LAS VEGAS – The CEO of the largest online travel company is confident that traditional travel advisors will continue to thrive.
Responding to a question from a reporter at the company's Explore 19 conference, Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom said, "I think that traditional travel agents have carved out a great place for themselves. There's still a need for agents in complex travel -- the complex trips that are multi-legged that include many different stops. Things like cruise."
I think what we've seen in the industry is the simple stuff has gone online, and when we look at our customers who are texting with us, a lot of it is very simple requests,
Expedia research shows that two-thirds of their customers would prefer to communicate with agents via chat or text rather than voice when they have questions. But Okerstrom said that such results aren't reflective of more involved itineraries.
Expedia owns ExpediaCruiseShipCenters, and Okerstrom noted that the travel agency franchise has about 300 locations staffed by some 7,000 agents -- infrastructure that is necessary since a cruise can be a more complex purchase than a simple hotel-air trip.
"I think what we've seen in the industry is the simple stuff has gone online, and when we look at our customers who are texting with us, a lot of it is very simple requests," Okerstrom said.
Such requests often deal with making a booking, changing a booking or cancelling one.
The complex trip -- the 10-day, multi-country itinerary with scheduled activities -- is tough for a traveller to do online, according to Expedia.
"That's still a great place for offline travel agents," Okerstrom said.
Expedia Group, which ranked first on Travel Weekly's 2019 Power List, had sales of US$99 billion in 2019. It owns several large OTAs, including Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Orbitz and Hotwire.