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The travel retailer of the future

The travel retailer of the future

Graham Nichols explains how the principles of design thinking are being used to revive the travel agency model

The Gulf’s travel industry has become a buyer’s market, and businesses now need to redesign how they engage with consumers both online and offline to ensure survival.

As just one example, most travellers between the age of 20 and 30 have never set foot in a physical travel agency before. Nonetheless, they’re certainly spending on cross-border adventures and new experiences. Expenditure on outbound travel from the Middle East alone is expected to reach $165.3bn by 2025, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

As agencies look to redefine their proposition for the region’s growing market of travellers, Amadeus partnered with The Sustainable Design School (The SDS) to understand the travel buying experience, and investigate impactful approaches. In specific, we asked The SDS to use scenario planning to map trends and devise potential pathways to create a solution tailored to travellers’ evolving needs – resulting in the report The Traveller Retailer of the Future.

Essentially, new generations want to have emotional experiences while still being in control of their travel decisions. Almost half of the consumers we surveyed planned travel activities by browsing non-travel specific sites on the Internet, and 50 per cent found travel inspiration primarily through their social network. The consumer journey does not end there; 57 per cent planned and organised their trip primarily on travel websites.

So, how can one of the world’s top travel markets – with individuals who want to be inspired by real experiences – be provided with something more than glossy brochures filled with photoshopped imagery? What retail approach will lay out the necessary trail of breadcrumbs for present and future travellers?

Redesigned travel agencies

A new concept store model is already on the horizon, built around a physical space that will hone in on the digital native’s need for human connections. This would be a space where people can relax, meet others, hang out, read books, or even work. For an additional human experience, travel consultants within the store would be empowered to design travel experiences through real-time access to the latest booking and travel systems anywhere in the world.

Redesigned mobile experiences

The store model of the future needs to synch with a multi-channel digitalised approach, such as a mobile app that connects potential travellers with the travel consultant and the wider adventure community. This will complement the physical store by offering an on-the-go platform. With the GCC’s high mobile penetration rates, it would be difficult to differentiate a service without a connected mobile channel.

Redesigned field marketing

Marketers are already exploring the production of moving retail spaces that will help consumers determine the type of vacation that best matches their profile. Making use of today’s hectic schedules, this space can be a hop-on/hop-off bus that offers travellers the convenience of a ride, with an opportunity to become better informed of their travel options as a group. Other ‘transportable’ retail outlets could include a solar-powered capsule that provides a virtual but intimate 360-degree immersive experience – from a first-class cabin to a luxury hotel suite. These capsules are designed to be set up where consumers frequent, from music festivals to art venues.

Travel builds economies, broadens culture and creates connections between societies. An industry that important deserves design thinking.

Graham Nichols is managing director of Amadeus Gulf

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