Technology and Tourism

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Technology and tourism

Anna Baines

The author Anna Baines is a freelance journalist. Abstract The travel and tourism industry is starting to exploit technology. This is going to change the nature of the services offered, and the nature of work within the industry. Employers and employees may have different perceptions about the likely benefits of technology. Discusses the changes at the “higher” and “lower” organisational levels and suggests that the industry is only partially prepared for the changes ahead.

Work Study Volume 47 · Number 5 · 1998 · pp. 160–163 © MCB University Press · ISSN 0043-8022

The hotel and tourism industry is labour intensive – and proud of its ability to offer “personal service”. However, it is apparent that technology has moved into a number of support areas: the “back office” reservation systems used in almost all hotels are a prime example. Other, perhaps less visible applications of technology include the catering industry’s use of such methods as “cook-chill” and microwave cooking. Will the travel industry continue to exploit technology for back office and backroom tasks, taking the more mundane and repetitive tasks off the front-of-house staff so that they can pamper us even more? Or will the travel industry of the future move technology into the front-of-house and the frontline? Will we all take for granted, ubiquitous computers, techno-beds with remote controls, pre-packed and cooked meals and guest-room telephones with inbuilt world wide web access? The answer may be important to us all. The hotel and travel industry is very large and still growing. It makes a significant, and in some cases enormous, contribution to the gross domestic product of many countries and now provides employment for one out of ten workers around the world, or some 212 million people. By the year 2010, tourism, measured in terms of international arrivals, is expected to double to more than 1,000 million (one billion), while the number of jobs in the sector will also grow to over 385 million, benefiting developing countries as much as industrialised areas. Tourism ranks first among world export groups, ahead of petroleum, motor vehicles and electronic equipment. In terms of international tourism receipts, Europe tops the list, followed by the Americas, East Asia and the Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Growth in the industry is being driven by higher disposable and discretionary family incomes, lower prices, greater international mobility, the removal of travel restrictions and greater interest in culture and the environment. Here, too, technology plays a part in terms of improving promotion and widening access through improved travel arrangements. Many of us can now conveniently travel to exotic locations that only ten years ago would have been out of reach. In the Western world, those with the highest incomes, which can be used for tourism, tend to fall into the 35-45 and over 60 age


Technology and tourism

Work Study Volume 47 · Number 5 · 1998 · 160–163

Anna Baines

brackets. The 35-45 age group will account for 21 per cent of the population by the year 2000 and the over 60 group is growing at a fast pace everywhere. The raw material to fuel growth seems assured! Current predictions of international tourism suggest the fastest growth will be in East Asia and the Pacific, followed by South Asia. This places these countries under great pressure, eager to take advantage of this demand but fearful of the consequences of unrestrained growth on the very things people come to see. The “undeveloped” nature of many locations is what attracts visitors: how do such places develop to serve these visitors (and earn valuable foreign currency) and yet retain their “attractability”? Not surprisingly, in an industry of this size, technology is seen as a means of improving both efficiency and service. The industry may have been slow to see the potential of technology, but is now embracing it...
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