I respect travel agents. They work really hard and have a wealth of knowledge, it upsets me that in some circumstances the customer then goes and tries to book it directly. Their attempts are often thwarted by going a deal too far and then realising that they’ve booked indirect flights or have to deal with issues which an agent would have supported.
Travel agents have the ability to ask just a few questions and know from the answers what type of holiday the customer wants.
They don’t confuse, it’s clear. But their recommendations rely on the customer trusting the agent.
The Internet however causes chaos and doubt! Unfortunately the Gen X generation feel the need regardless of who gave them a price to validate it by looking it up via an OTA or similar because value matters. At this point if an OTA appear to give better value then users may choose an OTA over an agency, despite the agency doing the work for the user. As Gen X become the next “Baby Boomer generation” this may put travel agents at risk.
In my opinion the travel agents who are the best are those which are niche, they understand their product range fantastically and really can relate to the customer and their needs.
“AI” will no doubt try to replace them (for certain markets or communication channels), and will no doubt filter product more effectively than a novice, but I hope that real travel agent’s remain.
Travel agents are also more than just a sales agent, they are pre-flight advise, on-holiday support, and post holiday support if anything doesn’t go to plan.
In the future I believe Travel Agents will co-exist with OTAs providing a tailored service, I suspect we’ll get to a point where price transparency will exist with travel partners and agents will likely earn a fee vs a commission, even though this may negate the buying negotiation of an agent. (this may be a behind the scene’s benefit for the agent for direct bookings.)
Agents will service the following
Personal recommendations (which are personally chosen)
Online bookable, with options to re-price/re-check.
Alerts if the price changes, or is about to change.
Their experience of knowing what works is the difference between a good holiday and a great holiday, and one which requires a human touch.