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ISSUE OF MAY 2003  
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Travel solutions @ your fingertips

Seema Luthra throws light on some intelligent travel solutions in the information age

Travel and technology today are the Siamese twins of progress and the spark generated between the two is what is turning more and more of the world into a swirling mass of globetrotters. The two Ts are then, inseparable - one simply can’t do without the other. Imagine before the advent of the CRS (Computerised Reservation System) in the ’70s, travellers could get their tickets only through the specific ticketing counters of airlines. Along the way even as travel agents arrived on the scene, booking a ticket would often be accompanied by repeated calls to airlines, with agents sometimes having to hold the phone for hours. Today, it’s a different scenario.

The GDS (Global Distribution System), as an evolution from the earlier generation CRS, is the motor that powers the movements of our ‘travel’ processes today. It offers a tremendous cornucopia of goodies - real-time flight schedules, seat availability, pricing information, bookings, tickets, special meal requests, seat allocation, back-office accounting functions for travel agents, hotel rooms, cars and so on. GDS companies in the process work with airlines, cruise-operators, hotels, railways and car rental companies to diligently upgrade their levels of service to suit the increasing sophistication of today’s travellers.

And tomorrow promises to be even more exciting. The advent of Internet Technology has helped expand the utility of GDSs. With Internet Technology, end-consumers directly interact with the GDS systems. This means that the traveller can now book his itinerary with his travel agent, from anywhere in the world and at anytime of the day or night. GDS companies have started utilising Internet Technologies to provide exciting tools to travel agencies that enable them to increase their efficiencies and customer satisfaction levels. For example, the agent can now send the traveller’s itinerary on his mobile phone and also allow the traveller to make changes to his itinerary on the phone itself. Communication is another area where the travel distribution industry is witnessing a revolution. Communication networks form the backbone of the travel distribution industry, ensuring smooth and quick flow of information. Now, new technologies like VSAT (Very Small Aperture Satellite Terminal) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) are poised to take the GDS industry to new levels. VSAT is faster, clearer and helps travel agents in the remotest parts of this country to gain access to the huge international database and interactivity that GDS companies offer. GPRS technology is another new-found delight. It will provide instant connections without any dial-up/ modem connections, and provide more bandwidth that will enable a host of interactive services. These new technologies will in turn give birth to new products making both planning travel and travelling, a whole lot easier.

What next? The road ahead is a fast and technologically exciting one. Technological innovations will come applet by applet no doubt, but how about, "Ladies and gentlemen - welcome aboard the total travel solutions spaceship".

(The author is general manager, Galileo India Private Limited)

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