Earlier this month I had the pleasure of providing a keynote address to the Israeli Travel and Tourism Agency Association annual meeting in Eilat, Israel. My talk entitled “The Impact of the Emerging Technologies and the Evolution of Distribution Systems on the Global Tourism Industry” covered advancements in mobile technology and key distribution issues including the Google/ITA acquisition and the turmoil regarding distribution between the airlines, GDS and OTAs. I enjoyed participating in the conference, but since the rest of the sessions were in Hebrew, my involvement in the remainder of the conference was limited.
The talk prior to my session was given by a professor from Tel Aviv University on social media. I am afraid my Hebrew is very rusty, but some key words came across very clear “Facebook, Google, Twitter” further demonstrating the true global nature of the social media revolution. The Association also has a very active Facebook page where 100s of Israeli travel agents exchange tips and provide answers to client’s questions. Clearly a great use of social networking to improve the traditional travel agency experience.
I also had an opportunity to meet with Yossi Fatael, the Association’s Managing Director after the conference.Yossi showed me a very interesting piece of software called BGlobal. The goal of this software is to equip the traditional travel agent with a tool that solves a universal problem faced by offline agents worldwide: the fact that the customer is often better informed based on Web searching on prices and alternatives than the travel agent. The tool was built first by analyzing the key word searches of consumers for hotels worldwide. From that analysis, Yossi’s team created a rich database of hotel links. The agent signs into the system, performs a query and a Google map appears that classifies hotel content by color coded price categories. The user then can drill down to a particular hotel by clicking on the map and book that hotel through a variety of Internet sources (OTAs, Pegasus, Hotel direct). The system needs some additional work on the UI, but overall the approach is very sound and provides an interesting platform to allow the travel agent to be smarter than the consumer in this age of transparent information. Yossi is looking for strategic partners to help polish the application and bring it to market. You can reach Yossi at email@example.com.