Travel as we know it has changed and as we look to recover, over a year on from the start of many lockdowns, we see an emerging pattern of additional requirements for those looking to take their next journey.
Whether it be indulgent escapist holidays, or whether there is access to healthcare or a remote working office, travellers are starting to show signs that they are ready to travel again.
Nearly 40% of global travellers say they expect a travel agent to engage with them prior to booking and beyond throughout their entire trip.
Decius Valmorbida, President of Travel at Amadeus, describes the pandemic as a “black swan” event. No one saw it coming, and no one knew then the full extent of the pandemic that would bring the travel industry to a grounding halt.
But amidst the disruption, it gives us an opportunity to reflect and evolve.
How can we act and do things differently in the future? For us at Amadeus, it is important that we collaborate with our customers, partners and travellers, to really understand what matters as the industry begins to rebuild.
Travel agents are at the heart of this and will be key to rebuilding travel. As borders begin to open across the world, how can they continue to demonstrate their values, while providing additional support to travellers?
Here I outline three ways:
Travel advisory: Traveller preferences are shifting and there are strategic imperatives to consider with regards to the evolving needs of travellers. From our recent study, Insights for the New World of Travel, one in three global travellers say they are seeking more recommendations from travel agents.
Beyond just researching and booking their travel, travel agents also need to consider heightened requirements on personal hygiene and safety throughout the journey — from the moment they step out of the house and take that taxi ride to the airport, to the flight arrangements, hotels, restaurants and destinations.
More than that, travellers are mindful of government restrictions, pre-requisite on digital health passports, as well as insurance and cancellation policies. Travel agents need to constantly be available and in the know of the latest travel preparations in the countries where their customers will be traveling. In fact, nearly 40% of global travellers say they expect a travel agent to engage with them prior to booking and beyond throughout their entire trip.
Technology and automation: A combination of wit, grit and technology are instrumental as travel agents provide support throughout travellers’ journey. The pandemic, if anything, teaches us to be more creative in maximising the use of technology to facilitate safety and ease of travel for travelers.
In our recent Rebuild Travel survey, we asked global travellers what would bring back confidence. The results showed that 42% of global travellers said that if they had a travel app that could be used across the whole journey, it would greatly improve their overall travel experience. Travellers get to use a one-app-fits-all for all their travelling needs, covering everything from booking, confirmation receipts, to digital health passports while travel agents continue to provide real-time and on-hand support during travel.
Personalised touch: Travellers look to maximise fun on their trip without having to worry about the niggling rules such as shifting border-controls, changing policies or the do’s and don’ts on travel. Amadeus recently released a Travel Trends report which indicates key trends that are shaping up travel this holiday season, among those are ‘bubble travel’, the rise of ‘the workcation’ and a renewed thirst for travel that makes travellers book more ‘indulgent trips’. These are all indicators that the future of travel, whilst fluid, is constantly changing and evolving.
Travel agents, too, need to evolve. Today, 52% of travel agencies are likely to follow a niche – play to their strengths while thinking in parallel on how they can stand out in the current times. Admittedly, 50% of business leaders we spoke to said their people are their most critical success factor.
With technology, AI and automation tools, travel agents can attend to travellers’ requests much faster. In return, this allows them to be more present in providing their much-needed consultancy to travellers under their purview. In an increasingly complex world of travel, by offering a personalised service to travellers, from holding their hands at the airport as they check in through the gates, solving their problems during travels, to welcoming them back upon their return, travel agents can win the hearts of travellers with their duty of care.
As we veer into new territories in rebuilding travel, the fact remains that technology can be a constant engine of change for the travel industry. Travel technologies are evolving quickly, and so do the role of travel agents in being customer-oriented, giving that much valued personalised, human touch to rebuild travel.
It remains to be seen how future travel will be like, but we have a pretty good hand in anticipation of travel making a comeback. As I have always said to my team, travel is powered by people and technology and when these two coalesce, we see travellers’ journeys improve for the better. We will rebuild travel with these foundations, and we will be ready for when the day comes when we can all travel together, once again.