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Op-ed on how tech is revolutionising the agent and traveller experience

hotel contactless technologyWe’ve entered the era of travellers demanding even more from their trips. Now, they crave a more personalised vacation where each moment and detail feel tailor-made, allowing for an unforgettable travel experience. But the reality is that to bring this kind of trip to life, travellers may need to turn to travel agents for their unmatched expertise and a seamless booking experience.

The demand for such personalised experiences has surged, as highlighted by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), reporting a 14% year-over-year increase with 50% of people more likely to use a travel agent today than they would have in the past.

To meet this demand, travel agents are expected to deliver quality and efficient services. But travel agents can’t do it alone. Thanks to emerging technologies and well-rounded partner support programs, they now have the tools they need to make dream vacations a reality.

Empowering the agent through technology

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Technology platforms have become essential for travel agents looking to create the perfect trip for their travellers, and have at times, made all the difference in driving success for their business. When it all goes wrong, agents want to work with a trusted partner that has their back and will ensure the right outcome for their travellers. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, programs like Expedia TAAP have played a vital role in assisting partners through challenging times with the support of trusted customer service advisors as well as the platform’s efficient self-serve tools. Moments like those have proven to be so impressionable that Expedia TAAP still to this day receives praise from partners for how they handled those situations.

It’s been remarkable to see how technology supporting travel agents has evolved greatly over the last few years. Agents now have access to an array of services, like self-service managers, virtual agents and live agents to help them manage the surge in business. And evolving technologies, such as open-source platforms and enhanced quote tools, enable agents to create customizable quotes quickly and easily for trips of all sizes.

This is just the beginning as investment in these platforms will continue, with new services, user interfaces and payment capabilities expected to be available in the coming year.

Adding AI to the travel journey

Let’s not leave AI off the table. The rise of generative AI has taken the world by storm across all industries, and travel is no exception. Particularly, Expedia Group is at the forefront of AI and Gen AI in travel, leveraging 70 petabytes of high-quality data on traveller behaviour to rapidly innovate new products. These advancements offer endless opportunities for faster trip planning, booking, and management for travel agents.

Right now, AI-powered virtual assistants help travel agents with productivity, enhancing workflow and streamlining tasks. Since this feature was launched on Expedia TAAP in 2020, the company has

powered more than 30 million virtual conversations and saved over 8 million hours in agent call time. Agents can also use AI as a virtual assistant to quickly identify and book — or re-book — passengers with new flights or accommodations. In a world where travellers expect instant solutions to any problem, these tools can be the difference between retaining customers longer term and losing them.

And the future of incorporating Gen AI into the travel agent workflow is not that far away. It’s exciting to begin exploring the possibilities of how this technology will open the doors for an even more efficient way of working.

The growing investment in travel agents

But even with all the impressive advancements with AI, technology won’t take over travel agents completely. This desire for booking trips through travel agents is growing, and it’s believed to be largely due to travellers appreciating the human interaction, fast support, and unparalleled expertise. The travel agent community has proven to be remarkably resilient and essential to the travel ecosystem. It continues to be a growing part of Expedia Group’s business, with a great amount of support and emphasis being put on it.

Looking ahead, the future hinges on ensuring travel agents have access to the latest and most trustworthy tools to create perfect trips for their clients. In the ever-evolving landscape of travel, programs and services like those offered by Expedia Group are critical to staying ahead. As the evolution of travel continues, anticipate a wave of innovative products designed to empower agents, reinforcing their pivotal role in shaping the seamless and extraordinary travel experiences for modern travellers.

Tags: agent, Op-ed, traveller

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