Although most travellers between the ages of 20 and 30 years old have never set foot in a physical travel agency before, that doesn’t mean the future won’t hold some amazing new travel stores!
Just think of when you buy an iPad or an iPhone. Do you go to the Apple Store or do you go online? Some of you may answer online, but many still go to the Apple Store: why? Because it’s a convivial place where you have access to experts who can give you all the information you need before making a purchase. It’s all about enjoying the experience, according to Amadeus’ whitepaper, The Travel Retailer of the Future.
Experience stores offer a technological touch that appeals to a general sense of lifestyle, according to the study. They focus on new features including, for example, a cosy interior design, smells and sounds, workshop and conference spaces, food sampling and bookshops. All of these features have a focus on blending a personal and human touch with digital technologies.
Some players in the travel industry in Africa, like Flight Centre, have started looking into building a new generation of concept stores. They’ve redesigned interiors to create a more modern look and feel coupled with new technology.
Flight Centre developed its hyperstore concept in the UK. These stores feature dedicated product zones, digital signage and various tools that will help customers fine-tune their travel plans. The model was exported to the USA and Australia, and will soon also feature in Africa.
We chatted to Marieke Tucker, GM Retail Brands for Flight Centre.
Are younger generation travellers still visiting Flight Centre’s physical travel stores?
Yes, they are, but they mainly visit the travel shops in the larger shopping centres. We are also seeing a big upswing in mobile communication as this generation tends to increasingly use their smartphones and mobile devices to communicate and enquire.
How have you adapted to the changing needs of the younger generation travellers?
We engage more on social media platforms and talk more about travel experiences and the destinations that would be attractive to them. Experiences are very important to this generation, so we try and ensure that our stores, website and communication includes elements across the dreaming, planning and booking phases of the journey.
How has Flight Centre blended the human touch with digital technologies in the travel shops?
Our shopfronts have digital screens that display enticing content to attract customers into our stores. We also have started placing QR codes on our brochures so that electronic versions can easily be scanned into phones or devices for later research.
We are currently working on Virtual Reality as a project in South Africa. However, it’s a complicated process as the footage and platform is not a typical South African offer within the industry and needs to be customised.
We also have a number of other innovations in the pipeline that incorporate digital experiences and look forward to rolling those out as part of our new Hyperstores which will be unveiled next year.