It’s often said that we will be relying on AI and technology to do more and more as time goes on. There are a myriad different ways we are seeing automation take over, just look at your supermarket checkout next time you need proof on a very minute level.
But what about holidays? Surely nothing is easier than logging onto one of the more famous holiday search engines and dreaming of reclining on a beach or exploring a new country? Well, that’s just it, following the boom in choice a few years ago and the feeling of autonomy it gave us, we are now coming back full cycle.
Instead of being amazed at the sheer amount of choice we have, instead, it is scaring us. Not knowing which way to turn has actually steered us into unknown waters. This isn’t just anecdotal. More and more tour operators are now having to invest in call centres following ‘information overload’, which suggests that despite the plethora of choice, we are now seeking guidance and the ability to hand planning a trip to someone else.
As a result, there has been a rise, not in the traditional travel agent, based in brick and mortar, but a new breed, a personal travel agent. The BBC recently reported that this has increased the amount of bookings significantly. Some say this is a result of wanting to escape the doom and gloom of Brexit, but could signal that we want more contact with those we deem as experts.
The rise in call centre use is a fascinating one too. Far from the demonised and much-maligned cold callers of old, we are now happy to call a centre if it means we get satisfying results back.
There is a disturbing trend at present where many larger companies don’t allow their contact details to be available via their websites. The trust seems to have vanished slightly and that’s a real concern. Contact forms, while useful for the company, neglect to give an instant answer or response to the customer filling it in, in spite of good response times. Often the only alternative is to use an instant callback service or an automated chatbot.
People are much less likely to trust a website with their personal details, but leaving them with a personal travel agent is increasingly popular.
The early 2000s saw the demise of the high street tour operator, but also saw the clamour of the recession where tour companies used to regularly lose control and close without warning, leaving holidaymakers stranded without much recourse. Although online bookings are still popular, nothing has been good enough to replace that human touch. The unmistakable finishing touch of a tour professional can mean the difference in visiting a place and really being immersed in it.
Voice is still relevant when it comes to customer service and the trends all point to the resurgence of the personal touch when it comes to planning holidays. After all, a holiday is usually a bigger investment when it isn’t simply a quick flight to Spain or for a city break.
Who would have thought we’d be craving guidance when we were granted such freedom when it comes to holidays? But here we are.
By Nicola Amis