Until recently, product, brand, service, markets
and consumers were the key components of a marketing strategy. Integrating
these areas with an electronic communication network will very soon
be one of the most important and necessary elements of any marketing
concept. With the discovery of electronic communication marketers can
for the first time create their own network of information and communication.
The Internet is only the tip of the iceberg and
only one (but major) element of this new fantastic revolution. We are
now talking about erasing borders, about networking on a worldwide scale.
The airline industry have shown us the way some
50 years ago when they realized they could not survive without creating
their own communication network. They launched the SITA network which
is today the most important private network in the world. Belonging
to more than 550 airlines, SITA covers 162 countries with 723 access
Airlines (again) started online bookings with SABRE
in 1965. Today GDS have become so important for the entire travel industry
that no one can imagine doing business without them.
The banking industry is way ahead of the travel
world in this field. Cashing money from an ATM station with a credit
card takes only seconds regardless where you do it. This process which
looks so obvious and easy relies on only a few worldwide electronic
networks to which all major banks are connected.
The travel industry is trying hard but at this stage
there is no worldwide coordination. Hotels are using hundreds, if not
thousands of different and incompatible electronic system to run their
business (back and front office, reservations,...). Car rental companies,
cruise lines, railway companies have also developed their own and incompatible
communication, information and reservation network.
The GDS "seamless" system and the Internet
will certainly help the travel industry to fight this "jungle"
of different networks.
Companies that will understand the urgent necessity
to link, round the clock and round the world their employees, customers
and suppliers will win the competition. They will make a giant step
ahead and will own one of the most valuable, if not the most valuable
tool they have ever used.
Official bodies such as Tourist Boards will play
a key role in this new revolution. They will have to lead the way and
not be afraid - or should I say embarrassed? - to look at other industries