Google head urges greater client interactivity

HBBA forum told agents and venues risk being left behind by technology

Agencies and venues need to create greater interaction and trust with their clients if they are to keep step with technological and behavioural trends, according to the head of Google's UK Travel Team.

Speaking at the opening session of this year's Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) forum, James van Thiel told the 230 delegates: "Personalisation is now critical. Our research shows that most people trust [venue] recommendations from people they know, 47% trust online reviews and just 22% completely believe the opinion of travel agents and individual companies."

The theme of the 2008 conference - running today and tomorrow at Park Inn Heathrow -is ‘Web 2.0: Moving the industry forward'. Van Thiel encouraged the audience to embrace user-generated content, even if that meant dealing with negative feedback. "That person is passionately involved with your brand, so use that feedback to improve and engage with your consumer."

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