Whilst it may be a time when profit margins are tight and budgets are small, that is not to say that it isn't a time for opportunity. In fact, by implementing the right technology there is the potential for even smaller travel agents or tour operators to be competitive, particularly in any many emerging markets.
Earlier this year, market research company PhoCusWright released the third edition of its Global Online Travel Overview report, which revealed some very interesting statistics. Already, more than four in ten transactions in the U.S. and Europe already occurs online and, while the penetration into these markets has begun to plateau, there are some exciting developments on the horizon.
For example, online bookings in Asia Pacific and Latin America is likely to see annual growth in online travel sales of up to 16 per cent. However, the prospect of bookings from customers in the Middle East and Eastern Europe is said to be growing at a rate of up to 25 per cent annually over the next two years.
However, with this growth being experienced so quickly, and with mobile being the main method of access to the internet for many of these emerging markets, how can a new or smaller scale operator or agent afford to go toe-to-toe with the big guys in the business? Is it possible to match their online offering without a huge investment in a software solution?
The key to levelling the playing field is a flexible travel technology platform that gives you complete control of your online presence. While it goes without saying that a booking system needs to be at the core of this solution, so too does an advanced CRM (customer relationship management) system.
While a 'standard' CRM can help improve satisfaction, loyalty and retention by facilitating customer requirements, enable interactions and social engagement, and advanced system can also be used to manage sales, marketing and other customer service functions.
Being able to collect the resulting data and use it effectively can also help drive greater levels of engagement (and transactions) for a more bespoke experience, tailored to their profile, with targeted marketing information relevant to their particular preferences and requirements.
What can really help set your business apart from the competition are the details, but this doesn't necessarily have to be out of reach for those whose finances are modest. Behind the scenes, the look, content and features of a travel website will be controlled by a CMS (content management system) and adding additional functionality to your site can be as straightforward as adding a new application module.
These 'plug-ins' can achieve a number of things. These range from the ability to add YouTube or Vimeo videos, Trip Advisor reviews, a cruise booking system, to modest but valuable functions such as MailChimp email integration, a Facebook login or an app which displays an up-to-date weather forecast for the destination.
While such a feature-rich technology solution might sound out of reach to all but the wealthiest of companies, a solution from travel technology experts Digital Trip can help get a new travel agent up and running for surprisingly little: a fully live, bookable travel website package costs less than £5,000.
Digital Trip uses a recently revamped CMS platform called eVolve, which has the ability to cater to a wide range of businesses with a user-friendly interface. While any package that uses Digital Trip's platform can opt to include the aforementioned feature modules (which may be at an extra cost, depending on the package and/or module that has been chosen), some of the more sophisticated technology solutions allows for the addition of a mobile website.
This mobile website platform can offer a seamless experience for customers who visit a travel site, whatever the device they are using. For the faster growing regions, who have adopted mobile as their primary method for surfing the web, there is also the crucial option to make this mobile site bookable too.
Without having to worry about added on-going expenses of maintenance contracts, license fees or having to pay for product support, Digital Trip's technology solutions can give even the smallest fish a big set of teeth and they could be ready to take a bite out of the burgeoning new markets.