The tourism sector has experienced a progressive increase in bookings from online agencies, especially Booking.com, which remains the leader in its field. At the same time, direct purchases generated on supplier portals are continuing to grow in absolute terms, due to the implementation of the do-it-yourself philosophy.
Although this belief assumes that intermediaries add little value to the customer, a large proportion of users are beginning to opt for online intermediation, which is becoming increasingly popular.
According to data from the latest wave of the Brain Trust CS Tourism Barometer, 35% of travellers book through online travel agencies. Only 21% choose to visit "traditional agencies", both large networks and medium and small specialist agencies, which are gradually opening their online channels, promoting the use of their websites, both to existing and new customers. The remaining 44% go directly to the websites of airlines and hotel chains or to their call centres.
From Brain Trust CS we are going to highlight five fundamental aspects that give the online channel of travel agencies a superior competitive strength:
Variety and availability
When we turn to an online agency, the possibilities of finding the best offers are unlimited, as we will have a huge variety of firms available without geographical restrictions. Variety and availability are the real reasons why travellers opt for this option, relegating face-to-face businesses to a finite number of offices in each city. Therefore, the range of resources and the support of a professional, added to the conveniences offered by the digital world, are a winning combination. With these platforms, the client does not need to leave the comfort of their home every time they require the services of a traditional travel agency. Online travel agencies are present in all phases of the new leisure travel consumption ecosystem, "dreaming", "planning", "booking", "experiencing" & "sharing".
The personalisation and adaptation of large amounts of data, in relation to the behaviour and desires of the target audience, have contributed to greater loyalty and therefore to an increase in adoption rates. It is worth highlighting the usability that these portals tend to have, aimed at making the conversion funnel a truly simple process, and this is appreciated by more and more customers who migrate from off to on, becoming omnichannel travellers, and who, according to data from the Brain Trust CS Tourism Barometer, are of all ages, of all purchasing levels, of all social strata, and of different knowledge and technological capabilities, expressing a very satisfactory Shopping Experience.
Un porcentaje elevado de estas empresas, publican cupones promocionales que actúan como ofertas de «primera compra». Se trata de descuentos exclusivos, sin apenas restricciones, que buscan en última instancia ganar y comprometer a nuevos clientes a través de experiencias positivas. Estas acciones son especialmente efectivas en aquellas empresas de menor tamaño, donde la tasa de repetición es todavía pequeña y se requiere engrosar la cartera de usuarios.
Travel agents usually charge a lower fee for their services in their online channels, and the traveller can benefit from this virtual advice to find the most economical destinations. Online agencies are already appearing, which, depending on the traveller's available budget, offer a wide range of attractive options. According to the Brain Trust CS Tourism Barometer, the myth that dreaming about the destination comes first is debunked : the report reveals thatonly 44% choose the destination first and then look for the most suitable dates and offer . However, another 45% choose the dates first and then look for the most suitable destination and offer, while another 11% look for the offer first and then, based on this, choose the dates and destination. These findings point to a traveller who is increasingly open to different options, to real, quality advice, and who requires a more inspirational approach from the travel agent, not so much based on the product, but on the customer. A real quality-price guarantee that "do-it-yourself" does not always manage to provide .
OTAs run hundreds of A/B tests, a procedure that allows them to compare two versions of the same website to see which one works best. They often have several sites running at the same time, in order to identify whether their customers are being offered the content, functionality and level of service they expect. This increases relevance, giving them a huge competitive advantage over direct purchasing. Online agencies are looking for operational efficiency through technology and automation first and for emost.
Digital agencies invest a lot of money in positioning themselves in search results, which gives them greater visibility. Online marketing campaigns, focused on creating and promoting brand awareness, as well as those aimed at boosting sales, are constantly optimised, so that the user always has access to ratings and recommendations of all kinds. The improvement of landing pages, the use of dynamic pages and remarketing actions are part of their daily strategy.
In conclusion, we can affirm that online agencies offer as an added value that perfect mix between technique and advice, between travel sales professionals and technology, which is sufficiently attractive for the traveller to decide to go down this route. At Brain Trust CS we understand travellers, their needs, habits and behaviours, and we help intermediaries to better understand their challenges and opportunities, designing strategic plans for the future, using the best methodologies to successfully face the digital transformation of the different points of contact with the target users, making their business model a sustainable systemover time.
Angel García Butragueño
Director of Tourism Consultancy
Brain Trust CS