2006 Travel Trends-Emotional Websites Work best,
Chinese tour operators avoid using credit cards


ATLANTA - The major headline at the annual travel technology conference, Res-Expo, held in Dallas, was that generational change is rapidly reshaping the Internet travel booking process, and, unlike conventional thinking, iPod-wearing kids are not driving the transformation. Who is it? Look no further than to 45 to 50-year-old women who are now shopping online, said Jim Donnelly, vice president of marketing at IgoUgo.com, a leading travel website.

This group represents the newest "sweet spot" for many travel companies because they are the ones with the money and do most of the transient travel buying. Women are natural social networkers, he said. And, when they are happy with something, they communicate their emotion to other travel-buying women.

And while women love a bargain, they are not motivated by purely price-driven online content. Travel reservation systems company, Amadeus, brought it own CEO, Kay Urban, who chided, "Technology should not be the industry's focus. Technology is an enabler of 'something' that drives travel purchases." That "something" is the reason people travel. Emotion is that something, and many speakers agreed it is missing from most travel sites.
IgoUgo's Donnelly added, "It is essential for travel sites to have an emotional sales component. A search on 'Romantic vacation in Paris' will give you very frustrating results."

"Women and young travelers search on activities, not on hotels and carriers. Most existing sites focus on pricing and location because that is how their linking technology works." The bottom-line, he said, was that travel distributors must offer a balance of information on their sites. This includes an 'emotional component,' which extends beyond pricing, chain and carrier metrics.

CHINA: NO CREDIT CARDS, PLEASE

China was another hot topic at Res-Expo 2006 because of the challenges travel providers experience in accessing that country's much-publicized nouveau riche market. The 'China problem' has two major components, said presenters. First, China has a huge inbound, mainstream tour and travel industry, but very few Chinese are allowed to travel outside the mainland. Second, more importantly to non-Chinese travel companies, credit cards are not accepted inside the bamboo credit-curtain.

Continental Airlines' Senior Director of International Distribution, Planning and eCommerce, Mr. Chris Amenechi, said, "Doing business with Chinese online travel companies is difficult because they do not provide credit card fulfillment, and the travel relationship is not bi-lateral. Very few young professional Chinese are allowed to leave the country. They are early adapters, and they want a fuller travel experience. China will face a steep learning curve surrounding travel very soon."

(Compiled by Michael Squires, president of Softscribe public relations, Atlanta)

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES:

* www.igougo.com – an online community of travelers who post reviews and photos.
* www.res-expo.com - exposition for travel technology industry professionals

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