The supposed obsolescence of the travel agent has been a talking point since at least the early aughts.
But as any of us who travel regularly for business purposes know, the travel agency isn’t dead. It’s alive and well. For example, American Express and Concur run busy, profitable travel agencies booking flights, hotels, and rental cars — and they’re appreciated and vital resources for business travelers at companies large and small.
There’s a reason for that. They provide value — plain and simple. AmEx and Concur help travelers book more effective rates for hotels, airlines, and rental cars and an environment stacked against the traveler. That’s the value play they have versus simply selling travelers a ticket.
That’s the direction freight forwarders should be working toward. That’s what shippers will be looking for, and that’s what forwarders need to deliver. After all, what have freight forwarders always said about their business model? “We’re the travel agents of freight.”
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Forwarders must be able to do more than just sell the transportation service as a middle-person. A rates sheet and a list of carriers? Everybody has that now. Or they soon will, anyway, in the form of modern TMS platforms and algorithmic pricing data. You have to be able to provide the service and to be able to manage complex bookings. You have to demonstrate your value to shippers and that it’s worth it for them to work through you rather than some automated platform.