What is the vision of the travel agent of the future? How will they work? Will it always stay the same? You can argue that agents should sell anything that generates revenue meaning that they should retail. Has NDC and Direct Connect improved the airline content for agents?
I hear very little feedback from the agency community whether the new technology is enabling agents to sell better and more. Traditionally agents sell through GDS and most of the technology used is GDS technology and the rest is often GDS centric.
I keep hearing that mid and back-office systems are not compatible with NDC and require efforts to retrofit. Whether this applies to the majority of agents or not is not easy to actually get any visibility on. There seems to be a culture of silence in the agency world and a reluctance to openly talk about the issues agents face.
Need of new processes
I don’t see any forums where technology is discussed much other than the discussions on whether to sell non GDS content or not and discussions on passive, ghost or miscellaneous segments used to “fit” the sale into the downstream systems.Is it really worth the effort? Maybe it’s time to rethink the business process? Should the PNR in the GDS define the business process? Would it be unimaginable that agents could sell any content the buyer wants to buy?
There are airlines who only allow own website sales saying that they don’t allow travel agents to sell their content. Wouldn’t it be possible with today’s technology for an agent to purchase on the airline website on behalf of the customer i.e. acting as the customer in the eyes of the airline? Would that be the modern agent, a proxy for the traveller? That would be a service that I would pay for.
These bookings would have to be exported/imported into duty of care but do we really need for the booking to go to mid and back-office? I would say no. Couldn’t the agent just charge a service fee or subscription service? More like a concierge service.
Is what’s needed an Order Management System or Orchestration?
In a world of connected retail don’t you just need a platform integrating APIs? I’d argue that you need an Order Management System to handle content. And if you book most content direct you would make changes and refunds directly with the selling provider.
There is a huge potential in selling retail for the agent. The margins for cross-selling are greater than for airline tickets not to mention the loyalty and trust the partnerships build. To sell ground transportation, rail, tours, experiences, the list is endless and the list is also endless of potential new business partnerships. And in addition, the agent can offer services of push notifications, insurance personalized services and much more.
Using an Order Management System also enables the agent to book any service let’s say a ticket to the world cup two years from now and then book additional products at a later stage.
The Travel Agency advantage
We hear of airlines talking about becoming retailers and selling through a marketplace, the latest being Air Asia. This is a step in the right direction for airlines as they need to diversify and find new revenue streams. The advantage the travel agent has that most airlines haven’t, is selling all airlines and content i.e. combining easyJet outbound with a Lufthansa flight inbound or an SNCF train with a Deutsche Bahn.
I welcome feedback and thoughts. I would love for the discussion to take off.