The luxury travel sector is failing to make use of the opportunities the internet offers, reveals a new series of round table talks involving the best and brightest minds in travel.
The comments were made at a the first of four round table conversations focusing on travel technology and which have been organised following a new partnership The Travel Tech Show at WTM and Amadeus.
While the first round table discussion allowed for a frank exchange of opinions, those attending agreed that the internet provides a wealth of opportunities for the luxury sector, which sometimes falls short in using them.
On Holiday Group Chief Executive Steve Endacott, who chaired the discussion, pointed out that 50% of all consumers in the developed world have no idea where they want to go on holiday when they start researching online.
He added: “You go to any luxury website in the UK and you have to say what dates you want to go on and where you want to go.”
However, African Safari Specialist CEO Julian Asher argues at the top end of the market this remained unnecessary as luxury consumers are influenced by different factors to ordinary travellers. He added: “We do have a website like everybody else but at our end of the market what people care about most is a personal recommendation from someone they know.
SpaFinder Europe Managing Director John Bevan added the luxury market remains price sensitive, meaning while travellers may not know where they want to go on holiday, deals that offer good value and are easily booked can be the most effective way of converting consumers in to customers.
Meanwhile Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes said only through understanding a consumer’s past could you meet their demands for luxury products effectively now. He added: “If luxury is in the eye of the beholder then you need to understand the previous booking history of that person and see what they’ve done before.”
However, Perfect Weddings Abroad Director Danny Waine, said thanks to a strong focus on the medium, 95% of his company’s leads come from the internet.
Giles Parnwell, Director of Distribute Travel claimed the biggest problem with luxury operators is there is a dearth of data.
“We distribute data and we have not got any luxury operators,” he said. “At the moment you type in luxury holidays [into Google] and you have to go one by one through each branded site. There’s no portal.”
Andrew Pozniak, Vice President Sales and Marketing for luxury operator Kuoni, said the firm has sought to redefine what success looked like online.
He said until recently the key metric was how many bookings came from online but that conversion rates were very low at around 5%.
“On the back of that, because we know booking online was never going to happen in big numbers we have gone through a process of stripping out access to our booking engine and being explicit with customers that we want them to call or visit a shop or fill out a form.”
The Travel Tech Show at WTM Head of Marketing and Communications Micaela Juarez said: “By teaming up The Travel Tech Show at WTM with Amadeus to host these events we have created a powerful brand which will inevitably attract industry leaders from many of the different fields in travel.”
Further topics to be covered in the months leading up to World Travel Market 2013 include Family and Cruise; City Breaks and Business Travel; and Responsible, Adventure and Disabled Travel. The conversation at each will also be distilled into white papers which will be made available to members of the travel industry.