The online travel industry is a deeply competitive and crowded marketplace. Failing to offer consumers something a little different, or a little better than the next site, can be a ticket to failure.
That’s a lesson learned once and for all by global online travel heavyweight HotelClub.
Originally established in 1997 as an offline members club, the move to online was originally a successful transition.
However managing director for HotelClub Australia said the business hit a crossroads, and knew it had to innovate to stay in the game.
“The problem is that it had been flat lining for quite some time and the main reason was that we probably lost some relevance. We were trying to do what the others were doing, with less means and no real, strong point of differentiation,” Nicholas Chu, who moved from Expedia, told Dynamic Business.
As a global travel website in 30 different markets, Chu said that with everyone in the space competing on the same things – prices, range, deals, reviews – HotelClub decided to revive the ‘club’ aspect of the site.
“It was important for us to think ‘Ok, we need to add some value to the consumers – how can we do that, and how can we differentiate ourselves? So it was restructured around the whole club. Being in the club gives consumers access to gaining up to 7% back that can be redeemed on any hotel in the world,” Chu said.
The experience of HotelClub is reflective of broader trends in the online travel industry.
A new study from SDL surveyed 4,000 consumers in Australia, the UK and the US, to garner current insights into consumer habits, expectations, and behaviours in the travel industry.
It found that online continues to reign supreme when it comes to booking travel – nearly 80 per cent of respondents make travel arrangements online.
Travel providers need to deliver consistent service through their online, app, and email reminder offerings to win and stay relevant with today’s customers.
Bob Hale, CEO, SDL Campaign Management & Analytics Division said brands need to ensure they are optimising their customer experience in order to increase engagement, revenues and loyalty.
“With travel and tourism being identified as one of the fastest growing sectors, it is imperative that brands build and scale their customer experience management practices to meet the changing needs of customers around the world,” Hale said.