Global Observer

Can smartphones dominate the whole tourism industry?

Can smartphones dominate the whole tourism industry?

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PARIS -- Imagine using your iPhone as your hotel key, credit card, and personal concierge while traveling. TOTEC shows that we're almost there.

PARIS -- Smartphone innovation and applications stole the limelight during last week’s Tourism and Technology Conference in Paris.  The annual TOTEC meeting brought together industry leaders from PayPal, Blackberry, Sabre Travel Network, and others to discuss innovations that will soon be changing the way we all go on vacation.

The event, held at the Pavillion Cambon Capucines in the center of Paris, opened with a futuristic montage before welcoming the R2-D2-inspired Jazz, a robot designed for mobile communication by Gostai.  While the robot stalled a few times during the daylong conference, the discussion on robotic technology did not.  A roundtable with representatives from Ecotour and BNP Paribas led to a heated debate with audience members about the ethics and possibilities behind these new technologies.

Despite the buzz about Jazz and these robotic innovations, smartphones were the real standout of the day.  Imagine traveling to a foreign destination and not having to exchange currency at all.  Imagine not having to worry about a hotel room key.  Imagine being able to look up any sort of information online with just your voice.

These and other innovations were hot topics during presentations.  Grégory Renard of xBrainSoft discussed voice recognition technology.  He said he is hopeful about the application of such services on a more universal level than that offered by Apple’s Siri.  His company offers voice-powered platforms that could be adapted to the tourism industry by offering translations or even restaurant recommendations by simply asking the phone.  “We offer technology that let you create using your own imagination,” he told the audience.

Blackberry and PayPal managers also presented smartphones as a sort of magic wand for travelers.  Both discussed technological innovations that would allow the pubic to do everything from pay grocery bills to unlocking hotel room doors with an iPhone or android using programs similar to flashcodes.  While the technology is not widely available, this futuristic vision may soon become a reality.

According to Philippe Kauffmann, Blackberry Business Development Manager, smartphones will soon become the norm for the tourism industry, dominating nearly ever monetary transaction.  He presented a video where every daily financial interaction happened by scanning with the smartphone.  “By 2020 the ‘e’ in e-commerce will have disappeared,” he said.

The conference will reconvene next year, though the location has not yet been selected.  Organizers are looking to another European city to help diversify TOTEC’s program.

Photo: La Quotidienne

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Bryan Pirolli

Correspondent (Paris)

Bryan Pirolli has worked for Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure and has written for EuroCheapo.com and Concierge.com. He holds a degree from New York University and is currently studying at the Sorbonne. He is based in Paris, France. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure