There’s a large gap between what the Millennial generation desires from travel booking, and the service travel companies are providing. Despite the progress of technology, the human element in travel booking is more important than ever before. In fact, the desire for hearing a human voice or listening to an expert’s recommendations is a current trend that transcends generations. The need for the travel consultant is officially back. That’s the verdict of The New Travel Reality by Generation – compelling research by Signature Travel Network and The Center for Generational Kinetics. What’s more, there is a solution to this predicament in a seemingly digital-only world. By blending technology with human expertise, it’s within the power of travel companies to make the experience of all travel customers significantly better.  

Travel research: where it starts

We all know that researching future travel plans used to start with a glossy brochure, and now begins overwhelmingly online. However, this study finds that Millennials are twice as likely than those of other generations to contact a travel consultant as the first step in their travel research process. This equates to 14% of Millennials, compared to 6% of Boomers and 7% of Gen X. No – it’s still not the majority of Millennials – but it’s a compelling trend that must make us sit up and notice that humans are still crucial in the world of travel bookings. The study concludes that “travel consumers are won or lost online” and that travel companies must have a strong online presence, which “signals an open door to Millennials” to take the next step and contact a person.  

What Millennials really want in travel

Everyone has a picture in their mind of who a Millennial is and what behaviours they display. That picture may include open-minded attitudes, a receptiveness to new ideas and characteristics that come with being the most educated generation on record. Or depending on which publications you read, your picture may include perceptions that Millennials are selfie-loving, lazy and narcissists! However, a common thread is that Millennials have grown up immersed in digital technology and they want to do as much as they can online using their phones, tablets, laptops and other gadgets. In fact, the study finds that as comfortable as Millennials are with digital technology, it isn’t necessarily their first choice for planning and booking travel. Although Millennials like receiving travel updates online and by email, they’re more likely than any other generation to prefer a phone call to discuss travel planning. According to the study, the ability to customise trips and have authentic travel experiences are two crucial aspects for Millennial travellers. These are things all travellers worry about when considering whether or not to speak to a human about their trip. Will that travel consultant be able to help them plan original experiences within their trips? Can the travel consultant provide reassurance that their travel plans will become what travellers imagine, or even better?  

How travel consultants can add value to Millennial travellers

These insights into Millennial travellers’ preferences – when it comes to booking travel – may come as a surprise to travel companies. However, this also marks an opportunity for digital travel sellers to convince Millennial users of their added value through careful website messaging. This can be done by making it clear a company’s travel consultants can help individuals customise trips and recommend individual travel experiences to add onto personal itineraries. Since Millennials are already open to human contact, it shouldn’t take much convincing to finish off their travel booking plans with a decisive phone call. What’s more, the study shows that travellers of all generations will be convinced to speak to a travel consultant if:
  • It will enable them to get a reliable full quote for their whole travel experience;
  • there’s a chance it will save them money;
  • the travel consultant can tell them about upgrades or auxiliary services.
When travellers perceive they have received extra value from speaking to a travel consultant, they will reward companies with word of mouth recommendations too. The study finds that an impressive 46% of travellers would tell friends and family about speaking to a travel consultant who added extra services or components to their trip. The study finds that 66% of travellers of all generations are even willing to pay a bit extra if they felt they received valuable personal help in planning their trip.  

How to empower travel consultants to give a helping hand

It’s convincing research such as this that compelled us to include ‘bd4callcenter’ within our service offering. It’s also no secret that skilled travel agent resources in service centres are a costly investment. Therefore, they need to serve clients very efficiently and follow precise workflows. Our technology creates a unique profile for every single user browsing a travel portal. This profile includes manifold information including which hotels the user has browsed, which ones they liked or disliked – as well as preferences and specifics about the types of amenities they’re looking for. When they pick up the phone to speak to a travel consultant or request a call-back, that travel consultant can access this profile directly and quickly identify the offers, services and amenities the user is most interested in. Everyone is an individual. Trends and research such as this show customisation and the perception of personal recommendations in travel booking are key. bd4travel’s technology makes the best of this, blending real-time algorithms with individualism. While travel seekers profit from a superior consulting quality, travel sellers improve the management and added value of their customer-facing staff.  

Robots are not taking over the Earth!

Picking up the telephone to have a conversation about booking a trip is not the rhetoric we’ve been led to believe in the world of online travel portals. The opposite messages dominate:
‘Human contact is irrelevant.’
‘The art of conversation is dead.’
‘Robots are taking over the Earth!’

So it’s refreshing to see via The New Travel Reality by Generation that such trends are coming full circle. Technology is advancing rapidly. And we should use the best of what technology has to offer to make human interaction really count when it does happen. In this way, it´s not Artificial Intelligence capturing human jobs, but AI in the sense of “Augmented Intelligence” which supports people in a new and helpful way. While Millennials are leading the way in this way of thinking, all other generations are following closely behind. In travel, this becomes part of giving travellers a better, more authentic and personalised experience…before they even leave home. Read the full research report The New Travel Reality by Generation.   Learn more about our solution to digitally empower sales agents in service centres. Discover more insights like this when you sign up for our newsletter. Newsletter Sign Up  

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