Our MD Darren Daws talks about the advantages of QR Codes for the travel industry

QR – or Quick Response – codes for smartphones have been tipped as the next big thing in the UK. Alex Blyth (journalist for TTG Magazine) finds out how agents are getting onboard.

You have probably seen these barcodes that look like mazes  – perhaps on bus-stop posters, or on magazine ads, or in shop windows. All you do is point the camera function of your smartphone at them so it can scan in the code, and you are automatically directed to a website, a video, a coupon, basically somewhere the creator of the QR code believes you want to go.

Created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994, they are already huge in Japan, and with 32% of UK adults now owning a smartphone, the experts predict that QR codes are about to take off in a bigger way here too. So, what does this mean for you?

Using QR codes

“With QR codes, travel firms can activate static ads and make them more engaging, immersive and interactive,” says Laura Marriott, chief executive of mobile barcode firm NeoMedia Technologies. “Moreover, consumers can use them on the move, responding to an ad for a holiday on impulse rather than waiting to look it up online. What is more, QR codes only use a fraction of the advertising space, so travel firms can pack more information into less space.”

Given all these potential benefits, it is surprising that the travel industry has been fairly slow to start using QR codes. They have been quicker Stateside: in 2009 Google distributed 100,000 QR code stickers to shops, bars and restaurants in the US, and encouraged the business owners to put them in their windows so passers-by could access offers. Many of those were used by travel agencies.

Tom Newton, mobile expert at review site Recombu.com, points out two more recent examples: “British Airways has an app which uses QR codes, effectively turning passengers’ phones into boarding passes. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has endorsed a scheme to have QR codes placed on buildings of public interest and statues so that tourists can scan and link to additional information – kind of like an English Heritage Blue Plaque for the Web 2.0 generation.”

Looking ahead

There is so much more that can be done, and much of it is directly relevant to travel agents. Maia Honan, managing director at digital agency Positive Thinking, says: “QR codes can be used on brochures, direct mail pieces, press ads, and so on. It is a slimline way of delivering rich, engaging content to customers in a way that encourages them to interact.”

Susie Harwood, digital operations director at creative agency Milton Bayer, adds: “If you’re looking for ways to entice customers to instantly interact with you, then QR codes could be the answer. Wish you were here? Well scan this code and we’ll whisk you there. Once you scan the code, you can watch a promo video or see a really enticing video of a luxury destination with a call to action to book now. You can do it for free using the website qrcode.kaywa.com, so the only cost is the printed material it sits on.”

That is not all. Once you have used a QR code to excite your customer and make the sale, you can then use QR codes to enhance the holiday experience for them. Darren Daws, managing director of mobile marketing specialists Textlocal, explains: “Travel agents can use QR codes to give customers access to airport shuttle transfers, car hire or even passes to local attractions and hotel check-in. These could be enhanced by text messages which give details of where to pick up the hire car, local weather updates, exchange rates and promotional deals for attractions.”

See the full article in TTG Magazine here: http://www.ttgdigital.com/toolkit/tech-using-qr-codes/4681585.article