These travelers tend to book longer stays and are looking for more conveniences, an important emphasis for the industry in the coming years.
Tourism specialists are beginning to realize the advantages of technology in the industry. Among the benefits of technology include electronic travel or communication. Technological advances have made communications faster and more efficient. Improved computer networking has decreased the need to travel in some instances because consumers and other professionals are able to save time and money by simply contacting one another via electronic mail or electronic conferencing rather than via traveling (Muehsam & Tarlow, 1992). This may mean less people traveling, but typically it means an equivalent number of people traveling but looking for more technological conveniences when traveling including video conferencing and access to internet technology.
Thus the face of travel and tourism is changing. Consumers are looking for more electronic conveniences as they travel, particularly when they book a hotel room. They want the ability to fax, email and connect to the World Wide Web. Hotel and motel providers that offer these luxuries are the ones that will attract the greatest numbers of travelers and consumers to their doors.
Because less people will be required to travel it will be important that the travel industry focus on making travel appealing in the future. Other factors or current trends that have altered the way that hotels and motels are managed include travel patterns, which have also been influenced by none other than technology. Many airlines for example, are now deregulated which has driven change in the way millions of people travel, and many hotel companies are starting to locate major facilities "adjacent to hub air transport facilities" to take advantage of business travelers that may not need to travel to business districts to conduct their business (Rutherford, 2001:2).
The role of the travel agent has also changed thanks to modern technology. Whereas in times of old a travel agent was almost always utilized to book lodging and other travel arrangements, in modern times the traveler has become his/her own travel agent, connecting to reservations specialists and systems via personal computers and other easy to reach terminals (Muehsam & Tarlow, 1992). In fact travelers are more likely to realize substantial savings booking their own tickets and purchasing their own travel agents from their home or their office rather than working through a travel agent.
More and more the travel and tourism industry is becoming more automated, and with that automation comes faster and more efficient services. With this advent of increased automation there also is non-stop service available. Travelers are able to communicate with automated service representatives twenty four hours a day from anywhere in the world. With technological advances and automation have come the land of 24-hour business, and much of that business is conducted by travelers seeking non-stop service and accommodations anywhere at anytime. The hotel and motel industry has responded accordingly. Virtual agents are replacing positions that once required a human touch. Though less personalized in some respects, many consumers have come to demand this 24-hour service and access to the travel and tourism industry.
The competition to attract travelers is also high within the modern travel and tourism industry, particularly as more and more travelers travel more for recreation, as technology allows business executives to work from the office without travel in many instances. Managers in the hotel and motel industry are looking at new avenues for attracting business consumers that sometimes have the option of traveling. Travel packages are now fitted to accommodate not just the business consumer, but also the business consumer looking to combine business and recreation.
Current trends indicate that there has been a shift in the development of hotels and motels in recent years from full service to limited service as well, and from independently owned and operated to chain affiliated hotels (Rutherford, 2001:8). In addition there has been an annual growth in the number of rooms available in chain affiliated hotels. This is another reflection of the changes that technology has brought about and the rapid pace with which the industry has kept up with trends and consumer demands.
Sales and public relations are increasingly important aspects of the industry (Gray & Liguori, 1993) as more and more travelers are looking for better service, convenience and efficiency. Sales and public relations specialists are increasingly become important representatives in the hotel and motel operations department. Training of sales personnel need focus on the increasingly demanding and technologically competent consumer in order for hotel managers and agents to thrive and survive in the world of digital technology.
There is also a decreased demand for front desk operations and personnel (Gray & Liguori, 1993:331) due to increased automation and technological advances which allow customers to virtually check in themselves in many instances. At the very least computer services allow guests to check out and in some cases even work with virtual assistants, concierge and more. In many cases this acts as a benefit for consumers who are hurried and looking for service 24 hours a day. This fact has perhaps negatively impacted the human services aspect of the industry, but the trend seems to be continuing into the future and will likely grow as technology results in more automation over time.
The hospitality industry has existed for ages, and will continue to thrive as long as consumers and mankind has a need to travel. The face of hotel and motel operations has changed in recent years with the advent of technological advances that have made travel and tourism more efficient and appealing.
Likewise hotel and motel management and operations has adopted many systems that are technologically advanced to help streamline processes and ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. With the advent of hotel information systems and enterprise resource systems, many different aspects of hotel and motel management can now be combined to offer optimal service. Coordinating each of these aspects of hotel management can be problematic at times, but when adequate training and continuing education are made available to staff, by and large technology serves as an asset rather than a hindrance to the industry.
There are many other trends and issues relevant to the travel and tourism industry. Consumers are now becoming their own travel agents thanks to the advent of technological advances including the internet which allow instantaneous booking, planning and entertainment. Consumers are becoming savvier and demanding more technologically conveniences as they travel. Technological advances have also made travel less necessary in some instances, so sales and public relations specialists are forced to concentrate their efforts on selling the benefits and conveniences of travel.
It is likely that technological advances will continue to impact the travel and tourism industry as well as the field of hotel and motel management for years to come. Thus it is important that managers and executives in the industry keep abreast of changes and new technological advances, and make every effort to incorporate them into practice as often as possible.
In the meantime, other trends are important to follow and accommodate for, and it is likely that representatives in the industry will continue to modify services and adapt practices to meet the changing needs of consumers and the trends that continue to shape the industry as time progresses. The hospitality, travel and tourism industry has constantly adapted and changed with technological advances and changing consumer needs and demands. The forecast for the future looks positive as long as it continues to do so.
Gray, W.S. & Liguori, S.C. (1993). "Hotel and Motel Management and Operations, 3rd ed." New York: Prentice Hall
HIS. "Hotel Information Systems." [Online}. 17, November, 2004: