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Travel agents need to reskill to survive


SINGAPORE, 7 October 2020: Forecasting the shape and recovery of the travel industry is almost impossible, but a new report, The Travel Consultant of Tomorrow, shows that 50% of business leaders in the travel industry regard people as the most critical success factor.

Amadeus released details of its latest study this week arguing that while technology is offering new frontiers, people continue to be at the heart of customer experience.

However, the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the need to enhance workforce skills. Even before the current crisis, new technologies and ways of working were disrupting jobs and the skills employees needed to do them.

In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work stated, “Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.”

In the travel agency workforce, more than one-third of business leaders (35%) said that competencies, recruiting and retaining the right talent were their biggest concern.

Many travel agencies said they struggle to find people with the right technical skills to build, implement and manage new technology, alongside uniquely human abilities such as creative thinking and problem-solving.

In a travel era defined by rapid change and ongoing disruption, travel agencies will need to ensure their workforce has the right skills and technology to compete and deliver better journeys. AI and automation will see the role of the travel agent become more dynamic, as the World Economic Forum describes, “Personal travel assistants who are partially data scientists, partially lifestyle gurus.”

The Amadeus study touches on four critical areas where the travel workforce will need to reskill.

Evolve from being travel bookers to travel consultants

The rapid adoption of AI and smart technology will see travel agents evolve from being travel bookers to well-rounded travel consultants. In Amadeus’ report, 46% of business leaders will invest in automation over the next five years, followed by dynamic pricing (35%) and mobile strategy (35%).

These technologies will free up travel consultants to spend less time on simple tasks such as office administration and booking flights and offer more personalized support to travellers or businesses. The travel consultant of the future will need to provide expert, specialist advice, be able to navigate technology, and develop a regular rapport with clients.

Master the fundamentals of travel and digital technology

Having the right blend of technology skills throughout the travel agency workforce will be crucial, particularly when we consider the role technology has played during the pandemic. Through real-time data and travel technology tools, travel agents have been able to deal with massive reschedules and cancellations of tickets, while providing immediate and personalized customer service.

As technical skills become highly valued to travel agency businesses, travel consultants will need to have a greater understanding of coding for their website and apps, analyzing traveller data for risk management and planning, and digital marketing to connect with online consumers. Social media skills training should be conducted for all customer-facing teams, not just the marketing department.

Build adaptability and resilience to manage disruptions

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how critical it is to plan and prepare for disruptions. Travel consultants will be expected to have access to the latest border control guidelines, safety protocols at the destination and onsite cleanliness updates for the hotels and services they’re arranging.

Strengthen emotional skills to foster stronger customer relationships

In these challenging times, a differentiator for travel agencies is the ability to connect with customers on an emotional level. For travel consultants, this means being seen as more than a “travel-booker”, by honing in on interpersonal skills to listen and connect with what matters most to travellers.

About Insights for the New World of Travel

To navigate the new era of travel, Amadeus has prepared a series of reports that looks at ‘Insights for the New World of Travel’, highlighting strategic areas for travel sellers to consider. In the latest report, it highlights how consultants are the heart and soul of the travel agencies and empowering them with next-generation technology tools can help deliver better traveller journeys.

For more insights from our report, download the study on travel consultants of tomorrow here.

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