The connected traveler: Redefining the summer vacation

21 August 2014 | Gary Wachowicz, Industry Managing Director, Worldwide Public Sector

This month, millions of us will either leave for or return from vacation. In fact, according to the UN World Tourism Organization, 460 million people worldwide will leave their home countries to travel abroad this summer. Here’s an easy prediction: Most of them will use their smartphones or tablets on vacation. How about you? Are you one of the people I see on sidewalks, trains, and pool chairs using mobile devices to check maps, make reservations, and share vacation pics? If so, you’re part of the new mobile majority—the 75 percent of travelers worldwide who use their devices while traveling. Smart devices are becoming so embedded in vacation travel that they’re changing the way we enjoy our vacations—and the way cities host visitors. Here are three things every city needs to do to satisfy the mobile majority:

1. Create smart city apps for a competitive advantage.

Cities of all sizes offer apps to help summer visitors have great experiences, whether they’re staying for a week or just passing through. Like many destinations, London, Singapore, and Hainan publish app versions of city guides with maps, itineraries, and information about attractions, restaurants, special events, amenities, transportation, and more. The best city apps also help visitors spend money through mobile booking, ticket purchasing, and the like. All of this helps you drive economic development and compete with other cities—down the road and around the world—for tourists. When visitors enjoy their time in your city with the help of a great mobile app, they’ll tell their friends and plan a return trip to catch any attractions they missed. If you design the app right, you can harvest data from their visits and actively market those attractions to them later. Now that’s smart!

2. Give city workers smart devices to work smarter.

Year round, city workers are busy doing inspections, cleaning streets, and making sure water, power, and traffic are all flowing efficiently. Short-term spikes in demand on city services, such as the ones caused by an influx of summer visitors, can throw city operations out of balance. With no time to waste, it’s crucial that city workers have tools to assess and resolve these problems quickly. That’s where mobile technologies come in. At India’s Bengaluru International Airport, for example, employees access real-time information on Windows 8 devices throughout the airport to speed up services for 32,000 passengers a day. And the Tube Lines Emergency Response Unit uses Windows 8 tablets on-site to keep London Underground passengers safer. Mobility makes the services run better during peak demand—which ultimately reflects well on the city.

3. Rely on mobile data to reallocate resources on the fly.

Any time there’s a spike in visitors, city leaders need to provide services to a new population with its own needs. Some travelers will get sick and have accidents. There will be lost cameras, picked pockets, and stolen bags. And your city’s transportation systems will be at peak demand. At times like these, city organizers need data, forecasts, and insights to judge how city services are performing, see what needs improvement, and sometimes reallocate resources in real time. Some cities like Barcelona develop dashboards—theirs includes a real-time view of 120 key performance indicators that can be accessed on Windows 8 devices—to help managers allocate, and reallocate, resources to meet spikes in demand. By enabling quick, informed decision-making, mobility solutions help your city run like clockwork and make visitors want to come back.

Using mobile and cloud technologies to provide modern city services isn’t just a way to handle peak demand during the summer vacation season. It’s how to run your city 24/7/365, gaining computing power during spikes without investing in more infrastructure. It’s also the way to satisfy the needs of mobile-savvy citizens and tourists who will enjoy what your city has to offer, tell their friends to visit, and ultimately boost your economy so you can make even greater strides for your city in the future. The tourists you see this summer are part of that equation. If you treat them to a great vacation experience, and treat your citizens and businesses to a similar experience day-in and day-out, anything’s possible.

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Gary Wachowicz
Industry Managing Director, Worldwide Public Sector

About the Author

Gary Wachowicz | Industry Managing Director, Worldwide Public Sector

Gary provides global strategic support to government agencies, and works with Microsoft partners and their government customers to optimize agency operations and citizen services. Read more