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article imageWill apps soon dominate the travel industry?

By Jenna Cyprus     Mar 7, 2014 in Technology called out travel agents in a piece titled When All Else Fails, Consider a Useless Job. The article states that "the travel agent is no longer necessary.” How true is that claim? called out travel agents in a piece titled When All Else Fails, Consider a Useless Job. The article states that “Planning a trip today is a do-it-yourself endeavor: you can book accommodations, transportation, discover restaurants and entertainment, and navigate your route all online, thus the traditional travel agent is no longer necessary.”
This statement drew a great deal of ire from Paul M. Ruden, the vice-president of the American Society of Travel Agents who called the article, “as insulting as it is inaccurate.”
The numbers support Mr. Ruden in the fact that travel agents are still relevant. According to the ASTA’s research, 64 percent of all air travel, 64 percent of all cruises, and 66 percent of all tour packages were sold through travel agents.
Growth data tells a different story
Worldwide, the percentage of people who use their computer or mobile device to plan and book their travel arrangements is below that of those who favor their travel agent. However, a study by eMarketer shows steady growth in all major regions of the globe when it comes to online travel in 2013:
- Latin America: 30 percent growth
- Asia-Pacific: 21 percent growth
- Europe: 7 percent growth
- US: 4 percent growth
The same study also estimates that in the Latin American and Asian-Pacific regions, online travel use will far outpace the expected growth in total travel sales.
And this expected growth is one reason why technology companies are looking at travel as a moneymaker; take Groupon, for example. In addition to their Groupon Getaways channel, the company recently purchased Blink, a European travel site that deals in same-day hotel bookings. The thought being that this app will serve the last-minute travel niche.
Combining the two
One reason why people still rely on their travel agent is the customer service they receive. Despite the fact that booking travel over the Internet might save them money, they feel more secure in the fact that they can pick up the phone and call their travel agent if something goes wrong.
Forward-thinking travel companies realize this, but they also realize that their own mobile and web apps can make it even easier for their customers, and their agents, to set up travel plans while increasing their level of customer service. When an agency’s customers have access to live feeds that provide everything from local information to discounted rates, there’s less of a need to use an outside travel app.
App designers are jumping on board this trend as well. Companies like mTrip offer their app to tour operators and travel agencies. The app provides city guides and augmented reality tours of major travel destinations. Each individual city guide costs the average user $4.99 to download, but travel companies can make these available to their customers when they book a trip to one of the destinations included in mTrip. Not only this, but the travel company can have the app rebranded to make it look like it’s their own.
So, while there is no real evidence that apps will replace travel agents, they are certainly making their presence felt in the travel industry. Companies who embrace this trend will be at an advantage compared to their competitors who don’t.
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