Gain competitive advantage or be left behind, says Traveknowledgy chief executive Maxim Sevastianov
The travel industry is going through a rapid transformation. With the increasing use of online services and the rise of a completely new futuristic travel, OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) have emerged as a leading marketing channel for the travel industry. While OTAs may be taking a larger share of the market value, personalised experience through a traditional travel agent still remains superior and cannot be replaced.
Travellers are switched on. They understand that regardless of the emergence of OTAs, travel agents still remain the preferred option when it comes to availing a personalised service. It is mainly because of the fact that they get someone to listen to their requirements and desires and can provide them with customised travel recommendations.
According to Jaclyn Loo at Google, 57% of travellers in 2017 preferred those travel agents who were able to offer tailored solutions and information according to their personal and past travel preferences.
Google also revealed that 36% of travellers would not mind paying more for personalised services. As the number of travellers is increasing with each passing year, TAs and OTAs are required to automate in order to offer their clients with personalised services and enjoy a competitive advantage. This will allow them to enhance their service standards while customers would be able to enjoy personalisation and the convenience of a quicker turnaround
The travel industry has become highly competitive. TAs and OTAs are struggling to fulfil the requirements of business travel and leisure. Travel agents are required to offer their clients with exciting travel offerings while remaining as competitive as OTAs in terms of pricing. Both require a high level of travel tech for automation and efficient post booking processes by using a number of internal and external smart applications.
This will not only allow them to become more profitable but will help them to be adaptable and innovative to enjoy a competitive advantage. Travel agents are required to integrate such travel tech into their existing framework, which is flexible to change. This can be accomplished through expert IT partners who are highly responsive to the requirement of the travel industry.
The impact of automation
Certainly, any influx of change at a greater level gets varied opinions. Travel agents, in particular, may feel worried about their jobs becoming automated. Oliver Heckmann, Vice President of Engineering for Travel and Shopping at Google stated that more than 50% of the travellers appreciated the idea of deploying the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a travel guide.
Research conducted by Travelzoo revealed that more than 60% of the respondents preferred machine interaction to be more comfortable. While AI is still in its initial stage in the travel industry, it will have great potential as travel tech in the time to come.
Automating post-booking process
There are a number of tasks associated with the post booking process that take a lot of agent’s time. This includes client communication, queue management, ticketing, checking fare prices before and after the ticket has been issued and many more tasks performed by their staff. These processes take valuable time and resources. When it comes to managing post booking processes more efficiently, the popularity of smart applications has been continually increasing as developers tend to keep introducing smoother platforms.
Application as a travel tech is widely being preferred by a large number of travel agents in order to deliver smart real-time customer support. Processing solutions can enable TAs and OTAs to develop and manage smooth workflows associated with the post booking process. They can organise even the most challenging controls and notifications can be sent by e-mail, queue or an XML message straight to their CRM systems.
The travel ecosystem
Automation in travel and tourism is anticipated to increase the productivity of the entire travel ecosystem. According to Accenture and World Economic Forum report of 2017, automation in travel and tourism will generate a value of around $305 billion by 2022 and the environment for travel agents will turn highly competitive. Moreover, a shift of $100 billion in value from conventional practices to automation has also been anticipated. The mandate for travel agents is to gain a competitive advantage through automation or else, there will be a risk of being left behind.
Travel agents have been embracing travel techs such as analytics, AI, big data, cloud, connected devices, and e-commerce. While automation has been a facilitator of resourcefulness and improving operations, travel agents are now leveraging automation to transform consumer experiences, disrupt traditional practices, and invent new areas of service. Oh, and to improve their bottom line of course!
Travel tech for travel agents is as much about introducing swifter post-booking processes as it is the agility to identify and address clients’ requirements even before they realise what they require. A number of travel agents are burdened with conventional work structures and technology platforms that are not flexible enough to smoothly transition with changing consumer demands. This requires automation for maximising resourcefulness and agility, empowering TAs and OTAs to deliver an end-to-end experience with the support of real-time data and hyper-personalised services while minimising transfer and wait times.