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 Travel Industry Secrets !

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Interview with Neil Simpkin, digital trade and marketing manager, Flybe robots domestic travel

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TDS Europe 2006 special: By EyeforTravel Correspondent July 31, 2006 | found at m-Travel.com

Flybe had recently shared that it is actively developing and managing both PPC and SEO strategies to ensure it maximises opportunities through this channel.

Search engine marketing in Europe is evolving into a significant part of travel organisationís marketing strategy and calling on an ever increasing percentage of budget, Simpkin had told EyeforTravel.comís Ritesh Gupta. The detailed version of the interview follows:

How do you think search engine marketing in Europe is evolving and how to ensure that your brand is receiving maximum exposure through the various methods available? 

Flybe is actively developing and managing both PPC and SEO strategies to ensure we maximise opportunities through this channel. We work with Google, Overture and Miva in the PPC arena to ensure we are competitive in the crowded paid for search channel. We also work with an optimisation partner and beginning to build our natural search presence, which is vital to minimise paid for expenditure.

Search engine marketing in Europe is evolving into a significant part of travel organisationís marketing strategy and calling on an ever increasing percentage of budget. Therefore, it is important natural search strategies are devised in synergy with PPC to manage budgets effectively in this competitive channel.

Talking about Europe as a market, what according to you are striking or differentiating features from your operations perspective?

Flybe as a successful and profitable low fare airline in an over saturated air travel market is unique in its business model. We are regionally and domestically focussed with supporting and appropriate European routes & robots domestic travel.  Flybeís mix of routes is 65 percent domestic and 35 percent European, which is opposite to much of the competition, whose split is the inverse of this model.  Additionally our regional network, which is the No.1 regional network in the UK, is operated efficiently through utilising an appropriately sized fleet of Bombardier Q400 and Embraer 195 aircraft, which allow us to manage high frequency, fast turnaround regional point to point routes.

Our mix of low fares and value added service match perfectly the high frequency nature of our network serving mostly business, city break and VFR in UK and Sun and Ski destinations in Europe, many providing convenient links for 2nd home owners.

In your opinion, what do suppliers think about these new marketplaces in online travel for their products? Can they help to increase distribution whilst maintaining brand integrity? Or are they simply another step towards a price driven, commoditised market?

Suppliers such as the flight aggregators work well to supplement our routes to market in a cost efficient way. Working closely with suppliers means driving traffic and revenue generation can work effectively without diminshing brand integrity.

To a large extent the market for air travel, certainly in Europe and short haul, is already commoditised with much of the aspirational aspect of flying having been eliminated with the industry shift from full service to low cost.  Working closely with suppliers as a distribution channel effectively supports further empowerment of consumers in building their own travel packages.

An analyst told me most effective search engine strategies are the ones, which include all elements of the marketing mix. What's your viewpoint on this?

Absolutely, both in terms of aligning PPC and SEO strategies, plus, integrating online and offline marketing campaigns to ensure offline generated traffic is funnelled through to flybe.com via the search engines and not dilluting traffic elsewhere.

With more companies advertising on search engines, bid prices rising and there being saturation of high-volume keywords, in this scenario, what according to you is the key to search marketing?

Relevance. Flybe actually concentrates on regional specific terms rather than high-volume generic terms which prove very expensive.  Due to our point to point route network across Europe, we are able to concentrate search strategies on specific routes that ensure higher conversions and improved ROI.

Where do you see search engines as a distribution channel incorporating live availability and providing accurate pricing? What's your viewpoint on this?

I think this will be a significant step forward for the search engines in terms of delivering higher converting traffic to travel websites and a merging of search engines as a distribution channel with the flight aggregators, which have proved a cost effective channel for the low cost airlines.

How can suppliers effectively promote multiple destinations to sell multiple products?

Integration of products is key.  Empowering consumers to quickly and simply create their own travel packages, making their choices across multi-stop trips and multiple supporting product choices within that to create their ideal itinerary is an important focus for Flybe this year.

What according to have been the major challenges in this arena? How have you coped up with them?

I see there being two main challenges in this area.  Firstly, co-coordinating customer service focused enhancements such as pre-selected seats, travel insurance and customer account management with additional partners and external products such as car hire, hotels etc and ensuring a consistent service and product for customers.

Secondly, working hard to establish the right relationships with the right partners to build long-term relationships and offer consumers product choices that complement our core product and support our brand values.

What's on your agenda? What are your plans?

To continue to drive forward a market leading product and innovative customer service offering.  Flybe is not afraid to set the pace of change in the airline sector and will continue to introduce innovative product features as we have with pre-selected seating, pre-booked baggage and a low cost loyalty programme to further differentiate as the low cost airline that offers added value.

Specifically, we are working on several initiatives delivered through Flybe.com aimed to further enhancement the customer experience and speed to conversion.  Plus, continue to develop our work with various partners such as the search engines, flight aggregators and the travel trade to grow our distribution channels to market and enhance the effectiveness of these routes as customer touch points.

Travel Industry Secrets !

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