Champa Magesh, Senior Vice President, Retail Travel Channels, Asia Pacific, Amadeus, highlights six tech trends set to shake up the retail travel industry.
Consumer expectations are rising. Travellers are demanding more from agents, including more choices, personalisation, and an end-to-end experience. The industry is also facing a lot of pressure from consumers’ increasingly fragmented needs and last-minute bookings.
But, travel agents are not dead. A common misconception is that everyone will be online, all the time. However, we are seeing online retailers, such as Alibaba, continuing to disrupt the retail industry with the introduction of brick-and-mortar stores. There’s no replacement for the human touch.
To survive and thrive, retail travel agents need to change and adapt. This is where technology will play a very important role in the future of this transformation. Here are some of my thoughts and those of industry leaders on which technology trends we think will have a significant impact on the sector.
Cloud technology is a driving force for transforming the offline model of the travel agent. The cloud enables agents to have access to all cloud-based bookings regardless of location, whether this would be through a mobile phone or a tablet. As consumer expectations are growing, we are seeing travellers wanting more of a collaborative effort when booking a trip with an agent. A seamless way to enable this collaboration is by taking the customer out of a brick-and-mortar store to a café with a tablet and work together to develop an itinerary. This human interaction is where retail travel agents have an opportunity to really inspire the traveller.
Internet of Things
IoT will create a seamless trip where travellers are connected to their travel agents at every stage.
Alfred Kam, Chief Operating Officer, Travel Expert Group: “IoT has the ability to connect customers with travel consultation throughout the entire stage of the travel experience. For agents, a global or universal passenger name record (PNR) will allow travel consulting to change according to any requests from the customer. As for travellers, agents can provide a universal ‘travel pass’ that can be used for a trip, without separate boarding passes, hotel check-in, bus passes, and even theme park tickets. This universal travel pass would also handle multiple currencies, where travellers won’t need to worry about exchanging currencies when travelling between different countries.”
Voice will be the way we book travel in the future.
Nishank Gopalkrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, Triposo: “If you think about it, talking to each other is the most natural thing humans do. Nowadays, typing and swiping seem an effective way of communicating as we are unable to have a natural conversation with a machine. But as AI and voice-enabled devices become smarter, typing or swiping will become secondary. When the process becomes seamless, voice will be there future of booking travel. Travel agents are then able to take advantage of this and sell high value and high engagement products via voice.”
Blockchain will create more secure direct transfer payment methods.
Kelvin Ko, Assistant Manager, Business Development, Travel Expert Group: “As consumers become more conscious about their data, privacy, and online presence, there will also be a need for a more secure and direct transfer payment methods. Credit card payments, such as Visa and Mastercard, are facing digital challenges. This is where Blockchain can revolutionise traditional methods by allowing all transactions and ticketing to be safe and secure. Blockchain technology has the potential to offer an efficient way to integrate different services providers in a distributed environment.”
New Distribution Capability will transform travel distribution as we know it.
A majority of travel distribution today in the airlines and hotel space is complicated. The myriad of pricing options, fare types, and loyalty programmes doesn’t ease the shopping process, even for a suave online shopper. Travel agents will continue to see product requests from multiple sources for travel providers – therefore seamless integration with EDIFACT, NDC, and other API connectivity, plus hotel, ground transportation, and theme park tickets will be essential. Travel agents will need to evolve to offer integration with non-travel related content and value-add services will be a success factor for future travel agents.
High network speeds will facilitate 3D/VR/AR technologies for a more engaging and immersive booking experience.
Alfred Kam, Chief Operating Officer, Travel Expert Group: “Technology will enable travel agencies to transform into ‘digital travel agents’ through high-speed networks, enabling 3D, VR and AR technologies. The booking process will become a trip planning experience, where agents will be able to provide more content, information and booking details.”
For more insights, download the Future of Retail insights here, which features views from Amadeus, Travel Expert, and Triposo on what the future of retail looks like.