Don’t blink | TravelResearchOnline

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Don’t blink

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Does anyone remember that line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Well, that was 23 years ago and perhaps more now than ever it is applicable to your travel business. For decades, travel professionals were so far ahead of the technology curve. Back in the 1970s, we were one of the first industries to place a computer on a desktop thanks to the generosity of our former partners—the airlines. But this is the 21st century and technology has been moving at blinding speed. Indeed, life is moving pretty fast.

Today, I want to pick on Google. I firmly believe that at one point, Google will take over the world and we all will become cabana boys and girls for Larry and Sergey. I say that partly in jest, but I want to highlight an example of some Google technology that just decimated an entire industry.

Yesterday, Android was launched. Android is a mobile phone operating system that is designed to compete head to head with Apple’s iPhone software. From what I see it does a good job and then some. The beauty of this software is that it is “open source” allowing others to modify the code to suit their specific needs (see Chelle Honiker-Yarbrough’s column for a more geeky explanation).  But one of the standard applications that comes with the software on the phone is a version of Google Maps. Oh, and they are also including satellite maps, real time traffic data, and street view–check it out. Imagine looking down at your phone that will give you turn by turn directions, show you a map, and in case you need more it will show you a photograph of your exact location. The shareholders of Garmin and TomTom did—and their stocks instantly plunged 16% and 21% on the news. Standalone GPS units have essentially become redundant overnight!

Don’t let that happen to you. We no longer have airline “partners” to keep us on the cutting edge of technology. That chore now falls soundly in our collective laps. How many more times do agents need to be warned about the perils of not embracing social networking? How many agents will lose business because they do not send an electronic newsletter to their clients and prospects regularly? How many agents will give up and quit because they did not have the insight to embrace a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) program such as ClientBase? And even more frightening, how many of us will be caught with our pants down when a company like Google decides to offer an “Agency Killer” program? I am not suggesting that the end is near for our industry—we have survived far worse calamities.

The secret is to be prepared. Think ahead. What conveniences do our customers seek? What might they seek? Look at today’s technology and try to spot the trends. iPhones and smart phones are all the rage; they put a huge dent in the Blackberry market. Browse the Apple App store to see what is available out there. There are applications for subway mapping in most major cities, restaurant reviews and recommendations, and much more. Go to Google and keep tabs on their Google Labs and see what is in the works—right now City Tours, Places Directory,  and My Maps Editor for Android seem like they are watch worthy!

And even though Ferris, Cameron and Sloane all had their day off nearly a quarter century ago, their advice was very prescient. Even Cameron came around when he said “I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.” What about you?

  4 thoughts on “Don’t blink

  1. Of course you’re right tghat we as agents need to keep our “powder dry” and be up to date on how we distribute products and services but the fundamental service that we provide is not travel products but risk management. The costs of travel can always be refunded one way or another but the time involved once spent is gone forever. The savy customer is aware that scmas abound but an agency is in place to right any wrongs that may have presented themselves. We come to the table with responsibility. When you push the buttons you absorb the risk. You have just one shot at the last two weeks in August. Want to absorb that risk? Or assign it?

  2. Technology is a tool. It is wise to use it to our advantage. Whether it’s Google or Twitter or Facebook I look to see what it can and can’t do for me and for the consumer. The website or cell phone that can actually respond to customers has yet to be invented. The best service will always be human and there will always be a niche for it.

  3. John Frenaye says:

    Of course. However, look at the dent that technology has made in our collective business in the last 15 years. Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak, etc.

    While the website or cell phone that can respond to customers does not exist, it is foolish for us to think that it can never exist!

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