In 2017, Latin America received a total of 207 million tourists and experienced significant growth in the travel market. Last year, the sector increased 10,6% in Chile, similar to Colombia, which had a 10,2% increase in comparison to 2016.
In addition to that, Mexico was the most visited country in LatAm, followed by Brazil, which registered a record of foreign travelers in 2017, with 42 thousand more tourists than the previous year. Just so you have an idea, there were more travelers in Brazil that year than there was during the World Cup and the Olympics.
As it could not be otherwise, with such a promising scenario the travel market was one of the highlights of the ninth edition of the Ecommerce Brasil Forum 2018.
Three national specialists took the stage to talk about the main trends and future landscape of the sector: Caroline Sass de Haro, managing partner of Mapie, German Carmona, marketing manager of GOL Airlines and Eduardo Fleury, country manager of KAYAK.
Online tourism is not “another” way, it is the only way
This was Carolina Sass de Haro’s argument to explain why the term “online tourism” shouldn’t even be used anymore. Indeed, we cannot talk about tourism ignoring the online market.
According to data presented by Mapie’s managing partner, almost 100% of travelers use the web to plan or arrange a trip, even if the purchase of the package itself has been made in a physical travel agency.
Whether it is a decisive factor when planning the trip or as a tool used for booking tours and other travel services, it’s almost impossible to ignore the internet when traveling.
That’s why the rate of 100% tourists taking some online action for their trips is not a reality only in Brazil, but a global trend that also determines market rules in India, the United Kingdom, Germany, United States, France and Australia.
Internet’s success as main purchase channel for travelers is due one simple factor: how easy it is to shop online.
Data presented by Sass de Haro during the Forum showed that consumers elected travel/vacation services as the ones that are easiest to purchase online, ahead of big e-commerce categories such as sports, apparel, and electronics.
And it is irrefutable that this market is growing at an accelerated pace. A few years ago, tourists had two options when planning a trip:
Focusing their efforts and a considerable amount of time to benchmark prices before booking travel services.
Hiring a travel agency to do the research for them and wait some days for the available package options.
With the transformation provided by the web, two business models emerged and changed the game rules in the travel market: metasearch engines, or meta-searchers, those websites that can book hotels and flights in seconds, and OTAs (online travel agencies), websites that offer millions of booking options for hotels and other travel services.
OTAs became giants in the Brazilian travel market; Sass de Haro highlighted the importance of these players by presenting some data about the exponential growth of some of these OTAs. In 2013, Booking.com and Expedia had a representativity of 38% in the Brazilian online market; in a period of only 3 years, these websites doubled in influence, representing 66% of the online tourism market of the country in 2016.
Biggest trends for 2019
After a series of discussions over the current moment of expansion of the tourism market, the lecturers were asked about the biggest trends of the market for 2019.
Here are the answers from Carmona, Sass de Haro, and Fleury that you can (and should) implement into your business ASAP:
According to the specialists, the strong migration towards mobile is already a reality. A proof of that is that mobile companies and hotels mobile apps are more and more used by frequent travelers.
This migration process is a reflection of the consumers’ demand for seamless and bureaucracy-free booking processes. In fact, Carmona, Sass de Haro, and Fleury affirmed that consumers are already willing to pay more for a simpler sign-up process.
This is a lesson that major OTAs have already learned and started putting into practice. Nevertheless, many websites with direct booking are still having trouble innovating. OTAs are here to say, and, in order to attract new customers with direct booking, hotels will have to win the mobile market.
Offering a personalized experience
Users are more and more demanding as algorithms are getting more advanced. In this landscape, the natural path is for players to have a better understanding of how users behave and provide relevant offers accordingly.
For instance, offering a trip to Buenos Aires to a tourist that only travels during vacation time and have visited Argentina previously probably isn’t the best option, maybe a package with new Latin American destinations could be way more appealing.
Using pre-existing data on the behavior of users in order to suggest them destinations that make more sense according to their profile is the next big trend to increase travel companies’ conversion rates.
Using artificial intelligence
The usage of AI (Artificial Intelligence) was a recurring topic in the Ecommerce Brasil Forum; noticeably, the travel market, which is one of the most competitive online markets, could not be left out.
In the case of travel websites, the main goal of implementing AI measures is providing more agility and efficiency in customer service, allowing companies to quickly answer customers and reduce waiting time.
These three trends point in the same direction: the business potential of the travel sector is huge for merchants who fully get how consumers behave and that use the power of the internet wisely.