Friday, June 14, 2024

Travel agents must adapt to a New Era of travel retailing

The travel industry is on the brink of a digital revolution. And while the words New Distribution Capability or NDC, no longer worries us, the reality is that there is still a large number of travel partners trying to fit in to this new norm.

Is it time to join the NDC journey or do I wait it out, is still a question to many.

Travel, as we know it as changed and today, customers are looking for a travel shopping experience that seamlessly fits their needs, conveniences and pockets.

IATA’s NDC, the travel industry’s new standard that consist of a series of XML-based schemas will enable airlines to improve how third parties, including GDSs and travel agencies, search and book flights, promises to be the answer. Developed with a goal of making shopping experiences easy and transparent while allowing product differentiation, NDC-enabled airlines have better control over what they distribute to each travel agent and ultimately what the customer has access to. For airlines, this means they become better retailers.

After decades of flying passengers across the world, airlines have realized the importance of recognizing what the customers wants, when they want it, how they want to shop and pay for it and how they expect be supported after their purchase. This means looking beyond selling seats to offering more personalized ancillaries and servicing.

Going ahead, this also means going beyond travel seats with non-air ancillaries like hotels rooms, car rentals, ground transportation and insurance.

Travel agents can access NDC content through multiple options. Determining what is best for your travel agency depends on the company’s short and long-term goals. 

Many travel agents are choosing to utilize their existing GDS to create NDC-offers. This legacy system is popular and familiar, but often means additional surcharges imposed by the airlines. Another option is to work with subscription-based aggregators. These aggregators deliver information to travel providers from airlines, who create the offers and process the actual payments. Some airlines choose to sell to travel agents directly through an API connection and others still directly through their own website.

Let us look at some of the benefits for travel agents adopting NDC:

Rich content: Travelers want simple, straight forward tailor-made experiences. They also want choices, the best price and more value for that price. While traditional GDS model can only offer prices and schedules, NDC-content allows information about services and amenities, richer content including images and videos, dynamic pricing, bundled offers and deals and personalization based on their needs and preferences. This saves travel agents the task of searching through various screen, especially when looking for added ancillaries.

Easy to book platforms: The NDC flow is simple, fast and easy-to-adapt. Despite being connected to various airline APIs, it delivers a simple, graphical workflow process for all content which will maximize efficiency. Allowing access to fare and ancillaries from multiple airlines on one screen will simplify the booking process for agents.

More choices: NDC allows access to travel content from multiple sources on one screen or API, so agents can search, compare and book content from multiple airlines including LCC airlines, on one screen. A traditional GDS screen only allows airlines to display prices and schedules, while now agents can offer seat and meal options, excess baggage, wi-fi and limousine services, branded fares and offers and much more.

Better servicing: In a post pandemic world, providing the right customer service has come out as a key differentiator in airline bookings. Travelers want all the information they can get about their flight from boarding protocols and meal options to flight change, cancellations and ancillary services selection. Airlines can now use their NDC-enabled solutions to communicate this to the customer allowing agents to focus on the business of selling and servicing .

Better pricing: With more and more airlines offering dynamic pricing, agents have the ability to create personalized fare and travel packages, customized to suit their clients. With airlines building their own own APIs, they have better control of price changes and can add more value for the price of the ticket.

This new and competitive approach to creating and distributing travel inventory is changing how agencies, GDSs, and airlines conduct business. And while the airlines and travel agents have much to benefit, the customer remains at the forefront of it all. Offering them new travel standards, efficient payment processes, personalized experience will, especially in a post-pandemic scenario is what will bring value to the business of travel.

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