Reminiscing about the heyday of travel agents, an industry executive last week recalled that “what was so beautiful about that was that the travel agent knew you. You had a relationship with that person.”
TMR readers and leisure travel professionals surely would agree. But the unlikely speaker wasn’t a travel agent; it was no other than Glenn Fogel, executive vice president of Priceline, parent of Booking.com, the world’s largest online travel agency.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance at London’s annual Unbound technology conference, Fogel—who, the article notes, is a candidate for the Priceline CEO position—is actually making the point that adding speech to OTAs will make them more popular. “We see things like Alexa or Google Home, this idea of just talking out loud and getting what you want,” he says. But then the article notes that Fogel, “who serves as head of worldwide strategy and planning and spends a significant amount of time in his role thinking about how the online travel industry is evolving, references the all-but-extinct travel agent when talking about how travel could be improved.”
Human travel agents “knew your family, your income, what types of things you liked, what types of things you didn’t like. That person made all of that decision based on the history of how you’ve traveled in the past and other elements of you,” Fogel says. “Because if you have a family of four, and you’re trying to book travel all by yourself, it’s still a time-consuming event, particularly if you have to go to an airline you’ve never used before, because you have to re-key in all of your family’s data, all of your personal identification data, your passport, your birthdates, your address, etc.”
So the best answer, Fogel would appear to be suggesting, is just to call a human agent. And of course we couldn’t agree more.