Consumer expectations are rising. Travellers are demanding more from agents, from, richer content, more choices, personalization, to an end-to-end experience. The industry is also facing a lot of pressure from consumers increased fragmented needs, and continually booking last minute experiences.
But, travel agents are not dead. A common misconception is everyone will be online, all the time. However, we’re seeing online retailers, such as Amazon and Alibaba, continuing to disrupt the retail industry with the introduction of brick-and-mortar stores. There’s no replacement for the human touch.
But to survive and thrive, retail travel agents need to change and adapt. This is where technology will play a very important role in the future of this transformation.
We spoke to a number of industry leaders to understand which technology trends they think will have a significant impact on the sector.
1. The cloud will improve collaboration with travellers for a more personal experience
“Cloud technology is a driving force for transforming the offline model of the travel agent. The cloud enables agents to have access to all cloud-based bookings regardless of location, whether this would be through a mobile phone or a tablet. As consumer expectations are growing, we’re seeing travellers wanting more of a collaborative effort when booking a trip with an agent. A seamless way to enable this collaboration is by taking the customer out of a brick-and-mortar store to a café with a tablet and work together to develop an itinerary. This human interaction is where retail travel agents have an opportunity to really inspire the traveller.” Champa Magesh, Vice President, Asia Pacific Retail Travel Channels, Amadeus
2. IoT will create a seamless trip where travellers are connected to their travel agents at every stage
“IoT has the ability to connect customers with travel consultation throughout the entire stage of the travel experience. For agents, a global or universal passenger name record (PNR) will allow travel consulting to change according to any requests from the customer. As for travellers, agents can provide a universal ‘travel pass’ that can be used for a trip, without separate boarding passes, hotel check-in, bus passes, and even theme park tickets. This universal travel pass would also handle multiple currencies, where travellers won’t need to worry about exchanging currencies when travelling between different countries.” Alfred Kam, Chief Operating Officer, Travel Expert Group
3. Voice will be the way we book travel in the future
“If you think about it, talking to each other is the most natural thing humans do. Nowadays, typing and swiping seem as an effective way of communicating as we’re unable to have a natural conversation with a machine. But as AI and voice-enabled devices become smarter, typing or swiping will become secondary. When the process becomes seamless, voice will be there future of booking travel. Travel agents are then able to take advantage of this and sell high value and high engagement products via voice.” Nishank Gopalkrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, Triposo
4. Blockchain will create more secure, direct transfer payment methods
“As consumer become more conscious about their data, privacy, and online presence, there will also be a need for a more secure and direct transfer payment methods. Credit card payments, such as Visa and Mastercard, are facing digital challenges. This is where Blockchain can revolutionize traditional methods by allowing all transactions and ticketing to be safe and secure. Blockchain technology will also offer an efficient way to integrate different services providers in a distributed environment.” Kelvin Ko, Assistant Manager, Business Development, Travel Expert Group
5. NDC will transform travel distribution as we know it
“A majority of travel distribution today in the airlines and hotel space is complicated. The myriad of pricing options, fare types, loyalty programs, multiple players doesn’t ease the shopping process, even for a suave online shopper. Travel agents will continue to see product requests from multiple sources for travel providers – therefore seamless integration with EDIFACT, NDC, and other API connectivity, plus hotel, ground transportation, and theme park tickets will be essential. Travel agents will need to evolve to offer integration with non-travel related content and value-add services will be a success factor for future travel agents. For example, instant translation, personal travel guide in various languages, and friend matching app for travel companions.” Champa Magesh, Vice President, Asia Pacific Retail Travel Channels, Amadeus
6. High network speeds will facilitate 3D/VR/AR technologies for a more engaging and immersive booking experience
“Technology will enable travel agencies to transform into ‘digital travel agents’ through high-speed networks, enabling 3D, VR and AR technologies. The booking process will become a trip planning experience, where agents will be able to provide more content, information and booking details.” Alfred Kam, Chief Operating Officer, Travel Expert Group
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