Automation is redefining time, resources, and operational management for all business verticals. The travel industry is one of the first ones to adopt and implement this innovation.
However, business transformation and upgrade isn’t as simple as it sounds on paper. Travel automation is the future but it needs careful consideration at several levels. For example, automation of a travel booking site needs integration of occupancy sensors, inventory analyzers, chatbots, GDSs, marketing monitors, pre and post-sale service automation, and much more.
You need to see if you have enough funds and resources to implement full-scale automation. Also, check if you know how to prioritize the process and align it with your business objectives? See if your business is ready for it. And this is just the preliminary process, to begin with.
Operational optimization is a step by step approach that involves careful screening of every small and big process before deciding if it needs automation or not. Then you need to work on skill gaps, manage funds, hire new talent, and establish technology partnerships to make it a fully-functional part of your business cycle.
So, what’s the best approach to automation in tourism industry?
A simple approach is to assess the impact of automation on various stages of the business. Let’s begin from the basics:
Automation Of The Pricing Strategy:
It is not easy to chart and market a pricing strategy in the fiercely competitive online world. All deals and discounts are constantly screened and compared by end-users. You can’t risk going for random pricing or overlooking standard prices set by your competitors. An automated price tracking software will allow you to monitor all competitors’ pricing and devise your own strategy to counter those figures. Make sure that you feed your software with correct data from time to time otherwise it may present you with wrong figures setting a path for new disasters.
Establish 24/7 Support:
It is one of those things that can’t be left entirely to automated software. Chatbots and widgets are all good till you need to answer simple queries but travel plans seldom go as planned. So, can you leave it on a machine to resolve any last-moment crisis? Maybe with lots of machine-learning and AI inputs over a period of time. But then, can a business survive so many rounds of hits and trials?
If your services transcend time zones, boundaries, and last-minute scheduling, you will need a strong support team round the clock to resolve major obstructions in the process. You will need software that sends an alert to its human agents as soon as something goes wrong. Lacking good customer support can lead to serious repercussions and easily drop your ratings within a few days. Make sure you find the right balance between human and machine support on this front.
Find A Consolidated Platform:
Travel management is a multi-faceted process that needs simplification at both ends. For example, signing up for a travel package should not entail opening and closing multiple tabs, emails, SMSs and messages. It is not easy to locate emails and messages in a cluttered inbox, act on them, and then bypass multiple password setups, and checks to finalize one purchase.
A consolidated travel management system means centralization of all relevant information in one place. The user should be able to see all bookings, schedulings, fares, and plan comparisons in one place. And as a service provider, it must show you all bookings, schedules, expenses, and traveller’s information in one place. Expense tracking has been one of the most sought-after features for automation in travel industry, make sure the platform you select has one.
Set Up Policies To Optimize Operational Efficiency:
It is important to create a setup that employees can follow during the booking process. It also clarifies the options to a traveller who knows which plan works under a specified set of conditions.
For instance, for your own employees, an upper limit can be set for hotel charges for business travel along with a maximum number of days. Once the parameters are in place, the hotel booking automation tool wouldn’t let users bypass the set limit.
Policy setup is a complicated task that needs provision for various scenarios like emergencies, holidays, season discounts, etc. But once you accomplish the task, the automated travel management would work as per your expectations.
Automate Pre and Post Booking Services:
Post booking period is a labour intensive phase with endless tasks like queue management, fare comparison after ticket booking, staying in touch with the client, keeping hotels in the loop, checking reservation accuracy, and so on. It only seems rational to bring in a scalable Global Distribution System (GDS) that supports all your post-sale services. Automation of these tasks will reduce the effort of your team and prevent human errors to a considerable extent. Travel marketing automation is another version of this system that is equally effective in reducing laborious tasks like sending trip notifications, best offers, and relevant information to subscribed users.
What’s The Best Time To Pursue Automation?
Automation is an advanced stage measure that works only when your business has a firm foothold in your niche. If you automate in the beginning, you may end up exhausting a big part of your budget on something that wasn’t ready to yield a return on your investment. Therefore, a better approach is to create engagement through Ad campaigns, SEO, social media, blogging, and other means and get a head start on your consumer base.
You can think of automation when your portal starts getting decent traction and maintains it at an accelerating pace for some time. Till then keep working on traditional inexpensive, low-risk solutions to optimize your operational efficiency.
Proper knowledge of where your company stands on the automation map and where it will be in near future can save you from committing blunders in terms of investment. Lastly, make sure to test the automated process for some time before full-scale implementation. More importantly, take it slow, understand the process, its implications and change if you find a better version of the technology you are using.