The Internet has revolutionised the way we research and book holidays. We no longer have to trust our local travel agent or wait for weeks for our tickets to arrive by post. Everything is at our fingertips. We are in total control of comparing holidays and can even chose where we sit on the plane just a few hours before flying.
But with these constant changes also comes a fierce competition to remain on top within the travel industry (Johnson et al, 2014). New threats are never far away,
So what do marketers need to know now about the future of the ever-changing travel industry?
The Threat of Google:
Search engine optimisation is one of the most effective digital marketing methods available to the travel industry with just over 50% of Expedia’s enquiries coming from search (Caprin, 2015). SEO holds the most opportunity to establish new customers in an organic way whilst having lower costs involved. Currently this method is widely used for comparison companies and is a core platform for creating sales.
This year Google are investing in creating a platform to compare flights, hotels and insurance. Their moves to date include;
- Google purchases flight information software for $700 Million
- Google now shows rating from a 3rd party which will increase their advert revenue.
- Google have just launched Google Hotel Finder in the USA only, an experiment to test the market.
- Google have also redesigned their Google places pages, which now encourage customers to leave a review, potentially beginning to create their own database of reviews without having to rely on third parties.
In the past Google have been known to aggressively take on industries and more often than not, successfully do so.
So what can the holiday comparisons do, sit tight and hope for the best?
Comparison websites will need to utilise all platforms and adapt to finding customers through methods that Google cannot overpower, such as social media, apps and email. Industry expert Gian Caprini (2015) from Expedia proposes that customers have tried and tested a selection of providers and are starting to establish which provider they want to be loyal to. Comparison companies need to create loyalty with their customers, focusing on the customer service, journey or providing a unique selling point that goes beyond what Google can offer. Listening platforms also provide a basis to begin to understand exactly what customers want from their services and listen to negative feedback and take action on it. Here is a list of some of the best free listening platforms available.
Trip advisors rapid growth and future plans
Around 75% of customers now expect to be able to leave a review for hotels and restaurants they have visited (Feefo, 2016). 83% of holiday shoppers are influenced by reviews and around half would not book onto a holiday without there being reviews for the hotel.
According to BDRC continental (2014) social media and review sites are far more likely to influence the consumers buying choice than the holiday comparison website. This statistic therefore suggests that holiday comparison companies should ensure they have reviews on their websites.
Source – BDRC Continental (2014)
Trip advisors latest annual report highlighted huge growth plans for 2016 (Trip advisor, 2015). The aim is for customers to use the site to book not just research their holidays. Currently many players within the travel industry rely on Trip Advisors reviews that are incorporated into their websites, which gives customers the reviews that are so highly desired. Given this new strategy Trip Advisor may be less inclined to allow their reviews on competitors website, such as On The Beach (image below). 10 tips to market your hotel on Trip Advisor
Source – On the Beach (2016)
So what should holiday comparison companies do?
Players within the industry have the ability to create their own reviews database by creating their own system that takes rating scores from a range of sources across the web and uses an algorithm to aggregate them, providing a dependable and impartial score. Trivago have developed a comprehensive rating index that use 227,564,076 reviews from 34 different websites (See below). Given the importance of reviews to the customer buying journey, although potentially expensive, this appears to be a high return venture.
Source – Trivago (2016)
Overall, there will always be constant changes to the travel industry, not only will technology develop over time but new threats will always arise. This blog post has highlighted two of the main threats that the future could hold and has explained potential ways that companies could respond to the change.
BDRC Continental (2014) Holiday Trends 2014 [Online] Available at < http://mediafiles.thedms.co.uk/Publication/ee-nor/cms/pdf/BDRC%20Continental%20Holiday%20Trends%202014%20Report.pdf> [Accessed 08 April 2016]
Caprini, G. (2015) SPECIAL – SEO & Content Marketing in the Travel Industry. [online] < http://www.analyticsseo.com/blog/travel-content-marketing/> [accessed January 18 2016}
Feefo, (2016) [Turning Feedback into Customers [Online] Available at < https://www.feefo.com/documentation/Turning_Feedback_into_Customers_whitepaper.pdf >
Johnson, G. Wittington, R. Scholes, K. Angwin, D. Regner, P. (2014) Exploring Strategy: text and cases. 10th Ed. Pearson: Harlow
On the Beach (2016) Home Page. [Online] Available at < https://www.onthebeach.co.uk/> [accessed 08 April 2016]
Trip advisor (2015) 2015 Annual Repot. [online] Available at <http://ir.tripadvisor.com/annuals.cfm> [accessed 04 April 2016]
Trivago (2016) Search results. [Online] Available at < http://www.trivago.co.uk/?aDateRange[arr]=2016-05-22&aDateRange[dep]=2016-05-23&r=&cpt=4158603&iRoomType=7&aPriceRange[from]=0&aPriceRange[to]=0&iPathId=41586&iViewType=0&bIsSeoPage=false&bIsSitemap=false&> [Accessed 08 April 2016