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Complimentary Tech

Shopping for travel online

A wish that I nurtured was that those from the "techy" side of travel would finally get bored and take an interest in how people bought washing machines or motor cars or something; indeed anything, just not travel.

That said, some technological advances have made an agents' life a lot easier. Meta search provides a useful crib-sheet when struggling with a perplexing itinerary. One of those itineraries where an agent struggles to find a cost effective solution to a travel request - and has probably missed the blindingly obvious. Tripadvisor is a very helpful guide when selecting hotels - especially for those hotels that are not part of a named group.

Interestingly, nearly all effort seems to be placed into customer facing applications and it seems only relatively recently that our tech colleagues have started to look at the interface between agent and supplier. One has to admit, there is a limit to the number of holiday-snaps-with-booking type apps that any market can handle and given that air and hotel bookings are in the hands of a few major players, anyone new will struggle to break into this closed market (and thereby hangs another tale).

No matter whether an application is B2C or B2B, the objective seems to be to replace (that is, "disrupt") the present way of doing things. One aspect that seems to have been missed is the notion of complimentary tech.

Complimentary tech means that one stops trying to replace an agent (or indeed any human interface) and aims to harness those human (aka "agent") skills, which are painfully hard to replicate when using nothing but a 1 and a 0. Instead of asking a customer to book using an application which has a (hopefully) ultra clever algorithm, tech is used to garner such information as it can from the user, transmit that to an agent, who can then use human skills and thinking to find a solution. After this, tech takes over again, to present the solution to the client and (one hopes) conclude the booking.

It is faintly amusing to watch whole travel technology conferences, centered around replacing the human interface, when the answer may be blindingly obvious. Harmonise travel technology WITH the human interface or element, rather than trying to replace it.

Naturally, there would be a cost involved. After all, humans cost money. Then again, so does tech and the human interface answer is a solution that could be available to any travel technology firm today. Given this, there is scope to produce an operating model which could produce a revenue stream much more quickly than by launching an application that has to rely solely on traction before generating any profit. Certainly, where there are a number of large players in the field; using the human interface would give any new venture a significant unique selling point.

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