‘Alexa, book me a hotel’ – is technology killing the travel agency?
While voice-controlled assistants are increasingly making their way into everyday life, smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa are getting better and better at helping us plan our travels.
“Alexa, ask Kayak how much a business class ticket to Dubai costs.” Hotel bookings, flight plans and travel research can already be taken care of without even looking at a screen – or a human travel agent for that matter.
And yet despite the increasing competition posed by online travel booking sites, one top travel industry official says the classic travel agency will continue to have its place in helping people plan their holidays.
Norbert Fiebig, president of the German Travel Association, argues that despite some of the advantages posed by online booking sites, travellers can still enjoy greater security – and even cheaper rates – when being served by travel agency professionals.
“The digital instruments are excellent,” Fiebig tells us. “But this does not mean that these can offer sufficient security for making a final booking,” he says.
In a crisis at the destination, a traveller who has booked online is not completely covered – there is no familiar agent to contact from there and the traveller has essentially no support. “Only a travel agent can provide an all-round carefree package.”
Fiebig does see a generational aspect at play, in which “for young people such a package is less important. But once one has children, then as a rule this changes.”
Besides, the expert says, “you can arrange a trip with a travel operator at a comparable price, or in some cases even cheaper than when booking individually.” — dpa