Strong brands and the trust generated by person to person retailing will continue to be a key factor in the success in travel despite the entry of powerful technology firms like Google and Facebook.
Amanda Wills, the managing director of Virgin Holidays, told this week’s Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Barbados that it was vital a brand like Virgin innovates.
Asked about her philosophy for a successful travel retailer Wills said it was vital brands listen customers who will be increasingly empowered in a technology-driven anarchonomy.
Dismissing the threat from a move into travel by the likes of Facebook or Google, she said Virgin was about delivering impeccable service, something “that does not happen if you buy from faceless unpackaged dot com”.
“I believe our industry is an industry of excuses. We have always got an excuse about something. The biggest challenge we have as business leaders is the changing customer behaviour. Ignore it at your peril.
“People are coming from a frame of mind that they want to talk to brands that they can trust but talk to them in a way that really is flexible.
“One in four people have taken some form of direct action in the past year or knows someone who has – that means people want to be heard and that’s how they want to deal with brands. They want to be listened to and want brands that they can trust.”
Wills spoke about a new anarchonomy in which people want to be heard and said firms that understand and react to this will be the ones that flourish in the future.
She used electronics giant Apple and sports clothing manufacturer Nike as examples of brands that do this well, doing things for customers that maybe would not have been done if it was down to pure economics or the will of the financial director.
“We are a profitable company. We are in long-haul, which is a difficult market to be in with the rising costs we are facing like fuel and APD, but we are profitable because our customers know us, love us and come back and we can make higher margins because we offer more.”