Amadeus recently conducted a survey of travel sellers, travel agencies and travellers to find out what the future has in store for travel agencies, and for those of us who work in the industry – particularly in travel tech – the results make very interesting reading. The future of travel agencies, it seems, will combine high levels of personal contact and service with technology that automates common processes to allow consultants to spend more time on what they do best – arranging and selling travel for their clients.
This is of course music to the ears of the eRoam team, so here are our takeaways from the report, along with how eRoam can help travel agencies prepare themselves for the industry’s coming transformation…
Staff Are the Biggest Success Factor
For the business leaders surveyed, the most important success factor to them was their staff. 50% of those surveyed 63% in Europe – said their employees were the most critical element in making their travel business a success. And 35% said that recruiting and retaining employees with the right skillsets and competencies was their biggest current concern.
Tech is the Most Important Skillset
The role of technology in enabling prompt responses to traveller concerns and cancellations during the COVID-19 crisis has awakened many travel agents to the importance of digital transformation. Amadeus believe that digital marketing, data literacy, digital marketing, digital travel solutions and coding are all essential competencies that will define the successful travel agent of the near future. Finding and keeping employees with these skills will be a big challenge.
Keeping Up With Technology Is the Biggest Challenge
Of all the concerns facing travel agents, keeping up with a rapidly changing and developing tech landscape was the biggest, with 55% of respondents naming it as their primary challenge. Booking solutions, CRM, data analytics, AI, digital marketing etc may offer big opportunities, but there is also a steep learning curve especially for the more traditional bricks & mortar businesses.
Automation is No1 on Wishlists
Of all the new technologies agencies are planning to invest in in the next five years, automation comes out on top – 46% of respondents said they planned to spend money on automating areas of their business. With the barrier to entry to automation technology lower than ever, and the tech becoming increasingly affordable, automation enables consultants to focus on the human element of the business whilst taking care of processes such as pricing, itinerary generation, booking and reconfirming.
Managing Disruption is Key
The COVID-19 crisis exposed the travel industry’s lack of agility in dealing with a global pandemic. Airlines and OTAs in particular lost a lot of goodwill with the public with their cancellation and refund policies, and the difficulty of actual being able to speak to a real person to make changes or cancellations. Travellers are now much more sensitive to such disruptions and agents will need to prove to them that they are capable of handling last-minute changes or cancellations, so it will be vital for agencies to have clear policies and also digital channels for customer support, whilst consultants will need to have in-depth knowledge of and access to travel advisories, rulings and guidelines.
The Human Touch Still Rules
For all the importance of technology, the primary thing people want from travel agents is the human contact and input they don’t get from OTAs. In fact 42% of respondents said the human touch was their biggest success factor. The report quotes Amit Madhan of Thomas Cook India who says:
“The most important thing is the experience – so holding the customer’s hand throughout the journey, ‘till that person departs from the airport, being with them throughout the journey until they return”
And a recent report from the World Economic Forum clearly states what the role of travel consultant will increasingly involve:
“Travel agents now need to act as ‘personal travel assistants’ who are partially data scientists, partially lifestyle gurus and who move away from providing information to offering personalized guidance”
So whilst travel agents will be expected to be more tech-savvy and be able to navigate the various tech tools at their disposal, this tech is designed to support, complement and enable the human element, not supplant it. Those travellers surveyed said that the thing they most want from a travel agent is friendly communication, and so agents who have empathy, communication skills and emotional intelligence will be prized.
How Can eRoam Help?
The travel consultant of the future will essentially need tools that make the technical bits of their job – searching for products, building itineraries, creating itinerary documents, collecting customer data and so on – a whole lot easier. Agency managers want to hire and retain good staff so giving them the right tools is essential, and it is vital that those tools be simple and intuitive to learn and require a minimum of training and investment, both in terms of implementation time and financial outlay.
It is also essential that consultants have large amounts of knowledge at their fingertips, particularly about destinations where they may never have been, along with some data crunching power to ensure that customer data is used to offer travellers the right products and itineraries.
eRoam’s affordable, easy-to-use solution is quick to set up and easy for consultants to use (no codes to learn!), and enables them to build complex, multi-country itineraries in a matter of minutes. Itinerary document creation, supplier confirmations and date or service changes are all automated, allowing consultants to focus on the job of taking care of customers. And with over 20,000 mapped destinations featuring over 1,000,000 hotels and thousands of transfers, tours & activities, flights, cruises, car rentals and more, eRoam has the whole world covered, making the consultant’s job a whole lot easier.
To find out more about how eRoam can help your travel agency prepare for tomorrow’s challenges, please contact us or click here for a free demo.