Day two of the Travel Forward Conference at WTM, London, saw travel professionals discuss distribution and brand loyalty.
Titled, “the future of distribution, are we seeing the death of the brand”, the panel comprised Nayan Peshkar, senior vice president – distribution and revenue strategy, Millennium Hotels and Resorts; Francesca Benati, executive vice president online western Europe, Middle East and Africa at Amadeus and Neil Armorgie, chief executive at WIN Global Travel Network.
Moderating the event was Puni Rajah, partner at Governance Reviews, who kicked off proceedings by asking whether certain brands found it more difficult to embrace different distribution channels.
Benati said: “I don’t think there is a problem with adopting different distribution models but by 2020 online will be the preferred channel to buy travel. However, traditional travel providers can succeed by offering customers a personalised and seamless experience too.”
Armorgie advised travel companies to improve the client’s pre-arrival experience to drive brand loyalty.
“We are already encouraging our clients to do this. It’s not just about the booking, but the sales process as a whole. Travel companies should be looking at providing extra layers of service, including flights, transfers and tours.”
Benati explained the same principles of providing an excellent customer experience applied when booking flights.
She said: “The traveller wants super fast search results that are relevant. At Amadeus we use AI, machine learning and algorithms to achieve this. There is an impact on revenue if we don’t return the correct results. Technology is helping us work towards a personalised and seamless experience.”
Peshkar said travel companies must be aware that technology should be an enabler, not a replacement for traditional marketing materials. Yet, they should still invest in tech to drive conversions.
“Technology should act as a multiplier for sales. If you have a proper commercial strategy then it can be very good. Being mobile-friendly is important. If you don’t have a strong platform, then you won’t attract certain clients.
“Technology has become a democracy – it’s no longer a niche market.”