Holidays just for the selfies: Five ways travelling has changed

  • TECH
  • Friday, 09 Aug 2019

If you're not posting a selfie on social media, it didn't happen – or so the tourist thinking often is. — dpa

Flying to an island resort for the price of a taxi, selfie sticks in front of landmarks and a new sense of guilt for flying: Travelling has changed a lot in recent years. Here are five things that are different today than they used to be.

A flight to the next beach is just as cheap as a taxi, and you can barely make out the Colosseum behind all the selfie sticks. You feel climate guilt when you fly, and more overtourism guilt when you arrive at your location.

Today's holidays look quite different from 25 years ago. These are five ways in which travelling has changed.

1. Discount airlines

Slaving away the whole year and waiting for your three-week holiday is no longer enough for most people. The trend of shorter, more frequent trips has been growing for years, says holiday researcher Philipp Wagner.

That’s tied directly to the growth of budget airlines in many places of the world. When weekend getaway flights to another city cost less than a night in a hotel, you’re much more likely to take the trip.

Tourism expert Horst Opaschowski says it’s part of a larger societal trend to experience more in less time. Rest and relaxation are still major drivers of holidays, but people increasingly want to see more, experience more, indulge more.

2. More information, fewer surprises

You’ve booked your flight, hotel and car with just a few clicks. Looking for a bar? No problem, the reviews are at your fingertips.

Which way do we go? Google Maps is already on it. It’s become increasingly difficult to be surprised while on holiday, discovering places that you didn’t expect. And when you are there, you always wonder – did I make the right decision, or did I miss a better option?

The information overload can make a relaxing holiday quite stressful. That could be why the package trip remains so popular. When the trip organiser takes care of the planning, you might not even read the guidebook until you’re on the plane, Opaschowski says.

3. If it isn’t on social media, it didn’t happen

Being totally off the grid was the accepted (and relaxing) state of travelling before the digital age. Often your postcards wouldn’t even arrive until you were already home. And you could only share photos of your adventures after you were back.

But now it’s totally different, and home is never that far away. Social media lets your friends and family take part in your holiday, Opaschowski says. That intensifies the experience in a way that might not be so desirable.

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” Photographer Susan Sontag wrote that back in 1977, but it’s extremely relevant to travelling today, when selfies are just as important as experiences.

4. The rise of overtourism

The German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger once wrote that the tourist destroys what he seeks. Criticism about tourism has existed as long as tourism itself, but overtourism has become a hot topic around the world.

Many top destinations have already reached their capacities. Favourite locations such as Iceland, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Venice are discussing limiting tourism or redirecting visitors to less-visited attractions. And critics say the rise of Airbnb, offering “authentic” stays with locals, is leading to a rise in rents.

5. Critical climate effects of travel

As climate change has dominated public debate, more observers are pointing fingers at emissions-intensive flying. Once a symbol of mobility and freedom, flying is a topic of consternation for environmentally minded holidaymakers.

But, “there’s a big gap between problem awareness and actual behaviour,” Opaschowski says. After all, very few travellers abstain from flying for the sake of the climate, and holidays are the most popular expression of happiness, he says. “The climate debate won’t change that.” – dpa

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