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Digital marketing to be a game changer in the world of travel, say experts

Today’s travel customers are very active and constantly on the move. They’re booking hotels online, using smartphones for flight check-ins, and turning to Facebook and Twitter to ask their time-sensitive questions. Digital marketing experts believe the trick here for the company is to be where their customers are, which could be anywhere and what best way to do that then by using the digital world.

Atul Hegde, CEO, Ignitee Digital Services said, “Digital marketing applies to every field of business and the travel industry is not an exception. In recent years, digital marketing has aided the travel industry in a huge way. In the recent phase, digitisation of marketing strategies and using the World Wide Web has become popular due to the large consumer base. Digitalisation is the future as the internet helps companies reach out to a larger audience. Digital marketing is fast as well as delivers information in hardly a matter of seconds. Today, customers do prefer companies that advertise online.”

According to Stephen King, General Manager - India, Virgin Atlantic, businesses in the travel and tourism sector in India aren’t maximising the value of social media despite an increasing number of customers showing their support for the medium. “People have to realise that several companies and agencies have achieved success due to the very reason of world wide success of digital marketing. Companies new to the digital world today have the option of outsourcing agencies and consultancies,” he opined adding that very recently Google has purchased the ITA software for $700 million. “ITA refers to a software that offers behind-the scene data on flight times along with available seats and price levels. It also helps not only travel agencies but also normal customers who just wish to lay their hands on information. The reason behind investing such a large sum of money is that Google wishes to expand in to each and every industry and travel industry seems to hold a lot of potential. This is a classic case of using the internet and the digital solutions to give your company an upper hand within the industry.”

Sharing similar sentiments, Ashok Lalla, Global Head – Digital Marketing, Infosys believes that the sheer amount of information available on the net remains the biggest obstacle for businesses embracing the platform. He, however, feels that agencies that have been quick to employ digital marketing for sales, or even research purposes, are the ones who have experienced positive results. “Marketers are starting to invest on the digital platform but usually digital marketing is not the focus of their marketing plan. But in case of industries such as travel, marketers have started realising the potential of digital marketing and take a more forward looking approach to the whole concept. I want to see travel agents, tour operators, stand alone hotels etc take their business online, which help them create a larger platform to showcase their product offerings.”

Arif Patel, Regional Director, Sales & Marketing, South Asia, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, shared, “Currently more than half of holidaymakers consult social media prior to consulting travel agencies (52 per cent).But just 40 per cent of travel agencies actually have any online presence, this clearly shows a disconnect and disproportionate amount of medium for its customers’ inclination to seek out information in this way. In India, the digital world is largely an English medium channel that is concentrated among the top 30 urban cities which is a very small number. Hence, the real effective reach of digitisation in India is limited. This is a major challenge that the travel industry has to overcome.” Stating the positives, Patel further spoke about the ‘Age of Great Change’ in the travel industry, “Uploading videos on the web and via social media is a great way to use digital media and showcase services. The travel and hospitality industries are gradually being digitalised and all parties will benefit from this,” he said.

Subramanya Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer, Cleartrip added, “To survive in today’s competitive world, travel agencies have to be quick to identify the positives that come from using social media to engage with customers and generate new business. It has become a major trend of companies for using search engines as a mode of advertising of their products. It is an unbeaten technique as both advertisers and search engines benefit by this arrangement. This is very cost effective and not time consuming at all.”

Hegde believes that the travel industry can grow leaps and bounds through digital marketing. “There are two ways in which the industry can use digital marketing—one is through content development and the other is via mobile applications. How these two will be innovatively merged is going to be interesting to watch. In India, almost every company has a mobile presence. With the mobile and its network prices going down, there is only going to be an increase in mobile usage and the best way to tap this is through effective digital marketing techniques,” he concluded.

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