When online travel booking sites became the norm for people to book their travels, everybody soon became their own travel agents.
For a number of years, we’ve seen the closure of a number of brick and mortar travel agencies as self-booking tools grew stronger than ever.
The fate of a travel agent’s career has been on dangerous grounds over the last decade, if we are to believe the headlines and articles that were written about the industry.
The traditional brochure-laden travel agent as we know it may be gone, but the last few years have seen the rise of luxury travel agents.
Here are the reasons why we will be seeing more of luxury travel agents or travel designers, as some of them are known.
1.) Online booking sites were not designed with the luxury traveller in mind.
Most flight aggregator and hotel booking websites were created to search for the cheapest fares/ rates and promotions. These are not the elements that a High Net Worth Individual (aka the common luxury traveller) requires when travelling.
As we have discovered with previous years’ luxury travel trends, most luxury travellers have embraced multi-generational travelling and as such, require complex bookings over multiple villas and rooms in resorts and hotels. Special requests are a normal part of a luxury traveller’s itinerary.
In their article “The Super Rich are Leaving Technology in the Draw”, Forbes rightfully and aptly describes organising trips for luxury travellers more similar to planning a concert tour for The Rolling Stones than looking for the best deals on airfare and accommodation.
2.) Luxury travellers are getting more adventurous
Adventure travel mixed with luxury is a growing trend. Most luxury travellers these days want adventures beyond the brochures. In fact, it seems that the more an activity or tour is in a brochure, the more some of these luxury travellers will avoid it.
The past two years’ luxury travel trend predictions included reports that luxury travellers not only want high-end products. They want products, destinations, and experiences that no one, or only very few have done.
Experience has played a huge part in influencing traveller’s decisions, including luxury ones. As luxurious adventurers go to more far-flung destinations and engage in bolder activities, this involves complex itineraries and requests so a trip like this is best handled by an experienced travel agent.
3.) Luxury / VIP Travellers need advice from someone who’s been there
Luxury and VIP Travel agents are twice more likely to be well-travelled than the regular travel agent. There was a recent discussion on Flyertalk forum, a site where hundreds of thousands of frequent fliers worldwide gather and share travel tips. One member stated that he uses a travel agent because he or she may provide an insight about the destination he’s going to. Knowing that the agent has been to a destination and may have partnerships with travel brands in that area gives travellers a sense of confidence.
Luxury travellers need more than just an agent who knows a brochure from the first page to last. They actually want someone to tell, show and describe to them their own personal experiences. As the luxury travel agent is someone they would have established trust with, they rely on the agent’s personal experience and advice. And as the agent would also know their client’s travel style, they can advise appropriately on whether a destination or an activity is recommended.
4.) It’s not just for the luxury traveller. Many are back to use the service of a travel agent.
Some consumers who used to book their own travels online are now reverting back to the services of a travel agent. Studies reveal that one of the fastest growing segments of travel agency users are technology-tied Millennials. They may spend a lot of their waking hours glued to technology, but not all of them actually have the time to book and plan their travel itinerary.
Increasing factors of travel disruption such as airline delays, natural disasters, and global terrorism have reinforced travellers that they need a professional to look after their itineraries, should any of the disruption factors occur. People’s busier lifestyles also mean that they would rather call, send an SMS or email one key contact for changes in their travels, rather than be put on hold or email a generic customer service centre.