Brian Young, director, On Holiday Group
It’s funny how a few words can become the talk of the industry, but that is exactly what has happening to the phrase ‘connected travel’.
We have had people discussing the virtues of hotels having to provide good quality internet for free to keep up with a digital world and evolving client demands to be connected at all times.
At this year’s World Travel Market there were discussions about how companies need to keep customers engaged through the whole booking process from inspiration to search, book and participation as well as in between, to sharing the experience
I believe the future for all holiday companies is around keeping constantly connected with holidaymakers
This starts with how a company evolves to inspire customers to travel to new destinations rather than just offering the current flight, hotel options followed by aggregation on price or star hotels.
The major ‘Big Two’ Tui Travel and Thomas Cook are part of the way there, but are still not fully encompassing inspiration.
Kuoni has grasped this and has an excellent website full of inspiration from destination videos to hotel videos. This is absolutely what a connected holidaymaker is looking for in the search and inspiration phase.
People want to see a new destination, be wowed, be excited but very few are offering this inspiration at the start of the booking cycle.
Video is key to this. Whoever manages to blend the old TV Travel Shop concept into content online will take us to the next stage of the holiday booking evolution where companies move from their current offering to becoming inspirational.
Again, Kuoni, I believe, is at the forefront of this change.
I also believe companies will need to blend social into websites in a much stronger way in the future, not just being social on Facebook and Twitter but taking it to the next level, whereby you interact within your site before, during and after.
Using social to gather information, interact, create inspiration and need. An example of this is a website called hangoutonholiday.com.
This is a next generation holiday portal. You can log in to see who is going where, how many people are going to a specific destination, even down to how many in the resort in any given week you are thinking of going to.
You can also see which hotels are the most popular and how many people are staying in the week you are thinking of going.
You can then make decisions from this information, book your holiday and then start interacting with the other holidaymakers before you even go on the holiday.
This site also takes it to the extreme where you can establish what people are doing on holiday, like going to Pacha nightclub on a Friday, how many are going to the gig, and then book to join them.
The clients can carry on communicating via the site using, Twitter and Facebook and upload photos to Flikr all within the one environment, therefore creating a seamless portal that keeps people connected throughout the journey.
This is really powerful stuff and it keeps people engaged and connected throughout, this is how I see the future of holiday websites.
There is also huge debate around mobile and apps.
I see mobile – phones and tablets – as the inspiration tool using rich video content with the ability to connect directly to an agent through instant messaging much like Mayday that Amazon has developed for their new kindle fire tablets.
This allows direct communication to then book by desktop or mobile.
My view is that booking single travel items actually works well on a phones/ tablets, but for holidays I am still to be convinced, as people are still at the inspiration stage on a mobile, hence the need for video, photos and contact points like I mention above.
Where mobile does come back into the journey is while on holiday. Research shows that 85% of holidaymakers use their mobiles on holiday.
Therefore, this is where smart companies will have apps for information or develop content to be delivered to the phone/tablet that is tailored to the customers needs.
Tui has in-resort reps currently with iPads accessing twitter and facebook to communicate with clients which is a smart move, but the next generation will want this information tailored to them, they will want short burst content delivered to them that they can use – a digital representative.
This is where mobile and wearable technology is going and will come into its own, and those first to it will have a truly connected experience that will retain customers.
But that connection should not stop there and on return the mobile is the start of the inspiration again.