Wednesday, August 16, 2006

No Wonder People Are Confused

You have to pity travelers sometimes. Some things are just not customer-friendly, and the bigger they are, the slower they are to adapt. Take Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, for example. Recently it was noted that, on arrival/departure monitors, DFW was just listing "Raleigh." There is no airport in Raleigh, and the airport that serves that community equally serves many other destinations. You would think an airport with a name as long as DFW's would have room to put Raleigh-Durham Int., but the best they could do was Raleigh-Dur. Progress but not friendly either to destinations or travelers.

Similarly, Sabre, a huge operation providing travel data to travel agents and other intermediaries, is based around the old notion that there must be one airport for each community; therefore Raleigh and Durham are one place. Only users with intimate understanding of the geography here will get good search results. For example, a search on "Raleigh-Durham" doesn't bring up hotels near the airport but instead a hodgepodge of properties randomly drawn from 10 different communities--giving users the potential of being 60 miles round trip from where they truly are visiting.

Smith Travel Research is another hugely popular and essential service that isn't friendly to developers. It was never set up to reflect destinations or even MSAs. So pulling up Raleigh pulls up all of the scores of cities in Wake County and several north and south, and an area called Outer Raleigh circles around Durham to include Hillsborough--two counties and 60 miles away. Using this information, a developer or feasibility consultant will have seriously polluted performance data.

What do all of these have in common? Inflexibility and a one-size-must-fit-all approach. Good people in each operation are now struggling to adapt, and it's up to destination marketing organizations both to keep the heat on and to be of assistance.

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