Travel agents, ignore technology and its impact on travel agencies at your peril. Technology is constantly altering the tools you use, how you use those tools, how you communicate with clients, and how clients do (or don’t) rely on you for their travel needs.
Clients also are affected by the changes in travel technology. Their new mantra seems to be, “There’s an app for that!” Technology has already made it easier for travelers to book their own reservations, search the web for getaway destinations (and great travel packages), and run cost comparisons for their travel and accommodations – all through tapping the app.
The competitive edge will probably go to the travel agents who capitalize on travel technology to provide their clients with the most up-to-date communications and customized services.
The impact of technology on travel agencies is being felt in a number of ways. Services to clients are increasingly focused and travel is becoming more experiential-based than destination-driven.
- Technology is providing the data needed to help agency managers streamline their operations, reduce costs, and improve revenues.
- GDSs, high traffic portal travel sites, and start-up agencies can access similar flight and hotel booking systems. This helps agents quickly filter travel options for their clients; it also enables travelers to do self-service booking independently of an agency.
- Customer service is becoming easier, faster, and more cost-effective. Social media is one technology tool that enables a small staff to handle large numbers of inquiries, forward automated alerts to update travelers on delays and wait times and share interesting industry information.
- Even luggage tags have become part of the increased efficiency/data tracking system. Technology-based luggage tags have tracking systems that track the traveler’s luggage and can send real-time data via text message, email, or a special app.
- Gamification is not just a newer cost-management incentive program. Gamification is another way technology is meeting travelers’ demands for more enriched travel experiences (think Travel 3.0).
- Another interesting “experiential” technology is augmented reality (AR). AR combines the “physical world and virtual information” to change and expand how travelers experience their travels.
- As one industry writer noted, online data gathering is pervasive and a bit creepy, yet it also is useful in that it enables the travel agent to more effectively customize travel to the client’s interests, comfort, and well-being.
Meeting challenges, using technology
With so many technologies inundating the travel industry, it is difficult to sift through the options and opportunities to find what will benefit even the most tech-savvy travel agents.
Among the more important technologies, a travel agent must employ are mobile technology, social media, and the human touch.
– Today’s tech-savvy agents must be mobile, able to use all devices – notebooks, tablets, and smartphones – to connect with their clients and access important travel data anytime and anywhere.
– Social media is not fading away and as one industry writer suggested, travel agents need to “get a personality”. In other words, start building a social media presence and incorporate social media into marketing and communications strategies. Social media is one of the more significant tools major businesses are employing to build brand awareness and customer relationships.
– Finally, the human touch. No technology on earth replaces the importance of the human touch. Computers and analytics can spout all manner of trending data but it takes the travel manager or agent to put that data to use to personalize each client’s travel. Technology doesn’t build relationships – humans do.
Technology is a tool. Select each tool for good reason, not just because it has all the latest bells and whistles. Consider what benefits it will bring to the client. Become knowledgeable about each service and tool that you use.
There is no turning back to the “good old days” of doing business. Why would any travel agent really want to return to costly, inefficient booking and communications systems anyway?