Mobile technology is the way forward for travel agents as recent studies show within the next five years 70 to 80 per cent of travel searches will be made via mobile phones and close to 80 per cent of those transactions will be made online.
Focussing on the theme 'Transforming Travel Experience Through Smart Technology', leading travel commerce platform, Travelport, held a two-day networking event at the Shangri-La Bar Al Jissah Resort & Spa in Muscat, Oman.
More than 200 Travelport customers and senior Travelport executives convened at Travelport Live, where speakers touched upon hot topics like mobile technology, speed and accuracy of search and artificial intelligence.
We spoke to Rabih Saab, president and managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and South Asia, for more insight.
“These events are very important to us. It’s not just about showcasing and selling our products, but about bringing together key stakeholders of the industry and indeed outside of the industry. It’s about identifying the changes, the trends, challenges and the opportunities, and it gives us the opportunity to listen to our customers – travel agencies, airlines and other partners," he says.
“This is the first time we brought both Middle East and South Asia together, as I have always felt that the Middle East and, in particular, the GCC, have an infinity with South Asia – traditionally and culturally. You can see through the interactions from the customers that they are learning from each other. "
Travelport is now onboard one of India’s biggest online travel agencies (OTAs), MakeMyTrip. While OTAs are most definitely the way forward, how does Travelport see the world of offline agencies evolve in the next few years?
Saab says, “We have always worked with offline travel agencies and we will continue to work with them. Whether you are an online agency or offline, technology is always important – it can undermine your success if you are not quick in terms of adopting. That is reactive.
“I still believe there is a role for the traditional travel agency to play, they are just as important as the OTAs. Yes, OTAs are growing faster in some markets than the traditional agency, but that is not to say that they still play an important role.
“You need to be more efficient, you need to have the capability and the technology to personalise your service because more and more of their customers are going to be millennials and millennials have high expectations, having grown with technology. They expect you to know what their needs are even before they know what their needs are, they expect instant verification.
“They don’t book trips, they book experiences. So, you can’t book them like you use to with the old traditional methods. We provide our customers the technology, whether it is an airline that needs to personalise its product and offerings, and convey their brand values to travelling public, or indeed the travel agent on or offline, you need to have all these elements seamlessly in one stop through Smart Point, you don’t need to get out of your work flow to go into multiple websites piecing together an itinerary, or an airline losing out missing out on productivity.
“We put the agency back in the driving seat as the traveling public comes to you, they expect you to have all answers for all their needs. For example, if it’s a business traveller, have you thought they may need a transfer, they will need a wi-fi, or other auxiliary add on, and don’t have to go out of the work flow to do that.”
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.