Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Changing perceptions is hard to do. Should you try it?

The person who sits opposite me has just got engaged, which naturally means there is quite a lot of talk of weddings and honeymoons around at the moment!

As it happens when the talk turned to honeymoon a soon-to-be-married chap in the office piped up and said he had just booked his honeymoons through Kuoni.

He had been shocked to discover at a recent travel show that, actually, he didn’t have to pick anything from the brochure at all and they would just organise whatever he wanted from their extensive network of travel contacts in the region (Sri Lanka as it happens).

Now if you work in the travel industry this is no surprise, but for him this completely changed his perception of what the “package holiday” companies could offer.

With the roll out of dynamic packaging across large chunks of the online industry people are getting used to the idea, all be it slowly, of going online and putting their own holidays together.

Now my question is: when do the big tour operators need to go hell for leather at changing the consumer perception of what they do through their online offerings. With more and more of the UK population starting their search for any major purchase online, consumers will become increasingly aware of the options available to them.

As site interfaces get easier and easier to use, the package holiday market is likely to continue to fragment giving people endless options the flights, accommodation and tour packages the operators provide.

This brings me back to the original question. When is it going to be right to change the online marketing to reflect this change in the offering?

When will the market have moved on so that a majority of holiday spend will be controlled by consumers who want to construct their own packages from the options the tour operator provides?

With young families buying more and more online I think it will be sooner than people realise. I also wonder if the tour operators will be dragged to change their perceived offering through consumer demand shifting away from them, or will some of them be brave and lead that change in perception scooping up market share as they go?

Jump too early and you could confuse and put off your existing customers who are happy buying their packages, jump too late and you could end up losing market share to online competition and having to play an expensive game of catch up.

Timing is going to be everything, but change is coming.

Gavin Sinden, director of digital marketing specialists, Incepta Online

1 comment:

Travolution blogger said...

We've targeted Kuoni for comment on this subject, in a feature on the long-haul operators market for Travolution's April edition [3.0].