Impact of Technology on Travel

Introduction
     Although many industries have been effected by the recent advances in technology the travel industry stands among those changed the most.  Additionally, these changes can be easily identified on a personal level within the habits of the consumer.  It was not long ago that booking an airline ticket or family vacation package would take at least one trip to the local travel agent.  For the ‘leisure traveler” the first visit was the fact-finding mission which often resulted in a return trip home with an arm load of brochures to flip through over dinner.  The travel agent was not only relied upon for the reservation process, but also for destination advice, hotel ratings, and opinions based on personal experience.
     What once took several phone calls and possibly days now takes only minutes.  Today the internet provides the would-be traveler with information about even the most exotic destinations and allows the consumer to tour the world from the comfort of their own home.  Ratings for hotels, cruises, and excursions are gathered and provided so an informed decision can be made.  It is this new collection of accessible information that has posed a threat to the once mighty travel agency.  Generally speaking, consumers have gained knowledge of the industry and are accustomed to and comfortable with automated technologies.

The Consumer
     The consumers in the travel industry can be broken into two main catergories; the leisure traveler, and the business traveler.  Each of these two segments has it’s own unique characteristics.  The leisure traveler is concerned with convenience and attracted to low prices.  These consumers are seeking one-stop shopping.  Sites like www.travelocity.com hotel, car rental, and airfare information in one easy to access location with a user friendly format that appeals to this segment.
     Business travelers, on the other hand, are concerned with long term pricing and expense control.  These travelers are attracted to sites that provide expense tracking features and the ability to store profile information that can be used during the reservation process. www.biztravel.com recognized this opportunity and provides the desired features.  The site can be used for currency conversion, and the warehousing of customer specific information.

Information Provided
     Information that was once only available to the travel agent through the Computer Reservation System or industry connections is now available to everyone.  Airlines like Delta, American Airlines, and Air Tran have set up websites that allow consumers to browse through their database of available routes, flight times, prices, and seating options.  Use of the self-guided reservation system is encouraged by the carriers, in fact www.delta.com hi-lights a bonus of 1,000 Sky Miles when flights are booked online.
     The industry has also seen the inception of ticket-less travel, thanks to technology.  It is no longer necessary for a customer to scramble to pick up their plane ticket from their agent.  A customer can book a flight from their home at 3:00pm and board the plane at 4:00 using only their confirmation (or e-ticket) number and a photo id.  This innovation has made the hassle of last minute travel much more navigable, especially in the corporate environment.
     Roadway travel has also been affected.  Companies like AAA, which were once the information haven for those traveling via car now has competition.  The detailed maps and destination information provided by AAA can now be accessed via the internet as well as purchased software programs.  Sites that www.mapquest.com and software like Trip Maker can provide detailed directions and estimated trip times to travelers.

Industry Impact

     The industry as a whole has enjoyed many cost saving advantages in their shift to a more consumer driven information system.  When items are promoted over the internet via a corporate website it is easy and inexpensive to update rates, schedules, or current promotions.  There is no longer a need for the costly printing of brochures or the gathering of out-dated printed materials.
     Travel agencies have taken quite a blow in this transition.  Many travel agencies have closed their doors and those that remain open are forced to evaluate the services they provide and make changes.  Consumers are now privy to the information that was once held only by the travel agency making their role in the trip planning process almost obsolete.  It is up to the agencies to modify their services and cater to changing customer needs.  Many now focus on the needs of corporations providing the services unique to that form of travel.