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For a long time, technology and travel were a match made in heaven.

These days it is becoming a touch difficult to keep up with how quickly technology is advancing, shaping and influencing the industry.

One of the biggest changes in technology (other than how we travel) has been the fact that an estimated 74% of travelers now plan their trips online and only 13% still use travel agents. The internet and the shift to mobile have changed the way how people plan their trips and have made the experience of travel a very different beast. A cell phone is now not only the travel agency, tour guide, best experience locator, the camera that documents the trip and the device that makes those photos public. Around 45% of guests use a smartphone throughout every phase of their trip.

The key to understanding the influence of technology on travel is to remember that use of technology is always driven by the psyche of the traveler. As the trend shifts from traditional family travel to solo and group travel, it is also changing from mistrusting online booking to using it predominantly.

How is Technology replacing Travel Agents?

Because technology is perceived as the bridge from never having visited a place previously, to enjoying an authentic experience. Travelers want to see everything on the ‘must do’ list but they want to be immersed in the local culture while they do it. The internet becomes your friend as social media and travel blogging websites can deliver what you need and just like that technology that was originally invented to augment the experience is now becoming essential to the experience.

Connected

Wi-Fi free was the better option for Safari travel not too long ago. As travelers become both better at organizing their lives around ubiquitous internet availability and more accepting of it having internet is providing a seamless, highly personalized experience to guests. It will also boost operational efficiency and real-time decision making while strengthening the physical and cybersecurity as well as providing data privacy.

Travel Bots

Artificial Intelligence is increasingly evident in our daily life. Both ChatBots and TravelBots are being used frequently and the next big step in mobile travel is sending all the information to the traveler by bot. This way they get what they need when they need it and there is no need for downloading or researching information and updates. Used correctly a Bot will automate, speed up and improve quality and performance while decreasing costs.

Teleportation

Only kidding. But not entirely. From content marketing to enhancing the experience, AR or VR can be used to take you to the top of Everest and the Great Wall of China or let you try out all the functions of your seat before you fly.

IoT

Our bags can now travel with their own locators, security is enhanced through the Internet of Things everywhere and integrating sensors continue to personalize the guest experience. Knowing what is happening at home while you travel or where your bag is will reduce anxiety and stress and leave you free to enjoy your journey. In some instances, a wearable device is customized to improve the experience.

Virtual Voice or Girl/ Boy Friday

Hotels are chasing Siri and Alexa and Hey, Google with their own version of interactive, personalized assistants. Travelers are disrupting the way the industry worked more and more as they switch from type-in search to voice search.

Big Data

Collecting and using every scrap of information about every guest will soon be the norm. The goal is to ensure better segmentation, increased efficacy, and optimized investment.

Blockchain

The blockchain phenomenon keeps marching forward. It can increase stability and security and as it is decentralized the information can never go offline, be deleted through accident or malicious attack and transactions are always traceable. It can be used for a wide variety of useful applications from tracking luggage to growing customer loyalty. Whether you are a believer or not, we need to have our eye on.

How does a Travel Agent stay relevant?

Travel will continue to be about meaningful human interactions for the foreseeable future. But a Travel Agent must create a balance between innovation and the human element. Every technology must be approached from asking this one question: ‘How will the development improve the guest’s experience’

The demand remains for specialists, for agents who are happy to deal with complicated requests and because generally speaking, travelers want to travel, they don’t want to be a travel agent.

  1. Don’t be put off by technology and don’t freeze with fear. Keep your mind open to every new development always asking: ‘How can this improve my guest’s experience.’
  2. Frame your general travel news with an eye to how technology can be implemented and follow industry thought-leaders.

Ditto with general news. The first inklings of consumer travel trends can often be gleaned if you pay attention.

And Foreign Territory Advice is equally important

  1. Stay up-to-date with travel industry technology. Follow our #RSonTravelTech hashtag on twitter for a curated take or subscribe to a site like https://www.phocuswire.com/
  2. Make meeting new people in the travel industry a priority and whenever you find someone who is positive about tech change keep them close.
  3. Warren Buffet spends 80% of his time reading and thinking. Take 3 minutes to read (or listen to) this story to understand why you should follow suit. Then sign up for courses, join webinars and listen to podcasts.

TEDTalks Technology, This week in Google, Tech stuff, Rocket, IT Visionaries, The Future of Everything, Science: Disrupt, The Wired, The VergeCast

The demand remains for specialists, for agents who are happy to deal with complicated requests and because generally speaking:

Travelers want to travel, they don’t want to be a travel agent.

Images via Samuel ZellerRamón SalineroAri He

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