Digital Turbulence in Travel

Cassis, France

Travel it’s an interest, it’s a hobby, it’s something majority of the population will say they love. I am no different, ever since I was a child, I always questioned what was beyond the boarders I lived in. I am not talking about wanting to go on that yearly trip to Disney World, I truly wanted to see the world. In high school I got my first opportunity to participate in French exchange program that allowed me to live with a family for a period of time during my senior year. You can say that is truly when the bug started and next thing you know I was an International Business major, which gave me the chance to live, work, and study in the south of France. So you could say I like to travel, I could go on and on about my adventures and my bucket list of places to go, but that’s not what this post about. In recent years I have noticed a change in the way we travel, the industry itself is one that immediately had to adapt to the bomb of the internet and the innovate technology that has come about.

The way in which we approach travel prep is vastly different than those of generations before us. It all starts with that need for a break, an adventure. For us in 2019, that means opening up Google and searching for that best destination, or even just a quick scan of those flight costs. Once upon a time, the first step would be walking into a travel agency and staring at wall of pamphlets hoping that something would jump out at you, or better yet sitting with an agent and exploring your options based on budget. The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) suggest a 12% decline on the job outlook of travel agents from 2016-2026, but could the job description just be changing?

Digitizing Early On

So the easy answer to the decline in travel agents would be to say the internet happened, but there is a little more to that story. The travel industry was actually an early adopter of digitalization and technological innovation. In the mid-1940 airlines began the process and creation of automated booking systems in order to improve the process of reserving airline tickets. As huge commercial carriers such as Delta and American Airline start home-grown solutions, travel agents began to demand a system, and in 1976 United Airlines opened up its Apollo system. This was the first time that agents could now book tickets on United platform, and was just the beginning. As the more and more airlines created sophisticated systems reservation systems soon created consortium of systems.

Travel agents served as the subject matter expert of all things from the cheapest fares to the where is the best place to eat on your honeymoon. Sites like Expedia, Priceline, and other booking sites replaced the need of finding agent with access to systems. Similarly airlines have opened up their booking systems as well.

The role of the modern day travel agent has changed, and although most think that this profession is going out of the style this may be a misconception. In 2017 Forbes article it was sited that 34% of Millenials used an offline travel agent in 2015. Can you believe that this group actually found the confidence to talk to a real person, either that or the WiFi was down and Expedia, just kept crashing. All jokes aside, this is evidence that travel agents still have skin in the game. There are some of the key reasons that agents are being used still ring true, like those complicated destinations, that experts’ advice, and better to have someone help you stay organized. Although sites like Yelp and Tripadvisior have helped us all to gain insights some people just are not willing to do the research on their own, after all you taking a vacation for a reason. At the end of the day list for using of travel agent and or not using an agent come down to a travelers personal choice. The internet has empowered us all to become our own travel agents, as well give us easier access to find those agents that may fit our niche need.

Technological Disruption in Travel

The marathon of digital transformation in the travel industry is far from over. If the job description of agents is changing that has to be more right? Here are just two examples of products that changing the way we may travel:L



Look & Book

I will be the first to admit I follow a lot of travel accounts on Instagram, and have gone as far as actually booking a trip to the Plitvice Lakes all based off an EarthPics insta. EasyJet has now released a new search feature that allows you use Instagram screenshots and connect the best flight path to that destination. The plan will be to add Pinterest and Snapchat as well.

Seetroën Glasses:

These futuristic looking glasses are designed with the motion sickness traveler in mind. The glasses created with liquid rings allows the body to reduce motion sickness.  Created by a French start up this travel accessory can be worn for 10-12 minutes and then taken off. Still in early development the product suggest to be highly effective. W

What’s Next…

There is no doubt that we will continue to witness the technological evolution of the travel industry, either through the transformation of the roles of agents or the product or services we buy. The important thing to remember is this is an industry that is no stranger to change and disruption.

10 comments

  1. dilillomelissa · · Reply

    Very interesting perspective on travel and technology! I’m with ya in that travel is one of my tops loves in life. It’s hard to ignore all the possibilities we have today as far as apps, review sites, and easy online instant booking. While it doesn’t seem like the need for Travel Agents is obvious, I agree with you in that they aren’t going to be obsolete anytime soon. There is always that need for human interaction by so many, that this is still a powerful option. Comparable is online banking. Many people and even Millenials are choosing not to sign-up with banks with zero physical branches for the fear that when a situation does arise, it’s not as easy to solve a problem without seeing someone face to face. While I personally haven’t used a Travel Agent since way back when my parents used to book our summer vacations, I can see the appeal as I get older. I also found the technology you brought up fascinating, specifically the motion sickness glasses. I know people get all forms of motion sickness depending on their mode of transportation. Do we know if this works for boats?

    1. Yes the Seetroën Glasses do work on boats! They were initially invented in Europe to cure kinetosis, otherwise known as motion sickness and have 95% effective rate. The price goes for around €99 and are current available in stores mainly in Europe

  2. After reading your blog, I immediately started thinking about all the different opportunities for analytics. I found the early airline travel systems utilized online technology and optimization models fascinating. It is crazy to see how far airline’s technology has come. Today, airline carriers have optimization models have gotten infinitely more complicated from the models that optimize the weight of the plane to models that determine when and where they should provide flights. They incorporate almost everything involved with the airplane down to how many mini pretzel bags are on the plane and if that weight changes how much fuel is used. Your example, Look & Book is another example of how EasyJet another airline is utilizing social media technology to adapt to the digital world. I look forward to seeing how different players in this incredibly competitive industry change.

  3. As someone who has a near constant itch for travel, I really enjoyed this post. I can’t say that I’ve ever really thought about using a travel agent since planning is a part of travel that I enjoy, but I also completely understand why one might want to use one. For some people sitting down and taking the time to sort through and figure out all of the details in a trip can be stressful and time consuming, while on the other hand you can get in touch with a travel agent and let them know where you’d like to go and what types of things you’d like to do and see and they can do the rest. Given this factor, I don’t imagine the job to disappear, but I agree with you that the role will evolve. Look & Book is something that I had never heard of prior to reading your post, but is something that I definitely see myself using in the future. I’m in the same boat that I follow a large number of travel accounts on Instagram and can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve looked at picture and wondered where it was and how to get there.

  4. It is impressive how much airlines have upped their technology offerings to book, reserve seats, and check-in. I think it is only time until you are requesting items on the plane via the airlines app, rather than pressing the assistance button. While airlines are upping their platforms for customers, their actual software and IT infrastructure is incredibly outdated, which has led to billions in lost profits over the past decade. http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/aging-technology-behind-airline-delays-and-it-will-get-worse/article/472411
    Maybe it is time for these airlines to also invest in themselves.

  5. I always thought that the need for travel agents was significantly diminishing as a result of the Internet, but your blog taught me to think otherwise! Travel has always been such a big part of my life and as for all of my family vacations, I’m used to planning everything with a travel agent (my mom likes to be pretty old school with stuff like that). I can totally see how their roles are evolving, but I believe that’s pretty much inevitable across all occupations. The world is always changing as technology continues to become more advanced, and it’s important for us to keep up and somehow stay relevant. Look & Book is a really fascinating feature, and it reminds me a lot of how you can purchase someone’s looks or outfits directly on Instagram now. I oftentimes find myself screenshotting specific vacation photos from Instagram, so I can definitely see myself using this app in the future. Great post!

  6. I can totally see myself still using a travel agent in the future. My boss recently booked a trip to South Africa with her husband to go on a safari, and she planned everything using a travel agent. I feel like with the internet, yes we have the ability to see almost every option available, but the number of options can be overwhelming. Why spend days or weeks planning a perfect trip when you can find an experienced, well-reviewed travel agent to do it for you?

  7. It’s very interesting to hear that so many millennials are still using travel agents, I have personally never even thought of using one, or wouldn’t know how to find one in the first place. However, I am someone who enjoys the aspect of researching a trip and figuring out exactly what I would like to do, instead of relying on someone else to book for me. I recently booked a graduation trip to Southeast Asia and Australia with two friends, and even though we knew nothing about the areas or restrictions beforehand, we were able to easily figure out what we need to do to be prepared for our trip. Everything from Visas, to vaccinations, to transportation was well documented and easy to find. Beyond this, it was nice to totally curate the trip to make it the best trip for us. Although I personally don’t think I will ever use a travel agent, I recognize that there are people out there who will, and there can be many benefits that go along with it.

  8. I love this topic! Travel is huge to our generation and means a great deal to so many. I agree, that once the internet came, travel options became vast and it has become easier to book travel through Apps like Hopper or Airline Carrier Apps. We are in an instant booking world where we can book something by the click of a button. Technology has created this digital travel era where there is no need for in-person or phone booking. It is freeing and evidently easier to make a decision based on blogs, reviews, and websites. More people are traveling because of the technology in place so the amount of money to be made is endless. With google alerts and others, there is no way we can not participate in the digitization of travel.

  9. Similar to you, I absolutely love travel and my parent’s made sure that it was an emphasis in my life from early on. Trips either domestic or abroad give such a good opportunity to experience new cultures and confront things outside of our comfort zone. As technology and the internet have started to impact the industry, I was really surprised by the Forbes article you cited. With all of the access to information online and the ease at which sites like Expedia, Priceline, etc. allow you to book not only flights but accommodation, it seems hard to imagine paying someone to do it for you. It seems like the perfect industry for disruption, but the new technologies that are popping up are really exciting. Being able to book trips to specific locations through instagram and snapchat is awesome, finally making the seemingly unreachable parts of the earth found in those travel insta accounts accessible with ease. While it seems like these types of trends are starting to make these authentic beautiful parts of the world “touristy” and less unconventional (Iceland seems like a perfect example) it’s a great way to encourage economic development and tourism to parts of the world that could really use it. Regardless of the outcomes, these are exciting innovations that can make incredible parts of the world more accessible. Great job, I really enjoyed reading!

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