A few years ago, planning a business trip or a holiday escapade meant you had to go knocking on each of your neighbourhood's travel agencies' doors. Then "all you had to do" was ask for prices, compare them between agencies, make your math, go back to the one agency you had selected and take care of the trip. If you were lucky enough, maybe you could take care of everything by phone and then, just go there to pay and collect tickets and travel plans.

Those days are definitely gone. The fact is that there is no turning back to the "good old days" of doing business. Travel agencies' Marketing people and sales directors must be aware that the market scenario of their business has changed dramatically in recent years (and will continue to change). As a result, new threats and, above all, new opportunities arise, affecting the profitability of the business, for the better.... or the worst!

Technology and its solutions have a huge impact on the business as well as on the market, in many ways. And, in fact, the question remains: «Why would any travel agent really want to return to costly, inefficient booking and communications systems anyway?»

Nowadays, the impact of technology on travel agencies is being felt in a number of different ways, rising from services to clients to a more experiential-based kind of travel. The goal is no longer the Destination but what you can take from it, in terms of emotions, feelings and experiences above all. 

Travel agencies must be prepared for that and much more. They must be prepared for a new way of booking that no longer requests the presence, or even the existence, of a travel agency. So, once again they have to reinvent themselves. Step by step, one at a time, changes will take place, answering the client's needs and requests, all the way to change the way we travel.     

In the next lines, we will try to explain what has changed and how agencies can take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that arise to streamline their operations and, thus, become more competitive and profitable, considering also the threats of this technological disruption.

With so many technologies overwhelming the travel industry, it is difficult to sift through the options and opportunities to find the one that fits the needs of your business. And, even the most tech-savvy travel agents, may find some obstacles on their way.

Look for what really matters

When we talk about technology and the tourism industry we have to have in mind words like disruption, modernization, techie platforms, big data, robotization and artificial intelligence. A lot is going on in the world of technology, bringing huge implications into some industries just like tourism and travel agencies. 
Ignoring it is letting the business die a slow death. So, let's take a look into the seven fundamental IT changes that impact the travel agent's revenue.

Internet and its usage 
In the 21st century, Internet rules! The fact is that everything you do has to pass through the web. The widespread public use of the world wide web has created a number of conditions that have been kind of game-changers, bringing agencies both huge benefits as well as some detrimental ways. One way or the other, by the end of the day, Internet is helping to create the modern travel agency. So, travel agencies have to make considerable adaptations to remain in business and alive! 

Book it yourself
The self-service idea has arrived to tourism as well, assuring that booking a hotel, a plane ticket or a week's vacation is now much easier. This may well be one of the largest impacts on the travel agency: the rise of online booking. In fact, customers looking for booking a trip no longer have to physically visit an agency, all they need to do is go online, look for companies that offer that kind of services and book an entire trip themselves. The same is valid for airlines and hotels where customers are now allowed to book tickets and lodging directly from these companies' websites. That is a reality travel agencies have to learn how to deal with, reinventing themselves and offering differential services that are able to put them again on the route of the customer needs.  

A new type of relationship with clients
One of the ways of doing it may well be by creating a new kind of relationship between travel agencies and clients. By using platforms like the Internet and social media and taking advantage of better communications, travel agencies have widened the ways in which they can communicate not only with customers, but also with their business network and partner services. 
This way, data is available in a few seconds and visible by everyone, transforming a process that once might have taken hours, into an instantly thing, boosting productivity and reducing dead times. By the end of the day, travel agencies have happier clients. 

Start to build a social media presence
Social media is far from fading away.  So, travel agents and agencies need to "get a personality" in this new world. To put it differently, it is important to start building a social media presence and incorporate social media into marketing and communications strategies as soon as possible. 
Social media is one of the more significant tools nowadays. Major businesses are already employing it to build brand awareness and customer relationships with some very good results. So, why don't you start using it now?

Mobile is king!
The portability and the increasing facility with which customers are now able to search, compare and book trips on the go, is causing a tremendous change in the way travellers interact with the tourism industry and travel agencies, themselves.  
More than this, the problem is that mobility is driving a demand for a 24/7 booking service and customers accept no less than that. Once again, travel agencies have to adapt to this swift change of reality.  

Technology is not the enemy
"Digitization in aviation, travel, and tourism is expected to increase profitability throughout the ecosystem, creating up to 305 billion dollars (270 billion euros) in value over the decade spanning 2016 to 2025", according to Accenture and the World Economic Forum report.
Digitization has long been an excellent way for promoting efficiencies and boosting operational performance. This is a reality that travel industry players are now being aware of, leveraging these emerging technologies to transform the customer experience. What we are talking about is something quite different from what they had before, disrupting existing business models, innovating in new areas of service and creating some new and exciting experiences. 

Big data, robotics, virtual and artificial Intelligence
Data is growing massively and will be doubling every two years for the next decade, according to IDC data. That happens in each and every industry and tourism is no stranger to this reality: the huge amount of customer data at the disposal of travel agencies is allowing for a more pervasive analysis and efficient predictions based on behavioural information. 
On the other hand, intelligent virtual assistants are increasingly being integrated into mobile devices and messaging apps, assuring travel agencies can offer a truly on-demand service which makes clients happier.
Robotics are also a thing to have in mind, as they might have a big part to play when it comes to disruption in the travel industry over the coming years. 
Virtual reality is allowing agencies to "transport" customers to their dreamed destinations, where they can take guided tours of hotels located thousands and thousands of miles away. It is an immersive experience no one should go without. 

It is a wrap!
Transformation in the travel sector is all about increasing speed and creating the agility to spot and respond to customer needs better than ever before. It is all about making clients happier and assure revenues are growing, turning the business into a profitable one. 

Although too many companies in the sector are still dealing with legacy organizational structures, and the old way of thinking and doing things, it is time to transform and modernize and the adoption of a tourism management platform will certainly be the foundation  to accommodate the new demands!

Maximum efficiency, agility, end-to-end experiences based on real-time data, hyper-personalized services are some of the "must do" nowadays.  

The truth is that incredible growth opportunities are available right now, allowing to reach wider audiences and better revenues; allowing to generate better leads and higher sales; allowing all the travel agencies to survive in a new, techie and much more competitive world.