When you hear stories about jobs being lost to technology, you may think that you’ve been hearing those stories your whole life. So where are the robots and cyborgs that should be pouring the coffee and serving breakfast? Old science fiction movies showed that in the future, everything is automated and humans live in the lap of luxury, but of course that’s just fiction right?
The taking over of technology has been brewing even before the birth of the internet about 30 years ago. Here in late 2021, the coffee is ready and we have been gulping it down for quite a few years! High Tech, New Tech, Good Tech, Bad Tech, “Yea, I’ll have a Mocha entertainment news app with cat pictures, and heavy on the celebrities!” Actually, in the business world today it’s almost like this.
Let’s take deep dive into the digitally revolutionized travel industry. Travel was first revolutionized by trains, then by cars, and quickly followed by airplanes. The airline industry took a huge first step in technology when a new reservation system was introduced by American Airlines in 1964 called SABRE. This allowed American Airlines to process 7000 bookings per hour with an impressive zero error rate. When the other airlines realized that American Airlines was doing the driving and they were now in the back seat, they quickly began developing their own systems. This was one of the first big tech races and the world was definitely watching. In 1976 travel agents were still doing everything in written form. The airline industry began to integrate them into their Computer Reservation Systems. By 1985 virtually all travel agents were using multiple CRS’s.
Travel agents and consumers adapted well, "Better for everyone!" they said.
Then like a bolt of lightning, in the early 90’s the governmental computer networks broke free, became available to the public, and the World Wide Web was born! It grew quickly and once again things in the travel industry changed, but this “Internet” would turn out to be bigger that anyone could have ever imagined. Booking airline tickets online became available to travel agents, but it wasn’t enough. The first online travel website had to be created, so the “Travelocity” website went live on March 12, 1996. It allowed consumers to make their own reservations and purchase electronic tickets from home. Very quickly, more travel websites came on line and fear soon set in that there would be no need for travel agents anymore. They would all lose their jobs to the internet “robot”. Sadly those agents that did not adapt quickly or rebuked the technology began a slippery downhill slope to extinction.
Those who fought back, refused to give up and embraced the online revolution struggled at first, but eventually learned how to pivot their businesses to an online service that used those new travel websites. As the internet version of travel grew, everyone and everything travel went online. Airlines, but also cruise lines, hotels, car rental, tourism bureaus, sightseeing companies, everything. As time went on all travel businesses needed to have a web presence. Selling your products and services online became the norm.
Over the last 25 years, some travel companies are no longer in business because they could not keep up with the fast moving changes or because their competition overtook them. Other companies who were at the top took a big hit and are now in a reversed role of chasing the companies that were chasing them. Adaptation, innovation and constant change is the new golden rule. The cost of not keeping up can lead any business to the road of ruin. No matter how difficult the technological challenges are, businesses and their owners will have to endure the daunting task of overcoming numerous obstacles to stay alive and thrive in today’s digital marketplace.
Today the travel industry has settled into it's "Digitized" overcoat, and for the most part it usually runs smooth. There will always be glitches and hiccups in such a large complicated system but it is as they said "Better for everyone!" well almost everyone. When you feel like you have been waiting in line at the airport too long you could think about how it used to be before technology took over, might help a little right?