History of online travel – 1996
The Internet has grasped the imagination of the travel industry, with technology companies clambering to get on board, launching a baffling number of products.
Few bookings are made in realtime. Most sites only allow customers to send e-mail messages back to the travel supplier, who then checks availability.
In April, Marriott Hotels manager of marketing automation Peter Dennis sums up the mood of the travel industry, saying the web is “overhyped” and is a “mess and a navigational nightmare”.
Amadeus website editor-in-chief David Vis warns travel companies about jumping on the bandwagon without any strategic purpose.
He says: “I’ve seen many companies rush off to do something – anything – on the Internet and they end up with something completely silly.
“Just because it’s new doesn’t mean you have to abandon common sense, sound financial planning marketing or assessing how the technology can best serve your clients.”
However, Vis does claim that the Internet will lose its mystique in two years and problems with security and speed will be sorted out.
However, there is disagreement about whether it will be the PC or television that will be the main medium for the Internet revolution.
Wexas managing director Simon Beeching says: “In my view, the Internet can have only restricted appeal while remaining hosted on PCs. How many people do you know who have a home PC linked to the Internet? But once the web transfers to the cheaper-to-buy and more entertainment-friendly environment of the family television, it will have the power to transform the way services are provided in the mass market.”
According to travel technology consultancy Genesys, the number of travel suppliers on Yahoo! is increasing, up from 1,864 in July 1996 to 4,355 in March 1997, a rise of 133%. Genesys says 49% of people used the web to get information on travel.
Several travel companies, including Gold Medal and Global Travel Group are seizing on the possibilities of the web as a virtual training medium.
There’s a buzz around the industry about a product to replace viewdata.
In March, network supplier AT&T Istel and technology company Comtec launch their joint interface, allowing agents to jointly access viewdata and the Internet.
The system allows up to three different viewdata pages to appear on screen at once, allowing agents to make multiple bookings at one time. Holiday Express becomes an industry pioneer when it installs the product.
In October, rival Imminus launches its version, in partnership with JFA Systems and Saturn Network Services. Apollo Travel is the first agency to use it, to book a ski holiday with operator Crystal.
P&O Business Travel launches its Internet service, linked to Sabre, in May. The system is already available in the US, but UK sales and marketing director Keith Haynes says he expects take up to be slow because of misconceptions.
However, a National Business Travel Association survey shows that fewer than 5% of US business travellers are allowed, under their company’s corporate policy, to make their own travel arrangements.
Half of travel managers say they have “absolutely no interest” in implementing a corporate booking tool, or have decided against doing so. A fifth are allowed to self-book, while 20% are planning to introduce it.
- Australian Tourist Commission plans to approach UK operators to see if they want to advertise on its website.
- Thomas Cook announces it will spend £2.5 million on developing and promoting an Internet site
- Radisson Hotels Worldwide upgrades its site to include a booking facility.
- Thomas Cook offers foreign exchange booking through its Internet site, launched in October 1995.
- Cheapflights.co.uk is launched by ex-travel journalist John Hatt.
- Cybernetics, set up to develop Holiday Express’ Internet Holidays site, branches out to offer web design for other travel companies.
- Gatwick becomes the first in the UK to open a Cyber Café in the South Terminal.
- Network supplier Imminus launches the Imminus Travel Intranet.
- An Internet café opens for the first time at World Travel Market.
- Aer Lingus becomes the first airline to auction seats on the Internet on flights from the UK.
- Air UK launches an online booking service for flights from Stansted, to be expanded to all flights in 1997.
Click here for The Influential Ten – the pioneers and innovators in online travel from 1996 to 2005.
Other notable events in 1996