The travel industry is changing, highly competitive and a place increasingly lacking in customer loyalty. Luckily though, travel operators will always be able to bank on one tiny thing. People will always, always want to travel, and although skiing in the Alps or cruising through the Med are not necessarily fundamental human instincts, curiosity and adventure certainly are.
So the glass is certainly half full. Yes, the industry is tough. The big companies have a huge advantage and are increasingly hard to compete with. But, and this is an important but, the market will always be there. How many other industries can you say that about? Travelling will never, unlike prawn cocktails, dial-up internet and fax machines, ever go out of fashion.
But there is one factor set to change the way we view travel agencies. Sadly the threat of terrorism, and the growing uncertainty in certain tourist locations around the world is shifting the role of agencies. This is especially the case given world events over the past few years. Terror attacks in popular destinations such as Egypt, France, Tunisia and Turkey have caused uncertainty for travellers who normally don’t think twice about booking a trip to Sharm El Sheikh or Paris. Unfortunately in some of these incidents, tourists themselves have been the targets. This has caused widespread scepticism about where is safe, and a whole load of exaggerated stories. Foreign affairs in many traditional tourist hubs are fast-changing, and travellers need destination guidance now more than ever.
Travel agencies are perfectly placed to play this role. While many of the traditional services you may expect from travel agencies are slowly becoming obsolete, certain things remain invaluable. One of those things is expert, on-the-ground local knowledge. At times of crisis when trustworthy, reliable sources can often be hard to come by, clarity is key. Tabloid newspapers have stories to sell, so will naturally dramatise events to an extent and make claims which may go slightly beyond what is true. Politicians are driven by other, higher agendas, and know that in one simple statement they can ruin or support a country’s entire tourism industry. For this reason the travel industry has a vital part to play in the spreading of genuine, timely and helpful advice which will keep travellers safe.
On top of this, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of keeping perceptions of destinations realistic. Many parts of the world rely heavily on tourism; for many countries it is the primary industry. One negative story or bad headline can have a knock-on effect and have a serious impact on local businesses. For that reason, those working in the travel industry have a duty to keep the general public properly informed during times of crisis.
Low customer loyalty requires a solution. And maybe a world full of uncertainty is an opportunity for travel agencies to make their mark, providing genuine value to travellers seeking guidance. People have taken for granted that certain parts of the world will always be safe, while dismissing others as permanently dangerous – let’s give travellers the clarity they need to make the right decisions.