Better late than never? The closer that travel agencies get to becoming the physical manifestation of today's booking and reviews sites, the closer they get to keeping the customers they have left.
UK travel agency Thomson opened its first next-generation store in England today. The store is an attempt to make the travel shopping experience more visual and interactive.
Customers walking up to the store see a large video wall with bright images of destinations from around the world. Inside an 84-inch interactive map and tables let customers read TripAdvisor reviews and explore packages based on location.
Customers can rest inside a pool-inspired area of the store where they can log onto the store’s free Wi-Fi or drink a coffee.
All around the store high-definition screen feature images, videos, top ten lists, weather updates, and travel reviews. Thomson says that social media feeds will also be featured on the screens, but it does not specify which network or accounts would be highlighted.
Customers have the choice to search information on their own on computers at the “Advice Bar” or work one-on-one with travel agents in smaller booths. A large video wall will display imagery based on destination being discussed.
There will be a sole rack of brochures in the back of the store, but they are available only upon request. Agents are instead encouraged to discuss Thomson’s digital and mobile products.
The idea of replacing paper with screens is not new. When Liberty Travel opened its first U.S. flagship store in New York City one year ago, it introduced in-store iPads for browsing and large digital displays.
Thomson, a TUI Travel brand, currently has 700 stores around the UK and is expected to integrate its new digital design in 100 of those stores over the next several years.
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Photo credit: A Thomson travel agent shows travelers how to search on the store's digital map. Thomson