Friday, December 5, 2008

Online Marketing is Marketing...

So says, Proffessor John Lennon of the Moffat Centre for Travel & Tourism as Glasgow Caledonian University.

Professor Lennon was amongst a number of speakers at the recent Scottish Tourism Forum's networking event "Surviving the Crunch" at the Royal Hotel, Bridge of Allan.

The event was held to foster discussion and share thinking on the most effective ways for tourism businesses to operate during these difficult times. A number of key themes were constantly referenced by the presenters,

  1. "Online Marketing is Marketing"
  2. "Value and Quality will deliver growth"
    "Your website strategy needs to keep moving"
Both Prof John Lennon and Neil McLean from Smallmedialarge highlighted the need for tourism websites to embrace the latest developments in Social Networking, Photo & Video Sharing & Blogging in order to identify new customers segments and to help with ranking in search engines.

They also agreed that the weakness of the GBP against the Dollar and the Euro would see an influx of North American and European travellers in 2009 and that booking engines which easily allowed for currency conversion would be the main beneficiaries.

David Smith, owner of the Buccleuch Arms Hotel in Moffat and Debbie Taylor, General Manager of the Old Course Hotel & Spa in St Andrews both spoke of the need to stay true to the principles of quality and service and find innovative ways to use latent staff skills and enthusiasm to upsell.

Overall this was a really useful event, however one key question remains unanswered, so I ask it here and welcome your comments...

Who is going to support the already stressed out, time poor, small and medium accommodation providers in Scotland to take advantage of these new opportunities.?

Many of them already feel totally overwhelmed by the information overload from third party distribution websites and spend too much time constantly updating their rates and trying to gain a competitive advantage on their neighbours.

Does this really help ? No, all it does is help to keep the third party distribution websites content nice and fresh, with their customers coming back time and again to make a booking..... and, here's the crunch, the small and medium operators are paying upwards of 15% per booking for this. Who is really winning here ?

What if they spend as much time updating their own website's booking engine and investing time in learning about how to take advantage of Web 2.0? I know that once a small business starts to see a volume of bookings coming from third party websites, it can be difficult to give it up, but in the long run it is truly a false economy, but the tools are out there if only someone can lead the way....

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