This is a partner trend created collaboratively with Virtuoso for Skift’s 2016 Megatrends Magazine. Download the entire magazine here to learn about the rest of the trends defining travel this year:
Download Your Copy

Travelers have more do-it-yourself resources at their disposal than ever. They book trips from their iPads, Google local attractions from their phones, and can take to TripAdvisor for on-the-go suggestions.

The radical self-reliance of modern travelers has caused a ripple in the travel industry, spawning a litany of apps, products, and services to enable travelers to call their own shots. Most affected are travel agents, the specialists with the inside information underutilized by-way-of technology.

Smart travel agents are evolving to better meet the rising needs of today’s traveler. They’ve realized that the transactional model doesn’t work anymore. Wary of being commoditized as just another sales channel, they are becoming increasingly focused on end-to-end customer experience, acting in part as concierge, advisor, and confidant. More emphasis is being placed on building long-term relationships.

The rise of worldwide mobile connectivity and social media has magnified the difference between an agent and trusted advisor for the traveler. Travelers can easily text or call their advisor to fix a problem mid-trip. They can even SnapChat, WhatsApp and Facebook message many of them as they become more integrated in the daily lives of their customers.

They’re not only using this connectivity in a problem solving capacity. Travelers are sharing more information than ever across a multitude of platforms, giving advisors an opportunity to synthesize actionable information on-the-fly. They are helping travelers discover new and interesting experiences unfounded otherwise. When a traveling couple shares a photo on Instagram at an obscure locale in Rotterdam or Seville, the top comment might be from their advisor recommending the best underrated restaurants or off-the-beaten path attractions down the road.

Success for travel agents moving forward rests on continuously learning more and more about their customers. They’re diving deep into deciphering data in a holistic manner. Focused travel sectors like hotels, airlines, and cruises collect “vertical” data based on singular interactions between brand and traveler. Agents need to take a wider approach, collecting “horizontal” data to map out all travel habits from flights, accommodations, and travel within a destination. Even more important is the unstructured data obtained by in-depth conversations

The most important data will be collected through human interaction. In-depth conversations and post-trip debriefs will give advisors an advantage that online booking sites can’t replicate. New technology can be a major key for travel agents, as long as the human element is put first.

This content was created collaboratively with Virtuoso. Download Skift’s 2016 Megatrends Magazine to learn about the rest of the trends defining travel this year.

Download Your Copy

Photos of the print magazine: