The web is becoming a platform for participation rather than a medium for delivery.

I have been writing for some time about the Internet at a crossroads (e.g. Search at a crossroads). That crossroads is the evolution of the Internet. it is not here by grand design but by evolution itself. The web has morphed into a huge ‘small world network’, connecting services, applications, people, places, ideas and knowledge in unforeseen ways.

Peter Hershberg managing partner of Reprise Media, points out that YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all started out with simple objectives and have evolved to something much more:

“YouTube started as a service that allowed people to post videos but has since become the de facto place people turn to when they want to find video content on any subject imaginable. Twitter started as a way to issue personal status updates to your friends, but is morphing into a search engine that allows you to tap into the now – what’s going on now? What’s the groundswell of sentiment around a topic? Facebook began as a way to see more information about people you were going to school with. Now it’s become a way for friends to share interests by becoming Fans of brands and lifestyles and posting articles, opinions and information”.

This evolution has created a network, never conceived and still not defined. It is a work in progress. But it is clear that form, function, process and context have changed and all parts are merging almost at the speed of thought

Web design and marketing, once about ensuring that people could find your website, is now also about your website finding people. It’s about reaching out to people where they already are, i.e., participating in a personal social network. It’s about adding value by interacting with these networks of people in a meaningful way.

There are over 400,000 independent developers building Facebook applications to harness this. One is Oodle, who helped Facebook with their marketplace classified ads application. I used it recently to list my house for rent and within a week it could have been rented twice.

At AXSES, we have built our travel platform into a Facebook application. It allows arcRes users to publish specials as well as rates and web content to Facebook. All this information on Facebook as well as the ability to get holiday quotes and to book, is managed from the arcRes admin system which also manages information on the user’s website and a network of other marketing channels. Facebook is a different type of channel; one where meaningful participation and shared knowledge is the driving force.

Ian R. Clayton, AXSES

See full article on our blog Blog

Related article Engagement Marketing


We wrote about advertising at a Crossroads nearly a year ago; today we read about Expedia’s new PassportAds, The first program of its kind in travel advertising. We wrote about Search at a Crossroads, and now, TripAdvisor (actually another Expedia company) launches Integrated Search.

It’s to be expected – the whole way we do business is shifting fundamentally. Like Philip C. Wolf, President and CEO of PhoCusWright Inc., says, it’s a perfect storm: MORE >>>


A Social Net Primer – how to use Facebook in your travel business

Social network users made up 41.2% of the US Internet population in 2008. 60% of Internet users are consumers of all user-generated content (e-marketer).

The great success story for social networking in 2008 was Obama. Obama has 5 million Fans on Facebook and it clearly played a significant role in his campaign to win the USA election. Spurred on by his success, more and more businesses are using, or wondering how to use Facebook and similar Social Media services.

At AXSES, we began to track the Social Media a year or two ago. At first, it was the technology that we observed ‘it was going to change the way we communicate’, it was changing the Internet.

We began a Facebook project to see how we could use it. We became a Fan of Jennifer Figge, who is planning to swim from Africa to Barbados. Jeniffer’s manager contacted us and we put him in contact with the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA). The BTA launched a similar Facebook project shortly after.

Here is how it works: You sign up and then go about inviting friends who invite friends who might then become advocates and might follow your communications and special announcements.

Facebook is personal, so a real person, not a company, is expected to create a Facebook account. They may then add pages, photo galleries, groups and make comments which can be sent to others and seen on respective Facebook pages.

Facebook “pages” can be about company and products. In fact, we made the mistake of setting up a profile for the rather than a page, this, it turns out, may have some advantages (more details to follow). Many companies have also made this mistake!

In all, we quickly set up the following: A profile for the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia (BTE) (, pages for
and a photo gallery for, to name a few.

We added Groups in several of these pages and started discussions on topics such as the St. Lucia marketing strategies, the pros and cons of dealing directly with hotels, etc.

We added RSS feeds, which will display our clients’ “Special offers” on Facebook. Anyone who looks and becomes a Friend of can elect to see these Specials directly on their own page. That is powerful!

4 million people use each year. If they choose to become a Friend or Fan of, they will see all our posts, news and specials. It will give us a useful way to communicate socially with travelers, on their terms, on their own sites and not with in-your-face advertising.

We plan to integrate Facebook with all clients and to link Facebook pages from our travel websites. We are now investigating how best to help hotels and operators use Facebook and all social networks.

Check back later to see our suggestion for a social network strategy for tourism.

Ian R Clayton, AXSES

See blog of this article for a bit more detail:
Blog- SocialNet


While over 80% of chain hotels get their business directly – 59% of online travel shoppers still stop at online agents, like Travelocity, first, presumably to comparison shop. The average consumer makes 12 searches and visits 22 sites before they book (Uptake, June, 2008). To be found you need to be seen, even if you don’t get bookings from the site you are shopped on.

95 percent of visitors to these sites do not buy on the site. In 2006, it was estimated that 70% of visitors to sites, like Expedia, ended up buying Direct from the supplier. This is why Expedia has moved into advertising, realizing that they do influence buying decisions at an important stage of the buying cycle. The GDS imposed minimum monthly billings as a way of charging for exposure.

Global Distribution Systems (GDS) are an important part of the market mix and are now affordable for small hotels. GDS is the largest travel distribution network in the world. Over 600,000 international travel agents use them. In addition, many Internet Distribution Systems (IDS), such as Travelocity, have traditionally pulled content from the GDS to offer booking for resorts not signed with them.

The GDS have acted, to some extent, as a channel management tool for thousands of IDS sites. This too is changing, as IDS favours direct contracts with resorts and always put their own direct contracts on top of the list. We expect that IDS will drop GDS content when they have a critical mass of direct-contract suppliers.

The issue, then, is how many systems will you, as supplier, be required to manage.

The role of marketing is becoming very much the role of controlling content, rates, availability and visibility on the Internet (Channel Management).
The new order is taking shape. New technology is driving direct business and making it easier to control and manage distribution. Technology is more accessible and affordable and Suppliers who use it are taking control.

Ian R. Clayton, AXSES

For the full article see blog:

1. PhoCusWright: “In fact, more than twice as many online travelers (36%) believe that the supplier-direct channel provides the best customer service compared to 15% who choose the online travel agency channel. Even offline agencies, which are coveted for their personal touch in a technology-driven world, did not fare as well, with 33% claiming they provide the best customer service….”more>>>


Not so very long ago a traveler had few options and the world of travel was pretty straightforward and perhaps a little too expensive.

Travelers went to their neigbourhood agent and poured over brochures, got advice and booked with the agent. Agents knew the traveler well and could recommend vacations that suited. Travelers were well served, although the service was not necessarily timely or convenient.

Today the traveler is overwhelmed with armchair choices. Travelers who still go to agents often will first research on-line, and more and more of them are booking on-line. Arm-chair booking a holiday can be a tedious and time-consuming process. Travelers will look at several sites, consult friends and agents, read reviews on social sites, check airlines and look for the best value. Back and forth, they go looking at maybe a dozen sites.

Most people begin their holiday research by searching for destination guides (typically through Google. i). Many start with Destination sites such as Tourism Authority sites, where the information is general, helpful but often limited in its ability to offer real in-depth comparison shopping and travel planning services. The destination sites are generally excellent for finding official resort websites, but the resort websites don’t present information in a consistent form and they are hard to compare.

Travelers move on to shopping sites like Expedia to compare resorts, to Trip Advisor to read reviews and to other sites to get more information and find deals. In the process they have a confusing and muddled array of information. The sites that help them most stick. The sites that don’t stick fall off the radar.

In the end the traveler will narrow down the options to a few preferred resorts (unless it is an opaque site) and many will want to review the resort website, if they can find it. The traveler soon learns that it is impossible to get back to the actual resort because the shopping sites like Expedia, are a closed loop. All too often a search for a particular resort links them back to a shopping site. The big online portals have the budget and the know-how to get listed on the Internet search engines (SEO); small hotels often don’t.

Many travelers prefer to book direct and most like to see the resort website. Convenience, value, service and after sales support drive the decision of where to buy, but all to often the hotel website is not convenient, does not offer the best value and can be difficult to find.

This buy cycle is not well documented, but it is intuitively understood. Its implications for travel websites are important.

The Destination site is a pivotal point. Shoppers often use it first and return to find the official websites of the resorts that they have subsequently selected. The questions we ask are; how can the destination site hold onto that traffic or how do they get people to come back. It is unrealistic to expect the destination site to be the only place travelers go. So the real question therefore is, how do they get them back.

Building a compelling reason to return!

1. Provide online shopping
The challenge is in balancing integrity of information with on-line shopping, channel conflict and channel competition. The cost of a good destination site is rising. So operators are moving towards a business model that stresses income generation in an effort to make the site self-sustaining. But this comes at a price of muddling the roles and creating conflict with destination trade partners. Destinations can involve trade partners with affiliate marketing, but it is not always equitable and the question is who are the affiliates and where do tour operators fit. Destinations are reluctant to cut out the tour operator and agent and they don’t for the most part want to be either a travel agent or a tour operator.

2. Offer the tools travelers need.
Destinations can help travelers research by providing expert intelligent systems that learn who the traveler is and configure the experience based on unique requirement. These tools will necessary include offering comparison-shopping. Ideally the result will be to give the traveler the option to choose the channel, including dealing direct with the supplier. Word of mouth reviews and a traveler forum will also help keep them on the site and give the site top-of-mind recall. It is not appropriate for a destination site to link to Trip Advisor and such, as these are shopping channels that will not keep them coming back. Cost conscious travelers are always looking for a deal and the destination needs to offer a list of specials and deals and the ability to sign up for newsletters on specials and deals.

3. Award & create loyalty
Destinations have a great opportunity to reward repeat travelers and cooperate with airlines point systems to encourage them to book a destination hotel directly

4. Offer travelers their own website itinerary and own planning tools
There are huge opportunities for destinations to lead this charge by providing destination specific planning and a place to return to manage and share a holiday itinerary and the memories. Travelers should be able to build a personal website brochure by adding any page they look at to it.

The traveler website should also be a comprehensive personal information resources and planning tool. Travelers may read and add reviews here, see a calendar of activities and events taking place during their holiday, and link to other social media sites and services like Tripit and Traveldk. It may include personalized maps showing the options they are interested, ranking them according to preferred and final selection etc.

5. Offer the Best Value and Guarantee it.
All too often the suppliers website and destination site offer the very highest price with no compromise!. Shoppers are not impressed. All shoppers want VALUE!. Chains are now offering Best price Garantees and extra benefits for buying direct. All suppliers need to show Value in buying direct, it need not always be price, but if you have a special make sure that your website delivers it and let all guests know this!


Ultimately the Destination site is the key portal to support direct marketing for the destination suppliers. It must move beyond being a information site to becoming a system to help shoppers plan, compare and book, in harmony with its trade partners.

Ian R Clayton, AXSES

Destinations First (i)