|Photo courtesy of the Google Glass Google+ page.|
Say it isn't so? As agents had to deal with the rise of the Internet booking engines and travel-related technology online a decade or two ago, now there is a new potential threat on the horizon? Or is there?
According to one online site, Tourism-Review.com, Google is readying a new secretive travel app for release later this year in France.
It apparently will use 3G as well as work with artificial intelligence to essentially become a "virtual travel agent." The public will access the app via its Google Glass technology.
The new so-called “Travel Concierge” will reportedly "talk" just as a real agent would do. The agent will be displayed as a hologram image by the glasses. Natural language will be used as the hologram talks to the Google Glasses wearer.
On first blush, it seems unlikely to replace real travel agents, but Tourism-Review.com reports that Google will enter the marketplace with the same gusto it's done with a slew of other major applications.
The new Travel Concierge is expected to use the client's address, Google's vast array of databases and travel information sites and a semantic search to reveal packages and travel suggestions. It's also apparently planning to help the traveler with everything from trip routing to transport advisories.
Tourism-Review.com said in its story that "in Silicon Valley, the information has begun to filter through and has started to panic various travel agencies across the United States."
The publication said it believes “Travel Concierge” will launch in fall 2014. For the full story, agents might check out the full Tourism-Review.com article at www.tourism-review.com/google-glasses-virtual-travel-agent-news4095
“Interesting concept for sure," said Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. "I believe there is an audience for this type of technology. It’s cool and technology enthusiasts will give it an early look."
But will it mean the end of agents as we know them? "Definitely not," she says, noting that CLIA reports the average age of a cruiser is 46. "This demographic appreciates the value of a real relationship with a real travel agent," Fiorino stresses.
She says that, on the cruise side, with so many ships, cabin types and itineraries catering to a variety of travel interests, the best approach is to personalize the experience by getting to know the customer on a personal level.
She says the agent needs to take time to understand their vacation dreams, their family interests and other details that would be difficult for a hologram to grasp. "I wouldn’t be too quick to write off the value of a real human being," Fiorino stresses.
Similarly, Michelle Fee, co-founder and CEO, Cruise Planners, says that while it's always fun to explore new technology and innovations, "we believe that people do business with people they trust...there is something to be said for the personalized touch and one-on-one service that only a trusted travel agent can provide."
She says ageny groups have adapted to today's technology by evaluating buyer demographics, past purchase habits, guest e-mail and mobile usage. Fee says her group also provides "highly-targeted data to help our travel agents market their business and successfully communicate with travelers both in person and in the digital space.”