Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Perfect Storm

After a hefty introduction - internet guru, toughest moderator in the business... PhoCusWright's Philip Wolf is holding the room with the latest observations on the market.

The European travel space is tracking similarly to the US market and bracing itself for some 'rusty nails.'

It's still growing but showing first signs of a long maturing cycle - you cannot grow exponentially forever (Philip cautions us).

In Europe, Italy and Spain are the fastest growing markets but it's other territories that are the ones to watch - India online travel market will be worth US$6 billion by 2010.

In the US more than 50% of all travel is seamlessly purchased online and a similar tipping point will occur around the world and 'sooner than you might think!'

Enough of the facts, what we want to know is what's happening now?

Philip tells us it's the Perfect Storm with no George Clooney to be seen.

"The perfect storm occurs when several events occur simultaneously - search, shop, buy - which individually would be less powerful."

What we have is search engines wielding massive power and there is still a huge amount of unmonetised search out there causing companies to devise new strategies.

The shopping experience has become a sport, the thrill of the chase and getting the best price.

And, the buy stage with intermediaries fighting over who owns the consumer more than ever while deeplink referrals are obscuring the point of sale.

And the final point swelling the storm is social networking enabling different kinds of contact between travellers.

The good news is the Perfect Storm creates the perfect opportunity as long as you do two things:

"Exploit the advances in technology and momentum. Companies give themselves permission for not advancing and hide behind their customers.

"Focus less on business model preservation and more on solving problems for customers."

The Perfect Storm or storm in a teacup?

Linda Fox, lead reporter, Travolution

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