January 15, 2008

Joe Buhler - Expert Interviews

I had the pleasure of talking with Joe Buhler today about DMOs, the Travel Industry and eCommerce. It was a fascinating conversation that was recorded, that is until a power-spike reset my computer, so I will summarize our talk, but it will not be verbatim.

Joe has a world of experience in the Travel industry, he has work with Kuoni Travel, Switzerland Tourism, Euro Vacations, and is currently a Senior Destination Analyst for PhoCusWright, the Executive VP for Level 9, and Principal of BuhlerWorks, a strategy-marketing & eCommerce consulting service for the Travel and Tourism Industry.

We focused our conversation on DMOs and the future of online distribution. Again, this is a recap and is not verbatim.

Phil: Do DMOs have a future with Web 2.0 technology and eCommerce?

Joe: DMOs traditionally have been resistant to be early innovators in the online travel space. They are resistant because they basically are risk averse and have a long history of set standards and procedures they follow. Also, their current marketing and advertising relationships do not lend themselves to having a powerful online presence.

Phil: How do you see DMOs role evolving?

Joe: DMOs have great potential to gain revenues for their organization through enhancing their web presence. They currently provide great content, pictures and directories, but are leaving site visitors wanting more. Back when I worked with Tourism Switzerland we identified the four steps in the travel booking process, Dream, Learn, Plan, Go; DMOs are helping with some of the first steps, however potential visitors are having to go to external partners to complete the experience. We see some of the DMOs adding basic hotel booking capabilities and wanting an award for their "innovation", when there is so much more that they should do to position themselves as the source for one-stop planning and purchasing a trip to a destination. We see sites like Kango, that are incorporating semantic search capabilities, and generating relevant content that visitors are looking for. If DMOs could harness this technology, and pair it with full vacation planning, then this would add tremendous value to DMOs site guests and stake holders. DMOs have the power to bring small stake holders like hotels or tours and attractions, together; they are the authority on that geographic area and guests are looking to plan and book. DMO website needs to address those needs or else they will loose credibility and relevancy. "Travel Websites in general including those of DMOs need to catch up with customer expectations".

Phil: What are your predictions for 2008?

Joe: I see the start of an incremental shift beyond Web 2.0. (Lets hope the numbering system ends with 2!) There will be more supplier initiatives to selling their product directly, thus cutting into OTAs revenues, also long tail product will start to find a place on the web. Hopefully we will see some DMOs acting as an aggregator of long tail products. OTA's will have to focus their technology efforts on offering customer-designed dynamic packaging including for multiple-destination trips. Only this type of bundling allows for margins being added, which is not possible for single commodity component sales. Otherwise their margins will have to come from elsewhere like the recent media based deal by Expedia with IHC.

Joe had many other insights to share, however they were erased by a strike of my electricity. If you are interested in contacting Joe for consulting work, you can find his contact information on his blog, BuhlerWorks.

ReadSpeaker AudioFeed - Podcast of this blog


Music Before the Money said...

Really liked the Buhler interview on DMO's.

I sure wished I could go to ITB this year! Maybe next year.

Keep up the great work! I'm a new fan.


Philip Caines said...

Thanks Kim,

I checked out your blog as well, you have a great writing style. Keep up the posts.

All the best.


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