Digital is the Future of Travel Industry – Experts

Travel and tourism businesses in India risk losing ground unless they keep pace with digital technologies and adopt marketing tools that are reshaping the industry worldwide, according to experts.

Just ahead of India’s first ever conference on travel technologies, taking place in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram from June 7-9, 2013, tourism professionals and marketers say, “It is time that the industry sits up and takes note of the explosion in internet and mobile connectivity.”

According to a recent report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, the digital commerce in the country is expected to touch Rs 62,967 crore in 2013 – up 33 per cent from last year.

A mammoth 73 per cent share of this is cornered by online travel transactions, amounting to Rs 34,544 crore; and this is projected to grow by 30 per cent to Rs 44,907 crore by the end of this year, demonstrating just how powerful and lucrative the digital medium can be for tourism businesses.

“Why should you pay attention to social media, mobile technology and digital media? Because that is how your market – your visitors, guests and customers – are researching travel, planning travel and booking travel,” says Sheila Scarborough, a US-based travel writer and speaker. “To get in front of your market, you have to be where they are, and today that is online.”

The International Conference on Travel Technology (ICTT) India, organized by the Association of Travel Trade Organizations, India (ATTOI) with the support of Kerala’s Department of Tourism, will offer a platform to discuss evolving technologies and opportunities.

“More than ever, the Internet is increasingly influencing people’s decision on where to travel and how to share their experiences with others,” according to Chad W. Wiebesick, Director of Social Media and Interactive Marketing at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “This conference will share tips, tricks and best practices utilizing social media and the latest web technologies to promote destinations to tourists.”

According to yet another IAMAI studies the total digital advertising spend including classifieds was valued at Rs 2,850 crore at the end of March 2012. A fifth of this was in search advertising and the remainder in portal/vortal websites, social media ads, advertising on email services, mobile devices and video ads. Travel was the top spending sector.

However, Suresh Babu, Founder & CEO, of Bangalore-based Web Marketing Academy says the online space is so fast-paced and dynamic that marketing tools get outmoded in no time.

“Google, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are constantly changing their interface and algorithms to keep up to speed with competition and expectations,” he says. “Marketers need to understand, learn, practice and be advanced in all these trends, but the challenge in India is that we still we talk about the old methodologies like SEO, keywords when we need to follow and discuss about mobile, responsive design, content marketing, inbound marketing and other smarter ways to not just advertise but engage, convert and make the customers happy.”

He urges all travel businesses in India to train their employees in digital marketing and have social media policies in place.

Most industry experts agree that social media is a platform that the travel and tourism industry cannot afford to ignore. “Individual companies can definitely leverage social media to build long-term customer loyalty, drive business growth and profitability in their chosen realms of expertise,” says Subhasish Ghosh, Strategic Marketing Manager – Cloud Services, Aditi Technologies.

While social media marketing has grown by leaps and bounds in countries such as the US, the UK and elsewhere in Europe, travel and tourism players in India have still not woken up to its true potential, according to Anish Kumar P K,  the CEO of Thiruvananthapuram-based The Travel Planners.

Anish, who is also Secretary, ATTOI and Organising Secretary, ICTT, says: “Of the delegates who have registered for the conference, I’m sure nearly everyone has a personal Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. But only a handful is likely to have a business account on any of these websites.”

“We need to look at social media as something much more than simply a space for personal networking. It can be a very powerful marketing tool especially for the travel industry where user reviews and personal experience are so influential in making decisions,” says Shailesh Nair, MD, Mystikal India Holidays, Cochin, and Convenor, ICTT India.

Talks and presentations at ICTT India will feature speakers including leading social media and online marketing specialists and entrepreneurs from around India and abroad and will focus on changes taking place over the web space, travel-related software, mobile applications, marketing and sales trends.

An exhibition will be organized on the side-lines of the conference to provide an opportunity for travel and tourism businesses to showcase their products and services.

Himmat Anand, Founder, Tree of Life Resort and Spa, Jaipur, says, “This conference has an excellent line-up of global and local speakers who will not only makes hoteliers and tour operators aware of the latest trends, but also give practical inputs on how they should capitalise on these to grow their business. I would strongly urge my industry colleagues to take time and be a part of ICTT India.”

For registration details contact Sreeshma 9539156333 or log onto www.icttindia.org

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