Travel Agents

Shift happens: 5 key changes to the travel industry agents need to know

Tammy Marshall, managing director of The B Hive

Shift is happening in the travel industry, both locally and globally.

And while that may seem daunting, it’s critical to adapt quickly in order to future proof ourselves and our businesses.

These challenging times represent golden opportunities, and innovation and disruption can come from anywhere, but is it a blessing or a curse?

It’s up to you to decide.

There are five key shifts that matter to our industry right now.

They are:

1. Evolving Customer Dynamics

Working with real estate agent

The first shift is about the changing customer landscape – they are evolving quicker than we can keep up with them.

To embrace this shift, we need more data, better data, and to understand the data using technology in new and innovative ways to make it easier make smart decisions.

There are very compelling reasons to be more data-driven.

It doesn’t matter what size your business is as long as you focus on the right data, and you have a system/process to collect and segment it.

The point here is that you really need to embrace digital technology throughout your business and along the entire customer journey.

Technology should be seen as your friend – it can help you gather data, gain a better understanding of your customers, and help you keep pace with change.

Why this matters?

This is about designing the customer experience and knowing when to automate, leverage digital assets, and integrate the human touch.

It’s why user experience designers are in such high demand.

2. Blurred Lines of Reality

Businessman using futuristic VR

The second shift is all about the emergence of new immersive technologies.

The ‘try before you buy’ play is pretty compelling.

Travel is a natural fit with virtual reality a sales pitch and augmented reality enhancing the experience.

Pokemon Go was merely a stepping stone to the crazy world of Augmented Reality.

Consumers are looking for an engaging in-store experience that goes beyond enthusiastic customer service, and VR is a great way for retail travel stores to tap into the experience economy.

Thomas Cook in the UK was one of the first retail travel agencies to successfully adopt VR technology.

Today, one in ten of its customers book directly after a VR experience.

TUI is another brand that has gotten on board, rolling out new interactive concepts including interactive maps, immersive digital screens and VR headsets to 120 stores in Europe.

Virgin Atlantic can transport you to any of the top bars, like a top-end vodka bar in NYC, while you are sitting at the First Class bar onboard their aircraft.

Disney, one of the most innovative companies in the world (it’s in their DNA), is opening the Star Wars hotel next year which will be completely experiential.

Why this matters?

It matters because sooner or later this technology will be everywhere, so let’s not get left behind.

3. Mass Technology Takeover

Electrician robot handyman wrench pliers. Mechanic cyborg toy lamp bulb eyes head, electric wires, capacitors vintage resistors. Green paper background copy text

If technology makes life easier, consumers are happy to embrace it.

The big shift is that we will be speaking to virtual assistants to order our food, change the lighting, put on some music and ring our travel agent to make a travel booking.

Voice-enabled is the next thing.

In America 55 per cent of homes – that is 70 million people – have Alexa.

Australians are obsessed with mobile phones (35 per cent of us check our mobile phone within five minutes of waking) but we have been slow adopters of voice technology.

We even ignore Siri and she has got a whole lot smarter.

The future will be about striking the balance between modern technology and the human touch.

Why this matters?

Understanding the moments when voice technology can enhance customers’ experience is key.

4. Sustainability has a makeover

young man with a world globe in his hands

We are seeing more and more brands standing up and making themselves accountable for the planet.

This shift is because sustainability is increasingly paired with travel.

I am a big believer and very passionate about the fact the travel industry needs to play a key role, particularly when 10 per cent of the world’s GDP comes from tourism.

We are seeing a shift where brands are moving beyond compliance/regulation and driving efficiency.

We all know that the hotel scam to help the environment and keep your dirty towel was about efficiency gains and saving costs.

Consumers are now buying brands with a social purpose.

Who is doing this well?

G Adventures – advocates for inspiring young travellers to be mindful of their choices.
Visit Org – the world’s leading platform for social impact travel experiences. 100 per cent of revenue is invested back in the local community.
Jet Blue – has a community project to save the coral after a hurricane devastated the reef in the Caribbean.
Space X – puts rockets and shuttles into space but ensures they return to earth (recyclable rockets).

Why this matters?

Sustainability and responsible tourism will need to be more than marketing gimmicks. It needs to become a core business practice.

5. Travel Butterfly Effect

Hikers on the mountain

The final trend we have is called the travel butterfly effect.

We are moving beyond experience into transformative travel where people want to be moved, shifted or changed in some way.

They want travel to open their minds and open their eyes.

The Transformational Travel Council defines Transformational Travel ‘as any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting change in their life’.

So to wrap up how these five shifts will impact the travel industry in the next few years, I recommend:

• Be obsessive about understanding your customers and where you can enhance your engagement on the customer journey

• Immerse yourself in technology from virtual reality to voice activated

• Do your bit for the planet – your customers will respect you for it

• The Travel Butterfly Effect is here and now. Find out how can you ride the wave.


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

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Tourism

Cover-More CEO exits

The global travel insurance provider has waved goodbye to its chief, but not before signing him up to a premium policy.

Share

CommentComments

Technology

Afterpay makes online travel play

If COVID-19 wasn’t already enough of a challenge for travel agents, a new OTA has entered the ring.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Tourism Malaysia’s new Aussie director on the destination’s big marketing shift

by Huntley Mitchell

The destination is placing much more of a focus on its digital presence and “smart partnerships”, as it looks to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

How are high flyers dealing with coronavirus? A new jet-to-yacht service seems to be the answer

Are you or your clients keen to avoid cattle class (or any class for that matter) on your first post-coronavirus flight? Start saving your pennies for this new service.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

STUDY: More than half of Aussies are keen to get travelling in the next six months

Find out where, when and how Aussies will hit the road once restrictions are lifted with this handy set of survey results.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Pandemic could push consumers to use agents over OTAs, says Barry Mayo

by Ali Coulton

The TravelManagers chairman has also predicted more bricks-and-mortar agents will make the switch to a home-based model, given the risk of further lockdowns.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Team behind Addicted to Maldives launches domestic-focused DMC

The new offering aims to help curate your clients’ domestic escapades so that you can give them their perfect post-lockdown getaway.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Cruise Wrap: CLIA offers training to non-members, more lines extend pause in operations + MORE

Travel Weekly staff dread Cruise Wrap days because they usually result in our deputy editor singing Enya’s “Orinoco Flow”, until we lock her in a cupboard.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Australian adult entertainer removed from flight over comments about George Floyd protests

This story has a bit of everything – an airline, an adult entertainer and even the ongoing George Floyd protests in the US.

Share

CommentComments

Road & Rail

Uber to offer ‘world-first’ car rental option Down Under

by Christian Fleetwood

You’d assume the bosses over at Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty, and Europcar won’t be too pleased to read this news.

Share

CommentComments

Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with Club Med’s Marnie Blanchetier

We sat down with Club Med’s head of marketing and director of sales for a chat and a few episodes of The New Pope, until she began to give us spoilers.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

REVEALED: The final two bidders for Virgin Australia

by Huntley Mitchell

Virgin Australia’s administrators have made a decision on which two bidders have made it through to the third and final round.

Share

CommentComments