There is a general twittering in the market place about the revival of traditional travel agents and a backlash against online booking.
Several recent studies, such as eMarketer’s research on the dissatisfaction with online travel agencies supported by Ascent MI’s Leisure Travel Monitor, have concluded that consumers are once again seeking out the personal service and expertise provided by that face-to-face or telephone contact with a human being.
Holiday comparison site, travel.co.uk, has also done its own research showing that 58% of users are booking online while 42% prefer to book on the phone. The results come from travel.co.uk’s first two months of booking since its June launch. The service aims to offer choice.
The ‘I told you so’s,’ out there will trot out their usual stock phrases about not being able to replace real people and real knowledge –and it’s true.
Despite all the tricks employed by OTAs to replicate the offline human factor online, it isn’t working. It seems navigation has been compromised in the process and instead of simplifying the whole process, a good deal of complexity has crept in.
This is the most likely scenario and explains the rebirth of traditional channels, but OTAs will sort themselves out and yes, there will still be a role for human beings or a permutation of the two.
At various different stages of a consumer’s travel buying experience there is a greater or lesser opportunity for human interaction. Some people may have the patience to stick with the online process from start to finish. Others will give up and go elsewhere to ensure they get what they wanted. Leisure travel is, after all, an emotional purchase.
Simplicity is key, make it easy for consumers to get what they want and they’ll come back. Bells and whistles create that initial wow online but often lead consumers down a virtual dead end.