All change: how nothing stays still in travel

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A few years ago the idea that you might visit a place and stay in a stranger’s home, or travel around in a stranger’s car, would seem quite odd.

And the idea that it would be unnecessary to pack a guide book, camera, map, notebook or music player would be crazy. But here we are, with an app for almost anything.

In my experience change happens slowly at first and then very quickly. Suddenly and quite imperceptibly the old norms are no more.

Two recent and very different trips this year brought this home to me. The first was a city break with my fiancé to New York. The second was a family holiday in the Algarve.

In both cases we traveled light and stayed in neighbourhood apartments, rather than in hotels, thanks to Airbnb. Prior to the stay we conversed with our host using WhatsApp.

And on arrival we made our way around, when not on foot, with the help of Uber or Lyft.

Rather than rely on Lonely Planet guides we consulted TripAdvisor or Google Maps to find good places to eat and drink frequented by locals.

My two sons even taught themselves a little Portuguese using Google Translate.

But this is not to describe a digital utopia.

Instagram has drawn unruly crowds to what were once best kept secrets.

And I have yet to meet anyone in hospitality that loves being subjected to daily reviews across multiple platforms.

It is fascinating to see which local businesses have best adapted to this new reality, and to find it is often the agile independents that have seized the moment, not the bloated corporate chains.

Businesses with owner operators at the helm have the biggest incentive to make this work – their livelihood depends on it.

This is where you will find the most characterful Instagram feeds and the most informative responses to online queries.

“The upcoming generation are using tech in a different way,” says investor Andrew Chen. “They are Fortnite-native. Minecraft-native. They are streaming-native. They use ‘insta’ differently. Food delivery will be considered a human right. The expectations will be very different.”

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.
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