Benoit Jolin, vice-president of product and marketing at Expedia Affiliate Network
While the web will be hugely important to tomorrow’s travel industry, a growing body of opinion suggests that it needn’t represent the death of the high street travel agency.
Part of the reason for this is that they serve different needs – many still prefer to speak to an agent when booking a three week cruise or a family package holiday, but are more likely to look online when booking a short city break or a weekend away.
It’s these impulse purchases that are bought so regularly by tablet, mobile and desktop web users, and it’s easy to see why – with relatively low purchase prices, captivating visual content and an ever-changing array of deals, it’s much easier to short-circuit the decision-making process, and just click ‘buy now’.
Like all good bricks-and-mortar retailers, high street agencies use their detailed knowledge of their customers to market effectively and make sure their patrons return year after year.
But more likely than not, they only come back for one or two big family holidays. That means that any number of shorter breaks are being bought from online retailers.
But with the loyalty they command, and their in-depth customer knowledge, high street agencies are well placed to gain a share of that online business - by directing customers towards their own online shop.
Until very recently, this would have been difficult to do. Building your own website required a great deal of time, money and skill.
With such a competitive market, it’s understandable that many would-be web warriors have shied away from the investment needed to break into online retailing.
However, the technology available has advanced massively in the last couple of years, especially in hotel booking. It is now possible for any business to acquire the ‘skeleton’ of a website, complete with access to a comprehensive inventory of hotels, free of charge.
The site owner is then be able to attach their own branding, write their own content, upload their own photographs, and tailor the search parameters within the website to best fit the needs of their customers.
Sites such as these also have the ability to automatically offer deals and packages to catch the eye of a casual visitor.
With it now being this easy to set up an online retail platform, travel retailers are well placed to grab themselves a slice of the online pie.
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