It is time to get personal

Personalised travel experiences are gaining momentum and travel agents need to know what it is and how to make it work, says Otto de Vries, CEO Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) addressing a recent African Business Travel Association event this week.

Addressing traveller behaviour within travel policy, Otto noted that many TMCs had yet to regard analysing traveller behaviour as a priority. However, corporate travellers, whe said, were ready for a personalised travel experience.

In a recent study conducted by ASATA into the 21st Century Travel Agent, 73% of respondents indicated it is very important for TMCs to make personalised recommendations. In addition, 70% of respondents said they were more likely to use a travel agent than book online because of the potential for travel agents to deliver personalised service.

Otto says travellers expect to be treated as individuals. They are behaving in certain ways, have certain preferences and specific habits, are spending money and thinking about travel in ways that TMCs are not necessarily aware of.

That said, there is no need for corporates to raise the white flag, he adds. Personalisation does not translate into compromising on travel policy. Rather it entailscreating offers and information built on travellers’ preferences, which can ultimately lead to cost saving and greater compliance.

Looking at international corporate travel trends, Otto said it is quite evident that travellers are getting far more attention. There appears to be a real-time effort in delivering real-time data, insights, offers and meaningful analytics which are relevant and important to corporate travellers.   

Perhaps this can be attributed to the new generation of tech-savvy travellers knowing what is available to them when and where. But, it might also be a new way of thinking where there is a conscious effort in constituting what a valuable service actually is, with technology being the enabler.

Regardless of how you look at it, there is opportunity to be found and areas which TMCs can look to create more personalised experience include:

  • Be there: allow for 24/7 two-way communication. Be available not just by email, but by phone as well.
  • Know your stuff: offer expert knowledge and advice as customers can become overwhelmed by the extent of information on the internet.
  • Communicate: TMCs need to communicate with their customers. Tailor experiences by knowing what customers’ individual preferences are.
  • Empower: Empower with personal recommendations based on knowledge of an individual
  • Seize control: Enable travellers to have control over their itineraries.
  • Bleisure: it is a real thing. Companies are looking at a comparison between business and leisure travel. A survey done by SATSA revealed that 83% of corporate travellers use business trip to explore the city they are visiting, while 78% are adding leisure days to business travel to add value.
  • Be tech savvy: There is great opportunity within technology. Make it easy for customers to receive and access their personalised documentation via technology platforms. Also make use of smart technology to send travellers alerts and emergency information.