Why Travel Agencies need to step up their online game to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving industry
Both emerging markets and mature markets have a large number offline travel agencies which have been operating comfortably over the years. They provide personalized service, interactive buying experience, flexibility in payments like part cash/ part check or even credit to their regular customers, loyalty discounts etc.
These are the USPs on which their business success is founded. Their business model was and is dependent on the personalization, they operate in limited geographies and normally are within reach of the customer. Till the coming of the OTAs and Metasearch sites they reigned supreme as the only source of travel information experts and their opinion was unassailable and customers relied only on them.
The market dynamics are changed significantly with the growth of the funded OTAs over the last decade or so in these markets. These OTAs along with the likes of Tripadvisor are making travel buying more transparent.
By providing all information regarding the product and pricing online they are changing the way the travel industry operates. This is also changing the aspirations of the end customer as they are getting used to the online experience and also getting opinions from peers.
So the traditional agents’ pricing and opinions is now being measured against these companies. Also the business model of funded OTAs is: grabbing eyeballs with heavy media investments, building and maintaining the customer base by providing largely discounted products, taking upfront online payments.
But having said that, even after heavy investments large pure OTAs are making slow progress in terms of business and customer acquisition costs, which has been at the expense of the bottom line especially in emerging markets like India, China and Brazil.
The reason being these agencies charge upfront, they are not flexible in the mode of payments, do not offer customer differentiated pricing, and operating through third party call centers definitely does not make a case for personalization. Customers in such markets are used to an interactive experience, credit line and travel agency doing all the work etc.
Despite these shortcomings OTAs are doing big business. This has to either be new business or they slowly and surely are eating into the existing business of the traditional travel agencies especially with the smartphone/tablet wielding generation and this tribe is growing.
Thus going online is not an option but a necessity for an offline business. But at the same time going “smart online” is something that the offline agencies need to think about. They need not go for a standard “Travel Agency software solution” as they do not need an OTA like solution. The reason being they are not catering to anonymous global/national customers, nor do they have an unlimited amount of money to spend.
They need a smart and flexible solution which fits their business model and makes the most of their USPs. It should be able to give them online access to global inventory and provide an interactive online experience to the customer.
It should also allow agencies manage their revenue more effectively and reward their loyal customers/sub-agents through smart promotions and deals. For them retaining and catering to the demands and aspirations of existing customers/agents is of the utmost priority.
TravelCarma is the ideal solution for such agencies, providing a superlative customer experience and automation capabilities to help agencies manage their business with fewer staff.
Get in touch with us today to see a demo.