I'll begin my look ahead with a glance to the past. The mid-1980s arrival of the fax machine may have been the technological change of the decade in the average office. The 1990s were a period of constant technological change, as it became commonplace to use the Internet for research and e-mails began to compete with phone calls as the preferred tool of business communication. Offerings such as dmc-net.com made it possible for anyone anywhere to find ain any part of the world by the end of the century.
So what's next? The e-mail of the next millennium will be computer videoconferencing. Business cards will contain only a name and e-dress and will have access codes to computers and phones. In the destination management industry, clients will enter a DMC's Web site and, with a secure password, create a program, build an itinerary, and order business. Cell phones will double as field laptops, and the details of a program will be input on-site.
The third millennium will see the development of high-speed, solar-powered land vehicles and sleek aircraft that are small and faster and will be capable of getting us to destinations without the burden of jet lag. The need to motivate virtual office workers will create a new breed of consultants and speakers.
With children being educated by computer outside the traditional classroom setting, families will be able to travel together year-round. Companies will automatically include strong educational components in their programs for this segment of their attendees, and DMCs will partner with local universities and corporations to create these components.
Fortune magazine recently reported that, 30 years after Alan Shepard's lunar tee shot, galactic getaways are expected to "blast off" within the decade. This is a perfect fit in an industry always in search of new destinations. With the solar system at our disposal, we will always have new and creative venues.
Think I'm kidding? This month, Hilton Hotels is holding a symposium to discuss the feasibility of a hotel in outer space, and Virgin Atlantic Airways has already registered the Virgin Galactic Airways name. [For more on this, see page 166--Ed.]
As far as technology might advance, however, computers will never be able to communicate service levels. A Web site with color and sound will always tell only part of the story. Understanding clients' needs and matching destination capabilities to those needs will continue to be the role of DMCs. Human contact will always be vital to communicate the feel, personality, and emotion of a destination.
Our industry has always been about trust and the bond of relationships. Let us hope that the cold reality of technology does not allow that human component to disappear.