The UK travel industry is stuck in the past, obsessed with price, handicapped by out-dated technology, lacks consumer intelligence and fails to see the value of research, according to a senior industry figure.
Industry consultant and former MyTravel executive Richard Carrick issued a wake-up call as the Abta Travel Convention opened in Palma.
Writing for Travolution’s sister title Travel Weekly, Carrick said: “I am struck by how far the UK travel industry is behind other consumer sectors. We use the excuse that travel product is different. But we operate in the same consumer markets, with less insight.
“Our research record as an industry is poor. Our consumer intelligence is lacking and dominated by outdated research methods such as customer satisfaction questionnaires . . . Other sectors value data and pay for it.”
Carrick argues leading retailers in other sectors are driven by consumer insight that leads them to constantly re-invent product lines.
But he writes: “Tour operator product is largely unchanged in 25 years. We identify holidays by board basis, duration, destination and age group, not sufficiently by activity, life stage, interests, lifestyle.
“We are left with a mediocre commodity that gets sold on price.”
Discounting drives demand in an industry based on mediocrity, says Carrick. Yet he points out: “Our development costs and risks are lower than a business that has to build plant and machinery to bring a product to market.
“We have a product which is attractive and that people are pre-disposed to buy. Could it be we don’t have senior people with the right abilities? Or is it the margins on our products that stop us innovating?”
Out-dated technology is part of the problem, he argues. “Businesses get stuck with high cost bases, selling products in large volumes at low margins with expensive legacy technology or a high cost of sale.”
Carrick says the issues need addressing because a changing market is about to become much more difficult. He warns: “More than half of households (58%) believe their financial situation will worsen over the next year.”