At the recent CES conference in Las Vegas, standing in a line of 150 people outside the Venetian waiting for Ubers and Lyfts, I was struck by the obvious: It was clear, as people and cars were stuck in a giant parking garage, that a better, more efficient, more environmentally friendly experience would have been a bus or transit system.
Over the hour or so that we waited, car after car came to pick up one or two people when the same physical space of the car, replaced with transit, could have easily held five to 10 delegates all going in the same direction.
What continues to strike me is that the answers to smarter travel are also the answers to smarter cities and smarter systems. By making simple planning choices we can create a "smarter" outcome.
As with most things in life, it’s about choice. The choices we give travelers are becoming more and more complex, and increasing numbers of consumers are planning their own very complex trips rather than relying on travel agents.
However, even travel agencies are starting to deal with more and more complex planning scenarios with increased interest in slow travel (to reduce carbon), ecotourism and sourcing more sustainable places to stay.
Smart travel planning
Considering how far we’ve come with Google Maps and Amazon Logistics, it seems that the next great leap forward for a society that cares about sustainability issues will need to be in smart travel planning. Connecting a trip from door to door. Smart travel is about finding the most direct route with the least idling, and one that is the most time and carbon efficient.
In the vacation and short-term rental space, smarter travel, smarter stays, combined with smarter cities, could be achieved through smarter operations. For example, the cleaner who makes a single stop and parks downtown to clean 10 rental units in four hours rather than driving all over the city for eight hours to clean just five units. Good operational management in this instance is not only a better logistical decision but also equates to a lower carbon footprint.
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Another example of more intuitive vacation rental property management, through tech automation, is only using energy resources, such as heat and lighting, when someone is actually in the property.
We all want to travel smarter and have less of an environmental footprint. For many, those two concepts sound like opposite things. In reality, a more efficient and well-planned trip, from car to airport, to home and back, is both a better experience and better for the environment. Smart travel and smart stays reduce carbon emissions and reduce the friction of travel.
The way forward
In the early 2010s, things that seemed as insignificant and boring as flight path optimization were being looked at as ways to reduce the carbon impact of airports. Planes circling an airport waiting to land were noisy, carbon intensive and inefficient.
Now, the practice of optimizing landing is widespread, not just because it massively reduces carbon, but also because it makes for happier airline customers who feel satisfied that they are lessening their negative environmental impact. Also, more flights are processed more quickly, which increases the profitability of the airport itself.
A more efficient and well-planned trip, from car to airport, to home and back, is both a better experience and better for the environment.
The entire travel experience can be looked at in this way. From direct flights over multiple connections, to a more direct drive from the airport using advanced GPS navigation, to the accommodation being more energy, water and resource efficient.
There really is a smarter way to travel. But it requires better planning and more connected (smart, intuitive, automated) technologies. While the car-sharing app might be an amazing technological breakthrough for individual travel, it clearly wasn’t designed for looking at the bigger picture of combating climate change while I was in Vegas (but it was looking to charge us all more for surge pricing).
Just as a really well-planned air and land travel route is already possible for smart travel, a smart stay is also already available with advancements in property automation technology. For instance, at Operto we’ve been able to create smarter stays, through smart door monitoring.
The dream scenario is to tie smart travel to smart stays so that from door-to-door, the entire trip - including the actual stay - has both a lower carbon footprint and (hopefully) is more enjoyable. A smart trip that takes you directly to your destination city rather than having you make two stops with layovers, which not only is a lower carbon option, but also often a more time-efficient option (perhaps a combination of transit and walking).
A connected smart travel, smart stay is a scenario where room temperature setting preferences and ideal water temperature are intuited in order to add to your comfort but also to reduce the water and energy needed to provide them. At the end of your stay, the linen and property are cleaned in the most efficient and sustainable manner. As you leave, your return journey is as direct and effective as your trip to your destination.
Ultimately, all leisure travel is about experiences. We’re only just remembering that those experiences have both consequences and an impact on the world around us. Getting the most out of a trip in the future will become about smarter travel and a smarter stay that inspires us to live more consciously of the world around us.
The more connected and seamless the trip, the more time to think about its impact.