Naming an industry that has not seen some level of disruption in recent years would be a challenge. Naming an industry that has seen more disruption than the travel agency industry might be a bigger challenge.
Free online booking and search platforms like Uber and Skyscanner have powered ‘do-it-yourself’ corporate travel.
But demand for travel agents is still strong. Is that because in our connected world, an expert in a particular field is still worth their weight in gold or that the kind of personal touch a travel agent provides is still valued?
A tangled web
In days gone by, the average traveller wouldn’t even contemplate organising flights, accommodation and transport in faraway destinations by themselves.
Corporate travel was a daunting prospect to be left to those with secret knowledge and the courage to navigate lands few understood.
The role of the travel agent was, essentially, to hold a traveller’s hand, guide them through a web of unimaginable complexity and into the promised land of a well-organised, smoothly-run travel experience.
Today, that web of intrigue has lifted and the freely accessibly World Wide Web is empowering travellers to organise multi-city business trips on their own accord. There are myriad online platforms that figuratively hold a traveller’s hand for free, at a time of their choosing.
Theoretically corporate travellers can organise much of their itinerary without the guidance of an agent or travel manager.
However, those who view that assistance as past its use by date are blind to the amount of heavy lifting that goes on in the background, the expertise that unearths better deals and powers a happier travel experience.
They simply can’t do it as accurately, quickly, economically or with as little fuss as travel agents. And when they try to, they usually encounter enough problems to divert energy away from the focus of the trip.
Research conducted in Australia, Austria and Spain suggested that personalised service remained the drawcard for travel agents competing with online booking platforms.
“The internet provides a powerful environment for the creation of virtual representations of tourism destinations,” the research says. “However, the results of the study show that social interaction with travel agents, their expertise and the possibility to save time on search can be of even higher importance.”
Playing the technology card
Nevertheless, many of today’s business travellers book their own accommodation through online booking tools, their own transport through Uber, and their flight itineraries using search tools like Skyscanner. So why would these travellers enlist the help of a travel agent to achieve what they can themselves, and essentially for free?
To understand the value offering of travel agents, we must understand the digitalisation of the industry.
Travel agents do sell a personalised service, but this has been bolstered by technology and the powerful management software that delivers that personal experience.
Travellers don’t pay agents to use technology they can access themselves for free. They pay for the knowledge that their itinerary, security and experience will be better than anything they could’ve achieved on their own.
To see how travel management software can empower your travel agency, book a personalised 15-minute online demonstration of Travelport Locomote’s intuitive corporate travel platform.
We’re not an online booking tool. We’re a seamless end-to-end corporate travel platform with a range of workflows and features that consolidate the entire travel process and can manage everything from planning, approving and booking corporate travel, to full transparency and traveller safety.
Travelport Locomote is a powerful platform that provides more travel choice, improved travel intelligence and better travel experiences.