I was recently flying to Washington, D.C. for a regional travel conference and, to pass the time, tried to download a new online banking app on my smartphone. It was a very frustrating experience because the download would on the surface appear complete, but the app would not open or would quickly crash only moments after I logged in. I finally read the terms and conditions of the app to discover my phone - or more precisely, my phone’s operating system - was not compatible with the app, hence the failure to download properly.
In short, my phone lacked the necessary tools to successfully work with this advanced, updated app. And perhaps it was because I was en route to a travel conference, but this experience got me thinking about travel agents and how today’s advanced, integrated booking systems may be one of the most crucial aspects to the success and growth of travel agencies in today’s modern travel industry.
Deploying the right tools - the most efficient, sophisticated booking systems available - in helping customers research and book tourism and travel is more important today than ever before with the rise online travel agencies, travel review websites, and even social media, especially in terms of increasing conversion, customer retention, and customer engagement. Whether it’s utilizing the internet for geolocation purposes or reservation systems with greater computing power and quicker return times, here are several ways in which advanced booking systems are key value propositions for travel agents to leverage in remaining a viable, valuable part of the travel industry.
Decreased Search Times
Perhaps one of the most important value propositions of advanced booking and reservations systems is a significant reduction in the amount of time it takes these systems to return searches - and not just basic searches, but smart or intelligent searches with advanced criteria based on a customer’s prior travel experiences or current wants and desires. In an era when so many travelers can research and complete bookings with the technology they carry in their pocket on a daily basis, the onus is on travel agents to deploy booking systems with enough computing power to return advanced searches in a competitive enough manner. Plus, advanced booking systems also help decrease the amount of time travel agents must devote to searching for potential bookings and increase the level of focus they can give customers, which is vital for customer engagement and retention.
Because so many of today’s travelers are focused on experiential travel - travel, tours, and activities that highlight the cultural experience of a place through unique experiences - the ability to search bookings and reservations via a mapping function is critical in providing customers with the personalized trip they so seek. For example, let’s say a customer wants to book a hotel in Paris near public transportation, but also within walking distance to some of the city’s most famous bakeries and pastry shops. Mapping technology, which is integrated with online capabilities, allows travel agents to source bookings on a street-by-street basis in order to best serve the customer’s wishes. The capability to search for hotels by neighborhood, landmark, or points of interest also provides travel agents with the flexibility to serve as something of a local guide for travelers who are unfamiliar with their destination.
Whether referred to as an optimized booking or an add-on, advanced booking systems allow travel agents to easily and quickly suggest and position other offers to customers aside from merely a hotel reservation. Imagine our visitor to Paris books a hotel within just a few blocks of a lauded local bakery that gives daily tours of its operation. With an advanced booking systems, travel agents will be alerted to such an activity based on the criteria for the customer’s hotel search, which they can then position to the customer as a valuable add-on to their existing booking. This not only provides customers with peace of mind that their travel agent is invested and engaged with their upcoming travel experience, but it also allows agents to create more dynamic packages which in turn can increase conversion and customer retention, turning a one-time customer into a repeat customer.
The travel industry is prone to changes and cancellations. Hotel accommodations need to be altered due to last minute fluctuations in the number of guests to be housed. Because the likelihood of these events is so high, travel agents must deploy booking systems with enough maneuverability to combat potential disruptions in a customer’s reservation. Advanced bookings systems allow travel agents to quickly and efficiently manage modifications and alterations in real-time even when travelers are on the ground at their destination. No longer should travel agents be bound to 9-5 operational functionality with their booking systems. Instead, leveraging an advanced system allows travel agents access to bookings and reservations 24/7 to offer travelers the most reliable customer service platform.