Social Sites And Travel: Good For Looking, Not Buying

Social sites like Facebook are one of the sources considered when travelers look to find some sort of shopping-related deal. But how many travelers use social sites to actually book a trip?

According to PhoCusWright’s Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews, more than three-fourths of travelers turn to social networks to find some type of shopping-related deal, and 30% specifically seek out travel-related deals. But companies that have implemented booking tools within Facebook have so far reported mixed results.

“Everybody and their grandma may be on Facebook, but for many in the travel industry, that has not made social into a reliably actionable and demonstrably profitable marketing medium,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research at PhoCusWright in Travel Daily News.

According to the study, travelers do not use social networks to purchase travel, as they would search or travel sites. Sharing travel photos and stories on social sites is popular. Making purchases, not so much.
“The potential of social for travel may lie less in any one platform and more in the ecosystem of social data,” says Quinby, “to socialize a traveler’s experience across a variety of online travel websites and mobile applications.”

Need travel information in person? The up close and personal nature of travel shows like the New York Times Travel Show might be the answer. Travel shows feature exhibitors representing countries from around the world with a focus on travel destinations, packages and special offers, as well as tour operators, cruise lines and live entertainment for the whole family as we see in this video:

[Flickr photo by ideagirlmedia]

Google to dominate online travel selling, we hope

Late last week, Google won government clearance on its $700 million bid for ITA Software in a deal that opens the door for the innovative Internet search powerhouse to dominate online travel selling.

ITA Software, who’s latest innovations include include ITA PSS, a next-generation passenger services system, Needle, a smarter way to organize and publish data on the web, and OnTheFly, an airfare shopping mobile application will make a nice addition to Googles stable of brands. ITA already powers the reservation systems of most US airlines and several online fare-comparison brands like Kayak, TripAdvisor and Hotwire. It looks like a match made in heaven as tech-savvy Google gets an infusion of travel sense from a leader in that game.

But there is a catch. Make that possible bump in the road that we hope they get over smoothly.

While Google is buying and hiring to solidify the top position in all it does, it’s competitors and the government are looking very closely at what they are up to. They fear Google could use it’s substantial Internet search engine clout to monopolize the online travel business.

Would that be the same fear Yahoo might have had about Google’s search engine capability? Perhaps a natural order of things will play out here too.

To win approval, Google agreed to ongoing federal monitoring of its behavior. Google also agreed that ITA will continue to provide service to existing customers for five years in a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory way”. That should satisfy the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department for a while but they both have Google in their sights, ready to pull the trigger on a full-scale investigation, given the chance.

In his blog, Google’s Senior Vice President Jeff Huber writes:

“How cool would it be if you could type “flights to somewhere sunny for under $500 in May” into Google and get not just a set of links but also flight times, fares and a link to sites where you can actually buy tickets quickly and easily? Well that’s exactly why we announced our intention to buy ITA Software, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that specializes in organizing airline data last July-and we’re excited that the U.S. Department of Justice today approved our acquisition.”

Last July, Gadling’s Darren Murph called the ITA buy “a huge win for consumers who are tired of crawling three different airline search engines to get a somewhat comprehensive look at their options.” adding “we personally can’t wait for this marriage to officially bear fruit.”

Now that the sale has been approved and Google has agreed play nice, we should start seeing something pretty quickly. Until then, there’s always Google maps:

Flickr photo by brionv