Choice is driving the market, travelers have never had so many forms of travel to choose from, from rail to rental cars and they can call a cab with just a swipe on their phone.
This is a viewpoint by Madhavan Kasthuri, online technology director for Sabre Travel Network.
With the increase in ground transport options travelers now have many alternatives for door-to-door journeys. Their attitudes to booking have also changed. They don’t want to wait, they want the best options instantly, and are demanding more personalised travel experiences.
Some demand a seamless, worry-free travel experience, with every element of the journey pre-arranged, while the so-called now generation expect to book last minute and jump off the plane into their chosen car.
Add to this the growing target group of free independent travelers (FIT) who value individuality, and it’s easy to see how challenges are growing for travel agencies.
While meeting the needs of various target groups is a great opportunity for the travel industry, there are growing complexities. However, the extra margin for non-air bookings makes meeting customer demands worthwhile. At the same time, to remain relevant and profitable agencies need to differentiate.
But that does not mean travel agencies need to radically change the way they work. It’s about thinking more personally about the traveler.
Take car travel. When renting a car, customers expect to get exactly what they want — the right vehicle, with all the comfort and conveniences they’re used to, from satellite navigation to child car seats. Many customers are also demanding in-car internet data so they can stay connected at all times and avoid expensive roaming charges.
Finally, they don’t want to be surprised at the airport with additional costs they weren’t expecting. With the numerous options available, this historically has been challenging for travel agencies to deliver.
Personalization is now much more achievable for agencies thanks to technological advancements. In the past, travel agencies could book car extras, but they were not guaranteed. Travelers would turn up to collect their car and not know if they were going to have essentials like baby seats included or not. This level of service is no longer acceptable.
Technology providers such as Sabre have been working together with suppliers to ensure requests can be guaranteed, to help travel agents offer the right options to their travelers at the point of search and booking.
In light of these developments, agencies can establish themselves as the easiest and most reliable way for travelers to organise their journeys. Through a focus on personalization and offering a holistic itinerary, agencies become the lynchpin of an organised trip. Technology makes this happen.
Agencies who are unable or unwilling to grow will lose out to competitors who can. To remain competitive agencies need to offer complete door-to-door travel packages that include all modes of transport. In order to meet the demands, the travel industry needs to grow and develop as a whole and offer the kind of personalized travel experiences customers have come to expect.
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