Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have witnessed some of the most staggering, yet sophisticated changes over the last decade. Digitization for convenience has been the motto across the board and companies such as Uber and Airbnb have been the flagbearers of this transformation. These path-breaking companies reflect a broader change in the consumer mindset, one where travelers get to choose their perfect match whenever they demand it. This has led to a do-it-yourself approach among customers in an environment where technology continues to evolve at a breakneck speed.
To remain relevant and competitive in such a dynamic marketplace, OTAs need to take on the role of technology companies and deliver better outcomes to customers. The most forward-looking players in this space are aggressively adopting digital to quickly respond to industry changes, while working towards anticipating potential disruptions to gain a competitive upper hand. OTAs therefore need to develop a strategic framework and transform into intelligent personal travel assistants for the new-age customer.
This framework however needs the right technological support to power such a mammoth change. A platform management tool is one such crucial component, laying the foundation for companies to build a highly automated travel solution that can plan and monitor a customer’s journey. This can be further augmented with next-generation technologies such as Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain, underpinned by automation. The result? OTAs become intelligent personal travel aides helping customers get a clear view of their data on a real-time basis, and enabling them to manage their journey from planning to execution, seamlessly.
Along with the right set of technology in the repertoire, the key is to identify the right channel of engagement based on the market, customer segmentation and urgency of the product / service. To capitalize on untapped markets, multi-channel engagement is a necessity. Not only does this offer easier communication, but it helps reduce the cost of operations via call deflection, which goes hand in glove with other technological advancements.
However, as communication channels multiply, scalability and flexibility continue to remain key concerns for OTAs. Therefore, having a channel-agnostic workforce which delivers the same level of service to the end consumer, paves the way for further optimization. Multi-channel delivery also makes the adoption of cloud-native architecture an imperative to bring in operational efficiency and improve agility based on evolving traveler preferences. Finally, the right mix of data analytics and ML can help elevate automation to provide a highly personalized travel experience. By capturing the data efficiently to develop a travel pattern history, OTAs can deploy ML to identify possible next steps in the customer journey and therefore provide customized suggestions every step of the way.
While such a framework enables OTAs to transform from agents to advisors, it also helps them gear up for this vision with the right tools. Aspirational developments like these are well within the competencies of new-age technologies and therefore need to be harnessed the right way to cater to evolving customers.