Tourism

What does the future of travel look like?

Throughout the last few winding weeks of 2014, travel lovers have been fantasizing about all of the enthralling destinations they will visit next year, prepping their calendars and their wallets.

Skyscanner.net, an international travel comparison search site, took travelers’ imaginations to new heights by publishing a report on what they deem to be the future of travel in 2024.

To no surprise, Skyscanner said that within 10 years, technology and personalization will advance our travel experiences by reinventing hotels and customer service, our desired destinations and how we book travel.

However, how will our Central Jersey tourism tools stack up against travel of the future? The Bernards Inn, the Central Jersey Convention & Visitors Bureau and Liberty Travel Succasunna weighed in on the report to share their plans for evolution and their views on the future of travel.

Skyscanner said that travelers will have “no need to encounter a single human being” for hotel stays. These hotel rooms of the future will be completely personalized through mobile devices, including being equipped with interactive walls that display high-definition images of our families and holographic personal trainers.

Although Joshua Barbee, director of sales at the Bernards Inn, believes it’s foreseeable for guests to not need to encounter one human being upon entering a hotel in 10 years, he believes that they will still want to, especially at upscale properties that differentiate themselves by elevating personalized service through interaction with a guest service agent.

The Bernards Inn is a historic Central Jersey hotel.

The Bernards Inn is a historic Central Jersey hotel.

“Can automation ever replace a welcoming smile and greeting from a guest service agent, concierge, bellman or housekeeping staff member when arriving at a property?” Barbee asked. “The importance of putting a ‘face’ to the property should never be overlooked or underestimated.”

Barbee said that the Bernards Inn also pays close attention to emerging technologies and looks to integrate them while maintaining the Inn’s “Old World charm, stylish sophistication and modern luxuries,” which will set the stage for the Inn’s future.

“It is important for any hotel and property to keep an eye on and plan for the future, especially in regards to emerging technology. Being complacent can leave one very vulnerable,” he said.

Barbee continued that the Inn ensures guests will easily find that the amenities they see at modern properties can also be found at the historical hotel, which keeps the property competitive with other hotel options.

According to Skyscanner, travelers will have no desire to head to the Jersey Shore for a weekend when underwater resorts, space travel and other “forbidden destinations” will be easily accessible and mainstream. Travelers will finally have the opportunity to venture to former troubled regions of the world, featuring unparalleled and brag-worthy experiences.

However, Lina Llona, president of the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that there are plenty of exceptional travel experiences in Central Jersey, as well, that will always be enjoyed by out-of-staters, even though many Jerseyans take them for granted.

At Duke Farms in Hillsborough, fields around the Farm Barn teem with colorful wildflowers and butterflies.

At Duke Farms in Hillsborough, fields around the Farm Barn teem with colorful wildflowers and butterflies.

Llona referenced a particular example she noticed recently during a meeting at Duke Farms. She said, “Many of us don’t think of Duke Farms as unique since the majority of us are very familiar with it, but an outsider wouldn’t know its history or the beauty of its gardens.”

She said she doesn’t believe that smaller-scale travel will ever be replaced by the wonder of faraway destinations because there is room for both, especially for Jerseyans who only have a few days to get away and don’t have the time to get on a plane.

As for out-of-staters, the Convention and Visitors Bureau knows that there are many who come for events such as Big Ten football games, so the Bureau wants to showcase other attractions that visitors can enjoy while they’re here.

“We want them to stay here, not just come here and then head back to New York City, because there are so many interesting sites right in our own backyards,” Llona said.

The ease of booking travel online has outplaced many travel agencies, but according to the future of travel report, it seems that travel agents are back in business — digital travel agents, that is. Skyscanner said that artificial intelligence devices will scan online searches and cross-reference vacation, food, travel and hotel searches while using predictive algorithms to make suggestions tailored to desired price range, peer and gender needs.

Competitive with Internet bookings, travel agencies such as Liberty Travel do not charge any fees to their clients, plus they have a price-match guarantee that matches any price customers find online. Deborah Geiger, Liberty Travel Succasunna travel consultant, said that booking on the Internet lacks several factors that travel agents possess, including personal customer service.

Northlandz in Flemington, the largest model train museum in the world, is an attraction that is unique to Central Jersey.

Northlandz in Flemington, the largest model train museum in the world, is an attraction that is unique to Central Jersey.

“As travel agents, we have been to these places that we are recommending to our customers,” she said. “We give personal feedback on what these resorts and beaches are like, plus we can make all of their stay, golf, spa and dinner reservations for them.”

Geiger also said that unlike an Internet booking, human travel agents are there for their customers before, after and during their trip, which comes into play when customers need to voice their grievances about a destination or when things go awry, such as during superstorm Sandy.

“During Sandy, we were there for our customers helping them rearrange their flights or arrange a stay if they were stuck so that they didn’t have to stay on an airline hotline for four or five hours,” she said. “Only a personal travel agent can do that for you.”

Although the future of travel is bright and full of innovation, emerging technologies and fresh destinations, it appears that there will always be a place for travel that is local, personal and traditional.

Jenna Intersimone’s “Life Aboard The Traveling Circus” column appears Tuesdays. Her “Life Aboard The Traveling Circus” blog is at MyCentralJersey.com, as well asLifeAboardTheTravelingCircus.com. Tweet her at @JIntersimone or email her at JIntersimone@MyCentralJersey.com.

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/29/14

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

“Ignorant American.”

“I hate America.”

“Stupid Americans.”

You have probably heard phrases like this before. If you aren’t an “ignorant American,” I’m sure that you have heard how the rest of the world hates America, how our country lacks culture and substance, how we are a nation full of people who know nothing outside of their own world, who spend their days thinking of money and die unfulfilled.

Oddly enough, as it seems to me, it’s not the rest of the world who despises America so whole-heartedly (yet some parts of the world do, as there will always be people who hate another simply for their nationality, gender, religion, or race), yet sometimes, it is Americans themselves, bashing the country that gave them life, freedom, happiness, a land full of prosperity and opportunity. Most often, it is spoiled students who don’t feel like they got their deserved lot in life and instead of joining the rest of the world and making a change, they choose to take it out on the land that takes care of them, whining and complaining like brats.

Is everyone happy in America? Does every American belong there? No, of course not. Some people who are born there, just as anywhere else, don’t find it their cup of tea for a plethora of reasons and move to other beautiful places like Italy, France, Australia, Canada, Asia. This is all well and good. Wherever you want to go, that’s the great thing about planes, people. But to bash your own nation? This will not make foreigners like you more. It makes them wonder what’s wrong with you, that you could be so disloyal to the place that took care of you.

I love Florence. I feel like it is a piece of my home. I hope that one day when I take my kids here, I remember it as vividly as I do when I sleep in my apartment next to the Duomo and that I can smile when I think of the short amount of time that I was blessed enough to spend here. But I also remember that it was my American school that sent me here, a glorious opportunity at that.

And I have many other pieces of home too– down the coast of New Jersey where I spent the best three years of my life. Back in the countryside of Jersey where I grew up, which still felt like home even when I moved there knowing no one after my parents got divorced and life made a 180. No matter where I go, whenever I go, America is home.

The States has its problems. Our political system makes a mockery of itself, more people vote for American Idol than they do for the President, we grossly overspend and overuse. I’m not denying any of this or any more of the laundry list of problems anyone can attest to. But America isn’t the only country with problems. And making it the scapegoat for yours won’t fix your life, either.

So students abroad, I’ll tell you this. You don’t have to bash the place that you will be returning to in a few short months to get foreigners to like you. You don’t have to run around toting an American flag all day, but while you are learning the beauty of another culture, don’t be ashamed to share a little of yours too. It is the people that make up the United States, not the grass that grows there. Remember that next time someone says something nasty about the place you, and I, were born and raised, and show some respect.

Good Luck, Tourist.

You’re on a trip. You’re excited to be away from home, to not have to worry about feeding the dog, to be somewhere new and cool where there is so much to see and do. Well guess what, tourist? The locals there are NOT on vacation. They are probably not very happy to see you and they don’t want to help you or be nice to you. And you know what the saddest part is? Neither do the police. Sorry.

When I was in Paris, France, me and my friend both bought subway tickets to go from inner Paris to our hotel, which was right outside of the city. We bought the tickets (obviously all in French) from the machine and then swiped them through another machine, in which the little light glowed green and the gate opened and we stepped onto the subway.

Upon stepping off the subway, however, I was surprised to have a cop suddenly in my face asking me (in English, because, hmm, weird, he knew I was a tourist) for my ticket. This is pretty standard in many cities– the subway is kind of based on the honor system but if a cop pulls you aside, you better have it to show or face a hefty fine. In Paris, though, I guess they operate by the machines letting you through and cops. Anyway, I showed the cop my ticket, and he soon informed me that my ticket was only valid for subways within Paris, as evident by an emblem featuring the word “Paris” inside a tiny red circle. I don’t know about you, but even if I was French, I would not get this point.

The cop then told me (in English, because once again, seems that they knew we were tourists…) that I owed a fine of about 200 euro (this was all two years ago, I really don’t remember the exact amount). Being that I only had a few more days backpacking, I didn’t even have that much money, plus it was pretty ridiculous to me that we were guests in this country, doing our best to be respectful and we were providing tourism and money, yet two eighteen-year-old American girls were being punished so severely from an obvious misunderstanding. After some finagling, we ended up paying the cops 50 euro each, which was still pretty ridiculous to me, but after they started threatening to take my passport, I didn’t want to end up in a padded cell underneath the city.

I always felt like this was all so very unfair, and if the situation had been reversed with two foreigners in America, American police would just let them go. Honestly, though, I’m not too sure about this, since it seems like most cities take a particular sick joy in exploiting tourists.

When I was in Ocean City last weekend, my friend parked his car at a meter a few blocks from the beach and put $3 in to last 3 hours. When we got back 2 1/2 hours later, a ticket was waiting on the dashboard for $30, not really fair in my opinion since it seems as if there was some problem with the machine or something. If it were me, I would probably fight it for the principle of the matter, but realistically, it’s not really worth it to drive all the way back to Ocean City to fight a $30 ticket.

Being a tourist anywhere you are at a pretty deep disadvantage. You don’t have a real home, you may not have a phone, you have nowhere to park, and you have limited money and knowledge of the area. Sometimes, you get into situations that you can’t really avoid, like a French ticket and a crappy meter. All I can tell you is to be alert, really. And always stand up for the principle of the matter. Just because you’re a tourist doesn’t give anyone the right to push you around, uniform or not.