As global online travel grows, experts say Ireland’s tourism businesses must take more independent and strategic control of their online sales channels
The online presence of new and developing overseas markets such as China and India is expected to rival the web-dominance of the US and Europe within the online travel industry in the coming years – in a global travel sales market expected to be worth $103trillion this year.
This is one of the many insights due to be shared with almost 100 Irish tourism businesses at a International Online Symposium taking place in the Aviva Stadium to-day (Thursday), The symposium was designed by Fáilte Ireland to encourage Irish businesses to take advantage of global travel trends as gross bookings for the global travel industry are expected to climb year on year.
Attendees will hear from industry experts such as leading financial journalist, Andrew Sangster and Dr. Peter O Connor, co-author of travel industry authority Phocuswright’s ‘European Online Travel Overview’, about how they can maximise revenue from online travel channels in a way that will help Ireland compete in this space internationally and benefit from this lucrative and growing sector. These online channels typically include websites, mobile sites, online travel agent sites such as Expedia.com and Global Distribution Systems which are commonly used by accomodation providers to carry out automated transactions between third parties and booking agents.
They will also hear the results of some of Fáilte Ireland’s own research into the area of online travel sales, key insights from the online channel research and further detail on Fáilte Ireland’s international sales development strategy to support Irish businesses make the most of the online sales channel.
Speaking ahead of today’s conference, Paul Keeley, Business Development Director, Fáilte Ireland explained why online sales channels are such an important focus for Irish tourism -
“Where once the travel agent on the high street dominated traveller choices, there are now a multitude of virtual shop windows competing for consumers. Customers have never had so many options when planning a holiday and the challenge for Irish tourism operators is how to position themselves best to win most of this business. As the online travel sales channel continues to grow and innovate, how do Irish tourism businesses compete effectively in this space and how can they align their own online marketing with the needs and desires of those international markets with the best potential for their business? The answers to these questions will be crucial for creating and sustaining growth in Irish tourism in the years and decades ahead.”
According to Phocusright’s research online travel sales rose by more than 9% to $402billion in 2013, with Europe and the US accounting for more than two thirds of this. More rapid sales are expected from emerging markets in the coming years, with the online dominance of Europe and the US declining over the same period.
One of the key speakers, Dr. Peter O Connor of Phocuswright emphasised the power of mobile –
“Mobile bookings from smartphones and tablets are another area of growth accounting for 8% of the US and 10% of the European online travel market in 2013. We fully expect these figures to grow to 18% and 22% respectively by 2016 so tourism businesses need to make sure they can deliver what the user wants in the format of their choosing. However, if you want to profit from this trend, you better figure out how to work with your local friendly Online Travel Agent, as an increasing proportion of these online sales are being driven through online indirect channels, particularly in the key U.S. market.”
A number of other experts will also share their expertise on the day including financial journalist and editor of hotel analyst Andrew Sangster who will tackle the topic of how big data and digital are disrupting the industry; Dave McRobbie, IA Digital who will show how you can challenge your website expectations and behaviours; Helen Maher, Expedia & Hotels.com will share her secrets on sales relationships with online partners; and Sue Ross, Travelclick will outline how businesses can use Global Distribution Systems to target international growth.
Andrew Sangster, Editor of Hotel Analyst further emphasised the importance of these online channels -
“Online Travel Agents are winning the marketing battle against hotels. The two biggest Online Travel Agents spent $4.2bn last year on advertising, dwarfing what all the hotels in the world spent. However, all is not lost, if Irish hotels are clever in their approach they can still secure even more direct business.”
Participants at tomorrow’s event will also have the opportunity to meet and develop new business partnerships with international online operators at a planned workshop in Dublin in February 2016.