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Interviews

Are DMCs dying? Stephan Roemer, CEO of Diethelm Travel Group, says a resounding “No”

Date: Mon, 07/15/2019 - 12:12
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Stephan Roemer believes DMCs are riding a new wave of business opportunity while playing a pivotal role in the travel supply chain by designing meaningful travel experiences.

Remember having to call a travel agent to issue a paper ticket? If you’re under a certain age, chances are you’ve never known anything other than purchasing a ticket yourself online.  

The internet and technology have undoubtedly changed the way travel products are accessed and booked, yet these developments have also resulted in an overwhelming volume of information for trip planning. While travel planning seemingly becomes more “convenient,” people feel increasingly time poor plus want an added level of unique travel experiences to show off to their peers.  

While simply helping with flights may be a thing of the past, agents certainly aren’t obsolete and DMCs are just as relevant now as ever before as travellers look to further customise their journeys. 
After nearly four decades in the industry and two fiscal years steering Diethelm Travel Group as CEO, one of Asia’s largest incoming tour operators, Stephan Roemer believes DMCs are riding a new wave of business opportunity while playing a pivotal role in the travel supply chain by designing meaningful travel experiences.

TravelDailyNews: So, are DMCs dying?

Stephan Roemer: Definitely not. In fact, if anything we’re seeing a resurgence in the importance and role of DMCs for today’s travel agents and travellers. 

TDN: What are the most common reasons you see for travellers returning to use DMCs?

S.R.: Trusted guidance and full-service support. Anyone can easily book a flight or hotel room from an OTA or direct from the supplier based off of basic filters like location, price and availability. While this increased, easier access may seem convenient at first, we’ve reached a point that travellers have so many channels to research that they’re overwhelmed. The seemingly unlimited options are leading not to quick and convenient planning, but analysis paralysis. People just don’t know what to do or what to choose.  

It also can be more time consuming when individuals go down the rabbit hole of options trying to compare experiences, value and availability in destinations they’re not familiar with. For example, one can easily spend hours researching hotels in Bangkok trying to find the ‘perfect’ one for them and still not be 100% sure of their choice even after they’ve made the reservation. Alternatively, you can connect with a DMC that’s already hyper-familiar with the destination, what’s on offer, and the pros and cons of each depending on the traveller’s desires.  

Additionally, savvy travellers and agents are also wising up to the fact that things aren’t always as they appear online. We’ve all booked a tour or hotel online that initially seemed great with its slick photos and catchy copy only to discover it has obvious shortcomings once we arrive. When using a DMC or travel advisor, who’s actually been to the places they’re suggesting and experienced the tours they’re organising, you weed out the mediocrity.   

A DMC is not only a guarantor for the quality they stand in but also a one-stop shop in dealing with unforeseen circumstances. 

TDN: Why should agents or travellers work with DMCs?

S.R.: DMCs provide added value – including destination-specific knowledge, customisation and valuable support - at the same price as trying to piece things together on one’s own. DMCs aren’t just a middle man, they’re a trusted advisor and guarantee quality. We maximise the experiences possible in each and every trip, suggesting and organising experiences the traveller didn’t even know were possible. 

By going through a DMC, clients tap into specialist knowledge that can only be accessed after years of on-the-ground experience, connections and knowledge. And I don’t just mean about the place, but the destination’s people, customs and unique offerings. Instead of booking a one-size-fits-all experience online, using a DMC allows clients to completely customise their travel experiences allowing for a degree of complexity and attention to detail that simply isn’t possible when trying to organise travel on one’s own. Plus, you may often save money with a cleverly organised tailor-made trip.

Additionally, a DMC doesn’t just help plan and organise one’s trip but is there every step of the way to help adjust itineraries or respond to changes and requests as needed. At Diethelm Travel we offer an extensive concierge service at all destinations in different languages as an added value for all clients. If travellers need a babysitter for their kids when they want to have an evening on their own, a table reservation at one of the region’s trendiest restaurants, a last-minute tour booked for the next day or anything else they may wish, our expert concierges are available to assist all requests 24/7. You certainly don’t get that when booking a package through an OTA. 

TDN: How has technology changed the business?

S.R.: Since travellers have more information at their fingertips thanks to technology, DMCs are now evolving to provide added value every step of the way. We’re not just collecting travel products to sell but carefully curating exclusive, customisable experiences that can’t be found anywhere else benefitting both the traveller and the local suppliers or providers.

For Diethelm Travel Group, more advanced technology has also allowed us to offer agents additional information, resources and tools – both online and on-the-ground – to help further aid their business. By embracing new technology, we’ve become even more efficient in receiving information from our supplier partners as well as communicating knowledge, instant pricing and updates to our trade partners all over the world. For instance, Diethelm Travel can act as a hotel provider for its clients with a carefully selected, high quality bed bank at dynamic rates but we also do so much more beyond just booking beds. 

The core of our business – connecting travellers with incredible places, people and experiences – will never change…it needs the human touch to make magic!