Web in its infancy, says travel guru

The internet is at the same stage as the car industry at
the beginning of the 20th century according to Cheapflights.co.uk
chief executive David Soskin. He believes travel companies should brace
themselves for the internet to become far more sophisticated.According to Soskin, the main difference between now and a
decade ago is that the internet is now widely accepted as a means to research
and book travel. He says travel companies are going to have to up their online
game to keep up with the pace of change.

He warned the industry it would get left behind if it
didn’t respond to consumer demands such as communicating by e-mail instead of
the telephone and setting systems up to cope with volumes of e-mail.

Cheapflights, which will celebrate 10 years online this
autumn, pioneered the price comparison model and enjoyed hyper-growth through
the dot.com boom and bust era to emerge as one of the most successful online
players in travel.


Soskin said: “In 1996 the internet was the preserve of a
handful of computer experts and technology wizards. Not many observers
predicted it would become a revolutionary medium with the power to improve people’s
lives. And, it is still at a very, very early stage.”



Soskin also voiced his support for the human factor in
travel saying it was too complex to ever be entirely automated. He acknowledged
the importance of customer reviews and feedback for certain types of website but
added that they were nothing new. “The clear advantage of the internet over
other media is to provide users with something they would never have been able
to find out about in the past.”


Soskin continued: “Providing travel is a service business
so Cheapflights has always favoured providing a choice of websites or telephone
numbers. We will send about three million calls to the UK travel industry this year.
Many of our advertiser partners prefer to get
calls than click-throughs to websites. It sits alongside the internet very


Finally, he talked about the future of travel on the
internet in terms of it being evolutionary. The much vaunted “Web 2.0” is
merely a term given to some of the new and not so new functionality which new
technology permits. Future technology improvements are a certainty but he
dismissed the likelihood of a ‘silver bullet’ for travel.