EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta hears from Salvador about how digital technology and tools are shaping the travel shopping experience what hotel companies can learn from the retail sector. EFT: What new trends are emerging in the digital travel retail experience? PS: All the new trends are related to mobility. Mobility is changing the way customers behave when they book (lead time is reducing and voice bookings are increasing), searches (now social media and social reputation matter) and the way they experience a property. Lots of examples are available. Let’s consider just two. First consider hotel and airfare search site Hipmunk. It combines TripAdvisor and social media into the booking process and allows search featuring what people care about: cool places to be in the city, restaurants and so on. Second is HotelTonight; it is the first online booking engine for last-minute trips featuring last-minute deals only on mobile devices. Consumer can book last minute deals via mobile. EFT: How can technology lend a new dimension to the whole travel shopping experience today? PS: Technology is improving the overall travel shopping experience and at the same time is bringing new challenges for the industry on the whole. Technology helps hotel to carve new paths to find a direct relationship with guests but rapidly everyday new intermediaries arrive that inflate the cost of distribution. Technology for hospitality is really about balancing opportunities and threats. I always say that individual hotels can no longer manage this balance alone. Unless the hotel has really a unique USP there is no possibility of remaining competitive without joining a network (a hotel group) that can help a hotel company to leverage new technologies in their favour. Today independent hotels have many choices to increase their competitiveness by joining hotel chains that offer not only technology and connectivity but also training and international sales. Only if the hotel belongs to a network of hotels it will remain competitive. EFT: What sort of digital tools have the power to dramatically increase consumer engagement today? PS: Rather than digital tools, I would refer to mention digital challenges that need to completely change the management behaviour of hotel companies. The most revolutionary site ever in the travel history to empower the customer engagement is TripAdvisor. Nowadays a hotel can destroy its years and decades of good image and positioning if it ends up having recurrent bad feedback on TripAdvisor. Hoteliers need to have a clear understanding of how to manage social reputation and how to strengthen their reputation particularly when it comes to TripAdvisor. The tip of the iceberg has just been visible with TripAdvisor. There is a lot more to come when Facebook moves toward travelling. Get the full story at EyeForTravel