The Reinvention of Travel

· Other

It used to be so simple. Pick a country you wanted to visit, go and see the travel agent, fix up a flight and hotel, buy a guide book, travel and return.

The Internet put paid to that. As it's put paid to traditional High Street shops, trainers and the consumer sector as a whole.

Agoda, C-Trip, Expedia,, Kayak, Skyscanner, and countless other travel sites sprung up enabling the tourist to browse, decide and book by themselves. This tied in with the greater ease of travel, cheaper flights, the desire to share experiences, the need to get the most with the least, the conversion to digital photography etc. etc.

But China has reinvented the travel experience again. According to the People's Daily, there are 400 million middle-income earners. In 2017, 130 million Chinese travelled abroad for holidays; that's 20 percent of the world's total tourists.

I went to New Zealand last year and it's the first country I've visited where I could clearly see the impact of Chinese tourism. At every major tourist sight, information was in Chinese, there was a bilingual tour guide, and importantly, WeChat and Alipay were both accepted.

Over in Sri Lanka, I experienced first hand how Chinese tourists overcame the language issue. Simply, prospective tourists work out their itinerary, seek help from a tour agent in China found on Taobao, book and pay. Once the hotels and flights are booked, they then use the same agent to book a car and driver to drive them from place to place in Sri Lanka.

The tourists communicate with their driver by using WeChat to speak to the agent in China, who then WeChat's the driver in front of them, telling him what they want; in real time. This cuts out the difficulty of language issues. A simple workaround and one that opens up so many travel potential opportunities.

Most hotels are of the two or three star variety (and some are very good), and offer dormitory accommodation for drivers. The rate is about US$300 for a driver with car a week with US$200 going to the driver and you are expected to provide a per diem to cover meals.