Technology Critical to Leisure Travel Agencies

writingLeisure travelers want increased access to the Internet anytime, anywhere, a new Travelport international survey reports, urging more travel agent involvement with consumer favored technology - including cell phones.

The survey offers insight into how digital leisure travelers plan and book their trips and tackles the changing expectations, demands and behavior of leisure travelers. It notes that travelers need to stay connected and a heavy dependence on smart phones: 87 percent of those aged 35 and under, and 80 percent of those 36-45, owned or planned to purchase a smartphone in the next six months.

The study also explores travelers use of technology and social media and how travel agents can rise to the challenge of their evolving needs throughout their trips.  Travelport estimates that the market for global intermediary leisure travel is expected to be worth $672 Billion by 2015. The study probes the varying opinions and preferences of the ‘digital natives,’ (those under 35) and the ‘digital immigrants,’ (those 36-45).

Higher levels of interest in accessing travel and destination information before a trip: treating the smartphone as a “personal assistant.” 60 percent of the ‘digital natives’, for example, consider a smartphone to be their ‘personal travel assistant or companion’ enabling interaction to take place at any time, Travelport says. Both groups prefer to access pre-travel information via mobile technology, rather than through traditional devices. This indicates the importance of travel itineraries that can be integrated with other apps, and formats that are easily read on mobile devices, Travelport says.

Despite using their technology-savvy to research and book trips themselves, both groups of leisure travelers reported they are becoming increasingly confused with the amount of information on the web and were more likely to engage with a travel agent for complex trips, Travrlpot says.  

The research also takes a look at how leisure travel agencies are servicing their travelers in terms of contact before and after the trip and the services they sell. It concludes that opportunities to better service their ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’customers exist. 

While travel agents are often actively involved in the run up to a leisure travler’s journey, only one in two, continue involvement after a traveler boards their flight. Yet the survey revealed growing interest from mobile users in receiving more promotional offers on hotels, dining offers, airport information and recommendations while they were away. In fact, Travelport says 41 percent of travelers indicated they wanted to receive more relevant offers. 

“This survey clearly highlights the importance of efficient technology solutions, more business intelligence and richness of functionality and content to ensure travel agents are fully supported in the sales process,” said Bryan Conway, chief marketing officer, Travelport. “By delivering this we will empower travel agents to engage even more with their customers, especially those who have a good grasp on how to use new technology."

Travelport says it conducted parallel studies with over 2,500 leisure travelers and 1,000 travel agencies in eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, UAE, UK and US. The research was conducted in mid 2012 through an online survey email invitation to leisure agencies, and by the use of a third party panel company to consumers.