One of the amazing oddities of the travel sector is the lack of adoption by traditional travel agents of modern user interfaces in travel reservation systems. It’s kind of funny that much of the software industry is debating HMTL5 versus Flash while the travel industry is holding onto a user experience that makes me reminiscent of working on a DEC VAX. Even at this week’s Travel Technology Europe 2010 show, I was flabbergasted to see new releases of software purposefully replicating the mainframe-style, hot-key oriented user interface that Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and Central Reservation Systems (CRS) introduced 30 or more years ago.
I struggle to understand the psychology of travel agents who cling to the old-style interfaces. Time and again I’ve read and heard of stories where they claimed that it makes them more efficient and that even new travel agents, many of which grew up using computers and the Internet, abandon the modern enterprise software GUI interfaces (a relative term since the GUI hasn’t changed dramatically in the past 20 years) to adopt a user experience which is one step removed from punch cards and stone tablets. At Travel Technology Europe I spoke to someone from one of the leading TMCs who used to be in operations and spoke enthusiastically and nostalgically about using the old-style interface indicating that she felt it gave her a sense of irreplaceability since it takes a while to understand the idiosyncrasies and nuances of the system to develop the speed that she was so proud of.
So I had a thought while participating in a discussion around the iPad: could touch be the technology that takes travel agent desktops out of the stone age?
Some of what I’ve heard is that as great as the different RIA (Rich Internet Application) technologies may be, it takes a long time to execute different searches and drill down into details. Touch should be faster than manipulating a mouse and if a layered “Minority Report” style UI brought up different search results using a cover-flow approach and you could tap on a property or flight and “flip the card” to see more details and to view photos it could match and potentially exceed current productivity levels and prepare the industry for further innovations.
Just a thought. What’s your take?