Excerpt from Travel Mole
At the turn of the century, the travel industry was predicting the slow demise of bricks-and-mortar agents.
The Internet, said experts, would replace retail agencies as customers looked to big Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to search and book their travel plans.
Eighteen years on, the OTAs are thriving, but so too are the vast majority of offline agencies. They survived the evolution because they adapted their business models and instead of shunning technology, they embraced it.
What the experts also hadn't taken into account was that OTAs lacked the human touch, which in a digital age, customers are now craving more than ever before.
Successful travel agents have therefore focused their efforts on the customer experience and building long-term relationships with their clients - and they have used technology to make this happen.
The 21st Century travel agent is - and will continue to be - a concierge, advisor and confidante, using a variety of tools, from social media to online messaging services, to communicate with their clients.
Through these media, travellers can call, text or message their travel advisor to fix a problem mid-trip, or even to quiz them before making travel plans.
As a result, agents are becoming more integrated in the daily lives of their customers, providing them with travel information on the fly - it's the modern-day version of the human touch they desire.
Successful agents are also realising the need for personalisation - and they need technology to help them do it.
Going forward, big data and a sophisticated CRM are the tools they will need to make sure their sales and marketing tactics are personal and targeted, particularly if they are to keep pace with the big-name OTAs.
The travel agent of the future will be focused on the end-to-end customer experience, using technology to forge relationships with travellers. Their success will rest on continuously learning more about their clients, requiring them to analyse data in a holistic manner so they can map out their travel habits.
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