In 2018, Asia Pacific had an inbound volume of around 688 million visitors to the region – almost 50 million more foreign arrivals than in 2017, according to the Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2019-2023 by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). Amidst this tourism boom, traveler expectations are continuing to evolve and the industry faces an increasing need to meet fragmented requests from customers including the desire for richer content, wider choices and greater personalization.
For agents to deliver this transformation successfully they should ensure that technology complements and improves the human touch in order to provide an enhanced customer experience.
To navigate this changing environment and to help the industry understand some of the drivers impacting the sector, global travel IT provider Amadeus spoke to several industry leaders and today releases 6 top trends to watch.
The cloud will improve collaboration with travelers for more personal experience: Cloud technology is a driving force for transforming the offline model of the travel agent, says Champa Magesh, Senior Vice President, Retail Travel Channels, Asia Pacific, Amadeus. “The cloud enables agents to have access to all cloud-based bookings regardless of location, whether this would be through a mobile phone or a tablet. As consumer expectations are growing, we’re seeing travelers wanting more of a collaborative effort when booking a trip with an agent. A seamless way to enable this collaboration is by taking the customer out of a brick-and-mortar store to a café with a tablet and work together to develop an itinerary. This human interaction is where retail travel agents have an opportunity to really inspire the traveler,” says Magesh.
IoT will create a seamless trip where travelers are connected to their travel agents at every stage: IoT has the ability to connect customers with travel consultation throughout the entire stage of the travel experience. “For agents, a global or universal passenger name record (PNR) will allow travel consulting to change according to any requests from the customer. As for travelers, agents can provide a universal ‘travel pass’ that can be used for a trip, without separate boarding passes, hotel check-in, bus passes, and even theme park tickets. This universal travel pass would also handle multiple currencies, where travelers won’t need to worry about exchanging currencies when traveling between different countries,” says Alfred Kam, Chief Operating Officer, Travel Expert Group.
Voice will be the way we book travel in the future: “If you think about it, talking to each other is the most natural thing humans do. Nowadays, typing and swiping seem like an effective way of communicating as we’re unable to have a natural conversation with a machine. But as AI and voice-enabled devices become smarter, typing or swiping will become secondary. When the process becomes seamless, the voice will be the future of booking travel. Travel agents are then able to take advantage of this and sell high value and high engagement products via voice,” says Nishank Gopalakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, Triposo.
Blockchain will create more secure, direct transfer payment methods: As consumers become more conscious about their data, privacy, and online presence, there will also be a need for more secure and direct transfer payment methods. Credit card payments, such as Visa and Mastercard, are facing digital challenges. “This is where Blockchain can revolutionize traditional methods by allowing all transactions and ticketing to be safe and secure. Blockchain technology will also offer an efficient way to integrate different services providers in a distributed environment,” says Kelvin Ko, Assistant Manager, Business Development, Travel Expert Group.
NDC will transform travel distribution as we know it: A majority of travel distribution today in the airlines and hotel space is complicated. The myriad of pricing options fare types, loyalty programs, and multiple players doesn’t ease the shopping process, even for a suave online shopper. Travel agents will continue to see product requests from multiple sources for travel providers – therefore seamless integration with EDIFACT, NDC, and other API connectivity, plus hotel, ground transportation, and theme park tickets will be essential. Travel agents will need to evolve to offer integration with non-travel related content and value-add services will be a success factor for future travel agents. For example, instant translation, personal travel guide in various languages, and friend matching app for travel companions.
High network speeds will facilitate 3D/VR/AR technologies: According to Alfred Kam, Chief Operating Officer, Travel Expert Grou, technology will enable travel agencies to transform into ‘digital travel agents’ through high-speed networks, enabling 3D, VR and AR technologies. The booking process will become a trip planning experience, where agents will be able to provide more content, information and booking details.