To think that the days of traditional reservations agents are dead is both exactly right and exactly wrong.
Technology may be moving at break-neck speed, but the trusted voice channel is still alive and well. The phones still ring—a lot.
Over half of reservations are still booked via the phone, but it’s all more efficient now that travelers do much of their research online (much of it via a mobile device) before calling.
Travelers are also keen on mobile click-to-call capabilities with 52% reporting they will call directly from a search to make a hotel reservation, 50% saying they will call to inquire about promotions via click-to-call, and 65% reporting they will use it to make changes to their reservation (The Role of Click-to-Call in the Path to Purchase).
The role of the reservations agent is still essential, but it needs to change. It seems to have been disregarded for many years, as hotels and vacation rentals shifted their focus to digital marketing and web bookings.
Reservations agents have been tucked away in the basement answering “inquiries,” while group sales managers have been upstairs handling lucrative “sales leads.” The necessary evolution of the reservations agent is to become a sales person.
Transient leisure travel is up and expected to reach record levels in 2016 and 2017, “Bleisure” is more common, and many corporate travelers and groups are going around their corporate booking mechanisms to book directly. The point is: the reservations that funnel through agents are a giant piece of the pie and should be treated accordingly.
To do so, properties must transition to a new culture, a sales culture.