Lessons From a Former CEO: Embracing the Internet is a Crucial Step to a Successful Business Strategy


In my combined 13+ years of experience leading explora and advising Metropolitan Touring I traveled extensively, participated in conferences, trade shows, roadshows and every kind of imaginable travel show. During that time, I was able to learn about the industry from two very different sides of the spectrum: the product and the intermediary.

Throughout my travels it became very apparent that everyone involved in distribution was deeply concerned about the Internet and what OTAs and suppliers (chiefly hotels and cruise lines) were doing.  It is no secret that the Internet has fiercely become a global market.  As a result, the travel industry and value chains have been disrupted by the exclusion of intermediaries, leaving end-consumers with more control and easier access to hotels, cruises lines, tour packages, inbound tour operators, etc.

It was also apparent that different countries were at very different stages of embracing (or fighting) the Internet. On one end of the spectrum, there are countries like the USA that are hyper competitive and in general, very sophisticated with online marketing and internet technologies. On the other end are countries that can be 5 or even 10 years behind. In the USA, hotels, cruises, tour operators and travel agents alike were keener on embracing the Internet rather than fighting it, whereas in other countries, the intermediaries are still fighting the Internet; and many hotels continue to disregard the Web entirely, thus missing out on great opportunities that it presents.

Some of the best opportunities obviously exist in the countries or industries that are behind. When a company decides to take on the newest, most advanced practices, techniques and technology and implement them in one of these “outdated” countries, it’s easy to outperform the competition.

I realized back in 2008 that in order to take advantage of the online marketplace, the first thing you need is visibility. If your customers can’t find you or your site, then any additional online marketing efforts may be futile. We made the decision then to embrace the Internet to its fullest, adopting Advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques to improve our visibility across the web. Over time, the benefits of this strategy became apparent and we were able to witness monster figures in terms of organic growth and search rankings which translated into increased business, leads, brochure requests and ultimately direct sales. We were able to see ROI of over 50x. When looking back at my own experience, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was by far (and remains) the most effective way to drive visits to a site and garner a high return on your investment. A close second to SEO was Pay Per Click (PPC), where we were able to see ROI of over 25x.

As I now advise travel companies, many of which are intermediaries, the first thing that I do before I get into any formal engagement is to make sure that the company, from the CEO down, is embracing the Internet and SEO. If they are not committed, I will not carry on any further discussion. Lack of commitment only results in wasted time, capital and above all, opportunity. For companies who whole-heartedly embrace the Internet and its capabilities, the opportunity can be tremendous.

 


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Jesús Parrilla,
Former CEO of explora