There used to be a myth that travel agents are lazy and while the myth may persist, it couldn't be further from the truth.
Today, travel agents, the human kind, are either corporate agents or the entrepreneurial types who are scraping as fast as they can to make a buck, euro or quid.
Frankly, in the ever urgent world of needing to make money from the shrinking pie, they have to be increasingly efficient and don't do things unless it contributes to the bottom line.
Agents are also very dependent on their GDSs, acknowledge the frailty of the system but, in the case of European agents at least, the extent of the content is barely adequate to provide ubiquitous service.
However, the increasing complexity in travel without the corresponding increases in net revenue makes for a hard life - things aren't as much fun any more and perhaps agents have an inbuilt resistance to change.
At a recent Web In Travel conference in Singapore, Gerry Samuels of Mobile Travel Technologies, told a story of how when he was asked to develop an agent mobile solution, he developed a couple of options but agents chose the familiar green screen lookalike.
And how does the consumer perceive the agent?
To gauge this, I typed “why travel agents suck” into Google and turned up a pretty significant cache of results but put it in quotes and the results drop to nine.
Contrast this with the search term “why travel agents still exist” and you get 1970 results - good news or false hope?
Part of the problem is they are choosing something familiar and don't know what will work in future.
They tend to be mired in process and the here and now, not that future state that mobile is representative of.
And, as the Boomers leave the market, older agents are retiring and dying off, imagine the new workforce coming in who won't know how to work with green screens (or even blue ones for that matter!).
Like many businesses which struggle with the evolution of technology, the travel industry has tried very hard to make mobile a cornerstone of the next generation platforms.
But. are these solutions just pursuing technology for its own sake?
Perhaps a critical question is how are we making it interesting for young people - the internet generation - to work for the industry? Can we entice them in? Or are there just too many older generations trying to migrate their business instead of allowing creation of new business?
Sadly, the position I would argue is that intermediaries didn’t realise the importance of mobile and delegated responsibility (as they have for many years) to the suppliers and now find themselves out of the loop.
Indeed by ignoring mobile agents were bypassed by the suppliers and providers who found they could go direct to the consumer and that an agent in the loop didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
There is no shortage of applications for users of travel in the mobile space, but what about the number of b2b applications for the intermediary community? Very few are operating today.
Mobile in travel has a broader meaning than just fully functioning “agent in a box” services.
Most will agree that the better apps tend to do one thing really well and travel with all its complexity is not easy to do well.
And perhaps that is the crux of this story - agents left high and dry by mobile are a victim of the evolution of travel.
NB: Image via Shutterstock