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American Express Travel, a leading global provider of consumer travel and related services, today released findings from a recent survey of its travel counselors, which queried the experts on travel trends for 2014. The survey of nearly 200 travel counselors sought to uncover the impact the Internet has had within the travel professional community as well as the latest trends in customer buying behavior. The survey shows not only an increase in customers booking and spending more with travel professionals, but that perceived challenges, such as the Internet, have in fact bolstered the industry.
Internet Leads to Travel Counselor Efficiency, Consumers Overwhelmed
Travel counselors, both new and tenured, are quick to note the impact the Internet has had on the industry. More than half of survey respondents (61%) strongly agree that the Internet has made their jobs more efficient, providing them with greater access to more content and information to serve customers. Consumer access to travel information and recommendations via the internet has also created a shift in the traveler-travel agent relationship, with 52% of travel counselors strongly agreeing that consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before, with many doing their own research.
“Smart, savvy travel professionals are harnessing the power of the Internet to create extraordinary experiences for their customers,” says Tony Gonchar, vice president of the U.S. Representative Network at American Express Travel. “As technology advances, so do expectations. Customers are digital omnivores, consuming information across multiple devices, 24 hours-a-day, from hundreds – even thousands – of sources. Our travel counselors are able to help customers cut through the information overload to create the ultimate travel experience.”
Specialization is Future of Industry
As consumers seek more qualified information and insider recommendations, agents have had to embrace specialization. More than a third of respondents (38%) feel a deep knowledge of a particular destination or travel experience, such as family, culinary, or adventure travel, will be the most important tool in their arsenal as the travel industry evolves over the next five years. “More information does not necessarily lead to better decision-making,” says Gonchar. “Consumers are overwhelmed by the wealth of travel material and crave guidance and expertise. Our travel counselors give a level of personalization and expertise that customers can’t just search on the Internet.”