Who needs a paper ticket?

Do you love the digital age?  When you travel do you really need a paper ticket?  Of course you don’t……  so why oh why do I always carry paper on me when I travel.

I print a copy of my e-ticket (doesn’t that sound stupid?) and I also print a copy of my insurance policy and of course a copy of my hotel reservation.  Poor trees – I know I am not helping BUT I have also been in the situation when I have arrived at a hotel and have given them my name so they pull up my reservation.  Instead of having to quiz them on whether or not I have the breakfast included or the fact that I have pre-paid I just produce the piece of paper that shows that I paid in advance or I had a special request on file.  Just think about it – the power of paper is still there.  The difference between showing the check in clerk a digital copy of your reservation on your phone vs. showing him a print out.  It’s way more powerful.  BUT … I do need to change my ways.

Daily I get bombarded with offers of a new technology that will enable my clients to travel the world paperless!  Hah! Good luck with that.  I am not sure that will ever happen.  Yes it sounds wonderful – just enter all the information of your client’s travel into the app and send them the link.   Would that be a let-down?  After working for months on a customised 18 day itinerary with hotels, tours and trains would a link in an email diminish our work and their excitement?

Then there is the tangible aspect to consider.  You just booked a luxury cruise – let’s say it cost you $30.000 for you and your wife.  Now don’t faint…. I did say luxury.  Don’t you want more than an internet link to your booking.  Of course you do!  You want the special folder with the cruise line logo – you want a printed itinerary – you might even want the fancy luggage tag.  We did have this situation when someone came in to pick up their documents and the cruise line had told us “Oh everything is electronic these days – e-tickets you know – it’s the new thing”.  So we printed out the tickets for the client.  It was the least we could do.  He comes in and looks at the envelope and says “So is this all I get for $30.000?”

Having said that I recently did a clean up at home – I am going through a purge – a declutter if you like.  Going for the stress-free minimalist thing.  I came across seven or eight travel wallets and luggage tags – used once – never to be again.  What a waste!

You see part of travel – sometimes the best part – is the anticipation.  The months of planning that takes place, the research, the chatting with friends about this tour or that cruise and what they thought.  It’s a big thing – but it’s fun.  (That’s why we love our job!).  So yes – when you come to pick up your tickets you want something “real” – not an app.

Don’t get me wrong – e-tickets have helped a lot.  Back in the good old bad old days when we used to issue paper tickets it was a process.  If the printer was down then you wrote out the tickets.  Horrible red carbon paper and 4 copies of everything and God forbid you tore out the wrong sheet – then your passengers were going to have a hell of a time at the airport – because we know how flexible airlines can be 🙂

But let’s also be careful about when we use paper – while I believe it is important for clients to have a printed ticket is it really necessary to have so many pieces of junk mail go through our postal system every day.  It just gets dumped.  Hopefully into the recycling bin.  I have had people come into my office angrily demanding that I stop sending them these bulky cruise brochures.  Honestly – it’s not me!  I can’t imagine a bigger waste of paper or money.  I guess the only one that benefits is Canada Post.  Can you believe the paper industry is growing at an amazing rate.  Just look it up with Mr Google.  Sales in the US of billions and billions of dollars.  This is a good industry to be in.

David Unger sums it up really well in a good article with this extract –

“And then there’s tissue. It may not be the first thing we think of when we think of paper, but Big Paper is indeed very much in the business of selling toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels and “feminine products” – and business is good. You can’t blow your nose into an email. In the end, we are material. We have inputs and outputs. We require physical receptacles. And more of us are on the way. RISI foresees a 3% annual rise in global tissue demand through 2018, and a 1.4% rise in global paper demand overall.”


The answer might be (in our industry at least) to just ask the question – “Would you like a paper ticket or an e-ticket.”  If they say e-ticket just close your eyes and listen hard – you will hear the rain forests whispering  …… “Thank you”


By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. And carry a blank chq when ur cards dont work, like happened to me at Costco in the US as I pressed the cash back button-boom, lucky I had a chq


  2. And our gadgets can fail unexpectedly! Happened to me; iPhone died despite 30% battery. A paper copy is imperative. Rarely will you need it, but when you do, oh what a relief it is!
    Thanks for the newsletters Lesley. 👍🏻


    1. Ugh – that is our worst fear these days – our mobile devices running out of juice! Every airport you see these days have people huddled around the charging station. A guess it is a way to make friends and influence people!


  3. I agree. E-tickets are great but I too also print out my e-ticket, hotel reservations (with a google map on the back) and trip info. Walk up to the desk at the hotel or airport and show your passport and the reservations pop-up on their computer. Considering recent trips, the hard copy was only really necessary on our last trip to France with a bike and barge trip when at the end of the trip, the guide tried to ask for extra money for e-bike insurance and in the fine print of the print-out, it showed that it was covered. Looks like he was trying to pocket some extra cash. Left a sour taste so I advised the tour operator. New flight E-tickets and computer booked hotel reservations work wonders when you need to make changes to hotels and flights at very short notice using wifi, which we had to do to come back early.


    1. Yes you are right Hugh – sometimes you have to be really careful about insurance when it comes to rental cars (and bikes) – they always try to get you to buy more when you pick up your vehicle


  4. In London we were getting onto the tube when a young man exiting the tube dropped his iPhone down between the train and the platform. All we heard was oh **** and like all Brits he stuck his head in the air and walked on. Now a briefcase with all that paper wouldn’t of vanished into the depths. lol


    1. Hahah – that made me laugh. You are so right Anne. I can’t believe he just walked away. But I have to protest as a British person – I think he was probably just doing the old British trick – Stiff Upper Lip! LOL


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