Building Travel  Infrastructure and Competencies

Creating a high-tech operation

In the current travel business context, both Front and Back Office automation are a must to gain efficiency and profitability, and to meet customers’ expectations.

There are applications that enable agents to market products and services to appropriate customers by sending tailored emails from within this new technology. The agent’s role is changing from being merely a single point of sale on the high street. With these new functionalities, independent agents can compete against the Internet and TV.

For a monthly fee, and at the nod from a customer, agents are able to turn to their online customer database put on that technology, and email out the promotions and product news their clients opt to hear about. The service can be used either as a one-off, when the customer comes in to the agency to see what’s currently available, or it can be set up to send out daily emails detailing the various appropriate holidays on offer, up until a specified date. Brochure facility permits agents to attach pages from brochures to emails.

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Other features can offer  an Expert Finder service. This logs up to five areas of personal expertise for each agent, meaning that when customers call with specific enquiries about a certain country or activity, they are quickly directed to an agent well qualified to advise them. All this has been specifically developed from feedback from agents. It’s all about enhancing the customer service experience: promoting the right product to the right customer at the right time. Agents are no longer just a point of sale. They are a whole selling system.

A leading business-to-business travel distribution company has developed a technology to help travel agents more quickly and accurately complete the ticketing process. The company’s system checks agent-created request records for accuracy, then automatically issues passenger tickets – all in a matter of seconds. This technology provider offers a unique value proposition to travel agencies and corporate travel departments by aggregating the complete inventories of the world’s four major Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) – Amadeus, Apollo, Sabre and Worldspan – into a simple-to-use Internet-based platform. Its customers also have access to hotel inventory providers Pegasus and Hotel Quest.

Travel agency consortias have now access to an application that enable them to connect with customers and sponsored tour agencies, and to streamline processes associated with its tour planning and organising functions. They can conduct online order processing, catalogue management, ticket reservation, hotel booking, and CRM.

Customers of a major online travel agency in Europe have been given more choice and control when booking their travel following the introduction of a new technology platform, Expert Searching and Pricing (ESP). The enhancements to the site will offer customers the followings: an immediate wider selection of flights and fares to choose from, including new Flexfare, saving on the need to scroll through pages of fares; improved user interface with more control over searching criteria giving the customer what they want to see instantly; and new European city to city driving instructions, eliminating the need to buy road maps when hiring cars or taking a driving holiday.

Training staff with new technologies

In the service sector such as travel and tourism, the quality of a company’s human resources is often the factor that makes the difference between competitors. Nowadays, to succeed in the travel business, staff’s needs to be trained on a regular basis to the use on new technologies in their field.

The single-most important factor affecting training today is technology – and, in particular, the Internet. Tremendous advances and changes to technology within the retail travel community have created an environment in which people at all levels must become knowledgeable with respect to technological applications and their own job. There are a few essential factors at each level that should be considered when contemplating your technological future.


Although not always a “hand-on” person, owners need to ensure that their agency is moving forward with technological changes and not just maintaining pace. Owners should be: • Using the Internet as a distribution channel for their agency, contemplating the development of their own Web site, providing the necessary tools to facilitate bookings and gathering information. • Increasing supplier leverage and global presence by becoming part of a larger buying group (e.g. consortium, chain or franchise). Agency owners need to have greater clout in their negotiating power. As a whole, the retail industry must be able to strike deals for compensation for the services provided. Alignment with larger groups is required to accomplish this goal and having a market share of 25 per cent or more will earn the respect of suppliers and ensure that travel agencies are a force to be recognised.


They have one of the toughest areas to cover. Not only do they need to set and lead by example, but they must also provide the training climate to ensure that staff is keeping up do date. Managers should be focusing on the following areas of their business:

• Upgrading their counsellor skills to ensure that they are competent to use the search engines wisely and source material in a timely fashion.

• Investing in human resource programs to retain their current workforce.

• Hiring people who embrace technology and are willing and able to share information.

• Obtaining management skills necessary to run a profitable business.

• Practising Web/e-mail marketing.

• Supporting change-management within their offices to move counsellors from the “bricks and mortar” stage to the “clicks and mortar” stage.

• Targeting market segments. It is no longer enough to be a general merchant. In today’s marketplace, it is possible for even a small agency outlet to appeal to a much broader client base. If an agency has a speciality or knows how to service a niche market, it doesn’t matter where their storefront is located. Remember, potential clients can reach them through the Internet.


These actors are required to be skilled in searching out information from the Internet in order to provide better customer service to their clients. Counsellors should be:

• Using the Internet as an additional information channel. Hard-copy reference materials are the traditional ways of researching destination information, etc. for clients, but they can be quite expensive and often required the purchase of updated texts on a yearly basis. Examining the content of existing Web sites is an excellent way for counsellors to ensure that the information they are passing along to clients is never out of date.

• Using the Internet as a secondary transaction-processing (reservations and ticketing) channel. With a proliferation of consolidators, low-cost airlines and tour operators that can be only booked online, the Computer Reservations System (CRS) is no longer the only source.

• Using booking engines found on the Internet to expedite reservations for corporate clients who are very comfortable with technology.

• Reading the daily news and enhancement pages of your CRS for new ways to deliver products and services to your clients.


Traditional ways of technology training by retail travel programs need to be updated to produce graduates who are qualified to perform in the technologybased world of online bookings and Internet research, Travel programs and instructors should be:

• Allowing for distance learning and testing via the Internet.

• Providing “real-time” tools (live CRS, Internet etc.) to learn technology-based administrative systems.

• Including industry veterans in their advisory committees to maintain school programs that are relevant.

• Creating measures of achievement that are based on student employment within the industry rather than how many students graduate from the program.

• Listening and responding to comments from owners/managers regarding the ability of placement students to work on live systems without having been trained on simulated ones. Textbooks and simulated systems are not enough to provide technology-savvy, entry-level counsellors into the marketplace.

Most of the travel agents associations around the world recognised the importance of training staff to the use of new technologies. They put the emphasis on education with diverse new offerings. Travel agents repeatedly hear that the key to success in today’s market is to specialise, and skills and expertise are always in high demand.

There are several examples of typical theme and topics covered in IT seminars for travel agents. For example, consider the one entitled “Isn’t it time to join the ecommerce revolution and be “enormously profitable?”, which covers the following typical topics:

• Optimising Your PC.

• Email Tips and Tricks.

• Cyber Travel Specialist.

• Web Page Design.

How to Build a More Meaningful Workplace.

Learn how to create or enhance your present site to increase your profit and sales, track your number of hits for demographic studies, or eliminate huge postage bills just by utilising the Internet.

• E- Business/Commerce: Learn how to negotiate net prices and still make money.

• Surfing the Internet. Building International Partners for Inbound and Outbound Tourism Opportunities Launching a group business from your agency may seem overwhelming and time consuming, but, with a little guidance and training, the job will be easier and the rewards priceless.

• Building a network of international partners offers an unlimited opportunity to expand your client base and see your profits soar.

• What agents can do to keep thriving in the electronic age, and provide a peek at some new opportunities created by technology and the Internet.

Many other kinds of training programmes are offered to travel agents. Another interesting example is that of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), where travel agents who don’t have time for on-site training programs can log on to its online training site to train at home and in the office at times that are convenient for them. Numerous CLIA-affiliated travel agents have signed up for CLIA’s cyber training program, studying three core courses for the Cruise Counsellor Certification Program – “Cruise Vacations: An Introduction”, “Principles of Professional Selling” and “Power Selling Techniques” – online at their own pace. Agents can log onto the Web site or link to the site from the Travel Agency Resource Centre on CLIA’s Web site. Once in the program, they hit the “continue” button, do the interactive demos and study the materials”.

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