There are very few other products being sold online that have as much emotional pulling power as a holiday. A vacation is the stuff of dreams, but also of detailed ongoing research and of high capital outlay. For many families, the most they will spend on a single item in a typical year is the purchase of their annual holiday.
Retailers need to sell where the customers are. Wind back quite a few centuries and markets would probably have been the predominant shopping channel. As towns built up, the high street came to dominate as a convenient place to shop. Then came the shopping centres.
The news that Etihad passengers will be able communicate with the airline via WhatsApp got me thinking about my own messaging apps. I use quite a few. On my mobile I have Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Viber and good old SMS. Apart from SMS, they all provide global communication for free.
In the last month I was invited by an airline to contribute to a strategy day, an away day for their senior executives to ponder the bigger picture and how they might take their airline forward in the next few years. A few external experts such as me had been invited along to the strategy day. Our purpose was to provide some food for thought to catalyse discussion amongst the executives present.
There are plenty of opinions to be heard about the tech problems that British Airways suffered and the way the downtime was handled. It surely has to rank as one of the worst public relations disasters in the airline’s history.
In the heady young days of the Internet, we were making predictions about how the web would change the face of travel. A popular prediction amongst ‘thought leaders’ was that the web would catalyse the death of the travel agent. Quite a few did die but quite a few remained. Another sector of the industry was also predicted to undergo a transformation. This was tourism.
Large travel companies that can afford to develop sophisticated technology and continually test and hone their websites. Small, specialist travel companies that work hard to build a reputation as being experts in their own product area.