Trend-Setting Opportunities at The PhoCusWright Conference

At The PhoCusWright Conference in Orlando on November global travel executives came together to discover and debate on the latest trends and opportunities in travel, tourism and hospitality.

A huge variety of innovative travel solutions, technologies, and mobile apps were demonstrated which are expected to significantly impact travel planning distribution and purchasing.

There is a huge discrepancy of what conferences promise about innovation and what is the reality. As you could recently read on Tnooz about the open source initiative of Farelogix, the most accurate view is that the industry still lacks innovation and continues to be controlled by the GDS.

In its 16th year the three distinct major categories discussed, could be summarized as “Travel Search Analytics and Optimization”, “Travel related Social Media” as well as “Mobile Strategies for Travel”. Although focused on leisure travel these categories doubtlessly are affecting business travel as well like stated by Scott Gillespie on The Beat.

Category Online Travel Search

As we probably all know search marketing for top ten positioning with travel industry related terms in common search engines is brutally competitive between the top twenty travel related websites (ranked by traffic) including major industry players or even companies with non-travel core businesses and other minor competitors, such as technology providers, travel agencies, airlines, hotels, distributors and many more. In order to drive qualified traffic and conversions on a particular website, targeted search engine marketing, search engine optimization, link building and analytic reporting are regarded to be the core factors of success in digital media. Besides, keeping already attained visitors on the website is at least of the same importance, which makes a fundamentally well working on-site search algorithm essential to generate direct ROI from online air fare search.

One of the four who gained their five minutes of fame as PhoCusWright travel innovation summit winner is Amadeus IT Group with their Affinity Shopper which might represent the long-term desired innovation in air fare search from user perspective. The traditional parameters to be set in the Ajax-led interface like departure date and desired destination are replaced by so called organic characteristics such as type of trip, activities and budget. Fares can be selected on a map displaying the search results which, however, unfortunately might be difficult to use, as it is not as intuitive as it should be to be usable for the mass-market.

Category Travel in Social Media

With Travel budgets under pressure companies keep searching for tools and apps to get the most out of every business trip reducing time spent on the road as well as money, thus more clearly show ROI. There are several ways to travel less but do more by using the cheap and easy way to reach out and connect with people via different social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and online communities to reach out to consumers, while bringing in a return on the own investment.

In the conference opening speech, Philip Wolf, CEO of PhoCusWright, describes the social web as the most powerful collaborative tool in the history of humankind what coincides with results of the recently carried out survey by Bigmouth Media in conjunction with Tnooz which forecasts a partly shift in spend of online marketing budget from simple display advertising towards social media for the upcoming business year. Thus, all polled channel representatives claim an increase in estimated spend for 2010 of at least 30% for Social Media Activity considering engagement in these very activities as the key online marketing challenge.

Although currency of online customer reviews as well as the purchase potential of Twitter are still vague and the overall ROI of social media activities keeps being a non-calculable (or at least hard-to calculate) measure, people’s fundamental need to access information in an efficient timely manner shown by daily time (10%) spent on online platforms, clearly indicates the necessity of social media engagement.

Therefore, even conference host PhoCusWright sets a good example enabling online ticket owners to interact with the audience while watching the conference program in real-time and review the content through January 31, 2010 via a new social media interface. At the Blogger Summit Social Media was discussed as a part of the overall marketing strategy of travel businesses providing exemplary social media success stories of Carnival, Southwest and LonelyPlanet amongst others.

Category Mobile Strategies for Travel

Whereas simply applying online apps to mobile devices is not in terms of the invention mobile internet at all, the third category was focused on opportunities how to use mobile channels for more than just an additional content distributor. Every Trail, another of the four innovation award winners, enables advanced In-trip planning and POI sharing based on geo-location tagging.

As you can see and as attendees will confirm, this year’s conference was peppered with companies proving that innovation in travel industry is still alive and probably benefiting hospitality and tourism. Hence, we may rest anxious what news, product extensions and innovations will be introduced during the following PhoCusWright Conference, taking place on November 16-18, 2010.

Image by Mateh Kastelic

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