By Andy Speight, managing director of Digital Trip
While it may be a time when profit margins are tight and budgets are small, that is not to say that it isn’t a time for opportunity.
In fact, by implementing the right technology there is the potential for even smaller travel agents or tour operators to be competitive, particularly in many emerging markets.
Earlier this year, market research company PhoCusWright released the third edition of its Global Online Travel Overview report, which revealed some very interesting statistics.
Already, more than four in ten transactions in the US and Europe already occurs online. While the penetration into these markets has begun to plateau, there are some exciting developments on the horizon.
For example, online bookings in Asia Pacific and Latin America are likely to see annual growth in online travel sales of up to 16%.
However, the prospect of bookings from customers in the Middle East and Eastern Europe is said to be growing at a rate of up to 25% annually over the next two years.
With this growth being experienced so quickly, and with mobile being the main method of access to the internet for many of these emerging markets, how can a new or smaller scale operator or agent afford to go toe-to-toe with the big guys in the business?
Is it possible to match their online offering without a huge investment in a software solution?
The key to levelling the playing field is a flexible travel technology platform that gives you complete control of your online presence.
While it goes without saying that a booking system needs to be at the core of this solution, so too does an advanced CRM (customer relationship management) system.
While a ‘standard’ CRM can help improve satisfaction, loyalty and retention by facilitating customer requirements, enable interactions and social engagement, an advanced system can also be used to manage sales, marketing and other customer service functions.
Being able to collect the resulting data and use it effectively can also help drive greater levels of engagement (and transactions) for a more bespoke experience, tailored to their profile, with targeted marketing information relevant to their particular preferences and requirements.
What can really help set your business apart from the competition are the details but this doesn’t necessarily have to be out of reach for those whose finances are modest.
Behind the scenes, the look, content and features of a travel website will be controlled by a CMS (content management system) and adding additional functionality to your site can be simple and straightforward.
That’s why we created our own CMS, eVolve, for the travel market to power all of their online solutions.
CMS systems can be confusing, require extensive training and become quickly outdated. eVolve’s interface means that even the most basic user only requires minimal training to accomplish the advanced tasks available.
Where other companies provide a CMS and just walk away, leaving users with a hefty development fee (and wait) for any updates we’ve built eVolve to allow users to add more than 80 features when they need them.
Changes to users’ websites can now be reduced to hours and days rather than weeks and months and with powerful CRM tools available any business can really take off.
Today it’s also essential to exploit mobile technology in the travel market, offering a seamless experience for customers, whatever device they use.
For the fastest growing regions, where mobile usage is high, the ability for a mobile platform to be fully bookable is essential.