Superbreak Chief Executive takes a short break from work to speak to an online journalist on the changing face of internet holiday booking sites
Superbreak travel website’s Chief Executive, Carl Michael, was interviewed in a question and answers session by online journalists, and provided an interesting insight into the online holiday market past and present.
As the current group Chief Executive of market leading UK and European travel group, Holidaybreak PLC, encompassing a network of companies such as UK short break specialist Superbreak (http://www.superbreak.com/ ), and with extensive experience within the travel industry with work for British Airways and Opodo, as well as recently joining the supervisory board of Austrian Airlines Group, Carl Michel is uniquely positioned to talk about the online travel market.
Here are some of the questions and answers:
When did you first realise that the Internet would play such an important role in online travel?
I booked my first air ticket online twenty years ago in 1986 – so I think that must put me down as a very early adopter. I booked a ticket on BA between Westray and Papa Westray in the Orkneys (the world’s shortest commercial flight) for £10 or something. It was so exciting … even at that stage I could sense the huge potential of the internet.
What are you thoughts on Google’s role in all of this?
Google’s role is in helping people navigate this very complicated e-world. With Google you can find really unusual places, but equally in the travel sector there are already quite a few big sites where people will naturally look. I think if you fly you tend to look at ba.com or one of the low cost carriers – there is no real need for Google. In accommodation, the main online players are great for mainstream locations; Google really comes in to its own if you are going off the beaten track or have a specific place in mind. And it will continue to thrive as long as it is trusted – a more delicate balance than many may believe it is.
Do you see a need for the business models to change in order to adapt to online disintermediation?
I think online disintermediation is here to stay and tour operators need to construct more compelling propositions more nimbly. The reality is that some business never did add much value – like buying a short haul flight – and it is sensible that the customer is willing to do the job in his/her own time, which is essentially what it is. Furthermore there will always be a segment of the population driven by price, which may shun using intermediaries. But there are many consumers who understand the meaning of value and it is this segment that needs to be the focus of efforts.
Where do you see online travel moving in the future?
I think online travel has a huge way to go – still. We really still haven’t got good content and there is little effective consumer profiling to understand user requirements. Amazon.co.uk are a few steps ahead but a book or CD is quite a different type of purchase to a holiday. Now that would be something, coming home to your avatar, being told he/she/it had found you a perfect break, showing you a video of the destination, checking that there was no cheaper way of doing it, booking it for you and printing out all your tickets for you there and then. It is quite conceivable but still some way off in terms of widespread syndication. Until then, it is a big opportunity for smarter travel agents.
Superbreak short breaks (http://www.superbreak.com ) is the internet division of Superbreak Mini Holidays Limited, the market leader for short breaks throughout the UK. Superbreak is part of Holiday break (http://www.holidaybreak.co.uk ) plc, a publicly quoted leisure company whose share price can be found in most major UK newspapers.
Based in York, England, Superbreak specialises in booking 2-5 star hotel accommodation throughout Britain for the leisure traveller. Superbreak hold allocations of rooms at all hotels and we can book up to and including the day of departure.
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