Futurist warns: “Agents need to add value you can’t get online”

Futurist warns: “Agents need to add value you can’t get online”

Nobody really knows what the future will hold.

Especially in an industry like travel, which is constantly evolving to keep up with consumer and technology trends.

But we can catch glimpses; for some, it’s easy to see where some emerging technologies will take the industry, like automation, AI and the rise of online booking platforms.

We spoke with futurist, Michael McQueen to get a better idea of what’s to come, and what challenges the industry will have to overcome.

McQueen’s new book How to Prepare Now for What’s Next explores how businesses and industries can thrive in a time of disruption and forecasts trends coming up in the next five to ten years.

We were so fascinated by his work, we’ve decided to make a three-part series of weekly articles about future trends and solutions to overcoming disruption for the travel industry.

Today, we’re exploring the role of travel agents and how McQueen predicts they will need to adapt to stay relevant in a time of rapidly changing technology and consumer behaviour.

In his book, McQueen told us that agents need to focus on their main value propositions.

There’s a place for them [agents] if they’re adding value you can’t get online,” he said.

“And that’s the biggest question for any transactional gate-keeper: what’s the value you’re adding?”

He said the main things agents should focus on to sell their services are their ability to simplify the booking process, their expertise and client safety.

“Complex trips that require assistance rather than just jumping online are a big value proposition for agents,” McQueen told us.

“You can try book a multi-flight trip but it’s going to be a mess and if there’re new to travelling, they will want to talk to agents who’ve been to the places and can give the inside tips.”

“The other thing for young travellers is that sense of a safeguard.”

“There’ve been cases in the last few years with international incidents, for example when that volcano erupted in Iceland a few years ago and the only people who got home were those who booked with travel agents because they had someone working on their behalf trying to get them home.”

But the big advantage agents have over online, McQueen said, is the simplification factor.

“It’s a very interesting double-edged sword, even though they [online booking platforms] are seen as a threat to agents, the challenge now is its coming full circle.”

“People are getting overwhelmed by how much is online.”

“So in some respects, they’re the best of friends and the worst of enemies.”

“In a way, they [OTAs] offer something you can’t get: no travel agent has enough experience or exposure to the market to compete with all that’s available online but at the same time, people are busy.”

“They don’t have time to wade through 47 options for hotels in Soho so travel agents can then sort through it, they have experience, they have relationships with some of these providers, they can get you a good deal and make it simple.”

To attract customers to in-store travel agencies, McQueen suggests travel agents up their game when it comes to retail experiences.

If it’s like the days of old where you go into a travel agent and it’s like a job interview where you sit down opposite the person and there’s a desk between you and you ask questions and they tap away at the computer but you can’t even see the screen, that adds no value.”

Even rethinking the layout of a travel agent would be helpful.”

“Instead of the bays of desks, a whole lot of pods or low seated couches and when someone comes in you make them a coffee or offer them a glass of wine or a glass of bubbles.”

“If the moment a travel experience starts is when you begin the booking process, why not make it fun? Rather than just a transaction.”

Do you have something to say on this? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Ali Coulton here to share your thoughts.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

    Latest comments
    1. ….bad history should not repeat itself… added value doesn’t work… it failed miserably before… online is huge… the millenials are on it… and all the time… the only way for travel agents to survive is to, yes, join ’em… the more the merrier… be visible online… use best available rates offered by hotels, airlines, tours or whatever… agents must unite… /hello useless and pointless afta/… create your own bar rates platform online where all agents can source rates… gds can do it for you… it is tech ready… create, innovate and generate… continue reminding people agents assist travellers in trouble.. I also believe that… tell the people ,ok, go online, we’re also there for you…. mwahhh….

future of travel future trends futurist How to prepare now for whats next Michael McQueen travel agents

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