Travel Agents Must 'Stay Relevant' in Shifting Distribution Landscape

by Barbara Peterson
Travel Agents Must 'Stay Relevant' in Shifting Distribution Landscape

Photo: Shutterstock.com


Travel agencies will not be hurt by the latest moves by airlines to take control of the distribution process “as long as they continue to stay relevant,” a top executive at Amadeus said recently.

“We’re making major investments to support our vision for agencies," Amadeus Travel Channels Senior Vice President Decius Valmorbida said in an interview during the recent Phocuswright innovation summit in Florida. “Why agencies are still going to be out there is because they facilitate choice. We feel that is the very essence of what we do and what agencies do.”  

New platform under development
To further this goal, Amadeus is developing a new convergence platform that will aggregate airline content from different sources and present it as part of the existing GDS workflow.

Amadeus Travel Channels Senior Vice President Decius Valmorbida
Amadeus Travel Channels Senior Vice President Decius Valmorbida.

Known as the Amadeus Travel Platform, the product is still in “early stages,” according to a company spokesperson, who describes it as a “flexible platform” that will bring together and deliver GDS content, content from aggregators, as well as content from the New Distribution Capability (NDC) channels that the airlines are currently working on.

“What we’re building for agencies is a platform where they can access not just GDS content but any type of content they would like,” Valmorbida said. Amadeus’ role, he said, “is to be agnostic, and integrate all the content and make it available for them on a single screen.”  

Based at the tech giant’s Madrid headquarters, Valmorbida was appointed in June to oversee the company’s leisure, corporate and online travel agency units. He arrived at a critical time: major European airline groups — the Lufthansa airline group, and British Airways and Iberia parent IAG — have imposed a surcharge on GDS bookings, and Air France/KLM just announced it would follow suit next April.

That dovetails with development of the airlines’ NDC, a technology standard providing direct connections among airlines, travel agencies and technology providers, independent of Amadeus and other conventional GDSs.

An aim of both of these strategies is for the airlines to avoid paying GDS fees for bookings, and to prod agencies and TMCs to forge direct booking channels with suppliers. But for agencies, that can mean a potentially major investment in their IT budgets as they adjust to the new regime. 

Valmorbida argued that the current upheaval presents agents with an opportunity. “Whenever we talk about the disruptive forces that are shaping our industry, we should be looking not just inside, but outside our industry” to the end user, he said.

Use technology to present the best options
“Today’s travelers today have dramatically different expectations in how they expect travel services to be delivered,” he said. “They expect Google speed, Amazon ease, and an Apple-friendly interface. These entities all have shaped the attitudes of the consumer.”

“Instead of debating things like whether a surcharge is good or bad, we, as a content aggregator, want to work with agencies so they can be relevant for their travelers. They need to be able to present all the choices, the smart choices, so they can give the best advice to their client.”  

And if anything, the need for that advice is growing, he said. “Travelers are overwhelmed by the number of possibilities; they’re saying they need someone who could just filter these zillions of opportunities, so they can make the right choice.”

Airlines may be missing a bigger point in all this: when it comes to transportation, consumer loyalty is less of a factor than it used to be. “Consumers are more inclined to ‘buy’ a destination than buy a particular brand of transportation product. It’s people buying trips, people buying the experience,” Valmorbida added.

That value-added service is what will drive growth, he said. “Predictions of agencies’ demise have been around for a long time, and yet they just become stronger and stronger.”

  0
  1
TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=64b3c7ec-38ec-e911-9b23-782bcb667b27)

Top 5 Conversation Starters About Travel Insurance

Most travelers understand the need to have travel insurance, and most will agree to purchase it, if the option is presented in a clear way by their trusted travel advisor.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
What Travel Agents Need to Know About California Consumer Privacy Act Regulations

Learn what all travel agencies need to know about how the proposed new laws may affect the collection and use of personal information, and how to comply with the regulations.

Online Hotel Booking Scams Cost Consumers $5.7 Billion Annually

Nearly one in four consumers are deceived by online booking scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and misleading travel websites.

AIG Travel Guard Insurance Plan Changes Upset Advisors

The major travel insurance provider has altered its core offerings and eliminated commission protection, causing many agents to reconsider selling their plans.

First Travel Agency In-House Video Production Studio Opens in Toronto

The studio helps luxury travel advisors connect with their clients through high-end, professionally produced video content.

Travel Advisors Say They’re Unafraid of Biometrics

Despite heightened privacy concerns, travel agents are enjoying the benefits of current facial recognition technology used for security purposes, and they look forward to more.

Advisors Have to Work Harder to Deliver Authentic Culinary Travel Experiences

With more companies offering more standardized experiences, satisfying high-end culinary travelers has become more difficult.

News Briefs
Tip of the Day

"Reputation, experience and professionalism certainly come into play. But then you have to count on the X-factor, which really comes down to chemistry."

Matthew Upchurch

Virtuoso

Daily Top List

Best Airports for Layovers

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson International
  2. Los Angeles International
  3. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
  4. Singapore Changi Airport
  5. Munich Airport Centre, Germany

Source: Travel Channel

TMR Outlooks