Monday, April 03, 2006

Mantra for a new age

Coming back from a weekend on the South Coast, a pal – who, thankfully, has more than a passing interest in the travel industry – asked me what was the most interesting trend to emerge so far in 2006.

The contents of the Travolution Blog would lead many readers to suggest that the issue of search is consuming us all.

Indeed, a fly on the wall at last week’s Travolution-hosted seminar at the Association of British Travel Agents would probably hang around for a while before buzzing off (as it were) – probably looking for the exit marked “This Way For No More Search-Related Discussions".

Search is clearly dominating an extraordinarily high amount of Travolution and the industry’s conversation time at the moment. But it isn’t the most significant change on Planet Online Travel, in our opinion.

So perhaps it is the burgeoning consumer-generated content area of the industry? [Trip Advisor UK is an interesting development and has so far been dismissed or praised in equal measures by most people]

Maybe it’s the enthusiasm for price comparison sites, demonstrated last week by the launch of new player on the scene


Unfortunately it is something far less tangible than the launch of a site.

Speak to a number of key industry figures and they will tell you that the internet is finally establishing itself as the direct route for products – a move that, firstly, has massive implications for any supplier of air tickets, hotels and car hire but, more importantly, a change that will test the resolve of those that have so far only acted as intermediaries.

As the internet moves to becoming the mass market(ing) medium, sellers will want to reach those consumers in the quickest, cheapest way.

While this will certainly keep the search engines in business, those acting as online broking houses for products will, if some watchers are to be believed, find themselves squeezed out as consumers rely increasingly on trusted brands.

This certainly doesn’t mean the end for the intermediaries nor, of course, the package holiday providers – especially in the UK.

It simply demonstrates that the increase in consumption of the internet (welcomed pretty universally by most people, it must be noted) will conversely put enormous pressure on those without the power to influence consumers.

Direct sales + branding + search + loyalty = success, is the new internet mantra, someone said recently. This, in theory, is a simple equation, but one increasingly difficult to solve, in reality.

[For those that might be slightly interested, my pal and I discussed this issue during the time it took our train to travel from Ashford to Bromley South – on a Sunday stopping service!]

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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