Innovating to persuade

At a time when the Web 2.0 is at boiling point, the travel business – where we users are avid for recommendations from other users regarding that romantic destination or that beach hotel – is not about to ignore it. Other than the big aggregates like kayak.com or minube.com, we will see how all the travel agencies will be forced to give users a voice to create a sufficiently-interesting value proposal.

Differentiation ? in a scenario where it will be more and more difficult for travel agencies to offer better prices than anyone else ? will have to come through a better and differential purchasing experience.

Without going into details, I think that this improvement can come about through the development of mechanisms which will allow me to search for the best prices or offers with exceptional conditions [1], systems which suggest and recommend alternative trips based on multiple criteria [2] and the utmost customisation in the creation of unique tourist packages which will allow me to choose the flights, hotels, car and activities as part of the same shopping process [3].

In this sense, the only way to continue persuading in the future will be through innovation, like the larger North American players are doing, such as Hotwire, Expedia. Priceline, or Travelocity Only Atrapalo in Spain is anything like them. Probably the best of them is Hotwire, with its Travel Ticker (to see real-time offers), its TripStarter (to know which is the best time of year to go to a particular destination) or its system of searching for hotels according to price and number of stars (without telling you the name of the hotel until you have made the reservation, but with exceptional terms and conditions).

The outlook for traditional travel agencies is not very promising, unless they understand that their business has gone from being a service business to a 100% technological business where the key lies in creating functions to maximise their clients’ shopping experience and give them the best product with the best terms and conditions in just a few clicks.

The good news is that players like Hotwire or Expedia aren?t well positioned on all European and Latin American markets yet. The bad news is that ? with all the acquisitions they are making ? it won?t be long before they are. Innovating to persuade is the only way forward in a business which promises to be highly competitive.

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