Last month I was reminiscing about how we booked flights when I first started working in the travel and tourism business some 50 years ago. I promised that I’d tell you about booking hotels and tours back then. Of course with no on-line systems in those days and no internet to check hotel reviews and photos, we were left to our own experiences. That’s fine if you’d visited the hotel in question but if you’d never been there, we had to fall back on big hotel books. These were inevitably out of date the moment we got them, and to be honest who knows how long they’d been on the office shelf.
If we were lucky the hotel in question had a sales office or representive that we could call to mak bookings. However, if that wasn’t the case it was necessary to either send a Telex or teletype and wait for a reply or – imagine the excitement- actually phone the hotel. For accommodation in another country that meant getting permission from ‘The Boss’ to make an overseas phone call. Then we hoped that the hotel had someone who spoke our language. So often we got by with strange conversations in multiple languages always hoping that we all shared the correct information.
In the early ‘80s fax machines started to be introduced. In our agency, we thought we’d buy a fax, but didn’t know if any of our overseas contacts had faxes themselves. Luckily the fax spread quickly in the travel world, so the need to make long distance calls diminished. Forty years later the fax has virtually disappeared thank goodness and making reservations has changed beyond all recognition.
Finding tours was also a process fraught with difficulty. Many of us had contacts with overseas representatives who handled bookings on our behalf, otherwise we would have had big problems.
Remember guide books? Every trip that we planned to take involved buying a reputable book (or indeed multiple books) which told us where to stay, what to do, eat and buy and when we actually got to our destination. Inevitably they were years old and everything had changed. But what a leap of faith they were and how they made travel so exotic. Indeed every destination was hugely different from where we lived. Travel was a wonderful adventure. These days of course we can check everything before we travel, make bookings on line and all the information we get is up to date. In many cases the hotels, tours and stores we visit on our travels are very similar to those in our own home town. Travel is much less of challenge than it was, although with the current pandemic there are a whole raft of new challenges.
Travel is still exciting and gives us the chance to meet new cultures, new people and gain new insights. It’s said travel broadens the mind and I think that’s true no matter if you’re traveling to the other side of the world or just to the town next to your own.
I can’t wait to start traveling again. Hopefully that will not be too far in the future and in the meantime we all have a lot of planning to do. Now, where are my guide books…………