Sunday 21 July 2019

The quick and the dead: Online battle to capture Generation Z

Joan O’Shaughnessy, chairman of Tourism Ireland, Tourism Minister Shane Ross and Niall Gibbons, ceo of Tourism Ireland. Photo: Fennells
Joan O’Shaughnessy, chairman of Tourism Ireland, Tourism Minister Shane Ross and Niall Gibbons, ceo of Tourism Ireland. Photo: Fennells

Mark Evans

Just as big business was slowly beginning to get to grips with the binary-coded brains of the millennials, along comes another spanner in the works - Generation Z.

And it's bad news for airlines, hotels and ground transportation companies aiming to grab the attention of the generation that's entering the business travel world, and will begin to dominate thinking over the next decade or two.

Generation X - those people like me who still remember A and B buttons on payphones and recall the 1kb ZX-81 as the cutting edge in computing - have an attention span of 40 seconds when looking at websites.

If that sounds bad, it's far worse with millennials, whose attention span is calculated at a mere five seconds. Generation Z? Even less.

And forget about brand loyalty, if you don't catch their attention straight off - with Generation Z returning to a website on average 10pc less than other age groups.

That's where the likes of US-headquartered ContentSquare comes in, one of the tech companies focusing on converting clicks to bookings for corporate and leisure travel giants and finding out why visitors don't stay on-site and bounce off elsewhere.

It's already a battle for hearts and minds.

"Millennials have no patience," Efrat Ravid, head of marketing and strategy at ContentSquare, told me from New York. "They want everything quickly and don't have the time for loading sites. The bounce rates for them is much higher than any other generation. They go and never come back."

It would almost make you feel sorry for airlines. Almost. And Ravid says business travellers even have their own national, as well as age-related, quirks. "In Germany and Japan they will bounce if they don't see clear terms and conditions and cancellations policies."

And that should be a concern for hotel giants Marriott, Hilton and IHG, who are predicted to lose business with the recent introduction of stricter 48 and 24-hour room cancellation policies. We Irish have our own quirks, along with our European neighbours.

"US visitors browse websites much faster than Europeans," Ravid reveals.

Companies focusing on the UX principles include Air France, Voyages SNCF, Rail Europe, Best Western and Accor hotels.

If you're in the market to bag more travel business, and make booking easier for us mere mortals, check out

n Could Dublin Airport become a victim of its own success? With passenger numbers tipped to hit over 30 million, there are concerns that the airport needs more staff, with complaints over queues at check-in, security and, in particular, passport control.

The Irish Travel Agents Association has called for a meeting with the Department of Justice and Equality to get the issue of understaffing at Dublin Airport and other regional and national airports "on to the national agenda, given the importance of the sector to the national economy".

But Transport Minister Shane Ross has shot down calls to loosen the Government purse strings for airport operator DAA.

"The DAA is making quite a lot of money so I don't see any question of giving them any more," he said at a briefing last week on Ireland's tourism figures.

The Tourism Ireland press conference again highlighted the airport's importance to the economy, with US inbound figures up 21.6pc in the first half of the year, with Austria and developing markets up just a percentage point less than that.

Ross also challenged the bleak Brexit views of Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who reiterated his message that there is a "real prospect" of no flights between the UK and Europe if both sides can't agree Open Skies treaties.

Without giving any evidence, Ross is a confident sort: "I don't think that's going to happen. The European leaders are going to come to some kind of arrangement."

n You win some, you lose some. While Shannon recently lost the United service to Newark from November 26 to March 9 next year, it has gained a new seasonal service - to Sweden.

The new Scandinavian Airlines service will run until October 7 and is the first between the mid-west and Sweden's busiest airport, Stockholm Arlanda Airport, and the first between Shannon and Sweden in over 12 years.

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