Few service industries have made more imaginative use of computer technology than the travel trade, and two potentially stunning developments have just come to our notice. Murdoch Magazine, a New Jersey-based publishing unit within Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire, will shortly be launching a scheme to enable travel agencies to provide sun seekers with on-the-spot images and information relating to proposed holiday destinations. Called Jaguar, the system is designed to run in conjuction with the five major computerised airline reservation systems currently operating in the US: plans are also afoot to link up with the European Galileo and Amadeus systems some time next year. At the heart of the Jaguar system lies a a database covering 40,000 hotels and resorts worldwide: the database was developed at a cost of some $50m over a two year period by Atlanta-based News Corp subsidiary Comsell, and contains information accrued by the Murdoch Magazine’s quarterly bible, the Hotel and Travel Index. Would-be holidaymakers will be able to view pictorial images on one screen, while a host of relevant information – maps, exchange rates, climate, facilities and nearby places of interest appears on another. Travel agents will also be able to print out all the available information to build up highly detailed, customised brochures. The system can also be used for searching the database: agents can enter over 50 details – anything from the availability of non-smoking rooms, through facilities for pets to the holidaymaker’s mother tongue – and will be presented with a range of hotels conforming to the customer’s specifications. Murdoch Magazine claims that the Jaguar laser disks can be used in conjunction with the airline reservation terminal hardware currently used by travel agents in the US, and is planning eventually to extend the system to cover cruises, tours and travel insurance as well.
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