Legacy systems, some of which are up to 40 years old, were cited as one of the main barriers to IT investment and innovation in the travel industry.
In the Travolution Innovation Report online survey, conducted by eDigitalResearch, outdated technology was cited as one of the three main factors that inhibit deployment of technology and innovation. The other two factors most likely to have been included in the respondents’ top three inhibitors were lack of capital investment and complexity.
Discussing the issue at a Travel Technology Europe seminar on the Travolution Innovation Report, Andrew Nicholson, UK managing director of Traveltainment, said: “One of the issues we’ve got with legacy is the two largest tour operators in the UK are stuck with technology that was built in the 70s or early 80s, and they are so saddled with that technology.”
Tickets specialist Attraction World has recently secured a management buyout with new venture capitalist funding attracted largely because of the firm’s transformation into a true dotcom business.
IT director Russell Parr said: “One of the biggest challenges, certainly with larger organisations, is they are ingrained in legacy technology, so resources that should be used for innovating are used to maintain that technology.
“When you then try to integrate with their core systems to present your product in a different way to their selling agents, the ability and capability to do that isn’t always there – or if it is there it will take 12 to 18 months to achieve it.”
Ashley Jones, ATD Travel Services head of online development, said his experience at previous employer Tui Travel, one of the UK’s big two operators, taught him it was better to replace old technology at a steady pace.
“We tried to replace the reservations system three times and found it is much better to do it in small chunks than it is to get rid of the 1970s technology and replace it with a brand new reservations platform. It’s not easy to do because it’s too ingrained.”
And he issued a warning to firms not to make the same mistakes with new technology. “As with everything, chasing the latest trends can be dangerous,” he added.
“I’ve found in the past that when you go chasing new trends you end up with more legacy, and that’s just one area in which we should be careful in the travel industry because margins are so tight.”
However, Nicholson encouraged investment in technology to harness the potential of new mobile touch-screen devices, such as the iPhone and iPad.
He said: “As an industry we are very good at embracing new technology and I think chasing the tail of current trends is probably a key thing to talk about right now because iPhone and iPad applications are absolutely built for travel.
“These platforms are not going to go away, they are here to stay, they are not a current trend or a fad. They are going to revolutionise the way customers buy travel. They are already having an impact now and we all have to be prepared for it.”