One Third of World’s Travel Sales to be Booked Online by 2012*
The tourism sector with its global and customer-orientated nature has been radically transformed by the internet in the way tourism companies operate and engage with their customer base.
Web based and mobile channels have changed the way in which suppliers interact with the customer within the tourism sector, allowing suppliers to measure up to increased travel requirements and a global capacity. This delivery is in turn playing an increasingly central role in informing tourism related purchases and enriching the traveller's experience whilst in the destination.
*(Sherman, CT USA, 21 April 2011)
Information is commonly referred to as the ‘lifeblood’ of the tourism sector. Denying the consumer the ability to gather and process the information he/she wants will significantly reduce the motivation to commit to a booking.
This information needs to be accurate, up-to-date, confidence-inducing and available at 2 key stages:
- Planning stage - as consumers evaluate a trip and weigh up all the options available and of course the availability
- On location – an increasing independent travel requirement and related to all aspects of a trip including: accommodation, transportation and sightseeing
Research shows that the higher the perceived risk, the more likely the consumer is to gather relevant information before committing to a booking or purchase – so accurate and inspiring content is critical!
As well as being accurate and up-to-date, online travel customers are increasingly demanding relevant information on niche and specialist travel market sectors. With access to all this specialist information, consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable especially when combined with the rise of social media where a range of first hand experiences can be easily shared.
This is resulting in highly specific ideas about where to go, where to stay and what to do and this trend is forcing suppliers to focus on specialist and narrower niche markets. Examples include ski, spa, historical, golf, kayaking, adventure or adventure or regions: Outer Hebrides, Cities, the Highlands, the Alps.
For suppliers, the attraction of Web-based channels of distribution is easy to understand:
- The web is an ideal delivery for tourism products which are largely information-based – with no physical product to ship and therefore few logistical challenges
- Suppliers can get setup with a professional, targeted and potentially global online presence quickly and for a relatively low cost with few barriers to entry
- With reduced or no capital investment and through communicating directly with consumers, commission and distribution costs are cut or reduced – making the online model a financially attractive option
- Being online allows suppliers to be positioned as full-service, supplying everything a consumer requires from research information, comparisons, customer feedback and purchase options – this is a key factor in embracing the online model
- With direct customer access, there are plenty of targeted up-sell opportunities before, during and after the trip – and the potential to maximise the life-time value of a customer
Mobile web to open a new world in customer relationships and satisfaction
A more recent revolution centres on the way in which we access the web and the information we want. Web-enabled mobile devices such as Smartphones and tablets are shifting web access away from the desktop and into the hands of today’s highly mobile consumer. This means constant connection: at home or on the move.
This increasing trend allows suppliers within the tourism sector to maintain a competitive advantage by reaching out and developing real, lasting and meaningful relationships with their customers.
Mobile web services opens a new world of location-based services (LBSs). Through this technology, tourism suppliers and destinations have a significant opportunity to track, interact with, better inform and satisfy travellers, through more focused information and more precisely targeted offers.