Agencies survive online travel sites

Posted on January 12, 2005. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This headline and article caught my attention.

Agencies survive online travel sites:

January 10, 2005

When a large meteorite hit the Earth long eons ago, scientists say the fate of the dinosaurs was sealed.

And when the Internet hit the travel industry much more recently, some wondered what fate awaited traditional travel agencies as heavy objects like Web-based Expedia, a do-it-yourself travel site, fell on the competition.

The short answer is that travel agents are no dinosaurs.

“We’re here to stay,” Michael Matz, president of Travel Management Agency in Casper, declares.

Indeed, one Jackson Hole travel agent even goes so far as to say the rise of online travel sites has been a plus for his business.

Get the full story at the Casper Star Tribune

Here’s my take on this no longer so new argument:

It was never a question of “all” traditional travel agencies to disappearing after the introduction of major online travel companies. At the same time there is no denying the fact that major shifts have happened in the travel industry to the online entrants away from the off-line agencies. The first to go were exactly order takers who did not get their business based on superior customer service but on cheap price and lack of alternative purchasing options in their local business area. With the new online entrants going after the low hanging fruit of price based airline ticket sales this was a predictable outcome. It also seems logical that with the present make up of online travel sales there remains room for qualified travel agents to sell their knowledge to travel shoppers, who themselves have acquired a higher level of product and destination knowledge by using the web as an information tool.

The big question is what happens next, when the online giants will introduce new technology that offers the online information seeker a much improved purchasing experience for what is often called “complex travel products” or packages ? To sustain profit margins this development seems inevitable as even a major online player can’t derive a profit from selling a purely price based commodity such as an airline ticket or hotel room. The bundling is the key to establishing some kind of differentiation in the marketplace.

Branding is another and the major players certainly have an advantage in this key area and have gained considerable customer trust. Contrary to often voiced opinion, they also have a high level of customer support. Orbitz has staked a claim on offering online support that many offline travel agents will have a hard time to beat.

As the dinosaurs did not disappear overnight, well trained, knowledgeable travel agents will not fall by the wayside, but in the long haul the dinosaurs will be gone and as successor species followed the dinosaurs, so new kinds of travel companies will appear on the scene offering superior service levels combined with innovative products.

What will not change is the fact that the web has empowered a vast audience of potential travelers and whoever wants to sell their services to them will have to satisfy their wants and needs. The innovative will survive!

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