Technological Developments

The telephone was the world’s first way of communicating to people far away without seeing the person who you were conversing with. This was thanks to the Scottish scientist Alexander William Bell, who in 1872 independently designed a device that could transmit speech electrically. He rushed to the patent office with the contraption and went head to head with Elisha Gray, who had also created something similar, just hours within each other. The pair of them entered into a famous legal battle over this groundbreaking invention, which Bell won.

Today, the telephone is one of the most common household appliances, and in the U.K., 98.5 per cent of the population own an example of the machine. All travel and tourism organisations rely on them (and would lose very large amounts of money and respect if they didn’t), and research has shown that in a travel agent’s offices, approximately every 3 minutes a call is made to the branch on average. It does not stop here though, as every airline in the world has a call centre for managing flight issues; either for a seat reservation on an aircraft, guidance/help, criticism or other criteria. Statistics show that telephone calls made to legacy or charter carriers make up for around 15-22% of their total revenue, so keeping in touch with customers who are not yet familiar with newer procedures is essential.


Fax Machines

Fax machines (or telefaxes) today are also a primary way of communication in the T&T trade. First brought into commercial use in 1988, five modifications have been made to the gadget, and now printing speeds have almost increased by 600% (4,800 bit/s at launch to 33,600 in the 21st Century). Most fax machines at present run over the telephone network (older models needed modems), which means prices become more affordable for users, and in turn industry will use them more frequently.

Their use is 90% of the time in office blocks, as businesses can send important, direct information to each other for beneficial outcomes, without having a time-consuming chat. In addition, customers will rarely express themselves through fax, and instead use other ways of communicating to these companies. Home faxes are rare, as the public use the telephone because of its ease of use, and not to talk about formal topics that need focusing attention. They usually come with a telephone included, as well as an image scanner and printer.

A fax becomes very useful when sending people documents over very large distances, and knowing for certain that they will pick their copy up shortly. This is a gain over to e-mail, which is not on ‘real’ paper, and therefore cannot be touched physically (unless printing it off).There is also no guarantee that the receiver will look at the message in the time that is convenient for you. Yet still, faxes’ disadvantages become apparent when looking at the document, as variation is limited (i.e. decoration), and quality of sent paper may be reduced, which puts e-mail at the top as the established form of electronic document transferral currently.

Teletext

This type of service was introduced to the United Kingdom in the early 1970s, and offers a range of text-based information, usually including news (national and sport), TV schedules and weather. Teletext can be used on any television set, be it digital or analogue, and many people still use the service today, even if the internet is slowly taking over. Around the mid 1990s, an upgrade was made to the facility, enabling users to ‘interact’ with what they were seeing. A special telephone number would be called using a regular telephone, and then a pre-recorded message guides the user to a specific teletext page, which meets the customer’s needs for the session. The page, which then appears, initially contains a menu with options that can be chosen among using the buttons on the remote control of the television. The page is then broadcast when a choice is made, and can be viewed by the user.

This technology enables user to reserve flights with airlines (as the carriers enjoy advertising their products on these specialist pages), rent a car, and book a hotel, or any of the three together. Train timetables can also be checked in more depth and to a later date (all these being features to do with travel and tourism). However, there are also other attributes such as chat, games and access to databases.

On the negative side, only a limited amount of users can have full use of the service at the same time. This is because one page is allocated per user. Another shortcoming to the technology is some people may feel threatened towards their privacy, as users can see what each other are up to; all interactive pages are received by all viewers. Mainly because of these causes has the service seen a terrific downfall in the past half a decade, which was beforehand used by millions across the country as a substitute to the World Wide Web; the facility which has more or less succeeded it.

Computers/Internet

One of the biggest technological advances and developments throughout the 20th century (and further ‘tweaking’ through the 21st), which has benefited the travel and tourism industry’s organisations the greatest, is indeed the evolution of the computer. From the first devices in the early 1940s that reassembled what a modern computer today looks like today, we have huge databases using scores of the machines that manage vital information.

This includes airlines (for recording of flights [baggage, passengers’ names etc. etc.), tour operators (for advertisement and reference), travel agents (again records of purchases, spreadsheets) and many, many other trades within the industry. It is not just the computer which we can picture today, however, that keeps up the cycle – computers on aircraft, mobile phones, appliances within the office, metal detectors, x-ray machines, and even conveyor belts play a vast role in making out what life is like today in the world of travel and tourism.

Managing data was not always as it is today. Prior to the 1960s, major airlines did not have a computer system to record flight booking, and neither did other companies. The general did not even know in full-scale about the machines, let alone use them. It wasn’t until late 1965/early 1966 that the first era of basic computers were introduced to industry. This decreased waiting time for passengers (airlines), improved efficiency for all trades, and also increased volume together with accuracy of loggings made by staff.

Just over thirty-five years later, in 1998, over 2.3 million households in the U.K. were logging on to the internet (which has become the benchmark in reserving flights, booking holidays [or collectively any money spent on organisations from the travel & tourism industry], and for office work). Of these, 1.4 million used the service for these purposes. By 2005, nearly 13 million U.K. households had access to the World Wide Web, and the majority of these people took advantage of the facility for vacation bookings.

To account for these amenities offered to keen customers, most tour operators and airlines would run their own fully-functioning website. Some even go as far as employing people to be ‘cyber market clients’ who chat with the consumer at resorts and travel agents. Other staff may work at home (home-employed) for travel agencies. An additional innovation which came into popularity are e-brochures-these are electronic catalogues showing the products on offer which stop the need of having chunk ones lying around at home, and are exploited by many companies for the convenience of the customer. These two new ideas, coupled with the advance of internet sites’ ease of use, means direct access to reservations or bookings for the consumer.

Although when booking directly you are able to see the person who is dealing with your request in real, and you have the opportunity to ask questions, using this method is also more time-consuming and more expensive. This is why the easier, more convenient and the fact that you are in control when booking online outweighs its counterpart. This is proven even more as increasing numbers of people are using the internet to make bookings (as mentioned previously), and thus demand along the high street is becoming less and less practical, and could come to a bare minimum within the next decade.

Travel Agents are being shunned for Getaways on the Internet

Do-it-yourself getaways are seeing an increase in popularity as Britons are spending more on them than the traditional package holiday, which is in turn being rejected. The market (which has now doubled in the past six years), is worth an astounding �11.7 billion. Flights and accommodation are being booked confidently and separately by the public, and could reach a value of just over �21 billion within the next five years-which is a forecast of growth in this sector by 78 per cent of what it is today.

Accommodation and ‘no-frills’ airlines’ websites can be found on the internet, and designer breaks are being organised online so that travellers can take advantage of their cheap services. High street travel agents on the other hand have been affected by this and do not have such a rosy outlook, with a bleak forecast; 55 per cent of the market this year has holidays booked independently, (or around 24 million), a consumer report which has been suggested by Mintel.

This signifies the number of people planning their own vacations since 1998 at an escalation of 60 per cent. This year, two in four people went along with the trend, compared with only one in four adults who bought a ‘ready made’ package holiday. To help people book and choose their own stays at apartments or hotels, the German-owned company, Thomson, has created ‘holiday bed banks’, after realizing the disturbing figures shown earlier. As the firm expands its online sales operation, some eight-hundred jobs are to be lost as a result of this. Many other tour operators are also doing the same thing.

The change of booking routines is having an impact on the industry, admits the Association of British Travel Agents. ‘These predictions for independent travel are impressive and underline the reason why our members are adapting quickly to offer very flexible booking arrangements for those customers who want to remain relatively independent’, a spokesman said. He also went to express his views about the package holiday, and believed that this not the death of it – ‘more people are travelling on package deals today that ever because more people are generally taking holidays abroad’. What he did think had happened however, was that the market share had gone down, even when it is still expected to remain a significant factor in the industry.

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