Whether you are a leisure or business traveler, you are likely aware that the world of travel has changed dramatically due to the rise of the internet and the spread of mobile devices. Online travel agencies, self-booking tools and the ability to make changes on the go have led to a big shift in the way we plan our trips.

Something you may be wondering is what is travel disintermediation? Or more specifically, what is disintermediation? Put simply, it means removing as much of the middleman as possible. To be more specific, it has to do with helping customers get more direct access to items or services by reducing or eliminating third parties. How does travel disintermediation work? And how can you use it to benefit you?

To understand what has changed, it is important to know how things were until recently. It was not many years ago that travel agents were the norm because there were few other options for getting travel information or booking trips without the internet. With the rise of the internet came with it new travel trends, like OTA (online travel agencies), self-booking tools and a huge shift towards a “do it yourself” mentality that are now quite prevalent.

However, all the self-booking tools and unlimited access to information made for better-informed travelers but it also did one other thing: it gave travelers a major case of information overload. This was where travel agents saw an upswing in business – from people who knew what they wanted but wanted a more authentic experience than simple self-booking tools could offer.

This shift from total self-reliance in the travel world to utilizing a hybrid between self-booking tools, travel agents, and online travel agencies has led to a fusion where online travel agencies seeking to help their customers achieve truly special and crafted experiences began to partner with other business which has led to travel disintermediation. To put it more simply, these travel trends led to more one-stop shops for travelers.

We see this in a minor way when people book a flight and they are recommended a hotel or they are encouraged to get a flight/hotel package. However, this is not the only way in which travel disintermediation is being utilized. Part of an OTA’s job is making sure that you get the personalized care for your trip you desire.

Another way we see this trend rising is with Airbnb and their partnership with travel agencies to customize the travel experience for corporate flyers. The idea is that Airbnb will work with online travel agencies and others so that when one books through partner travel agents, the listings will automatically be filtered to include upgraded corporate level accommodations and be like a home away from home for the weary business class traveler.

Now all this cutting out of the middleman and using travel disintermediation and self-booking tools might lead one to think that travel agents and online travel agencies can be done away with in this modern era. The reality is far different though. Due to information overload, travel agents and online travel agencies are not the middlemen – they are the main man. Travel agents have years of experience in their field so they know how to get you the results you want. You may know where you generally want to go and what you want to do but a travel agent can be the difference between the tourist experience and the cultural experience.

Or to phrase it a different way, self-booking tools can get you there but due to their automated algorithmic responses, they cannot know what you want to do there. Machines give you a mechanical like experience; you put in data and they put out likely answers, but with human travel agents, you get the human experience. You can, of course, try and find the local flavor or seek out specialty events through the internet but there is a reason that people in droves still utilize travel agents. Travel agents can do something no computer can, and that is finding out the kind of experience you are looking for in your trip. It is much more than just a simple to do list. By crafting the trip towards your desired experience and not just places in general, you get a custom-made trip that was designed and made perfect for you so you get exactly what you want out of your trip.

Another good reason that many people still seek out travel agents or online travel agencies is that it can be a huge amount of work planning the perfect trip yourself. If you work a normal 40 hour week, then pay your bills, do errands, meet up with friends or co-workers, by the time it comes time to planning a rich cultural experience you are not only not ready but probably you’ll be disinclined to book your own trip.

You can ask a human travel agent for help, describe your desires and feelings about what you want, and they can translate that into ways to assist you in making your trip come true. It is partly for this reason that travel trends show online travel agencies are a growing business field. With the advent of advanced mobile platforms that can keep travelers connected almost anywhere in the world, we can not only get help, but we can get help from our own travel agent while we are already in the country.

Needing an idea for something to do with a spare day? You could Google, or you could text your agent with whom you have worked, someone who knows your preferences, tastes, and what you want from your trip and have them do the work of finding and booking something while you enjoy your time abroad. Due to the mobility available nowadays through mobile devices, the focus is shifting from the time before the trip to the one during the trip. 

Online travel agencies will begin to act not only as online intermediaries but as providers of experiences: they will do the bookings for your trips but they will also provide you constant and mobile assistance, as well as travel services in your destination during your journey. 

So are travel agents a thing of the past? Not even close; with their help and insight, you can begin to eliminate all your travel headaches, from researching, to planning, to trying to find the best deals or combination of deals. Let your travel agent help you get on the path towards travel disintermediation as you begin to enjoy the hassle-free experience.


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