Those seams again

Seamless travel is one of our favorite things. It's right up there with cheap energy, clean politics and unbundled cable. In other words, it resides in "an area of unexplored potential," in the words of one recent report.

That was the assessment of the Oxford Economics report on "Shaping the Future of Travel," commissioned by Amadeus and cited in our news pages today.

Although the outlook for travel is generally upbeat, the chapter on seamless travel was a big downer. According to the Oxford report, we don't have seamless travel because of a "market failure" produced by the fragmented structure of the travel industry.

Airlines, airports, hotels and others pursue their own commercial interests but fail to coordinate strategically on creating a seamless experience for the traveler, which becomes a topic for "someone else to worry about," Oxford said.

The report concluded that it will take intervention by a regulator, monopolist or somebody else with clout to make it work. In the meantime, we have seams all over the globe, and the role of "someone else" often defaults to the travel agent.

Travel sellers can't bring the trolley tracks into the airport or put the bus stop closer to the beach, but as congestion and travel hassles multiply, agents and tour operators are in a perfect position to look for seams and, for a price, create travel experiences that run as smoothly as possible in the otherwise uncoordinated world of travel.
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