What according to you should the Indian agents’ fraternity do to fight the tough times?
One of the features of the Indian travel market is the tendency to go online – via the digital travel agency. Traditional travel agencies need to ensure they remain relevant to the traveller by showing they do much more than just sell a ticket. They need to demonstrate how they add value beyond ticketing and how they can guarantee customer satisfaction to encourage repeat business. This is where technology plays a key role. Having the right tools to help increase productivity and reduce manual error, is critical. For example, we work with travel agents to improve day-to-day work flow processes that ultimately give the travel agent more time to focus on customer service, and less time on paperwork.
What according to you is the way ahead for them?
India is at the forefront of mobile and social media use in Asia Pacific. An overwhelming majority of the Indian market have literally leapfrogged the use of fixed internet, straight to mobile via a smartphone. The Amadeus Frost & Sullivan research paper, ‘Shaping the future of travel in Asia Pacific; the big four travel effects’ identifies that 43 per cent of Indian business travellers and 15 per cent of leisure travellers use smartphones during the planning, booking or managing travel arrangements. For business travellers this is among the highest in the region. For example, according to MakeMyTrip, 10 per cent of their bookings are now through a mobile device. We also found that 48 per cent of Indian travellers frequently use social media during travel and 58 per cent intend to do so in the future. This is a huge opportunity for travel agencies to cater to the change in traveller behaviour.
Are there any solutions that Amadeus has on offer for the agents?
Travellers in India need flexibility and maximum choice. As a travel agent, online or offline, you have to cater to these needs. That’s why Amadeus offers tools and solutions that enable these choices for both leisure and business travel agencies. For example, Amadeus Ticket Changer allows travel agencies in India to change and modify flight bookings in just seconds. The solution is designed to automatically manage the necessary calculations to reissue a ticket, and to store the results in the correct ticketing formats. It allows all kinds of itinerary changes, including changes to date, flight and routing, and processes a vast range of tickets, giving the end traveller unprecedented control over their itineraries. Tickets for several different passengers can all be changed at the same time in one transaction and with the multi re-issue function an unlimited number of successive changes can be made to the ticket before departure. In fact, Amadeus was the first to introduce this technology in India with our customer Jet Airways last year.
Additionally, in response to increased demand from travel managers wanting to book low cost carriers (LCCs) in India, Amadeus has created a framework that delivers SpiceJet’s full content to Amadeus e-Travel Management (AeTM) users via a direct API development. Users of AeTM in India will be able to book ancillary services such as in-flight meals while ensuring they are booking negotiated corporate fares. Additionally, AeTM users have flexible account payment options rather than having to input credit card details in every traveller’s profile or at the end of every booking.
Are there any key aspects of the travel business you would like to put forth and reiterate?
We estimate that over the next 20 years, international business travel by females from India could grow to more than ten million annual business departures. This huge increase is caused by both enormous growth in overall business travel from India coupled with significantly enhanced representation by women in the mid – senior executive ranks of Indian businesses. The female Indian business traveller is amongst the most significant growth segments of the Indian travel market, and represents an opportunity for travel providers that barely existed a few years ago. But there are other emerging segments that are also likely to represent significant opportunities for travel providers. Outbound departures from India are currently only one per cent of the total population, the lowest travel penetration of the major APAC economies. Over the next 20 years, that number will grow exponentially, to a point where India will be one of the top outbound travel markets in the region, with the 4.5 million arrivals to Asia Pacific destinations in 2011 increasing to almost 70 million by 2030. This represents a huge opportunity for travel providers across the region.
What according to you is the global outlook in terms of the travel agents business profile and its future?
The future is bright for travel agents who are willing to adapt to suit the needs of tomorrow’s traveller. They are more empowered, have information at the fingertips and can have an answer in seconds. The role of the travel agent needs to evolve to become more of a consultant, they need to have equally powerful search and booking tools and cater to the ever-increasing niche traveller. The travel industry is one of the most robust and resilient globally. It continues to bounce back in the face of a poor economic performance, natural disasters or other uncontrollable events. It continues to show growth because it evolves with the needs of the traveller, and the travel agency must do the same. The travel agent needs to continually adapt its business model. For example, 10 years ago, having a website wasn’t that important but today it is absolutely critical. But in today’s highly connected world where people have internet access via a mobile device 24 hours a day, it’s essential. We see more value-added services provided as travel agents become more consultative and less transactional.