Posted by: the3rdi | February 2, 2010

Travel industry round table identifies value as key element in 2010

With price-comparison websites providing more choice to consumers and the recession hitting leisure and travel spend hardest, value was identified as the key concern for 2010 at an industry round table.

The event, hosted by UKFast, involved lively debate about how the travel industry has been influenced by the rise of the internet as part of the decision-making process when booking leisure pursuits.

While the freedom of the internet has made holidaymakers more aware of price, the discussion also revealed that it had taken the focus away from vital industry regulations. As the demise of XL Leisure Group highlighted, customers are now at risk of substituting their protections in search of the cheapest deal.

Fierce competition within the sector was also identified as a route to mislead consumers with price-comparison basket prices often being substantially different to those initially advertised.

Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast, said, “I think the big difficulty travel businesses have on the internet is that there is too much choice and this is becoming a negative. As the comparisons at first glance may not actually be the correct prices people are being suckered in to deals. Travel deal publishing companies like Travelzoo therefore research each deal before they recommend it to guarantee the end price is the price you see.”

Looking to big brands like Thomson and Thomas Cook for added protections, consumers are focused on entrusting their money to companies that will still exist in 12 months time.

Joel Brandon-Bravo, panellist and UK managing director of Travelzoo (www.travelzoo.com), identified their role as the guardians of honest and reliable offers. He said it was the reason that subscription numbers have grown to 1.6million in the UK despite the travel sector being one of the hardest hit industries.

Joel said, “I think everyone has become much more value driven. The consumer can now do everything from check the hotel’s own imagery to the imagery of people who have visited it recently and put together their own rich picture of exactly what it is they are buying.”

He added, “Customers have all seen airlines and tour operators suffer and in some cases fail during the recession so they want to know that the people they are booking from are going to deliver, they are going to get them home if it goes wrong and that the deal is everything it presented itself to be in the first place.”

In support of the industry’s call for transparency, user-generated content was also expected to increase in 2010. With the advent of iPhone applications and social media sites encouraging customers to look to their peers for recommendations rather than existing marketing material.

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies. Additional panellists included Richard Nash, business director of CSI Media, James Brooke, managing director of Rooster, and Brian Povey, tourism project manager of The Mersey Partnership.

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