Matt Somers, managing director, Qwerty Travel spoke to Travolution as part of the 2015 Innovation Report, sponsored by Intent Media, that analysed technology spend in the UK travel industry
What has been the impact on investment in technology during the recession?
There is no question that most OTAs have tightened the purse-strings, but the much bigger problem is getting a return on spend.
What technology areas are the key focus for online travel agents?
We are all chasing the perfect online booking engine with fantastic content, a tool which is so smooth, fast and consumer-friendly that we are confident to spend vast amounts on marketing to drive traffic into it.
To what extent is technology a key differentiator?
Some OTAs have made huge inroads selling online, such as Travel Republic and Sunshine Holidays. To what extent this is down to their technology or clever marketing spend, only they know. The vast majority of us are poor cousins.
To what extent is the OTA sector hampered by legacy technologies?
There are lots of old legacy systems out there; these no doubt hamper the ability to modernise our platforms.
Has the emergence of cloud computing and software as a service seen a shift away from hardware?
Yes, but I’m only just starting to see this.
In what areas are OTAs looking to exploit technology to automate functions?
In order to attract bookings online you need extremely low margins. For the model to work you must have scale and automation; this has to have an impact on staffing numbers.
Is there a greater focus on back-office operational technology or customer-facing retailing web sites and marketing?
Everyone is far more focused on the front end. There’s no point in having a great back office if you don’t have anything to put into it.
How would you rate the overall level of innovation in the OTA sector?
This has probably been the single biggest problem over the last few years. It’s very easy to invest profits without return. Google owns the marketing opportunity and only a few can afford to play. Our sector is going through a transition and will look very different in a few years. Hopefully the winners will be true innovators rather than those with the deepest pockets.