Dutch Travel Agency srprs.me Is For Tourists That Relish The Unknown

There are a few constants in the travel industry that haven’t budged despite the influx of technology and a new generation of travellers approaching things in a different way. One of those is the pain of planning, the agony of trying to make the best of a destination that you have little or no knowledge of.

The second is a need for adventure, for genuine, memorable thrills and excitement. Travel remains a form of escape and we want it to feel that way. But here’s the ever-present issue: How do you stay spontaneous and have an awesome itinerary? How do you keep that adventurous spirit burning when you always know what’s coming next?

The third problem faced by many travellers is simply choosing a destination. With European city breaks, for example, there is so much choice, not a huge difference in price but so much variation. An incredible city break is always on the doorstep, but taking the leap and choosing one is difficult.

The fourth and final problem is packing that sense of adventure into relatively short trips. Most European travellers make the most of long weekends and look to spend a few days in a destination. That doesn’t leave much room for spontaneity.

These are all problems Dutch travel agency srprs.me (short for Surprise Me) has been trying to solve. The Amsterdam-based agency does travel differently. Instead of offering a range of destinations and accommodation, srprs.me takes spontaneity to the next level. You tell them your dates, your budget and a few basic preferences. They handle the rest.

It sounds simple because it is.

The only thing we can tell you is that there’s an airport nearby. Whether it’s a destination that’s off the beaten track or somewhere you’ve heard of lots of times before, it’s the excitement of not knowing that gives you the thrill.” – srprs.me

Once your booking is complete, the srprs.me team go about arranging your flights and accommodation. Then, a week or so before you’re due to travel, they will send you a weather forecast. Spontaneity is no fun when you’re wearing shorts in the snow, after all. A couple of days before you’re going to leave they will send you a code in the post. That code gives you access to your destination, and the idea is that you open it up once you arrive at the airport.

If it all goes well, you find out where you are flying right before you check in and board the aircraft. It’s all the excitement and adrenaline of a last-minute trip with the peace of mind that comes with having everything booked already.

Guess what. You’re in control of picking your destination. We’re joking. That’s never going to happen. However, we will let you be in charge of one thing. You pick a cardinal point and we determine the exact coordinates. Whether you choose to go to your favourite part of continental Europe or decide to go to a lesser-known region, the city you end up in will always be a surprise.” – srprs.me

Personalisation Still Matters

This concept wouldn’t work without a bit of flexibility, which is interesting.

During the process, you can choose a part of Europe (north, west, east, south) and name a few cities that you want to rule out of contention. That should be enough to make sure you get the kind of trip you’re looking for and don’t head somewhere you’ve already visited seven times.

But it’s intriguing that srprs.me hasn’t gone all out on the mystery travel concept. They’ve left a little bit of room for personalisation. Perhaps this tells us that, while travellers are increasingly in search of adventure, they still want a few home comforts, as well as the guarantee that comes with having accommodation sorted and the ability to pack according to the weather forecast.

Why Mystery Travel is So Appealing

All in all, mystery travel finds the perfect balance between spontaneity and organisation. Sure, there’s probably a market out there for hardcore adventurers who want to be parachuted into a city with nothing booked and no plans. But for the majority of us, a hint of adventure is enough to get the adrenaline flowing.

srprs.me’s unusual formula frees travellers of all of those obligations that occur in the build-up to a trip: You don’t spend ages creating a city bucket list, you don’t find out the best spots to eat. Instead, you make it up as you go, and probably have a more authentic experience as a result.

Final Thoughts

Here at Travelshift we love nothing more than innovative travel companies and concepts. We straddle the space between tourism and technology to build travel marketplaces that make a mark. Just like srprs.me, we think that true travel experiences rely on adventure and authenticity.

That’s why our marketplaces are built with tourists in mind. Our software enables travel startups to band together and build community-driven marketplaces to compete with industry giants. Simply choose a travel niche, bring together authentic suppliers and watch as your community grows into a self-perpetuating, thriving online tourism business.

Contact us today for more information!

UK Government Highlights Risks of Celebrity-Inspired Travel

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Youtube are giving us more insight than ever into the lives of the rich and famous. This phenomenon has ties with the rise of ‘influencers’, closer relationships between brands and celebrities, and aspirational content becoming a thing.

This trend, however shallow it may appear to be at first glance, is having a transformative impact on the travel industry. Young people, according to the British Foreign Office, are going further afield as a result of online influencers. Research suggests that one-third of UK 18 – 24-year-olds (33%) will be influenced by celebrities when preparing for their holiday this Easter, with nearly one in three (30%) saying stars inspire their travel destination.

The role of influencers

There are a few problems that can arise when celebrity influencers are, well, influential. The most obvious is the realism they provide. On platforms such as Instagram, we already see the lives of others through a prism of sunshine and happiness. When it comes to celebrity influencers, that concept often moves to the next level.

Read more: The Power of Market Influencers in the Travel Industry

Of course, not all celebrity and influencer accounts are the same. Some are better than others, some are only accidental travel influencers. Some focus specifically on providing a realistic view of a destination, while others are all swimming pools, hotdog legs and sunset selfies.

The issue with the latter is clear: people following in those footsteps could land at a destination uninformed, and with unrealistic expectations of local customs, infrastructure and culture. And that’s where things can get awkward.

We’ve also seen high profile YouTubers – accidental influencers if you like – making poor decisions while travelling and generally making fools out of themselves. A case in point is American vlogger Logan Paul, who provoked headlines back in February 2018 when he took a trip to Japan and appeared to go out of his way to offend the locals.

The most controversial part of his Ladventure was a trip into Japan’s infamous suicide forest, Aokigahara. Paul posted images of bodies hanging from trees, among other things that were both culturally insensitive and disrespectful, to say the least.

What we have to say here is that Logan Paul is by no means representative of travel influencers. That’s partly because he isn’t one. But he is no doubt influential with his millions of young viewers. And he does travel. So the parallel is inevitable.

The UK Government is #Concerned

The worry is that these big YouTube stars and other influencers might inspire the wrong kind of behaviour from young travellers. We’re not sure how justified that worry is. But the British Government’s certainly considers it so, particularly after successive news stories in which UK citizens are getting into trouble abroad.

The British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is “warning young Brits following in the footsteps of globe-trotting celebs not to fall foul of lesser-known local laws and customs, which could land them in serious trouble.”

According to the FCO, young Brits are heading further afield as a result of celebrities and online influencers, to “destinations that have more unusual and surprising rules than UK travellers are used to.”

On the face of it, that’s quite a patronising statement to young Brits already. However, the statement continues…

“As most young Brits don’t have A-listers’ concierge support when planning trips abroad, the FCO is urging British people to be aware of local laws and customs in the destinations they are travelling to by reading up on Travel Advice – something that fewer than two fifths of young people (38%) currently do – if they want to avoid getting into trouble abroad.

FCO analysis of ONS data has found a significant increase in Brits travelling further afield than the traditional European trips, often to popular celebrity destinations that have stricter laws and customs than the UK. Visits to Sri Lanka are up more than a fifth (22%) and the UAE up more than a sixth (17%).”

Different countries have different rules: Really?!

In an effort to appeal to the young demographic which has probably never visited its website, the FCO appears to have roped in Jack White, celeb content director at Now magazine.

He said, taking the patronising tone of the announcement one step further, “We’ve all felt the pang of envy that comes from scrolling through a celebrity’s luxury holiday snaps on social media, but if you’re ever lucky enough to end up in Dubai or St Lucia it’s worth remembering different countries have different rules – and sometimes even the stars seem unaware of this.”

“It’s easy to get caught up the moment on holiday, so it’s worth researching the local laws beforehand to make sure your dream trip doesn’t end in disaster. After all, there’s definitely nothing glamorous about ending up behind bars!”

Now, it’s easy to sit here and criticise the British Government’s clumsy attempt to offer young people travel advice. We’ve done enough of that. The truth is that this guidance has been issued for a reason: politicians are worried that travellers are not as informed as they need to be and are getting into problems as a result.

Let’s look at some of the local laws and customs covered in the FCO’s most recent travel advice:

  1. UAE: Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported.
  2. Thailand: You can’t bring vaporisers, such as e-cigarettes, e-baraku or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to ten years if convicted.
  3. Greece: Indecent behaviour, including mooning, isn’t tolerated and could result in arrest and a fine or a prison sentence.
  4. Sri Lanka: The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for this. British nationals have been refused entry to Sri Lanka or faced deportation for having visible tattoos of Buddha. Don’t pose for photographs standing in front of a statue of Buddha.
  5. Japan: The use or possession of some medicines like Vicks Inhalers or painkillers containing Codeine is banned in Japan and can result in detention and deportation
  6. Turkey: It is an offence to insult the Turkish nation or the national flag, or to deface or tear up currency. If you are convicted of any of these offences, you could face a prison sentence of between six months and three years.
  7. Caribbean: Many Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia ban the wearing of camouflage clothing, including by children.
  8. Spain: Causing a forest fire is treated as a criminal offence in Spain even if unintentional.
  9. Australia: Australia has strict quarantine rules to keep out pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal and human health. Breaches of quarantine regulations can result in large fines.
  10. Ukraine: Smoking and drinking alcoholic drinks in public places (including transport, bus stops, underground crossings, sports and government establishments, playgrounds and parks) is officially banned.

Julia Longbottom, FCO Consular Director said:

It’s great to see the British people being inspired to travel to new and exciting places. This makes it all the more important to follow our Travel Advice and respect local laws and customs to avoid unnecessary trouble. For instance, e-cigarettes are banned in Thailand and can result in a prison sentence of up to ten years.

Even in places closer to home, disrespecting local laws can have serious consequences – in Greece indecent behaviour, such as mooning, can be punishable with a fine or even a prison sentence. We see many cases each year of people breaking local laws and customs.

It is important that our travellers understand that the UK Government can’t give legal advice or get them out of prison. Instead, we want to do all we can to help British people stay safe when they are travelling, and avoid ending up in these difficult situations.

Social media, celebrity influencers and the information vacuum

There’s no doubt that people, particularly younger travellers, are increasingly making booking decisions based on celebrity influencers. This isn’t inherently a bad thing: it gives people the opportunity to explore destinations they might otherwise have overlooked.

But decisions based on the filtered world of social media could also lead to travellers being more uninformed than they should be. In the vast majority of cases, this won’t make a difference. Tourism is a booming industry for many countries around the world, and local guides and agencies provide information as well as excursions once customers arrive. It’s their job to keep travellers safe and happy.

However, there does seem to have been a rise in cases, as pointed out by the British Government, of travellers falling foul of the law purely out of ignorance.

This isn’t ideal, but it’s a natural result of the way that travel bookings are changing. We no longer walk into a travel agency and discuss our trip with an advisor. Young travellers are also perhaps more impulsive, spontaneous, plan as they go and don’t do as much practical research before jetting off.

Less than two fifths of young people (38%) currently check the UK Foreign Office’s travel advice before leaving the country, although that probably says more about the Foreign Office and its output than it does about the state of young travellers. At this point it’s important to recognise that the information will never be found if the medium hasn’t kept up with the times.

Having a community to fill the vacuum

So how can we fill that information vacuum and keep travellers above the law and informed about new destinations?

On the one hand, travel companies have to do more. With the help of AI, automated suggestions, tips and guides can be provided during the booking process. Travel operators could also do more in real-time, as we’ve seen with the advent of instant messaging-based customer service. 

No doubt there are gaps in every travel sector for an agency that provides practical information in as much abundance as it does deals and inspiration.

Here at Travelshift, this is a trend that we have recognised. In fact, you could say that our marketplace technology is perfectly placed to fill that information vacuum. How did we manage it? Well, we harness the power of a community.

Our marketplace solution has built-in blogging a community features that enable everyone – local travel operators, tourists and locals – to share tips and important information.

It means that as well as producing an enormous amount of content and massive traffic, travellers booking trips through a Travelshift marketplace are informed, educated and inspired in equal measure.

Want to find out more about how our marketplace platform works? Check out our case study or contact us today.

Report Digs in to Travel Technology Trends for 2018

Technology is already changing every aspect of travel.

Tourism no longer starts with a trip to a physical travel agent, but through a search engine or social media platform. Research and bookings are now almost exclusively carried out online. We’re even starting to move beyond booking through conventional computers and towards the convenience of smartphones and other mobile devices.

And that’s before a trip has even started. That’s not even encompassing the travel part of travel, or everything that’s going on behind the scenes that travel companies are working on to make every part of the experience smoother, safer and more reliable.

Changing the way we OTAs interact with customers

Chief among these transformations is the way that technology has changed the way companies interact with their customers – something that isn’t exclusive to travel of course.

In part that’s because travel companies are working hard to meet their customers’ evolving expectations. But it’s also the case that different technologies are helping to take operational efficiencies to the next level (which is conveniently where our own software solution comes in).

‘Customer interactions’ is a pretty broad term. We can take it to mean any point in the travel experience that companies and their products or service come into contact with travellers.

Here are a few ways that 2018’s technology trends are going to shape those interactions.

So what types of technology look set to change the travel landscape in 2018?

According to a report from GlobalData – ‘Technology Trends in Travel & Tourism’ – there are six foundational trends that look set to keep travellers engaged, informed, enthused and loyal over the next 12 months.

The headline statement is that travel remains an industry reliant on authenticity, from trips themselves to the human interactions that shape them.

Elena Mogoş, an Associate Analyst for Digital Travel & Tourism at GlobalData, said, “Travel still revolves around meaningful human interactions. However, to be successful, companies need to create a balance between the technological innovations and the human element. Improving the customer experience must always be on the back of travel and tourism companies’ minds when investing in technology.”

So let’s delve into these trends and talk about why they are so important.

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR)

Read more – Survey: Virtual Reality Tech Not a Threat to Travel Industry (Yet)

First up are the closely associated technologies of Virtual and Augmented reality. Both of these are a good example of technology being adapted to fit a problem, rather than being developed specifically to fix one.

There’s no doubt that the ability to overlay images onto our view of the world is an exciting one. The same goes for being able to step into another world entirely using VR. But figuring out useful ways to apply these to travel industry problems has been a challenge for travel companies.

but we’re getting there. In the past few years AR and VR adoption in travel has slowly been on the rise. As the technologies develop, there’s no reason why that trend won’t continue.

Currently, AR and VR are mainly used for marketing purposes. Because travel choices are driven by our perceptions and are always visually orientated, immersive VR and AR content marketing is the most obvious application. That’s including showing off hotel rooms in advance, taking a virtual walk through a ski resort before booking or even exploring whole national parks from your own home.

These are niche applications in VR might help boost ticket sales and booking numbers, but there’s no reason to think that these technologies will revolutionise the travel experience in the same way that, say, wearables could and will.

The one argument would be that eventually, VR will become so realistic that travel is rendered obsolete. But that’s an awfully long way off, both in terms of the technology and in terms of the authenticity travellers are always striving to achieve.

Augmented reality, when combined with wearables, could have many more practical applications for travellers. To an extent, Google’s translation of text is already an example of that. It’s easy to imagine smartphones becoming a platform for more of these kinds of uses. Live translation is one, but what about augmented directions, opening times and closing times overlaid onto your view of the world as you walk past a restaurant, or tourist information that pops up on your smart glasses as you wander through a historical site?

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence is probably the biggest buzz word in the world of tech. It’s thrown around all the time by companies wanting to appear on the cutting edge, even if most people struggle to define what it really means.

But, t give credit where it is due, AI is behind many evolving technologies and innovations in the travel and tourism sector.

We can subdivide AI into a few categories to get a better idea of how it’s being applied in travel. The first is machine learning, which can be applied to all sorts of things to automate tedious processes and speed up bookings, check-ins, customer service and more.

Read more: Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Travel Industry Forever

AI promises to speed up processing times, make fewer mistakes than humans and decrease costs for travel companies. Good examples of that might be automatic recommendations based on where you’re flight is heading or what hotel you are staying in, dynamic pricing systems that react to the market or sentiment analysis on social media.

Aside from those kinds of intelligent, automated systems, two other aspects of AI being applied in travel are robotics and virtual assistants.

Robot concierge and check-in services are a little creepy, but they definitely represent a potential future. Given that hotel chains are always looking to cut costs and provide a more efficient service, robotic room service might not be so far away.

The real potential though, lies in virtual assistants. Home assistants from Google, Amazon and Microsoft are growing in popularity. Taking them with us on our travels is the next logical step, one that’s made easy by their easy integration with smartphones.

These virtual assistants could also end up being the link between us and many of the other technological trends listed here. Perhaps they could one day make booking decisions, search for the cheapest flights, control our wearables, optimise our journeys and more.

Read more: Are Robots the Future of the Travel Industry?

Internet of Things (IoT)

The burgeoning Internet of Things is a phrase used to describe a world connected devices, where sensors, computers and systems are increasingly integrated, operating with minimal supervision and generally making things better and efficient place.

IoT technology encapsulates many of the technologies on this list, from robotics to smart assistants to VR.

But at its foundation IoT is about connecting devices to networks in a way that previously hasn’t been possible. One great example is Lufthansa’s smart baggage tracking solution. With a few connected tags, passengers can track their baggage via a link found on their mobile boarding pass in the Lufthansa app.

All of the stress and confusion that comes with lost luggage, gone.

Voice Technology

Read more: The Growing Influence of Voice Tech in the Travel Industry

We’ve written before on the emerging influence of voice search and voice-enabled assistants in the world of travel. As well as being a novel way to get help on the go, voice tech will also soon shape our lives outside of travel.

Intrinsically linked to the rise of virtual assistants, voice tech could shape the way we interact with the Internet of Things in the future. Our voices will always be a more convenient and effective way to communicate with machines, devices and, of course, travel agencies. It’s just a case of making those receptacles smart enough to understand and engage with the quirks of natural language.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that more and more hotels have started experimenting with voice-activated devices. Among them are W Austin of Marriott International, Kimpton Alexis Hotel, and Westin Buffalo.

Wi-Fi connectivity

It’s certainly not the most advanced technology on our list, but Wi-Fi connectivity is fast becoming a must for travellers – even those in search of remote adventure still want to be connected to home and social media.

Wi-Fi is also the foundation that allows travellers to connect to other useful technologies, whether that’s voice searching Google maps for a nearby site, getting directions or translating a menu.

Until 5G comes along and takes the travel experience to a whole new connected dimension, Wi-Fi is the way forward.

Wearable devices

Read more: How the Travel Industry is Using Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is yet another way that travel companies can streamline and improve the experience of their customers.

On the one hand, RFID tags allow companies from Disney to cruise liners to personalise customers’ experience. For example, connected bands can be used on theme park infrastructure, hotel rooms and as payment devices. That kind of deployment can lead to lower waiting times, while tracking guests’ locations and activities to enable smarter decision making.

We’ve also seen the evolution of smartwatches from the likes of Apple and Fitbit – as well as being fitness and GPS trackers, many of these devices can run applications to help travellers on the go.

And finally, there are smart headphones, which could completely turn the travel experience on its head. When merged with voice assistants, smart headphones offer real-time translation, like that of Google’s Pixel Buds.

Some of these wearables have the potential to revolutionise the way we travel, while also posing a threat to the authenticity of that experience. Tools that can translate a foreign language in real time are groundbreaking – but how far will we allow technology to creep into those magical moments that make travel so memorable?

Technology trends in 2018

It’s clear that 2018 has plenty of promise for travel technology. From artificial intelligence to the rise of voice search and travel wearables, the industry is ready to embrace all of the latest gadgets and trends to keep customers happy, loyal and streamline services.