As the travel industry continues to push ahead, the general consensus at Travel Leaders EDGE 2022 was that it was just wonderful to see everyone. From bookings and payments, to travel technology and AI; There is definitely a lot to unpack.
The goal of Travel Leaders EDGE is to give those in the travel industry a space to learn about, explore, and discuss core issues. These are our 5 takeaways from this year’s conference.
Much of the discussion around technology involved giving travel agencies autonomy and control over their data. There were many mid-office companies at the conference answering questions regarding scripting and macros, and the automation involved with moving the programming from them as a service ticket to being able to do it all in-house in the agency. For many travel agencies, this is a huge time saver. With checkboxes and drop down menus, the agency can control what they want their flowchart to do. And for entries in the GDS, it streamlines everything because it is all self-managed and controlled internally.
Industries all over the world are talking about sustainability, and business travel is definitely not an exception. With more policies that address sustainability initiatives and action being taken to help reduce the harmful effects of increased C02, individual road warriors are now attempting to tackle the issue of “balance”; How are we going to balance the need for travel with an ever increasing need to contribute to our collective fight for sustainability.
COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown complicates the issue further. For many, there are no substitutes for a face-to-face meeting. Being able to meet with clients in person is integral to maintaining healthy relationships. So while road warriors are very cognizant of sustainability issues and want to do their part, balance is the key to a more holistic approach.
Booking and Payments
For travel agencies that are stuck doing direct bills with hotels, virtual cards might be the answer. According to Prestige Travel, “We have two major companies that do the fax route, and four times a year, we’re getting a compromised card. It’s a big hassle to shut down a card.” For Prestige Travel, the issue is that when there is a compromised card, most of the time the clients call the bank first and not the travel manager or agent. Whenever there is a card that needs to be shut down, there are routines that need to be set in place right away.
We would venture to say that when it comes to the security and efficiency of your payments, there is little that is more important. Pushing everybody towards utilizing virtual cards will eliminate the problems of compromised payments and incomplete payments.
At the beginning of COVID, many travel companies had to really pare back on the workforce. But with restrictions all but gone and as travel starts to really bounce back, agencies are hiring and looking to bring people back in. The challenge is finding people who have done this type of work before. Prior to the pandemic, probably the average time that the agents have been in the business had been over 20 years. But that has all changed since then. Skilled agents, those that have strong product knowledge either in corporate or leisure have been more challenging to find than before the pandemic. That’s the struggle now. Many people either retired or left the industry so there is a very limited skilled workforce to draw from.
There is also a struggle with our travel partners as well. We had one of our staff on hold for 16 hours to just do a payment to a vendor. And that call was critical as without the payment, the reservation was at risk of being canceled. So it is an industry problem that we need to fix but unfortunately it will take time for people to ramp up staff and have them familiar with the travel industry.
There was a lot of talk around AI at the conference. The thing with AI is that it can only give you a scripted response. So your AI that you’re using is as good as your script. Depending on how minute you can dig down into the response, it’s only going to be as good as what you provide it with initially. If you give quality scripts for it to answer with, then it will do a good job.
If you haven't seen our post-show recap of Travel Leaders EDGE 2022, follow the link below!