Date
24 November 2017
A Chinese tourist carries a tablet device during a visit to the Parthenon temple in Athens. Thanks to mobile apps and online information, many people are planning trips and itineraries on their own, leaving out travel agencies. Photo: Bloomberg
A Chinese tourist carries a tablet device during a visit to the Parthenon temple in Athens. Thanks to mobile apps and online information, many people are planning trips and itineraries on their own, leaving out travel agencies. Photo: Bloomberg

How technology is boosting free independent travel

More and more travellers now seek to explore their chosen destinations on their own and at their own pace with an emphasis on enjoying the local food, architecture, history, and culture. They don’t want the experience of taking a brief look at everything in a hurry, as happens when you are part of a tour group.

However, the so-called free independent travellers (FIT) often struggle to find and enjoy different experiences compared to the mass tourists, although they have more free time at disposal.

Fortunately, they now have new technology to resolve that problem, helping reshape the tourism industry. Travellers can use mobile apps or online information to do research before heading off. They can purchase a local SIM card or connect to WiFi when they arrive at the destination.

Through online apps, they can easily change the itinerary, book transport, hotel rooms or shows at any time. They will find it easy to adjust their schedule even at last minute.

Travelers are also changing their preferences in face of more choices. For example, they would rather use Google Maps to search for local eateries rather than rely on local online dining guides. They would prefer local homestays via Airbnb instead of booking a star hotel from a travel agency.

They can book tickets to museums, operas or other leisure activities from mobile apps. That’s what I did during my recent trip to Europe. In some cases, I could even use the VIP entrance.

Nowadays, travellers want a more diverse experience apart from sightseeing. They might be interested in a wine-tasting session at a local winery or want to volunteer in a local Coastal Conservation Plan. Language is no longer an issue as travellers can communicate easily with locals using translation software.

In our own region, the “Digital FIT” market has vast growth potential as China’s millennials come of age.

Shopping is an essential part of any trip. It’s far more attractive to find something nice on a trip rather than placing an online order. If a souvenir can be delivered to their home at a designated date after travellers make the purchase, they may enjoy the trip even more without carrying too much stuff.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 10

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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BN/RC

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman

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