Travel advisor is expected to be a prominent trend of the global tourism sector in 2021. Especially for the Vietnam tourism industry, transforming into travel advisor may rescue traditional travel agents.
Covid-19 in 2020 has completely changed the way people travel. Unexpected risks such as flight cancellations, closures, or quarantines at destinations, make travelers afraid when planning a trip. This has prompted many new demands from travelers to meet their health and safety concerns, especially the need for assistance with information and troubleshooting if there is a sudden problem with the trip.
These new needs of travelers, in a context of uncertainties, have made the role of a travel advisor more important than ever. According to Vietnam Travel Trends 2021 report by Outbox Consulting, a travel advisor will be an indispensable part of tourism trends in 2021 as a reliable source of information for travelers.
Travel advisor is not a new concept. However, the appearance of Covid-19 made the role of travel advisor more prominent and mentioned. Travel advisor can be seen as an upgrade of a traditional travel agent, not only assisting travelers to book services, but also supporting and advising travelers to organize their trips, providing information with their resources and expertise as a companion to travelers in the whole journey.
Traveling in the context of Covid-19, travelers need sources of information which is accurate and timely, constantly updated not only before but throughout the trip. At the same time, when unexpected changes affect the itinerary, travelers also need a trusted one to assist in canceling reservations, or flexibly change the itinerary to ensure their experiences and benefits. That’s when the role of the travel advisor is needed.
In Vietnam, for many years, traditional travel agents have merely focused on selling fixed tours and helping travelers book services. They have not yet really invested in understanding customers and customized products according to the needs of travelers. Therefore, the role of the travel advisor has been almost non-existent.
Along with that, the strong development of the free independent traveler trend in Vietnam over the years has put the role of traditional travel agents in danger of disappearing because travelers no longer need their support. Travelers can now search for destination information and book services on their own through online platforms with technology support.
However, in 2021, this difficulty can be solved if traditional travel agents know how to embrace the trend of travel advisors, transforming themselves into a companion of travelers.
During the turbulent period caused by Covid-19, searching for information via the internet is not as optimal as getting direct and quick support from a travel advisor who is experienced and connected directly to the destination as well as service providers to provide official information. Besides, the advantage of the travel advisor is the knowledge and understanding of destinations. Therefore, if there are unexpected changes due to objective factors, a travel advisor will be the one who can help travelers flexibly customize their experiences and itinerary to minimize risks and financial losses.
While the support of technology today can help travelers design a trip for themselves, there are also groups of travelers who are not too tech-savvy or have special needs for their health, hobbies. These are potential traveler groups for travel advisors who can customize travel products according to their needs, preferences, and budgets.
So where should traditional travel agents start?
First of all, travel agents need to work closely with stakeholders such as destinations, hotels, airlines, and other carriers to ensure having all the necessary information to attract travelers as well as respond to unexpected disruptions. Therefore, each service consultant will have enough information to become a travel advisor to accompany customers.
Training and improving the qualifications of the staff is crucial for a traditional travel agent to upgrade to a travel advisor. As travelers need more personalized advice, the staff at travel agents will need skills to understand customer psychology as well as customize travel products to suit each demand, rather than just focusing on selling products as before.
In addition, investment in technology also aids in understanding customers through their past travel data and connecting with visitors more easily while they are on their trip. This helps the role of a travel advisor bring more value to travelers.
In the coming time, when the whole world is trying to resume tourism activities, there will be many changes and many initiatives related to testing and vaccines being applied. At that time, travelers will need the support of industry experts more than ever. If traditional travel agents can transform themselves into travel advisers, differentiate themselves, and provide services that travelers cannot do by themselves, they will create competitive advantages to overcome the crisis and grow.