Taking care

If you're a travel agent you have to be many things, possibly including hand-holder, weather forecaster and mom. Also on the list should be psychologist and curator.

The psychologist part is simple enough in theory: If you can't get inside your customers' heads and figure out what they want, even when they don't know, you won't make the most of every sale.

As for being a curator, that's a longer story.

If you look back far enough, say to ancient Rome, you'll find the root of the word curator in curare, meaning to take care of.

Think of the curator at your local museum or art gallery -- somebody who takes care of things.

More recently our understanding of a curator's role has taken on an additional and very logical meaning, essentially to select, arrange and interpret the items on display.

This is where selling travel comes in.

These days, any consumer with an Internet connection -- and that's just about everybody -- has access to virtually all knowledge, and therein lies the problem. How do they choose?

Evidently, it's an agonizing process for some of them. Web shoppers tend to visit a number of websites before they make the final click, and some research puts the number as high as 22 for travel shoppers.

Granted, some consumers regard searching and shopping as recreational activities, but what some of these shoppers clearly need is somebody to select and interpret the items on display.

In the traditional brick-and-mortar world, this is the job of the travel counselor/curator/psychologist/hand-holder and mom.

Online, the continuing challenge, for suppliers and intermediaries alike, has been finding algorithms that can do something similar and do it more creatively than "sort by price" or "sort by date."

Amadeus might be on to something with its new "Featured Results" display, which presents what Amadeus calls "a more relevant set of search results" that saves the user from sifting through hundreds of recommendations.

Beta-tester Vayama.com calls it "curated results." We like the sound of that because it has connotations of taking care as well as taking control, and that is what travel sellers need to do before their clients die of indecision.
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