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Published on Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't become dependent on search engines - a review of TTI’s autumn conference by Paul Richer, senior partner, Genesys – The Travel Technology Consultancy

A warning was issued at TTI’s Autumn conference that travel industry players must not allow themselves to become too dependent on the major search engines to drive visitors to their Web sites.

Relying too heavily on pay per click could drive profit out of the industry, as travel companies outbid each other for increasingly expensive keywords.

In a panel session that saw heated discussion between Len Wright, managing director of online tour operator Open Roads, Peter Gould, chief executive of Great Hotels Organisation and representatives from Google and Yahoo! Travel, Wright warned of the consequences of becoming too reliant on pay per click.

Gould supported this by arguing strongly for optimising your Web site for natural search and eschewing pay per click as much as possible.

However, when pressed, both conceded that pay per click was invaluable as it gave travel companies greater control over promotional messages and their placement, allowing revenue won from clickthroughs to be carefully tracked.

Heather Hopkins, director of research at Hitwise UK, reinforced the importance of search to travel by stating that their statistics showed 36% of visitors to travel Web sites are driven there by the search engines. She also stated that traffic from specialist travel search sites has grown by 216% in the last year.

This bodes well for new entrants such as meta-search engine,

According to director Chris Nixon, the company is now working with over 130 travel suppliers and servicing over 50,000 searches per day. He announced the recent launch of what he claims is the internet’s first dynamic travel price comparison service.

This technology allows visitors to carry out price comparisons of a package of services such as flight, car and hotel in one search. This could seriously challenge both traditional operators and online travel agents who offer dynamic packaging.

Nixon’s optimism about the increasing popularity of travel meta-search was mirrored by Anite Travel Systems Director, Ed Spiers, who sees the meta-search engines challenging the existing models of agents and operators and eventually becoming household brands in their own right.

Following this theme, Chris Louglin of Travelzoo listed a plethora of new brands and new business models such as Skype, ebay and Napster.

Online travel is on the move. Will the new entrants of the Internet boom days become the dinosaurs of tomorrow? What do you think?

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  • Travel Search Engine Marketing = TSEM

    Despite all its success, choosing and bidding for keywords on Google is no longer the most effective way to drive lead to travel websites. Now there are purpose made travel search engines available that attract only travellers. The traveller enters the exact travel dates, destinations and service needed to get his natural results and a selection of highly relevant ads. A travel supplier that has the right service at the right time will be found and the lead brought to him with very high chances of conversion. We have been seeing conversion rates as high as 20-50% on the leads that drives to its customers. There are many travel search engines out there eager to compete with Google for search engine budgets. As Google's keywords get more expensive and less efficient than other options, customers will simply move elsewhere.

    By frosti sigurjonsson, Friday, September 30, 2005

  • The Three P's

    If your product and price are not right, it doesn't matter how much search engine optimisation or pay per click you do. You still won't sell anything. PPC does work, but only if your web site is good enough to convert the traffic once you get it.

    By Peter Barnsley, Thursday, September 29, 2005

  • A balanced approach to search

    A balanced approach to search marketing, utilising a mix of pay per click and search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques, will still deliver higher ROI than offline methods of promotion. However, search without proper attention to other aspects of marketing - branding, PR, customer service - will still deliver sub-optimal results. Did anyone at TTI ask Google about their illicit use of the "sandbox"?

    By David Burdon, Thursday, September 29, 2005

  • ROI is getting scarcer online

    Pay per click was once a fast track to growth, and the dinosaurs who run the large multiple tour operators didn't know what was going on until they decided to overspend on pay per click, forcing samller operators (like me) out of business. The reality is that there is a shortage of cost effective channels to promote travel products. The question is - do customers get what they want from the web already?

    By Gary Phillips, Wednesday, September 28, 2005

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