As travel shifts to an online ecosystem


The very process of planing a trip is in itself a mini-journey. Selecting destinations, creating the right itinerary, and managing bookings - all aligned with the budget.

With the advent of the Internet and its offshoot called online booking, does this paradigm shift spell doom to traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies?

Customers planning a trip no longer need to visit an agency. Online sites like Trivago or MakeMyTrip are fast replacing the roles played by a traditional agent. As more and more people do bookings online, only the old guard take the pain of visiting a conventional agency.

Pressure has mounted on these traditional agencies as airlines, hotels and other service providers now offer their services directly to the customer, thereby cutting the agency and their commissions. That is an unpleasant circumstance for travel agencies who have traditionally labelled themselves as a necessary intermediary between customers and the services they required.

Booking holidays online

As these commissions are the primary source of income for agencies, they have witnessed a drastic decline in their income over the years. Travellers aren’t naive with regard to pricing their trip. They are sensible enough to shop around and find the best deal. They certainly won’t be fooled into paying over the odds due to awareness of many potential options. This has made an already competitive market even more competitive, meaning that current agencies need to stand out in less obvious ways than just undercutting their rivals.

But all is not gloomy for the travel agents. The services provided by them are still valuable. Value is created as a result of personalized services, agents established connections and also the opportunity to negotiate better prices. Established agents may furthermore be in a position to acquire perks on the client's behalf, maybe in the form of upgraded amenities and rooms, specialized tour guides and access to otherwise exclusive events and programs. These customization options still hold the edge for travel agents over online booking avenues. This ability to make services personal will guarantee that the role of travel agents remains secure. 

Hotel rating app
For 35,000 roubles ($570), the agency promises a spot in TripAdvisor's top 10 list. | Photo: iStock
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