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Clients are calling for more targeted travel information in the event of a crisis and rejecting social media, HRG's commercial director Stewart Harvey said today (July 28).
Harvey said HRG had experienced a change in client demands over the past five years, and the overriding message was one of greater control and refinement of information.
Citing the recent ash crisis which brought chaos to the skies over Europe, Harvey said social media had produced an "information overload" to which its clients had reacted negatively.
Technology such as information broadcasts, in which multiple travellers are blanket messaged, had "overwhelmed" and were becoming less popular, HRG said.
As a result, clients are now calling on TMCs like HRG to provide a means for them to "control, direct and target specific information to travellers while on the move," said Harvey.
Harvey admitted that in the event of a crisis, HRG could not get news out as quickly as traditional media outlets such as the BBC, but what it could do was use its itinerary data to tailor such information.
As for social media such as blogs, Harvey said there was "just no demand" from its clients, who expect their information to come from "reliable and authoritative" channels.
All this, Harvey said, presented HRG with three important challenges - how to control information; send it out with individual duty of care in mind; and deal with information overload.
Information control was possible through partnerships with organisations such as global security company Red24, which specialise in monitoring news and sending people in to crisis situations.
It was the role of companies such as Red24 to sift through the information and only provide what is most relevant.
The sending out of highly specific crisis alerts will be address by developments in mobile technology, Harvey said. He added that there had been a blurring between mobile technology and social media, where in truth there was a "big distinction".
Paul Saggar, HRG's director of technology product development, revealed that work was underway on at least two mobile "apps", despite the existing confusion between apps and mobile websites.
The first app will be an extension of HRG's web-based i-Suite product. The second will be a hotel booker that utilises the geolocation made possible by inbuilt mobile GPS technology.
Saggar said that only a "very small proportion" of travellers would use the hotel booker to actually book rooms, opting rather to change existing reservations, but he said the app would provide one more "alternative channel".