Airlines, hotels, travel & tourism

What women want

According to an Australian survey women make 92% of holiday decisions while a US survey puts the figure at 70%. Whatever the figure it's big and most companies are ignoring it. How about demographic trends? Thirty years ago women comprised just 1% of business travellers in the US. The figure is now 40% and women make up 50% of frequent flyers but women are generally treated in much the same way as men. This is fine up to a point because men and women both care about things like customer service and efficiency, but in other areas the two sexes behave quite differently. Take bathrooms for example. Most men couldn't care less what a hotel bathroom looks like, but women generally want more space. Equally, in most hotels the only social area is the bar but this can be highly intimidating and even dangerous for women travelling on their own. Women-only areas are one solution but more thought needs to go into designing safe and comfortable spaces for women. And one final thing. Women tend to visit the bathroom more often than men and spend longer inside. They also have a tendency to talk to each other once inside. So why do airports, restaurants and shops persist in designing exactly the same number of identical looking toilets for men and women?

Ref: Harvard Business School/Working Knowledge (US), 7 February 2005. 'The Hidden Market of Female Travellers', H.Lagrace.

How to go on holiday without really going anywhere

The new Airbus 380 will carry up to 850 passengers making it by far the largest commercial aircraft ever created. For some lucky passengers aeroplanes will be the new hotels as they hang out in the casino, use the gym, drink at the bar, take a shower or just sleep. For others it could be hell in the air as waiting times to board aircraft, wait for food or disembark could all be increased. Another area where big is beautiful is cruise ships. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s the cruising industry was almost sunk by cheap air travel but it has re-invented itself in recent years. One of the big attractions of cruising is the sheer size of the ships themselves. The recently launched Queen Mary 2 is 300% larger than the Titanic and carries 4,000 passengers and crew. But that's a minnow compared to Ultra Voyager. This ship will be launched in 2006 and will carry 5,000 passengers and crew. Can they get any bigger? You bet. The Freedom ship is still on the drawing board but if it does ever get built it will be nearly 2.5km long and 25 storeys high. It will carry 50,000 residents, 15,000 staff and cater for up to 20,000 day guests. Obviously a ship this large can't dock so a fleet of smaller ships will ferry passengers to the mother ship. If that doesn't appeal there's even an airport on the roof (seriously). So what's the appeal of a ship that doesn't stop anywhere? Interestingly most cruise ships spend 70% of their time at sea and for most guests the ship is the destination. Equally, if you're a work-weary (or world-weary) traveller these giant ships offer a safe haven away from the unfamiliar sights and sounds of other countries and cultures.

Ref: The Independent (UK) 20 January 2005. 'Does bigger really mean better?' J.Street-Porter, The Sydney Morning Herald (AUS) 20-21 November 2004, 'Monsters of the deep', A.Conway.

Low-cost airlines drive European integration

The development of low-cost airlines in Europe would probably not have happened if it weren't for Southwest Airlines in the US and some anonymous bureaucrats in Belgium. But it is probably the island geographies of Britain and Ireland (plus the fact that English speaking countries are among the first to pick up on innovations in the US) that contributed most to the development of Ryanair and easyjet. Add to this the trend for Brits to buy second homes in France, Greece and Spain and the rapid expansion of low-cost travel in Europe would seem like a no-brainer with hindsight. In 2003 low-cost carriers in Europe carried 47million people. 1 year later the figure was 80 million. Indeed, low-cost carriers have probably done more to integrate Europe than any EU politician which is why EU rules allowing low-cost airlines to compete with national carriers have been so important. Europeans (including citizens from the new EU countries) now make choices about where they live, work and play that would have been unthinkable before the advent of cheap flights. Of course not everyone is happy. Environmentalists claim the increase in air travel is leading to global warming and are pressing the EU to introduce aircraft emissions taxes. But, taking an even longer view higher oil prices will eventually mean that low-cost travel won't be around forever so perhaps Europeans should enjoy their new found proximity while it lasts.

Ref: The Economist (UK), 29 January 2005 'Low-cost founding fathers'.

Top 10 travel innovations

A few years ago The Observer newspaper produced a list of the top 10 travel innovations over the past decade. It's interesting to see how their list has aged and how it would compare to a list of travel innovations from other countries. The list (in no particular order) is as follows:
  1. Pet passports
  2. Low-cost airlines
  3. Channel Tunnel
  4. Catamaran ferries
  5. Smart Cars
  6. Space tourism
  7. Hydrogen engines
  8. Micro scooters
  9. Long-haul charters
  10. Boutique hotels
Ref: The Observer (UK) 31 March 2002. Innovations 100 - Travel, 'Greatest Escapes' D.O'Connell.

Identity control

The first mention of a 'passport' was in around 450BC when an official asked King Artaxeras for a letter of permission to travel to Judah. King Louis XIV of France popularised the idea by issuing a document known as a Passe Port - which literally means to pass through a port. However, the explosion of rail travel in the late 1800s meant that the system was overloaded and most countries abandoned the idea. The modern passport was then reinvented in 1914 at the outbreak of WW1 when it became important to prove that you were not a spy. The original (20th century) technology for proving who you are was photography. But these days the camera can be made to lie, so post 9/11 the US is behind several new technologies that use digital photography to compare the person in the passport with the real person. Other levels of security include a small 'computer' inside each passport that carries information together with digital fingerprints and iris scans. But there are problems. First of all each country is choosing its own standards so passports from one country are not necessarily readable in another. However, the biggest problem is identity theft. Passports can be read remotely without the bearer knowing (they were actually designed for this purpose) but there is nothing stopping criminals from swiping your identity or terrorists finding out your nationality without your knowledge. There are counter measures to prevent the passport from being read when it is closed but at this stage it's unclear whether such measures will be implemented.

Ref: The Economist 19 February 2005. 'New Look Passports' See also: Card Technology Magazine