Traditional tourism has to adapt to new technologies

Lucía Hernández

Lucía Hernández, a specialist in partnership tourism, has told students at the Adeje Summer University that the changes in traditional forms of tourism, with car and apartment exchanges now the growing norm in the industry, the new reality. Taking part in a course on (translated) ‘The collaborative economy: Is this the end of traditional tourism as we know it?’, she says the eruption of new, less institutionalised travel agencies, is creating friction in the more traditional sectors, but, she added, “when there are important technological changes taking place it is the traditional businesses that have to adapt to the new realities”.

Hernández told students that partnership or collaborative tourism was evolving on technological platforms which allowed individual users to contact each other to share cars – sites like Blablacar – or homes – sites like Airbnb. “The full gamut of traveller needs is being met, from when they arrive to their destination, where to stay and what to do during their stay. So, the ‘experiences’ subsector is the one with the most potential for growth, as both transport and accommodation are more or less covered”, she said.

This change in the tourism model has evolved and grown directly in line with the needs of travellers who are often looking to immerse themselves more into the lifestyle of the places they are visiting and to have greater contact with the local population, get to know the places they are visiting, the culture, the gastronomy.

The growth in this form of travelling has provoked a reaction from some of the bigger traditional tourism companies. In destinations such as the Canary Islands, where hotels continue to enjoy up to 100% occupation, they are not so worried, but in other destinations with lower rates “from the start they have seen this new form of tourism as taking from their market share but the reality is that people are travelling more and, rather than seeing their slice of the cake getting smaller, the cake itself is growing”.

It’s also, says Hernández, down to the fact that people who felt financially restricted from travelling in the past are now doing so. “A family who would have needed to find a hotel room for a couple and two children found it difficult in the past, and expensive. Today, they can find an apartment that they can afford with a kitchen where they can prepare meals for the family”. In Hernández’s opinion what will more likely happen in the medium term is that tour-operators and hotel chains will begin to adapt to the new collaborative economic models.

Hernández also referred to the reality that today there are many companies who control tourism apartments using these same platforms to sell their product, and “it is something that we cannot control, the market has its own evolutionary route and companies are also beginning to enter this collaborative economy”. What we are waiting for is for legislators to adapt and reflect the new norms, and, “there must be an adequate level of understanding of the market to apply necessary regulations”.

Hernández works for ‘Ouishare’, an independent international organisation that, according to their own website, “connects people and accelerates projects for systemic change. We experiment with social models based on collaboration, openness, and fairness.
Our mission is to build and nurture a collaborative society by connecting people, organizations and ideas around fairness, openness and trust.” The group works with and offers advice to public institutions and private companies on adaption to the new models of economic collaboration.

Ouishare believes that those economic, political and social systems based on the values of collaboration, fairness, openness and trust can solve many of the complex challenges the world faces, and enable everyone to access the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. Hernández points to the figures as proof of the change. “In 2015 the collaborative economy generated 4,000 million dollars in Europe, 85% of that going to private citizens. These individuals, empowered by technology, are generating new forms of income via this activity which will in turn have a positive impact in terms of income tax”, and in other ways, taking people off the dole, out of social welfare dependency. “All this has to be taken into consideration. We cannot go backwards”.