Picture this: a couple visits a helpful travel agent to talk about a future trip to Marrakesh. After going over their needs and wishes, the agent widdles down the choices for accomodation to two beautiful riads in the historic medina, which she personally inspected on a work trip earlier that year. The couple smiles and says they’ll think about it and will be in touch later. The agent never hears from them again.
Welcome to the world of the modern-day travel agent. Travel agents know this phenomenon all too well, and the word “showrooming” might send expected shivers down their spines.
“The hardest part of being a travel agent is the constant competition with the internet,” says Ophir Ben-Yitschak, owner of Scopia Travel Agency with 30 years of experience in tourism.
Mary Barrett, travel agent at Cruise Brothers agrees, “Having people take my work and book themselves online is very frustrating.”
Showrooming can be particularly devastating as agents will spend hours dispensing advice to would-be customers, only to lose their commission when the customers take the advice and spend their money elsewhere.
Travel agents are losing the battle with flight and hotel...
While showrooming suggests that travelers are bargain hunters, there’s still a large and important place for the travel agent in this industry. In fact, in a world that’s becoming increasingly impersonal and digitized, the travel agent is filling a more important role than ever. There is no replacement for in-person interaction.
The 17th U.S. Online Travel Overview of Phocuswright firmly supports the fact that travel agents serve an important role. “As of year-end 2017, more than half (52%) of all U.S. travel was still booked offline, via travel agencies, phone and walk-up.”
“However, OTAs have 39% of the digital travel market and continue taking market share. Travel agents rule the roost when it comes to cruises and tours. Travel agent sales of traditional tours and packages jumped 4% in 2017, but they’re losing the battle with flight and hotel.”
“Losing the battle with flight and hotel” is more than a side-note, and that’s something that Jochem Wijnands, the Founder and CEO of TRVL, is well aware of. As someone who sold his previous company Prss in 2014 to Apple, which eventually became the publishing platform Apple News, it’s safe to say his intuition on trends can be trusted.
Wijnands: “A travel agent should always be able to match internet prices and still make a profit.”
Many agents are withdrawing to safer pastures like cruises and complex trips, where an agent’s added value is more apparent and bargain-hunting is not as common. While this might work for individual agents, travel agents as a whole are losing market share and relevance.
To combat this phenomenon, Wijnands has created TRVL Pro, a one-stop travel shop that offers commission payments on more than 2 million hotels, the combined inventory of Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Priceline and Agoda.
As with anything, it’s not the predicament you’re in but how you react to it that ultimately tells the story. Where there is struggle, there is opportunity.
The idea of TRVL Pro is to allow travel agents to focus their attention away from worries about internet prices and towards meeting customers’ needs. Online booking sites sometimes have an advantage in offering competitive prices, and TRVL Pro focuses on nullifying that advantage. It is the card that travel agents can always pull from their back pocket when they need it.
As the owner of Scopia Travel Agency, Ophir Ben-Yitschak states, “Agents today have to discuss with the client the information found on the web and see how to combine the services that the client wants, while maintaining a price similar to the internet and maintaining profitability.”
Because the displayed hotel rates of TRVL Pro are the exact same rates as those seen on Expedia, Booking or Agoda, travel agents are less at risk of losing customers.
TRVL Pro is a tool for empowerment of travel agents
In summary, TRVL Pro is created to help travel agents combat the problem of showrooming. Its beta launch in Hong Kong and Taiwan this summer has already received fanfare. Justin Chan of Croatia Travel exclaimed, “We're very happy TRVL Pro is available for travel agents in Hong Kong. We very much needed a tool like this!” Derek Li of Enrich Trips says, “TRVL Pro is a one-stop comparison shopping and booking engine which makes me work smarter and save time!"
TRVL Pro is free, and there is no paperwork involved. The travel agent dashboard keeps track of bookings, commissions and payouts. TRVL Pro supports 21 currencies, and dedicated support is available 24/7.
Are you a travel agent or a professional travel booker? Sign up now.
(Mary Barrett and Ophir Ben-Yitschak are quoted from Quora)