Swords Travel co-director Mark Swords shares his dream of being able to manage a client’s booking journey from start to finish on just one system

Technology in the travel industry has developed so much in the last 20 years, but I can’t help feeling that our day-to-day processes can take way too long and that there must be better, more efficient ways to manage things.

From a tour operator point of view, there are some great systems for agents to use, including those run by the likes of Jetset, Travel 2 and Aviate, which I would say are some of the most accessible ones available in the market.

Of course, others are a little less developed, but I can totally understand why – the cost to build these kind of systems and to develop and maintain them is high.

Integrated systems

I’ve always been a bit of a tech geek when it comes to travel systems as I really value anything that makes mine and my team’s lives easier on a day-to-day basis. We use a variety of systems to manage our client’s journey from start to finish, but none of the systems talk to one another.

My goal over the coming years is to find a good-quality back-office quoting and customer relationship management system that works as one without me having to manually load lots of data.

“Each year I go to the travel technology show and I love attending just to see what the latest innovations or gadgets are on the market.”

I’ve had numerous meetings with and presentations from tech suppliers; however, I am yet to see something that really excites me and makes me want to invest.

Each year I go to the travel technology show and I love attending just to see what the latest innovations or gadgets are on the market. Last year there was a company selling interactive coffee tables for retail stores that had touchscreens built in – what a wonderful way to present ideas to your clients. They even had a small child-friendly version to keep the kids occupied while in the store.

There are so many providers at these events so if you’re looking for something different to make your company stand out – it’s well worth a visit.

Build it yourself

One idea I had that I am still keen to explore is to get a group of like‑minded agents, tour operators and sales teams to create a system and have it custom-made.

The challenge to this is cost, but also, we all know how quickly technology becomes outdated. One of the biggest challenges for an agency business is not only the upfront cost of a new system, but the ongoing development costs; if you want the slightest thing changing or updating, it can cost you an arm and a leg.

“One of the biggest challenges for an agency business is not only the upfront cost of a new system, but the ongoing development costs.”

Our consortium (The Travel Network Group) is just about to launch a system that should help with a lot of the above and I’m really excited to see how this will work in our business.

I would also be really intrigued to see what other agents think and how they use technology in their day-to-day business.


Osaka-SHUTTERSTOCK

New year, new destinations

Last January, the majority of our clients chose Europe for their summer holiday, with Greece holding the number-one spot. What I noticed this January is that the destinations clients are travelling to seem to be a lot more diverse.

We’ve had everything from last-minute Japan bookings to The Gambia. There seems to be much more of a surge of clients looking to try new places and travel farther – even customers with young children. Long may this continue, as it’s so nice to be able to sell more varied options.