Rapid transformations in technology and the retail landscape have affected buyers’ expectations, creating always-on consumers who are more educated than ever when making purchase decisions. This has created broad-based disruptions in the retail travel industry.
Today’s industry players, such as travel providers and traditional travel consultants, must evolve existing business models to integrate new technologies and learn how to serve customers with new needs and wants. Travelers are now leading the way, which affects how travel industry professionals respond.
Travelers are more informed but need help cutting through the noise
Today’s traveler must contend with a wealth of options literally at their fingertips. From online travel agencies and booking options to travel review sites and message boards, they come with preconceived notions and plans about their vacations and what they consider a fair price. Additionally they want a curated, personalized experience end-to-end.
And the information is everywhere. In 2015, 37% said that review sites have “very much” influence on travel decisions, compared to 21% two years ago. According to Phocuswright research, traveler-posted reviews are more trusted than professional reviews, photography, video, interactive maps and social networks.
When it comes to pulling together an itinerary that meets their needs, more and more often they are turning to travel consultants. Nearly one quarter of consumers polled used a travel agent in the last year, more than the last three years, according to an ASTA survey released in May 2016.
This trend is good news for agencies: travelers are once again recognizing the value of expertise in planning a perfect vacation. According to the same survey,
“63 percent said using an agent makes their overall trip better, 66 percent said agents help them avoid costly mistakes and 64 percent said agents find better deals.”
Clearly, agencies continue to have an important role in enhancing the traveler experience through intelligent curation and personalized attention.
Travel agencies must tailor their services to the new normal in customer behavior
With more informed customers, travel consultants now have new ways to deliver value to their clients. No longer gatekeepers, they play the role of curators, navigators and executors. To most be successful within this landscape, travel consultants require the right tools. This is where advancements in technology help consultants serve their clients while improving the agency’s bottom line. With the right platform mining the right data, the consultant can provide the client with the best information at the right time. Through data and analytics, the consultant provides — and proves — value.
Technology unlocks personalized travel packages for clients, including ancillary products, alongside the best rates and incremental savings. And when it comes to ensuring itineraries comply with corporate travel policies and security requirements, a platform of that information provides an efficient experience.
Travel providers are seeking ways to deliver value to customers, and also the business
Opportunities also exist for travel providers (e.g., air, hotel, car) as they adapt to the changing travel retail landscape. In an effort not to get lost in a sea of options, providers seek to strengthen brand recognition and loyalty. They too want to retain clients and keep them coming back for more. After all, nothing is more valuable than the loyal, lifetime customer.
To strive for lifetime loyalty, technology allows providers to increase their market share and visibility, while also recognizing that old ways of operating won’t thrust them into the next generation of travel retail. Many are choosing partnerships, bundling services and implementing omni-channel strategies.
The revolutionized retail world has brought all kinds of changes to travel retail, transforming the space itself. For travel consultants, travel managers, and travel providers, this makes for a do-or-die situation, where they must evolve or be left behind.
Technology, advanced approaches, and providing better and more personalized service will not just help them navigate this constantly shifting landscape, but thrive, landing in a place with more solid business models and increasing top-line revenue growth.
Please see our partnership with Travel Weekly for more information about the travel retail revolution.
Monica Alves manages brand marketing at Sabre Travel Network and has managed marketing communications for Global campaigns for more than 10 years.