This article was written by a travel agent who is working in the industry for over 25 years. It illustrates how an e-signature service like Countersign can help improve and speed up the booking process for everyone involved.
The travel industry looks very different today than it did just a couple years ago. One of the biggest changes has been the shift from in-person transactions and paper tickets to electronic exchanges. Most people plan their trips online; they research online, buy tickets online, and use their mobile devices to show vouchers or tickets at the airport. The itineraries are all set up online, and brick-and-mortar travel agency buildings are less and less common.
With the introduction of the new online e-signature service Countersign, our lives as travel agents have changed. We’re only too familiar with the ease, convenience, and simplicity an electronic signature solution brings to our workflow.
The costs of printing, scanning, and signing
As a travel agency, we need to arrange hundreds of contracts to meet agency requirements legally. Before we can show a new deal to our clients, we need to have a signed contract in place, containing the pricing range and other offers or conditions. These contracts are time-consuming to scan and file—especially because they can run up to dozens of pages!
In the past, these contracts were physical, pen-and-paper documents that were faxed or mailed to agencies. In the early days of electronic communication, they were updated to Word or PDF files and were emailed. But personal travel rates skyrocketed during this same timeframe. Although email was certainly quicker than snail mail, even PDFs weren’t enough to scale. Even worse, the longest wait time was the requirement for airline or hotel officials to print out, sign, and scan contracts. This took a significant amount of time and posed one of the biggest challenges to the travel agency business model. Printing, faxing, and scanning machines were humming at all hours. The model was not sustainable for most travel agencies who wanted to grow.
We needed a solution; Software that allowed us to conduct all aspects of travel agency virtually was just necessary—otherwise, we’d be stuck behind our competitors as we lost out on speed. Plus, we were facing security risks. If our building were damaged, a huge stockpile of contracts would be lost. And if businesses needed receipts, we faced even more work by sending contracts to more people and employees.
Simplicity and security
The solution was actually simple: e-signatures. This new way of signing documents allows us to move all of the contract processes online. Instead of printing, signing, and faxing contracts back and forth, airline and hotel officials can simply sign off online and send the document back via Countersign.
Countersign is a massive convenience that cuts down on time, energy, and paper costs—and keeps me a step ahead of my competitors.Travel agent on Countersign
It also has the added benefit of being more secure. There is a protected electronic record of each transaction, rather than a lengthy paper trail that is susceptible to damage or loss. It’s a key service for us and for the hotel and airline businesses that we work with. In fact, it’s basically a necessity for us to remain competitive in the industry.
For example, let’s consider the times when we work with companies instead of individuals. There’s an added layer of contract security needed because companies need to reimburse their employees for travel. They require secure, accurate records of travel contracts to manage their expenses. Before e-signatures, each change to a travel contract required a ton of extra work. If a meeting time changed and an employee needed to catch a different flight, for instance, that would require using a new itinerary and emailing, faxing, printing, signing, and scanning once again. With e-signatures, all of those steps are reduced to a few clicks. And we have an accurate and protected record of the changes made to itineraries or contracts for businesses to make quick use of.
Online e-signatures, a solution made for travel agencies
E-signatures allow us travel agencies to achieve more. Travel is a fast-moving industry; people are always looking for the next deal, and even a few seconds can change prices or cause them to check out competitors. With an online e-signature service like Countersign, we not only avoid the time-consuming process of printing and scanning—we also enjoy security benefits. We can rest easier knowing our contracts are stored in one secure place. And customers are happier, too; they always have a copy of their e-signed itinerary if they need it during their trip.