingly more Web-savvy than their elders, use the Web for everything. These social networking and media services are vital for them to get information. They have already made Google a verb. It’s the first place they go when they want to find something.

People already use the Internet for travel. We book flights and hotels online, meet other travelers online, stay in touch via blogs, and find information via Google and community forums. This trend will only continue. It’s easy, convenient, and more practical for finding deals and getting information.

surfing the web More and more companies are realizing the world is going wired. They are looking to increase their Web presence and use of social media to reach these future travelers and consumers. Travel guides are already available for download in PDF format, and most companies let you pick and pay for the chapters you want instead of buying the whole book. While many of the writers interviewed for this site don’t see the death of print media yet, it’s not far off. Why lug a guidebook around when you can simply download it or the section you want? Offbeat Guides already lets you customize your guidebook and then will print and ship it to you.

What will really facilitate this process is the growth of mobile Internet technology. As the iPhone and its copycats become increasingly utilized and companies create applications for them, services are going to be increasingly digitized. Wi-Fi will mean constant Internet access – and therefore constant access to the information you need on the road. Every company has an app these days, and guidebooks are increasingly available as PDFs or little apps you can have on your phone – even when you don’t have an Internet connection. Soon you’ll be able to look up any place or piece of information you need via your mobile device. Google already has great maps available for these devices and is only making them better.

The groundwork for a digital revolution in travel is already there. Services already exist to connect you with travelers, book hotels and flights, get destination information, read reviews, find things to do, and locate the best deals. The majority of all these services are free, too. Yet the revolution will not get fully under way until mobile technology gets better and a critical mass of people begin to use it. There is already a very savvy group of people out there, but they remain a tiny portion of existing travelers.

However, as young people, accustomed to doing everything online, grow up and start to travel, this digital travel revolution will mushroom from a spark to a wildfire. Pretty soon, all the information we get will be in digital form.

comments 13 Comments

We’ve seen this development coming for some time, but I hope, I really hope, that people will still be reading printed guidebooks 50 years from now.

Yes, internet is the future.
I always prefer to search for something in internet. The web has plenty of resources but you should know where you have to search, it is like a treasure hunt, sometime you could really find some bargain!!
In regards to travel information I personally prefer blogs where information are honest without any lucrative meaning.

Evan Kubitschek

Definitely agree with this, whenever I’m looking into travel destinations Wikitravel and Thorntree are my go to sites for information. Guide books are great but they can’t keep up with sites that are constantly updated and maintained by the most informed travelers out there.

How did people even travel before the Internet? I barely remember what it was like to have a big, paper ticket that you had to bring with you to the airport!

Then again, there is something romantic about traveling without any connection to the world back home or any idea of what you’re really getting yourself into.

with google maps and subway maps etc – available on your mobile – especially with iPhone where the screen is crisp and you can download a book – paper books are history

Nice article. I think guidebooks will evolve, but not die. The problem is that they are researched and printed perhaps a year later. As we know places can change so quickly in that time. Also a listing in LP can have a negative impact on a business as owners get lazy, standards drop or they sell the business on the back of an LP listing.

If I have the time I try to research accommodation on the net as like to stay in places that have free wifi.

NomadicMatt

It appears I’m not alone in thinking the internet is the future.

@Quickroute- I don’t think paper books will ever die. I think Erica is right and they will still be around but I think only a small minority of the population will use them.

@Tanya: I have no idea. I don’t know where I would be without the internet. Then again, I use it for everything. I’m way to plugged in!

Dig the new banner up top.

bang on ..the blogs are an indication of how travellers and tourists use the net to plan their trips..I have just had a meeting with a travel company that wants to set up their own travel blog on the lines of a travel magazine..I do think internet will be the future

Well thought out. I think everyone uses the net to reserach anything they do with travel. Like some commentators, I still think guide books (and books in general) will survive but who knows what form they’ll take in 20 years. I am sure that LP and Rough Guides et al are thinking very carefully about how to present and sell their travel research and efforts in the years to come.

C K

Exactly. I cannot imagine how I’ll get to travel without the internet.

These days, before I make a trip, I’ll scour the net (wikipedia and lonely planet) for information on destinations, make the booking for air travel and accommodation in LastMinute.com after comparing deals on a couple of websites and then use Google Map to map out my route.

How am I supposed to do that without the Net?

Interesting topic – I’ve written n the same topic – and argue both for and against guidebooks. What I think is sad that we are possibly close to not being able to get lost in places like Singapore because of things like iPhones – and that to me is a great loss -pun intended!

Hi Matt,

Without doubt, the web has, and is transforming the way we travel, enriching research and booking pathways and, most significantly, opportunities for on the road connectivity.

Personally, I think the [near term] future will deliver increasing customisation using hybrid tools and resources: custom guides, handy product or service driven widgets you can house on your personal dash (whether that’s on an iPhone or a laptop). And with the rise of semantic webbery, I think the role of travel content companies, like Lonely Planet for example, will be to offer intelligent filters to the glut of content out there, while supplementing with market informed advice and tools of their own.

At any rate, it’s going to keep the journey *very* interesting!

~ Venessa
Lonely Planet Community Manager

Leave a comment