Travel Companies Lag in the Online Marketing Race

Some interesting articles, that are very true, about the lack of online marketing by travel companies. Sites are increasingly confusing in an attempt to keep relevant and companies are starting social media accounts with no clear sense of direction. My advice? Stop, think about the key differentiators of your brand, then act – don’t keep running with the same bland messaging that doesn’t set you apart.

“Travel companies expect the consumer to behave like a travel agent”

A new report, released by Forrester Research, found that far from embracing the do-it-yourself era, many consumers were fed up with the complicated process of planning and booking travel.

According to Forrester, travellers are fed up. There are 15 percent fewer travellers who enjoy using the web in 2009 than there were in 2007. Just one in three US online travellers feels that travel websites do a good job presenting travel choices, down from 39 percent in 2008. Travellers feel that they, and their business, are taken for granted.

“What we’ve seen is growing frustration,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a Forrester travel analyst. “Consumers see other websites becoming easier to use — retail websites, banking websites, media websites. But travel is treading water as a category. There are very few travel companies that are really looking to improve the planning and booking process.”

Instead, customers are forced to figure out extra fees, wade through fine print and understand industry terms like the difference between a deluxe and a standard room, in addition to educating themselves about destinations, flights and hotels, Harteveldt said.

“Travel companies expect the consumer to behave like a travel agent,” he told the New York Times. “The question I always ask these guys is, ‘Could your mother-in-law use your website without having to call you for help?’ The answer is always no.”

To reverse travellers’ dissatisfaction and avoid having them abandon the web in favour of other, more expensive offline channels, travel eBusiness professionals must rethink their approach to travel eBusiness. To reverse this trend and re-engage travellers, travel eBusiness professionals must recognise that travel eBusiness is comprised of four continuous phases — not isolated, unrelated processes — supported by the five pillars of merchandising, context, engagement, value, and customer appreciation. Expect travel eBusiness professionals to be asked to become more involved with customer data strategy and for global distribution systems (GDS) to evolve into more useful global merchandising systems (GMS).

July 23, 2009 |

Online travel sector needs to improve overall customer engagement: survey

Online travel sites need to work harder at improving the entire end to end website experience if they are to build trusted, long-term relationships that encourage customers to buy from them time and time again, according to a study.

As per the findings of the first eTravel Benchmark survey, the online travel industry as a whole has some way to go in order to compete with ‘best in breed’ companies for website engagement and customer service.  When the sites were measured using the net promoter score  to find out which are most likely to be recommended through word of mouth, while eight companies ranked ‘above average’, the sector as a whole achieved score of +5.

Compared to other recent eDigitalResearch benchmarking studies that scored retail at +27, finance at +18 and car manufacturing at +7, the online travel sector is clearly lagging behind.

Airlines, however, were notably let down by poor first impressions and disappointing customer service, both of which play a vital part in overall customer satisfaction.  When measured on telephone customer service, just one airline, British Airways, made it into the top 10 rankings, rated seventh and just two airlines (Virgin Atlantic and British Airways) scored highly enough to make the top 10 for email customer service.

Derek Eccleston, head of research at eDigitalResearch said although there are clear leaders in certain categories, there is not one operator who has managed to tick all the boxes consistently.

“In a sector whose customers are particularly promiscuous – switching brands for a better deal, looking for recommendations and picking the purchase channel that most suits them at that particular time – failing to perform well  across the board is more than a missed opportunity, it is commercial suicide,” said Eccleston.

“What customers want is a clear step-by-step process.  They want a site that is easy to purchase from but at the same time that has the inspirational ‘wow’ factor to keep them engaged.  Add to that transparent pricing, great customer service, and of course a great trip and you’ve cracked it.”

The eTravel Benchmark survey uses eDigitalResearch’s eMysteryShopper tool to measure the ‘usability’ of 18 channel crossing, cruise and airline websites, comparing seven key areas ranging from first impressions to the search and booking process.  Overall, channel crossing operators fared better in the survey with P&O Ferries emerging as the top performer and Stena Line second.

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Outdoor Industry Association Survey Reveals Industry Cautious About Economic Recovery

Boulder, CO, – In a survey released June 1, 2009, by Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), small businesses reported they have lowered revenue expectations, reduced inventory levels, and believe their businesses will rebound later than they expected last fall.

OIA, in conjunction with Piper Jaffray Companies, recently surveyed industry executives with respect to their view of current economic prospects, recovery timeline, cost inflation, and the effect of tightened credit market on near-term business operations.  Results of that survey are now available in a new report entitled, The Piper Jaffray Outdoor Industry Survey.

This was the second survey conducted by OIA and Piper Jaffray in the past six months, and reflected a cautious and realistic picture of the economic situation facing the industry.

Nearly all respondents were independent businesses with revenues less than $50M annually, which provides an excellent gauge of the independent channel within the outdoor community.  The majority of respondents identified themselves as either vendors or retailers.

Among the highlights:
* Concern has grown:  When asked to indicate the level of concern surrounding current economic conditions affecting their business, 98% indicated they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned, up three percentage points from last fall.  The level of concern was higher with vendors, where 49% signaled they are “very concerned” versus 36% of retailers.  This is a marked increase in the past six months.
* Recovery expectations pushed back: Last fall, the majority of respondents said they expected the recovery to come in late 2009.  Nearly half said they believed business would turn in the second half of 2009 and 35% viewed the first half of 2010 as the inflection point.  However, based on the results of this more recent survey, that was an optimistic view.  Now, only 15% believe the recovery will take place this year.  Nearly fifty percent believe the economy will improve in the first half of 2010, one-fourth say the second half of 2010, and 15% believe it will not improve until after 2010.
* Vendors and Retailers are in sync:  Last fall, retailers were far more optimistic than vendors about the pace of economic recovery.  That disparity has dissipated in this survey with both vendors and retailers having similar perceptions about recovery expectations.  This more balanced view is leading to appropriate inventory levels in the channel, which should also lead to improved profitability and pricing integrity as revenues stabilize.
* Businesses prepared for slow-down:  Revenue expectations for 2009 have declined since last fall.  In the fall survey, more than three-quarters of respondents projected revenues in 2009 would be above 2008.  Now, only about one-third expect 2009 revenue to top 2008 and nearly one-fourth expect revenues to decrease significantly.
* Looking Back:  The majority of respondents indicated revenues were down over the last three months vs. the prior year.  This issue hit retailers harder than vendors, with a majority of retailers saying revenues were down and just over one-third of vendors registering a decline in revenues.
* Looking Ahead:  In general, expectations are higher for the next three months, with just under half of respondents expecting revenues to continue declining over the next three months.  Overall, we believe a slightly negative outlook on revenues is prudent given that the second quarter of last year was impacted by the federal stimulus package, the personal savings rate is now higher, and the current unemployment rate is higher than in the past.
* Lower sourcing costs:  Cost inflation concerns have declined since our last survey as the price of commodities and excess capacity has driven production costs lower.
* Inventory reductions on tap:  In response to these economic shifts, respondents report that they have taken appropriate steps in terms of inventory reductions.  More than one-half of all businesses are planning inventory levels below last year.  Inventory growth below the rate of future sales trends is critical in the current environment to help maintain profitability and keep price integrity.
* Stabilization in the credit markets:  There are some encouraging signs in the credit markets with interest rates at historically how levels and some company’s now accessing the market for liquidity.  More than three-quarters of all respondents observed no change in their ability to access capital with only a few expressing increased access to capital and 15% seeing a decrease in access to capital.

“This survey reveals that our smaller companies are taking appropriate steps to weather the economic storm,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA President & CEO.  “These companies are critical components for our entire industry, and they have made appropriate changes that may accelerate the recovery timeline.”

As the report concludes, “In short, respondents maintain a realistic view of current business trends, sourcing costs, and inventory reductions which should benefit future profitability if sales trends remain stable or improve.  While revenue declines are prevalent throughout the sector, for both retailers and vendors, we believe employment reductions; cheaper goods and fewer markdowns will stabilize margins in the second half of the year.”

A copy of the full report, as well as all OIA research is available to members at http://www.outdoorindustry.org.

About Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) is a national trade association whose mission is to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs include representation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, business-to-business services and youth outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Rendezvous®, Outdoor University®, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the title sponsor of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshows. For more information go to http://www.outdoorindustry.org or call 303.444.3353.

Global Volunteers Shares Lessons Learned & Celebrates 25th Anniversary

 

Michele Gran was nice enough to write down some thoughts on Global Volunteers‘ 25 year history, lessons they’ve learned and the path they have chosen for the organization. Congrats on 25 years! If you’d like to share in the discussion use the comments section, first click the post’s title and you’ll see where it is. If you’ve got thoughts on this share it with everyone.

 

Pathway of Peace; The Journey of the Heart

 

It’s been said that peace is a journey.  At Global Volunteers, we believe that’s true… literally.  Every Global Volunteers service program enables team members to wage peace personally.

 

As an international development assistance organization, Global Volunteers engages short-term volunteers to help local people realize their vision of self-determination and a vastly improved quality of life.  Many other catchy monikers have been attached to us, but our mission is international community service.  One person matched with one other, working hand-in-hand on life-affirming projects…learning about each other as they go along…leading to sustained change. Change occurs in the host community and in the lives of the volunteers. It sounds simple, but the execution is critical – and the difference between helping others, and harming them. 

 

The idea of combining service with international travel was largely a curiosity when Global Volunteers was founded in January, 1984.  Organizations such as Earthwatch and Habitat for Humanity mobilized citizen activists to assist with specific service agendas.  But for Habitat’s fortunate promotion by President Carter, their work was known only to the people they served. Information wasn’t shared globally then as it is today.  (Remember, this was before the World Wide Web…and even the office fax machine!) 

In a very real way, Global Volunteers pioneered a new trail for “average” Americans to reach out beyond our borders as “citizen ambassadors” for one, two or three weeks.

It was not without precedence. French pacifist Pierre Ceresole organized Service Civil International with young people from France and Germany to rebuild towns wrecked by the war. Although volunteer work camps later appeared across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and some travelers set off on kibbutz or missionary trips, international volunteering didn’t really hit the mainstream in the United States until Operation Crossroads Africa sent its first wave of workers on a six-week trip to Ghana in 1958; three years later, President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps. Still, these programs were largely for idealistic kids, not affluent adults.

Earthwatch’s rise was instructive. Out of necessity in the 1970s, the organization experimented with volunteer “science assistants” to help out at their foreign research stations (for which federal funding had nearly disappeared).  It turned out that adventurous tourists would actually PAY to trail behind researchers through muddy streams or dusty deserts!  (Who knew?)  The gamble paid off…. Earthwatch volunteers brought value both with their dollars and labor.

A decade later, Global Volunteers was born.  The term “volunteer vacations” was coined later by travel guide author Bill McMillan, in “Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others” listing Global Volunteers and some 100 other non-profit organizations (1993).


Over the years, we’ve engaged more than 24,000 humanitarians on work projects in more than 100 host communities on six continents.  Foremost is a focus on sustainable development – enabled through ongoing international partnerships, and knowledgeable volunteer preparation and management. 

 

Today, more than 2,000 NGOs as well as for-profit companies share the broad category of “volunteer vacations.” But not all offer genuine human and economic development assistance to the people they claim to serve.  Most well-intentioned volunteers may not realize that hastily contrived projects riding the emergent “voluntourism” trend can in fact, leave grossly unfavorable impressions in host countries –  and risk the wholesale reputation (and tax deductibility) of American volunteer efforts abroad.    We advise serious “voluntourists” to seek out full-time volunteer programs conducted by long-established NGOs who prepare their team members to serve ethically and sensitively in the host country.  Look for those that are grounded in a long-term community development commitment, and contribute not just volunteer labor, but funds to support the volunteer work projects.  In this way, you avoid exploiting local people for your own volunteer desires, and truly make a difference.

 

Now in our 25th year of international service worldwide, Global Volunteers remains committed and faithful to our founding philosophy of working at the invitation and under the direction of local leaders through ongoing development partnerships.  Engaging short-term volunteers on long-term work projects, this very personal “journey of the heart” becomes – one person at a time – a foot-worn pathway of peace.