Highly-personalised service is becoming the key differentiator for travel advisors, according to a new report from Accor, the world leading hospitality group.
The report, titled ‘Tailor-Made Touch or Digital Efficiency?’, looks at the strategies, technologies and trends impacting leisure travel advisors in the recovery and beyond. It says that while continually digitally transforming their operations is of course vital, even more important is to develop the services and nurture the partnerships that can help them delight and connect with their customers on a level that is beyond what alternative intermediary models can achieve.
The report, focused on the European market, outlines how the pandemic accelerated the transformation of the leisure travel intermediary market, with the widespread adoption of digital technology and many key players shifting their models in a bid to become platform businesses or b2b technology providers.
It supports the notion that, used properly, technology from messaging platforms to payments and artificial intelligence can be travel advisors’ best friend, helping them to optimise their capacity with a wide variety of inventory; access powerful digital distribution channels; better understand their customers, market themselves and provide more sophisticated and efficient services.
However, it argues that even more key to travel planners’ success as they evolve is the ability to get close to their customers, to provide the high-touch personalised service now expected by travellers.
Saskia Gentil, SVP Sales, Europe & North Africa at Accor, explained: “Consumers increasingly value the ability of travel advisors to remove the stress from their trip, tailor it to their preferences, plan every last detail in a flexible way, and be the reassuring presence that takes care of problems when they arise.
“The ability to provide this bespoke level of service is a competitive advantage over the purely digital platform competitors, and one that should be maximised. It allows travel advisors to exceed expectations, delight customers and build an emotional connection that others cannot. Of course, digital technology has an important role to play in this experience, but the tech must support the ability to provide the human touch if travel advisors are to truly differentiate themselves. This is the cornerstone of how Accor builds technological transformation – it is tech with heart, technology that empowers teams and augments the guest experience.”
The report contends that to provide this kind of high-level service, it is vital that travel planners understand the ever-evolving desires of leisure travellers. From the hot destinations of the moment to long-term burgeoning trends like slow travel, wellness and the hunger for sustainable trips, advisors must not only be aware of these factors but must have the inventory, partners and the local know-how to provide their clients with relevant options and insights.
This insight and expertise can come partially from digital means, but by no means entirely. On-the-ground partners that can share their local knowledge and expertise and the language capabilities that are essential in a continent as culturally and linguistically diverse as Europe, of paramount importance, alongside the scale and variety of inventory to give advisors options as trends continue to evolve.
The report, which also covers future factors such as AI, cryptocurrency and the metaverse as well as some of the top destinations of 2023 and beyond, can be downloaded from here. It the first of a series of three reports scheduled to be released by Accor over the coming months, with the second and third set to look at business travel and MICE, respectively.