What was OctopusTravel has now become a GTA booking portal called TravelCube, this according to Travel Weekly. However, appropriate a rebrand is, the question arises; “What’s the best travel agent conduit to success?”
OctopusTravel morphing into TravelCube is interesting news for several reasons. First, with the travel agent profession under a bit of pressure via direct digital connect channels and services, it’s logical to see emerge rebranding exercises and even agent startups geared to boost or accentuate the value proposition these professionals afford travelers. Secondly, the integration of agent member lists and platforms with APIs such as the just announced one with technology company RateGain , these and other “collaborations” can propel companies like global travel wholesaler GTA, farther forward into the overall booking prospectus.
However, useful and appropriate such moves may be now, the reality for the travel agent professional is, this all my be “too little too late” as the world shifts to full mobile. On the TravelCube slash RateGain moves, Hotel News Source has it that:
- GTA’s Supplier XML Application Program Interface (API) is an easy to use and seamless point of access to GTA’s systems
- It helps hotels keep their availability and rates up to date and better manage reservations
- It makes information about RateGain’s hotel clients immediately available to tens of thousands of travel selling businesses using GTA’s booking systems
Is a “seamless point of access to GTA’s systems” enough to do much of anything for regions such as the recently announced “Balkans” region? Let me emphasize a bit of smoke and mirrors here. Quoting the release from GTA and Fabio Maran, GTA’s Vice President for Sales, Europe South:
“Although still an emerging opportunity, the Balkans’ potential is rising. International travel is increasingly accessible and affordable, but while the internet is important for trip planning, few people in the Balkans pay online and travel is typically booked and paid for with a travel agent.www.TravelCube.com is trusted to deliver by the retail travel trade because of its wealth of experience, privileged relationships and on the ground expertise. Extending our network in the Balkans by adding services for retail travel agents alongside our already successful wholesale business will further support the region’s tourism economy.”
Let me be blunt. Maran is speaking in regress of an “unwired” Balkans perceived today, using the “Internet” terminology to fill in a press release, perhaps? The future of Balkans bookings, like those everywhere else, is probably not via guided packages and boat loads of old folks begging experience. Mobile penetration in this region actually surpasses many others, Montenegro, for one, having exceeded 200 percent as far back as 2011. The point here being, this news release aimed at travel agents was obsolete before it came out.
We’ve seen some super useful tools for professional travel agents created these last few years. Agent support documentation and outreach such as IAVRA, those provide by mainstream entities like Norwegian Cruise Lines, software solutions such as Capterra and others offer, all these help agents leverage tech, but not one conclusively. A Google search for “travel agent” will reveal somebody at Harvey World Travel did their SEO homework, no matter how delicious the deals may appear, soon the “connected traveler” is going to just outright ignore Web 1.0 websites. Honestly, I am amazed so many such crappy travel interdictions still even exist. Even remarkable TUI is far behind the curve providing what’s needed.
Croatian had 150% mobile penetration back in 2009, Albania 114%, T-Mobile alone in Macedonia serves everyone there essentially, while other Balkan nations show similar adaptation to mobile technologies. My point here being, travel agents need to be focused on what’s coming, not what’s “appears” to be here now. I reference my friend Brian Solis again here, principal strategist for Altimeter Group and adviser to a heap of billion dollar corporations:
“It is still largely assumed that people on mobile devices represent the minority of web users and thus require less focus and resources than those who use desktop or laptop PCs. But with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, the balance is shifting. The question is; have you revisited your web and mobile strategies to meet the needs and expectations of your connected customers?”
Let me sum up by pointing out too, hitching your travel agency horses to a dinosaur is not exactly futuristic travel excellence. GTA hasn’t even a social media presence, nor does TravelCube, in as far as I can tell. Does this make those entities a zero value proposition? Absolutely not. However, the way in which such companies approach business, either from a “user-centric” approach, or simply out of necessity – this is fundamental to predicting success. Bottom line, the Titanic sank with a lot of perfectly talented swimmers on board.
I hate to be so negative about travel news, but I’ve also seldom been wrong about companies needing to converge with cutting edge digital strategies. GTA Travel has 190 likes on Facebook. TravelCube UK took the time to create a profile, barely. You travel agents out there, sad to say GTA is not the only dinosaur walking the landscape.
Globus, CCRA Travel Solutions, even the American Society of Travel Agents, you’ll have a go of it finding a wide spectrum agent connection out there, one that truly embraces integrated channel management at least. Even those with an understanding of convergent business, like ASTA above with a notion of Twitter, none I am aware of combine their expertise with PR, marketing, advertising, and especially not social media experiences.
I’ll be interested to see the response to this critique. For travel agents to continue to prosper, in a new age of guest and vacationer shared experience, the old ways need more than modification. More the protracting, as I feel is the case for many still.
“What’s the best travel agent conduit to success?” That’s invisible, so far.