One of the biggest businesses of the 21st century for entrepreneurs will be tourism. So says the World Tourism Organization, which in its most recent reports already mentions that in recent years approximately 1 billion tourist trips around the world. Not an inconsiderable figure of which Europe makes up a large percentage of these trips since some of the most visited countries in the world can be found in the European Union: France, Spain, and Italy among others. This article points out how tourism is evolving with technology and what role European entrepreneurs will play in its future. Let’s take a look.
Internet, the largest tour operator
The way we book our trips and vacations has changed drastically in the last decade. From the way we plan our trip to how we actual travel to our destination has transformed from travel agencies to finding good deals and offers online from our own homes.
There are dozens, no, hundreds of travel sites that help you to choose your destination, hotel or apartment, reserve your airline or train tickets and even entrances tickets to museums, monuments and shows. They’ve become so integral to our way of travelling that it’s almost impossible to consult one of these websites before booking a holiday. And this in part is thanks to entrepreneurs who bet on this kind of business. An example is Marek Fodor, one of our panelists at our recent Prague entrepreneurship event, who is also co-founder of ‘Atrápalo’, a popular Spanish travel booking site.
We’re not just talking about hotel reservation or airline booking sites; we’re talking about real traveler ecosystems where you can recommend anything from restaurants to shows and even unknown places of the beaten path to fellow travelers. This type of social tourism has hatched in recent years thanks to the proliferation of travel apps.
The entrepreneurial community has found excellent business opportunities in the development of these kinds of apps; at the same time they are helping their own cities to promote them to the world and that’s exactly the reason why public administrations around the globe have invested time and money into travel apps, and they’ll continue to do so.
But technology applied to tourism isn’t limited to classic web pages or apps. The next revolution we’ll be seeing in the near future even has its own name: augmented reality. With the help of our Smartphones a plethora of possibilities is presented before us that will allow us to learn practically everything there is to know about the city we’re travelling to, from architectural details to the history the surrounds us, the restoration process on works of art to even the timetables and prices of the monuments we’re visiting. And all of that is possible without having to do a web search. The concept is powerful and this video explains it quite well:
While augmented reality is still in the making we have another great tourist development that is already in our streets: Segways. You’ve probably seen this two-wheeled personal transportation device in your city and it’s the perfect example of what a tech startup can achieve, as well as the mistakes to avoid.
The makers behind Segway achieved one of the greatest dreams of every entrepreneur: to disrupt and surprise the market with a great technological innovation; those were the hopes expected of this invention that even Steve Jobs predicted would be a great success. But what on paper looks like a great business idea that attracted investors from around the world didn’t exactly translate into sales in line with its expectations. According to some sources, sales expectations were about 500,000 units per year, a figure which in reality only reached 30,000 units over 7 years. The mass market was not ready for this device. Although it has proven very useful in the tourism sector it has yet to become widespread by the general public.
The Segway example leaves us with a valuable entrepreneurship lesson about the importance of testing the market before getting involved with finding funding.
What other technological advancements from startups can be found in the tourism industry? How do you think this sector will evolve thanks to entrepreneurs? Tell us and you could win incredible prizes!