Making sure your Travel Business survives the on-line challenge
One thing I have learned from lecturing and teaching a large number of 20 something year old tourism students is that most are convined that traditional travel agents and wholesalers are on the verge of extinction. Of course I bring in many successful travel agents and wholesalers as guest speakers to prove them wrong but the perception persists. My students who are perpetually glued to their laptops, tablets or smart phones are hard to convince that life beyond the on-line universe exists.
As many travel agents and wholesalers have already realised, if you can’t beat them, absorb them. Webjet has been a highly successful example of a travel agent that that has developed and absorbed on-line technology and young people are surprsised that in virtually all meaningful respects it is a travel agency. The Flight Centre group has also been highly successful in trading as both a bricks and mortar travel agency and as an on-line agency. In fact iots is becoming the rule, rather than the exception that traditional travel agents and wholesalers are increasingly operating equally comfortably in the face to face world and the virtual world.
There are people of all ages who still appreciate the personal touch and the real life expertise which travel agents and wholesalers give to travel transactions. The Australian Federation of Travel Agents came up with a great slogan years ago “without a travel agent you’re on your own”. I like the slogan beause the fundamental difference betwen traditional travel retailers and wholesalers and their purely on-line competitors is the fact that making the sale does not constitute the conclusion of service. Over the past year so many events have required travellers to change their travel arrangeents ranging from terrorist attacks in Paris, Tunisia and Egypt, Volcanic ash clouds which disrupted flights to and from Bali, the Nepal earthquake and snow storms in the USA just to name a few.
Traditional travel agents and wholesalers see it as an integral part of their duty of care to assist their clients during their trip while the on line operators leave clienst to their own devices. Its this fundamental difference in attitude to the relationship between business and client between traditional travel retailers and wholesalers and the on-line world which will guarantee the future of travel agents and wholesalers in the foreseeable future. The development of a relationship between business and client is also very important. On Line retailers have a vast amount of information to impart. However, intending travellers like to hear an individual experience of a destination or a first hand impression of a hotel rather than a collection of facts, figures and pictorials.
The key to survival and prosperity of tradtional travel retailers and whoesalers is to highlight the positive service benefits they have to offer the traveller and wherever possible to absorb the best that technology has to offer to enhance the service advantages.