“DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A TRAVEL AGENT”
How do travel agents add value versus booking directly on the web? This is the new dilemma in digital globalization. The internet made a huge revolution in the distribution channels that have brought many benefits and challenges to the DMC`s, Travel Agents and Hotels, but with the covid pandemic, the world was forced to put the foot on the gas to adapt to a new reality. The industry is evolving to a new ecosystem, where being online or offline is like choosing between the “red and blue pill”, a metaphor started in 1999 by Wachowski. In a world where you need to choose to go human or go digital, I honestly believe we need to go hybrid (symbiosis of both worlds) because technology cannot replace the local knowledge, expertise and personalization offered by an experienced “rockstar” travel agent and a uniquely human touch are what makes all the difference.
We can highlight 9 reasons that help explain why you should consider having your one of a kind “rockstar” travel agent from a customer’s perspective:
You can share your travel dreams and rest assured that the travel agent will offer you the available options and guide you through making the best decision.
Over the years and through lots of “travel agent exploring”, by visiting the destinations and experiencing the hotel’s services, the travel agent will give you valuable and honest advice.
3. More for your money
A “rockstar” travel agent wants to impress the customer not only with their local knowledge but also by offering a wide range of unique services, like a free room upgrade, VIP welcome, free late check-out or special tickets for an event that you thought is sold out, restaurants tips to the best local gems and also that special discount that you can’t find online when trying to book a specific hotel.
4. Setting the Itinerary
Clear-cut your holidays’ schedule to the last detail of what will be happening on a daily basis, and keep you updated via Whatsapp or telephone if you have any flight changes. Knowing that you have 24/7 assistance, you can truly relax on your holiday.
A “rockstar” travel agent can offer the best and suitable insurance for your trip to guarantee that everything goes smoothly.
Let’s face it, we all want to feel special and unique in one given moment! the hotel will be informed of your preferences such as food preferences, room location and views of your favourite breakfast items. Home away from Home that’s the feeling. As a note, my unique experience using the services of a “rockstar” travel agent was in Porto in a Leading Hotel in the World. I was surprised with family pictures, wine and cheese in my hotel room. I felt like a king because it was my favourite goodies! This special “WoW” factor, the extra mile and that touch of uniqueness are what the travel agent can bring to the table.
Thanks to their long-term partnership with their suppliers and by understanding the power of a repeated customer, the travel agent will always do that extra effort and use all the network and lobby to get the last available room or flight seat that can’t be booked online.
Planning a holiday or a business trip can sometimes be exhausting. Due to the covid measures from each country, understanding all the legal paper and procedures you need to do can be very stressful. Instead of spending hours/days or weeks researching to have the smoothest trip/holiday, a “rockstar” travel agent’s mission is to inform you of your requirements and look for the best-customized deal while keeping you updated on all the changes in the travel measures due to covid.
A “rockstar” travel agent will manage to work with any budget that can help you know exactly how much you will spend during your business trip/holidays (item by item), so you don’t have any last-minute surprises. What is and is not included in the reservation, if you have or not drinks included in a cruise holiday or pay in advance some services such as excursions, gastronomic experiences and at the same time find you the best deals and negotiate a better rate if you booked directly.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), pre-pandemic the tourism sector accounts for 10% of the global GDP and for one in ten jobs on the planet, this industry is massively boosting the economy even if is a volatile industry depending on safety and with the pandemic started in 2020, we all were exposed and we realized that the impact of the crisis, will fundamentally change the future of the travel agency business. While we all navigate in this multi-dimensional world, where the rate of vaccination and measures to travel has not yet been 100% standard to all nations, what we know is that the power of human connection has never been so vital. During the pandemic without a genuine “rockstar” travel agent our life as a traveller would be chaos due to the cancellations, refunds, rebookings and in some situations for little compensation or none and this value will have a huge impact in the mid/long term survival of the industry due to the positive impact in their customers experience making the process easier.
Traveller behaviour has changed during the pandemic, there is a need for more information and guidance, support to travel. Now is the moment to highlight and surpass customers expectations and emphasize the work of the “rockstar” travel agent with their value proposition. The human connection is more essential than ever and critical for the survival of the industry using that layer of engagement but using all the digital tools to speed the process and have a more accurate profile from the customer. The path ahead of us continues to be uncertain but we need to transform those challenges into opportunities and the success in any kind of business related to the tourism & travel sector will be defined by the ability to stay connected with clients and suppliers across the world and adapting fast to new realities. The key factor to face the new ecosystem is the capacity to adapt and be flexible to overcome the challenges and prepare our business for the automated systems and social media because the most important asset in the industry still and will continue to be: PEOPLE.
By André Oliveira
Director of Sales Ontravel Solutions