Travel sellers must stop debating social ROI and jump on the bandwagon, says PhoCusWright

Travel retailers need to catch up with suppliers in terms of how they are embracing new digital opportunities, a PhoCusWright session at World Travel Market was told.

The US market research and industry intelligence consultancy specialist took delegates through its latest report indentifying what the emerging trends in travel distribution in 2013 are. Social media was one of those.

Cees Bosselaer, ‎director of business development & destination marketing specialist, said: “It’s really time to look at what suppliers are doing in this area and get as aggressive as they are. It’s early in the game and we all might be a little disappointed in terms of performance but compare it to 1995/96 when some people said I’m not sure if I’m going to build a website. What’s the ROI?

“We are all into measuring performance but if you are still stuck in the ROI decision I think you really have to move on and some, especially suppliers, have done that. It’s time to jump on the social media bandwagon. It’s here to stay and in the next five to 10 years you will see it will generate lots in terms of performance.”

One trend which PhoCusWright says is delivering value today is cloud computing. And yet its report suggests that travel is slow in adopting it compared to other sectors.

IT spending on cloud computing represents around 34% of overall spend across all business sectors, but in travel that figure is just 4%, Florence Kaci, director business development EMEA and European market specialist, told WTM delegates.

She said moving to the cloud can offer travel greater technical efficiency, lower costs and a reduced barrier to entry into new markets. She highlighted the move to offering multi-modal transport offerings as one example that has been facilitated by cloud computing.

“Travel industries should really consider some spend when it comes to cloud computing,” she said. “Cloud computing is maturing and is should be considered not just for your business operations but creating new forms of business value. Cloud computing can provide a substantial reduction in unit costs and increase technical capability.”

The proliferation of mobile devices was another key trend, the PhoCusWright study finding most people own three devices today. Bosselaer said this meant it was necessary for travel firms to ensure their information is accessible across all types of device.

“Technology is improving faster than or ability to use it. Users interact with multiple forms of digital media.

Supporting multiple devices can be a challenge but you have to have an app for all platforms. HTML5 may be a solution but at the moment it’s a pain.

“We have to realise that the digital world is a journey not an end game. It’s a continuous process of improving your apps, your mobile websites. You have to continuously experiment. Yes, you can make mistakes and go in the wrong direction but those who experiment are usually those who are ahead.”

Finally, big data was also indentified as a trend for its ability to allow customer segmentation and personalisation to help firms to stop focusing on the transaction which historically has been the case via the traditional GDS-powered distribution model.

Bosselaer said: “These are exciting times for the travel industry. If you look at all the trends the majority are linked to technology. We did not see one game-changing new technology but we saw a lot of new technologies that all relate to each other.”

The PhoCusWright report is available free at

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