Purists know that decades start with a one and end in zero, which means the passing of 2010 marks the end of a decade.

If we had to size it up, we'd say the travel industry did more than merely survive this awful decade, with its recurring demons of terrorism, war, disasters, epidemics and weak economies; travel got better.

Look at the Queen Elizabeth, the Epic, the Allure. Look at the latest motorcoaches and newest hotels. Look at the promise of the A380 and the Dreamliner.

In every major product category, the travel industry's asset base got better in countless ways. Vehicles and accommodations are better designed, safer, more efficient and more varied. Even cash-starved Amtrak managed some improvements.

Leaving aside the public infrastructure such as roads and bridges (which is a lot to leave aside), the industry managed to improve its physical plant during a trying decade. We did good, and in these final days of 2010 we can take some pride in that.

But a new decade is coming, and its new challenge for travel has to do not so much with the hard goods but with the software.

Ten years ago, it was thought that the travel challenge of the coming decade would be figuring out the Internet and the new digital age, but nothing stood still long enough to be figured out.

Everything continued to evolve with the rapid development of broadband, WiFi, ultralight mobile computers, smartphones and applications such as metasearch engines and social media.

As a result, just about everything got easier to find, purchase and share, but the transaction tools used by travel professionals remain rooted in legacy systems that in some respects don't measure up to what consumers can do at home (or on the road, for that matter).

Travel agents, in short, will need new and better tools in the decade of the teens -- and we're almost there.

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