Travel agents should invest in the latest sales technologies used in retail to keep holiday shoppers buying via the high street.
That is the view of mobile technology group Apadmi, which says its research shows that only 9% of UK holidaymakers now visit a high street travel agency.
In the latest report to claim the future of the traditional agent is “under threat”, it says only 4% of 18-24-year-olds pop in to see a high street agent.
Older holidaymakers are more likely to go to see an agent in person, with 18% of respondents to the Apadmi survey aged over 65 saying they’d visit a high street agent.
But Apadmi’s results found that customers were still shopping with agents, despite suggesting they don’t pop into to store as much. And the firm says travel agents
It found that 39% of UK holidaymakers search online through a travel agent’s website, with 53% of 18-24 year-olds doing so.
The survey gleaned information from 1,000 people who had taken a holiday in the last 12 months and aimed to discover how the use of mobile technology could impact the entire holiday experience.
It also found that 21% of holidaymakers would encourage the use of artificial intelligence and digital chat bots to provide tailored support and improve the booking process, which Apadmi said suggested a growing demand for technology that will make it quicker and easier ways to arrange trips.
Nearly half (48%) of respondents said they would like to see travel agents invest in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) so they can view destinations, hotels or transport in store before booking.
Nick Black, chief executive of Apadmi, believes that it’s time to change the focus of the ‘shop front’, focussing on a “richer, more personalised digital experience”.
He said: “With price comparison and travel-specific review sites now widely used by holidaymakers, travel companies are finding it harder than ever to maintain that market edge. If travel agents and operators want to create and maintain a competitive advantage, they need to build immersive and engaging digital channels, rather than relying on traditional high-street retail outlets.
“Our research has found that customers are asking for more innovative technology from the travel sector. Investing in areas such as virtual and augmented reality will help build value-added services for high-street travel agents, rather than simply providing a service that people can get from other, more convenient channels.
“Embracing this technology could help bring people back to the high street so they can interact and engage with lots of destinations in store before they make a decision on their trips. They could use VR headsets to view hotel rooms or explore visitor attractions at their chosen destination before they book. We’re already seeing technology like this being used in sectors such as retail to offer a more interactive, immersive experience where shoppers can try on or test products before they buy them. So, it makes perfect sense for the travel sector to get on board and invest in VR and AR going forward.”