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Thursday, March 14, 2013

TRAVEL IN THE 21ST CENTURY --THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT

I encourage viewers to provide guest postings.  While I do tend to focus on renewable energy, ocean resources and global warming, the nature of this blog site is that anything of interest qualifies.  As some of  you know, I travel a lot, eat well, and, in fact, later this month will embark on my ultimate world journey.  I am aware of my notorious carbon footprint, but attempt to rationalize that the wisdom I impart here and there at least partially justifies my grand odysseys.  Today, we have Claire Wilkinson providing cutting edge information on this subject:


Technology is changing the way the tourism industry operates. With consumers beginning to seek holidays with a lower carbon footprint, and new apps and gadgets assisting in their decision-making process, companies are having to keep up to date with new software and respond to environmental concerns by demonstrating that their operations are as green as possible. But what exactly are these new technologies, and how are they affecting the way we think about travel?


Eco-tourism

The concept of eco-tourism is by no means new; the idea of getting away from the city and back to nature has been around for centuries. English poet William Wordsworth, for example, is often accredited with reviving an appreciation of nature that has remained in society ever since.

What Wordsworth didn't have was the problem of climate change to consider. While he was concerning himself with the damp hills of Northern England, today there is a greater focus on the snowy mountains of Europe and North America.

Over the past decade, demand for the world's mountain resorts has been rapidly increasing. This has had a negative effect on these areas; a skiing holiday no longer gives the opportunity to feel alone and free in the mountains, as every slope is heaving with people. More significantly, the thousands of people flooding into the resorts each week are using up a lot of the world's resources and having a damaging effect on the local environment. As such, resorts have stepped up to the challenge, and are using a combination of the latest technologies and a back-to-basics approach to reduce their impact on the environment. Snowboarding company Burton, for example, have created 'The Stash' – their snow park through the trees made using locally sourced wood and other materials. They have six of these in resorts across the world, and are aiming to educate the park's users in sustainability.

A number of resorts – such as Serfaus in Austria and Saas-Fee in Switzerland – do not permit cars on their roads, which is not only better for the environment but makes for a more pleasant holiday experience as well. Meanwhile, resorts are also investing in renewable energy to make the most of the intense sunshine of the mountains. Val Thorens in France, for example, has seen a new apartment block in the past few years that is covered with solar panels, and SkiWelt in Austria is home to the world's first ski lift that gets 100% of its power from its own set of photovoltaic panels. These changes are affecting the small and the big resorts; on one end of the scale, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada has initiated its Fitzsimmons micro-hydro renewable energy project, and on the other, small family-run resort Berkshire East in New England has become the world's first resort to be 100% powered by wind power.


Book ahead or the week before?

In the past, it has always seemed sensible to book a holiday well in advance – that way, you can guarantee that you've got a good holiday to look forward to. The one thing you can't guarantee, however, is the weather. Generally speaking, the weather on holiday should be one of two things: sun and snow, or sun and heat. This is a bit of problem when booking in advance, because although there are some places that are likely to be sunny at a certain time of year, you can't always be sure that the there will be a nice dump of snow just before you arrive in the resort for a winter holiday. Now that technology like ski webcams have made it easier than ever before to check the snow report before travelling, people might start to favour the last minute option. It is of course a risk to leave the booking of the holiday until the last minute – if you've got to book time off work then you want to make sure that you have a holiday to go on – but it can also be the cheaper option. Ski chalets, for example, will often lower their rates the week before in order to fill up spaces. So as availability of webcams and holiday weather reports is increasing, and the technology itself is being developed further, will the tourism industry see an increase in the number of last minute bookings?


'Appy snapping

One of the greatest changes that have been made to the way in which tourists experience a holiday must be thanks to the smartphone. There is an app for absolutely everything – including webcams from around the world – and as a result, smartphones have become guidebooks, phrasebooks, cameras, postcards and maps all rolled into one. Long gone are the days when you would get back from holiday, wait a few days while your photos were printed and then show them to your friends over a cup of coffee. No one will even sit down for a digital slideshow anymore; why would you bother when you can upload your holiday snaps the second you take them for all your friends to see?

There are a whole host of apps that are designed with the tourist in mind, some of which are very useful to have on holiday. There are plenty of holiday-specific apps as well, ranging from a simple but useful resort map to an app that will let you use basic functions on your phone just by shaking it, so you don't need to risk frostbite to answer a call. Of course, a lot of these apps require an internet connection to work, but of course there is an app for that too; download it before you go and it will tell you your data usage and roaming charges while you're away, so you can make sure that you don't get charged too much while you're busy enjoying the twenty-first century travel experience. 

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