12.15.2007

The Long Tail of E-Tourism

The Long Tail acording Chris Anderson is about selling less of more thus recognizing the interplay of new forces in the marketplace. In the Long Tail, the sum of the niches is as significant as or more significant than the sum of the dominant players.

The genesis of the Long Tail business model is rooted in the rise of the Internet itself. Before e-commerce’s ubiquity, brick-and-mortar retailers rationalized that low volume products were not worth the shelf space, warehousing, distribution, marketing and labor cost. In other words, selling low volume products was not economical.Enter e-commerce with succes stories such as Amazon, eBay and Netflix. A retailing explosion occurred. Embracing niches became a strategic imperative because they cumulatively outnumber or outweigh higher frequency plays. Big companies are successfully harvesting lots of little things.



The two big points of The Long Tail theory are:
1. The yellow part potentially extends forever to the right
2. The area under that line—the aggregate market of niches it represents—may become as big as the hits at the left.

Whilst doing my little research on Chris Anderson's " The Long Tail" I was wandering if it can be applied to one of the core courses of our MBA program : Tourism and Hospitality industry. Out of my own experience and some little researth on the subject I found out that there are in fact quite a few similar patterns.

If we look at some stats of the (WTTC) by the end of this year, the industry is set to account for 10.3% of global GDP and more than 234 million jobs, Millions of inhabitants prepare to venture beyond their national borders for the first time.I think that the Long Tail effect is of the utmost importance because travel, tourism and hospitality is the largest and one of the most dynamic industries of today's global economy.


Current marketplace activity represents the most exciting time witnessed since the first online travel wave hit. It's pregnant with potential.Fresh ideas and incredible energy are flooding the Travel industry now.
The landscape of on-line travel is changing all the time. Web 2.0 technologies and applications have brought consumers and individuals to the forefront. Their influence is enormous and unprecedented. The Travel 2.0 wave has fuelled the Long Tail fire, bringing the power of little products,different destinations, chanels, site, businesses to new heights .This of course challenges status quo travel planning behavior. Travelers are now taking control and finding/creating the perfect trip, not just the cheapest one.

We can't miss either the User generated content, reviews, ratings, blogs, and social networking are all impacting how people search for and buy travel on-line. Customers communicating with other customers has generated an unprecedented social networking phenomenon and a resurgence in the Long Tail economy.
We notice also the growing and increased focus on community and niche strategies (TripAdvisor, the largest online travel community , Facebook, VibeAgent,Kayak, yahootravel, Google…) with companies fast climbing aboard the Long Tail of Travel Business.
So how the Long Tail apply to the travel industry in large and how all types of travel, tourism and hospitality companies can differentiate themselves in this vast, dynamic travel distribution marketplace?

To answer this question I will focus on one of the most powerful players in the online travel community on a global scale: Tripadvisor with hints to the growing niche markets worldwide.
TripAdvisor.com as travel information website, covers more than 270,000 hotels and attractions in over 30,000 destinations worldwide. It features hotel, attraction, and restaurant reviews written by travelers; a wiki for users to provide facts and tips on destinations, semilar in concept to a travel guidebook; "goLists", where users list what to see or what to do, somewhat like travel itineraries; interactive maps based on the Google Maps engine; and "TripAdvisor Forums", an active traveler message board area.
With more than 10 million reviews and opinions and nearly 30 million unique visitors a month, TripAdvisor is also the largest travel community on the web.

From a consumer's point of view TripAdvisor is a comprehensive travel search engine and directory that assists consumers in their search for travel information via the web By choosing a destination consumers are presented with a variety of destination relevant information such as articles, guidebooks, reviews , user comments on hotels cities and activities and booking facilities. Currently TripAdvisor is amongst most succesful recommander systems in e-Tourism. TripAdvisor provides users a tool (Quick-Check tool)to check hotel tool pricing and availability and ranks hotels worldwide based on a popularity index that is measured by the quality and quantity of the reviews about the hotels on the web? Advice is also given by providing independant travel reviews and comments written rom former TripAdvisor consumers.

As an external site TripAdvisor cooperates with worlds leading players in e-tourism including Expedia, Travelocity,Orbitz, Hotel.com,and many others, TripAdvisor's new formula is honest brookers(Truth) plus social neworks(Trust)TripAdvisor is slowly shifting its model from that of a mass review website to one which incorporates social networking. It has helped shape the Long Tail of Travel.Social networking sites and blogs give a voice to anyone, deserved or not. But as this quantity of knowledge and experience gets published online, a long tail… an almost unimaginable long tail… is starting to develop.

And here is one mindblowing stat to support that: 80% of all hotels listed on TripAdvisor are viewed every single day, people book or decide to book on the strength of the great reviews and are “passing it on”. Supercharged word of mouth in action – despite the fact that none of these people are likely to ever meet.
In a more paracticle way the traveler after visiting TripAdvisor goes to Expedia where there are great deals, then visits the hotel's website, then way for some independent views from a trusted community on Flickr, the photo sharing site, Facebook or Mysapce or Youtube for reviews and videos about the hotel and the area.
Because of its great product, social media sites are generating vast amounts of word of mouth for HotelS and travel services and products and are driving business.

As a free website to consumers,TripAdvisor, is supported by an advertising model. Clients include most major online travel agencies, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Hotwire, Priceline, Travelocity and many travel suppliers, such as InterContinental, Hyatt, and American Airlines.
we can locate and link two sites that are competititors to TripAdvisor the first is the Just-launched VibeAgent.com, which targets travelers slightly younger than TripAdvisor.com users (two-thirds of whom are 35 and older), is a hotel review and booking site heavy on personalization and social networking.

The site enables hotel searches based on one or more categories, such as "boutique," "lively," "luxurious." Users get a choice of rates via various booking partners, including Priceline.
VibeAgent says more than 10,000 people have signed on so far; it remains to be seen whether it can compete with TripAdvisor's 5-million-plus members and 10 million reviews of hotels, eateries and attractions. TripAdvisor also is going after young users and launched a networking function.

The second website is Measuredup.com which is quite different but that I found quite interesting , Measuredup.com is a leading site where consumers rate and review the customer service they experience from any business, large or small, anywhere, at anytime. The site is fun, free and easy to use and read by thousands a day.

Can the model apply offline as well? I dont think so because it is a business based on the web as said above the genesis of the long tail model is rooted in the rise of the inernet itself, there is no E-tourism offline either.

Is it sustaiable? I have two different answers for this , in one side yes I think it sustainable because The internet is becoming more mature, more accessible (via cellular for example), with more focused content, new players in niche market segments; etc. its impact on the distribution strategies of suppliers and the purchasing habits of consumers cannot be ignored.

An increase in dynamic packaging indicates the fact that consumers are discovering the benefits and flexibility of the internet.
All the complementary content (video, reviews, ancillary services, etc..), telecom operators start entering the game, Tour Operators are also pushing their B2C sites and traditional networks (Thomas cook, Selectour) are developing their brand on line. Accor, Euro Disney, Easyjet, Voyages-sncf, Nouvelles Frontières, Selectour, Opodo, Go Voyages, Hotels.com, Boscolo Hotels, Expedia, Costa Crosières, Air Canada, Runaworld, Ski Horizon, Google,

In another side, The Internet is a global phenomena. Yes, but… the Long Tail can only be sustained where the infrastructure exists to support it. This is different for different types of content. For example, for an individual to take advantage of the Long Tail in the music distribution industry, all that is required is an Internet capable MP3 player and access to a single music aggregation site. A person in algeria or Nepal can easily download music from iTunes to his MP3 player. However, if the same person wants to plan a trip in ALGERIA and to make reservations, each supplier (or intermediary), for example, requires reservations software, Internet presence, the ability to collect payments charged against a credit card. In addition, the traveler needs facilities to print an itinerary. In many developing countries such as ALGERIA , telecommunications and facilities infrastructure is not capable yet of supporting this. Thus, the provisioning of the Long Tail in travel will follow the development of the necessary supporting infrastructure.

If I own the business to increase users and customers I would explore new travel destinations and niches, invest in promoting such undiscovred areas of the world (generally very beautiful spots) where no Internet facilies is available and put them under light to the rest of the world to discover them first on the web then for real , this will create a new dynamic, new markets for both supliers and partners thus increase revenues from existing but unexploited sources and opportunities.and turn present and future challenges into boundless opportunities.
One of many ideas for a Long Tail business model is a development in Algeria of project such as POLARIS WORLD or a CENTER PARCS, its sometimes 'weird' to speak about 'the Long Tail' in such a specific market and geographic area when we know that 'the head' has not ever been there.Its a challenge but it will be done.


2 comments:

Toowoomba's Waters said...

Hi!

Excellent post, especially the paragraphs about TripAdvisor and The Long Tail as it explains in plain English how the theory (the Long Tail) is put into practice (TripAdvisor) in our industry.

Thank you and Joyeux Noel!

Meilleures salutations,

Fabienne

http://blog.untanglemyweb.com

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