Humans still have a future in travel, but we need to get increasingly specialized and savvy about how we connect with the smartphone-enabled consumer. We must look to the in-roads between high tech and high touch and how these two factors work together to create truly unique travel experiences.
Today we are launching the latest report in our Skift Trends Reports service, The Travel Agent of the Future.
Indeed, the travel search-and-book landscape looks very different just twenty years after Travelocity first sidestepped the intermediaries, by connecting traveler directly to airline. Mobile has empowered consumers beyond anything we had imagined. And, after an initial and dramatic halving of the workforce of those employed in the travel agent industry, it seems like the decline in travel agent numbers has leveled off – at leas for now. Why traditional travel agents still exist and to what end the human element will ultimately play in the planning and booking of intermediated travel is the core question that this report looks to answer.
In 1990, there were about 132,000 travel agents employed across the United States, around 90% of whom worked for travel agencies.
Here we examine the role of traditional travel agents today and in the years to come, taking into account market trends, emerging research, and the opinions of leading industry experts. We will also hone in on generational preferences for using the services of travel agents vs. DIY travel planning as well as consumer motivations for doing so. We then look at the evolving state of brick-and-mortar travel agencies and consider what role they might play in the future. Finally, we take a look at how new messaging apps that connect travelers with human travel agents have already begun to make a mark on the industry and what this might mean for travel agents and travel service providers in years to come.
Many knee-jerk assumptions about the presumed decrease in popularity of traditional travel agent come from the erroneous assumption that so-called “digital natives” (i.e., Millennials and their younger, “generation Z” counterparts; those born in the 1980s and 90s), are so accustomed to online booking that they aren’t likely to see the need for booking with an agent, particularly if the experience requires going into a brick-and-mortar shop, picking up a phone, or even sending off an email and waiting for a reply.
Consumers across the board are placing more value on experiences than on the acquisition of possessions — just look at the popularity of simple living, the tiny house movement, the celebration of minimalism and the “less-is-more” mentality, and even the wild success of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. While this trend has been seen across generations, it’s particularly noticeable among Millennials.
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This is the latest in a series of twice-monthly reports aimed at analyzing the fault lines of disruption in travel. These reports are intended for the busy travel industry decision maker. Tap into the opinions and insights of our seasoned network of staffers and contributors. Over 100 hours of desk research, data collection, and/or analysis goes into each report.
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