Disrupting Online Travels [By Kelly Wong]

With millions of travelers clicking through the Internet for cheap deals in flights and hotels every holiday, the online travel industry sees its figures booming, in terms of customers and dollars.

In comparison with travel agency bookings that only comprises of 24%, its online alternative has dominated the market with 65% in 2013. It has become profitable and extremely competitive. As of May 2014, at least 148 million bookings are made on the internet on average, annually. This virtual fight is not only limited to mainstream airliners and five-star hotels, as independent merchants and travel review websites are slowly solidifying their influence on our modern consumers.

In a market already so crowded, how else can potential interests find an untapped avenue, to challenge its pioneers and most importantly, survive?

Source: E27

Source: E27

On the go

Mobile booking is evolving into the new norm. However, the industry is just getting warmed up to this savvy method. In a study by IPK’s World Travel Monitor, vacation bookings only account for 2% in mature markets, such as Europe and Japan. The accessibility of mobile devices caters to the speed and spontaneity  of travel bookings in today’s market. While most online platforms have branched into creating their own mobile apps, featuring more concise versions of their webpages; this on the-go option is set to soar with the increase of user-friendly interfaces, pace and breadths, as per realtime desktop encounters.

Innovation intrusion

Forget hotel reservations and flight bookings, consumers are attracted to new sparkly things and fresh ideas. Dabble in new business opportunities that are yet to be explored within the travel niche. For starters, TravelStartups.co is a brilliant platform for CEO’s and founders to share big concepts and strategies on building successful travel empires and businesses. Alternatively, Marriott has set up an online platform, Travel Brilliantly, for aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch bold and innovative travel-related ideas.

Experiences count

Imagine spending five hours researching and booking a hotel for your vacation, everything goes well until an error message on the payment page restarts the whole process. Are you frustrated? Most definitely. The travel industry is a full-fledged people and service oriented arena. While offline travel companies are able to provide that personable element, the online platform is different altogether. Focus on creating a value-added experience to get consumers to return. An optimised and convenient experience online, especially at decision points, is key to driving sales.

Start modest

Address and size the market the right way. Crucial factors come into play including capital, target consumers, product penetration rate and costs among others. Segment the market and aim at experimenting with a smaller group before going forth on a larger scale.

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Luxe for less: Providing ‘luxury’ at an optimal cost is model-turned-technopreneur Ms Stephanie Chai. The Luxe Nomad, is members-only website that offers flash sales and best-available rates for lavish stays, particularly in Asia. TLN caters to a niche market, who are willing to splurge a little extra on holiday hotels. Since its launch in 2012, the Luxe Nomad is one of the fastest-rising online start-ups in this region and has raised at least $1 million from partners and investors.

Home away from home: Back in 2009, Airbnb was a mess with a stagnant revenue at USD$200 per week. As a virtual marketplace putting private homes up for rent in a legitimate and secure manner, Airbnb somewhat broke through the traditional online platform by bringing in the C2C concept at a global scale with low costs. Today, it is speculated that this residential hotelier is soon to be valued at USD$13 billion.

By Kelly Wong

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