By Mark Luckey @roomsxml20 Sep 2017The rate of change in the world is staggering. Where updates were once rolled out biannually, it’s now a never ending sprinted roll out of change, new features, patches and updates. That’s only the technology part. In short, its harder than ever to stay ahead in business. Revolutions were big things; they used to be every 5 or 10 years. But look at the last years alone, disruption, Uber. It changed everything, not only how we got from A to B, but the mindset of change and new opportunity. There are those whose jobs are all about finding industries that haven’t changed and radicalising them. But I digress… and should get back on track before the news editor says something like “err, Mark, this needs to be for travel agents”. I am getting there. But here at the moment is poolside in Dubai, sweating like mad in 41 degree heat following a series of tech meetings which have blown my mind. Having reviewed disruption, evolution, revolution and a series of next big things, I present to you the 5 must haves for the booming agents of the future: An Engagement Strategy Not marketing, not comms, not a facebook page, not a website, not an app. But an ideology that binds all of this together and then hides the tech. A strategy that uses tech to drive people to travel agencies for what agents will always do better than a machine; provide the human touch. What tech? Maybe start with the why… A knowledge of the “why” Expect more on this topic over time but think about it: Why is that person sitting in front of you? Why did they call you? Why do they want you rather than the other agents? Why is it you instead of a machine? Why do they want to holiday? If you know the ‘whys’, the ‘hows’ will follow. Hint: they aren’t sitting there to save a few bucks. “Hi honey, I want to save $73 this year so lets go to Fiji and book it ourselves”, said no one ever. A Priority of value over price You cannot beat a website flat out on price. Lines of code are cheaper than humans. Websites cheat to show lower prices by tracking what someone does. Phones record conversations. But what is value? Is it more for the same price? Is it service? Leg work? One way money makes people happy is when they use it to buy time. Agents can provide more for the same, save time and deliver value. Get with AI This stuff is blowing my mind right now. Chat bots, algorythms, big data, machine learning, deep learning, automation. Not so long ago it was only for the massive companies that could afford it. But its not that expensive and if thought through, phenomenally good value and a great investment. Start with a chat bot; it will sort through the tyre kickers. Think big, small companies can play this game too. A mixed workplace “Seriously Mark, they speak a different language”said Abhinav, from india, working in Dubai on chatbot and AI tech, commenting on the techo’s he deals with in their mid 20’s. “They think differently, they aren’t attached, not anchored, I have to keep saying Are we still on the same conversation”. I’ve seen some agencies do this with great effect already; hiring non agents because of their second language, their database skills or ability to draw in a new market segment. You don’t just need people who are experts in destinations but bring with them skills beyond those of a traditional agent. A team composed of a variety of skills has significantly more variables to play with when it comes to creating and exploiting new opportunities. What’s your next step to becoming a next gen travel agent? This article was brought to you by… Other stories you may like GETTIN’ APPY: APT & Travelmarvel launch personalised guest apps Contiki uses artificial intelligence to communicate with clients Did Contiki just create the world’s most blissed out Escape Room?