Published on Thursday, November 22, 2007

Price declining as dominant travel factor?

Going against the grain of popular opinion, price is no longer the only factor for travel consumer decisions, says a high level official for Travelocity.

"When shopping a la carte, it may be cheaper to book directly, but we don't think price is all that consumers care about. Price is foundational, but we think the future rests more on the end-to-end experience," says Noreen Henry, VP Hotels and Packaging for Travelocity.

Ms Noreen says that's why her company has turned its focus on the "dreaming and planning" aspect of travel rather than shopping and booking.

"We'd much rather sell a dream vacation of a lifetime that includes the flight, hotel, car rental and activities while giving the customer a central point of contact to deal with should they have any issues before, during or after their trip," she told EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta.

Ms Noreen was one of the speakers during EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Executive Conference 2007 in Las Vegas. Some other points she made:

·         Suppliers are taking steps to drive more traffic to their own sites. But it's also no secret that consumers still want the choice, flexibility, great deals and unique content that online travel companies like Travelocity have to offer.

·         A noticeable trend going against conventional wisdom is that there are shoppers who are supplier.com loyalists and those that are OTA loyalists.

·         Rich internet applications like Flash have opened up an entirely new way of interacting with information that makes features like trip planning by categories and themes, planning and shopping through photo albums, video galleries, and maps come to life.

·         OTCs should be humble and understand that the success of suppliers precedes their own.

·         OTCs no longer exist merely as an avenue to distribute suppliers’ content on the cheap. "Our mission needs to be about marketing experiences," she says.

·         Customer service must be a shared issue. "After all, if a customer has a good experience, we both reap the rewards and, conversely, if the experience is negative, we both suffer," she says.

Report by David Wilkening

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  • hitting on all cylinders

    Yes! Finally a notion of OTAs and suppliers working towards a stronger tourism sector. As a hotel owner, I have shuddered at the price impact of OTA, but I also see their tremendous potential for the customer. Adding value is key, and I celebrate Travelocity recognizing the importance of keeping suppliers strong and not eroding RevPAR.

    By Adam Saccio, Tuesday, November 27, 2007

  • Horses for Courses

    I have little doubt there are people for who price is the determining factor, particularly in the purchase of an air ticket. But there are plenty of people who are prepared to pay for certain facilities. Sticking with air fares the growth of premium economy is one example. People have never stayed simply in the cheapest hotel.

    By Graham Harrison, Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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