Why Millennials want Travel Agents

Dani Tuffield, Director of Travel Trade at Gate 7, talks to us about the evolving demands of the traveller, and those travel industry professionals who are adapting with the times.

Technology has opened up a myriad of new booking channels for travellers, and while many may think this will lead to the inevitable demise of the travel agent, Dani disagrees; instead, it’s about harnessing the best of the technology to allow the travel agent to focus on using their experience for the things that matter. “Millennials are seeing how fragmented the booking landscape is and it can be overwhelming and confusing. Because they are feeling time-poor, they can see value in seeking out an expert to help plan their holidays,” Dani says.

“It really isn’t about sightseeing any more. Travel today is about experiencing the authentic nature of a destination,” says Dani.

“The new traveller is looking for an experience that makes them feel like they are living either like a local, or getting an intimate understanding of the history and culture that attracted them in the first place”.

Millennials is a broad term applied to both Gen Y and Gen Z, the difference being mainly found in the tech they were raised on.

“Generation Y grew-up on personal computers, cell phones, and using video game systems, while Generation Z has grown up on tablets, smartphones, and using apps,” Dani explains.

Millennials all very tech savvy, but have come to see high value in working with a travel guru who gives them the right tools to expertly curate and understand their destination.

“They don’t want generic information any more – they don’t want the shouty man model of advertising, serving up 40 cheap flights to them in an email,” Dani explains.

In the future Dani says it will be all about the bespoke holidays to cater to an individual’s interests, motivations and passions. Consumer dollars will be won by operators who can adapt from the generic and cater to the niche, offering a high level of customer service that’s personalised, real time and responsive.

Gate 7’s work with new travel providers from airlines and OTA’s, to the up-and-coming package operators like Luxury Escapes and niche adventuring touring like G-Adventures has shown that those who act fast to service the new model of consumer will profit.

Another industry development reflecting this trend towards personalisation is the rise of the mobile, at-home travel agent. These agents have typically spent years in a bricks and mortar retail environment where they’ve built up a loyal clientele who they understand really well. They are now able to have the flexibility to run their household and own family, while they customise and deliver very tailored holiday experiences they know will suit their long time client.

It’s tailored, personalised content rather than generic offers that will win. Millennials want to deal with someone who is an expert on both the destination, and on them. They value an agent who could say: “I know that you are really into pop culture so I’ve put together this map that shows you where your favourite stars are located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame”. Or “I know that you are obsessed with the Oscars, so  I have booked you a night at the Roosevelt Hotel because that’s where the Oscars used to be held’. This is the kind of tailored service that will result in above average budget expenditures, according to Dani.

“The opportunity for travel agents who understand both the customer and the destination is huge. Take the US for example; most Australian and New Zealand travellers go over to the US for three weeks and at the moment most travel agents get involved with only about three days of that. The incremental opportunity for travel agents, without having to increase their client base, is about 19 days per trip. Imagine if they could realise even a fraction of that”.

A lot of the developments in the travel industry at the moment are driven by new technologies that are moving towards allowing agents to incorporate these personal data points to tailor holidays for the individual.

But agents can also pick up an awful lot of this deeper destination information at Gate 7 training, events and webinars. Through these forums, we provide the industry with detailed information that can help them to customise with insider tips.

“Travel agents will continue to thrive in the future they understand that travel is not just about getting away anymore; it’s about people, connection and experience. It is about helping us grow as humans and learning to become more of who we are.”