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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to increase travel sales in a grim economy


It is a simple question really. There has to be a way.

The title for this blog was inspired by an article with a similar title published by Forrester today - How To Increase Grocery Sales In A Grim Economy.

But the conclusion of my analysis couldn't be farther from the Forrester conclusion.

Author Bracewell-Lewis wrote that "Grocers Must Target Price-Sensitive, High-Spending Online Grocery Shoppers" and that they should essentially discount their products to stimulate sales. In fact, she said "Grocers should reposition themselves as discounters on the Net — as Tesco has done — to directly compete with discounters that do not sell online."

The travel industry [and travel suppliers in particular] have been doing this for a decade now and personally, I do not think that discounting is the answer. In fact, I couldn't disagree more.

Let's revisit the T-Myths that I wrote about last week, as I believe the answer is staring us squarely in the face.

* Air travel is the mass market
* The current technologies meet the needs of the mass market
* We know our customers and their behaviors and intent

For 10 years, online travel retailers (and suppliers alike) have been catering to the air traveler. Air travelers account for just 15% of all trips annually and 22% of all travel spending in the US. It is time to shift our focus to the drive market, which represents the other 85% of all trips and the other 78% of all spending.

Our technologies and tools only deal effectively with point to point travel and generally only work when the consumer knows precisely WHERE and WHEN they want to travel. Although 11 of 20 consumers using search engines in the travel category are searching for maps and driving directions, the bulk of travel technologies do not include mapping and routing amongst their services or if they do, it is just the point to point variety offered by MapQuest or Google. The drive market needs integrated travel search and booking, as well as mapping and navigation and they need local content, such as restaurants and shopping, the top two activities for travelers. This information, if provided, is generally narrative information, versus being able to add these points of interest into a trip/itinerary.

We've gotten away with generic delivery of information about available inventory (e.g. hotels and cars) and basic profiles which show vendor preference and not much more. Our CRM systems are one dimensional and only reflect projected behavior under a single scenario. But as humans, our choices change based on WHO we are with and WHAT we like to do under various scenarios or based on our intent or even HOW we are traveling.

Even Google has desensitized us to our need for relevant content. Why would we accept 543,000 entries for restaurants in Tampa, when all we really are interested in are Indian and Thai restaurants?


It is time for a change. We can't behave the way we used to behave in better times. Less people are flying, more people are driving. We need tools and sales approaches geared to the large, unserved market.

If I am beginning to sound like a broken record, it is because it is frustrating to hear the level of anxiety about our current state of affairs when there is something that can be done about it.

I was reading in a book last night (the Divine Mentor) that one of the greatest maladies is the phenomenon of living inconsistently with what we believe or said another way, living inconsistently with truth [otherwise known as incongruence] is one of the foremost causes of anxiety.

The truth is that there is a market out there that we as an industry are not adequately serving. It will take some effort and some investment to serve it properly. But to throw our hands up and accept the status quo as truth, will only result in further anxiety and angst.

Let's solve the problem together.

Chicke Fitzgerald

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