'Technology is an enabler in travel business'
Technology in travel is evolving to give customers a tailor-made experience - but one agency boss says nothing can replace the personal touch.
Steve Byrne is boss of Travel Counsellors, based in Trafford, Manchester.
He says that while his business uses the same technology as the OTAs (online travel agencies), the advantage is that customers have a trained travel counsellor operating it.
“You can see the world in terms of high street and online or you can see it as one model focusing on product and transaction and another based around developing relationships with customers, and I don’t believe that can be replaced by an online booking site,” he says.
“We have the technology that can enable a customer to book online but we put that in front of a travel counsellor who can provide a level of care that is very difficult for the customer to generate themselves.”
Self-employed travel counsellors become a customer’s ‘personal travel concierge’, Byrne says, getting to know the holidaymaker and guiding them through the options that are right for them, which means customers return time and again to the same agent.
It means unusual requests can be taken into consideration, he adds, such as a hotel recognising your anniversary or putting you in a ground floor room.
“All our business comes from referral and we’re growing by 11 per cent a year,” Byrne says.
“An online travel agent can personalise your search but they can’t get to know you in the way a travel counsellor will, and they’re certainly not going to give you a call if anything goes wrong on your holiday.
“We’re a technology-based business but the technology is an enabler for the professional to give the right advice."
Our holiday experiences will one day rely heavily on virtual reality while digitised butlers could also be coming, a new report has claimed.
We reported recently how Hotel Bonanza, an OTA with a difference, is seeking to give a fairer deal to property owners.