Thursday, January 03, 2008

Say Hello to new ways of meeting

Our latest column for Travel Weekly, with some more predictions:

The travel industry has finally accepted its fate: that it needs to embrace as many distribution channels as possible to reach the modern consumer.

This shift in thinking will be put into practice by many travel companies in 2008, with equal emphasis given to offline and online interaction.

But what else can we expect this year?

Expedia’s announcement in November last year that it would adopt what it calls a “media model” (cost-per-click for referrals) for its partnership with the InterContinental Hotel Group set tongues wagging across the online sector.

Not only did it signal the return of IHG to Expedia after a high-profile bust-up in 2004, but it triggered discussions about how the online travel agency model will develop.

The industry is divided as to the logic behind Expedia’s decision to effectively become a metasearch engine for that particular client.

Rival OTAs and suppliers will be watching this relationship closely – and expect an escalation of the model by Expedia to others if it works.

A significant change to the OTA business model has repercussions throughout the online travel industry.

Meanwhile, this year should also see whether the (often wild) enthusiasm for social networks by consumers is going to stay or simply disappear before you can say “MyTravel, remember that?”.

If social networks continue to grow then it is critical travel companies try to reach consumers in these new channels.

With only 300 or so travel-related applications on Facebook, for example, including TripAdvisor, Sidestep and, more recently, Youtravel, there is certainly plenty of room still for innovation.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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