Travel technology consultant Jon Pickles imagines a world without brochures
Arguably there are five stages to online holiday booking - dreaming, researching, booking, experiencing and sharing.
With the plethora of tablet and phablet devices hitting the high street and a device on many peoples' Christmas list, does the online experience really support this process?
It was 1998 when I first entered the travel technology market.
I spent many an hour discussing the demise of the traditional brochure, an expensive and time consuming production which would end up in travel agencies or be sent to thousands of potential customers.
We really believed back then that the brochure could be transferred to CD/DVD and using electronic media we could extend the "magazine" experience to a PC.
Imagine clicking through thumbnail images and reading reams of copy interspersed with the odd panoramic image or video of the potential destination.
How wrong we were. No one wanted to replace the magazine experience by loading up a CD and basically reading the brochure electronically.
The dream/inspiration phase was still supported by consumers (dreamers) picking up a brochure and thumbing through its contents while relaxing at home.
Fast forward to 2013. It's taken nearly 15 years for a device to finally become so mainstream that it might actually challenge the traditional brochure: the tablet.
Using apps such as Flipboard we can quickly see how content can be transformed into an inspiring magazine, beautifully laid out onto flip-able virtual pages with delectable fonts and supportive white space.
This Christmas is the first year that consumers are most likely to look for holiday inspiration using their tablets. They will be looking for imagery that inspires, turning their dreams into reality.
But will this happen? How many of the OTAs provide inspiration from their homepages?
What the consumer will most likely find is a tablet-unfriendly search box where they are forced to put in dates, destinations and click the search button.
They will then be presented with uninspiring thumbnails and way too much text to consume. All topped off with an overly large font showing price per passenger.
Think about socialising. In clubs, pubs and restaurants, people chat about experiences. They constantly communicate on social sites about their holidays and their desires, and post holiday images using Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Soon they will post their images to Pinterest, creating a travel board that will be re-pinned time and time again as like-minded consumers find inspiration in those images and experiences.
Inspiration is the key. Traditional search, cost and book seemingly ignores the dreaming and inspirational part of the consumer journey.
The social aspect is dabbled with but not understood, and so tour operators only achieve a small percentage of likes finding it difficult to create and generate social conversation by thinking of this phase and posting relevant, inspiring imagery on their social pages.
So what do OTAs need to do? They need to embrace the phases of holiday booking. Ditch the search, cost and book process of old and inspire, converse and start the buzz.
Focus on tablet first to provide an online inspirational magazine where the consumer can browse through inspiring images.
Inspiration that is relevant to the viewer where they log in using social login, where they can post their favourite images using any of the social media apps.
Come on travel - 15 years on, let's get inspired.
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