Technology’s reach in travel grows but some struggle to keep up
The importance of technology across all aspects of the travel industry is growing, with some buyers interested in new developments, according to a panel of experts at the latest World Travel Market Meridian Club Think Tank.
A dozen technology buyers and WTM representatives, covering a cross-section of interests, attended the ‘Chatham House’ rules event, meaning all comments made are reported anonymously and unattributable not only to an individual but also the organisation they represent.
Familiar topics which fall under the technology banner were discussed, such as social media, Google, rate parity, return on investment and resources.
But some guests expressed interest in new areas. Cloud computing within the travel sector was discussed, with one guest suggesting that “cloud technology can lead to savings of around 70%” for some travel businesses, and that this was an area where smaller companies could benefit.
Alternative payment mechanisms are emerging as a way for technology suppliers to help travel companies not only save money but also make their products available to a wider customer base. “Taking payment using means other than credit or debit cards could work in mature travel markets” it was suggested, while some tour operator guests mentioned how suppliers in Africa were using mobile commerce to accept payments.
This was trend highlighted in the WTM Global Trends Report 2011, in association with Euromonitor International.
Some smaller businesses in attendance however suggested they “were being left behind by the big boys”, not only in terms of available products but also in terms of knowledge. One attendee admitted he had “burnt a lot of money trying to adopt a social media strategy for a market which clearly was not interested”, while another guest admitted that he “really didn’t have a clue” about how to use Twitter to market a specialist, high margin, late availability package.
Other businesses felt “exposed” to the sales pitch of web developers and needed the knowledge to talk the same language.
“Getting on the phone and talking to someone” was often the most effective way to do business, according to guests who dealt primarily with hotels. This traditional way of contracting remains popular despite the strength of the B2B bedbanks and online wholesalers.
World Travel Market Travel Technology Regional Account Manager Jo Marshall said: “The Travel Technology region of WTM grew by 40% last year and is poised to be even bigger at WTM 2012, so we’re keen to find out as early as possible what buyers and exhibitors want from this year’s event.
“It is clear that while some businesses are forging ahead with demands for cutting-edge products, others still need to understand how they can make the most of what is currently available. Our intention is to make sure we deliver a programme for WTM2012 that satisfies technology needs across the entire industry.”