HSMAI Article - - By Donald E. Bender
|January 24, 2001
Welcome to The Online Marketer! Each quarter this column explores the issues, events, and technologies which are making the Internet and World Wide Web the most talked about new marketing media ever devised. The Online Marketer looks at the many critical issues and opportunities associated with using the World Wide Web for marketing hospitality, travel and tourism companies and organizations. Its unique industry focus means that it offers the relevant information most sought after by readers of the HSMAI Marketing Review.
Additionally, a “Recommended Surfing” section provides information about particularly interesting and effective Web sites which readers are encouraged to visit and experience for themselves.
Readers may contact me with their questions, comments and suggestions, via e-mail. I wish you good reading and many successes in the online world!
Looking for new ways to enhanceyour online marketing? You don’t have to look far. New technologies,as well as new uses of exist-ingtechnologies, can enable youto create a more effective Web site and provide more value for youronline customers.This column takes a look at several useful features which are helping online marketers to achieve greater success. Included in this section are animations and dynamic features which enable you to create better Web pages; virtual reality and video features to better showcase what you have to offer; Web cameras providing “live” video images of your destination; and electronic postcards and screen savers - two added-value features which benefit consumers while generating increased awareness of your company or organization.
Dynamic Features and Animations
Capturing - and sustaining - the attention and interest of the individuals viewing your Web site is essential. Dynamic features and animations enable you to create Web pages which are more functional and visually rich, and that direct viewers to important information you want them to notice. Features of this type can be categorized as passive and active. Passive animations, for example, run when your Web page is displayed but require no input from viewers. Active features, by comparison, are activated by mouse movements.
Navigational features at many Web sites have been improved by the addition of dynamic features which cause them to change color or appearance when the mouse is placed over them. Pop up menus can also be activated in this manner. These elements are both functional (enhancing navigation) and aesthetic (producing a more interesting and visually compelling Web page).
Other dynamic or animated features currently in use includes scrolling “marquee” type messages, animated type, graphics, logotypes and page banners,”splash” images, and much more. The flexibility of the programs and technologies associated withthe creation of these elements areso powerful that the creative potential seems almost unlimited. The Web site of the Heathrow Express, a new shuttle train service connecting central London with Heathrow Airport, “pushes the envelope” in its use of dynamic elements and animations. The site uses Macro-media’s “Shockwave” technology to deliver passive animations, dynamic navigational tools, and more, resulting in a lively and stimulating online experience.
A somewhat more dignified approach to the use of dynamicand animated features can be seen at the Web site of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. This Web page or “jump station” contains passive animations including the airline’s logo type and a stylized aircraft icon which moves across a portion of the screen. Dynamic features, activated by mouse movements, are also included. These generate additional images, adding interest and functionality to KLM’s Web site.
Virtual reality, or “VR,” is a rapidly growing technology which has many applications on and off the Web including areas as divergent as aerospace engineering and medicine. For marketers, virtual reality features can be delivered via the Web to showcase what your company, organization or destination has to offer in an engaging “three-dimensional” manner.
Many Web sites utilize “QTVR”-quick time virtual
realitya technology developed by the Apple Computer Corporation. QTVR allows
you to show your customers 360-degree panoramic views of virtually any
location you want to illustrate-from hotel rooms and meeting spaces to
city scenes or landscapes. Viewers control the scene being displayed, using
a combination of mouse movements and keystrokes, to pan left or right,
and to zoom in or out. QTVR views are provided at Hyatt’s
Web site where they are used to depict guest rooms and other interior spaces
from Hyatt’s world-wide collection of hotels and resorts.
Because Web cams can help to reduce the psychic “distance” between viewers and your destination, increasing their comfort levels regarding a potential visit, they can be a useful tool for online marketers.
The widespread and enthusiastic application of video on the Web has been restrained by a number of technical factors, particularly by the relatively long time required for viewers to download the video files. In spite of this, video can add compelling visual (and related audio) content to your Web site, enabling you to engage your viewers in a more powerful and emotional manner. It can help you to create lasting and positive impressions of your company or organization, enhancing opport unities for increased customer loyalty and repeat business.
Airways uses an online video segment to effectively showcase its supersonic
Concorde SST. The video begins with the Concorde taxiing across the screen.
It then turns onto the runway and gathers speed before racing into the
air, its four turbojet engines glowing at full power. The Concorde
then passes directly overhead and is next seen in profile, cruising at
altitude. It’s an exciting, enjoyable and memorable Web site feature, and
the experience is enhanced by the accompanying audio features including
music, the roar of the jet engines at takeoff, and the pilot’s voice over
the intercom. Video features can be used on the Web to effectively promote
destinations. The Hong Kong Tourism Association’s Web site, for example,
contains over two dozen video segments showcasing Hong Kong as a destination.
These video clips can be downloaded and viewed at a variety of resolutions,
providing viewers with a choice of file sizes to better meet their unique
Who doesn’t enjoy sending or receiving a postcard from some appealing faraway destination? Electronic postcards now available at many tourism related Web sites are the new virtual descendants of the postcards you send when you are traveling. These virtual postcards provide an enjoyable “value-added” service to consumers, while at the same time building increased awareness of your travel destination. It’s a “win-win” situation in which both parties benefit, and it’s only available on the Web.
To send an electronic postcard, viewers first select an appropriate image from the gallery of images provided. Next, the names and e-mail addresses of both sender and recipient are entered, and a brief message is typed. A click on the appropriate “button,” and the card is “sent.” In reality, recipients receive an e-mail message indicating that an electronic postcard sent by the indicated friend, family member or colleague, can be retrieved by visiting the Web site from which it was sent.
The Web site of the London Tourist Board and Convention Bureau provides one of the finest series of electronic postcards currently on the Web. Here, viewers can select from a wide assortment of attractive and colorful scenes of the British capital. They can even choose the type of virtual “stamp” they want to use!
Electronic postcards are also available at the Web sites of the Calgary Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the state of Texas’ “TravelTex” Web site, and many others. By offering this free, value-added service to your viewers, you gain their cooperation, time, and effort as they write and send these postcard images. They can be a valuable form of free “word-of-mouth” promotion which can help you to build additional Web traffic and further enhance awareness of your company, organization, or destination.
The Web sites of a growing number of companies and organizations now provide free screensavers that viewers can download for their personal use. Used in this way, screensavers are both an added-value feature which provides a benefit for consumers, and a compelling form of advertising which is seen on a regular basis by the individuals using the computers on which the screensavers have been installed.
Two international airlines - Swissair and Lufthansa - offer several attractive versions of these useful products. One of the screensavers offered by Lufthansa features animated images of classic, 1930s-vintage Lufthansa aircraft, which “fly” back and forth across the screen. It’s an entertaining product, which is appropriate to the airline and its unique history. One of the aircraft in the screensaver pulls a small banner containing Lufthansa’s URL, helping to enhance or reinforce awareness of Lufthansa’s Web site. The Travel Tex Web site also offers several free screen savers to its visitors. These feature-compelling images of Texas include landscapes, beaches, sunsets, nature, wild flowers, historic sites, and more. Recognizing the promotional value of these products, viewers are actively encouraged to download as many of the free screensavers as they desire and to distribute them to others. It’s a smart strategy for building increased interest and awareness of Texas as a travel destination.
Screen savers are generally not expensive to produce. Because viewers can simply download the screensaver files from your Web site, there is no additional cost to “distribute” these useful, awareness-enhancing products.
Continued evolution is making the Web a more valuable
and multifunctional tool for hospitality, travel and tourism sales and
marketing professionals. By deploying the appropriate mix of features,
you can build an online marketing presence which is more powerful, more
effective, and contributes more to your bottomline performance.
Donald E. Bender, president of Bender Marketing Associates, is a member of the HSMAI Foundation Board of Trustees. He is the author of Marketing on the Web: Internet Strategies for Hospitality, Travel and Tourism, published by the Foundation, and writes articles and a column, The Online Marketer, for the HSMAI Marketing Review.
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