Archive for September, 2006
It seems that DMO are blaming online media for not working effectively. I would argue that the reasons this can be the case is that a lot of online advertising is placed on the wrong sites or probably even more likely what happens when an interested traveler clicks is not the expected result. How many DMO are doing research on the importance of landing pages to convert? Where do they send the click? To the home page or a truly convincing and effective landing page that takes the clicker to the next logical step in the travel decision making process?
I’ve long been an advocat of campaign specific, branded micro-sites that would increase the effectiveness of the online ad spend. Other industries do this successfully. The main reason for this is that too many DMO sites are overloaded with information that often is there because every possible consitituent has to be kept satisfied. It’s like wading through an information jungle, rather than walk along a well kept path to the reservation.
But, what seems to me the most basic requirement for DMO is a total review of their marketing budgets and prioritizing expenditures, before allocating some funds from often shrinking budgets to online media. It can’t be considered an "add-on" but the entire marketing effort today should revolve around the website as the core asset of the organization. I doubt many DMO are taking that approach.
For too long travel agents have viewed the web as the enemy. It was never assured that agents would be replaced, unless they were order takers for airline tickets which, of course, too many were only a few years ago. Now increasingly they are becoming destination specialists acquiring detailed knowledge.
Having said that, to apply this know how they need to find an audience and this audience is increasingly turning to the web from the very beginning to research, plan and book vacation trips. Especially the younger generation often has no idea that travel agents even exist and if they do, what they can offer.
I remember an industry panel a year ago, where this became manifestly true on a consumer panel that included a university student who told the audience of agent that she never knew they existed….!
So, yes, agents have a place in the industry and a role to play, but it’s not going to get easier…..
By and large it is true that more complex trips are still hard to book on a single website and the planning process is very time consuming and often frustrating. It’s actually surprising that online travel technology has not further advanced by now to make this easier. Watch for increasing technology investments by major players as the growth rates start to drop. The days of picking the low hanging fruit seem to be over, especially in North America.
If I was a travel agent, however, I would not be complacent and take it for granted that the person that wants to know the inside out of a destination will necessarily turn to an agent. This is where user generated content will play a key role. Word of mouth has always had the highest rate of influence and now that becomes easier with the new sites growing fast that enable easy posting of customer comments not influenced by professional marketers or intermediaries. Of course, these comments are not always subjective, but collectively they will become a valid source of information available 24/7 without any commitment or pressure.
The experience of buying travel online is certainly not what it could or should be in about the tenth year of the web as a commercial tool. Of course, it’s easy to buy a single destination trip to a place that you already know and you can do that by going to an online travel agency or supplier site. If you’re looking for the lowest component price you can use one of the meta-searchers.
Now, if you’re in the market for a multi-destination trip using different modes of transport and don’t have clear idea of the destination, you’re in for a disappointment and a time consuming planning and buying experience on a whole number of different sites that all give you a part of the whole, but not the whole picture. We are as far away from true, customer-centric one stop shopping as we ever were.
Despite all the talk of dynamic packaging, there are no sites with a semblance of market recognition that are offering what I alluded to above. Global, one stop shopping for complex vacation trips.
What will it take for some innovative technology company to enter the market, or for the existing players to develop this technology to make it happen? Most likely the focus has to switch from distribution and product focus to customer focus. This has not happend so far.
We’re still in the product pushing phase of the business, with some refinements and superficial consideration of customer requirements, but still far away from a true customer centric model.
All We Got Was Web 1.0, When Tim Berners-Lee Actually Gave Us The Web
As with any development on the web, there’s hype, controversy, ranting and raving…… make your own decision about how important, or not, this development is to your marketing effort. DMO in the Age of Web 2.0 is my own take on it.
As always these guys provide thought provoking stuff. This trend they call Status Skills ties very closely into what’s happening in travel, one of the most experiental activities there is. More and more people are not interested in being a "tourist" but a traveler, explorer, adventurer, participant; whatever you want to call it. User generated content is part of this trend of becoming an "expert" on a destination and contribute that knowledge so others can use it.
This is one way for lesser known travel destinations to get on the map, by offering authenticity and the true experience rather than the "touristy" superficial one provided by so many famous and "must see" places. Destinations should go in this direction. Offer visitors the opportunity to obtain a STATUS SKILL.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This article about Travelocity providing Maryland with a booking engine, shows how things are changing – albeit slowly – in the world of destination marketing. It could have been written in 1999. This is when MySwitzerland.com was launched by the DMO of that country and was one of the first national sites with a fully integrated hotel booking engine. DMO have a responsibility to their customers to offer easy booking of their destination to them whenever and wherever they want it. This just happens today to be on their own websites. Any company can provide them with the booking engine to do so. In this case it happens to be Travelocity, for Bermuda and others it is Expedia.
This is a development that can’t be stopped. Destination websites will become more and more – if they not already are – the starting point for travelers to do their planning and research, after all it is the DMO that stimulate the demand and then direct the interested traveler to their sites. To guarantee that these motivated, potential visitors are served well and are not lost to a competing destination, today requires a booking functionality right when these people are ready to make a decision. It’s the logical progression of the DREAM – LEARN – PLAN – GO stages of travel decision making. Any DMO worth it’s supporter’s money owes it to them and their customers to close the deal. It’s just a market reality.
Oh, and by the way, how many travel agents or tour operators make a living at selling Maryland, Kentucky and Louisiana – or Switzerland, for that matter?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
one stop shopping is about as far off as ever. Sure, you can go to Kayak or Mobissimo or FareChase to get referred to another site for either your air or hotel or car, then what? On one site you get the cheapest air but not the best hotel rate, so you go back to the meta search site and try for the hotel and go the another site for the hotel and so on. I just spent hours doing that for booking hotels in Tokyo and Shanghai, took hours…. Not one stop shopping at all. I’m using miles for the air, if not the whole excercise would be doubled to shop for the cheapest airfare.
I have to chuckle when I read the comment by this financial analyst about how meta-search erodes brand loyalty for the price concious shopper – of course it does, I’ve been saying that since day one, when these same analysts still considered meta-search site actual online travel agencies…!
With all the improvements online travel has brought to buying travel, the reality is still far from what should be an easy, and truly one-stop shopping experience on a trusted site that guarantees the lowest price. We’re still far away from that reality today.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
"Wiki Your Way to a Well-Planned Trip"
This article and podcast describes the challenge of what a number of sites such as wikitravel.org, world66.com or VCarious.com are trying to achieve in the travel planning space. Site traffic, and more importantly active user participation by many, to make it a truly reliable tool. Hope it will happen, as I’m a believer in the effectiveness of the idea. It’s a huge challenge to make these sites truly comprehensive, reliable, interesting, compelling and most of all global. Another key issue is integration with the booking process. Who wants to spend hours on information gathering and then have to start over again on a number of other sites to put the actual trip together. One-stop travel advice and booking is the key. Are you listening, DMOs?