Cape Town - Siri, Alexis, Pana. These artificial intelligence ladies have one thing in common… they are all rumoured to be to be ‘the next travel agent that you can easily fit into your pocket’.
They all promise to effortlessly and instantly book your travels at the click of a button on your smartphone or smartwatch. What’s more, they say they will listen to your and ‘understand’ your travel intent, making suggestions on possible holiday destinations.
But can these virtual ladies replace the 'real flesh' travel agent? We chatted to a few agents affiliated to the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA) to find out what they can do, that Siri (or Alexis or Pana) can’t.
1. Land you the best seats in the house
Sure, Siri can search the Internet for the best restaurants and the best seats on the plane, but can she get you that ‘impossible to get’ reservation or secure you that very best seat?
Mandy McEvoy of Club Travel Westlake uses her relationship with airline representatives to obtain the best seats for special clients. “I sometimes even get them a free pass to the business class lounge if they have a very long transit,” she says. We’d like to see Siri try…
“I will always use my knowledge to land clients the best seats in the house,” says also Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town. Did you know for example that Emirates Airlines allows clients who are registered with Skywards to be pre-seated without paying for it or having to wait until 48 hours prior to departure? Did Siri ever tell you that?
2. Give you advice from first-hand experience
Did Siri ever buy a sarong from the market in Thailand? Can she tell you which beach vendor has the best fares? Did she ever go for breakfast in Paris? Can she tell you where you can eat the most delicious croissants?
Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town explains she loves helping her clients get a feel for the destination by showing them pictures of her trips to the destination and give them advice from first-hand experience.
3. Help you make informed decisions
Is New York really the best destination for your next family trip? Is it safe? Will the city keep the kids entertained? Will you be able to get a visa in time?
“Siri cannot guarantee peace of mind or informed decision making, travel advisors can,” says Robyn Daneel-Spicer of Sure Stellenbosch Travel. “With personal experience in travel having travelled to many destinations, training in those destinations and working with travel related issues on a regular basis, travellers can rest assured that they are getting the best advice based on many levels of expertise.”
4. Re-assure you in times of emergency
“I-am-sorry-I-do-not-understand-please-help-me-my-flight-is-cancelled’ is the last thing you want to hear from your personal assistant in times of emergency.
When clients are stuck in Turkey due to bad weather conditions, they want to talk to a real-life person for advice on where to go, what to do and who can assist them on the ground, explains Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town.
5. Travel with Peace of Mind
Although Siri is a clever lady, it seems there are still a few things she can’t do, and one of them is helping you travel with Peace of Mind…. Only an ASATA travel agent can help you do that.
Agree or disagree? We'd love to hear from you - email us about the last time you either used a travel agent or successfully booked and planned your own trip.
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