Earlier this week we wrote about the recent ASTA webinar on the future of travel, and their prediction that travel agents/advisors would be winners, whilst OTAs might struggle when travel starts to get back to normal – the reason being that people will value personal, bespoke service more, which TAs are better equipped to offer than OTAs.
And it’s a valid point. As anyone who has tried to contact an OTA helpline and speak to a real person will confirm, personal service is not the online giants’ strong point. If your query cannot be handled using the online change procedure or via a chatbot, the process is very frustrating indeed, and that frustration has been magnified during the COVID-19 crisis with thousands of bookers trying to change their travel plans or get refunds.
OTA refund policies have been a particular bone of contention – Why Is Getting a Refund From an Online Travel Agency So Hard? opined the New York Times earlier this year, and they are not alone. Smarter Travel’s rundown of OTA refund policies shows a consistent pattern – you either have to use the OTA’s automated change/refund process, or contact the end supplier (the airline or hotel) directly. But you’ll get no personal service or assistance from the OTA staff.
But that’s the OTA business model – convenient booking, big range of products, automation. It works well when you want to book a flight or a hotel and everything goes smoothly; less so when you need destination advice or your plans change. Which is of course what travel agents do so well.
Where OTAs beat the TAs is on their sheer range of destinations and products. Let’s say I want to go off the beaten track a little – Uzbekistan for example. Using an OTA I can book flights, hotels and transfers in, say, Tashkent and Samarkand in minutes. But I have concerns that my hotels might not be well located, or what I’ll do if I arrive in Samarkand and my driver doesn’t show up or my hotel don’t have a room for me. So I go to my travel agent and ask her to arrange the trip. But she doesn’t know Uzbekistan, and tells me she will have to do some research and find a DMC there who can put my itinerary together for me, and will come back to me in a couple of days. I don’t want to wait that long, so I decide to risk booking it with the OTA, and the travel agent loses a nice booking.
But what if there was another way? What if there was a solution that enabled a travel agent who had never been to Uzbekistan, knew nothing about it, and didn’t have a DMC there, to put together a compelling and detailed itinerary with just a few mouse clicks, and then book it and send automated confirmations out to all suppliers?
Well, that’s where eRoam comes in! With a marketplace of over 20,000 destinations, over 750,000 hotels & other accommodation types, and thousands upon thousands of tours, activities, tickets, transfers, cruises, flights and other services, eRoam gives travel agents the booking power of a huge global OTA at their fingertips, and combines it with AI and personalisation to build detailed itineraries based on the traveller’s own preferences and interests. So even if a travel agents doesn’t know a destination particularly well, they can sell it with confidence and authority. And eRoam’s easy-to-use interface makes building itineraries and making bookings a breeze – an agent can even use it to build a trip with the client sitting next to them giving their input. eRoam will take the client’s dates, destinations, budget and interests and use them to build an itinerary, choosing the optimum duration and the most suitable tours & activities in each destination.
The travel agent can then automatically generate a detailed itinerary document, and if the client decided to go ahead, they can book all services at the click of a mouse. And, unlike an OTA, the client can call them personally at any time to make changes, or raise any problems that might occur when they’re actually on their trip.
It’s the perfect way to combine the global content and booking power of an OTA with the personal, one-to-one service of a travel agent – and it starts at just US$59.00 per month! For more information, visit our travel agents’ page or contact us for a demo.