Much has been written lately about the rise of robots and machines, with many taking an Orwellian view of a future where people have no work to do as every task will be done by soulless hunks of metal and software.

Any significant technological advancement comes with a side effect of disruption for legacy industries or processes, however this disruption more often than not leads to the creation of new and more exciting opportunities for investment, innovation and actually more job creation. An excellent Economist article about this concept is worth a read:

Economist – don’t be afraid of machines

The travel industry is on the cusp of a significant challenge in the coming decade – a talent gap like we’ve never seen before. At the same time we need more people to come join our wonderful industry, evidence is mounting that there are actually less people than ever actually keen on doing so. If you subscribe to the Company Dime, they’ve just published an excellent, very thorough and in-depth piece about this very challenge, which is particularly acute in the corporate travel sector.

The Company Dime – Getting Past the Travel Agent Workforce Crunch

This doesn’t just apply to traditional travel agencies either – The Beat did a great piece recently about how corporate travel departments also are struggling with the challenge of finding talent.

The Beat – Opportunities and Challenges for CTD’s

One of the biggest issues corporate agencies face is that, like it or not, corporate travel is especially onerous and complex and thus for anyone in an operational role there is a lot of process knowledge and specific data management requirements to learn. And despite lots of talk about systems getting more efficient and easier to use, the reality is that until these processes become completely virtual they will still require a great deal of training and development for people to be able to use them. Having interviewed a lot of people for roles in corporate travel over the years, I’m pretty sure I never heard any one of the candidates tell me “I want to get into the travel industry to process data!”

Given this challenge, there is a clear mandate and significant opportunity for the travel industry to embrace robotics, automation and virtualisation as a job creator and enhancer. If we can free up people from having to do grunt work, then the “cool” aspects of travel industry employment will not be aspects at all – they will actually be the entire job. And for those already working in the industry, the ability to liberate themselves from the drudgery of processing transactions will be truly transformative for themselves and the companies they work for.

At Troovo, we call this idea “virtual shoring”: given no one really wants to do grunt work, and that off-shoring it to a lower-cost but still people-driven approach doesn’t really solve the problem, the most cost-effective and efficient way to process transactions is by doing them completely virtually. No people toiling away at boring tasks, no chance for a disenfranchised employee making a mistake because they’ve tuned out because of the monotony of what they are doing. And, perhaps most exciting, a change for travel agencies around the world to change their job descriptions permanently and positively!

So don’t be afraid of robots, people. Especially for the travel industry, they can actually make everyone’s lives and businesses more interesting, more effective and more engaging than ever before.