Everything, as you know, is digital: our music, TV, movies, books, games, shopping, and—over the last year—even our happy hours and our work. And one of the earliest victims of our digital revolution were travel agents. Why go through all the trouble of dealing with a human being, when there were suddenly dozens of sites to book flights and hotels all by yourself? Made perfect sense.
However, whether we’re talking depression and social media, consumer data breaches, or our appliances listening to us, it’s become increasingly clear that our overreliance on technology has some serious downsides. And over time, the pendulum has started to swing back in the other direction. There are times when a human is better, a fact Internova Travel Group is banking on.
Internova is one of the largest travel agency companies, representing more than 62,000 travel agents in over 6,000 locations around the world. Last week, the company launched a new ad campaign called “Book Human,” featuring a robot travel guide that looks straight out of the Ex Machina reject pile. In it, a dead-eyed robot sales associate walks us through why the Hotel Paradise is precisely the right place for your next vacation. “Data analysis indicates you fit the profile of travelers who have stayed here,” he says in true Speak & Spell monotone. “We watch everything. We hear everything. We know everything about you and thousands of others exactly like you.” Created by Toronto-based ad agency Broken Heart Love Affair, the campaign’s light scaremongering reminds us that booking trips through humans—who often know things that don’t come through in an algorithm—may be the best travel decision we can make.
In a statement, Internova CEO J.D. O’Hara said the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the horrors of travel disruption in a new way. “Individuals and families left stranded with no refunds and limited support gave way to a climate of extreme frustration,” said O’Hara. “Many realized that getting travel wrong—personal or business—can have very real, very strenuous consequences.”
The campaign is hyping a new site that connects travelers with advisors across the U.S. who specialize in various locations, promising to lend their own expertise to your travel plans.
Jumping back on the human bandwagon isn’t new. One of the main ways Apple Music tried to differentiate itself from competitors like Spotify was its use of human curators. CEO Tim Cook told Fast Company in 2018, “we worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”
In other recent ad campaigns, both Expedia and Airbnb have put a spin on their own human capabilities. The former with a spot starring Rashida Jones as a vacation fixer, while the latter, perhaps the poster child for modern digital travel, shined a spotlight on the importance of its very human host network.
Back in 2019, Google became an instant travel giant when it started listing flights and hotels itself instead of linking out to other sites. Rather than trying to go toe-to-toe with digital behemoths, Internova is betting the market differentiation that matters most might just be human.