Cutting out Google from its online sales business is the ultimate aim, said Tui Travel’s marketing director at Travel Marketing Question Time this week.
Jeremy Ellis said he thought the travel industry had become too price-focused, but added that brand still needs to play a role.
“Our aim is to maximise the exclusivity that we have,” said Ellis. “The ambition will be to cut Google out completely. The more we can do that with exclusivity, the less reliance we have on Google.”
At the event, hosted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing's Travel Industry Group (CIMTIG) in London, Ellis said that Tui Travel didn’t want to operate in the commodity market.
“We believe our differentiated product strategy allows us to charge a premium,” he said. “We have got to build a brand to enable people to come to you for what you stand for.
“If we didn’t tell people what our product is all about, people wouldn’t pay that premium.”
However, he added: “We will never sell commodity because we are a large mainstream business, but there’s only so much that we can sell at a premium so there will always be demand for commodity."
Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s managing director for Europe, said: “People want to go on holiday as cost-effectively as possible. They want to save as much money as possible. There will always be capacity that needs to be sold, that’s just a reality of the travel business today.
“Deals will always exist,” he continued, adding: “There’s definitely a difference between people pushing brand and people filling capacity.”
Speaking from a destination point of view, Carol Hay, director of marketing at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, said her friend summed it up perfectly: “I want the cheapest room in the best hotel.”
“They do want value but they want a deal as well,” said Hay, but said that some of their luxury islands and properties couldn’t be sold as value deals.
“As a region, we have to be mindful that while we do want value, there’s some that can’t be sold cheaper,” she explained, citing private luxury islands like Mustique, a popular holiday spot for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Steve Endacott, chief executive of On Holiday Group, said that if everyone is trying to offer differentiated product online as a way of setting themselves apart, it may ultimately still come down to price.
The value of social media also cropped up at the event, as did Air Passenger Duty.
“Social channels are not strong sales channels at the moment but it’s a great place to share content,” said Ellis.
“The biggest feedback we get is that they [customers] are not comfortable making money from their friends, so your whole approach has to be anti-commercial,” Endacott advised.
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