Since the dawn of time, man has sought to venture abroad for sun, sea, sand and to escape the daily grind.
Our desire to holiday has grown stronger with every passing year, but the way in which we organise, plan and book our trips has undergone all manner of changes in the last few decades. From the glossy brochures, Sunday supplements and dusty travel agents of the 1980s, to the comparison sites and influx of review forums that influence our travelling preferences today, one fact remains: holidays need booking!
1985: With money in the bank and dreams of bluer horizons, 15 million UK residents are taking trips abroad and the travel industry is booming. However, booking your yearly holiday is a somewhat complex and stressful undertaking: you arrange an appointment with your trusted family travel agent, sit patiently on the other side of a dusty desk and flick through a pile of weighty brochures you requested from the Sunday Times’ back page. From the handful of grainy, out-dated images, you do your best to fathom the adventure that awaits on the sunny isle of Majorca.
With a bit of imagination you can picture golden shores, and you sipping a sangria handed to you by a waiter named Jose. In the mean time your agent frantically taps away at the keyboard, staring blankly at the flickering green screen of his PC. Anxiously you wait – are there two spare seats on the next flight to Palma? Will The Grand Hotel be able to accommodate you, and what will it be like when you get there? Will the rooms be stylish and clean, the cuisine palatable and the staff helpful? Or will there be a dead dog in the pool?
1995: Only 10 years later, and a further 12 million Brits have leapt aboard the travelling bandwagon, jetting off to all manner of exotic locales on a host of newly introduced budget flights, and enjoying the hot new trend of package holiday deals. Although the travel agent still reigns supreme, you are intrigued by the news that ITN have sold the very first airline ticket online – this could pave the way for a totally new era of holiday booking, being in control of your own flight routes, seats and destinations!
With such a high percentage of travelling done by airplane these days, the idea of booking your own trips abroad, without having to wait with trepidation as a travel agent checks availability for you is a simply thrilling notion – what new corners of the globe will you be able to explore with just the click of a button?
2005: As it turns out, ITN really were onto something.
After many happy years of annual package holidays on various Spanish islands, you feel that the dawn of a new millennium is the perfect time to try something new – perhaps see what all this ‘booking online’ fuss is about. Then again, without a faithful travel agent to guide you through, how can you be certain you are making the right holiday choices?
Luckily, TripAdvisor, an online forum of travel recommendations and reviews has recently been launched. This seems the perfect alternative to relying on Kevin at the local branch of ‘Sunshine Holidays’ for restaurant ratings in Gran Canaria – you are now able to converse with fellow travellers from all corners of the globe for tips and advice with just the click of a button.
Nowadays of course, you look back fondly on your naïve hesitation about venturing into the world of online holiday booking. In 2019, the idea of not being able to shop around for yourself on various flight websites and comparison forums, frankly, brings you out in hives and shakes.
Plus what with Ryanair constantly offering cheap as chips tickets to all manner of exciting destinations, who would ever have time to faff around for hours at a travel agent again? Those kinds of ridiculously cheap flight deals require absolute spontaneity and no second thought whatsoever. Something that can only be achieved through the use of paypal and a hastily tweeted ‘Just booked a cheeky weekend in downtown Beirut! #YOLO’.
In fact, since the introduction of Terminal 5 and self check-in in 2008, you have really taken complete control of your own holidaying destiny. Scouring the internet’s copious price-comparison sites for deals too good to miss, selecting your own flights, airports, seats and departure times online. Even avoiding the judgemental sighs of the airline staff when your bag is 3kg over the limit by weighing and checking it in yourself, are all common components of today’s holiday booking process.
In addition to this, along with TripAdvisor (nowadays the holy scripture of travel advice), Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all overflowing with the profiles of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs worldwide, ready and waiting for your perusal. Thousands of up-to-date images of your destination of choice are all but a Google-search away, should you wish to engage in some pre-departure daydreaming. The process of assuring that you get exactly what you want when arranging your holiday has become almost fail-proof. And, heaven forbid, in the unlikely event that you do encounter a family of mice living under the bed in your luxury Dubai resort, one sharply-worded online review is all that’s required to sully its reputation irreparably.
With the current estimation of people flying abroad each day standing at a staggering eight million, it is clear that the holiday spirit is more alive now than ever before.
Come 2020, Virgin Galactic are set to be offering a range of space tourism trips for those so inclined (and able to afford them). Meaning, without being overly dramatic about it, the scope of holiday destinations will be completely redefined forever. And with the first space hotels set to open in 2035, perhaps the CEO of Ryanair is already rubbing his hands with glee at the future prospect of £1 space flights.
For the more down-to-earth, the recently emerging trend of sustainable travel is set to gather speed in the next few years, meaning the once-loved package deals of your former years may begin to make way for much more ethical trips.
The main change to look forward to however, is advancements in the speed of travel. No longer will the fleecy blankets, upright sleeping and slightly too regularly served meal-trays be required for a trip to the other side of the world, as it is estimated that by 2030 you could be able to whiz your way from London to Sydney in just three hours. This may pave the way for more regular and short-term travel – rather than Skyping the office in Hong Kong to discuss profits in the last quarter, it may soon be quicker and easier for you to hop on a flight and do it in person.
So what will become of your beloved travel agents, the slavish pioneers of holiday fun themselves? What are their futuristic equivalents? From 2024 onwards, it’s thought that, rather than relying on cellophane-encased brochures, websites and even online reviews for inspiration and insight, you will be able to virtually explore your chosen destination via a headset before booking.
And once you arrive on holiday, advancements in wearable technology by 2024 will see the end of struggling to navigate your way around the backstreets of Barcelona. There will also be no need for all that shouting and gesticulating at your hapless waitress when she doesn’t understand your order of “UNO BEER!” – real-time translation devices and holographic maps will be built into clothes.
The evolution of the holidaymaker is one that mirrors some of the most important social and technological advancements of the last 30 years. Our unquenchable need to explore, discover and take time for ourselves has forced the travel industry forward at a staggering pace. Whether the thought of futuristic space trips, virtual tours and speed-of light flights makes you quiver with excitement, or you are still on first-name terms with your local travel agent and wonder whatever was wrong with a scroll through Teletext to pick a travel destination, a life without holidays is a life not lived.