Despite a heightened role of technology in modern life, air travel consumers are continuing to seek advice from multiple sources before booking flights. According to latest research from Amadeus, air travellers said they were most likely to seek advice about an airline, before booking a flight, from friends or family (39%) or a review website (39%), while the traditional travel agent (14%) and social media (8%) also have influence.
Amadeus says these findings highlight the importance of maintaining an omni-channel approach to customer service for airlines. This is particularly true when a customer is booking more than solely a flight during a transaction. Though only 14% of survey respondents may seek advice from traditional travel agents for flights alone, they are more likely to seek professional advice if they are planning a longer break where the flight is just an important and key component.
There will, of course, be certain members of the so-called Generation Z – those born between about 1995 and 2012 – who may never set foot in a travel agent’s office, acknowledges Patricia Simillon, head of strategic marketing, airlines at Amadeus IT Group. She notes that Millennials (those born between about 1980 and 1995), on the other hand, are still turning to agents, depending on the context of their trip, as are the generations before them, because they value the personalised advice of another human being.
“Overall, it depends what value the individual consumer places on the product, service and convenience that agents can add to their travel planning. As technology evolves and improves, it will not negate the need for advice from travel professionals. Rather than eliminating the need for a human touch, tomorrow’s technologies will work with agents to provide the ultimate service,” she explains.
In fact, the progression of technology, if harnessed correctly, could dramatically boost the potential for agents to present consumers with personalised, niche travel experiences that they didn’t know they were looking for, and that are relevant and desirable. This experience would not only outperform the experience of searching online but would also add a new layer of value to the role of the agent.
No matter how much technology continues to improve our lives, the value of connecting with a real person can never be diminished. Alongside the booking process, travelling for business is vital to get us closer to customers, unlock new opportunities and build our networks. Technology combined with data and service will make managed travel more personal, more targeted and more relevant than ever and embracing such change will create a true experience for the business traveller.