Where does the intermediary’s relationship with the customer end and the airline’s begin and what exactly is a direct booking?
When you gather travel distribution execs together, inevitable discussions ensue around collaboration, emerging technologies and the power of Google and other companies including Facebook termed gatekeepers, but, a recent event sought to move the debate on a little.
The Tnooz-London School of Economics event included executives from BCD, eDreams, Finnair, LSE and Skyscanner and the basis for discussion was a paper on the future of travel distribution (recap here).
A question about chat services addressed to Skyscanner chief technology officer Bryan Dove opened up an exchange around direct booking and new entrants into the value chain.
Dove says there is evolution in priorities for airlines and online travel agencies:
“The notion of what is the direct channel also starts to evolve as technology evolves.”
This is not the first time the Skyscanner folk have voiced opinion on evolution of the direct channel with commercial director Frank Skivington saying recently that airlines need to rethink the direct channel as being wider than their websites.
Dove says that Skyscanner’s chatbot, launched in May, has seen a threefold growth in recurring users and adds that for the metasearch player it’s about experimenting with new channels to try and understand how and where consumers want to be served.
These thoughts raised a big question from Finnair head of commercial strategy Rogier van Enk who agrees the airline community needs to think about what consumers really want.