How We Can Get Consumers to Book on DMO Websites
November 18, 2013 5:54am
by Ashwin Kamlani
This past year, the discussion of booking engines on Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) sites came up very often in conferences and webinars: Should we have one? Does it really work?
In order to answer this question, many turn to studies on consumer behavior claiming that “very few consumers actually book on DMO websites.” But does that mean we should abandon having consumers book on DMO sites?
I’m sure that in 1997, studies showed that most customers rented their movies at Blockbuster. I’m also sure that in 2001, studies showed that most people listened to music on a Discman. Nevertheless, Netflix and Apple were able to successfully change consumer behavior by providing them with a benefit for doing so. And as an industry, we can too.
Challenges of Our Current State
Our Industry Opportunity
To me, the OTAs are like the Wal-Mart of travel. They are appealing to the mass market and sell everything. But some people don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart. They already know that they want a specific type of product, and prefer to shop at specialty stores. So what’s our specialty?
The latest inventions in online travel do not create any new product for the consumer, they have just invented new ways of searching through existing product. Booking travel online has become an endless maze sending the consumer running in circles and arriving at the same results. Studies show that consumers check up to 22 sites on average prior to booking their travel. Since there are really only three major OTAs now (Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz), this statistic suggests that consumers are willing to check sites that are not as well-known as the major OTAs in hope of finding a good deal or something unique.
So let’s think of ourselves as the ultimate local experts, capturing a very specific audience that’s looking for something more when they book through us, because we have the greatest opportunity to involve our partners within each destination to create unique products for sale. DMOs have invested a lot of money and time building strong, recognizable and credible brands that in many cases do resonate with consumers. I believe this brand equity is strong enough to attract bookings with the right tools and strategy.
A Call to Action
First, everyone has to recognize and agree that achieving this goal is worthwhile. Within the DMO industry, I can’t imagine a better way to make DMOs more relevant, and more essential to the livelihood of their partners.
The End Game
Regardless of which solution provider DMOs work with, together we can slowly educate the consumer that they should not book their travel without first checking the DMO’s website. The potential for an effective booking engine strategy aligns with what DMOs seek to accomplish in the first place when serving their communities:
While driving bookings would bring DMOs the glory, with it comes an increased level of accountability. When bookings are strong everyone will be cheering and when bookings are weak the phones will be ringing to ask why. It takes courage to take on this challenge, but achieving this goal would be a positive change for the DMO industry, the partners they serve and consumers.
Ashwin Kamlani, Founder of Regatta Travel Solutions will be attending PhoCusWright this week in Hollywood, Florida.
Tags: regatta travel solutions,
Contact: Holly Settle
434 806 7653
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