Travellers Choice recently held gatherings across Australia for its member shareholders to discuss how to best harness the power of evolving technologies.
Which sounds pretty cool if you ask us. Particularly seeing as our approach to technology looks a little something like this:
Just kidding. We understand that technology plays a SUPER important role in the current landscape of the travel industry. Which is why we decided to have a chat with Travellers Choice managing director, Christian Hunter, to find out the latest tech trends and how they affect brick and mortar travel agencies.
Hunter told us the reason for the gatherings was to arm the company’s agents against or help them adapt to emerging technologies.
“Futurists are saying within 20 years a lot of the jobs people do today won’t exist because they will have been overtaken by technology. So what’s that going to mean from a travel perspective?” Hunter said.
“We need to start having conversations with our agents now about what these advancements will mean in the future and how their business is positioned to either benefit or resist the challenge.”
The conference centred around on tech developments which will flow into the world of travel at some point in the future, like voice control technology, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.
“We’re starting to see a lot more voice-controlled tech utilised on a day to day basis with the Google home devices and people having a chat with Siri on their phones, sometimes by accident and sometimes not,” Hunter jokes.
“More and more people are using these home control devices whether its to play music or access information or to just generally support them through their day-to-day.
“Certainly there’s not a great deal in the market right now but there’s a lot of investment in these technologies behind the scenes.”
Unlike AI and voice control tech, which agents can use as tools to aid in their work, blockchain may pose more of a threat to agents than previously thought.
“From a bricks and mortar travel agent perspective, there aren’t any examples of blockchain technology being used right now and all of the experts that I’ve spoken to can’t really give me any outside of the payment side of things.
“What they do talk about is blockchain having the capacity to better connect the provider of a product and the consumer of a product so that has the potential to actually assist in bypassing the intermediary.
“So we actually see blockchain currently as more of a threat to traditional bricks and mortar travel agents than an opportunity right now.”
At the end of the day, Hunter said, Travellers Choice members are small business operators and they don’t have a 30 billion dollar investment cheque like the major players in travel tech start-ups.
“For us, it’s also about staying connected to the companies that are operating in this space and seeing what partnerships we can forge to be able to bring the emerging technology to our members collectively as a group.”
“The technology is constantly changing but I think it’s something they’ve [agents] grown with.
“It doesn’t matter how powerful the systems are that are there today, the benefit that a human being brings to the transaction is immense.
“The computer delivers information but it doesn’t actually put perspective around it.”
According to Hunter, the amount of tech and information available in the consumer landscape is having a counterproductive effect.
“The travel agent cuts through all of that for them and makes it easy for the consumer to make a decision,” he said.
“They’re making recommendations, they’re adding their own expertise and they’re making it easier for the customer to make their trip a reality in a much more straightforward fashion.”
“When I look at the technologies available to consumers today there’s a big gap in terms of what that provides and the agent plugs that gap.”