Let’s put the Heart in the Smart

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) to me is daunting. Every time I read and research about AI, I feel like I am entering a maze. I find myself getting pulled into the vortex deeper and deeper, with no way out. Yes, it scares me, but it also excites me at the same time.

AI is not something you can ignore. It is everywhere.

……When you download an app,

…..When you order stuff online,

….When you book your flights and hotels through web portals,

AI is there like a watchdog, keeping track of you through all the data you have entered. This post on AI will be just one of the many I will be writing about, considering the vast amount of work AI is doing through the various applications used within and about the Travel and Hospitality industry.

Thanks to the combination of enormous data stored on the expanding processes and applications of AI, and the ever up-and-coming technological capabilities, we are embarking on a journey where you can expect radical changes in how people get on and off planes, and how airlines get their planes in and out of airports.

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The travel industry has always been at the forefront of technology adoption, either through computerised reservation systems (CRS), online bookings, social media presence or direct messaging. And now with AI being at the helm of things you can expect a lot more personalised online interactions and marketing intelligence to revenue management and ticket pricing.

Emerging Trends for Hospitality Industry - SoftwareSuggest

For instance working through its core model of a digital travel booking website, AI is able to access and collect historical data about millions of fare searches going back several years and create a algorithm, capable of predicting the future price movements seasonal trends, predicting travel choices, manage in trip and post trip needs , special airlines offers and deals.

Today, a traveller has all the information he needs at the click of a button.  Travellers can plan where they want to go, compare options, weigh budgets and make bookings and cancellations.

At the airports, AI addresses more serious issues such as flight disruptions, baggage handling, complex embarkation and disembarkation processes or lost cargo consignments.

Airline travel requires repeated scrutiny of travel documents both at departure and arrivals by different sets of people. Facial recognition technology brings an end to the tiresome paper-bound processes. On my recent trip to Singapore the immigration at Changi Airport got over in a breeze thanks to facial recognition and bio-metrics.

With facial recognition, travelers can seamlessly move through airports, immigration, customs and board aircrafts without the need for having travel documents scrutinized at each step.

Most hotels and resorts rely heavily on delivering excellent customer service to build their reputation and AI technology makes this happen in a wide variety of different ways. For example, a robot concierge service is being offered at some hotels. The robot gives real-time recommendations for visit-worthy sites and attractions and answers customer queries on the spot. A robot can also offer tailor made recommendations and guarantee fast response times, in the absence of staff.

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Hotels and airlines have used AI to sort through customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, in order to build a clearer picture of current opinion. Service Providers who redeem themselves after a bad experience almost always win back the customer trust and get repeat business.

In an industry where time is critical, and information is constantly changing, AI reduces the time taken to complete tasks while improving the accuracy of processes and outcomes.

Models such as Airbnb and Uber are proof of the successful usage of AI in travel and hospitality.

Having little or no human interaction may be the calling card of the future, but let’s not forget one thing here. We are beings with numerous emotions running through our veins. We may adapt to being ‘handled’ by a robot, but only so much. At the end of the day we would however love to see a smile and feel understood.

I believe that technology is just amazing, but let’s never forget to

“Put the heart in the smart”

If you think there are more revolutionary ways in which AI will transform the travel and hospitality industry, please share your views in the comments below. TIA

 

🙂  Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC:Pixabay ;Techopedia;Airport Show

Unheard travel tales of India to fuel your wanderlust.

Bustling cities, dusty remote villages, exquisite temples, lush tea plantations and fragrant markets , rich culture, traditions, religions and ethnicities, India is a unique mixture of eastern values and western freedom.

You might have travelled a lot of India, but do you know that there are some intriguing facts that make travelling in this country even more interesting.

 

  1. Varanasi – One of the Oldest Inhabited Places of the World.

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Situated on the banks of river Ganges, the holy city of Benares (aka Varanasi) is at least 3000 years old. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Shiva founded Benaras or Kashi 5000 years ago and is a major religious hub of India and one of its holiest cities.

Did you know : Varanasi has a hostel where people come to die- Terminally ill people check-in  themselves in to ‘Mukti Bhavan‘ , to breath their last, which they believe frees them from the cycle of life and death (“Moksha“). All they have is two weeks to die or they’re asked to move on to make way for others.

 

  1. Shani Shingnapur – A Village without Doors.

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Attracting over 40,000 devotees each day due to a 300-yr old legend, Shani Shingnapur is a village in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The village is known for its popular temple of Lord Shani (Planet Saturn).

Did you Know: Its residents sleep soundly as they believe Lord Shani to be the guardian of the village and none of the structures, be it dwelling houses, huts, shops, etc. situated within one kilometre radius of this Lord Shani temple have neither doors nor locks. The villagers believe that thieves will immediately be punished with blindness, and anyone dishonest will face seven-and-a-half years of bad luck.

 

  1. Kumbh Mela Gathering.

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Crazy and chaotic are the words that best define the Kumbh Mela (or Grand Pitcher  Festival) .It is a spiritual event held once in 12 years in India Amidst the intermittent chanting of mantras, the heart rendering dance of the Aghoris and the holy ghats lit up with fiery diyas, the Kumbh Mela, will not just lend you with a day’s feeling but a mind boggling experience of a lifetime.

As per the Hindu mythology Kumbh derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pitcher’ had the ‘Amrita’ or the immortal nectar that had appeared during the churning of the seas (Samudramanthan). It is believed that the Gods and the demons had churned the milky ocean to obtain the nectar.

This year it attracted approximately 150 million people, breaking the record for the world’s biggest gathering. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Did you know: The festival is over 2000 years old! The first written evidence of the Kumbh mela can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang, who visited India during the reign of King Harshavardhana.

 

  1. The most visited place in the World.

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Awarded by the World Book of Records, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is the most visited place in the world with more than a hundred thousand devotees flocking at the shrine every single day. The largest langar (community meal) typically feeds roughly 40,000 people a day for free. On religious holidays and weekends, the langar can feed upwards of 100,000 people a day. All the diners have to sit on the floor, irrespective of caste, status, wealth or creed, symbolizing the central Sikh doctrine of the equality of all people.

Did you know: The dome of the temple is gilded with 750 kilograms (1653 pounds) of gold. The ceiling inside the main sanctum is made with gold and precious stones. The main hall of the Golden Temple houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikh religion. It is placed on a raised platform under a canopy studded with precious jewels.

 

  1. The Highest Motorable Road in the World.

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The world’s highest motorable road Umling La or Umling La Pass greets you at Ladakh. The road passes through Umling La Top at an elevation of 19,300 ft. Bike enthusiasts, take note because little fact about India could bring about a new adrenaline filled adventure for you.

Did you know: 235 Kms from Leh, all civilians will need a permit from the Army and administration to travel through the pass.

 

  1. Lonar Lake in Maharashtra – Formed by a Meteor.

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A 4-hour drive from Aurangabad and doubling as Maharashtra’s best-kept secret, this lake was formed by a plummeting meteor about 50,000 years ago. Travel enthusiasts must not miss this astronomical marvel and the temples around it.

Did you know: Also known as Lonar crater ,the lake is notified as the National Geo Heritage Monument and is home to thousands of  migratory birds.

 

  1. Mysterious Anti-Gravity Hills In Ladakh, Magnetic Hill.

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Located on the Leh Kargil Highway a small stretch of road defies gravity.Landmarked by a yellow notice board that spells out instructions and asks you place your car on neutral gear right on the spot marked by white paint, this one will leave you in awe as your car will begin to move uphill on its own.

Did you know: The magnetic force is so strong here that airplanes increase their altitude while flying over this region.

 

  1. Auroville an experimental township belongs to nobody, but everybody.

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Auroville, an international township in Tamil Nadu and in some parts of Pondicherry, contributes in the progress of humanity irrespective of caste, creed, color and religion. Everyone is equal here and people live united. Once you visit this place, you will never wish to come back.

Did you know: The township runs on a concept of sharing, giving and exchanging , a cashless economy, much like the barter system.

 

  1. Ancient Hindu temple that was carved from a single rock.

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The  Kailasa temple in Aurangabad is over 1200 years old and was carved from a single rock in Ellora. An estimated 400,000 tons of rocks were used to construct this monolithic structure. With bare hands and few hand tools, it is hard to imagine someone carving such an astonishing sculpture.

Did you know: The temple is double the size of Parthenon in Athens.

 

  1. A floating post office in Dal Lake, Srinagar.

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With the world’s largest postal system, India has post offices in some pretty unusual places. Inaugurated in 2011, in the Dal Lake, Srinagar, set in a huge houseboat is India’s first and only floating post office, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world!

Did you know: This heritage post office is a tribute to the already beautiful Dal Lake and houses the philately museum showcasing the fascinating history and stamp collection  and a souvenir shop that sells stamps, postcards, greeting cards and books on Kashmir.

 

  1. Step wells that take you to another world.

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Baori or ‘Step wells’ are the wonder of ancient architecture which can be found all around India. There were around 3000 step wells built in North India, many of them in the arid states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. These baoris’ narrate the beauty of their era with their marvellous sculptors and artwork. These elaborately carved step wells all over the desert were used to store water. Rani Ka Vav, Gujarat is enlisted in the UNESCO world’s heritage sites. Chand Baori, Jaipur is one of the oldest ,largest and the most astonishing Baoris of India in terms of its architecture While most are now abandoned and some have fallen into disrepair, many are well-kept and incredible to look at.

Did you know: Many of these step wells were meeting places, especially for women, for many centuries, and the oldest date back to around 500 CE.

 

  1. The Living Bridges.

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The ‘War-Khasis’ a tribe in Meghalaya, make the bridges entirely out of living trees, by training roots and vines of rubber trees, to grow across canyons and streams. Some of them estimated to be 500 years old. The beautiful thing about these bridges is, unlike the traditional bridges, these get stronger, as they get older. Although they take several years to create, but when finished they’re much more durable than wooden bridges, which would quickly rot in Meghalaya’s incredibly wet climate.

Did you know: It takes about 15 years for a new bridge to become strong enough to bear the weight of people.

 

  1. Delhi’s Khari Baoli is Asia’s biggest spice market.

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Asia’s biggest century old spice-den is located in Delhi, very close to the Red Fort. This market has local, as well as exotic spices. It’s a unique experience for anyone to see large quantities of spices and traders accumulate in a bazaar and through shops which are located in small alleys and bylanes hardly a meter wide. Trade worth millions are carried out in a highly organized and strict orderly system.With the spice filled aroma in the air, you can practically taste it once you enter the market.

Did you know: This spice market was started in the 17th century and today is run by the 8th or 9th generation of traders since their first set up.

 

  1. Spa for elephants.

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Every year a group of pampered elephants at the Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre receive elaborate spa treatments. The elephant yard is attached to the Guruvayurappan Hindu temple in Kerala, India. The elephants play a key role in Kerala’s legendary temple processions and with July considered a month of rejuvenation for humans and animals alike these ellies are certainly not complaining.

Did you know: The Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard was a former palace, which was converted into a sanctuary and renamed to Anakottaor Elephant fort.

 

  1. The Ghosts of Bhangarh Fort

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Located at the borders of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, the Bhangarh Fort is not for the faint-hearted. Widely known as one of the spookiest places, this fort resides in a deserted area and has many legends behind the paranormal activities experienced here. Although it is open to the public for visit, however, many tourists have admitted that a creepy heavy feeling prevails in its atmosphere. According to local tales the fort is cursed into desolation by a tantric priest who wanted to marry the princess and couldn’t. Apparently if any villager tries to build a roof it mysteriously collapses.

Did you know: the Archaeological Survey of India has installed a board which mentions that it is prohibited to roam around the Bhangarh Fort between 6 pm- 6 am.

Love it or hate it! But when you explore this beautiful and exotic country India, she will change the way you see things.

 

Safe travels

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC: Lonely Planet; Travel triangle: BBC : Getty Images :NDTV: Conde Nest

 

 

My Travel Bucket List

Each day that we are alive, a page of our life is turned over, never to reveal itself again.

While most of us concentrate on our career progressions, how many of us actually take time to let loose and work on those little things that keep us truly happy, such as travelling to new destinations, exploring and learning about new cultures.

Haven’t you ever sat down and excitedly wondered ‘my next holiday will be in …….! Well what are you waiting for? Quickly grab your pencil and paper and write down your very own bucket list of the places that you absolutely want to see. And then go and make that happen. For Real

So far I have been fortunate enough to experience and tick off my list

The Taj Mahal, India  

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt,

The Grand Canyon,USA,

The Stonehenge,UK,

The Auckland Bridge, NZ,

The Milford sound ,NZ 

The Christ Redeemer, Brazil.

But there are still a few places mentioned below which I definitely want to see and experience before I die.

  1. The Northern Lights

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Right there on the top of my list is what every traveller’s bucket list should include. The Northern Lights, one of nature’s spectacular phenomenon. Believe me from what I have heard from friends and family who have visited them, it’s beyond magical. The Northern lights have the power to take your breath away. The dancing lights in the north and south hemispheres are nature’s way of providing us with a free light show. I just can’t wait to witness Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights in the North)

2. Cruises- Alaskan, Mediterranean. Caribbean – All of them? Maybe…Why not?

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Sailing into the sunset is one of the best ways to experience life. Cruises are definitely more fun, have more entertainment, amazing food and offer more than one destination to explore. Caribbean cruises to Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Martinique and St Kitts, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Mexico, Aruba, Trinidad & Tobago offer such a wide verity of destinations to explore.

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Cotton-white views, untouched ice scapes, breathtaking scenery, wildlife and some spectacular glaciers, I mean who wouldn’t want to see the spectacular fjords, glaciers and mountains along Alaska’s coastline.

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From gorgeous Italy to sunny Spain, Turkey and the Greek islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Crete to destinations such as Venice, Rome and Sicily in Italy, Monte Carlo, St. Tropez and Barcelona. Mediterranean cruises offer activities for the whole family on board the cruise liner and ashore.

3. The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

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If you have a travel bucket list, I can bet my last rupee that The Great Barrier Reef will make an appearance! And why shouldn’t it? This largest living organism in the world is an intricate maze of colourful corals, unique marine life, turquoise oceans, and white coral sands. Spanning over 1400 miles, the largest collection of coral reefs in the world, can be seen from space, and it’s among one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Can you think of anything more defining than swimming alongside a school of large fish? The Great Barrier Reef is the place to go diving, offering a one-of-a-kind display of underwater life.

4. Eastern Europe

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What can I say about eastern Europe? Amazing cultures, budget friendly prices, unique cuisines, traditions and landscapes mixed with modern influences. And some of the “le crème de la crème” places such as Croatia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania . These are just some of the places that are a delight for wine tasting, historical sites, castles, cathedrals, museums, breathtaking natural beauty, and well-preserved architectural gems dating back to medieval times. Of course there are so many more hidden gems that will guarantee a holiday of a lifetime.

 

Do you have a bucket list of your own? Do share in the comments

 Madhavi ❤

 

 

 

PC: Pexels,National Geographic,Viator

Leave the spot better than you found it!

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You’ve most likely heard of Sustainable Tourism sometime or the other. Natural resource preservation at some of the major destinations around the globe and the people who visit them are becoming more attuned to the environmental impact of tourism.

While traveling sustainably is becoming ever more popular, many people are still unfamiliar with the concept and just how easy it can really be.

Being sustainable does not mean being uncomfortable!

The very importance of sustainable tourism lies on its three pillars

  • The Ecological pillar: e.g. conserving and lowering the impact on the environment the natural environment of the destination
  • The economic pillar: support local businesses intending to generate employment and income for the local people
  • The social pillar: respect the culture and the people

The tourism industry in all its forms helps boost the economy of a country, which is a great thing. Not only does it generate reasonable foreign exchange but it also incidental in creating job and employment opportunities. Tourism is often responsible for increasing regional development and infrastructure particularly in isolated areas.

Because we are travel nerds over here, we are going to focus on specific ways you can spread the green gospel while traveling. Hopefully, these tips will inspire you to be a more conscious traveller on your next adventure and journeys to come.

Stay longer and reduce carbon emissions:

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How we wish we can zip across the world in a more eco-friendly way! Until that happens we have no choice but to fly. Luckily, there are a few ways to cut down on carbon emissions when flying. Consider the length of your trip in relation to the distance you’re travelling. In practice, this means the further you fly, the longer you should stay there. So if you’re considering a trip to the Caribbean then you should stay for at least a fortnight rather than flying there and back in a week. Avoid taking multiple flights within a country. Instead look at train travel or alternative modes of transportation that cause less emissions output.

Ditch the Plastic

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Plastic is a problem.  Bottles, packing materials, plastic bags.  Yeah, it’s not good. Bring A Reusable Water Bottle With You While Traveling: It may seem simple to purchase a bottle of water at the airport, at your hotel, or at the train station. But it is far more lovable to the nature if you have a reusable bottle that you can fill up for free. More and more places are adding in water fill stations, enabling you to get fresh water and also save money! Also don’t forget to carry a reusable bag for your shopping.

Did you know:-Plastic bottles have surpassed plastic bags as the biggest threat to oceans and rivers

Support Local Farmers Markets

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Hey foodies, we know you love chomp chomping away on your travels. After all, isn’t eating like 95% of what we travel for? Pretty Much.
So here’s the deal, why don’t you buy groceries from a locally owned market or farmers market or try dining at a farm-to-table restaurants while traveling? Also food tours that highlight local grown produce are a great way to enjoy the local cuisine.

This is my favourite! Shop local!

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Chances are you have an Armani or an H&M in your hometown, but still you are completely blown away by the window display and are itching to shop. How about gifting your loved ones something meaningful and small, that are run or made by locals, women and those that promote sustainability? Nothing beats bringing home a gift from a place that no one else has!

Take public transportation as often as possible or get a bike! Enough said.

Last, but not least, stay at environmentally-friendly accommodation.

Glasgow-Airbnb

I know this is a hard one to swallow for the honeymooners or budget conscious couple. You can actually travel affordably abroad through Air B-N-B and still get your privacy. Not to mention some of these homes are GORGEOUS! Or you can do your bit even if you stay at a swanky hotel. Chances are you’ve seen signs at hotels you have stayed in suggesting that you reuse your towels and bed sheets. Conserving electricity and water can make a huge difference even while you are on vacation.

Some of the places that support Sustainable Tourism:

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Faroe Islands are truly cinematic. The islands are known not only for their picturesque nature, but also for their sustainable fisheries, unique gastronomy, and preservation of culture. You can explore verdant rolling hills, and dramatic waterfalls throughout the island.

 

 

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New Zealand has long been at the forefront of sustainable tourism and they have a vision of being the world leader in such efforts by 2025. Considering nature is the most profitable export of New Zealand, it is understandable that the country tries to protect it. The country is an outdoor Mecca for nature and adventure enthusiasts.

 

bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan operates on a “high value with low impact” model of tourism. With very strict entry requirements, travellers to Bhutan must be with an approved tour operator who will arrange all travel while in the country. All visitors must pay a daily tariff, of apprx $65 as “sustainable tourism” royalty.

 

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Kerela has been honoured for its path-breaking ‘Responsible Tourism’ project in Kumarakom, which has successfully linked the local community with the Hospitality industry and government departments. It has the first ever totally sustainable adventure park in the world, the Jatayu Earth Center, which is described as “a masterpiece combination of artistry, mythology, technology, culture, adventure, leisure and wellness put together to give every visitor a spellbinding experience.”

Did you know: Thenmala in Kerala is the first planned ecotourism destination in India created to cater to the Eco-tourists and nature lovers? 

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Kenya: Over the years, Kenya has developed a number of voluntary programs to support and demonstrate its commitment to sustainable tourism. Many hotels and lodges away from the cities are now investing in alternative energy sources such as Solar power.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia: Most people skip over Slovenia when planning a trip to Europe, which is a shame since Ljubljana is not only gorgeous but also one of the most eco-friendly destinations in Europe.

 

 

The responsibility to travel the world in a sustainable way lies with us. While there are other things you can do to be sustainable, taking these simple steps can make a huge difference as far as your impact on the planet!

The concept of “being green” has filtered down to all of us in one way or another – but how do we ensure it doesn’t become another Instagram trend?

It’s time we all engage seriously with the issue of sustainable travel.

Go Green!

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC: Lonely Planet;Pexel; Viator

Is being Insta-worthy really worth it?

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The golden sunset was like nothing I’d seen before. An expanse of the sky mixed in with a cocktail of colours -baby pink, magenta, bright orange, yellow, violet and grey. It was a fluid painting in motion.

The dreamy location was the Tanah Lot. A Balinese temple perched high on the rock, facing the wide open ocean.

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The setting was perfect with the crashing waves below, and the dramatic colors of the dusk sky in the background, glowing softly with the spectacular light of the slowly setting sun.

There I was, completely mesmerized by the brilliant sight, waiting patiently for the sun to loving merge with the ocean when suddenly; a hand was thrust in front of me.

Holding the latest iPhone, the hand took picture after picture of the sunset, hoping to capture the wonder on a 14-centimetre screen.

I was annoyed and distracted. My moment was broken.

Why did this happen? I asked myself. I wanted to witness this daily and magical ritual.

I wanted to “feel” the moment.

I wanted to stare at the magic of the sun drop its curtains for the day.

I was not thinking of capturing images on my phone to relive it later. No siree!!

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I admit that Instagram is just great. And the fact that it is something quick, something that you can just do on the go, is probably its biggest appeal.

While travel companies, agents, hotels, cruise ships, tourist locations, airports and airlines have started to reshape their businesses with visual posts in mind, becoming Insta-famous is a double-edged sword.

But as the Instagram effect continues into 2019, destinations are thinking of ways to fight back–and fight off the teeming hoards of selfie-stick-wielding visitors, specifically to those places which are unable to handle the massive footfalls.

Instagram has gone from something fun we do when we travel i.e. clicking pictures of ‘been there, done that’ to becoming the main reason to travel.

It’s not just about ruining others’ good time, living space and nature; it appears that the quest for the perfect ‘Instagram selfie’ and travel shot is also destroying people’s lives.

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A recent study into death by selfies found that 259 people died in a six-year period while attempting to capture the perfect selfie.

Photogenic destinations like Cinque Terre, Barcelona, and Santorini are starting to limit how and when tourists visit in hopes of preserving the landmarks for the future.

Where does this leave us? Travel photos have been around for decades and they’re not going to stop. The responsibility for keeping people safe might have to fall to government and local bodies.

Can pictures or rather instagramming them, do justice to the visual drama, the vibrancy happening in front of us. Sadly the ‘likes’ and the ‘comments’ are ruining the pleasures of “living in the moment”

For as long as humans have experienced wanderlust, travel has always been made sweeter by the tales we get to recount and narrate for family and friends, long after the holiday has been over. But in today’s image-obsessed world, unfortunately we have traded the “art of story telling” into a Insta Story that vanishes after 24 hours.

 

❤ Madhavi