Meet the People - TCA workshop notes


13 October 1995
Albury Convention & Performing Arts Centre

Tourism Council of Australia
11th Annual Tourism Conference and Australian Tourism Awards

Bruce Bickerstaff
Managing Director
Meet the People Pty Ltd

Helen Bassett
Managing Director
Internet Tourism Marketing Services

Ian Marshman
Senior Travel Writer


11:00 - 11:20Bruce BickerstaffIntroducing the Internet
11:20 - 11:40Helen BassettMarketing travel via the Internet
11:40 - 12:00Ian MarshmanImpact on travel product distribution
12:00 - 12:20Open ForumQuestions to panellists and discussion
12:20 - 12:30Bruce BickerstaffClosing remarks


Chairman's introduction

(Chairman introduces panel) None of us are computer "experts" or have any background in that area - to use the Internet *you* don't need to be either. The software which you must use is relatively user-friendly and is becoming more so all the time. We have a great deal to cover in this workshop, and I might just mention - in case we run out of time - that all three of us have written papers which will eventually appear in the Conference proceedings.

In this workshop we are going to address the following:

  • what is the Internet?

  • what is on the Internet?

  • how do you access the Internet and/or establish a presence on it?

  • opportunities & constraints to marketing via the Internet
  • We are also going to look at a few sites live on-line.

    I would mention that while the Panel shares a common view on most aspects of this topic, there is some difference of opinion between us with respect to the likely nature and extent of change to the travel industry which might be brought about through the widespead adoption of Web-based sales and marketing - and this will probably become apparent during the course of the workshop.

    Let us note at the outset that the Internet is not going to be a panacea for all your marketing woes, you are still going to have to pursue a range of measures in this regard. Likewise do not expect a sudden burst in business as soon as you launch your web page - because it is not going to happen. Nevertheless I believe that modest expenditure in gaining familiarity, and subsequently some exposure, with the Internet *is* warranted. I believe that the group who may benefit most will be those offering low volume services such as homestays, ecotours, etc. This is fortunate indeed as this is the very group who are least well served by the existing travel industry sales and marketing model.

    (Chairman pauses) I'm afraid that I seem to have left my notes up in Sydney. So let's get them. (Chairman accesses server and retrieves file - explaining URL while doing so).

    How does it all fit together?

  • The electronic dimension or Cyberspace has various elements of which one is the Internet

  • The "Internet" consists of various elements of which one is the World Wide Web. This is the part of the Internet where most of the growth and "action" is occurring, and this is will be the focus of our workshop today

  • The "World Wide Web" is an informal network of thousands of web servers (individual computers).

  • A "web server" typically accommodates several web sites. Web server are typically provided by Internet access providers, by government agencies, and by educational institutions.

  • A "web site" typically accomodates several web pages

  • Thus the smallest unit in this system is a "web page", which is a single computer file

  • Who is using the Internet?

    Many statistics are being bandied around, here are a few recent ones:

    "...China went from just two domains (or Internet sites) early last year to 593 early this year; Argentina, from one to 1,415; Japan, from 38,267 to 99,034. Figures for Internet sites worldwide showed a jump to about five million in January, from about two million a year earlier..."

    "A survey of 13,000 Internet users conducted in early-mid 1995 found that the average age of net users is now 35 (up from 31 in the previous survey in October 1994). Fifteen per cent of users are now female (up from 5% in January 1994). The estimated average income for US users was US$69,000, with European users lagging at US$53,000.

    Thirty-one per cent of respondents work in computer-related fields and 23.7% in educational fields. Twenty-two per cent described themselves as professional, 12.2% as"management", and 10.8% as "other".

    Over 72% use their Web browser at least once per day..."

    What sort of things can you see on the Web?

    There is now a big range of sites on the Web provided by a diverse mixture of individuals, non-profit organisations, companies, government agencies, and educational institutions. Ian will be showing you a major US travel site (Travel Weekly) to give you an idea of the number and diversity of travel service providers already on the web. I understand that the Council of Australian Tourism Students (CATS) has also recently launched a page.

    One of the larger Australian Internet access providers, Ozemail, is apparently signing up 1,000 new customers each week. Please note that part of the reason why all these people want to surf the Internet is for the fun and entertainment value that it holds - they don't just want their heads filled up with masses of encyclopaedic facts. With that in mind I thought I would quickly show you just a couple of sites which caught my eye.

    You would have all heard of computers which you can speak into and they convert it into a text file. Well here is a site that does the opposite: the Talk-to-cat site (Chairman explains layout and features of site)

    Here is a site which perhaps has more relevance to travel marketing: the Volcano-Cam site. This image was produced by a video camera set up near an active volcano in New Zealand. It captures an image every two minutes which is sent to a server where it can be accessed from all over the world. There are various other similar live video sites, including one which shows a street scene in the Beverly Hills/Hollywood area of Los Angeles.

    This concept could be used by, for example, a beachfront resort owner to market their property. A camera could be set up overlooking the pool, an image from which could be accessed by people shivering in their London townhouse, etc. The camera could even be repositioned at dusk to show the sunset over the sea, etc. Compare this with the traditional marketing approach using a boring brochure (possibly) showing a picture of the property five years ago before the paint peeled, and on the one day of the year that the sun shined.

    How do you access the Internet?

    To access the Internet you need:

  • a reasonable quality PC, on which special Internet software has been installed

  • a modem - the faster the better (max. 28.8) and telephone line connection

  • an account with an Internet access provider

  • some limited training will usually be required (eg. one day course), as will some assistance in setting up your computer
  • Some access providers offer different levels of Internet access, with the most basic level only providing limited access by way of sending and receiving Email. Even this level of access is worthwhile as Email is more economical than fax or telephone, esp. if you are dealing with the inbound market. If you have an Internet presence, Email-only access will also enable you to respond to queries and receive bookings (often handled by way of a what is known as a "cgi" form).

    It is difficult to provide costs for Internet access as different access providers tend to have different and ever-changing pricing structures (things are quite competitive). As a rough guide however, for full access you might expect to pay $25-$50 to establish an account and then around $40 per month. In addition you will pay a local call charge each time you access the Internet (assuming you are in the same STD zone as your access provider)

    To actually establish a presence on the Internet, ie. a web site or web page, is a separate process involving additional costs. Most people with a web page have Internet access accounts, but not vice versa. Again the costs involved in obtaining an Internet presence vary considerably depending on how well you shop around, how sophisticated/comprehensive a presence you require, and how much you can do yourself.

    How does Web advertising compare to other media?

    Some general points:

    Disseminating information over the Web is immediate but much cheaper than, for example, television.

    Information disseminated over the Web is not "dead", but can be adapted, updated, re-used, etc

    Marketing over the Web tends to involve more two way communication between market and "seller"

    Another recent marketing option is CD-ROM. To my mind CD-ROM-based marketing presents only marginal advantages in comparison to traditional-print based advertising (eg. inclusion of sound & video footage). Consider the following:

  • the information starts going stale the moment the CD-ROM is produced, and there are the logistical difficulties of ensuring that people who have earlier versions are subsequently provided with updates

  • from the proposals put to me thus far, the cost of participation seems little cheaper than print advertising (and I suspect often reaching a far smaller audience)

  • the amount of information which advertisers can present (afford to present) seems to be very limited, again not allowing much more material than in a largish print ad

  • the problem of producing and distributing CD-ROMS, including postage costs, establishment of distribution channels, etc, are just as troublesome as for the current print-based system

  • there is no facility for people to make queries or make bookings, so there is still the cost of mail, telephone and fax to contend with
  • The potential benefits of Web-based marketing on the other hand include:

  • the information can be updated daily if desired and old information is automatically erased

  • a vast amount of information can be presented with only a small increment in cost as further information is added. I think this is important in selling newer-style tourism products where people want to know about the philosophy, background of principals, etc and not just access a glorified price list.

  • relatively little cost on a per-person-reached basis provided you shop around, and do as much as you can yourself (eg. write copy, get images scanned, etc). The audience reached can be quite vast (there are now a million people who have accessed the Internet in Australia alone).

  • web sites typically feature provision for enquiries and/or bookings, and email is a much cheaper proposition than ISD telephone, fax and post. Many bookings will be direct bookings from consumers, leading to savings with respect to commission payments.

  • the demographics of Internet users is a reasonably close fit with most inbound visitors to Australia, particularly those seeking the newer styles of experiential travel, eg. ecotourists

  • most Internet service providers can provide you with details of who is accessing your information which is interesting and potentially useful for tracking consumer interests and the cost-effectiveness of reaching your market.

  • no paper is used which is pleasing to the conservation-minded

  • What factors differentiate a good, from a not-so-good, internet presence?

    A good web site:

  • contains information of general interest to web users & not just a sales blurb with price list

  • contains links to other relevant sites. This makes the site an integral part of the web and helps with "value-adding"

  • is aesthetically pleasing but without excessive use of graphics (overwhelming information content and causing slow loading)

  • has a structure which is logical and easy to use

  • is regularly updated and enhanced
  • It is also obviously very important that the site can be found. It is possible that you could pay some several thousand dollars to put your company "on" the Internet, and be all but invisible to potential clients. Given that there is no single Internet "white-pages", it is incumbent upon the person setting up the site (or page) to ensure that it is listed in relevant "search engines", has reciprocal links in place to other relevant sites & directories, and is duly announced in relevant newsgroups and "what's new" fora. This also requires that some ongoing work take place, eg. to ensure links remain valid, that there are periodic items re-posted in relevant newsgroups, eg. announcing new features.


    In the immediate future we are likely to see:

  • ongoing improvement in hardware and software

  • increased commercial content on the Internet, and increased content generally

  • continued increase in the number of users, and their level of use

  • gradual increase in computer-based shopping and commerce as a result of the above, and of increased consumer familiarity with the medium

  • As I noted at the start of this workshop however, for all its potential, the Internet will not be the panacea for all your marketing and business development woes.

    The Internet is currently a wild and woolly place and there are a number of both technical and non-technical problems associated with it. It is the non-technical ones that are probably the most problematical:

  • just as with brochures in a hotel lobby, the majority of people ("surfers") are picking up everything in sight and not subsequently buying anything. This is partly due to a current mindset of using a computer for entertainment rather than to shop & buy - this will change over time. For the time being, many people still want to look at something concrete - if not actually deal face-to-face.

    I am surprised by the number of people who come to my web site (which has far more information than my brochure) and email me to say "looks interesting, can you please post me your brochure".

  • credit card security and the lack of a uniform system for transactions

  • lack of quality control of online information/censorship

  • Copyright, Consumer protection, and in fact many legal issues

  • surfing can be painfully slow, even with a good modem. We have reached the limit of the standard telephone system (nineteenth century technology). At present the next step up is to get a dedicated high speed line, which is still too expensive for domestic application. This problem will be addressed with the widespread installation of fibre-optic cables, but it may be some time before such a system (the so-called information superhighway) will be an international standard. Remember that the system is only as fast as the slowest link.

    There is also a related problem with overcrowding/congestion of systems. This means accessing sites can be slow or impossible.

  • instability of software and systems, mysterious technical glitches
  • The cumulative effect of these factors has created a market opening for proprietary networks like CompuServe and On Australia. These problems are all being addressed however, albeit to varying extents, and given the pace of change with the Web we may be looking at an entirely new electronic landscape within the next year or two.

    The assistance of Ross Wheeler of Albury local interNet who arranged Internet access and equipment, is gratefully acknowledged.

    To our home page Back to our site map To send email to us

    Meet the People Pty Ltd Copyright © 1995