ESG & Sustainability Trends

What does it take to be a 21st-century travel agent?

In a recent survey of more than 100 of its members, conducted by the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA), members were asked to give their findings on what it takes to be a 21st-century travel agent.

Those surveyed, mostly corporate travel agents, said that relationship management, great communication and personality were key non-negotiable skills.

In this modern digital age in which clients can go online and search for the information they need to make their travel decisions, the respondents identified the growth of self-service, more online direct bookings and travellers tendency to access their travel information themselves, as well as online check-in, as the current top-three travel trends, adding that travellers are increasingly demanding better, exclusive travel deals and after-hours personalised service.

Otto de Vries, CEO of ASATA, said at the recent ASATA AGM that the industry has now become entirely consumer driven, that the customer is savvy and informed. "Our role has changed and has to be clearly defined and promoted to show the value proposition for a customer when engaging a professional travel agent. Travel agents must understand that the customer experience not only begins before the time of sale but also extends well after purchase and travel," continued De Vries.

The survey suggests that travel agents do recognise the potential for customers to go online to book their travel, with over 60% saying that their top priority must be to convince customers that they're better than the internet and more than ever they need to become travel experts.

Think out of the box

De Vries believes the time has come for ASATA travel agents to think out of the box and promote their worth to the wider public. "This is one of the reasons we launched our ASATA marketing toolkit. To create messages our travel agent members could use to position their relevance not only as travel agents, but also as ASATA travel agents, among their customers: reliability, accountability and expertise.

"The fact that the vast majority of ASATA survey respondents indicated they felt over 60% ready to fulfil the roles and demands of a 21st-century travel agent is hugely encouraging. We must define our value, we must sell it and promote it, and we must do it collectively and cohesively," concluded De Vries.

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