Online Giants Target Tours (and with a twist) – but can that replace experience?

How many years have we all assumed that online booking of travel is for the younger generation? Recently we have all seen the over 50’s booking hotels and flights online, but we all believed that tours were going to be too difficult to do, there was going to be a piece of the travel industry that would not be made into an app.

When Expedia acquired Viator in 2014, it sent a message that tours were getting interesting to the online players. It would enable them to upsell tours to users booking their hotel offerings. Who would have thought that the first advert that they played would have featured not only an over 50, but a character approaching 70 – online travel has arrived and it is for everyone, regardless of age.
Is this the end of person to person? Does it spark the beginning of something new? Should specialists be worried?

I don’t think so. It actually just highlights that many tours and activities around the world are a commodity – just like booking a flight or a hotel room. That being the case it is a natural fit for booking online. We don’t need a travel expert to book us on the London Eye.

But the specialist travel sector does something different. They don’t sell a commodity, but something different, something off the beaten track, something to make clients holidays unique and personal service.

Of all the travel company personal videos I’ve watched online ( the ‘about us’ for the digital age) Cazenove & Lloyd stands out. Any user landing on their site can easily learn in 2 minutes what they are selling – it’s something different, something for the discerning, something you can’t book on an app – and there is a client testimonial to boot. This is very well done.

They are selling something different – a bespoke experience and they are expert at it. They will use digital channels to verify who they are and act as an inbound marketing channel for new clients. Of course there is word of mouth but when Expedia start to claim that they can book all elements of your holiday, specialist businesses will have to make sure that their online presence captures a users attention (and their differentiation)  because even if a recommendation comes via word of mouth, the new client will always check out the recommended business online first.

The future is digital, but as in the past, we are not all the same. The Expedia’s of the world make everyone work harder at what they do and concentrate on the specialist proposition. If a business cannot define why it is different/better than a machine, then the machine will win, we see that time and time again.

But online presence and marketing is about so much more than simply trying to compete against the big boys, it’s about expression, finding your niche, finding your tribe and showcasing it.

Finding your niche, your tribe, has never been easier to do that than in 2015 with online channels. That’s the yin and yang of the world we live in now. If you like a challenge, these are exciting times.


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