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25 August 2017 , 11:43 am

Face-to-face versus online – Who wins?

Face-to-face Travel Bot

‘Adapt to the latest technology or be left behind’. That is the message travel agents hear repeatedly in workshops and blogs nowadays.

While this message is undoubtedly valid; it is also important not to lose sight of the value of face-to-face (F2F) in the travel industry. Concerns about the role F2F agents have been rising for many years, especially given the growth of the Internet as an alternative source of travel bookings.

We give you four reasons why Face-to-Face agents will always be in demand:

1. Travellers look for experts

Travellers increasingly try out new experiences and destinations. This opens opportunities for travel agents. By focusing on industry niches/deep expert advice in the future, travel agents will likely be highly successful.

The fragmentation of the market means that a very large number of niches could emerge. For example, at one level, segmentation could be an experience level adventure, cultural, or sun, sea and sand travel. In combination with (or separate from) this, segmentation may also be on a geographical basis – e.g. specialising in tourism in areas of Egypt or Brazil.

2. Travellers look for reassurance

During uncertain times when low-risk destinations can turn high-risk in a matter of hours or minutes, travellers look for reassurance and advice from their travel providers. They want to know they can contact someone at all times for advice and help in case of emergency.

For travellers from emerging markets, the unfamiliarity of the travel experience in general means agents will play a significant role in determining travel plans and advising on destinations.

3. Travellers look for time

Everyone can book tickets and holidays online, but it is a time-consuming activity and the truth is that time has become a precious commodity.

Agents have become lifestyle managers and are hugely advantaged compared to online booking by factors such as professionalism, trust, bespoke advice and the need to deal with complex and demanding travel arrangements in the context of consumer time poverty.

 4. The younger generation craves Face-to-Face contact

Tech-savvy and always online, the Millennial generation likes to book through the traditional travel agent, numerous studies have shown. A new study issued by ASTA, shows that one-third (33 percent) of Millennial respondents say they plan to use the services of a traditional travel agent for a vacation during the next two years.

The same is true for the next generation. Generation Z consumers (aged approximately 13-21) are highly connected and digitally immersed. But that deosn’t mean they won’t turn to the traditional travel agent.

In fact, a recent IBM study found that 67% of Gen Z shoppers actually prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar locations most of the time — and 31% still shop in-store “some of the time.”

So, does this mean that technology has become obsolete? By no means!

The resurgence of F2F agents is not regressive. The ‘new’ agents will not be like F2F agents of the past. Instead, technology will be part of what fuels their relevance and makes them able to fulfil the needs of customers.

Having access to better agent interfaces, greater content and information on travel options and the ability to interact with customers in new and different ways means that they will be able to provide a superior level of customer service not previously possible.

 

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This post was written by Amadeus Africa Team

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