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.
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
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.