Follow the beer to international success, says Travelzoo boss

Internationalise by targeting other English speaking and beer drinking nations, UK travel companies were advised today at The Travel Convention in Palma, Majorca.

Chris Loughlin, chief executive of deal publisher Travelzoo, told the convention that the sector will become more and more global, driven by new technology.

“Regardless of technology, the best companies will be the ones that own the customer base and have a trusted relationship.

“As markets and consumer behaviour round the world converge, many more companies will become global. We pretty much see the same consumer behaviour around the world.

“If you are a UK business and you are only in the UK today, my advice is go to Canada, to the US, to Australia first, because when you are dealing in your own language it’s a lot better.

“Go for beer drinking nations. Wine drinking nations do behave very differently.”

Loughlin explained that in a downturn the owners of travel product in wine drinking nations tend to put their heads in the sand and market less.

He also issued a warning for all companies over-reliant on natural search on Google, saying the days of the “free lunch” were numbered.

“I’m concerned for companies that have built their businesses on SEO. I think that’s very dangerous. Everyone will have to pay their way and there will be no more free lunches,” he said.

“Companies will have to find a way of weaning themselves off the life support machine [Google].”

Earlier Loughlin said Travelzoo had disrupted the traditional media model by proving a return on investment to advertisers.

He said it was important intermediaries worked closely with their partners to generate the best deals.

The opportunity for travel agents lies in agreeing co-funding campaigns with hotels, cruise lines and other suppliers to promote special offers, he said.

Loughlin said “super-last-minute” and “last-minute” deals “do not work” and that small companies are often more likely to convert leads as large conglomerates.

“You need to decide how people should book. Taking bookings on the telephone is excellent for holidays and cruises. Online works for holidays but not cruises. For flights and hotels online works very well. 

“In terms of how consumers behave, mid to small-sized companies perform better in taking telephone bookings. That’s because everyone knows exactly what’s going on. Often call promotions in large organisations get lost.”

Loughlin said he was not worried about the recent softening of the Travelzoo share price, pointing out the market capitalisation of the firm stood at $400 million.

“The way you deliver on share price is by results. I think we are doing a pretty good job,” he said.

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