Comment: Agents are here to stay

Comment: Agents are here to stay

At last week’s Phocuswright conference in Florida, the world’s dominant online travel firms talked about how putting the customer at the centre of everything they do is the driving force of their technological development.

TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Expedia are battling to solve the problem of how they can inspire would-be bookers to curtail the often lengthy buying process in travel, especially as online traffic shifts to more-limited mobile screens.

And Google itself showcased a powerful new destination-based service, prompting Teletext Holidays’ Steve Endacott to warn about the world’s most dominant search engine becoming an online agent in all but name.

But the growing consensus that travel will require a human element behind even the most cutting-edge technology should provide some solace to Travel Weekly readers.

At the Hays Travel IG conference at the weekend, Travelport boss Simon Ferguson said it was impossible for any retailer to be purely online and that the human element was becoming more critical again, especially with the growth in online travel bookings slowing for the first time in years.

He urged agents to make more of a “marriage of digital and physical”, warning that those working on a single platform would fail.

Meanwhile, at our Travolution Summit this week, the head of Deloitte’s digital thinktank said that computerisation was not going to replace people, but would merely enhance and augment the capability of human beings.

Giving someone the tools to be a travel agent is one thing; teaching them how to use them is quite another, which explains why there are so many of you still around.

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