The number of travel-related websites in the UK is now over 9,300, and even that could be a 20% underestimate, according to TUI’s new media director Graham Donoghue.
TUI, which is currently in the process of merging with First Choice, is already developing a number of online activities based on communities that put customers in control.
This includes uploading videos to YouTube, though Donoghue warned that the power of the Net can make fools of those who fail to take care with their mashups.
He cited the example of the ‘Star Wars Kid’ video, whose self-made efforts to recreate a fight scene found their way onto the Net, spawning a host of re-makes, and ultimately a $300,000 lawsuit against those ‘friends’ who disseminated the video.
The rise of communities, e-commerce, ‘Web 2.0’, and the future prospect of the Semantic Web, said Donoghue, were behind the idea driven by magazines such as Time that the 2006 ‘Person of the Year’ should be ‘You’ i.e. a computer.
TUI, he said, was now more of a ‘travel provider’ than a package holiday specialist. “We are adding lots of complexity within the organisation. We even sell hotel rooms in London.”
He revealed that Google – “the biggest travel agency in the world” – actually makes its search technology available for sale, and that TUI had bought it to enhance customers’ search options.