Agency Groups Launch Apps To Service ClientsMay 16, 2012 By: George Dooley
Travel Leaders' announcement of its launch of a branded, leisure travel, mobile app for clients - a tool that expands on Travel Leaders business travel app announced last year - underscores the new reality: mobile apps are here to stay and may prove indispensable to attract and retain valued clients.
Major agency groups such as Travel Leaders and Signature Travel have been at the cutting edge of launching mobile apps to link agents to agency clients. Vacation.com, another major group, also launched an app and Ensemble reports it is working on one.
In Travel Leaders Franchise Group’s case the app is not just a stand-alone tool, but part of its Customer Experience program that seeks to continually engage clients after they’ve booked their leisure trips.
Members will be able to provide their branded leisure travel mobile app for top destinations globally, Travel Leaders says.
Announced last year to support members’ business travelers, the new leisure app will complement Travel Leaders' “Personalized Travel Planner," which offers customized travel information to Travel Leaders’ cruise customers.
Travel Leaders’ leisure app will provide clients using Android and Apple technology with access to content on the major destinations that Travel Leaders agents are booking, they report. At the time of booking, Travel Leaders agents will provide a link to enable their clients to download the app prior to their departures.
Since all destination content will be fully loaded at the time of the download, Travel Leaders said its clients will not incur international roaming charges.
And at their destination, clients will be able to experience “augmented reality,” what Travel Leaders calls significant smartphone advancement. This allows Travel Leaders clients to point their devices at a landmark or location and instantly learn about the area’s top places to visit, as well as admission prices, hours of operation and users’ reviews.
Roger Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group says that members’ clients have increasingly adopted smart phone technology and welcome the convenience. “Our leisure mobile app accomplishes that by ‘placing’ their agent in their pocket with an amazing abundance of information regarding their destinations.”
Travel Leaders’ Personalized Travel Planner was introduced in 2008 and changes the level of follow-up care cruise clients receive after bookings, Travel Leaders says.
Each customized Personalized Travel Planner is automatically sent to cruise customers and includes their names and specific cruise itineraries bound in a water-resistant package that they can take with them.
The planner features a personalized “thank you” letter from the Travel Leaders agent who booked the trip, specific details of the cruise ship and itinerary, and information and map from Fodor’s on each individual port-of-call included on the itinerary including sightseeing options and shopping.
Travel Leaders' app isn’t alone. Signature Travel Network, a major agency-owned group, launched its new proprietary mobile app, Pocket Travel Consultant, last year. The app, that Signature believes was a first, serves both Apple and Android devices.
Signature reports its Pocket Travel Consultant provides clients with in-depth information about the cities they’re traveling in, on demand, 24/7, even while traveling internationally.
The app is customized with each member’s brand and call-to-action, backed with Signature’s technology. The app is free for Signature travel consultants and free for their clients, Signature says.
Signature’s app was announced with news of Signature’s launch of other technology advancements in tablet publishing and social media with Michelle Morgan, president of Signature, noting, “These new technology tools will bring value to current clients as well as aid members in harvesting new clients.”
Vacation.com reports it will launch its GoSiteSee - what the agency consortia describes as a “post-purchase mobile solution” – that Vacation.com agencies will be able to offer clients.
Agencies can personalize the application with their own logo, agency description and contact information, Vacation.com says. Once a client makes a travel purchase, the agency can input the customer's itinerary, including flight schedules, hotel information and recommended points of interest in destinations worldwide.
The app isn’t free. Agents that sign up for the app by June 30 will be given five free ‘instances’ to give the travel app to their clients. After that, a nominal fee will be charged for each guide pack they purchase at $6 a pack, with three destination guides included.
GoSiteSee features destination content, including attractions, museums, restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping, Vacation.com says. Other highlights include pictures, reviews, maps and navigation. The map and navigation functions work offline, so clients won't incur international roaming charges.
After the vacation is complete, the app icon remains on the client's smartphone, but the only way to reactivate the content for a new trip is to go back through their travel agent, Vacation.com says.
In addition to all of its mobile app features, agencies will also have access to GoSiteSee's web-based administration site where they can insert their agency branding, update and manage a client's itinerary for them, and purchase additional guides, according to John Lovell, president of Vacation.com.
What’s ahead? Clearly the consortia are raising the bar in using app technology to service clients. They are also integrating the apps with other client service and support capabilities. Ahead will be more bells and whistles and close scrutiny of how successful apps are to the agent’s mission of client service delivery.