Online Revealed: where travellers are going

TORONTO — About 150 people from the tourism and travel
sphere descended on the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning in early
April for the 10th anniversary edition of Online Revealed.

Then and now

Hari Nair, vice-president of market management North America for Expedia.

Hari Nair, vice-president of market management North America for Expedia.

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Keynote speaker Hari Nair, vice-president of market
management North America for Expedia, shared Canadian travel insight and
research.

Nair expects worldwide e-commerce sales will double in next
five years to $2.4 trillion and sees mobile-commerce as the new wave. Of those
engaging with travel, 67 per cent do it on mobile.

He said room night bookings are on the rise to Canada from
domestic and international travellers and package products have been on the
rise, with a 37 per cent year-over-year increase in January and 33 per cent in
February. Nair noted that there tends to be less cancellation when it comes to
packages, indicating travellers consider it more of a commitment.

Nair said music and travel are the two categories that are
going to see the most change in terms of technology.

Providing a quick history lesson in technological
advancement, Nair illustrated how the pace of change is accelerating and the
speed of adoption and mass integration is increasing. “It’s becoming incredibly
hard to predict where the world is going, so we don’t,” said Nair.

Personal computers only account for a small share of
connected devices, with smartphones and tablets seeing more and wearables and
smartTVs coming onto the scene. “If your online strategy is for a PC, you’re
thinking about yesterday,” said Nair, noting the majority of time spent viewing
digital content is either on a mobile or tablet device.

He said Expedia’s continued focus is investment in
technology. In 2006, its technology spend was $115 million and that number grew
by six times to $686 million in 2014.

He said they are investing in an approach that is working:

1. Be scientific. Identify problems, test hypotheses and the
follow data.

2. Make things easy. Travel is changing and planning is
complex. “There’s a big debate: is it the age of information or the age of distraction?”
Nair asked. “The question is: how do you create experiences, when the attention
span is 90 seconds?”

The next generation would rather text, needs to be connected
and are spending time gaming with apps, which steals minutes from planning. “We
have to take these guys on head to head because that’s who we’re competing with
for time,” he said. 

3. Big ideas, small changes. “Nobody can compete with
someone whose learning cycle is day to day,” Nair said.

What’s jazz got to do with it?

In Place Your Firm “Miles” Ahead, T4G principal Richard Kunz
compared business innovation with jazz music.

An amateur saxophone player for five years, Kunz has noticed
parallels between the two and created his presentation with the onstage help of
the Simone Morris Trio (plus one). [pictured above]

Kunz dispelled some myths about big data:

-Big Data is the only thing that matters. Instead, it needs
to be put in the context of business intelligence.

-Technology will save you. Focus needs to be placed in
people, process and strategy.

“Jazz is a music that never, ever is the same twice,” said
Kunz. “Like jazz, data is a frontier that can me mixed differently each time
you play the song.”

He emphasized the importance of good leadership with a clear
direction and vision, which creates a culture of shared responsibility because
of a unified purpose.

He said people have the wrong idea with respect to
innovation and challenged typical thinking on the subject, “Every big idea that
is out there is an iteration on another idea, including the iPhone,” said Kunz.
“Don’t go chasing that ‘light bulb moment’ look for those small, incremental
gains.”

He noted that innovation is hard work. “Forget about big
data, think big about all data and you’ll have a competitive advantage,” he
said. 

Digital travel trends

The forecast for Canadian digital travel sales in 2015 is
$11.8 billion, increasing from $11.1 million last year and $10.3 million in
2013. It is forecasted to grow to $12.5 million in 2016, $13.2 million in 2107
and $14 million in 2018.

According to a 2014 Canadian Travellers survey by Yahoo!,
Canadians are booking online because of competitive pricing (73 per cent) and
48 per cent do so because they feel it is easy to book. Good previous
experience came in at 42 per cent and customer service 35 per cent.

Carlos De Torres Gimeno, Microsoft Canada vice-president,
noted what he saw as a surprising figure: only one third cited positive reviews
as a reason for booking online. “You can look at this glass as half empty or
half full,” he said, adding people are also interested in the quality of
information.

He shared some consumer behaviour information: 

-29 per cent would be willing to share private data gathered
though life analytics for personal benefit;

-43 per cent expect brands to know the right moment to talk
to them; and

-45 per cent of Canadians say it’s important that technology
enables their real-world experiences.

Lessons learned

A panel moderated by Online Revealed co-founder Alicia
Whalen consisted of Ottawa Tourism director of digital marketing Beverly
Carkner, Rocket Fuel director of category strategy for travel Chris Lorenzoni,
director of inbound innovation for Rogers Martin Byrne and Cory Messom,
vice-president of digital strategy and innovation.

“We had no choice but to be innovative because our customers
told us they wanted to book online,” said Whalen.

Messom said early on, the industry tried to use print
content online. “I think that we learned that it doesn’t [translate],” he said.

While other industries came to a dead end, travel and
tourism adapted, said Byrne.

Carkner noted that the changes in technology have resulted
in changes to the composition of marketing teams and the integration of digital
assets.

She said influencers have also changed from traditional
media to include bloggers.