Today’s traveler uses search engines, social networking and smart phones to research, book and comment on travel, Amadeus reports, warning that travel agents are themselves agents of change. Amadeus also offers advice on what agents must do to keep up with this new world order.
“It’s a fact no travel agent can afford to avoid: technology innovation has completely transformed the way consumers are buying travel. From Google to Facebook to smart phones, our increasingly wired world requires changing the way we do business. Fortunately, this new era brings with it tremendous new opportunities to not only survive, but thrive,” Amadeus says.
Amadeus North America President and CEO Scott Gutz spoke earlier this summer at Vacation.com’s 2011 International Conference and Trade Show. His talk, “Agents of change: Search, social, mobile & you,” outlined how today’s travel agent’s job description is evolving—and offered guidelines for keeping up with new technology and customer habits.
Highlights from his presentation include:
The times, they are a-changin'. If your day-to-day job as a travel agent feels different from how it was a few years ago, there’s a good reason for that! According to Forrester Research, Inc. :
• 54 percent of leisure travelers use a general search engine when planning travel
• 38 percent of leisure travelers have used their smart phones to check in, book, or research travel
• 50 percent of leisure travelers with smart phones have downloaded travel-related apps in the past 12 months
• Four in five United States-based travelers who are online now engage in social media
New traveler behaviors, new travel technology tools: travelers still have the same needs when it comes to travel. They still need to find fares and schedules; they still need advice from a trusted travel professional; and they still need to get this information at their fingertips.
But the tools of the trade have changed, Amadeus notes:
• The Yellow Pages have been replaced by Google, Bing and other search engines
• Word-of-mouth is now passed on through peer websites like CruiseCritic.com and TripAdvisor.com and through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
• Everything you used to review from your desktop can now be accessed on a smart phone
Recognize, embrace, and adapt. This new era in traveler behavior offers great opportunities for today’s travel agent. To succeed, you don’t need to overhaul your business—but you do need to dive in to new technologies to capitalize on this new search, social and mobile-focused generation.
Gutz offered the following advice to help travel agents stay ahead of the curve:
• Think of your travel business holistically—focus on the total travel experience rather than transactions
• Jump in and get started. Start a blog offering your travel expertise or tweet about that great deal you have on a cruise to the Baltic Sea. Post a sale on your Facebook business page or offer a travel Groupon. You might even consider creating a new travel app for your customers’ mobile phones.
Finally, noted Gutz, “Amadeus is evolving with the times. We’re developing innovative new search tools for travel agencies, have updated our popular Amadeus Checkmytrip.com app so it’s mobile-friendly, and can offer your company social media consulting.”
Amadeus notes that coming soon to the North American market, Amadeus Extreme Search runs on innovative technology that allows customers to search “holistically” for travel according to budget, activity or geography. A focus on social, mobile and search technologies, noted Gutz, continues to be at the forefront of Amadeus’ strategy as it evolves its solutions and develops new ones to stay on the cutting edge of these changing times.