For sellers and suppliers of travel in general and air in
particular, there are many criteria that define the approach to tech and that can
inform the choice of vendor. One factor
is whether it is best to opt for an approach and partner who is “wide” across
many touchpoints or one with a “deep” level of knowledge drilling down into a
number of specific and complicated business needs. 

Depth of knowledge

The width or depth arguments take on another layer when you
consider how much tech is involved in the search, shop, book, pay and servicing
of air travel. There are many admirable tech companies in our sector with
impressive product portfolios that go wide across the airline industry offering
IT solutions for airlines, distribution options for sellers and agents, with
some mid- and back-office thrown in. Often these wide businesses have interests
other than air.

But for many businesses selling air, a better option might
be to consider tech that can go deep, to find a vendor with the expertise to
fulfill a specific need.

By opting for a vendor who has deep knowledge, businesses
can be confident in the quality of their offering to travelers and perhaps
double down and grow that segment of the business.

Sellers who embrace the targeted expertise of specialist
vendors often end up uncovering new ways of doing business as a result of their
vendor’s experience. 

Meanwhile, in an era where talent recruitment and retention
are a challenge, vendors having a very specific approach often find it easier
to identify and employ subject matter experts and give them the chance to work
for a business that values their
expertise and will encourage further professional development around their specialized

Clarity of purpose

The clarity of purpose that deep businesses bring means that
when something rises from the depths – could be a positive, could be a negative
– then you have the ability and insights to help your clients ride the
tailwinds or avoid the headwinds.

This idea of something “rising from the depths” is a
constant concern in air, because the airline industry is always in a state of
flux, with something new round the corner. This could be a new standard, consolidations, collapses and new carriers or new regulations. External pressures – global macroeconomics and geopolitics – are also
an ever-present consideration.

But there is an irony in that, while we accept that there is
always something new happening in air, we must also accept that things can
change very slowly. There is a legacy way of thinking that still exists within
the industry, and it can be a challenge to convince an individual or business
to change from something familiar to something new, even if the benefits of
doing business differently are evident and quantifiable.

Embracing change

Changing business processes can take time, even when the
benefits are obvious. Take automation as an example. Automation is an
enterprise business trend that is present across all verticals. The technology
behind robotic process automation (RPA) is mature, and many businesses are
using this tech to automate repetitive tasks and streamline the mid- and
back-processes involved in air bookings, of which there are many!

But we believe that the possibilities for automation in air
extend way beyond current use cases. Interconnectivity via push and pull APIs
means that processes usually designated front-office can also be automated.
Booking the cheapest flight option available at the time, while allowing
flexibility to change if the price drops while keeping open the possibility of
an upsell, has traditionally been the domain of the travel agent or air
department in the cruise line or tour operator call center.   

Today, APIs are smart enough to allow business rules to be
applied so that bookings can be automated as efficiently and as successfully as
the mid- and back-office functions.

Automation can free up staff to engage with part of the
business where their time is spent on tasks that add value and that have the
potential to be more rewarding and fulfilling on a personal level. Removing the
repetitive tasks from an employee’s to-do list can help retention and make
cross-training and upskilling more focused.

Overall, the market for air tech is so vast that there is
room for vendors of all shapes and flavors. Thinking in terms of wide or deep
might be a good place to start for sellers and suppliers when considering how
to take their business forward.


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