OMG: Taken a virtual trip anywhere fun lately? But seriously: The future of travel agents is both exciting and exacting, as they navigate a rapidly changing digital landscape and shifting consumer preferences. Happily, there’s no one better poised to build trust and loyalty with customers – and by doing so, industry pros can remain relevant and effective in this dynamic industry. Ultimately, the future of travel agents will be characterized by a commitment to excellence and adaptation, as I’ll explain further below.

Case in point: The future of travel agents will encompass leveraging digital tools and platforms to streamline their operations and enhance the customer experience. For instance, service providers can use social media platforms to engage with customers, build brand awareness, and promote their services. They can also tap into mobile apps and websites to allow customers to access their services and book travel from anywhere, at any time. In addition, travel agents will have the option to rely on customer relationship management (CRM) software to track customer preferences and booking history, allowing them to provide more personalized and relevant recommendations.

On top of this, as consumers increasingly prioritize sustainable and responsible tourism though, travel agents will need to incorporate these considerations into their recommendations and offerings. This will require travel agents to develop a deep understanding of sustainability issues, such as carbon emissions, waste reduction, and community engagement, and to identify suppliers and partners who share these values. By prioritizing sustainability and responsible tourism, however, even veteran operators in the space will find new ways to differentiate themselves from competitors and provide customers with more meaningful and authentic travel experiences.

I’d also argue that, at heart, the future of travel agents will continue to be defined by their ability to provide expertise and personalization to their customers. While online travel booking platforms offer convenience and flexibility, they lack the personal touch and tailored recommendations that travel agents can provide. By developing a deep understanding of individual shoppers’ preferences and travel goals, leaders I the field can offer customized itineraries and experiences that are tailored to their customers’ unique needs. They can also provide expert advice on destinations, travel logistics, and cultural considerations, enhancing the overall travel experience for the folks that they serve.

Let’s be real though: In a crowded and competitive marketplace, getting ahead tomorrow will depend entirely on one’s ability to build trust and loyalty with their customers, however. Travel agents are going to have to prioritize transparency, honesty, and open communication in their interactions with shoppers, building long-term relationships based on mutual respect and trust. They must also stay informed about emerging trends and developments in the travel industry, demonstrating their expertise and adding value to their customers’ travel experiences if they want to survive (and thrive!) in the new normal.