New ad demonstrates why the travel industry needs to get more human

Created by agency Broken Heart Love Affair for US firm Internova Travel Group, this dystopian ad shows what happens when machines take over our holiday experiences, and why good old-fashioned travel advisors can be vital

If there is one industry that was immediately undone by the coronavirus pandemic, it was travel. With countries around the world entering lockdowns, flights were grounded and thousands upon thousands of holidays had to be cancelled.

While many customers were sympathetic with the plight of airlines and holiday companies who had to deal with sorting out the mess, it quickly became apparent which firms cared about them in return. Before long social media was alight with stories of consumer despair as refunds were evaded and phone helplines left unanswered.

So as people slowly begin to think about travel again, it is likely that the appalling customer service of many companies will remain embedded in their minds as they start to book again. With this in mind, a new ad from Internova Travel Group, which represents more than 62,000 travel advisors in over 6,000 company-owned and affiliated locations worldwide, seems timely.

Titled Book Human, the TV spot stars a robotic holidaymaker who demonstrates the downsides of technology when it comes to booking holidays, and why a real human touch, and trusted advisor, can be invaluable.

The spot of course does not specifically mention the travails of Covid, and instead makes the point that human contact in general is often what makes travel a pleasant rather than gruelling experience. This plays out in a series of billboard posters and social ads which highlight other customer service moments, including being upgraded on a flight or receiving a welcome basket, which cannot be performed by AI and algorithms.

“The Covid-19 pandemic brought to light the horrors of travel disruption in a new way,” says JD O’Hara, CEO of Internova Travel Group. “Individuals and families left stranded with no refunds and limited support gave way to a climate of extreme frustration. Many realised that getting travel wrong – personal or business – can have very real, very strenuous consequences. That’s when travel advisors were called in to save the day.”

While we might think of travel advisors being traditionally accessed by phone or in person, at the heart of the campaign is a web experience, BookHuman.Travel, which features profiles and photos of Internova Travel Group’s advisors, who customers can then chat, video call or phone direct for advice. While working with these advisors, who are part of Global Travel Collection, the luxury and premium travel division of Internova Travel Group, is unlikely to come cheap, this approach perhaps reflects a growing desire from customers for quality over quantity in the travel space in the future.

“The old way just became new again,” said Brent Rivard, chief marketing officer at Internova Travel Group. “People today have access to a plethora of online booking algorithms to plan their vacations, but artificial intelligence won’t give you a unique, personalised experience, and it doesn’t particularly care if anything goes wrong. Bots are simply programmed to sell, not care. It’s time for humans to take back what’s rightfully theirs.”

Still from the BookHuman.Travel website

Agency: Broken Heart Love Affair
Partners, CCOs: Carlos Moreno, Denise Rossetto, Todd Mackie
Creative Directors: Jordan Hamer, Spencer Dingle
Creatives: Jordan Hamer, Spencer Dingle
Designer: Rasna Jaswal
Production Company: Frank Content
Director: Rodrigo Garcia Saiz
Creative Agency, BookHuman.Travel website: Lifelong Crush
Creative Directors: Spencer Dingle, Jordan Hamer, Mark Rozeluk
Copywriter: Sasha Downer
UX: Adam Slayer, Lauren Suh
UI: Jonathan Agomaa