Experts say the internet can’t replace creativity.
Travel industry experts gave heart to agents at the recent New York Times Travel Show, stressing that the internet is a fantastic resource but it can’t replace human creativity.
“The web still doesn’t think creatively. It only thinks in a linear way,” said Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel correspondent, on the show’s spotlight panel “Forecasting the Future of Travel – Where Will We Be in the Next 10 Years?”
“The biggest myth out there is that everything is online,” he said.
There are limitations in technology – and lots of benefits offered by real-life travel agents.
“Big data solves a lot [of problems] but it doesn’t solve the surprise and delight of discovery,” said Arabella Bowen, editor-in-chief of Fodor’s Travel. “There’s no way to get an experience like that except with a travel agent.”
But innovations in travel technology, such as smart customisation based on customer preferences, could bring plenty of benefits to leisure travellers – via travel agents. Agents can combine online reviews and other data with strong knowledge of the travel distribution system.
“[Agents] are the petri dish of customisation. There’s a lot more than price that goes into value,” said David Pavelko, director of Google Travel. “The beauty of being a travel agent is that there is a plethora of content online at your disposal to use to inform those targeted decisions you are making for clients. You had a lot of work trying to figure out hotels 15 years ago.”
Wendy Perrin, travel advocate for TripAdvisor: “Sophisticated travellers still very much depend on human travel agents. Dozens email me each week asking me to connect them to the right travel agent for their trip.”
Travel Market Report