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.

broken wire

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?

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Spiros Spiropoulos

    As with everything else, it is a matter of time before this happens. Necessity for profit drives companies to evolve their systems and seek new co operations and create services that add value to their products. As systems evolve and mature there will be a large set of new features and possibilities available over time. It is inevitable.

  2. Randy Quan

    Things probably will work out like Stephen Joyce says, that newer companies will bridge the gaps as they can. However, to the Professor’s original thought I do recall a mid 90s era project between Sabre and Marriott that unfortunately did not get very far. Nothing from it ever saw the light of day. But it might have provided this kind of end-to-end linkage at a higher more elegant level. Obviously, if one system can make all the business connections it could be much easier to do.

  3. Ioannis Pantelidis

    Some may call this travel 3.0, I really hope we will see it in our lifetime but judging by the exponential growth of web based applications, I think it will not be a hotel or airline company that does it but some clever entrepreneur and the rest shall follow!

    Dimitrios get Easyjet and Aquis to collaborate on this. If a prophesy is delayed the prophet has the right to act 😉

  4. Ben Jackson

    Great idea in theory. I think it comes down to the classic economic paradigm who’s going to pay for it.

    I agree with Stephen it will happen in small steps as companies are able to monetise either the process itself or some process around it.

  5. Professor Dimitrios Buhalis

    Thank you Kevin
    Original paper is : Buhalis, D., 1993, Regional Integrated Computer Information Reservation Management Systems as a strategic tool for the small and medium tourism enterprises, Tourism Management, Vol. 14(5), pp.366‑378.

    Readers may also like to see a more recent paper :

    Buhalis, D., and Law, R., 2008, Progress in tourism management: Twenty years on and 10 years after the internet: The state of eTourism research, Tourism Management, 29(4), pp.609–623


  6. Tweets that mention 1991 paper predicted tech integration across travel. What happened? | Tnooz -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dennis Schaal, Kevin May. Kevin May said: Obvious idea that never came to light… 1991 paper predicted tech integration across travel. What happened? http://bit.ly/cLSxGb [Tnooz] […]

  7. Stephen Joyce

    Stephen Joyce

    The answer to this is simple really. Technology within the travel space is extremely siloed. Hotel systems are very hotel centric, airline systems are very airline centric. Why on earth would a hotel system care to notify tour operators if a customer is going to be late? Does it generate revenue for the hotel or the technology provider? I think what we will see (and we see some of this now) is that filler apps like TripIt will bridge the gap between systems and add that connectivity between silos. These apps will find a find a way to generate revenue by watching for change in the silos and acting accordingly. I think Dmitrios’ predictions will come true, just not in the way he thought.

  8. Alastair McKenzie

    “Agile destination”… Excellent, smack-forehead stuff – and the technical capability is there (God bless XML!) – but if it happens it’ll start in mainland EU, not in the UK.


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