Seth Godin made the statement, While We Weren’t Paying Attention, The Industrial Age Just Ended. If that’s true, the masses of the world are in for change never experienced before. Although technology appears to be driving this change and new world of business, it’s more about how you and I think, to be more specific, how younger generations think.

In The Future Of Business series, I have been sharing insights on various industries, what we might expect to happen in the next 3 – 5 years. In this post I’m going to take a look at Tourism, this is an interesting topic because it is such a huge buisiness, somewhere around a 6 Billion dollar industry. But how will this shift from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age impact Tourism? It’s hard to tell at first glance but lets look at some obvious things that technology may introduce.

I can remember as a kid looking forward to summer, every summer my Mother & Father would take us someplace and it was always far enough away you couldn’t walk home. I could hear Mom & Dad discussing, planning and strategizing months in advance, we were going east or south, that meant Manitoba or the USA. My Dad would never stop either, if we were going from Calgary to Winnipeg (14 hours of driving) he was going to do it in a day, if we were lucky we might stop for potty breaks. The stops were never at a fancy restaurant or hotel, they were rest stops with smelly unclean outhouses. I know this sounds like abuse by todays standards, but that’s what it was like travelling with my family back in 60’s and early 70’s.

One of the saving grace’s on those trips were Tourism Offices, a place where we could pick up a map, a coffee or candy. More importantly, they had washrooms! Something I noticed in these kiosk like buildings was, you would find things there you couldn’t find anywhere else. Local artists would have paintings and or carvings, jewellery and what have you, interesting and talented people figured out it was a great place to sell their work.

Jumping ahead to today, and not much has changed in these groovy little Tourism Kiosks, why? Interestingly enough, the problems the Tourism Industry had back when I was a boy, they still have today. It’s always about funding and how these non-profit organizations have to conform to some very rigid groups and influencial people. I understand the problem all to well because, I used to be Vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of  Tourism some 20 years ago. Tourism used ot be under the Chamber domain, today they are independant, out on they’re own.

Now the Canadian Tourism Commission (which is well funded) has culled some series data about where and why people come to visit Canada, it’s called Explorer Quotient, something to put in your toolbox. Here is the EQ presentation made by the CTC.

These groups have something we didn’t have 20 years ago, not even 15 years ago, we now have the Internet & Social Media. Tourism is struggling in this space because they don’t have the resources to create, invite or listen to what we all want. The opportunities are unlimited now for tourism and other non-profit organizations. I learned recently that the Green Bay Packers FootBall team is actually a non-profit organization!

There are a number of tools tourism could take advantage, they are already in place, like Foursquare and Gowalla, these are the low hanging fruit today, but in the next 5 years we will see some very interesting technologies that Tourism will leverage. In the future, we will be able to travel to far away places in the comfort of our own home via Virtual Reality. You may stop at a Tourism Rest Stop and sit down with a virtual reality headset and walk around the very community you are about to enter. You will be able to get key information on the top tourist stops while there, enjoy a cup of coffee at the same time. You will have the opportunity to get special deals you can’t get anywhere else in that town, only at the tourism office. You will have the opportunity to opt-in while touring the area digitally, yes the tourism will be able to track where you are via a smartphone, they will be able to forward information and real-time specials happening for a limited time.

Through your smartphone you could contact them on Twitter to make reservations at a restaurant or hotel. Most businesses will be on these social networks, they will over special deals and opportunities you find in the local paper. Maybe these businesses will accept FaceBook & Twitter Credits as payment. According to those two social networks credits will be offered July 1st, 2011. We’ll see how to roles out but it opens the door for local businesses and especially the tourism societies to partner with local or far away businesses for visitors in the tourism kiosks. We could help our local tourism by donating FaceBook & Twitter credits for them to use with local businesses, so many ideas can come from this topic alone. And these credits or points can be used anywhere in the world!

The sky is the limit here, if you can think it, you can probably do it. Technology is making it easier, what other ideas do you think Tourism could do to attract visitors?

About Owen Greaves

I'm a Futurist, I write, speak, and teach the open & free business model, the future of business. Create. Differentiate. Deliver.