In the days of yore and yesteryear, someone looking to plan a trip would typically visit their travel agent’s office. Together with the travel agent they would sit down and plan every detail of their trip from plane tickets and hotel accommodations to restaurant reservations and excursions.
The travel agent was a key component of the vacation process, and was able to book reservations after they had been briefed by the customer on their vacation itinerary. Typically, travel agents are resellers who sell travel-related products and services to customers on behalf of their suppliers (which include airlines, car rentals, cruise lines, hotels, etc.).
Travel agencies typically operate by collecting commissions. Because agencies typically book in bulk, they get a discounted rate from suppliers and are able to offer their customers discounted rates as well.
With the introduction of new types of technology, specifically the Internet and social media, travel agencies are finding themselves increasingly obsolete. With the introduction of sites like Kayak, Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz, websites have become one-stop shops for travel booking.
So what does the new face of travel and tourism look like? There are a multitude of companies that are utilizing the web to market their deals faster and cheaper to potential travelers. While they still are primarily travel resellers, they have a hundred times the amount of traffic and clients that a travel agency does so they are often times able to offer their products at a much cheaper rate
These types of companies typically capitalize on Internet trends like search, direct marketing, and social media, to reach the broadest swath of people possible. With enormous marketing and SEO budgets, they are able to reach a huge number of individuals electronically.
But there is certainly a catch in this type of scenario. Many of the tickets, rental cars, and lodging deals purchased on these deal websites come with a lot of fine print. Many are non-refundable, have very specific date ranges, and require extra fees and upgrades that were not initially advertised. This is where the travel agent still has the advantage.
With the help of an IVR system, travel agencies can assist a critical mass of customers simultaneously, while also giving them a more personal, less corporate experience. Travel agencies can simply put an IVR system in place that can act to route calls, assist their customers with booking deals and details, and even let them find out about basic availability and booking information.
This type of IVR system would allow agents to assist multiple clients simultaneously, while also addressing the needs of all customers. This type of inbound IVR could be personalized and also route clients to actual live agents. While travel megasites like Kayak are certainly good for some types travel booking, many people want to get a more personalized, intimate booking experience where they can actually speak to someone who has real-world expertise, and IVR integration is the primary way travel agencies can get a tech leg up!