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How is technology impacting the role of travel agents?

Technology's impact on travel agents

With the steep spike in travel since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, travellers and holidaymakers are increasingly looking for seamless travel experiences. And this has definitely been made possible by the use of technology. Technology has become our trusted companion in almost every aspect of our lives and the travel and tourism industry is no exception.

Travel agents operating in today’s digital landscape are deeply aware that integrating technology in their offerings can save them a lot of time and resources in managing and organising client trips. Whether it’s artificial intelligence (AI) or AI-powered travel assistants, technology is about to change the future of travel.

As clients increasingly look for brand new travel experiences, using automation is becoming the go-to option for many travel agents. And as they seek to enhance their clientele’s holiday experience, they’re turning to technology in a variety of ways. These can include streamlining client communication, booking processes and the entire travel experience while their client is abroad. What emerges from this is that the travel industry is constantly changing and with advancements in technology, travel agents need to remain competitive to offer their clients the best experience possible.

In this article, we explore the questions of how to implement AI as a travel agent; what the future of travel technology holds, as well as whether AI will replace the role of travel agents. Let’s take a closer look.

How to implement AI as a travel agent

Ever since ChatGPT was launched at the end of 2022, the AI landscape has absolutely blossomed with AI tools and technologies that are helping to drive improvements in the customer experience. Travel is no different.

As travel agents start implementing these technologies, they’re better equipped to: 

  • Handle multiple client queries
  • Tailor travel itineraries in hyper-personalised ways
  • Strengthen client relationships through seamless communication before, during and after trips 
  • Boost their marketing efforts so their travel agency business remains competitive

Just a few of the ways in which AI is helping to shape the work done by travel agents include:

  • Customer service: Providing an exceptional customer service experience is vital for every travel agent. This requires seamless communication with the client before, during and after their trip. From the first step of browsing and exploring holiday opportunities to booking their trip and going abroad, a travel agent must be available for their client in the event of anything going wrong. Many people book with travel agents because they appreciate the support and help that a dedicated agent can provide. And when travel agents implement AI in customer service, the process can become even more efficient and helpful. For example, AI-powered chatbots can help answer client questions in real-time as they explore different holiday options and destinations. Being trained on vast quantities of data and improving over time, these chatbots can truly help speed up and streamline the customer service process.
  • Booking process: AI can also help streamline the booking process for travel agents. There are several ways this can be done. Firstly, AI can be used to analyse clients’ past travel history and then create tailored and personalised itineraries that meet their needs. Secondly, AI can streamline payments processing and documentation management for each customer, ensuring travel agents are well-organised and better able to help their clients with their queries. It’s also a great way of reducing human error and introducing efficiencies in the travel agent’s daily work, which also benefits clients as they benefit from streamlined and organised travel experiences. Finally, the booking process can be enhanced with AI through fraud detection technologies that ensure customer data remains safe and secure and that no fraudulent bookings are made while client privacy is assured.
  • Marketing: And last but not least, generative AI tools can help travel agents with their marketing efforts. Since marketing is an essential part of how a travel agent earns their bread and butter, it’s vital that ads, organic posts, blog articles and other means of marketing are as hyper-personalised to their clientele as possible. Generative AI such as ChatGPT and other AI tools can help with this task by making sure that marketing communication with clients is created quickly and with personalisation in mind. The more tailored the advert or organic social media post, the more likely a travel agent is to gain their audience’s attention. Apart from marketing campaigns, AI can also help strengthen client relationships through clear and detailed communication. For instance, a travel agent can use generative AI to write letters or emails to their clients, explaining all the necessary details of their itineraries and their trip in a personalised way.

With all this in mind, it becomes clear that the benefits of AI in the travel industry can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, travel agents should consider incorporating AI tools in their daily work as the travel landscape becomes increasingly competitive and as  travel agents look for new ways to streamline their processes to introduce greater levels of efficiency.

What is the future of travel technology?

Apart from AI, there are many other technologies that are and will continue to make a big impact on the travel industry. 

Below is a list of a few of these worth considering:

Augmented reality (AR):

With AR, travel agents can help their clients have real-world travel experiences before making a decision to go abroad. With the help of a smartphone and an internet connection, clients can use interactive maps to find the quickest point from A to B or gain a deeper understanding of different geographic landscapes. It’s also possible for travel agents to introduce local attractions. Meanwhile, in an AR environment, clients can simply point their smartphones at different signs or locations to get more information about them.

Virtual reality (VR):

VR can be used to give travellers virtual tours and virtual hotel tours before they decide on making a final booking. This technology is transforming marketing approaches, giving clients a preview of what they can expect both from their destination and from their accommodation. Knowing what you’re going to see and experience is a major driving factor for convincing a client to make a booking.

Internet of Things (IoT):

The IoT is a game changer by introducing travellers to smart travel. In short, it works by connecting internet-connected devices and creating greater levels of connectivity and comfort for clients. For example, IoT can be used to control a hotel room’s lighting and ambiance as well as air conditioning from the tap on a smartphone. For travel agents, this is a big selling point that assists with enhancing operational efficiency.

Big data and analytics:

Big data and analytics will also play a major role in the future of travel technology. As more travel data, such as itineraries, preferences, locations, hotels and accommodation are added to a data set, it’s possible to interpret findings through fast analytics that give travel agents greater insight into client tastes and preferences as well as how to enhance their travel experience in the future. Making data-driven decisions is key and helps with competitive advantage.

Contactless payments:

Contactless payments will be on the rise as well. With this, travel agents need to ensure that they offer secure payment gateways online to enable their clients to take advantage of fast and easy bookings where payment acceptance is streamlined. For this reason, they need to take measures to ensure the cybersecurity of their operations and protect clients’ payment data from malicious actors.

Voice search:

The major rise in voice search will affect the travel industry as well as people who are looking for a fast and hands-free way to find the results to search queries. Voice recognition technology will therefore not remain limited to voice assistants in the home but will also guide travellers to finding information about their destination better and faster.

Sustainable tech for eco-friendly travel:

And finally, with the rise in sustainable practices, travellers will be looking for more eco-friendly solutions to travel. Technologies that are impacting this trend include fuel savings tools on cruise ships, choosing electric vehicles for trips abroad when renting a car, eco-friendly accommodation and sustainable waste management practices, among others.

Will travel agents be replaced by AI?

There is a natural concern about whether travel agents will be replaced by AI. After all, it’s capable of performing so many tasks that travel agents are worried about becoming obsolete.

However, there is no cause for concern as there is no replacement for the human touch. That’s because travel agents can help with communication, problem solving, bookings, customised itinerary planning, customer service and more.

Each of these tasks can be supplemented by an AI or tech tool but they cannot be replaced. The value of using a travel agent will not decline as travellers prefer human-planned trips, designed by humans for humans.

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