1991 paper predicted tech integration across travel. What happened?
In the early 1990s professor Dimitrios Buhalis published an academic paper pushing a range of predictions as to how travel would evolve through technology.
Buhalis, now deputy director at Bournemouth University’s International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research, finally released his paper in 1993 (it was started in 1991) and suggested that the fledgling internet and other technology would accelerate how the industry communicates and works together.
Many of his predictions came to fruition – but one, he now says, has still to get off the ground in a meaningful and effective way, despite the technology being available and clearly it being something that would benefit consumers.
Speaking at the OpenTravel Alliance conference in London, Buhalis explains that his proposition was quite simple. Technology would develop to the extent that every element of the consumer journey would be integrated to the extent that each service would understand what the other part is doing and be able to manage and react accordingly.
The example Buhalis used is around transportation, arrival, delays, hotels, transfers and hospitality.
He predicted that technology would have developed to the extent – and the industry seemingly enthused by it – that if a passenger was delayed on an inbound flight the airline’s systems would automatically notify the destination hotel.
The hotel, in turn, would let the transfer provider know about the situation, coordinate with other related parties to cancel or reschedule any planned activities (such as a restaurant booking or tour) or notify a car hire company to expect a change to the booking.
This scenario – the “agile destination”, to use his description – hasn’t really played out as it might, Buhalis argues, suggesting there is a huge missed opportunity.
When asked why this hasn’t happened, some suggest that it is simply a question of data protection and security issues which has prevented such integration from taking place.
Buhalis agrees, but only to a certain extent, arguing that it is actually a far deeper problem within the industry itself.
“There is a lack of vision and collaboration within the industry,” he says. “We have simply not managed to work out how to work with each other in a useful way, which is disappointing.”
So, is Buhalis right?
Such a scenario outlined above is reasonably complicated, given the different systems that each element probably use. But is that enough of an excuse?
Indeed, which organisation (airline, GDS, agent, operator, someone else?) would take the lead in driving such integration?
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.