Travel tech reach grows but some are struggling, says think tank

Social media, Google, rate parity, return on investment and resources were key subjects discussed at an off the record World Travel Market Meridian Club think tank.

A dozen technology buyers and WTM representatives, covering a cross-section of interests, attended the event.

Some smaller businesses suggested they “were being left behind by the big boys”, not only in terms of available products but also in knowledge.

One attendee admitted he had “burnt a lot of money trying to adopt a social media strategy for a market which clearly was not interested”, while another guest admitted that he “really didn’t have a clue” about how to use Twitter to market a specialist, high margin, late availability package.

Other businesses felt “exposed” to the sales pitch of web developers and needed the knowledge to talk the same language.

“Getting on the phone and talking to someone” was often the most effective way to do business, according to guests who dealt primarily with hotels.

This traditional way of contracting remains popular despite the strength of B2B bedbanks and online wholesalers.

One guest suggested that cloud technology can lead to savings of around 70% for some travel businesses, and that this was an area where smaller companies could benefit.

Alternative payment mechanisms are emerging as a way for technology suppliers to help travel companies not only save money but also make their products available to a wider customer base, the meeting heard.

“Taking payments using means other than credit or debit cards could work in mature travel markets” it was suggested, while some operators mentioned how suppliers in Africa were using mobile commerce to accept payments.

WTM technology regional account manager Jo Marshall said: “The travel technology region of WTM grew by 40% last year and is poised to be even bigger at WTM 2012, so we’re keen to find out as early as possible what buyers and exhibitors want from this year’s event.

“It is clear that while some businesses are forging ahead with demands for cutting-edge products, others still need to understand how they can make the most of what is currently available.

“Our intention is to make sure we deliver a programme for WTM 2012 that satisfies technology needs across the entire industry.”

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