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The world of travel continues to be transformed by technology, and not surprisingly most of that effort goes to the largest transactions.  Apps like Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Kayak, UrbanSpoon, and a hundred others make the review and purchase of flights, restaurants, and accommodations more accessible.  All this information has in turn has given rise to a millennial-driven last minute travel effect.

The last minute travel effect

Now this isn’t your parents’ last minute travel.  Twenty years ago, last minute travel centered on travelers ability to be flexible with location.  “I can go the 3rd week in November, but my destination must be warm.”  Today the request is just as flexible, but now the variable is when, not where.  “I’m going to see Paris, I can drop everything for 5-8 days when the price hits my threshold”.  This has been a boon to airlines, who get more efficient capacity utilization, but often leaves the traveler with more requirements to fill in, primarily accommodations.  Twenty years ago last minute consumer travel was primarily package deals.  Today’s last minute traveler has more work to do when they get the flight they want.  This is where services like Airbnb, Trivago and others have come in to fill in the gap, widening the array of options, and optimizing the ever more complex search process.

The power of the internetwhy6

While technology has increased our ability to find cost effective travel, it hasn’t gone much further than more efficiently delivering the same kind of content as the traditional travel books available to those travelers of years past. Technology has provided two great advances, crowdsourcing and mobile access.

Crowdsourcing, which is the collection of content from the general public on a large scale, has allowed services to process it into aggregated reviews of hotels and restaurants.  These models are the domain of services like TripAdvisor, Yelp and UrbanSpoon.

Smartphones have proliferated, and as a result, all these services can be accessed via mobile, when and where they may be needed.

Even if travelers are heading out last minute or not, the amount of pre-planning required and often employed is less.  There are apps that let you dream for days about how to build the perfect itinerary, but even when that’s been done there are always questions to be answered during your trip.  With the power of crowdsourcing and mobile technology we can do much more than recreate a static travel book, we now have the ability to create a real-time, real-person travel support network.

But wait…you said something about needing another travel app? Or the long tailwhat5

Imagine a service akin to a personal concierge on your phone and asking any question.  Not just the obvious questions about travel options, accommodations, and restaurants, but the vast array of other questions you have while traveling.  They might related to a language barrier, when to visit a shop or museum, how to ship something home, how to deal with minor medical situations, legal situations, dietary issues, the list goes on ad infinitum.   The point here is there is a long list of questions, often called a long tail, which you can never fully prepare for, but the expertise to answer them is out there.  It resides in the expertise of thousands of connected locals and professionals, and should be accessible anywhere, anytime, in your language.  They aren’t necessarily about big monetary transactions either.  It’s a gap that’s never been filled, but can be with the tools available today.

Last minute thoughts

Just because this is of huge value to the last minute or flash traveler doesn’t mean that it isn’t of value to the casual traveler, or the business traveler.  It will be, and we are making it a reality.