Embedded in the living memory of many travel advisors from Tallahassee to Timbuktu is a time when the height of technology was a fax machine and an electric pencil sharpener. “To say we’ve come a long way is an understatement,” says Brenda Ajay of Allegro Luxury Vacations & Magic Family Travel, based in Altoona, Pa. “Today’s tech tools have made our jobs so much easier, helping us in ways such as allowing all sorts of comprehensive customer data to be at our fingertips when we need it.”
Ajay, whose specialties include accessibility/special needs, cruises and destination weddings, notes that streamlining operations is key as competition has grown and travel has surged back post pandemic. “I’m so busy lately that being able to communicate quickly with clients and suppliers when away from my office via cellphone and iPad is crucial.”
Indeed, the increased popularity of mobile applications is one of the top travel industry technology trends of 2023, according to Cruise Planners® (CP), a global network of travel-advisor franchises that specialize in booking worldwide luxury vacations, cruises, tours and more. CP’s own CP Maxx mobile app lets clients book activities, is integrated with Yelp for recommendations while traveling, and keeps important documents and travel schedules all in one place.
Other trends cited by Cruise Planners includes the increased use of augmented reality and virtual reality to create immersive experiences that travel advisors can use to attract clients, whether exploring a tropical beach, taking a close-up look at a famous architectural landmark, or providing an interactive experience for activities such as zip-lining through a forest or scuba diving in an exotic location.
Polly Hemstock, owner of a Cruise Planners franchise based in Oakland Park, Fla., says that a continued improvement in booking technology across all the major cruise lines, airlines and land/tour operators has been invaluable. “In addition, videoconferencing exploded during the pandemic and gave us a world of new opportunities for both learning and client contact, and recent tech improvements in areas such as prescheduled credit card payments have eased much of the burden of tracking payment dates.”
Hemstock also notes that having access to Cruise Planners network’s technology is a big help. “They keep improving ways to track and manage our business with tools such as LivePlanner and the Amenity Tracker [see sidebar]. Advances like these provide travel advisors the opportunity to demonstrate our knowledge and expertise as well as the value we add — not to mention a reduction in the endless hours we might spend on hold waiting to get answers to issues or client questions.”
“For me, the ability to research destinations is a key way I use tech,” notes Elisa Knight, a travel advisor with Act Now Travel, LLC, in Falls Church, Va. “Lately, there has been an exponential increase in the variety and quality of information available online, from maps to tourism boards, that helps me to better plan itineraries for clients.”
Technology also came to the rescue when the pandemic presented unique imperatives for travel advisors. “During the peak of Covid, I actually paid for an online service to keep me up to date on travel restrictions around the world,” says Alex Ziselman of Staten Island, N.Y.-based A2 Z Travel Design. “Now that the worst is over, I especially enjoy the face-to-face communications I can do with partners around the world.
“I only wish more tour operators and destinations, especially smaller ones, would keep up with the increased abilities that tech can allow,” Ziselman adds, “especially when it comes to room inventory, so I know at once whether a destination or venue is viable.”