In May 2008 Amadeus hosted a roundtable of experts from travel and other sectors to debate Web and Travel 2.0.
The panel featured Lewis Lenssen (Netizen Digital), Andrew Owen-Jones (Amadeus), Hilary Kelly (Cap Gemini), James Woudhuysen (De Montford University), Sokratis Papafloratos (Trustedplaces), Karishma Singh (Taj Hotels) and was chaired by Kevin May (Travolution).
There’s some interesting insight into social media and user-generated content from the expert panel put together by Amadeus.
The potential evolution of web 2.0, put forward by James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting and innovation at Leicester’s De Montfort University, will see social networks evolve into far more media-based platforms in the future. Woudhuysen predicts Facebook and written review sites will become increasingly powerful as they are transformed by video clips.
Meanwhile, Amadeus is already working on prototypes of technology that consumers can speak to and get back instant availability.
Traveltainment managing director Andy Owen-Jones says the first uses are likely to be as kiosks in shops.
Clearly, the travel industry is desperate to harness web 2.0 and the elements that go with it for financial benefit – but no one is quite sure how.
We know there are groups of people with common interests getting together online. What we don’t know is whether they are in a frame of mind to purchase or will targeted products and services simply irritate them?
Sokratis Papafloratos, co-founder of trustedplaces.com, sums it up nicely: “A lot of people are confusing attention with intention.”
Interestingly, hotel companies are already finding a direct correlation between good reviews and an upturn in sales, as well as the impact of a bad review.
Taj Group director of revenue, Karishma Singh, says: “When we get a bad review from TripAdvisor sales go down and we need to manage our rates.
“A good review means you can get consumers to stretch their wallets a little – it’s easier to attract more business.”
Despite the downside, the company wants to encourage reviews because it brings it up the search rankings and therefore increases the probability of a booking just by visibility.
Others argue the issue isn’t the reviews themselves but what you do with them. Woudhuysen believes hotels need to pay more attention to reviews from the top and pay staff enough to want to pay attention to them.
Cap Gemini executive consultant Hilary Kelly says she believes the industry may be in danger of focusing too much on social media and for the wrong reasons.
“It is a minority group doing it and a lot of focus seems to be around how to generate more sales rather than improve customer service.”
Owen-Jones also questions the industry’s inability to latch on to the resources it has, such as tour guides, as a means of disseminating expert knowledge and the upselling opportunities that could be created.