The travel market is changing: technology and connectivity are transforming the industry. In an era where consumers are seeking the best customer experience possible, the time has come to “rewire retail travel agencies” so they can provide a 360-degree experience to explorers worldwide, according to Champa Magesh, executive vice president, retail, travel channels at Amadeus.
So how exactly can these agencies inspire travellers? How can they empower their employees and what are the key technologies they should be focusing on? These are some of the questions Amadeus has set out to answer in its recent research report: ‘Digitize the predictable, humanize the experiential’.
The report delves deeper into three steps to consider in the transformation of customer experience using technologies, notably ensuring the adoption of new technologies is fully aligned with business strategy; empowering human resources to drive a better integration with technologies; and having the right technology partner on the journey of transformation.
We have become accustomed to analysis of the four generations of travellers: Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers and Ms Magesh describes the diversity associated to each group as fascinating.
“The fact of the matter is: with varied demography come varied travel trends. Take millennials, they are known for their digital first attitude and crave ‘unique’ and visually appealing experiences which can then be shared through their social networks. On the other side of the spectrum you’ll find baby boomers who place much more value on the human interaction provided by travel agents,” she explains.
While all of these groups have specific ‘character traits’ they are all in the pursuit of experiences. “As individuals seek increased personalisation, destinations are stepping up their game to meet their needs. The future of travel distribution will be driven by scalability and aggregation of on-demand content and inventory from multiple platforms. Ultimately, this will empower travel agents to create more complete and bespoken itineraries for their customers,” says Ms Magesh.
She believes it is increasingly obvious that for retail travel agencies to succeed they have to provide travellers with the right content through the right channel at the right time. “In turn, this will make every engagement point matter for travel agencies, enabling them to deliver an enjoyable customer experience throughout the journey,” she explains.
“We also found that the generation factor notwithstanding, online connectivity and digital technology continue to transform lives. Today’s travellers are neither purely online nor offline and there are infinite combinations of both pathways in a traveller journey map – dreaming, planning, booking, preparing, travelling and sharing,” she adds.
It is no longer about selling a fare or a holiday, it is now about selling a retail experience and Mr Magesh notes that while “retail is not dead, boring retail is.” She says that with advances in mobile technology, travel, which was formerly “a more linear process”, has transformed into “a fluid and more spontaneous act”, and adds: “Regardless of its complexity, travellers are seeking the best customer experience that combines online and offline and for that to happen, technology and human touchpoints must integrate well to deliver a frictionless experience.”
Ultimately, for retail travel agencies to deliver a world-class customer experience that evolves with consumer trends and needs they must ensure they embrace new technologies and choose the right technology partner. Under this pathway, Ms Magesh says: “Combined with the human touch and a good mix of online and offline, there’s no predicting what these agencies can achieve in just a few years’ time!”