What should travel agencies do?!

*English version below

Ce ar trebui sa faca companiile de turism?!

Am tot vazut zilele astea, in contextul raspandirii globale a noului coronavirus, un mesaj propagat in social media care ne indeamna sa nu anulam rezervarile ci sa le reprogramam astfel incat sa salvam turismul! La prima vedere este un mesaj nobil, constructiv si mobilizator. Doar ca dupa ce am analizat putin am ajuns la concluzia ca este  absolut inutil. In acest sens o sa va aduc in discutie trei aspecte.

Primul dintre ele este  acela ca turismul nu o sa moara niciodata, nu are nevoie sa fie salvat. O sa existe atata timp cat o sa existam si noi oamenii. Ca ma plimb prin parcul de langa mine sau ca strabat jumatate de glob, tot turism se numeste. Clientii, adica noi cei care calatorim, prin anularea rezervarilor nu renuntam la turism ci doar amanam calatoriile. Si e normal sa facem asta. E perfect normal ca starea de nesiguranta indusa de incertitudinea a ceea ce va fi si mai ales de durata acesteia sa ne determine sa ne revizuim prioritatile. In momentul in care ne vom simti din nou confortabil sa calatorim o vom face cu siguranta. Cine din industria turismului ne garanteaza o data sau o alta destinatie sigura 100% astfel incat sa reprogramam rezervarile? Aaa… anularile noastre vor produce o ruptura in planul economic sau in fluxul de numerar al agentilor economici din turism este perfect adevarat. Acest lucru se intampla insa, din pacate, cu toate domeniile de activitate chiar daca nu in aceeasi masura si, ceea ce conteaza in final pentru noi, clientii turismului, ca ni se intampla si noua fiecaruia ca individ.

Un al doilea aspect este al furnizorilor de servicii turistice: spatii de cazare, companii aeriene etc. Cum spuneam mai devreme, trec printr-o perioada dificila. Dar cei mai multi vor supravietui. Unii cu siguranta nu o vor face. Dar in locul lasat liber de acestia din urma vor aparea altii.

Cel din urma aspect si totodata cel mai important pentru mine, este ca acest mesaj este promovat cu precadere de agentiile de turism, nu de furnizorii de servicii. Aici intr-adevar lucrurile sunt mult mai complicate. Agentiile de turism sunt in impas, dar nu datorita pandemiei de coronavirus. Nu este nimic mai fals decat sa afirmi asta. Agentiile de turism sunt in cadere libere in ultimii ani, acum doar a crescut viteza. Sa fim seriosi! Cand am intrat fizic ultima data in biroul unei agentii de turism? Eu acum mai bine de 15 ani. Indiferent de cat de frumos isi impacheteaza ele portofoliul de servicii, pana la urma rolul lor esential este (sau mai bine spus era) sa puna in legatura furnizorii de servicii de turism cu clientii, adica cu noi, turistii. Si in contextul actual, evolutia tehnologica ii sare din ce in ce mai mult din schema. Agentiile de turism care s-au mutat in mediul online si-au prelungit putin viata. Rezervare la hotel folosind  o agentie on-line am mai facut, recunosc. Dar incet, incet si piata acestora se diminueaza. E chestiune de timp pana cand nu o sa mai avem nevoie nici de ele si ne vom facem toate rezervarile online direct la furnizori (fie ele hoteluri, linii aeriene si asa mai departe)

Ce trebuie atunci sa faca agentiile de turism? Sa isi gaseasca o noua viziune, o noua misiune chiar, sa se reinventeze! Cum anume? Nu stiu raspunsul… poate sa migreze total dinspre activitatea de rezervare spre cea de  consultanta , sa gaseasca nise de clienti din ce in ce mai inguste (persoane cu dizabilitati, persoane care calatoresc singure?!), sa gaseasaca posibilitati de a integra tehnologia in activitatea lor (cum ar fi sa imi ofere posibilitatea de a experimenta in VR hotelul pe care mi-l propun, sau obiectivele de vizitat?). Sa gaseasca acel serviciu  la care eu, turistul, nu pot ajunge singur. E greu, stiu asta… dar, daca nu o sa gaseasca raspunsul , o sa dispara. Si asta se va intampla fara sa fie nevoie de vreo pandemie globala!

What should travel agencies do ?!

I’ve seen these days, in the context of the global spread of the new coronavirus, a message propagated in the social media that urges us not to cancel the reservations but to reschedule them so as to save the tourism! At first sight it is a noble, constructive and mobilizing message. Only after analyzing a little I came to the conclusion that it is absolutely useless. In this regard I will bring you three aspects into discussion.

The first is that tourism will never die, it does not need to be saved. It will exist as long as there are human beings. Like walking through the park next to me or crossing the globe, it is tourism also. We, clients, those who travel, by canceling reservations we do not give up tourism, but only postponements. And it’s normal to do that. It is perfectly normal for the state of uncertainty induced by the uncertainty of what will be and especially for its duration to cause us to review our priorities. When we feel comfortable again we will definitely travel. Who from the tourism industry guarantees us at one time or another a 100% secure destination to reschedule reservations? Ahh … our cancellations will produce a break in the economic plan or in the cash flow of the tourism economic agents is perfectly true. This is, however, unfortunately, with all areas of activity even if not to the same extent and, what ultimately matters to us, the clients of tourism, as it happens to us and to each individual.

A second aspect is of the tourism service providers: accommodation, airlines etc. As I said earlier, they are going through a difficult time. But most will survive. Some of them certainly won’t. But in the place left by the latter others will appear.

The last aspect and also the most important thing for me, is that this message is promoted mainly by the travel agencies, not by the service providers. Here, in fact, things are much more complicated. Travel agencies are deadlocked, but not because of the coronavirus pandemic. There is nothing more false than saying that. Travel agencies have been falling free in recent years, now only the speed has increased. Let’s be serious! When did I last physically enter the office of a travel agency? I have been here for over 15 years. Regardless of how beautiful they package their service portfolio, in the end their essential role is (or better said it was) to connect tourism service providers with customers, tourists. And in the current context, technological evolution is increasingly skipping them. Travel agencies that have moved into the online environment have extended their lives a little. Booking at the hotel using an online agency I have done, I admit. But slowly, slowly and their market is shrinking. It is a matter of time until we no longer need them and make our all online reservations directly with the providers (be they hotels, airlines and so on). What should travel agencies do then? To find a new vision, even a new mission, to reinvent themselves! What exactly? I do not know the answer … they can migrate completely from the booking activity to the consulting one, find more and more niche clients (people with disabilities, people traveling alone ?!), find possibilities to integrate technology into the theirs activity (like giving me the opportunity to experience in VR the hotel I propose, or the objectives to visit?). To find that service that I, the tourist, cannot reach alone. It’s hard, I know that … but, if they doesn’t find the answer, they will disappear. And this will happen without the need for a global pandemic!

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