What next for online travel?
Monday, 5th September 2011
Source : By Marco Saio, Director of Global Research & Proje
In a year characterised by game-changing start-ups, disruptive trends, mergers & acquisitions and leaps in both travel technology and consumer behaviour, keeping abreast of current affairs in the online travel industry is becoming ever more arduous.

In addition, our fixation with the instant and virtual means that it is becoming increasingly rare for us to ‘look-up' and to the horizon for the next threat or opportunity that lies ahead for the online travel industry. Which emerging trends will fizzle, and which will pop? What is the most significant opportunity (or critical threat) that our industry faces? Which disruptive forces will re-shape the online travel landscape as we know it in the next years?

With this in mind, EyeforTravel teamed up with the leading lights at Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor and simply asked them: What are the ‘Next Big Things' for the online travel industry?

Excerpts below:

Rohit Dhawan, Lead Product Manager, Facebook

At Facebook, we're really seeing that the web is being rebuilt around people – everything is becoming more social.  What used to be an information web where people sought to find the "what" has really shifted to a social web where people are looking to find the "who?" 

Today, there are more Facebook profile pages than there are web pages.  This social web really means that people are at the centre of marketing – in all industries, including travel. There is now an even greater opportunity for marketers to create an on-going, two-way dialogue between their brands and their customers.  Because of this connection, we're seeing that businesses can now achieve effective word-of-mouth marketing at scale for the first time.

We've always known that the best recommendations come from your own friends – and now businesses can leverage this natural word-of-mouth using the suite of marketing tools that Facebook has to offer – including ads, Pages, Sponsored Stories, and social plugins.

Barbara Messing, CMO, TripAdvisor

  • Travel is becoming more social - People are using technology and social networks to tap into the wisdom of friends to make good travel decisions.  We are spending a lot of energy at TripAdvisor facilitating these connections between friends as we think seeing travel advice from your friends is incredibly valuable.
  • The travel category is changing (dramatically) with mobile - Mobile is incredibly exciting- and changing both the travel planning period and the in-trip experience.  Particularly during the in-trip experience there is still a ton of opportunity to make the traveler better informed, allow her to find the right restaurants & attractions tailored to her interests and time, and even provide special location-based features that can only be delivered via mobile.  If only we can get rid of those pesky roaming fees for international trips!
  • The power (and omnipresence) of the review -  While TripAdvisor has for over a decade believed that the wisdom of our reviewers helps other travelers have the best trips, we've recently seen that the hotel industry has also embraced the benefits of reviews and the importance of that content to their social reputation.  You once had to search hard to find hotel reviews outside of TripAdvisor, and now nearly every OTA has reviews in their hotel path, hotel chains are displaying reviews on their supplier-direct sites, and even Google has begun to collect reviews.  With TripAdvisor having over 45 million visitors last month reading some of our 50 million reviews and opinions, we know reviews are essential to consumers in the travel-planning process.
  • Green-friendly and sustainable travel are gaining importance - Travelers want to know more about the green practices and environmental reputation of the hotels, and travelers seek to understand whether the hotel is part of the problem or the solution in promoting better environment practices.  And a growing set of travelers want to see how their tourism dollars are benefiting the local community in certain destinations.
Rob Torres, Head of Travel, Google, Inc

3 predictions for 2012:

1)  Aggressive consumer adoption of the mobile platform as a booking vehicle for travel

The growing adoption of web-enabled mobile devices is revolutionizing how many companies do business.  Travel brands have an opportunity to take advantage of this trend.

  • The number of mobile users researching travel is expected to grow 51% in 2012.
  • 34% of all US smartphone users research from their mobile device
  • 23% of all international travelers use mobile check-in for flights
  • By 2012 18% of mobile users will also book from their smart device. 
2)  2009 all over again...

Travel shoppers will continue to search for deals and discounts at record levels.  In 2012 consumers will again be willing to invest more time in the research process in order to save money – they will look for the best deals they can find, to get the most bang for their buck.  Flash sale sites will continue to flourish....especially in the travel space. 

3)  Product innovation in the travel space will emerge for the first time since the entrance of OTA's in the late 90's. 

When you look across the phases of the travel cycle - Dreaming, Researching, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing - the potential for innovation, particularly in the early stages of dreaming and researching is astounding. In 2012 you will see quite a few travel start-ups emerge that attempt to capitalize on this opportunity.

Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google and LinkedIn will all be presenting further insights and strategies at  the keynote debates at EyeforTravel's TDS North America 2011 Summit in Las Vegas this September 19-20th. They will be joined by 95 other expert speakers from leading brands like Expedia, IHG, American Airlines, Harrahs, Orbitz, Hilton, LivingSocial, United-Continental, Starwood, Gowalla, Las Vegas Sands, Wyndham and many, many more

What are your thoughts? Any predictions that you disagree with or have we missed any out? Please share your feedback and insights below.

For more information about TDS Asia 2011, please visit the official event website, or contact summit  director marco@eyefortravel.com

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