Thursday, July 25, 2013

Aussie Government Launches New Booking Widget

As a general guiding principle, governments should stay out of business ventures that can be adequately provided by the private sector.

That's why I'm somewhat queasy about gushy media releases announcing an Australian Government initiative to provide a "FREE" online booking solution that is available to all tourism operators.

The Australian Tourism Booking Widget (ATBW) is a widget that provides an online payment solution, a supplier portal, a Facebook booking app and customer support services.

So why would the Australian Government venture into this space?

A 2010 - Operators Online Capabilities Benchmark Survey commissioned by the Federal Department of Tourism revealed that while 84 per cent of Australia’s tourism operators are online, only a third have ‘real-time’ online booking and payment facilities.

A 2012 – Online Booking Capability, Understanding the Barriers Study was commissioned by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) concluded that there was a need for a simple to identify, simple to use and simple to implement booking widget for operators and that such a tool would provide tourism operators with an opportunity to enter the online booking space.

While there would appear to me to be numerous existing suppliers that adequately provide online booking services to tourism businesses, the above studies were obviously taken at face-value and gave enough rationale for the Australian Govenment to release AUD$500,000 funding to the ATBW to kick-start the project.

It will be interesting to gauge how many businesses that are currently offline will be motivated enough to load and update live inventory? And how many online businesses will convert from existing commercial booking widget suppliers?

While some Aussie travel businesses may gain short-term benefit, I wonder if this initiative may stifle ongoing innovation in this space in the private sector.

Expect howls from Kiwi tourism groups for the New Zealand Government to duplicate this initiative. 
Tourism Minister Gary Gray today launched a new online booking tool to improve the capability of Australian tourism businesses to service customers online.
The Australian Tourism Booking Widget is a Government initiative for all sectors of the tourism industry to help them capitalise on visits to their websites by providing an easily accessible booking and payment facility.
The Widget will provide tourism operators with a basic system providing a real time booking and payment solution through the operators' own websites and Facebook pages, as well as helpdesk services.
Mr Gray launched the Widget while attending the Cradle Coast Regional Tourism Forum with the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom.
"The challenge for the Australian tourism sector is converting potential visitor interest into a booking," Mr Gray said.
"This Widget aims to fix this by getting more of our tourism operators online for bookings and payments - and help them grow their businesses, particularly in regional areas where online facilities may be the only channel for operators to directly engage with their customers.
"The Australian Government provided $500,000 to the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse to fund the project. The initiative is part of the Tourism 2020 strategy to increase tourism expenditure from $70 billion to $140 billion by the end of the decade."
Globally more than 50 per cent of consumers use digital channels to research, plan and book holidays and this is expected to grow in the next decade. While 84 per cent of Australia's tourism operators are online, only a third of these have 'real-time' online booking and payment facilities.
"This is a first step in helping tourism operators transition to online services by providing a basic framework that is easy to install and use."
Mr Gray said the initiative will set operators on the way to exploring more sophisticated booking and payment solutions for their businesses in the future.
Mr Sidebottom said initiatives such as the Widget will help an important industry for the North-West region and Tasmania grow.
"Anything that helps our tourist operators promote the region and attract visitors is to be welcomed," Mr Sidebottom said.
"I've travelled to many places and our region is the equal of the best that I've seen - if not better.
"We have much to offer and should use any means possible to promote it. The Widget will help us do this.
"Tourism is a significant part of our State's economy, is growing and can grow much more," Mr Sidebottom said.
- See more at:

Here's how the Aussie system works:

Click the "Get Widget" link below to place this widget on your website or blog!