We are in the midst of a digital transformation. More and more, travelers use the Internet to find travel inspiration and information. They can easily book flights and hotels—now more than ever, thanks to Google. There are apps to hail transportation, book table reservations and more.
Sorry, industry, but I have to ask:
Are travel planners becoming a profession of the past?
I read Colin Nagy's op-ed in Skift last month on how "The Modern Concierge Is Too Skilled to Be Made Redundant by Technology," and I saw the light.
Much like with the concierge, there are too many skills, services and benefits tour planners offer travelers that technology simply cannot provide. Technology is still a threat, however, and you have to keep refining your skills to stay relevant. In the boxing match against technology, here are your strengths. Time to flex and build those muscles!
Friends in all the right places.
You have relationships with destinations, attractions and more that the average traveler does not. That gives you benefits—like a great deal on ticket price, or a behind-the-scenes tour—that the solo traveler and Groupon could not even dream of.
Keep building those relationships. Attend trade shows. Network. Advertise. Call your industry friends and help one another out.
Industry and cultural knowledge.
Travelers may be able to research where they want to go and what they want to see, but unless they're seasoned travelers and have been to the destination before, they don't have the industry knowledge or the cultural appreciation to give them the best possible experience.
You have the ability to create incredible itineraries that pairs the best activities, at the best times. You know what attractions travelers should see first to help inform the rest of their sightseeing. You know the high note travelers should end their trip on. You know every locally acclaimed, off-the-beaten-path experience in between that sets a trip apart.
Keep using your resources. Research destinations and attractions. Subscribe to industry publications to give you an edge in the field.
Experience in the unexpected.
Travel always comes with a host of unexpected bumps in the road—canceled flights, traffic jams, closed attractions and more. Sometimes, the SWAT team gets involved.
The iPhone's Siri may able to bring up a plethora of Internet hits for what to do in the event of a travel misadventure, but Siri doesn't take action.
You do. You have the experience to keep itineraries moving. The connections to keep them fed and sheltered. Most important, the quick thinking to keep them safe.
As professional tour planners, you can offer travelers what technology cannot: a guarantee of the best possible travel experience.
But you don't have to convince me. Convince your customers.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.