Last year more than five and a half million people made the decision to come to Cambodia for work, leisure or a combination of the two. Incredibly, that is more than two and half times more than the number of people who took the same decision to make the journey just ten short years ago. The industry has grown so fast that it is sometimes surprising to recall how much it has also been transformed, and will continue to be transformed, by advances in technology.
Ten years ago, TripAdvisor was still barely heard of (its first reference in the Phnom Penh Post didn’t come about until 2009) and we were still using Facebook solely to stalk ex-partners and connect with old schoolmates we’d most likely lost contact with for good reason. We still do that, but now we can do so while booking a hotel, making a dinner reservation and confirming our attendance at a nearby street party.
Now travellers can literally rock up to any city and plug in to (mostly) up to date information, select and book their hotel and a massage while sitting in the back of an Uber and then find out where the hottest gigs/exhibitions/restaurants are, all within five minutes of leaving the airport. This is all a far cry from the days of standing in front of an empty building thumbing through a mauled copy of Lonely Planet looking for a hotel that no longer seems to exist outside of its pages.
Technology has played a fundamental role in making the world smaller and infinitely more accessible, physically, economically and psychologically. What could there be to fear of a trip to an unknown city when you can virtually walk its streets on Google maps from the comfort of your own home?
In fact, now travellers can immerse themselves in a city or location without even going to the bother of actually getting on a plane to get there. This may seem an odd thing to do, but some companies are using Virtual Reality (VR) for content marketing or to build customers’ experiences. Imagine the power of a VR showcase of Angkor Wat at international tourism exhibitions and the potential for this technology starts to become clear.
Technology is doing away with other problems too. Ever lost your luggage? Airlines are starting to implement Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) for checked luggage so that passengers always know exactly where it is. In the US two years ago, companies were proposing that soon passengers won’t even need to hang around a crowded carousel waiting for their luggage. A marriage of, say, Uber and RFID means your bags could be delivered straight to your hotel, while you swish through and head straight for the pool.
And there is so much more to come. From Artificial Intelligence (AI) taking over dealing with customer queries, to hotel rooms that wake you up with a yoga class ready to roll on your television screen (for example). Hotels are also looking at voice technology so that guests can ask their in-room assistant where to go for the best pizza (and then to make the booking) to controlling the climate in their rooms.
Apps and hardware mean that travellers can now take tours without the need (and expense) of a personal guide — and a great example of that would include the Phnom Penh Heritage Tour created by Kanika Cruises, which puts more than two years of serious research into an excellent guided tour of Phnom Penh’s past all done through a Samsung tablet.
Apps are opening up whole new possibilities for travellers too. Tripcase means you can file away and link all your flight, hotel, car rental and tour information in one easy place — no more trawling through old emails. Maps.me means you can always locate exactly where you without needing to be online. Apps such as HotelTonight are being developed that will allow you to take the gamble on showing up and snagging last minute hotel deals that you might not otherwise be able to afford.
We love this change and all of the opportunities it represents. That said, we’re still fans of the personal touch, which you will always find at all of Thalias’ properties, even if you do show up at the last minute.