Traditional travel agencies competitiveness: enhancing customer experience through innovation in physical spaces and equipment. Evidences from Italy

di Tonino Pencarelli, Laura Bravi, Mauro Dini e Simone Splendiani

presentato alla sesta conferenza annuale dell’associazione I.A.Cu.Di.T. (International Association of Cultural and Digital Tourism), 12-15 Giugno 2019, Atene


The intensive use of ICT in tourism distribution has entailed radical changes in the inter-organizational structures among companies in the supply chain, as well as in the relationship with customers. Traditional travel agencies are faced with epochal challenges that require new competitive strategies capable of overcoming the power of new online operators by leveraging the bases of their competitive advantage.

The new scenario would therefore indicate a slow and inexorable decline of every business model that hinges on the traditional methods of offering tourist packages. However, there are several studies that hypothesize hybrid models, able to exploit the competitive factors of traditional travel agencies and, at the same time, new technologies. In fact, new technologies applied to travel agency equipment and physical spaces can have many implications for the enhancement of the purchasing experiential dimension. These applications can be significant for the creation of experiences within traditional stores in order to improve the perceived quality through the enhancement of the experience components. The clever introduction of innovative tools to improve quality in customer relations can be one of the answers for allowing travel agencies born before the development of the web to continue to be competitive in the current scenario.

The study focuses on the adoption of ICT tools by traditional operators in the relationship with customers, through an exploratory quantitative analysis aimed at finding out what possible strategic responses related to ICT are considered valid by travel agents.

The purpose of the survey is to investigate the operator’s perception about strategic options to proactively deal with the change that ICT has caused in the relationship with the customer, including the ever-increasing use of technological tools for the presentation of products and the innovative technological solutions in physical spaces in order to facilitate customer-agency interaction.

In addition to the differences between agencies regarding the investigated factors, it emerges as the agencies should not abandon human relationships and human interactions in an attempt to save costs. Instead, they should use technology to enhance human-to-human communication by enhancing the customer-experience perspective.