You can tell that mobile is going to be the next battleground to win the customer.
At the China Travel Distribution Summit, Gerry Samuels, founder and CEO of Mobile Travel Technologies, said travel suppliers were taking an increasingly aggressive stance on mobile as they see it as an opportunity to win back the customer.
“Suppliers are taking an aggressive stance in using mobile to engage directly with and sell to their customer,” he told the audience.
At the same time, OTAs see mobile as an opportunity to gain a stronger hold on the customer.
At another panel, Amit Saberwal, senior vice president-hotels and international markets of India’s MakeMyTrip, said he sees mobile as offering travellers on the move the opportunity to make last-minute decisions on hotel bookings “and we want them to think of us first when they land”.
“As such, building a brand that customers can trust is critical,” he said.
To which a hotelier retorted, “Or he can go straight to the check-in desk of said, trusted hotel brand.”
At last year's China TDS, Glenn Fogel, executive vice president of corporate development, predicted that the rise of travel apps would swing the pendulum back in favour of intermediaries. His reasoning – consumers will not download every supplier app, intermediaries have the advantage in technology and can take a fun approach to apps and apps are habit-forming.
The intermediaries that will benefit are OTAs and metasearch, he said. He also suggested that broad search engines might create their own travel apps and even mobile phone players could be tempted into entering the space as they wondered why should all the money go to the OTAs and search engines?
So who wins? This debate will continue during the WIT Conference during various panels exploring mobile, channel management, customer loyalty and hotel-OTA partnerships.