From my observation of the industry over the last few decades, travel agents have long enjoyed a unique position offering personal and customizable services to travellers. However, the rise and development of the internet blew away their position leaving them to watch content providers sell services that travel agents themselves had previously provided to travellers.
We’ve all seen examples of this during an air ticket booking process – the prompts to buy or book insurance, car rental, hotel rooms and many other non-airline services.
It is no wonder then that travel agents feel threatened by the continued blurring of lines between retailers and providers as their market space is invaded by new threats.
But I truly believe that every great challenge brings with it new opportunities for the bold – and new distribution and retail models can play in travel agents’ favour if they can look beyond the fear.
Those agencies that heed the wake-up call can use the blurring of the line to develop a unique position in the market, providing a content-provider like service to take them towards the ‘one-stop-shop’ model of highly customized, personalized service.
Technology is allowing the blurring between content provider and retailer and we’re proud to see travel industry players using our products as their backbone for innovation.
From my experience, even a small player can put the pieces of a multi-service offering together in such a way that it secures them a strong position in the market place.
For example, a travel agency could buy up hotel inventories until they own a set. From there they can set a net rate, including a margin, and act as a hotel company by reselling the rooms and services to customer – either as stand alone hotel bookings or through cross-selling.
With the right tools at their disposal, travel agents and travel management companies (TMCs) can compete in this fast-paced, ever-changing industry landscape and not get sucked up by fear.
As for those that fail to respond to the wake-up call…I’m afraid that their future is very much less certain.