Most cities are dependent on a healthy flow of tourists exploiting what the city has to offer. As we enter a city in a new country, most of the smartphone data tools we use at home move into “restricted use” mode. We switch off roaming to save money. We hope for a Wi-Fi spot at the hotel, and we turn off “location” to save battery power. This “phone-box-like connectivity” is no longer good enough. So what could make life a lot easier for tourists with widespread and affordable access in the city?
The first issue we typically face as a tourist is to find our way around and to decide what to prioritize. We could enjoy our networked map while walking around. We want to know what is going on in terms of special activities and events – and have this information at our fingertips throughout the day. When we’re hungry, we want to see what the whole neighborhood has to offer. Maps and location-based services are key assets in these situations.
Public transportation is your extended feet in the city. Finding nearby bus and subway stops, getting timetables and buying tickets used to be exercises we did on paper. These are now digitized for locals. But the challenge for us as tourists is that we expect to have the same mobile data access we have at home. The operating model for taxis varies extensively, and where to flag a secure one down and how to pay is not always an effortless experience. And do not expect hotspots in these locations as standard when you need them.
Visiting new cities is a great moment for us to share our experiences. This sharing has gone from targeted text messages and updates on Facebook and Twitter to the picture and video age. We want to show what it really looked like; pictures of us in front of major landmarks and the snippets of life that become memories from our trip. We used to capture these moments with a camera and show digital or physical albums afterwards. In the Networked Society, we want to share them instantly where we are, and with the right geotag included.
My predictions for the future of networked tourism are:
– Turning off roaming and relying on hotspots only restricts the tourist experience of the city, and this will be a major negative when summarizing the trip as a whole.
– Proactive cities and operators will offer new solutions with universal access across the city, and tourists will accept certain application restrictions for their tourist package in exchange for an affordable price.
– Dedicated city apps will replace tour and brochure stands in the hotel when affordable connectivity is in place.