Magazine article International Trade Forum

A Natural Partnership: Tourism & Online Marketing: For Enterprises Operating in the Tourism and Hospitality Industries, Gaining an Understanding of the Expectations and Practices of Consumers Wanting to Use the Internet as a Medium to Seek Information and Arrange Online Travel Bookings Is Absolutely Vital

Magazine article International Trade Forum

A Natural Partnership: Tourism & Online Marketing: For Enterprises Operating in the Tourism and Hospitality Industries, Gaining an Understanding of the Expectations and Practices of Consumers Wanting to Use the Internet as a Medium to Seek Information and Arrange Online Travel Bookings Is Absolutely Vital

Article excerpt

Tuning in to the online traffic about customer satisfaction with services is a key to addressing quality issues and responding swiftly and deftly to consumer perceptions and needs. 'When we upgraded our website, we only thought about having a nicer online brochure than the one we had before,' recollects Karim Bouayad, manager of the Hotel Amine in Marrakech. Mr. Bouayad was a participant in an ITC e-booking training programme and a beneficiary of an ITC web marketing analysis programme that took place in Morocco in the framework of the Enhancing Arab Capacity for Trade (ENACT) programme. 'But after a few weeks, we saw a sharp increase in inquiries flocking in and, even better, direct bookings through our online booking engine'. An effective mix of design, professional pictures, well thought through navigation and content, and a powerful yet affordable booking engine were key to their Success.

ENACT is an ITC technical assistance facility funded in large part by the Canadian International Development Agency. ENACT capitalizes on the long-term partnership and trade development expertise of ITC to develop the full export potential of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

The case of Hotel Amine is not isolated. In 2008, hotel groups like Marriott saw a staggering 70% of overall bookings taking place directly through their online portals. But it is only recently that small- and medium-sized hotels have been able to fully benefit from the web to increase visibility and sales while reducing marketing costs. Many of them, however, still do not leverage this potential effectively, especially in developing countries.

This comes as a surprise as it is probably in the travel and hospitality industry that the Internet has brought the most dramatic changes. The Global Trends in Online Shopping report released by Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, in June 2010 shows that one out of four Internet users worldwide intended to book tours and hotels online. Most of them already had in the recent past. Although there are still geographic differences, the trend is bullish across the board. Some countries are leading the way: GfK, another large market research company, observed similar trends in the German market and anticipates that by 2015, more than 40% of hotel reservations will be made online by consumers. In addition, 30% of bookings will be made in a traditional agency after an online search. Hence, GfK reckoned the Internet would play a primary role for more than 70% of all bookings.

Indeed, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, for 65% of European Internet users the web is a primary source of information to prepare their travel. Young Russians planning a ski trip to the resorts of Central Asia's Tian Shan range will go online first, as does the Malaysian business man preparing a trip to Bangladesh to meet his partners. Whether for leisure or for professional purposes, travellers seek information online first; hence the necessity to be present on the web, with a website or through a partnership with brokers such as www.booking.com.

In this context, social media, which encompass sites like Facebook and Twitter, but also more specialized ones like TripAdvisor, are becoming a major source of information to validate choices made by customers. Social media accounts for 78% of traffic to travel websites according to the recent L2 Digital IQ Index for Travel report. …

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