Technology has changed almost every aspect of our lives, including the way we plan and take our vacation time.
In fact, the Internet and smartphones have drastically opened up travel possibilities because they enable people to become their own travel agents.
Although this shifts more of the planning and booking phase onto consumers, it also comes with many desirable perks such as reduced expenses.
Lodging in the smartphone era
Looking for hotels has never been easier thanks to the prevalence of online booking and discount sites. However, smartphones have also greatly expanded our lodging options. In the past, you might have been able to find a vacation rental via word of mouth, but they weren’t very common.
Now, sites such as Tripz give consumers and rental home owners an easy online portal for making reservations. The addition of reviews from previous renters and a variety of guarantees from vacation rental websites have also made these rentals a popular lodging alternative.
Industry statistics indicate that 22 percent of travelers have stayed in at least one of these rentals, and this number is steadily increasing.
Smartphone apps simplify the entire booking process by enabling a traveler to secure a house, condo or room on the go.
It’s no wonder that experts predict hotel usage will drop six percent by 2018 as travelers opt for a vacation rental instead.
The impact of virtual tours
Have you always wanted to visit the Louvre in Paris? Or perhaps the Statue of Liberty is on your bucket list? Both of these popular destinations, and many more, use virtual tours to help people experience their prime attractions for free.
VR technology has also made it possible to be more immersed in these locations than ever before.
However, the truth is that even the best virtual tour pales in comparison to the real thing, and experts believe that the increasing prevalence of VR will lead to more tourism. This makes sense when you consider that people who get a virtual taste of something are more likely to want to experience it in real life.
Additionally, tourists who may not have been interested in visiting a specific destination may change their mind after seeing a well-constructed virtual tour. At the same time, individuals who cannot afford to travel get to boost their cultural exposure, which makes virtual tours a win-win for everyone.
Tourism and social media
Social media has arguably had the largest technological impact on tourism. This is due to the fact that social sites such as TripAdvisor and Facebook give users the ability to review each place they visit.
Facebook also encourages people to check-in at all of their vacation destinations, which raises awareness of each business and landmark.
Another important factor is that social media users can ask for recommendations from trusted sources.
Combine all of this with the social aspect of sharing vacation photos, and it’s easy to see how our vacations have been forever altered by Facebook, Instagram and the like.
Traveling with smartphones
Almost 52 percent of Americans do all of their travel booking via smartphone apps. However, smartphones do much more than help travelers research and book their future vacation plans.
Studies have found that people are so attached to their smartphones that they rank them as their number one most indispensable travel companion. Yes, they’re even placed ahead of necessities such as a toothbrush and driver’s license.
Apps such as Word Lens give people the ability to easily translate signage while traveling through foreign countries. It’s also possible to get local apps that do everything from help you find a parking spot to securing discount tickets to tourist attractions.
On the downside, traveling with your phone makes it difficult to unplug from work and your home life. Travel surveys indicate that 60 percent of smartphone users do not take a break from their favorite technology while on vacation. For many of these people, the allure of taking photos and instantly posting them to social media is too great.
Of course, this starts the cycle all over again for someone else as those photos may help inspire a friend or family member’s next vacation choice.
For good or bad, technology has forever altered traveling and vacation planning. Companies and private vacation rental owners who embrace this are more likely to get a solid share of their area’s tourism revenue.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
Read next: Inside Motorola’s modular phone masterplan