Travel Agencies: Two Disruptive Crises in 20 YearsBy Daniel González | Fri, 04/24/2020 - 12:36
At the beginning of this century, ADSL lines became an indispensable element in homes around the world and the travel industry experienced what would be the most disruptive change in its history up to that point. Travel agencies went from being a physical place to becoming just another service offered through the Internet. Airplane tickets and hotel reservations went from being sold by an agent to being easily found on the internet through a simple click. Consumers in an increasingly globalized world adapted to the new times. Twenty years later and as a consequence of the expansion of COVID-19, the industry is experiencing a change at least as disruptive as the first one.
Today, travel agencies are being forced to take measures to overcome the economic crisis, which is already a reality in the sector, and position themselves the best way they can in the post-COVID-19 world. Among the measures taken by Chattermill, a consulting firm specialized in consumer experience, three measures stand out. The main recommendation is that travel agencies make an effort in customer service. During these times, it is key to offer the best possible service, avoiding phone bots that can damage the brand image while affecting the consumer’s relationship with the agency. In other words, it is necessary for companies to hire more staff that can help customers carry out their cancellations or reschedule their trips. According to data from Grupo Boletín Turístico, which conducted a survey of 270 Mexican travel agents, 45 percent of trips scheduled for the summer have been canceled in Mexico, putting extra pressure on agents who must deal with cancellations and refunds in record time. Thus, an adequate professional customer service team can help mitigate the impact on companies while building user confidence.
The second measure proposed is to make it clear who is responsible for the sale: the supplier or the seller. This way, clear compensation protocols are established for the user while setting up a timetable for the reimbursement of the amount invested. The third proposal takes into account the future and focuses on a clear commitment to scouting. This means, investing time and money in the search of safe destinations that generate trust and allow the traveler to enjoy an experience similar to the one they had in mind before the crisis. To achieve this, travel agents must be in contact with national and local governments to be aware of the improvements made to control the virus, while betting on travel experiences different from the traditional (smaller hotels, destinations with less crowds and trips closer to the point of departure).
Many online agencies have already started to implement these measures to such an extent that the demand for travel for 2021 has not stopped increasing since the beginning of the crisis. In addition, some governments, such as that of Spain, one of the world’s leading tourism powers, are investigating how they can help the sector control the crisis. Among the measures proposed are possible tax waivers, as well as the launch of global advertising campaigns to generate peace of mind and security among the public. One example is Portugal, that has launched a promotional video that has gone viral on social networks and has had much success in showing how the country is containing the COVID-19 expansion curve.