Travel has changed forever II - the big players - Rusty Compass travel blog

Travel has changed forever II - the big players

| 20 Dec 2022
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20 Dec 2022

The small businesses of the international travel industry are its heroes. Across the world, most of the businesses that survive in tourism are small - eateries, cafes, guesthouses, travel companies. That’s especially so in the developing world.  In Part II of this series on how travel has changed forever, we look at the huge corporations that now dominate the big end of the tourism economy. They’ve become gateways to the small players. Their products are convenient and helpful. But how much are they shaping the way we travel? And how can a traveller get a good deal when these companies have so much data on us?

For the first two decades of my life of international travel, stepping out of an international airport meant stepping into an exciting and slightly disconcerting world of unknowns. It meant escaping the reach of friends and family. It also meant escaping the reach of global corporations. It was equal parts caution and wonder.

One of the most dramatic changes of the contemporary travel experience is that many of the familiar comforts of home, travel with you. Some of the world’s biggest technology companies accompany you wherever you go. It ain’t because they like you.

Travel has become one of the most lucrative spaces on the internet for the tech giants. They’ve built useful tools that we love to you use. And they show their appreciation by monetising our attention and trust.

In this second video in our series on how Travel has changed forever , we have a look at how big tech has colonised the travel space.

There would be few travel businesses anywhere that don’t feel the need to have a presence on Google, YouTube, Google Reviews, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor and others. A couple of massive OTAs  (online travel agents) own all the familiar brands. Name every OTA you know and it will almost certainly be owned by either Booking Holdings or Expedia. That is an enormous amount of travel industry power in two enormous companies. Then there’s Airbnb.

There are many problems with this model for consumers.

Get away from it all...
Photo: Mark Bowyer Get away from it all...Dien Bien Vietnam

How can we secure the best price when these companies bring so much knowledge about us to the negotiation (even if we’ve never bought anything from them)? With so much money at stake from huge corporations, how much integrity is there in Google’s search results?  How much does so much power invested in so few massive global corporations shape the way the world travels and the way travel impacts on destinations?

These are big questions for travellers.

Enjoy your holidays (really)!

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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