Knowing Too Much
Travel today all too often centers on a nasty case of 'TMI', more commonly called "too much information".
While it doesn't rank up there with the data gathered by US Homeland Security, the information provided by online travel portals today in most cases crosses into overload.
Traveling should entail a bit of suspense, drama and mystique, much like that notable quote about it all being about the journey and not the destination.
Alfred Hitchcock's classic film The Man Who Knew Too Much sums up the dilemma well. Spying, intrigue, assassinations and international backdrops create delightful confusion.
Once the internet really kicked in, the long tail of selection and customization wrapped around our personae like an Amazon python coiling around its prey before slowly devouring it.
Sure, sites like TripAdvisor and SeatGuru and those nifty GPS functions in smartphones along with Google Places are fun, but the question is: Does knowing too much take the fun out of travel?
"Augmented reality" (aka"AR") is one of the buzz concepts of the moment that has finally reached hotels through Room77.com.
On view through Room77's AR are the locations of rooms, views and even classifications of the good, the bad and the very, very bad.
One of the credos of the site is that all rooms are not created equal, and anyone who has spent a night next to an elevator or on the next floor down from a disco can vouch for that.
From a marketing standpoint, the next logical step for the hotels that are well-known as late adopters of marketing trends is to follow the budget airlines and to charge premium prices for the better rooms.
Those airline guys always seems to be leading the way when it conies to dynamic pricing and the like, putting wizened hoteliers to shame – but not many airlines make the profits hotels do. So there.
It has always puzzled use why property pricing in Phuket has not been approached the same way. If the unit is a dog, price it accordingly. Viewing a developer's list of unsold units in Phuket is a bit like glossing over a clearance sale advertisement for obsolete consumer goods.
Hotels continue to be a backward industry in love with tags, be they names, star ratings, tiers (upper upscale, anyone?) or room categories.
Of course, this works both ways. If you are told at check-in that your room at a beach resort has a partial garden view, presume it will suck big time.
So how micro can pricing go? That's an interesting question, and the internet seems to have no limitations – except for getting a WiFi signal in Phuket, where people scream into their mobile phones, "Can you hear me?"
No I can't, and please never call again. You can send me an email, but of course a coconut tree just fell over the fiber-optic cable and I can't get online.
Anyway, back to the subject, all this presents the danger of everyone becoming soulless disciples of these customized doodles and dazzles made as through the internet. People can now book saying they want room 44 or else they won't be visiting your establishment.
Which is fine, except if everyone wants the same thing. In that case, you might as well knock down the wall and start selling beds in the Superdome. Of course, we all remember those harrowing pictures of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and how mob rule did just that.
As I look to wrap up this article I look at the movie poster for the Hitchcock flick mentioned earlier and can't help but be amused by the tagline, "A little knowledge can be a deadly thing".
For me, trains, planes and hotels remains the last bastion of the unknown and I happily enough put my head under the covers and take a spin on the Fortuna Wheel of Fate.