ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Asian travel trails online
Many Asian tourism operators still depend too heavily on marketing and services provided by agents in developed markets such as the US and Europe. Unless they take charge of their own online marketing, they will find it harder to compete in the future, says the Tourism Technology Association (TTA).
Airlines and major hotels in Thailand have effective online platforms, but most of the estimated 4,000 tour operators still run their businesses in a traditional style. Only about 200 have their own websites or booking software, says Apichai Sakulsureeyadej, the TTA president.
For example, operators can use social media such as Facebook to stimulate the inspiration to travel. Travellers can read recommendations and follow up with reservations and transactions vis websites. Later, they will share experiences online to inspire other people.
Unfortunately, tour operators mostly use Facebook only to sell tours. In fact, operators should share experiences from their customers to build up inspiration among more potential customers. Tourists do travel research on the internet more than on any other source, according to the 2009 study "Travellers' Road to Decision" by Google and OTX.
Logically, consumers check reviews before making reservations. The report found that 41% made leisure travel plans and 50% business travel plans based on the reviews they read online.
Many software applications are needed to help build business in the future. Operators can use customer relationship management (CRM) software to collect in-depth information of customers to do marketing and properly serve their demand in the future.
Existing websites are dynamic and their functions are very good, says Mr Apichai. Webmasters can check the IP address of each visitor who logs in. Then marketers can use the database to study behaviour, tastes and patterns.
Most travel agents, he believes, still have no idea how to utilise technology effectively and overlook the return on investment it can bring. Technological investment need not require a six-figure cost in baht these days.
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