Due to a number of factors, traveling and vacationing are radically different from what they were a couple of decades ago. Travelers are usually most concerned about budget. Back in 1949, when Pacific Southwest Airlines started offering low-cost flights, the average income of a US-based family was $3,100. The average price for a flight was $4,539.24 per person.
Today, higher-paying jobs and lower flight prices enable people to travel more. Technology has also played a key role in making travel more accessible. Digital innovations simplify the travel journey, from using online maps and blog reviews to plan a trip, to “reserve now, pay later” booking options that help travelers book accommodations with ease.
As travel agencies continue to improve their offerings, people are encouraged to travel more. In addition, traveling has become simple, convenient, and affordable, resulting in people often taking shorter trips. Travel agencies that keep up with current trends, and strive to meet the demands of their customers, can gain a wealth of new and returning clientele.
In this article:
- Top trends for travel agents
- Travel technology trends
- Smart cities will boost travel and tourism
Top Trends for Travel Agents
In terms of offering, travel agencies need to adapt themselves to the new behaviors of travelers. Whether your customer is traveling with a family, going on a solo experience, or hopping on the plane for a weekend trip - you need to be able to provide them with all of their travel needs.
Below, you’ll find a review of popular travel trends made available by agents throughout the world.
Family vacations spanning entire summers or even a month are becoming a thing of the past.
Travelers are increasingly opting for short trips, with weekends being the most popular. Short-haul flights are cheaper than ever, and travel technology such as booking apps and on-demand car rentals and accommodation make it easy to plan last-minute getaways.
Travel agencies can take advantage of this trend by offering weekend trips, with a set of accompanying services and activities to engage the traveler by providing nice sights as well as experiences.
The rise of solo travelers
There used to be a time when traveling solo carried a stigma. Today, solo traveling is a lucrative niche. According to a recent report, 18% of worldwide bookings are made by solo travelers, who enjoy the freedom of traveling solo. For others who desire more company, there are group travel experiences for solo travelers.
Among the rising trends for solo travelers, you can find adventure expeditions to remote areas off the beaten track, as well as educational tours that stimulate the mind. There are yoga and spa retreats, sailing vacations, and even art and writing courses.
Solo travelers want to experience the world, and they don’t want to wait for retirement to do so. In fact, many are frequent travelers, traveling three or more times per year. If your travel agency hasn’t already hopped on the solo travel train, now is the time.
Keeping the traveling employees happy
Due to the increased competition for talent, more organizations are investing in the overall happiness of their traveling employees. Amadeus, in their study on travel policy data, found that almost half of business travelers would consider leaving their job due to a poor travel policy, and a company’s travel policy can even be a determining factor when deciding whether to take a job or not.
Thus, travel managers and the human resources departments cooperate to use travel policies as a tool for retaining staff. A travel policy for modern business travelers should include:
- Booking procedures: Who will be responsible to book flights and accommodation, and how long before the trip they need to book. It should state if the traveler can choose airlines, hotels, and car services.
- Expenses: Who will claim the expenses, which categories of expenses are claimable, and different categories of the budget.
- Responsibilities: What are the responsibilities of the company and the employee. The policy should clarify whether the employee is allowed to go on a “bleisure” trip - extending a business trip for leisure - which is an increasing trend. The policy should also state who will cover the expenses for missed flights if it is the fault of the traveler.
- Reporting: Digital reporting is the easiest and most accurate as it saves on the hassle of keeping and managing receipts. Using travel technology such as mobility apps enables companies to keep an organized, searchable, and easy-to-access journey report for related expenses.
For travel agencies, understanding the policies of the companies they work with is a necessity in order to tailor their offering.
Door-to-door online booking
Online booking is widespread, with over half of all travel reservations made online. If until now, most travel agencies were focusing their efforts on flights and hotels, some are now transitioning to the next stage: door-to-door booking. Travelers can now book, in addition to accommodation and flights, transportation to and from their destination (hotel, airport etc.) together on a website. Travel agencies solely have to add a smart transportation web widget on their site in order to complete the full traveler’s journey. With HERE Mobility solutions, the customers will be informed in real-time about their ride to make sure their trip is as smooth as possible.
As of July 2020, Booking.com users will be provided access to the HERE Mobility Marketplace via the online travel agency’s website or app. Through the marketplace, users will be able to book their end-to-end journey, while they reserve the rest of their trip.
Advance vs last-minute booking
While last-minute bookings are increasing, with travelers booking tours and activities in-destination or shortly before arrival, when choosing a multi-day tour, travelers prefer advance booking. More travelers use their smartphone for bookings, with the average advance window being just five days.
Travel Technology Trends
In addition to understanding travelers’ new habits, travel agencies have to be on top of their customer digital experience in order to present their offering in a seamless way. Travelers demands are shaped to a large part by the available technology. The travel industry can leverage the advances to travel technologies such as recognition, virtual reality, mobile apps, and robotics to offer an improved user experience.
This family of technologies encompasses fingerprint, facial recognition, retina scanning and other biometric identification methods, and has been applied for a while in the security industry. Since the key aspects of recognition technology including collecting data and identifying travelers, it can allow the travel industry to provide clients with personalized services.
For instance, biometric identification can grant a traveler access to a VIP lounge. Furthermore, travel agencies can leverage this technology to make the payment process easier and speed up authorization, taking into consideration factors such as bonuses, loyalty points and discount codes.
This is possibly the technology that most disrupted the travel market. Mobile applications facilitate the booking of accommodation and transportation options when combined with IoT technology. With over half of online bookings made through smartphones, and this trend will only grow stronger.
Mobile applications go further than merely sending promotional messages to customers -they can provide solutions spanning the entire travel process, from booking flights and accommodation to arranging transportation at the destination.
Augmented and virtual reality
Travel companies around the world are using virtual reality to enhance customer experience. Travelers can, for example, take a virtual tour inside a cruise ship, or sample an activity before booking. Moreover, they can do it right on the travel website or mobile app.
Chatbots and artificial intelligence
More companies are using chatbots on their websites for the purpose of customer support, with an expected 40% of large businesses adopting the technology by 2020.
The Rise of Smart Cities Will Boost Travel and Tourism
Smart cities are sprouting around the world, and with them, multi-modal transportation. The shift of the travel landscape to multi-modal transport is encouraging people to travel more and explore, as it is easier and safer to get around than ever before. The interconnectedness of smart cities makes it easier to go on a weekend trip to or from a city, with real-time transportation information.
Smart cities are leveraging technologies such as route optimization and mobility apps, partnering with the private sector to provide passengers with a smooth travel experience. Companies such as Here Mobility offer solutions for the travel industry - from airlines to hotels and restaurants - helping them give their customers the best urban transportation experience.