Decoding travel in digital age

Even as millennials prefer working online and booking their packages through phones or laptops, travel agents are also innovating. Agents are now more aggressively looking at sectors like corporate travel, luxury travel and cruises, shares Arshad Munir, General Manager, Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA).

TT Bureau

Tell us in brief about the agency
Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA) is a leader in the travel and tourism sector offering value for money and excellent customer service through its 14 branches in the UAE. It is also the passenger sales agent for Flynas, a privately-owned airline based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. SATA is in five Emirates in the UAE; our market share ranges from 8 per cent to 12 per cent.

What is the USP of the agency?
SATA has a very focused and active Outbound and Inbound Department. SATA’s strength has been a full-service travel agency that handles air tickets, hotel reservations, transportation, visas (with a dedicated global visa department), cruises, tours, incentive and education groups.

What are the significant changes/challenges faced by travel agents today?
The biggest challenge and change faced by travel agents is the Internet– offering wider options – more choice, price transparency, creating less dependence, thereby, less customer loyalty. It is opening avenues of greater traveller independence.

Do you think that the role of the traditional travel agent has changed?
Definitely. During the earlier days, one would head down to a local travel agent to ask questions about an exotic land far away. We get information from elsewhere now. Travel service companies need to adapt and offer something more insightful than the generic information which can be found over the internet.

What is your opinion about digital arena?
Change is inevitable. The real importance of digital to business is not in the emergence of new technology, but the importance is the shift in customer behaviour.

In your opinion what is the future of the travel agent?
The reality is that the typical travel agency which focused on point-to-point trips, is largely dead. But as online bookings have grown, new breeds of agents have emerged that target luxury, business and niche travellers who value personal relationships and expertise over savings.

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