The impact of social media and mobile on travel sales could be being overhyped, a forum run by Barclays heard this week.
A senior panel of industry bosses agreed that many firms were still trying to work out their strategies for what are widely seen as two important new channels.
But doubts remain about what impact they will have in actually driving bookings.
Dave Burling, Tui Travel UK managing director, said mobile growth has come mainly from people using the devices to browse.
“People are booking on phones, but where the real growth is on mobile devices is people browsing content, so all operators need to improve the quality of their content on mobile devices.”
However, Burling said iPads were seeing very quick growth in actual bookings, indicating travel firms should treat the two as separate channels.
On Holiday Group chief executive Steve Endacott agreed. “The differentiation between iPads and phones is really important to understand.
“Phones are good as an in-resort income driver, for impulse buying of hotel rooms. Do I see them as a prime place for holiday bookings? Probably not.”
Endacott also described social media as “massively over-hyped” in a similar way to how the internet was generally a decade ago.
But he added: “Reviews are massively important – people commenting on your product with a much wider audience than they have ever been able to.
“That’s the main area where social media is really having an impact on travel short-term.”
Burling said: “All travel companies at the moment are trying to work out their strategy. Everyone tells you social media is free, but the consultants trying to give you advice certainly are not free.
“Content is quite key here. You need very inspirational content to put on sites like Youtube that consumers will engage with.”
Burling said Tui was making a big investment in online with a focus on mobile and denied the travel giant was trailing other pure play online travel firms in the digital space.
“After booking.com, Thomson Holidays is the second most visited travel site in the UK, but there are always improvements you can make in this area,” he said.
Ajaya Sodha, chairman of the corporate travel body GTMC and Key Travel, said social media was having an impact on business travel.
He said the recent GTMC conference in Doha heard from Google and LinkedIn about how travel management companies were using it to both find product and new customers.