The future of the travel agent is a topic which never fails to generate discussion. In the red corner are those who frequently claim the traditional agent is a dying breed, a victim to the influx of technology that has allowed travellers to take researching, planning and booking trips into their own hands with ease. In fact, earlier this year, a report by Business Insider dubbed the travel agent a "relic of the past".
However, we also have those in the blue corner – the camp that insists there is a place for travel agencies in the future, as long as they embrace newer, innovative methods of operation.
The latter viewpoint was expressed by Travelport president and CEO, Gordon Wilson, last month, during a discussion that coincided with the company's third quarter financial results. His comments demonstrated a belief that the travel agencies of the future will still play an active part helping consumers research and shop travel products and services, but that the technology and processes used will change the face of the role.
One of the key developments Wilson predicted was the continued rise and implementation of artificial intelligence technology to help travel businesses communicate with customers and streamline their day-to-day operations.
Travel Daily Media also emphasised the importance of AI to the travel agent of the future as well as the popularity of mobile devices and the use of Big Data. However, the report issued a warning that agencies should bear in mind that not all demographics will be as mobile-savvy as the millennial generation, suggesting an omni-channel approach that incorporates online, mobile and personal interaction will ensure that consumers receive service that meets their personal preference. Essentially, the travel agent of the future will have its work cut out establishing that perfect balance of human interaction and self-serve technology to meet a variety of consumer expectations. The key is to asking your customers what it is they want, and meeting their needs accordingly.
Travel Daily Media also put forward the idea that we may see more agencies partnering with others to establish themselves as a "single Mega Online Travel Retailer", citing examples of online travel agencies working with metasearch companies to provide more accurate information, appeal to a wider range of travellers and therefore become more competitive in the marketplace.
Lonely Planet also pointed out that many travel agencies have found success by choosing a niche to specialise in such as adventure, luxury or LGBT-friendly travel, thus positioning themselves as experts in the field - something to consider if you're thinking of revamping your business in the future.
For digital solutions and travel technology that will ensure your travel business stays up-to-date with the latest trends, contact Digital Trip today.