Tour operators such as Thomas Cook have an advantage over aggregators in the online booking process because of the strength of the brand, the firm’s chief digital officer has said.
Gilles Despas spoke exclusively with Travolution at this year’s Summit in London.
He also revealed that 50% of all of Thomas Cook’s online traffic is now via mobile.
When asked if moving a traditional high street brand into the online arena was challenge as it creates a more level playing field, Despas called on Thomas Cook’s 175 years of brand recognition.
He said: “We have an advantage on sites like Booking.com because we have our own inventory,” he said, explaining that it allows Thomas Cook to own the customer throughout the process and learn their preferences in resort and use that to stand out in the online marketplace among less well-known competitors.”
Thomas Cook has said previously that it is putting a bigger emphasis on its own-brand hotels. Despas said having exclusive contracts with third-party hotels also provided the operator with the data sets they need to help drive repeat bookings.
He said: “I don’t see it [moving online from the high street] as a challenge but we can do a lot more to simplify the life of the customer [compared to OTAs].”
Despas suggested that Thomas Cook will turn its attention to voice recognition “in the inspiration stage” but said the operator is “not really looking at chatbots”.
“Voice is going to have a big impact at some stage,” he said, but predicted that it would be “some time” before swathes of people will feel comfortable paying via voice recognition.
Mobile has seen a huge surge at the company, he also said, revealing that more than 50% of traffic on Thomas Cook’s website was on smart phones.
“There’s been a big adoption by our clients,” he said. “More and more customers are booking a package holiday on a smart phone – and actually transacting too.”
He said this was in part down to Thomas Cook optimising its websites for use on smart phones – “sometimes they are smart phone only,” he added.