A decreasing trust in advertising and a growing sense of independence among travellers is driving the online purchase of hotel rooms, where consumers are increasingly seeking out authentic reviews and buying into experiences rather than brands.These were just some of the issues highlighted at the opening of the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association’s (HEDNA) conference in Frankfurt, Germany on Monday.
In the hotel distribution sector where business models are evolving extremely rapidly, the consensus of the forum is that even the best minds in the industry would be unable to accurately predict who and how travel products and hotel rooms will be distributed in the future.
The rise of RSS (real simple syndication), podcasts, widgets (pop-up tools), word of mouth marketing, mobile Internet and “mash-ups” (were maps, holidays and photos are integrated) are the tools that were focused on at the meeting of over 325 global executives involved in the electronic distribution of travel products.
One presentation showed that a total of 33 percent of online travellers in the U.S. read other travellers reviews of destinations, while 64 percent read the comments and reviews about hotels written by other travellers.
“Communication is now traveller to traveller. So do not ignore. How much information are you really pushing at the consumer that he or she can use?” Henry Harteveldt, principal analyst at Forrester Research presented to the conference.
“Going forwards, visual content will also be more fully integrated into transactional content. It will be more about smart social computing in the future such as wikis, tagging and structured blogs.”
“Guest reviews will soon be more fully integrated into hotel websites, as travellers become more willing to share information and to validate and authenticate the travel information they receive,” explained Harteveldt.
The authentication of guest comments was questioned and whether competing hotels would post dud reviews—Harteveldt said it should be linked back to reservation details.
The importance of localised country-focused content was also focused upon during the HEDNA conference, as well as understanding consumers and where they travel.
“It is a huge challenge to localise content, and to keep it updated—imagine 30,000 hotels, in 30 languages, updated four times a year, it is a mammoth task,” says Henrik Kjellberg from destination services for Expedia and Hotels.com.
The hotel delegates highlighted the need for a more standardised system for providing property information to portals so that it can be used by other companies, although it was pointed out that hotel portals want different types of content in order to differentiate themselves. The question of who owns content from hotel was also debated.
“One of the biggest factors now is that big tour operators such as First Choice, TUI and Thomson are all coming online with their content,” says John Ryan, director for Hotels for online portal Opodo.
For more information go to www.hedna.org