on civil war tourism and going tech free
tech wars: virtual and augmented travel
5 trips to start
2020 off right
- ecotours - microtravel -much more!
Letter from the Editor
The goal of this mockup of an issue of Travel + Leisure from January 2020 is to show off the culmination of a number of trends in travel that have been building for quite some time. Trend pieces have always been popular in the travel industry: after all, who doesn’t want to visit the latest hotspot, filled with swank restaurants and hotels, cultural outlets, and of course, friendly locals?
Bear Grylls on his second act: Uncivil Travel
Rather than falling into the short-lived trend trap, this issue attempts to trace how the way we travel, and why we travel, will change in the next nine years. In my first article, I explore a classic travel problem. Today, the search for an authentic experience is becoming harder than ever, with globalization and rising numbers of people worldwide being able to afford to travel. This is the inspiration behind interviewing Bear Grylls. Although tongue in cheek, he is a wilderness survivor who I believe could feasibly take this travel trend to the extreme, bringing tour groups to dictatorial regimes and civil war zones. Next, technology and travel have always been intertwined in interesting ways. We are already starting to see the forebears of what could become the marriage between travel and augmented reality in Hypercitie (Basulto 2011). Also, there are already crude virtual reality “cities” one can visit online, such as a VR program to visit historical Renaissance Italy (Keylan 2010). In this article I extrapolate the social effects and conflicts that could happen when people disappear into virtual travel zones for weeks, or when augmented travel becomes the new normal. Finally, in my piece about the 5 best trips of the year, I consider a few more trends that are likely to be popular well into the second and third decades of the 21st century. One of them National Geographic calls “geotravel” but we would know it better as green travel or ecotravel. Microtravel, filled with unique or boutique experiences, is another - related in many ways to the authenticity mentioned in the Bear Grylls article. And new configurations of technology and face-to-face agents will aim to take the legwork out of travel, maximizing convenience for the traveler (Watson 2006). Enjoy!
Katy Saulpaugh, Editor-in-chief
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Augmented or Virtual travel? The debate continues
5 best trips of the year - from Las Cruces to Madagascar
survive your vacation Bear Grylls on hitting war zones, eating bugs, and traveling tech-free
ver wondered what it would be like to be dropped into the middle of a civil war, forced to forage or even fight to survive? If you happen to be lucky enough to be born in a conflict-free area, one travel company can make your conflict-ridden dreams come true, no army enlistment required. Travel + Leisure caught up with Bear Grylls, CEO of custom warzone outfitter Uncivil Travel, Inc. and asked him about his survivorman past, his new travel company’s philosophy, and if it’s really possible to take away travelers’ RAM implants for an entire week.
Travel + Leisure: Can you BG: No – this is part of our tell us about the mission of mission, allowing our clients to choose for themselves how Uncivil Travel? they will politically affiliate. Nonetheless, we usually find that people place themselves on the sides of the rebels, whoever is trying to overthrow a dictator or is on the fringes. These groups are generally happy to gain some attention for their cause, although there have been times when they have forcibly expelled us. At this point, we have developed relationships with rebel groups that we consider reliable and friendly to outsiders, and generally recommend people T+L: Do you take sides in place themselves there. We can honor requests for different these civil wars? Bear Grylls: Uncivil Travel is a travel company with the purpose of showing people what it's really like in places they normally wouldn't dare to go: places in times of conflict, under strict dictatorial regimes, or ones that are simply difficult to reach. In contrast to luxury resorts where you don’t meet any locals or find out how they really live, this is travel gone rogue. It may not be luxurious, but it’ll be a great story to tell your grandkids.
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rebel groups, as well, but we don’t guarantee success with those. Anyway, this is part of the fun!
T+L: Ten years ago you were known more for your TV show, Man vs. Wild, than your involvement in international conflict tourism. Why did you decide to make the change?
what we consider to be a truly authentic, off the grid travel experience. I’ve been lucky enough to live on an island in Wales with no electricity, and adjust to that... self sufficiency is a worthy goal for everyone.
T+L: What kind of clientele do you attract?
BG: Although it would seem counterintuitive, the BG: Well, it wasn’t because majority of our clients are I believed I won out over retired or over the age of 50 nature, that’s for sure (laughs). (Knowledge@Wharton 2010). I think it was because people Although most travelers are kept asking me how they older these days, I think there could have the same kinds of Bear Grylls, once known for his unis something in particular adventures I was having on abashed consumption of creepy crawlies that attracts this demographic TV. I realized then that there on TV, has come a long way - opening up to Uncivil Travel. They was a huge market being left a cutting edge travel company remember a time when travel untouched. They wouldn’t was really an adventure, and having this sense of exhilaration even have to eat the elephant every step of the way could and freedom when I reached dung, like I once did – just feel carry a surprise. The younger the summit... I wanted to make like they’re having an experience set just doesn’t go for that much nobody else could have a travel company that could any more: they take pleasure (Lindbergh 2009). I’ve also been recapture that. in planning and must have lucky enough to involve my two absolute control over every T+L: So why not make the grown sons as Uncivil guides piece of their vacation. Plus, the surviving tough situations has tours about remote places younger travelers can’t seem to become somewhat of a family such as uninhabited islands live without their RAM implants in Indonesia, or Antarctica? business. – the older ones are OK with us BG: Simply put, the technology confiscating them for a week or T+L: Why do you think your available these days makes it two. harder for these trips are so popular? BG: Well, when I first climbed places to truly “We once had a woman throw down Mt. Everest, I was only 23 years be considered her weapon in the middle of a firefight old. Back then, way back in 1998, remote. After with in Tajikistan...we had to run in and climbing Everest was still an all, unusual thing to do. It was more climate change cover her with our flak jackets” difficult, as well: no oxygenated, a c c e l e r a t i n g , insulated camps, no train tracks real estate in to carry gear. Today it looks like northern Canada and the edges T+L: What about nationality? Times Square. I think that many of Antartica is becoming very B.G.: This is a tricky one. For years, people are looking for places popular for vacation homes. everyone had been predicting that are still on the frontier, Nearly all of the amenities we’re that the majority of travelers and rightly struggling to do so used to finding in cities are now in BRIC countries would take (Lindbergh 2009). I remember available there. We’re selling over the market (Knowledge@
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Wharton 2010). They have; but what most Western travel companies have found is that their needs are totally different from those of European or North American vacationers. So far, there have been a few Chinese and Brazilians who have gone on these trips, but I suspect that most travelers from those countries are more than happy to avoid politics for a few weeks, rather than get themselves into sticky political situations. It’s difficult to compete with their regional travel providers, who have better knowledge of the language and cultural differences, so Uncivil Travel will likely remain a niche travel company.
T+L: If you could go on any trip, what would it be?
B.G.: Well, I’d have to say that one of the major inspirations for this travel company was the Arab Spring of ten years ago. If I could go back in time, I would love to have been part of those revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. But compared to my British Army days, I’ve mellowed out a little and prefer bringing the adventure to others
- I have already spent a good The goal, of course, is to make the experience more enjoyable deal of my life on the road. and safer - for everyone.
T+L: Why do you confiscate RAM implants? Have you T+L: Surely you use some technology in your company, had any people get angry? BG: For the most part, our though? people tend to be self-selecting. They understand that this sort of technology would make them too easy to track by enemy forces and would be a potential liability. Further, many people who are attracted to the idea of Uncivil Travel seem to feel like their lives are being intruded upon by technology – but even amongst these, some underestimate how hard it is to go cold turkey without their implants. We once had a woman throw down her weapon in the middle of a firefight in Tajikistan... we had to run in and cover her with our flak jackets. She eventually apologized, saying that she just lost it because she needed to check her messages. Although it was a scary situation, things could have turned out much worse. After that incident, we’ve started an optional one-week technology detox program for those who we deem most at risk for withdrawal before their trips.
B.G.: Of course. Guides monitor the vital signs of their groups via built-in sunglass monitors, in case the suspense becomes too much for them. It’s a potential lifesaver, considering many of our clients are in their 60’s or older, and might be prone to heart attack, stroke or other illnesses. We’ve also invested a lot of money into our booking system, allowing people currently out on trips to post their reactions and advice for others to see.
T+L: Any words of advice for people traveling in war zones?
BG: This is something that hasn’t changed since I hosted Man Vs. Wild: I’ve always said that the three things that will keep you alive are being prepared, using your common sense, and the endurance of the human spirit. And of course, the goal of Uncivil Travel is to keep you alive!
Augmented or Virtual? T
here is a battle underway in travel technology that has divided families, coworkers and friends. Just like in major sports competitions, you have to take a side. And no, it’s not the competition between travel aggregators, it’s something much more contentious: augmented travel or virtual travel? It was ten years ago when Google awarded its digital humanities award to Hypercities, the world’s first augmented travel platform, that went by the slogan “every past has a place” (Basulto 2011). A partnership between UCLA, USC, and Google’s Earth and Maps platforms, Hypercities started off by mapping 20 cities worldwide. Social media was part of the platform, which provided especially interesting during the revolution in Egypt and the earthquake disaster in Tokyo. It wasn’t long before Lonely Planet and other travel guides jumped on the augmented travel bandwagon, also promising travelers news clips, audio guides, stats, historical photos and more playing from their smart phones as they strolled down the streets of New York, St. Petersburg, or Bogota. Gone were the days when wayward travelers would feel ashamed of holding maps; they were simply checking their smart phones. Cattle-like tour groups, once the standard way to travel, have also gone the way of the buffalo. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, Hypercities changed the way travelers saw the unfamiliar world around them. It was a bit later, in 2017, when virtual travel really began to take off. It began as a convergence of auspicious factors: an oil crisis leading to
Is augmented travel (top) a boon to curious travelers or an excuse not to interact with locals? Can virtual skydiving (bottom) really be as good as the real thing? Proponents say yes.
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Above: Hypercities: the augmented travel app that started it all. Right: is the monk at your meditation retreat real or virtual? many cancelled flights and an outgrowth of online gaming and SecondLife. At this point, many players were taking off weeks from work to focus on their online pet projects. The trend took off thanks to actor and jack-of-all trades James Franco, who was frustrated when he could not travel to Bermuda to work on his latest hypertext novel/screenplay. Franco was the first to think of integrating his virtual experience with the real world so that he could stay jacked in for more than just a few hours. He paid a digital concierge to cook him food and set up a jerryrigged room that exactly matched his destination, complete with shower, toilet and other real world necessities. Spending weeks at a time on a virtual beach, Franco finished his novel and then began marketing his setup to other celebrity friends. Today travelers seem to pick one of the two camps. Augmented
travel fans say that virtual travel is a cop-out and creepy; virtual travelers say they have reduced their carbon footprints and avoided crowds. Jenny McLain, a virtual travel devotee, used to find traveling stressful before she bought her virtual unit. “I did have to invest money in upgrading a room in my house,” she admits, “but over the course of a few years I’ve made up the difference compared to if I’d been staying in pricy hotels or paying exorbitant transportation fees. The best part for me is not having to deal with airports. Also, no whining children.” McLain, like most other virtual travelers, has hired domestic help to watch her kids while she’s away and prevent anyone from interrupting her trip. “I had to learn that one the hard way,” she deanpans, referring to a time when one of her children
barged into the virtual travel room with a question about his homework. “Now I instruct the help to lock the door once I’m keyed in.” So far, she has done a meditation retreat in Nepal, a seminar on healthy living, and a host of other specialized and edifying virtual trips. A whole concierge industry has popped up around the trend, with some virtual escapes more social - or moral - than others. Unsurprisingly, many companies quickly diversified into virtual escort services, cleverly marketing themselves as “marriage vacations.” McLain blushes when asked if she had indulged in any of these services, replying cryptically: “you remember the old New Yorker cartoon? Nobody knows you’re a dog on the internet.” January 2020 7
Despite the advantages of virtual travel, many traditional travelers are shaking their heads. “Isn’t the point of traveling to show off your actual real life experiences to your friends back home?” asks Daniel Webster, accountant and father of three. “I’m not learning anything about the world when I jack in, only engaging in escapism.” Webster says he has used augmented reality to avoid hiring tour guides in Athens, Rome and London so far, and that it has saved his family money while still proving an educational experience. “If virtual travelers really cared about saving the planet, why aren’t they taking volunteer vacations to clean up the islands of trash in the North Pacific Gyre?” he asks. Younger travelers can find benefits in both modes, and are marketed to differently than their older peers. Youth can also use augmented travel’s social features to meet up with other backpackers who have a language in common and have similar interests. They can also conduct alternate social lives as teenagers using virtual travel, something that makes parents nervous. “How would I know my little princess isn’t experimenting with drugs on there?” Webster adds. He says he knows stories of many children of friends who refused to get off the virtual machine, refusing to go to school, family reunions or come to the table for dinner. “It’s a family destroyer,” he
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says. Naturally, McLain disagrees. “I would have lost my mind and abandoned my family ages ago if not for virtual travel!” she says. “To me, it is a marriage saver, not a homewrecker.” Both platforms are walking a fine line in terms of the addin services they offer (Oxford Economics and Amadeus 2010). When many airlines began “unbundling” services such as bag check, emergency row seating, it was not just a response to the recession, it was a way to better customize what consumers wanted. In terms of virtual and augmented travel, these services are lucrative as ways to up-sell customers, but many find them obnoxious. The augmented travel platform soon began to be taken over by marketers, just as what had happened to TripAdvisor in the 2000s, and
users became more wary of the restaurant reviews and hotel recommendations found therein that they were written by the providers themselves - or their competitors. Pop up ads became indistinguishable from actual content. On the virtual travel side, product placement became standard, with virtual cafes choosing to stock only virtual Coca Cola, or virtual Pepsi. Porn and gambling hawkers would often wander into otherwise tranquil vacations, and many virtual trip planners began advertising their security against these outside annoyance - while secretly making deals with select ad companies. Although the debate remains unlikely to be resolved soon, whether going virtual or augmented, travelers have an increasing number of options for their next vacation.
The downside of augmented and virtual: being a captive audience for ads
5 best trips
ew year, new decade, new destinations. This isn’t your grandmother’s vacation. Here are five big trips that are sure to make your 2020 stand out without causing too much pain to your wallet.
1. Adventure level: Medium Price: $150 per night, Seamless BNB Best time to visit: fall and spring
Already popular among Chinese tourists, Chengdu is best known for its spicy hot pot and giant panda reserves. Compared to Beijing or Shanghai, it is a more manageable size, but thanks to rising wages in China, it has plenty of luxury to suit even the most finicky of travelers. What makes this trip special is the
Spaceport America, Las Cruces, New Mexico way Seamless BNB has integrated every step of the trip for international travelers, from airport transportation to booking fees (Oxford Economics and Amadeus 2010). No knowledge of Chinese is needed; English speaking guides will be there every step of the way and only one booking is necessary for the whole trip. You can customize the services you want on one online form, so you are not forced to choose a package deal. Even small bed and breakfasts can provide many choices of car service, pickup and visa service. Handheld translators are provided on request.
2. Adventure Level: Low Price: $200 per night, Estonia Experience Centers Best time to visit: May to August
One of the most high tech and innovative countries in Europe is also making waves in its tourism industry. Not only does Estonia now offer visas for travelers via text message or its homegrown innovation, Skype, it has also begun to assign “experience centers” to each visitor. These native Estonians function as a personal concierge who specializes in something in which the traveler is interested (Oxford Economics and Amadeus 2010). These are hardly the flight-picking travel agents of the past. Some subjects the concierges are experts on include food, skiing, haute couture, folk culture, and more. An algorithm resembling online dating sites matches travelers and concierges prior to the trip, proving that technology doesn’t mean impersonality. Experience centers will meet their charges face to face once they arrive in the counJanuary 2020 9
try to plan out their expedition.
Photo: Eric Mathieu
Las Cruces, New Mexico 3.
Price: $300 per night, Spaceport America Adventure level: Low Best time to visit: November to February
Despite the buzz about the opening of Spaceport America in New Mexico more than a decade ago, once planned to be populated by Virgin Galactic’s tourist spaceflights, demand was not as much as expected. Virgin eventually had to close down its space travel business unit. A savvy hotelier recently bought up the old hangars and decommissioned planes, repackaging them. Now travelers can still hire space planes - equipped with luxury amenities as long as they stay on the ground. Providing something like Space Camp for adults, this New Mexico resort is within easy proximity to human pursuits as well. Spacesuits and flight simulator training optional!
Want to save the rainforest? Do it yourself using social media in Marojejy National Park, Madagascar
Marojejy National Park, Madagascar
amount of biodiversity, but also has an unfortunate history of illicit logging. The government of Madagascar has encouraged camping trips into the rainforest in order to detect and report logging activity. Those who enter the national park are given a satellite locator and report their geographical coordinates by checking in. The authorities then swoop in and apprehend the suspects. This trip may not be high in luxury, but it is high in a sense of eco-satisfaction.
For those interested in green travel, but still willing to take carbon-emitting international flights, Marojejy National Park has all you could ask for (Oxford Ecnomics and Amadeus 2010). The park is a protected forest known for its lemurs and huge
5. Price: $100 per night Adventure level: Medium Best time to visit: May to August
Price: bring your own tent Adventure level: High Best time to visit: year round
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With nearly two billion people join-
ing the middle class in the last decade (Knowledge@Wharton 2010) many think that typical tourist spots are so...gauche. Those in the know are opting to avoid the masses and engage in something really hip: ironic travel. Pioneered by “Urban Safari” companies in hip, unsafe neighborhoods of large cities in Europe, these trips help you avoid the nouveaux riche from BRIC countries by staying in abandoned General Motors car manufacturing plants in Flint. Tour guides will take you to native son Michael Moore’s favorite diner, and you can even stage a mock union protest. Having made the top crime lists for most years of the last decade, you are sure to find some excitement in Flint.
Credits Katy Saulpaugh Prof. Michael Nelson CCT 733 Predicting the Futures Spring 2011 Photos: personal, US Department of Defense, with special thanks to the University of Edinburgh’s “Face of the Future” transformer
Works Referenced Basulto, D. (2011, May 2).“Mapping the New Age of Augmented Travel.” Big Think. <http://bigthink.com/ ideas/38189> Dixon, P. (2010, March 1). “The Future of Travel.” YouTube. < http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=L1C1chw1I4U> Gulliver. (2010, October 20). “Looking into the future of travel.” The Economist. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/ gulliver/2010/10/travel_trends> “Geotourism: The Future of Travel.” National Geographic. <http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/specials/sus-dest/sus-dest-geotourism.html>
Keylan, M. (2010, January) “Virtually Exploring Renaissance Italy.” Travel and Leisure. <http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/virtually-exploring-renaissance-italy> Knowedge@Wharton. (2010, July 14). “Demographic Changes: A Catalyst for New Models in the Global Tourism Industry.” Wharton Business School. <http://knowledge. wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2547> Lindbergh, P. (2009, May). “Why Traveling Small is Trendy.” Travel and Leisure. < http://www.travelandleisure. com/articles/why-traveling-small-is-trendy/1> “The Enterpriseof the Future...In the Travel Industry.” (2008, November). IBM Global Business Services. < http:// www-304.ibm.com/easyaccess/fileserve?contentid=186418> “The Travel Gold Rush 2020: Pioneering growth and profitability trends in the travel sector.” Oxford Economics and Amadeus. <http://www.amadeus.com/amadeus/documents/ corporate/Travel-Gold-Rush-2020-EN.pdf> Theroux, P. (2011, April 1). “Why We Travel.” New York Times. <http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/ travel/03Cover.html> Watson, R. “The Future of Travel.” FastCompany. (2006, March 8). <http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/fast-company-staff/fast-company-blog/future-travel>
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