When you just need your travel agent to be human
From chatbots to virtual reality and blockchain, the 21st century has been a wild technological roller coaster ride for the travel industry and the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA). And, we’ve been promised that more is yet to come.
Although these are exciting times for both the travel agent and the traveller, sometimes we all just need the travel agent to simply be ‘human’ again.
No more lost bags thanks to Blockchain technology
Blockchain technology is expected to truly revolutionise the travel industry in the years to come. In combination with biometrics, this technology could soon take the hassle out of identity management.
It could tokenise frequent flyer programmes. Imagine that your miles were accrued in real-time, and there was a community-driven market place for you to use them instead of the limited spend options made available by individual airlines?
Baggage tracking and handling could be considerably enhanced. Picture a shared distributed ledger used between airports where details of any bag are automatically logged on a blockchain, making it much easier for everyone to track the bag.
Quick and easy answers with chatbots
Travel chatbots have already made an impact on the way we travel. These virtual assistants are the perfect answer for the modern business traveller, who checks their smartphone on average 34 times a day.
Bots are also a dream-come-true for the ASATA travel agent, as these automated assistants can answer common queries and support the entire booking process. This means call volumes can be significantly reduced as ASATA travel professionals don’t need to answer simple questions about policy or travel options.
Also for the traveller, a chatbot is easier as policies and baggage information is readily available at all times.
Getting through the airport without speaking to a human
Singapore’s Changi Airport spent more than two years constructing its long-awaited Terminal 4, which cost nearly $1 billion and opened at the end of last year. The idea behind the world’s highest-ranked airport is “fast and seamless travel”.
While passenger check-in kiosks are not new, Terminal 4 has these kiosks everywhere with no human in sight. There are even automated kiosks to handle checked luggage.
An increasing number of airports around the world have started using robots for cleaning, interacting with passengers and even law enforcement
Sometimes, we just need a human
Sometimes however, travellers just need a human. A bot will be able to make suggestions for hotels and attractions based on your preferences, but an ASATA travel consultant will be able to tell you that the ice cream from the little vendor on the Montmartre in Paris is so much better than the one at the Eiffel Tower.
Sometimes travellers want to speak to a human to know where best to spend their frequent flyer miles or stress the importance of that lost luggage. Or, they would like to see a friendly face when they’re making their way through the airport.
Bots are also not equipped to know when to make an exception. That’s a human’s job. The human steps in when you miss a flight to your daughter’s wedding. While the bot may help you rebook, it’s the human-to-human sympathy when you call an ASATA representative that will give a brand it’s customer service cred. Do you really want to speak to a bot when you’ve had an accident overseas, when you’re flight is stranded because of adverse weather conditions or in the worst-case-scenario if a terror attack has taken place at your destination?
Automation is great and without a doubt the way of the future. However, it’s important we don’t automate the fun out of life either, as Professor of Psychology Peter Hancock puts it.
He said: “Imagine you are about to go on vacation. You have been looking forward to it for some time. But your robotic personal assistant has other ideas. It calmly explains to you that it will be cheaper, safer and more efficient for it to take your place on the holiday trip. The ultimate question is not whether life can become more automated – but rather whether it should.”