The rate of change within the online travel landscape shows no sign of relenting in 2011. Game-changing mergers and acquisitions, giant leaps in travel technology, and constantly evolving consumer behaviors mean that the online travel model continues to morph at a frenetic pace. As ever, disruptive change within our industry poses as many opportunities as threats to established models and players.
With the APAC (Asia Pacific) sector enjoying robust growth (7% YOY according to PATA) led by buoyant corporate and Chinese inbound travel markets, intelligent brands looking up and to the horizon to identify the “next big things” to create or reinforce a competitive advantage over rivals. So with that in mind, where should the industry be looking to boost market share, bottom lines, and simply sell more travel?
EyeforTravel has teamed up with 3 foremost experts to identify the emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities on the horizon that are set to define the next phases in the evolution of online travel. Excerpts below:
Robert Bailey, President & CEO of Abacus International
1. Mobile emergence as a critical component of business process will be real in 2011. We should see a big push to incorporate the mobile channel for online businesses, it is imperative for any online site to make sure they are equally present on key mobile platforms.
2. Efficiency – Beyond simply cost management, process and business efficiency will provide a key competitive advantage for online businesses. Pure online businesses are already well aware of this, but many big names in Asia are still operating in a hybrid model. We expect to see many opportunities for these businesses in pursuing dramatic efficiency gains over the next two years.
3. Consolidation – While most online businesses are focused on their geographic markets, the more successful players will look to consolidating Pan Asian positions carefully and in support of their core business. Within Asia, there are still some sizable markets with untapped potential – it will no longer be competition with local players that any aspiring online business will need to contend, but with regional and some local competitors reaching out beyond their typical market borders. For example, there is MakeMyTrip from India buying into Luxury Travels & Tours in Singapore and Ctrip from China buying into HK and Taiwan. With the face of competition changing and the absence of borders in the online space, it is even more imperative that businesses look beyond their own markets.
Tim “the BOOT” Hughes, VP Orbitz Worldwide and HotelClub
Search changes (again) – Search already changed forever in 2010. There is more to come in 2011, especially in the measure of authority. The old measure of inbound links will be enhanced with input from social networks, context and location, expert advice, preference matching, and more. Search marketing will have to change to encompass content, social, information syndication, and data mining. All suppliers and all OTAs will need to ensure that their SEO experts and agents are on top of this change. In addition to the changes in authority, search will change in how results are displayed.
1. Social media will challenge search and retail: the parallel rises of social media, customers asking more complicated (and open) questions online, and consumers willingness to discuss and share everything openly and freely will drive through 2011 a change the way the industry attracts and retains customers. The traffic numbers of Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, etc. are all but unprecedented. But it is not their rise that is the story. The story is the consumer behavior behind the rise of these products. Pick your metaphor – consumers have opened the kimono, dropped their pants, or invited everyone in to their lives. Nothing is sacred. Everything can and will be shared. Marketing channels will need to be adjusted. Communications techniques changed. Customer care models and response times adjusted. Even sales channels will need to be reworked. Get ready for social search, book, and buy.
2. Mobile becomes a distinction without meaning: iPhone did for the smart phones what Diet Coke did for soda. It created a category, lifted other categories with it, and made people buy more of everything around it. The consequence is that people are using their phones (and now tablets) while they are on the move and as a replacement for laptops. Mobile no longer means mobile. By that I mean people will sit in meetings, on couches at home, at the desk… anywhere… everywhere… expecting to be connected, not caring if a device is called a phone, tablet, or netbook, just caring that it gets them the content or experience they want. The result is device platform discussions will move from “which product is this built for” to “is this compatible for all displays?” much like we now say that a site has to be web ready rather than differentiating between its readiness on FireFox, Chrome, Safari, opera, and IE. The type of the device and whether or not it is mobile is now irrelevant. Mobile/PC/Tablet will be the different “browsers” of 2011. All code will need to be written in preparation for this.
Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, Managing Partner – T2Impact Ltd, Node at Tnooz and CTO at LUTE Technologies
The Next Big Thing? – As I stand back and look at the developments ongoing – there is a strong move to social, and the travel market has defined that as reviews – hence the dominance of TripAdvisor. This to me is short sighted. There is a missing set of social values, which are still bubbling under but have not quite emerged with a strong enough value to the consumer. Let me pick on one thing – social validation. Travel for leisure (and this does apply to corporate) is about creating better and deeper experiences. However, understanding where you can go for validation is a strong missing ingredient. Personally, I would like to see Web 3.0 be all about disseminating trust, i.e., I would love to say the next big thing is trust, but that is too much of a reach.
For Trends, here are some of mine:
1. Reliable Apps – The current crop are abysmal in their performance and reliability and yet we are so happy to get them that we have lowered our standards for them.
2. Killing iPhone’s high roaming cost – This is killing the platform for cross border apps. If you think about it, not being able to take your phone’s application set with you because of high cost data roaming makes the iPhone a crippled device.
3. Privacy – This is becoming a hot topic from both a personal perspective and of course the push back of government intrusion into our daily lives. Particularly I believe that we will hear a lot about privacy in mobile, which has been largely ignored.
4. Reliability and quality of data – We are reaching a critical inflection point where cache is suspect and performance matters. The requirements of better user experiences, mobile, etc., etc. will challenge the existing infrastructure. This will cause consumers to gravitate to more reliable sources of data and better performing apps.
Tim, Robert, and Timothy will all be presenting alongside during the keynote debates at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit (TDS) Asia 2011 Summit in Singapore, May 18-19. They will be joined by 60 other expert speakers from leading brands like Google, IHG, Wego, Cathay Pacific, Hilton, Expedia, Emirates, Priceline.com, Marina Bay Sands, and many, many more.
What are your thoughts? Please share your comments and insights.
For more information about TDS Asia 2011, please visit the official event website or contact the summit director at firstname.lastname@example.org .