Leader June 2007 – Exploit every opportunity

What have the past 18 months taught the travel industry? In simple terms: there are those that ‘get it’ and those who do not.

Travolution’s launch as a media brand for the online travel industry in November 2005 coincided with what appeared to be a concerted effort by many existing travel companies to boost their presence on the Internet.

Many travel providers finally came round to realising how important an easy booking system, robust search tools, usability and the use of images and video could be to the overall user experience. We applaud the efforts of all travel companies that have recognised the need to provide more than simple search and booking facilities on the web.

For example, the vertically integrated tour operators have recognised the need to adapt, in part, because of the fundamental changes to how consumers are interacting with travel brands.

The new super-brands, Thomas Cook Group and TUI Travel, will have far greater power in their attempts to target travellers through all distribution channels – but especially online.

Indeed, recent criticism from the likes of Jet2.com regarding the merger between TUI and First Choice, which it claimed would restrict consumer choice, is wrong – the web (and its Long Tail) is offering far greater choice to consumers and self-packaging is hardly on the wane.

But this is not a hearty pat on the back for only the travel giants. They are simply recognising the importance of a multi-channel strategy in terms of distribution.

In other words: they are mirroring the behaviour of consumers who are also living in a multi-channel world.

Therefore, it is mystifying that some travel companies – and they know who are – are still clinging on to the idea that consumers will only interact with them in one way.

To dismiss the enormous changes to the way consumers interact with one another, their favourite and other travel retailers and, increasingly, with strangers (through online reviews) is short-sighted.

Travel companies need to hit consumers in every channel if they are to survive.

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