Internet and travel have become synonymous - Superbreak’s Carl Michel has been interviewed about the pairing of the two
The relationship between the Internet and travel consumers has never being stronger. According to the Association of British Travel Agents the online travel market is expected to reach 17 per cent (£28bn) of the total UK travel market by 2007 – which represents a massive period of growth over the past ten years.
However, despite the industry being relatively young it can be difficult to find individuals who have essentially been there from the start and had first hand experience of both witnessing and contributing to the growth of the sector.
Carl Michel is the current Chief Executive of Holidaybreak PLC, which occupies market-leading positions in the UK and European holiday markets through its network of companies such as Superbreak (http://www.superbreak.com ). Having previously worked for British Airways, Mr. Michel is ideally positioned to provide an interesting insight into the market past and present.
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 was then at business school and aside from being the proud owner of an IBM PC (with a curious liquid crystal screen you could only see from a certain angles) they gave us a link to EasySabre, the pioneering online reservation system. So 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 though I never used the ticket, as it would have cost me much more to get to Westray in the first place! But 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.
Finally... 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…
The full interview can be found at: Carl Michel Pheedback (http://pheedback.com/carl_michel )
Carl Michel (43)
Group Chief Executive
Carl joined the Company on 5th September 2005. He is bi-lingual in English and German and also speaks French. He was educated at Oxford University and Harvard Business School.
Carl has extensive experience in the travel industry having worked for British Airways and Opodo. Immediately prior to joining Holidaybreak he had held a number of consultancy roles including with a private equity firm and a business raising funds for an airline related start up venture. He has also spent about 5 years working in Germany with Deutsche BA and Energis-Ision. In May 2006, Carl joined the supervisory board of Austrian Airlines Group.
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.
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