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What distribution tricks independent hotels use

January 23, 2015

The first panelist to present was Bryan Woodward, CMO for Horseshoe Bay Resort, in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. Woodward has been in charge of managing the hotel’s social media marketing and public relations strategies across all advertising mediums and media platforms since 2012. Woodward has led marketing and sales programs for other properties, including the Garland Resort in Michigan and New Mexico’s Turtleback Mountain.

Woodward said that imagery is a big part of the hotel’s marketing. The hotel is currently in its first year as an independent hotel after dropping its Marriott flag.

In terms of elevating consumer distribution pathways, Woodward said OTAs and digital advertising networks are allowing hotels to get their message across in more ways than ever possible before, and he emphasized the effectiveness of referral sites and social media.

Get the full story at Hotel Management

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Why business travel is never going to be the same after 2015

January 23, 2015


While big data allows us to extrapolate the needs of the modern road warrior, personalization is fast becoming the vehicle for fulfilling those needs. Booking travel is a complicated juggling act with a lot of moving parts, including choosing an airline, seating preference on the plane, hotel location, preferred amenities, and required technology interfaces. Imagine the stress relief involved in seamlessly booking a business trip without having to continually regurgitate preferences for a morning flight with a window seat and in-flight Wi-Fi, and the need for a hotel with an in-house restaurant that will cater to dietary restrictions.

Now imagine this is followed up with a notification for a tremendous deal at your favorite tropical vacation spot. With the amount of time saved both in searching for various deals and in continually communicating your needs, you may actually be able to take that vacation.

Rise of the hotel app

The American Hotel and Lodging Association recently published results of a survey of 9,600 respondents indicating that only 11 percent of hotels charge for the internet. This conveniently corresponds with a rise in booking, check-in, and concierge mobile apps and online-services opportunities. One year ago, the latest innovative technology could be found in companies like CheckMate, which allows you to check into your hotel room via your mobile phone. Now, the bar has been pushed even higher, with many hotels beginning to utilize a mobile app as a hotel room key, thus allowing guests to bypass the front desk altogether, if they prefer.

Get the full story at Inc.

Read also "Is this the end of the road for business travel?" at The Conversation

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The Room Key 2.0: How Starwood Hotels plans to redesign the check-in process

January 23, 2015

SPG Keyless is supported within the SPG app, a travel app that delivers a customized experience for preferred guests to access their SPG points, unlock rewards and promotions, along with a variety of booking features. Additional enhancements to the app are built to heighten the Starwood ‘whatever, whenever’ experience.

The smart check-in system marks an industry-first, redefining the way guests arrive to their room in a few seamless steps.

How it works: Starwood guests register their phone through the SPG App (if they haven’t already done so), and are invited to the SPG Keyless experience upon booking their reservation at one of the participating hotels. The app allows users to select the nature of their trip such as business or pleasure to ensure their correct phone is activated. The user receives an alert when their room is ready, a notification of their room number and potential upgrade. The technology automatically and securely checks-in guests, allowing them to go directly to their room. The guest simply needs to open the SPG App and hold their smartphone in front of the door lock to enter their room. A solid green light and vibrating buzz offers sensory alerts to open the door.

Get the full story at psfk

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TripAdvisor announces 2015 Travelers’ Choice Hotel winners

January 23, 2015

Travelers have weighed in, and the top hotel in the world is the Gili Lankanfushi Maldives. With a 5-bubble rating based on over 880 reviews, it’s easy to see that travelers love this relaxing and indulgent hotel where you hand in your shoes on arrival to truly foster a “leave your worries at home” atmosphere.

By recognizing the Gili Lankanfushi Maldives and other winning accommodations, the Travelers’ Choice Hotels award does more than just honor properties with remarkable service, quality and value. The award also helps travelers find the right fit. “The Travelers’ Choice list of thousands of award-winning properties is perfect to inspire travelers as they think about their 2015 travel plans,” said Barbara Messing, Chief Marketing Officer for TripAdvisor.

Winners are named in 8 categories important to travelers:

- Top Hotels (Winner: Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, Lankanfushi, Maldives)
- Best Bargain (Winner: Lawton Court Hotel, Llandudno, UK)
- Luxury (Winner: The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand)
- Small Hotels (Winner: The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand)
- B&Bs and Inns (Winner: Millgate Bed & Breakfast, Masham, England)
- Top Hotels for Families (Cavallino Bianco Family Spa Grand Hote, Ortisei, Italy)
- Romance (Winner: The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand)
- Service (Winner: The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand)

Get the full story at TripAdvisor

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U.S. hotels set record for average daily rate

January 23, 2015

RevPAR growth will slow to a still-robust 6.4% this year, STR said.

Among individual markets, RevPAR increased at the highest rate in Nashville, followed by Denver and Atlanta. Average daily rate had the largest percentage increase in Nashville (13%) and San Francisco/San Mateo (11%).

Source: Travel Weekly

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Report: 51 percent of world uses social media

January 23, 2015

The growing number of individuals who are gaining better access to the Internet and mobile devices opens a world of potential consumers for brands. This data can inform luxury marketers of the top social channels in specific countries and will likely aid in the integration of brands into nations that have previously been overlooked.

“The internet may follow the same architecture all over the world, but the way people use and experience it varies hugely, even between neighboring countries,” said Simon Kemp, regional marketing partner (Asia) at We Are Social.

“What particularly stands out for us in the report are the stark differences in usage behavior across BRIC countries,” he said. “Internet penetration across Russia (60 percent), Brazil (54 percent) and China (47 percent) looks quite healthy, but at just 19 percent, India still has a long way to go in terms of internet empowerment.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Mobile travel shopping hits tipping point - but PC still dominates booking

January 23, 2015

According to a new Innovation Edition publication, the growth in mobile travel shopping has been extremely impressive, up from 26% the prior year.

While consumers might be breaking out their devices to research and plan their trips, the overwhelming majority still head to the PC (78%) when it comes time to book. Nevertheless, mobile booking is growing. One in four leisure travelers used their smartphone to book leisure in 2014, up from only 15% from 2013.

"The industry has been very focused on mobile booking for quite some time now. And while that growth is exciting to watch unfold, it's only just part of the story," says Phocuswright's senior analyst, consumer research, Marcello Gasdia. "More travelers are relying on mobile much earlier in the travel planning funnel – to look at pictures, watch videos and see what they can afford. They take small breaks throughout the day to get inspired about an upcoming vacation. The travel companies who approach mobile with this in mind will succeed better than the ones who view mobile as another way to book."

Get the full story at PhoCusWright

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ReviewPro expands TripAdvisor partnership to help hotels boost review volume

January 23, 2015

ReviewPro, the leading provider of guest intelligence solutions to independent hotel brands worldwide, announced the expansion of its partnership with TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, as part of TripAdvisor’s Review Collection Program. Hotels using ReviewPro’s Guest Survey Solution (GSS), which enables the creation and distribution of customized post-stay surveys to guests, can embed the TripAdvisor review form into their survey. As such, ReviewPro’s more than 18,000 hotel clients have an easy-to-use solution to collect actionable insight into guests’ experiences, while increasing review volume on TripAdvisor.

There are also significant benefits to ReviewPro’s GSS, combined with TripAdvisor’s Review Collection Program. ReviewPro’s Guest Surveys enable hoteliers to solicit the specific, structured, verified feedback necessary to measure if service and operational standards are being met during each guest’s stay. Over time, addressing these operational issues to ensure greater guest satisfaction can positively impact review volume and rating on TripAdvisor. An increased online reputation score can also have a positive impact on each property’s ADR and RevPAR (as evidenced in a recent Cornell University study using ReviewPro’s guest intelligence data).

“TripAdvisor’s Review Collection Program is a valuable addition to ReviewPro’s GSS,” said RJ Friedlander, CEO of ReviewPro. “Because most travelers would not book with a hotel without reading TripAdvisor reviews and the majority prefer recent reviews, this partnership enables hotels to give potential guests the fresh reviews that they need to feel comfortable to book, with a single email.”

Jurys Inns, a chain of hotels in the UK, Ireland and Prague, has been using ReviewPro’s GSS for more than a year and has experienced impressive results.

“We knew that we needed to increase our review volume and we wanted to find a way to increase the response rate to our existing guest surveys,” said Peter Stack, Regional Operations Manager at Jurys Inns. “Now, we receive thousands of guest reviews every month through our guest surveys, giving us access to much more valuable guest intelligence, which has helped our operational teams to develop more effective improvement plans. Even more importantly, our TripAdvisor review volume has increased significantly because of the TripAdvisor Review Collection Program and the majority of our hotels are now rated four out of five stars.”

Related Link: ReviewPro

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As OTAs dominate millenial mobile mindshare, hotels need to reevaluate their mobile strategies

January 22, 2015

According to the Travel Demographics Report Series published by Strategy Analytics Travel Analytics service, those under 35 years old severely under-index in airline and hotel app usage but over-index on OTAs.

Those under 25 are either not traveling or not involved in the travel booking process. Encouragingly for the industry those between 26 - 35 over-index on travel apps. However, much of this usage is focused on local travel apps or OTAs. While a boon for OTAs, this scenario poses a big challenge for hotels and airlines.

Online Travel Agents excel in commoditizing travel costs while democratizing the selection process for users. For hotels and airlines that seek to generate loyal customers the wave of lowest price shoppers - those up to 35 years old - must be concerning. Not only do these groups over-index on OTA usage but they severely under-index sometimes more than 7% for hotels and airlines.

The big question that must be asked is - is the reliance on OTAs a result of life stage - or a broader market transition? If the latter, airlines and hotels will be hard pressed to pay off the investments they are making to woo millennials.

According to Joshua Martin, Travel Analytics Research Service Director, "As new technology such as Apple Pay makes booking travel on mobile devices easier - new threats to established players emerge. If younger travelers become loyal to their OTA in lieu of an airline or hotel it makes securing regular and repeat customers difficult. While hotels and airlines are performing well with those 36+ as a new generation comes of age the companies must keep innovating to remain unique. The continued focus on new technology and features are an important first step to achieving this goal."

Barry Gilbert, Vice President of New Ventures added, "Mobile devices are becoming increasingly relied upon for activities once restricted to the PC. I expect travel to be greatly impacted by this trend and the data in these reports demonstrate that airlines and hotels need to reevaluate their mobile strategies."

Related Link: Strategy Analytics

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German hotel parity ruling opens doors for hoteliers

January 22, 2015

Marcus Frotscher, director of revenue management, Europe, at Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, is one such manager whose selling strategy would change when new rules come into place.

“This new situation would give hotels the opportunity to have exclusive offers on branded websites, produce other offers across other channels and close channels early in regards to final remaining roomnights,” Frotscher said.

“Additional approaches would be to extend relationships with smaller OTAs, devise new contracts and have different targets concerning commission levels,” Frotscher added.

“Hotels can now spend more on marketing, bidding on keywords, increasing loyalty and focusing on development on booking engines to deliver the right products and offerings.”

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Millennials are driving the comeback of travel agents

January 22, 2015

In 2014, 18 percent of American travelers used traditional travel agents compared to 12 percent in 2013.

"That's a pretty significant increase in just one year," said Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global, a Kansas City-based travel and hospitality marketing firm. "One of the most counterintuitive facts that comes out of our research is that millennials are actually using traditional travel agents at a higher rate than a lot of age groups."

Tech savvy millennials could easily use online travel aggregators, such as Expedia or Priceline, to book a leisure trip, but they're choosing to use travel agents instead. In 2014, 28 percent of millennials used a traditional travel agent, compared to only 13 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 50 to 65) and 15 percent of Generation X (ages 36 to 49).

Two primary reasons are driving millennials to travel agents, Reid said. Millennials are more adventurous travelers — they want to go off the beaten path, but they're also less sophisticated and less experienced travelers.

Get the full story at Kansas City Business Journal

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Jetsetter expands with new hotel offerings

January 22, 2015

This larger selection of curated, best-in-class, distinctive hotels gives Jetsetter travelers the added ability to select the perfect property from an expanded inventory with more deals each week across more worldwide destinations.

Behind the Curtain of the New Jetsetter Collections

- Royal Collection: Absolute luxury—sure to be unforgettable. Royal offers properties with impeccable service, fine style and A-list amenities. Travelers can expect exceptional, one-of-a-kind experiences and be prepared to be pampered.

- Posh Collection: Impressive properties with distinctive style. Posh properties also offer attentive service, a sense of place and a recognizable quality above standard—an experience sure to be memorable.

- Brilliant Collection: Smart, accessible finds that please. Brilliant properties feature desirable locations with distinctive qualities that make them a find.

With its tireless focus on providing the best hotel experiences for the discerning traveler, Jetsetter's new collections only feature properties that get the Jetsetter Stamp of Approval. This means that every property must meet Jetsetter criteria: each hotel has a big personality, great style and a sense of place. Hotels in the new Royal, Posh and Brilliant collections join the company of hand-selected hotels like Accor, IHG, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Starwood.

Editor-in-Chief Sean Murphy says, "Today's savvy traveler is looking for ease, speed and confidence when searching and booking a stay, so I am thrilled that Jetsetter is now offering them more distinct hotels and adventures in more locations grouped into easy-to-find, curated collections. Our mission as travel experts is to make people happy by giving them access to insider deals and matching them up with the right recommendable travel experience."

Related Link: Jetsetter Collections

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Hotel marketers wish list for 2015

January 22, 2015

- Acknowledgement for all the responsibilities of a hotel marketer: It's not about ego. It's about progress. Marketers aren't looking for a pat on the back. What they need this year is for executives, owners and hotel asset managers to understand all that falls under the job of marketing. When management truly understands the resources required, the marketing department usually gets the team and the budget required to keep up with technology and move forward.

- More direct bookings: Hotel marketers are tired of putting in the work and watching OTAs profit. Yes, OTAs bring in an important stream of business, but at a high price. Direct bookings bring in more revenue and are more likely the product of loyal fans. Marketers want all the guest information that comes with a direct booking. So, it's easier to encourage them to book directly the next time.

- The continued decline of gas prices: Not everyone can take a sleigh ride to your hotel. Whether your guests have a per diem set by the corporate accountant or by the family checkbook, the decline in gas prices is good news for hotel marketers! The drive-in trip to your hotel is less expensive than it's been in years. Guests have more money to spend on your rooms and amenities. And they feel better doing it.

Get the full story at Hospitality.Net

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How mobile and data is changing the travel industry - 5 new emerging trends

January 22, 2015

The infographic is sponsored by the Eyefortravel@Mobile World Congress this March 2. The event sees 100 senior travel industry execs meeting to listen to debate and network with the 16 board level speakers from the world's biggets airlines, hotels, tour operators, airports, railways and OTAs.

View the infographic at EyeForTravel

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The top 10 revenue-generating hotel booking sites of 2014

January 22, 2015

SiteMinder took a closer look at the top 10 sites that gave back the most to its hotel customers over the past year.

Over the past 12 months we saw further consolidation of OTAs, the rise of meta search, the launch of TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking tool and the continued prevalence of the major GDSs – but also the ongoing, fast-moving shift toward direct bookings, which continues to be the big disruption within the channels space as hotels look to take more control over the costs to distribute their room inventory online.

This year’s list proves no different, as evidenced by SiteMinder’s own integrated booking engine, TheBookingButton, featuring in the top five booking channels for our customers for the third consecutive year. Within the OTA space, retained the #1 position for the third year running.

Get the full story and infographic at SiteMinder

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Swiss-Belhotel International adopts innovative channel manager STAAH

January 22, 2015

Swiss-Belhotel International Chairman and President Gavin M. Faull. For high resolution version, click here.
Swiss-Belhotel International Chairman and President Mr. Gavin M. Faull said STAAH's platforms would, among several key advantages, allow the award-winning group to "seamlessly manage" rates and inventories across and online travel agents to ensure universal rate parity.

"After a long review of our existing channel manager's capabilities, pricing and feature set, we decided to move to a new provider," Mr. Faull said. "During our study we reviewed a number of products and did a detailed analysis of a shortlist of products and decided STAAH was the best fit for us."

Mr. Faull said through STAAH, all Swiss-Belhotel International inventories would be available on every online channel and the Auckland-based software developer would provide integrated rate comparison tools to better monitor the competition. It would also deliver property management system integration to reduce human error and allow the e-commerce team to spend more time focusing on online distribution by cutting the time spent on updating rates.

He added Swiss-Belhotel International would utilise STAAH's revenue management and find out which channels were driving revenue and customers. Another advantage of adopting STAAH was its significantly simpler interface compared to Swiss-Belhotel International's previous channel manager.

"We are in the midst of a major global expansion and we recognised the need to compliment that with a superior channel management platform. We have that now," Mr. Faull said.

The four-month migration to STAAH began at the start of December.

Swiss-Belhotel International offers highly professional services in all aspects of hotel, resort, serviced residences, condotel and property management operations. Since its establishment in 1987, the group has expanded throughout Asia and the Middle East. It will open 20 hotels this year as it targets managing 250 hotels and resorts by 2020.

Swiss-Belhotel International currently has more than 125 hotels, resort and projects in its global portfolio. It has a presence in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Georgia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Related Link: STAAH

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Should hoteliers be concerned with Amazon becoming the next mega OTA?

January 21, 2015

by Max Starkov, HeBS Digital

The industry press is full of articles about Amazon entering the travel retail space, opening travel industry-focused offices, and contacting hoteliers to strike merchant-model wholesale deals. Industry “oracles” are predicting that Amazon will become the next Expedia or

In my view, by adding a “merchant model” extension to their flash sale-oriented site, Amazon Local, Amazon is achieving two objectives. On one hand, Amazon is simply “testing the waters” with all of their recent moves into the travel space. On the other hand, they are trying to expand the hotel offering of the fledgling Amazon Local. Like everyone else (Living Social, anyone?), Amazon is realizing that the flash sale model is extremely cyclical. In today’s post-recession environment, hoteliers are no longer willing to provide steep discounts and outrageous deals when they can sell their inventory at higher rates direct or via cheaper distribution channels.

Can Amazon become a major OTA player?

With Amazon’s current merchant model attempt, I think not, and here is why:

- The OTA marketplace is already oversaturated. Travelocity is being “swallowed up” by Expedia. Orbitz is doomed as a stand-alone OTA. Establishing Amazon as a new OTA brand will be prohibitively expensive.

- The merchant model Amazon has chosen is against the existing major shift from merchant to agency model that the industry is trending towards. Hoteliers do not like the merchant model: Amazon’s 15% merchant commission is close to’s commission, yet employs the agency model (i.e. guests pay at the front desk upon arrival) while Amazon has adopted the pre-paid merchant model.

Get the full story at HeBS Digital

Read also "Amazon’s online travel march continues, should OTAs be sweating?"

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Orbitz putting itself up for sale

January 21, 2015

Orbitz putting itself up for sale makes sense, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research Group.

"I don't see this as a negative situation," he said. "This should not be interpreted as an indication that Orbitz is a failing business. The travel-booking industry is very competitive and today requires scale and scope that wasn't required when Orbitz launched in 2001", he said.

"Unfortunately, right now Orbitz doesn't stand for anything," Harteveldt said. On its launch, Orbitz was a source of great airfares and had some clever advertising through the years but ultimately wasn't able to stand apart, he said.

"I'm not surprised somebody could see value in Orbitz, but they're definitely going to have to invest money to help Orbitz emerge as a stronger, larger, sounder competitor," he said.

Get the full story at the Chicago Tribune

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How mobile is set to take over the travel industry in 2015

January 21, 2015

Salt and Pepper. Rosemary and Thyme. Ant and Dec. To a list of things that go hand in hand you could justifiably add travel and innovation. The industry is replete with new ideas, cutting-edge technologies and disruption, with this year promising to enhance its reputation even further. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 it’s been the year of mobile but this year; 2015 I actually expect mobile to be at the forefront of these innovations.

I know, I know. Everyone’s been talking about mobile for so long now that it’s become something of a running joke; it’s the annual trend we all highlight. However mobile isn’t so much the innovation as more the platform upon which I expect the biggest innovations to occur. For the travel industry in 2015, all innovative roads invariably lead to mobile.

A quick look at some of the recent stats help emphasise the reason why mobile is swiftly moving to the centre of many travel businesses’ plans for the upcoming period.

Get the full story at Performance in Mobile

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The evolution of hotel marketing

January 21, 2015

Place is now Everywhere and/or Electronic. Develop your knowledge of new media and channels in the way a magician masters new techniques. Try new things—do something that doesn’t start with discounts and banner ads. Surprise and delight your audiences, followers, and viewers.

Price has become Exchange. Appreciate the value of things, not just the cost. Start by calculating the value of your customers, and what their attention, engagement and permission are worth to you.

Promotion has most certainly evolved into Evangelism. Find the passion and emotion in your brand. Inspire your guests and employees with that passion. Make them your Evangelists.

Get the full story at Naked Hospitality

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Converting hotel group business via online channels

January 21, 2015

As meetings planners become more reliant on online research, a hotel's website will play an increasingly important role in generating leads and converting them to bookings, sources said.

"You need to tell planners everything they need to know," said Ed Simon, VP of sales at Destination Hotels & Resorts, which will launch a new website with more meetings-related information this year. "You have to fill in all the blanks. It would be nice to have direct contact, but if they want to buy that way, you have to make sure they have all the information they need."

Ed Carey, managing director of sales at Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida, agreed that clear, comprehensive meetings content online is more important than ever before.

"We provide every single detail from every department in the hotel, along with contacts for each department," Carey said. "That is all centralized now in one location so planners can access that without having to call the hotel."

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Getting bold with OTAs

January 21, 2015

Obviously a strategy such as this will only work if you’re wholly confident in your revenue team maintaining rate parity. However, even in the rare instance when an OTA might appear cheaper, Shire Hotels request the visitor calls them so that they may match or even better the rate directly.

Their new site has only been live a matter of weeks, but it’s a bold move and it will be interesting to see if this reduces the volume of visitors abandoning the booking to compare prices on OTAs, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

Certainly the early signs are positive, with Shire Hotels E-Commerce Marketing Manager, Sam Wilson, commenting: “When embarking on the project we aimed to create and implement new innovations not seen before in the hotel industry making our site as transparent to users as possible. One example of this is the price comparison tool that features on our booking pages – allowing users to see that we offer the best rate directly in comparison to the top 4 OTA’s. We are delighted how the new site looks, feels & functions and are excited to report that conversion is showing strong improvement – doubling year-on-year since the site launch.”

Get the full story at Hotelspeak

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Availpro partners with, leading OTA in Latin America for deeper integration

January 21, 2015

Availpro, leading e-booking software provider, has integrated with, the No. 1 OTA in South American countries, to effectively increase online visibility and bookings to its fast growing customers.

The new connectivity with Despegar enables Availpro clients to make immediate ARI (Availability, Rates and Inventory) updates on the channel through Availpro’s Smart Channel Manager in a few clicks. As a result, hoteliers will benefit from greater flexibility and control, more time-saving features and superior-quality results thanks to this 2way xml interface.

‘In this highly challenging environment, we are delighted to help our clients developing new strategies and markets to increase their revenue. This partnership is a great opportunity for our customers to drive more bookings by targeting local audience from these fast growing emerging markets like Brazil or other South American countries.’ says Philippe Lamarche, President at Availpro.

‘ and recommend Availpro. This integration has allowed us to improve the relationship with our customers making them save time and money. We also look forward to adding new properties to our growing list of customers thanks to a fruitful cooperation with a leading software company. By partnering with Availpro, we will both build brand value and secure our customers’ long-term success! adds Christian Vilate, Vice-President at

Related Link: Availpro

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Hotels in China need to embrace cloud based offerings in distribution technology

January 21, 2015

By Ritesh Gupta, ChinaTravelNews Correspondent

Hotel organizations are constantly looking at automating their distribution and reservation systems, with a strong focus on how to make the most of cloud-based computing and real-time availability and updating of data. This, of course, is a valid investment as for years distribution and revenue management teams have managed reservations, availability, rates and inventory data in multiple systems.

Clearly, the industry is taking initiatives to do away with manual juggling of data between systems.

But a lot needs to be done before this becomes a reality across the industry. For instance, in a vast market like China, the challenge today lies in changing the mindset.

“Clearly the understanding of “ How to get the most from technology” has to date been different in China,” says Philip Liu, GM – China, Sabre Hospitality Solutions.

Liu explains that local hotels in China have historically thought about technology using disparate systems that usually require a local installation, however the mindset is changing towards integrated solutions with one source of data flowing in real time between systems improving distribution efficiency and enhancing the guest experience through the booking process. Today hoteliers need to move away from an on-property guest experience mentality towards enhancing overall guest satisfaction from the planning stage to booking to post stay communication. Using integrated technology allows hotels to not simply enhance guest experiences but to manage brand performance throughout the booking process.

Hotels that integrate their technology and use the latest rate optimization and revenue management tools have stronger brand value and loyalty, and achiever higher room and occupancy rates compared to similar hotels with the same ratings in the same area. One of Sabre’s customers in Shanghai sells rooms at $180 with 80 percent occupancy, while a very similar hotel across the road only achieves $130 and has 60 percent occupancy.

Cloud is powerful, but understanding is slow

Liu explains that Chinese hotel companies today need to look at multi-channel, multi-device distribution with a blend of human expertise and technology. For instance, a hotel brand needs to assess how it can benefit from its systems being centralised in the cloud. How can their local team gain access to a more precise view of the performance of the property or chain and optimize room availability across channels.

With a cloud-based integrated offering, hotels and chains can access all manner of information on all of their properties from a single source using secure, instantly available data.

Hotels in China are also concerned about the speed of their internet connection, and the overall impact on the customer experience if there is an outage in connectivity. A network that is supporting information technology infrastructure completely in the cloud, needs a robust platform and an experienced provider, explained Liu. “These issues are being addressed, and hotels definitely acknowledge the efficiency aspect of cloud-based solutions,” said Andrew Cox, VP, Business Development, Asia Pacific.

Another challenge that the local hotel industry is facing is the lack of trained and experienced professionals in the distribution technology space. “The hospitality industry has made great progress in technology and through this technology, experienced solid growth, However it isn’t uncommon to find an organization struggling to attract and retain talent because the demand is so high for these skills,” said Liu.

Again hoteliers need to understand what options are available to them and the resources required to optimize their distribution strategy on a daily basis. What integration is required to interface a reservation system with the property’s other marketing and operational systems across their on-site systems, revenue management and distribution systems. There are several systems that are used today and hotel organizations need to have the best resources in place to understand and benefit from the significance of single image inventory.

Supporting direct channels

Hotel companies would like to attract guests to their hotel website while still actively participating in OTA channels. One of the most frequent requests is to find ways to improve a hotel’s conversion through digital channels that are owned by them.

Liu highlights that websites of many Chinese hotels are still not optimized. “If I am looking for a room, and presented with information that is not relevant to me or doesn’t aid my decision-making then it’s a lost opportunity for a hotel,” said Liu, referring to the significance of booking engines offering tailored and appropriate merchandising opportunities powered by seamless integration through the CRS.

Sabre Hospitality Solutions looks at how guests use mobile, tablet and social platforms in their planning and booking process.

Cox acknowledges the power of social platforms, and acknowledges that social networking sites and using multiple devices are now an integral part of our lives. We are working on functionality that would enable customers to book directly in social media environments.

Today hotel companies need to look at every facet of a their website, optimizing payment options to increase revenues, managing merchandising campaigns, increasing international presence, conversion and tracking consumers online behavior.

Talking of facilitating transactions, Liu mentioned that it is absolutely vital for the Chinese hotels to integrate Alipay and UnionPay in the booking flow on every possible channel.

Clearly there are huge opportunities for hotels in China to leverage better technology to power their distribution strategy using right channel, right product, right pricing aimed at the right customer segment. Direct distribution utilizing hotel brand website, with a smart digital marketing strategy should be the core and ultimate focus of any hotel. Sabre Hospitality Solutions is ready to assist hotels in China reach their distribution goals and ultimately achieve higher revenues.

Related Link: ChinaTravelNews

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Amazon’s online travel march continues, should OTAs be sweating?

January 20, 2015

Amazon could be a pretty formidable competitor. It has around 237 million customers and one of the largest global networks. Its margins are wafer thin and it has a strategy of low-balling competition.

Amazon could just start by copying online travel agents like Expedia and by roping in independent hotels. By taking a 15% margin (or less) would be acceptable to Amazon and beneficial to the hotels. Expedia normally takes at least 25%.

Amazon’s gain would be data. Plus, hotel deals to add to the specials for its 20m members on Amazon Prime, undercutting prices offered by online travel agency sites.

Get the full story at EyeForTravel

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UK survey unveils what business travelers are asking

January 20, 2015

Questions put forward exclusively by Travel Daily UK show only 38% of business travel buyers have seen clients are more willing to book extras for their trips.

Among those that said travellers are asking for extras the most popular was an upgrade in the hotel or airline (30%) followed by other airline seating options such as being able to choose a specific seat (22%).

However further results released by the Business Travel Show revealed that buyers with a responsibility for meetings has increased from a 52% share to 57%. This has also increased since 40% in 2011. The number of those with a strategy for meetings has increased from 27% to 34%.

Get the full story at Travel Daily UK

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6 tenets of good hotel website design

January 20, 2015

It’s crucially important hoteliers design pages that provide the same enticing sense of welcome as does the property itself. “(Guests) look before they book. … It’s really the new reality of the way people navigate and make their consumer decisions. They have a lot of options, a lot of information and a lot of competition putting out competition messages,” said Josh Johnson, digital media producer and contributing editor for the travel and lifestyle brand Matador Network, during a webinar titled “What every smart hotelier must know about Web marketing.”

“For better or worse, we judge books by their covers. We are visual creatures,” he added.

Good website design - the kind that encourages would-be guests to dig deeper and actually book - comprises many things.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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How to find time to respond to online reviews

January 20, 2015

No matter how busy you are, you must find time to respond to online reviews about your hotel. Why? Well, let the following research conducted by TripAdvisor answer the question:

- 71% of travelers agree that seeing a response to online reviews from a hotel’s management is important.
- 79% of hotel guests agree that a management’s response to negative reviews reassures them.
- 78% of travelers say that seeing a hotel respond to positive reviews online makes them think highly of that hotel.
- 68% say that if they were choosing between two hotels, they will select the property with a management that responds to online reviews.

Suffice to say; responding to online reviews is extremely important if you want your hotel to have a great reputation online.

That said, how (or where) in the world are you going to find the time to respond to all those reviews? Well, it’s kind of like finding time to hit the gym. We have to make the impossible, possible. Plus – a lot of hotel managers who are as busy as we are manage to do it just fine. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few tips.

Get the full story at eHotelier

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Google sending mobile usability warnings to webmasters

January 20, 2015

These notifications are being sent via Google Webmaster Tools and via email. It is also being sent to sites that are simply not mobile friendly at all and typically, the webmasters know their sites are not mobile friendly. What we have here is Google reminding these webmasters their sites are not mobile-friendly and issuing a warning that the pages won’t rank well in mobile search.

There are clear signs that a new mobile ranking algorithm is about to launch at Google. Google told us they are experimenting with it since November. They also launched a mobile friendly testing tool, mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools, and mobile-friendly labels in the search results.

This seems to go beyond the broken mobile site penalty Google had in 2013. It also seems to go beyond having problems with your mobile-friendly site – where it is targeting this communication to sites that are knowingly not mobile-friendly.

Get the full story at Search Engine Land

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Staying on top: The top 5 SEO trends for 2015

January 20, 2015

The line between SEO and other integrated marketing efforts continue to blur, and If you don’t keep the predictions below in mind and act on them, 2015 might be the year that your competitors steal your thunder.

1. Content Reigns

There’s a balance to be found when it comes to creating, optimizing and distributing content. You want it to be easy to digest, especially for mobile readers. However, your website’s content should be unique and not so shallow or mundane that it can easily be found from other sources. Many sites aim for articles between 500 and 700 words, but you shouldn’t be afraid to increase word count if you’re the expert on a subject.

While Google may cherry pick some of your content if it is useful — and formatted correctly — you want the users to ultimately visit and read from your links. Those impressions and potential sales, comments or subscriptions that your brand relies on won’t come if you don’t offer something unique to the reader.

Furthermore, content doesn’t come just in the form of text. For example, video and audio content can be optimized for the search engine — and you should already be using alt text with the images on your website and in your blog posts.

A combination of informative, entertaining or engaging written, visual and even audio content will draw in visitors and keep them coming back for more as long as you use the proper markup, so Google knows where to add your link in the SERPs.

Get the full story at The BideEdge Blog

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Webinar recap: Smart hotelier’s action plan 2015

January 20, 2015

In early January, in this year’s Top 10 Digital Marketing Resolutions, presented by HeBS Digital for the 15th consecutive year, we provided an action plan to follow during 2015. Created to help alleviate the complexity of our industry’s most recent innovations, this action plan was designed to help you concentrate on what’s most important: engaging your key customer segments and increasing direct online conversions and revenues!

We went a step further and last week we presented an interactive webinar “Action Plan 2015: The Smart Hotelier’s Top 10 Digital Marketing Resolutions”, attended by hundreds of hoteliers. We received some great feedback and questions while we covered how to increase your online revenues/ROIs, gain market share, and stay ahead of the competition and OTAs in the coming year.

Here is a quick summary of the Smart Hotelier’s Action Plan 2015 Webinar and some practical action steps to monetize your digital marketing resolutions.

Get the full story at HeBS Digital

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TripAdvisor partners with CNN

January 20, 2015

CNN and TripAdvisor today announced a first-of-its-kind partnership between the worlds’s leading international news brand and the world’s largest travel site.

Beginning today, CNN International’s global travel portal,, will be integrated with the most up to date TripAdvisor reviews and ratings, enabling CNN readers to view them in real time. Readers can book hotels mentioned in CNN Travel articles via TripAdvisor, or find TripAdvisor user reviews, photos and maps of featured restaurants, bars and other landmarks.

One of the key advantages of the deal is giving CNN Travel readers access to the best available hotel prices through TripAdvisor’s hotel price comparison search function. The same TripAdvisor content and booking functionality will also be available when CNN Travel readers access CNN’s 4,000 partner hotels on the CNN Travel homepage.

CNN Travel Executive Producer Andrew Demaria says it will make the experience for current CNN Travel users on both desktop and mobile far more in-depth and comprehensive.
“CNN Travel and TripAdvisor are a great fit. The two brands align with each other and this partnership formalizes what is already a solid relationship. Ultimately, this is really all about the user, especially when using their mobile to book accommodation when planning a holiday or while they’re on the road traveling. Readers can now search for hotels, book accommodation or write a review via the CNN Travel site. This means a better experience for our audience.”

TripAdvisor’s Director of Partnerships for APAC, Aaron Hung added, “We are excited to be partnering with CNN to integrate TripAdvisor’s rich user-generated content with CNN Travel, complementing CNN Travel’s highly popular travel articles. What’s even more exciting is once readers have decided on their hotels, they can compare prices and book it via TripAdvisor – it couldn’t be easier.”

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Airbnb usage to surpass hotel companies, but not for business travel

January 19, 2015

In terms of size, Airbnb already has overtaken the largest hotel companies. During the past year, the number of rooms available through Airbnb has grown from about 300,000 to about 1 million, Barclays European leisure analyst Vicki Stern wrote in the note. By comparison, as of the 2014 BTN Business Travel Survey, the largest hotel company measured by rooms, InterContinental Hotels Group, had a portfolio of about 687,000 rooms.

Even so, it will remain mostly a leisure player during that time, with only about 10 percent of Airbnb bookings currently used for business travel, she added.

"There is currently no regulation applied to Airbnb hosts regarding fire safety, food hygiene and insurance," Stern wrote. "This is a key difference to hotels, which are required to adopt strict health and safety regulations, and this is one key reason why we believe the majority of business[es] would be reluctant to send employees to Airbnb accommodation instead of a hotel."

Get the full story at Business Travel News

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Amex forecasts accelerated growth in business travel spend in Europe in 2014

January 19, 2015

According to the American Express Global Business Travel 2014 EVP Barometer ("the Barometer"), business travel spend grew 0.9% in 2014, confirming the forecasts made in the November 2013 edition of the Barometer. This change follows a three-year slowdown that bottomed out in 2013 with growth of only 0.5%. According to the Barometer's respondents, this growth is due in part to improved economic conditions in the Barometer's ten reference countries; France, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway

According to the Barometer, 2015 should confirm the upturn seen last year, with marked differences from country to country. Total travel spending in the ten countries targeted by the Barometer is expected to increase by 0.7% in 2015.

Elyes Mrad, Managing Director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), American Express Global Business Travel, says: "Whether seeking to retain current customers, win new prospects or develop new markets, companies are aware of how important business travel is to support their sales growth. According to our research, they now devote 51% of their business travel budgets to business development activities, as opposed to 46% in 2013. Yet, in a persistently difficult economic context, controlling direct costs remains a priority. The real challengeis to gain a comprehensive view of these expenditures: expectations are increasingly high in this area, particularly with the adoption of end-to-end solutions."

Key highlights:

1. Business travel growth trending upwards: increased activity in Europe is driven by a desire to develop business

The Barometer shows that this increased focus in business development activities throughout Europe is benefitting corporate travel. Retaining and acquiring new customers, and breaking into new markets represented 51% of budgets in 2014 against compared to 46% in 2013. Nearly half of companies plan to develop their activities abroad in the next three years, as opposed to 38% in 2013 and 35% in 2012.

Business travel within Europe specifically grew the most in 2014, representing 50% of total growth. In 2015, it is expected to increase by six percent, to account for 56% of business travel growth in total.

2. Company priorities remain focused on cost control and monitoring

Cost control
According to the Barometer, over the last few years, cost control has been the top priority for companies (87% of them in 2014).

Whilst searching for the best available price remains the top method for controlling costs, businesses are starting to see its limitations, as this practice declined this year.

Two practices are now clearly among the top three tools for controlling costs: online reservations gained significant traction, ranking second in 2014 (versus fifth in 2013), as did advanced booking, which came in third in 2014 (fourth in 2013).

A comprehensive view of spending
In addition to cost control, the Barometer finds that companies seek to have an overall vision of their spending, encompassing both direct and indirect costs. This is a priority for over half of companies, a figure that rose sharply (up by 15 percent in two years).

The concept goes beyond cost control - which remains confined to direct costs - and includes obtaining a comprehensive view of indirect costs such as IT development and staffing. It promises to be a major topic in years to come.

Companies understand the increasing importance of end-to-end solutions for gaining an overall view of their spending.

Naturally, the percentage of companies using both self booking tools (SBT) and expense management solutions (EMS) has grown in recent years: according to the Barometer, 43% in 2014 as opposed to 26% in 2013 use a combination of SBT/EMS. Companies are clearly motivated by the possibility of monitoring their travel programme as a whole, not only by cutting costs.

TMCs, helping make the transition
When attempting to integrate these changes, companies face a complex choice of solutions and suppliers and call upon their Travel Management Company (TMC) to help them make the necessary transitions.

According to the Barometer, implementing end-to-end solutions is top among services that must be developed (29%) by TMCs, followed by business travel ROI assessment, which is key to transforming the perception of business travel as an investment.

Mobile solutions rank third (13%), as does the integration of new types of suppliers, which, driven by traveller demand, appears for the first time in the barometer.

Indeed, the Barometer found that mobile technologies are becoming a major channel, with over half of companies claiming to have incorporated mobile use into their travel programmes.

As in 2013, mobile devices are mainly used to receive supplier alerts (87%), check in (77%), obtain security announcements (74%) and modify reservations (60%). Logically, companies say that they would like to develop mobile use to include bookings, expense reporting and management, and security.

3. What about the traveller?

Traveller safety remains critical
Between cost control (priority number one) and a comprehensive view of spending (priority number three), traveller safety ranked second among company priorities, according to the Barometer, gaining ground (up by 24 percentage points in two years).

All safety measures were strengthened: means of contacting (87% of companies 2014 versus 81% in 2013), repatriating (73% in 2014 versus 60% in 2013), and locating employees (71% in 2014 versus 65% in 2013); employee training increased (32% versus 23%), but still remained a secondary priority.

Traveller comfort is not a priority for all
In the list of company priorities, the comfort of the traveller fell from fourth place in 2013 to sixth in 2014. According to the Barometer, only 20% of businesses measure satisfaction and use the results.

Paradoxically, 20% of businesses (versus 12% in 2013) now purchase VIP services from their TMC, aware of the negative impact certain travel conditions can have on employee productivity.

Related Link: American Express Global Business Travel

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Hotel rates in Europe fall to 4-year low, says Trivago

January 19, 2015

These include numerous capital cities and destinations popular among UK travellers, such as Rome (a hotel stay will cost an average of £78 per night this month), Berlin (£68), Barcelona (£72), Edinburgh (£82), Stockholm (£106), Copenhagen (£101) and Oslo (£108).

While some destinations boast their lowest hotel prices in four years, many more boast the lowest in the past 12 months. When prices this month are compared to the most expensive month during 2014, savings of up to 60 per cent are available.

Hotel prices have also decreased both month-on-month and year-on-year, which could suggest a general trend of falling hotel prices. Based on the top 50 European destinations on trivago, one night will cost an average of £80 this month, compared to £85 in December (7 per cent decrease) and £83 in January 2014 (5 per cent decrease).

Get the full story at Hospitality.Net

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Is Expedia planning to acquire Travelocity?

January 19, 2015

Expedia struck a deal with Sabre in 2013 to power Travelocity's tech platforms and provide its travel inventory, in exchange for a 50% revenue share; that deal provided a big lift to 2014 bookings.

Oppenheimer argues a full acquisition of the travel platform would be a win-win: It would boost Expedia's U.S. share and top line, and would allow Sabre to shed a non-core asset and further de-lever its balance sheet.

Get the full story at Benzinga

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How hotel marketers can leverage LinkedIn in 2015

January 19, 2015

In visiting Four Seasons’ LinkedIn page, it’s evident they focus a lot on sharing photos. They portray recipes and their chef creating meals.

This isn’t as common on LinkedIn specifically which makes this tactic sound out. Chef photos and the like are usually reserved moreso for visual platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, so it’s a diverse approach to leverage LinkedIn for this purpose. Sharing photos helps humanize the brand and convey a more personal element to it, even among a more professional environment.

Hilton Worldwide is setting a high bar with regard to their LinkedIn business page. They have over 320,000 followers, and rather using this page as a sales tool which may seem inherent, they use it to highlight various other aspects of their company.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, on the other hand, optimizes LinkedIn to seek new candidates. They place strong emphasis on career opportunities.

Get the full story at Maximize Social Business

Read also "6 lessons from the top 10 Best LinkedIn Company Pages" at PR Daily

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Euromonitor’s top 10 consumer trends for 2015

January 19, 2015

2015 consumers like to shop but are time-poor, seeking convenience, greater choice, global availability and instant gratification. Their purchase decisions are increasingly being driven by the heart, making choices that have a positive impact on the world. Their lives are a blend of online activity and real world lifestyle – they want to access information instantly, share their lives on social media and showcase individuality.

Download our Top 10 Global Consumer Trends of 2015 white paper to learn more about consumer behaviour and consumption patterns.

Download this white paper to learn:

- How convenience encourages omnichannel shopping trends
- Which consumption styles are leading to brand innovation
- Why it’s so hard to sell to Millennials
- Rising concerns about privacy and digital footprint with the omnipresence of the internet of things and social media
- More about consumers in 2015…

Download the white paper at Euromonitor (free registration)

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How visual storytelling inspires hotel shoppers

January 19, 2015

Hotel marketers that use multi-media are able to deepen conversations with their guests and amplify personal connections because visual storytelling is showing the experience you have to offer to guests, through photos, virtual tours and videos, rather than just telling them through text.

As people go through the different stages of travel shopping, they want to be entertained, inspired and informed because travelers are not just looking for a place to sleep, they’re looking for an experience.

Compelling content is key to making a strong connection with consumers. Great visual stories captivate an audience and reinforce brand objectives. Here are some other ways hotel marketers can benefit from visual storytelling:

- Take advantage of user-generated content your guests are already creating on your behalf. These authentic photos and videos will encourage other guests to share

- Use video to raise your appearance on search results pages

- Consider the season, local attractions and special events when creating stories

- Optimize for mobile so as not to miss out on travelers browsing from smartphones and tablets

Get the full story at Leonardo

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Webinar: Key trends & strategies for hotel marketers in 2015

January 19, 2015

From metasearch to mobile to visual storytelling, we’ll help you understand the latest developments in technology and traveler behavior and decide where to allocate time and resources for optimal results.

A link to the recording will be sent to all registrants, so be sure to register even if you are unable to attend the live session.

Register for the webinar at ReviewPro

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January 16, 2015

Booking Now isn’t replacing the existing Booking app for iPhones, but it could end up superseding it eventually. It’s an attractive modern mobile user interface over the existing service with one catch. Because it’s a same-day booking app, you can only book a room for tonight or tomorrow. After your provide your email and a few accommodation preferences, like how much you’re willing to pay and whether you’d like Wi-Fi, you’re swiping left and right like Tinder to search your nearby lodging matches.

“You’ve got apps like Uber and Starbucks and OpenTable feeding this idea we can do anything on our phones,” CEO Darren Huston said. “We needed to make an app that’s not just a slimmed-down version of our core app, but meets the needs of the spontaneous consumer.”

There isn’t anything that Booking Now does that the normal app can’t — the main app has offered a last-minute accommodation for years. Still — it’s a significantly better experience for short term booking on mobile to the current app, which presents you with several anxiety-inducing choices when you boot it up. Booking Now is better at finding a room on short notice — either where you are (by using your coordinates) or where you will be (the app is solid at handling general requests like “San Francisco” or “Amsterdam.”)

Get the full story at GigaOM and The New York Times blog

Related Link: Booking Now (Apple App Store)

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Distribution division of Pegasus Solutions becomes stand-alone company

January 16, 2015

DHISCO is the single largest processor of electronic hotel transactions, delivering advanced connectivity and distribution solutions to over 100,000 hotels worldwide - representing 300+ hotel chains in more than 200 countries. The company facilitates over eight billion shopping transactions each month and gives clients efficiency and affordability in marketing, capturing and booking reservations. DHISCO will continue to be headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with additional offices in London and Scottsdale. Toni Portmann has been appointed to serve as CEO and Executive Chairman of the Board.

The new company is the result of a recently completed recapitalization with an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. is a global private equity investment firm with more than $17 billion of total capital under management. The new ownership will provide DHISCO with the financial backing to expand its position as the leader in hospitality distribution technology and to continue to enhance and evolve hospitality distribution solutions.

“The H.I.G. partnership allows DHISCO to realize our full potential by enabling us to deepen our existing client relationships and expand our product and services platform,” said new DHISCO CEO Toni Portmann.

Portmann was appointed CEO and Executive Chairman in November 2014. She has a strong record of successfully leading high-growth technology companies, including firms in which DHISCO’s financial partner, H.I.G. Capital has invested. DHISCO is proud to have retained a number of talented leaders in the industry, including: Mel Kemp directing IT, John Owens leading sales, Lynn Malouf heading up client relations, and Craig Barnby overseeing product development.

Portmann adds, “Our leadership team has completed a strategic planning process and established a comprehensive set of strategic initiatives for the new company. Our vision is to ‘connect the world’ and as experts in this niche we created, we are driven to design, develop, deploy and support the best distribution solutions.”

The new brand, DHISCO, has roots from the original company’s inception 26 years ago under the name THISCO, The Hotel Industry Switch Company. When created in 1989, THISCO set the standard for a universal electronic distribution system for the hospitality industry.

“In a nod to our past: THISCO becomes DHISCO,” said Portmann. “And as we look forward, our vision is to connect the world by leveraging our core infrastructure complemented by a set of robust applications, marketing tools, and business processes. We will be the strategic partner for global access and connectivity to our hotel partners, O TAs, global distributors and meta search site companies.

Related Link: DHISCO

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10 recommendations to get hotel ancillary revenues rolling in 2015

January 16, 2015

Yet a new report from EyeforTravel - Ancillary Revenues in the Hospitality Industry – finds that many hotels are not yet grasping the opportunities. In fact, just 20% of the 218 hotel and resort revenue managers who were surveyed for the report have implemented a revenue management system (RMS). More troubling still, is the fact that food and beverage - what RMSs account for most effectively – is only measured in 35% of hotels.

The goods news, however, is that over 50% of hotels are making ancillary revenues a priority for 2015, a case not hard to justify:

- 60% of hotels are already seeing ancillaries contributing 10% to total revenues, and;

- Nearly a third are seeing 25% added to the bottom line

Get the full story at EyeForTravel

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Travel planning becoming more visual

January 16, 2015

Jones said he has seen the industry shift from the 1970s when he’d assist a couple face to face, booking them on a vacation in an hour, to today when travelers might spend months online researching trips.

“You guys spend two months online before you even decide where to go,” he said. “We have to read every blog, every Facebook post. People are spending a tremendous amount of research, and they really don’t want to miss anything. They end up going to over 20 websites to plan a trip.”

He said he expects that to change as planning becomes more visual.

“Visual is the new verbal on the Web,” he said. “I think text is going away. No one is reading long-form articles on the Web. There’ll be more video. I think you’ll be able to stop a video and click on it and buy something. That’s happening now.”

Get the full story at the Chicago Tribune

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US travel agency sales up 4% in 2014

January 16, 2015

Results were based on monthly sales data ending December 31, 2014, from 12,862 US retail and corporate travel agent locations, satellite ticket printing offices and online travel agencies.

Figures confirm that travel agencies, despite the dominance of direct online bookings between airlines and consumers, still represents a substantial USD89.6 million business.

Ticket sale revenue rose to USD89.6 billion from USD86.2 billion the year before.

Get the full story at TTR Weekly

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Google updates Maps mobile apps with better restaurant search

January 16, 2015

The Google Maps Android update will now let business owners claim their listing pages to manage their information on Maps. Google has also made it easier to target restaurants based on food type, as the version 4.2.0 for iOS will allow users to filter restaurant searches based on cuisine.

The update also allows users to share directions via a drop-down menu in the top right corner of the app that sends turn-by-turn directions via SMS to their Google contacts within the app.

Directions can also be saved in phone calendars for later. Users can also add pins to the origin and destination during navigation.

Get the full story at Cnet

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RateGain secures investment to expand in the North America and Asia Pacific

January 16, 2015

Founded in 2004, RateGain provides revenue management and distribution channel management software and real-time pricing data and analytics to help businesses streamline operations and sales. In the travel segment, the company serves suppliers and intermediaries, including airlines, cruise lines, car rental providers, online travel agents, tour operators and wholesalers, helping them to optimize pricing and monitor competitive offerings. In the hospitality segment, RateGain primarily serves the hotel industry, providing solutions to aid in optimizing pricing, ensuring rate parity, managing rates and inventory across booking channels, and tracking and managing online reputations. The company serves more than 5,500 clients around the world, including approximately 3,000 individual hotel properties. RateGain is headquartered in Noida, India, with additional offices in Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We have actively tracked RateGain for many years and are pleased to have advised on the investment in this highly attractive business,” said Naveen Wadhera, Co-Head of Asia at TA Associates Asia Pacific Ltd., who will join RateGain’s Board of Directors. “In addition to a compelling SaaS model, the company has strong financial momentum and a high-quality and growing customer base across both the hospitality and travel segments. We will work with RateGain management to explore new business opportunities among current and prospective clients, and further geographic expansion, particularly in North America and Asia Pacific.”

"We are very pleased to welcome TA Associates as our first institutional investor,” said Bhanu Chopra, Founder and CEO, RateGain. “We believe a private equity partnership, particularly with an experienced firm like TA, will prove an effective approach to accelerating growth at this stage of our development. We will work closely with TA in expanding our global reach, investing to be closer to our customers and driving new product development. In addition, we will focus considerably on consolidating various point solutions in the travel and hospitality industries through acquisitions, and on providing one unified revenue management and distribution solution for a seamless experience for our customers.”

“RateGain’s highly innovative solutions are widely appreciated by clients who need real-time access to inventory and pricing data, and greater automation in revenue management,” said Dhiraj Poddar, Co-Head of India at TA Associates Advisory Pvt. Ltd. “The hotel technology segment is also highly fragmented, with a recognized need for further consolidation. Given these industry dynamics, we see continued opportunities for RateGain to further expand its leadership position.”

Related Link: RateGain

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Tivoli Lodge targets higher digital marketing ROI with consumer intelligence from nSight

January 16, 2015

nSight captures more than 80 million searches and bookings for hotels daily across third-party websites worldwide. providing in-depth consumer insights based on geography, profile and search behavior. The #1 TripAdvior ranked hotel in Vail, Tivoli will use nSight consumer shopping data to focus media targeting, increase international travelers and grow its direct and OTA bookings.

nSight improves hotel marketing and revenue management capability by providing an unprecedented view of how travel consumers shop online. For the first time, Tivoli Lodge can see how it stacks up against other hotels on travel websites for search and conversion, as well as best available rate (BAR) and how those rate changes impact future demand. By understanding the behaviors, profiles and travel intent of consumers and benchmarking against its competitors, Tivoli Lodge can make better targeting and pricing decisions that position it to win share.

“Tivoli is always looking for tools to help us understand our target guest,” said Daniel Dohner, general manager, Tivoli Lodge. “Consumer analytics from nSight help us see who is looking and booking Tivoli and our competitors. But it goes beyond who visits my website or gets my loyalty emails. nSight lets us see the whole opportunity – including my competitors and other markets – so I can make decisions to capture a bigger piece of the global winter ski market, not just grow within Vail.”

Get the full story at nSight

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German regulators say no to HRS rate parity clauses

January 15, 2015

In a statement to Tnooz, HRS says it will continue to keep the Best Price Guarantee out of terms and conditions for German hotel partners.

HRS also stated, that the new ruling creates a competitive disadvantage for the company compared to other OTAs like and Expedia. HRS CEO Tobias Ragge therefore calls for actions by the regulators to create the same conditions for all market participants.

According to German law firm Härting, the regulators are aware that and Expedia have parity clauses in place. That could also explain, why offered to loosen its rate parity clause with hotels earlier in December.

Get the full story at Tnooz and Härting (in german)

Read also " offers to loosen rate-parity requirement for hotels"

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Marriott abandons quest to block personal Wi-Fi hotspots

January 15, 2015

If you're like most travelers, you probably never suspected that your hotel was blocking your personal hot spot. But in October, after Marriott was fined $600,000 by the FCC for blocking Wi-Fi access at its Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, the issue suddenly popped up on road warriors' agendas. (You can see our best-and-worst of hotel Wi-Fi here.)

On Wednesday, after a legal and public relations battle, Marriott issued a statement to Inc. saying, in effect, that it had given up its quest to be allowed to block guests' personal hot spots. "Marriott International listens to its customers, and we will not block guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices at any of our managed hotels," a spokesman said in an email.

On December 30, Marriott said it did not intend to block personal hot spots in guests' rooms, but was asking the FCC to be able to do so in conference facilities. In today's statement, Marriott says it is no longer seeking to block guests' personal hot spots anywhere on its properties, but is still looking at potential security issues and looking at ways to resolve them without resorting to blocking guests' devices.

Get the full story at

Read also "Marriott is bad, and should feel bad" at The Economist

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Beacons will conquer travel marketing in 2015 despite privacy concerns

January 15, 2015

According to a recent survey by flight information company Flightview, 53 percent of travelers in the United States would like for airports to track their mobile devices to send real-time updates on gate changes and flight times, but would not want to release personally identifiable information. However, the growing rise of airline mobile applications and the demand for easy mobile booking, mobile payments and relevant updates are likely to push airports to incorporate beacon technology.

“Airports are a perfect environment for beacons to succeed: an indoor space that could benefit from hyper-localized tracking and a captive audience that’s looking to kill time,” said Jordan Gray, manager of Creative Labs at Organic, San Francisco. “Since airlines don’t have a great track record for making use of big data, I wouldn’t look to them to implement beacons – that infrastructure will have to come from the airport itself.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing: similar to the retail space where brands have to go through the store to provide offers, it will be beneficial to have a gatekeeper in the middle to make the most of the experience for brands and consumers, airlines and passengers.”

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

Read also " Study: 22pc of retailers will integrate beacons this year" at Mobile Commerce Daily

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25 digital restaurant marketing ideas

January 15, 2015

1. Foodie Photos

If you’ve ever logged onto Instagram, you’ll understand that food porn is alive and well. Arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online is with high-quality, drool-inducing photos. Visual content is in high demand online these days, and having delicious looking photos on your website and across various social media outlets is essential for drawing hungry eyes.

2. Loyalty Programs

Partnering up with online food apps should definitely be a consideration as part of your restaurant marketing plan. Partnering with online apps encourages visitors to check out your restaurant through gamification and loyalty programs, which offer visitors a free purchase or discount for visiting a certain number of times.

3. Yelp

Yelp has tremendous power in the restaurant industry, and having a strong backing of positive Yelp reviews is like having a flock of golden geese – reviews from Yelp can do wonders for your business. I’ve written an entire blog post devoted to helping you get more Yelp reviews, so peruse that at your leisure.

Get the full story at Wordstream

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The one click economy

January 15, 2015

Companies like Zip, AirBnB, Amazon have worked long and hard to provide a simple experience around those points of the transaction that have traditionally been the most painful whether it is a reservation or a product return.

Yet, not every business needs an app, but every business, small and large, needs to examine every client facing transaction and explore making theses processes that are not core to their identify, faster, easier and less painful.

And its not to say that you need to remove people from the interaction - they do add value. But they need to be given the infrastructure and tools so as to be able to spend their time adding value to the interaction not making me sign paperwork.

Get the full story at Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

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Facebook unveils Facebook at Work

January 15, 2015

Employers can create separate log-ins for employees to use with their Work accounts, or users can link these up with their other profiles to access everything in one place.

The product puts Facebook head-to-head with the likes of Microsoft’s Yammer, Slack, Convo, Socialcast, and a huge number of others who are trying to tackle the “enterprise social network” space. Even LinkedIn conveniently let drop last night that it too was looking at building a product for coworkers to communicate and share content (but not chat, as a LinkedIn spokesperson tells me). Not all of these have been a hit: Lars Rasmussen, the engineering director at Facebook who is heading up the project, had in his past once headed up one of the failed efforts at an enterprise social network, Google Wave.

Facebook is positioning today’s debut as a bold first step. “We’re putting the app into the app stores so that we can begin testing the product,” Rasmussen said in an interview.

Get the full story at TechCrunch and download Facebook at Work Apple

Read also "Facebook where? The enterprise reacts to Facebook at Work" at TechCrunch

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Is it time to return to rate disparity?

January 15, 2015

Negotiations going in between the European Commission and OTAs such as are reported to be causing them to scrap practices preventing hotels from giving discounts to rivals, although so far it appears that they can have clauses preventing them from offering lower rates at their own proprietary websites. These new playing rules might eventually migrate to the United States and other markets.

In the meantime, even hoteliers who have signed OTA agreements not to offer lower rates directly have found workarounds by offering different terms and/or different rate options. For example, many have offered online options with different terms at their websites, such as Advance Purchase rate options— although this practice might be restricted by some OTA agreements. Others have offered rate options that are only slightly higher but include breakfast, parking, Internet fees and/or hotel fees.

Simultaneous to all of these changes, many consumers are returning to the practice of calling the hotel directly in an effort to negotiate. Perhaps having been “trained” over time by airline models, consumers understand all too well that the rates paid for the same room vary according to how and when it was booked.

Frontline reservations and front-desk agents tell me they often hear guests trying to negotiate, and that many even throw out their own rate as if playing “Let’s Make A Deal!” Some even say, “If you don’t sell it to me for what I’m offering, it will go empty and you won’t make anything.”

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Driving better revenue for one million rooms

January 15, 2015

A true global leader in the hospitality technology category, IDeaS has leveraged its 25 years of industry experience to expand into even more areas around the world, with more than 300 employees globally. Adoption also continues to rise, with an install base of more than 6,000 hotel properties now using an IDeaS solution, plus an impressive ongoing client retention rate of 95 percent.

"We're intensely proud of this accomplishment—it means our solutions are leading the industry, making a difference for hoteliers and creating new revenue opportunities in more places than ever before," said Dr. Ravi Mehrotra, president and co-founder for IDeaS. "Pricing one million rooms is just the beginning, and we're eager for another year of advancements."

Get the full story at IDeaS

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Expedia launches tool for same day hotel booking generation

January 14, 2015

Expedia Inc. announced today the release of two new products capitalizing on the investment of its Real Time Data Platform: Real Time Feedback and Sell Tonight; powerful new tools for hoteliers and travelers alike. Available now in select test markets in the U.S., the products will roll-out globally in 2015 as the latest developments to the overhaul of the hotel-facing tool suite that is Expedia PartnerCentral.

Real Time Feedback, designed following feedback from hoteliers who wanted more support in securing positive hotel reviews, targets the mobile-savvy traveler. The interface of real time reviews is simple. Shortly after a guest checks into an hotel, they receive an email or app notification asking them three short questions: “How was your check in?”; “How is your room?” and “Are you happy with the location?” Guests answer these questions through an interface and are offered the chance to enter specific feedback, i.e. “I didn’t have towels in my room.” The review is transmitted in real time to the hotelier via Expedia PartnerCentral, giving them the opportunity to act upon the feedback and avoid a potentially negative trip review.

“Our hotel partners have told us time and again that their feedback to a negative review is simply ‘I wish the guest had told us, as we would’ve corrected the issue,’” explains John Kim, chief product officer, Expedia Inc. “So our product team began ideating how we could troubleshoot that, and Real Time Feedback was born.”

The second launch, Sell Tonight, is another example of Expedia’s significant investment in technology. With this tool, Expedia has made it faster and simpler for hoteliers to push out same day rates and availability to and customers around the world, in addition to the more than 80 million app downloads. Sell Tonight, accessible via Expedia PartnerCentral, informs hotels in real time of same day rates in their market, providing them with the details they need to better compete and increase same day bookings.

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US business travel rebounds into record territory

January 14, 2015

U.S. companies spent an estimated $292.2 billion last year on an increased number of business trips. And they are forecast to spend over $310 billion — 6.2% more — in 2015.

"We're at a really solid point in the economic recovery right now, so businesses are feeling comfortable sending their business travelers on the road,'' says Joe Bates, GBTA's vice president of research. "In some cases we're seeing businesses start to relax their travel policies a little bit, allowing travelers to have premium economy seating, spending those extra dollars for that higher level of comfort.''

Even as economies throughout Europe and Asia were struggling, U.S. businesses increased their trips abroad by 6% in 2014 compared with the previous year. And in 2015, the amount spent on business trips to destinations outside of the U.S. is expected to rise 7.9% compared with last year.

Get the full story at USA Today and GBT

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Australia:’s meteoric rise sparks travel industry concern

January 14, 2015

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a public competition assessment on Wednesday, detailing its reasons for approving Expedia's $703 million purchase of Holdings. It approved the transaction in October, but until now it has not given details of the full reasoning behind the decision, which was criticised by some hotels concerned it would lead to them paying higher commissions to online travel agents in this market.

Wotif had charged lower commissions than rivals like Priceline's and Expedia. But some analysts had already raised the prospect it would need to lift them if it remained independent in order to remain competitive.

US-based Priceline and Expedia were far outspending Wotif on marketing and technology investments. As a result, Wotif lost its position as the leading online travel agent in the Australian market.

Get the full story at The Sydney Morning Herald

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LGBT millennials show higher preference for mobile OTA sites

January 14, 2015

Looking at directions and finding restaurant information were the most popular travel-related mobile activities conducted by US LGBT mobile device users in all age groups, each cited by around nine in 10 baby boomers, Generation Xers and millennials. Checking flight statuses and researching destination attractions were also popular mobile travel activities among respondents, though millennials were much more likely than boomers to do the latter.

While respondents from each generation ranked most activities in the same order, usage was generally higher among the youngest age group and lower among the oldest. One place where this reversed, though, was when it came to car rentals. More than one-fifth of LGBT boomers rented cars for their trips via mobile, compared with 19% of Gen Xers and just 16% of millennials.

Across generations, about 40% of LGBT mobile users reserved hotels through their devices, and more than one-quarter booked flights. But that’s where the similarities ended. When booking lodging via mobile, LGBT millennials were huge fans of online travel agencies (OTAs). Nearly two-thirds of millennials booked that way, compared with 55% of Gen Xers and 43% of boomers. The two older age groups—especially boomers—preferred to book through a hotel’s mobile site. Lodging-sharing and deal sites, much newer on the scene, were around 10 percentage points more popular among millennials than boomers or Gen Xers.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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Tripadvisor acquires leading Dutch restaurant rating site

January 14, 2015

According to one Dutch report, was founded in 1998 by Iens Boswijk and is the biggest restaurant site in the Netherlands. The site receives 20 million visitors annually and there are more than 20,000 restaurants on the webpage.

Iens and SeatMe merged in 2012, according to the report.

This is TripAdvisor's second acquisition of a European restaurant bookings website in the past year. Last May, the company acquired La Fourchette, an online restaurant booking service with a network of more than 12,000 restaurants across Europ. La Fourchette is an online and mobile reservation service for restaurants in France, Spain and Switzerland.

Get the full story at the Boston Business Journal

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Cvent announces list of top 100 meeting hotels in the United States

January 14, 2015

Cvent, Inc., a leading cloud-based enterprise event management platform, today announces its annual list of the top meeting hotels in the United States. Cvent operates one of the world’s largest global marketplaces for group meetings business on the Cvent Supplier Network (CSN). Cvent is estimating that $10 Billion worth of group business will flow through its network in 2015.

Leading the list of the Top 100 U.S. Meeting Hotels are the following properties from locations across the country:

1. ARIA Resort & Casino – Las Vegas, NV
2. Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center – Nashville, TN
3. The Venetian and Palazzo Resort, Hotel & Casinos – Las Vegas, NV
4. Omni Nashville Hotel – Nashville, TN
5. Hyatt Regency Chicago – Chicago, IL
6. Hilton San Diego Bayfront – San Diego, CA
7. Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center – Grapevine, TX
8. Hilton Anatole – Dallas, TX
9. Fontainebleau Miami Beach – Miami, FL
10. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Autograph Collection® – Las Vegas, NV

“Hotels are aggressively competing for group business, which can be a substantial part of their revenue mix and more profitable than leisure or transient business travel,” said Bharet Malhotra, senior vice president of sales for the Cvent Supplier Network. “This year’s list has a number of changes throughout the top 100, including 18 new properties that knocked some off of last year’s list. Hotels are constantly investing in upgrades to their meeting and room space as well as their capabilities for supporting meetings and events.”

Malhotra added: “In developing the Cvent Supplier Network, we have created a robust marketplace that serves as a funnel delivering group business in volume to the hotel industry and helping hotels with the critical first step of winning group business: creating visibility among a huge audience of event planners.”

Cvent evaluated hotel properties that generated business through the Cvent Supplier Network from September 2013 through August 2014. The properties were ranked on various criteria, including total requests for proposals (RFPs), awarded RFPs, total room nights, awarded room nights, major metropolitan area (MMA) market share, conversion rate, and the hotel's unique profile visits in the Cvent Supplier Network. To qualify for inclusion, hotels had to have more than 50,000 square feet of total meetings space and more than 10 or more meeting rooms. The criteria are designed to provide the most accurate reflection of the top meeting hotels in the U.S.

Featuring more than 218,000 hotels, resorts and special event venues, the Cvent Supplier Network is one of the world's largest and most accurate databases of detailed venue information. It contains listings of hotels and other venues in more than 175 countries that can be searched and filtered based on approximately 200 characteristics and data fields. Suppliers are able to reach new customers, including the tens of thousands of meeting planners who use the Cvent Supplier Network globally, thereby helping hotels maximize their existing sales and marketing resources.

See the full list of the Top 100 U.S. Meeting Hotels at Cvent

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TravelClick acquires hotel video solutions provider TVtrip

January 14, 2015

TravelClick has purchased TVtrip, the leading provider of video creation and distribution services for hotels around the globe, headquartered in Paris, France.

“We are excited to welcome TVtrip’s unique offering and highly talented team to TravelClick,” said Larry Kutscher, CEO of TravelClick. “As video continues to increasingly influence online purchasing habits, leading hoteliers are embracing and utilizing video content to their advantage to drive greater web traffic and conversion. TVtrip has developed a unique solution that allows hoteliers to create and deploy high quality, high impact video solutions in an affordable manner. By adding TVtrip’s offering into TravelClick’s suite of solutions, we will rapidly expand TVtrip’s reach and make their video solutions accessible to the more than 38,000 hoteliers around the world that rely on us to build their websites, develop digital marketing strategies and utilize our Central Reservation System, iHotelier.”

Over the past seven years, TVtrip has carved out an industry leading position creating, producing and distributing videos for hotels globally in a scalable manner that optimizes their online presence and performance. As part of the acquisition, TVtrip’s three co-founders and team will remain an integral part of the business and continue to drive its strategy and growth, leveraging TravelClick’s global products and resources.

“TravelClick’s strategy has always been to offer best- in- class products to help our hotel clients achieve their operational and revenue growth objectives,” said Kutscher. “The acquisition of TVtrip provides us with a talented team with deep hospitality and media experience, a scalable platform that will enable us to produce and distribute video content that showcases the unique qualities of our clients’ properties, optimizes the content to improve the shopping experience and ultimately drives more bookings through their websites and other online channels.”

“As one of the largest and most respected providers of technology and marketing solutions to hoteliers, we are confident that joining forces with TravelClick will allow TVtrip to expand our international reach, continue to innovate, and leverage TravelClick’s global infrastructure to service our customers,” said Marc Ruff, President of TVtrip. “Capitalizing on TravelClick’s team of local-market experts located around the globe, combined with their robust digital offering, more hoteliers will be able to effectively integrate TVtrip’s offerings into their overall digital strategies.”

Related Link: TravelClick

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The Pinterest potential

January 14, 2015

Overrated. Over-hyped. Dripping with vanity. These are three phrases you will never hear someone use in a coherent sentence to describe Pinterest.

This impressive social sharing platform has been gliding under the radar for so long now, it’s time we realize its influence and include it in the conversation along with the other social media royalty.

In fact, over the course of the next three minutes, you may just realize Pinterest is the hidden artillery you need to round out your 2015 plan.

Get the full story at Leonardo

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Why rate should be king in 2015

January 13, 2015

The group market is where sales teams need to beef up. Recent reports say that the ADR for transients is well above what it is for group ADR. While the former has been running at around 4- to 5-percent growth, group ADR is only in the area of about 1- to 2-percent growth. therefore, rates quoted for groups need some attention, which, translated, means raise them!

Hotel sales staffs need to do more in the area of advance bookings, especially for the next one to two years. We have to pay attention to what will happen within the next couple of years with regard to competing hotels. The pipeline has been growing and investors, developers, owners and operators will, for sure, be seeking to develop new properties. This always seems to happen in our industry as soon as we have an excellent year in building occupancy and higher rates. So, we need to be on the lookout for more competition coming in within the next couple of years.

GMs should be continually talking to sales folks about getting the rate up. Rate should be king this coming year because that is what generates profit for a property.

Get the full stoy at Hotel Management

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Why brands should consider working with travel bloggers

January 13, 2015

To get a feel for travel blogger outreach strategies let’s start with a top level overview of how marketers are finding creativity and success.

Fashion: All types of fashion brands have jumped on the travel bloggers band wagon. By far, the most popular strategy is for brands to send bloggers clothing or accessories specific for a blogger’s upcoming trip. Many fashion brands create an ongoing strategy with a handful of bloggers and send them an outfit for all of their trips. This leads to authentic and visual content from admired influencers.

Hotels and Resorts: The way destination locations are working with travel bloggers is advancing quickly. Some hotels even offer discounts and free rooms to influencers with large followings in exchange for social media and blog posts.

Restaurants: Restaurants, who have a country wide location, have teamed up with travel bloggers to highlight new food and strategies. From gluten free menus to image revamping—connecting with travel bloggers has helped restaurant chains get their message across to many people. After all, who doesn’t go out to eat?

Get the full story at Maximize Social Business

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Uber, Lyft, Airbnb harness users to lobby lawmakers for them

January 13, 2015

The three exemplify a new generation of technology that upends traditional businesses like taxis and hotels. Uber and Lyft arrange paid rides in people’s cars, while Airbnb arranges vacation rentals in people’s homes. They generate controversy as they skirt laws regarding insurance, safety and taxes. But the companies say that “20th century” rules need to be updated for their new ways of doing business.

And they’ve had remarkable success in mobilizing customers to lobby for them.

“These companies are disruptive in their lobbying strategies,” as well as their business models, said Edward Walker, associate professor and vice chairman of the UCLA sociology department.

Get the full story at SFGate

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Airbnb visualizes global guest check-ins with a slick interactive map

January 13, 2015

Within the map, you can click to see activity around our #OneLessStranger movement and click on the designated icons to see what the community is doing with the challenge. The movement has inspired all types of people, and all kinds of creative acts, and this map is where you can see them playing out, in real-time, as they happen.

The map displays travelers checking in on Airbnb all over the world, along with other interesting activity. Of those 550K guests checking in on New Year’s Eve, 91K were new guests using Airbnb for the first time. The company had 22K new hosts opening their home to travelers, adding to our global community of over 1 million places to stay.

Explore the map

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Where does search fit in digital marketing in 2015?

January 13, 2015

A key objective of any digital marketing initiative should be to create or strengthen associations between your brand and relevant topics, opinions and feelings. Whether it’s a blog post, Yelp review, Facebook status, Google Places Profile or YouTube video, any and all touch points that people have with your brand content are an opportunity to leave a lasting impression and motivate future actions (like becoming a customer).

Capturing mindshare for your brand’s key topics means your content needs to reach the right people, at the right time and leave a lasting positive impression. In other words, you need to be the best answer.

But first, you need to understand the question, who is asking and how. Then it’s simply a matter of translating (optimizing) your content into the language your potential customers are already using (or may use in the future).

Search marketing is a perfect solution to this challenge because it seeks to both understand the question and provide the best answer, where it will be found.

Get the full story at TopRank

Read also "Google accounts for over 90% of global organic search traffic, according to one source" at eMarketer

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What consumers dislike about mobile email

January 13, 2015

Other top complaints with emails received on smartphones include the following: Messages are too small to read and interact with (32% don't like); difficulty seeing full websites on devices after clicking through (26%); and messages are often jumbled/not well-formatted for phones (21%).

Some 18% of respondents say they have no problems at all with their mobile email experience.

Overall, nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) say they use their mobile phones to access one or more email accounts.

Get the full story at MarketingProfs

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Top 3 tips to handle online guest reviews of your hotel

January 13, 2015

Guest experiences with hotels online aren’t anything new – which is why review sites hold so much significance for hotels in today’s age of real-time information. A staggering 93% of global travellers see online reviews influencing their booking decisions.

Sure, some travellers are impulsive, emotional or spontaneous. But there exist many travellers, who’re methodical in their approach and love to document their experiences to guide other travellers in making informed choices on their next business/leisure trip. 53% of TripAdvisor users say they won’t book a hotel if it has zero reviews (PhoCusWright, September 2012).

In such a scenario, hotel operators much master the art of handling online guest reviews for your hotel to stay competitive. Given equal pricing, guests are 3.9 times more likely to choose the hotel with the higher reviews.

Get the full story at RateGain

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Canadian hotel chain partners with eRevMax for real-time price intelligence

January 13, 2015

Monte Carlo Inns manages eight mid-segment properties in southern Ontario. RateTiger Corp will provide all properties of the group with the ability to analyze the room rates of their competitive set across multiple sales channels, brand sites, wholesalers and global distribution systems in real-time. Corp’s Rate Parameter Shopping capability will help them to benchmark their competitors on key metrics such as room type, length of stay and meal plan for true like-for-like comparisons. Further, they will be able to track how branded properties are positioned across sales channels through Corp’s sophisticated ranking report.

“RateTiger Corp gives an instant overview of marketplace to monitor rate trends, market prices, rate parity as well as other pricing requirements for the business. Having tested other solutions available in the market, we can say RateTiger Corp is far ahead of others when it comes to accuracy and usability. Features like Rate Parameter, Ranking and compliance reports have helped us to optimize rate strategy and improve relations with our channel partners. The real-time data helps to respond to market dynamics on our various compsets and increase online sales,” said Justin Meffe, Vice President of Operations for the Monte Carlo Inns.

“Canada is a mature online travel market, and we are happy that Monte Carlo Inns has selected us as their preferred price intelligence solution provider. Being trusted by another leading hotel chain in the region to support its rate optimization strategy demonstrates the importance of our role within the industry,” said Ricky Castoldi, VP Sales - Americas, eRevMax.

Corp offers complete rate transparency to Hotels and other travel intermediaries like Online Travel Agents, Event Managers and Travel Management Companies, to stay ahead of the curve in market dynamics. Any rate anomaly is automatically notified to the property through an e-mail alert, thereby eliminating the need for manual intervention. Data can be extracted from thousands of travel websites and hotel sites including the Global Distribution Systems."

Related Link: eRevMax

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How hotels can capitalize on the millenial travel trend

January 12, 2015

Of the more than 74 million Millennials in the U.S., one in four plan to take more overnight leisure trips in 2015., an online booking site, recently reported that of more than 2,000 adults 18 years old and older surveyed, Millennial travelers have a greater desire to travel more than their older counterparts. While they budget for travel, they will still look for the best deals.

Millennials are not only more deal conscious but they also tend to be more spontaneous. Skift reports that the top day of the week for travel searches is Saturday, a digital sign of last-minute decision making.

"Millennial travelers are impacting the travel industry in a big way, particularly given their overall excitement and interest in taking more trips," said Henrik Kjellberg, president of the Hotwire Group.

Get the full story at Asian Hospitality

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Travel industry shows rest of pack how to leverage mobile data

January 12, 2015

Sixty-seven percent of travel executives say they have achieved competitive advantage in customer engagement and loyalty through data-driven marketing, with a big contribution from mobile, according to the report, “Data Driven and Digitally Savvy: The Rise of the New Marketing Organization.” The results also show how integrating mobile data with other digital initiatives can increase customer loyalty, customer engagement and market growth.

Fifty-six percent of travel executives said data-driven marketing gave them an edge in new customers and 59 percent in customer satisfaction.

Retail was another leader, with 55 percent of retail executives saying data-driven marketing helped them achieve competitive advantage in customer engagement/loyalty, 52 percent in new customers and 50 percent in customer satisfaction.

Get the full story at the Mobile Marketer

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Airbnb & Co. not popular with business travelers in Europe

January 12, 2015

While healthy and positive, this figure is a slight drop on previous years. In 2014, 37 per cent of budgets rose and in 2012 and 2011 39 per cent of buyers had more money to spend. Almost half - 45 per cent - of buyers expect to manage more trips this year. This compares to 48 per cent in 2014. Half (47 per cent) of buyers expect their overall costs to rise.

179 travel buyers took part in the Business Travel Show survey - 73 per cent from the UK and 27 per cent from continental Europe. The full Corporate Travel Industry Trend Report featuring analysis going back to 2008 will be available to all buyers who pre-register for the show, which takes place 25-26 February 2015 at Olympia Grand in London.

Airline Spend

In 2014, 36 per cent of buyers enjoyed bigger airline budgets and a further third predict airline budgets will increase again for 2015.

- Nine per cent of buyers don’t currently – or have plans to – use low cost carriers. 26 per cent plan to increase their usage in 2015.

- 38 per cent of buyers bought fewer business class seats in 2014 and 23 per cent will only provide business class travel for flights over eight hours.

Accommodation Spend

Almost one third (31 per cent) of buyers had more to spend on accommodation in 2014.

- All buyers use budget hotels, though for 82 per cent they account for less than 50 per cent of the room nights they book. 12 per cent of buyers used budget accommodation more or significantly more in 2014.

- Serviced apartments account for less than 10 per cent of room nights for 84 per cent of buyers though 12 per cent of buyers did increase their use of apartments in 2014.

Martin Searle, senior category manager – travel services, Xchanging, confirmed: “Minimising cost increases in an apparently recovering economy remains a huge challenge for business travel buyers in 2015.”

Related Link: Business Travel Show

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Wellness travel: Four trends for 2015

January 12, 2015

The main driving forces behind this development: The aging of the boomer population, the realization by more people that the key to good health and longevity lies in their own hands, and, simply, more peoples’ adoption of a “wellness lifestyle” that they want to maintain while traveling for business and pleasure.

As the industry continues to evolve and mature, here are four top wellness trends to watch.

Get the full story at Travel Market Report

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Beacons will conquer travel marketing in 2015 despite privacy concerns

January 12, 2015

According to a recent survey by flight information company Flightview, 53 percent of travelers in the United States would like for airports to track their mobile devices to send real-time updates on gate changes and flight times, but would not want to release personally identifiable information. However, the growing rise of airline mobile applications and the demand for easy mobile booking, mobile payments and relevant updates are likely to push airports to incorporate beacon technology.

“Airports are a perfect environment for beacons to succeed: an indoor space that could benefit from hyper-localized tracking and a captive audience that's looking to kill time,” said Jordan Gray, manager of Creative Labs at Organic, San Francisco. “Since airlines don't have a great track record for making use of big data, I wouldn't look to them to implement beacons – that infrastructure will have to come from the airport itself.

“That's not necessarily a bad thing: similar to the retail space where brands have to go through the store to provide offers, it will be beneficial to have a gatekeeper in the middle to make the most of the experience for brands and consumers, airlines and passengers.”

Get the full story at the Mobile Marketer

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Pew Research’s Social Media Update 2014

January 12, 2015

Other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn saw significant increases over the past year in the proportion of online adults who now use their sites.

The results in this report are based on the 81% of American adults who use the internet. Other key findings:

- Multi-platform use is on the rise: 52% of online adults now use two or more social media sites, a significant increase from 2013, when it stood at 42% of internet users.

- For the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older (56%) use Facebook. This represents 31% of all seniors.

- For the first time, roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram. And half 0f all Instagram users (49%) use the site daily.

- For the first time, the share of internet users with college educations using LinkedIn reached 50%.

- Women dominate Pinterest: 42% of online women now use the platform, compared with 13% of online men.

Get the full story at PewResearch

Read also "Facebook Users Aren’t Facebook-Exclusive" at AllFacebook

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EyeforTravel’s Start-up Village set to attract top travel start-up talent

January 12, 2015

The success of sites like Airbnb, Uber and HotelTonight is fueling a new wave of online travel start—ups set to take flight in 2015.

Mobile, data, technology and social media are just some of the factors transforming the way we purchase travel – providing an exciting opportunity for start-ups and solutions providers to get a foothold in this billion dollar industry.

But for every travel start-up that succeeds, hundreds (if not thousands) fail. What are the secrets to success? What can start-ups learn from those who have boldly gone before them? What do investors really see value in?

EyeforTravel’s Start-up Village will kick off with a number of ‘bootcamp’ style sessions. Firstly, audience members will have the opportunity to quiz North America’s top travel entrepreneurs including Erik Blachford, Former President & CEO, Expedia. The entrepreneurs will be on-hand to share the mistakes to avoid as well as share vital tips to success.

One of the most difficult stages to go through as a start-up is looking to attract start-up capital. The open discussion format will allow entrepreneurs, experts and investors to share where they feel start-ups go wrong in their approach to seeking investment.

“Rapid technological change means it’s an exciting time for start-ups in the online travel space. But even the best ideas can fail if the people behind them don’t get the right advice and meet the right contacts.” says Gina Baillie, GM, EyeforTravel.

“EyeforTravel’s Start-up Village is an affordable way for travel start-ups to get a foothold in the cut-throat online travel industry,” continued Baillie.

Morning interactive sessions will be followed by EyeforTravel’s Start-up Awards 2015 competition. Adhering to stringent judging criteria, a selection of start-ups will battle it out to win ‘Best Travel Start-up 2015’.

Packed with networking opportunities, the EyeforTravel Start-up Village is open to start-ups, investors, entrepreneurs, and all other interested parties to attend. Entrance passes to the event can be purchased online.

EyeforTravel’s Start-up Awards are open to all online travel start-ups who started their company after June 2011 and have less than $2.5 million in financing. All entries must be received by March 6th, 2015.

Related Link: EyeForTravel Start-Up Village

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Webinar: Action Plan 2015: The Smart Hotelier’s Top 10 Digital Marketing Resolutions

January 12, 2015

Speakers will include Senior Vice President of Marketing, Mariana Mechoso Safer, and Senior Marketing Manager, Sara O’Brien.

While hoteliers have a world of opportunities and next-generation technologies available to increase direct online bookings, there is a sense of confusion on where to begin. In the webinar we will provide an action plan to follow during 2015, helping hoteliers concentrate on what’s most important: engaging key customer segments and increasing direct online conversions and revenues!

The 2015 Action Plan Webinar will address the following topics:

- How to structure your property’s 2015 digital marketing budget so you can shift share from the OTAs to the direct online channel, and better utilize your marketing dollars to generate the highest returns possible from the property website and digital marketing initiatives.

- How to weave the latest digital technologies and marketing innovations into your 2015 marketing plans to maximize direct online revenues, address specific property business needs throughout the year, and meet all of your property website design, consulting and technology needs.

- How to gain market share and stay ahead of the competition and the OTAs by taking advantage of The Smart Hotelier’s 2015 Top 10 Digital Marketing Resolutions, including:

1. Dynamic Content Personalization to increase website engagement & revenue
2. Dynamic Rate Marketing (real time availability/pricing in marketing messages)
3. Multichannel marketing to reach travel planners throughout their booking journey
4. Shifting share from the OTAs
5. Budgeting & making smart investments
6. Avoiding fads/headlines
7. Search Engine Marketing (SEO & SEM)
8. Adaptive/Responsive Website Design
9. Content Management System requirements
10. How to choose your digital marketing partner

Attendees for the webinar can rest assured that they will gain all the knowledge and all the tools they need to build the most effective 2015 digital marketing strategy and action plan to drive high ROIs from the property website in 2015.

Join us for the complimentary “Action Plan 2015” webinar on Wednesday, January 14th at 11am – 12pm PST / 2-3pm EST. Click here to register.

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Why consumers abandon their online travel bookings

January 09, 2015

The travel industry spends billions of dollars every year driving traffic to their websites, yet 81% of visitors leave before completing their booking. SaleCycle decided to find out why.

As consumers, we’re all familiar with the idea of ‘shopping around’ for our dream holiday, or indeed just wanting to find a good deal on the next trip to visit family, friends or colleagues.

For marketers working in online travel - whether at an airline, hotel, OTA, cruise or car rental brand - booking abandonment can be a real headache, particularly if those abandoning consumers don’t return to complete their booking.

In September 2014, SaleCycle embarked on the first survey of its kind to ask why we abandon our bookings.

Get the full story at SaleCycle

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European online travel market will expand 7% in 2015

January 09, 2015

Optimism over Europe's recovery experienced in the first half of 2014 proved short-lived, as the French economy continued its slowdown into 2015 and Greece's fiscal woes continued to weigh heavily on Euro Zone stability.

Despite these challenges, online bookings expanded by 8% in 2013 and will continue to climb at a similar pace through 2016, according to Phocuswright's European Online Travel Overview Tenth Edition. "While growth in the total travel market has slowed, there is still ample opportunity to shift market share between Europe's many travel intermediaries and suppliers," states Luke Bujarski, director, research at Phocuswright.

Intense competition driven by disruptive innovation across all the major travel segments including air and accommodations finally pushed Europe's online market gross bookings past the €100 billion mark in 2013. "How Europe's leisure and business travelers choose to shop and book their travel will continue to evolve toward digital channels, despite the nagging political and economic turmoil impacting the region," says Bujarski.

"Tension between the EU and Russia over territories in the Ukraine and the subsequent collapse of the Russian ruble stunted travel from Russia to Western Europe," states Bujarski. "Meanwhile, political strife in Northern Africa and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa prompted many would-be visitors to the continent, particularly German and French travelers, to vacation within Europe instead."

At the same time, acceleration in the U.S. economy will likely increase trade between Europe and the U.S., driving demand for business travel to and from Europe. Falling oil prices and a weak euro relative to other global currencies could also reinvigorate the broader economy and travel demand as a whole.

While these and other factors shape where and how often Europeans travel, innovation and disruption in online channels will ultimately determine where and how Europe's lucrative traveler arranges travel. As of 2014, supplier web channels controlled 60% of the total online market. Online travel agencies on the other hand are pulling business away from traditional offline channels at a faster rate compared to supplier websites and apps.

Get the full story at PhoCusWright

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Travelport acquires stake in German tour operator platform

January 09, 2015

The strategic investment will significantly increase Travelport’s presence and reach in the German leisure travel industry, which at approximately €26 billion, is Europe’s largest[1]. A substantial portion of the leisure travel sector in Germany is comprised of tour operators offering their content, either on a pre-packaged or dynamically packaged basis. travel-IT provides a platform that enables the real time offer, search and booking of the unique content from all the major operators serving Germany, to consumers who purchase from travel retailers.

Over the past two years alone, Travelport has strategically invested over $475 million in developing its Travel Commerce Platform to address the trends, inefficiencies and unmet needs of the global travel industry. Travelport makes content available from some 400 network and low cost airlines, 600,000 individual hotel properties, all the major car rental companies and a host of other travel related content on its Travel Commerce Platform. It will now bring all of this experience and innovation to travel-IT’s business, introducing this powerful and highly competitive means of access for German tour operators to sell the widest range of products possible through on-line and off-line travel agencies, with state of the art features and capabilities.

Travelport's participation in equity of travel-IT was part of a wider transaction which also saw some of the leading German tour operators invest alongside.

Juergen Witte, Travelport’s Managing Director in Germany and Switzerland and Managing Director of travel-IT commented: “This is an exciting investment for Travelport. It will allow us to offer a full range of product and content for the largest economy in Europe, to both traditional and on-line retail travel agencies, supported by several of the leading tour operators in Germany. travel-IT offers some significant innovations to both travel agencies and tour operators which make the distribution and sale of leisure travel products better than older incumbent offerings.”

Michael Kalt, CEO of travel-IT: “Travelport is bringing with it real innovation that will transform our business for the long term. The investment marks a new milestone for our company and will increase revenue and growth for travel-IT and its partners. We plan to shake up the leisure sector and bring increased choice, flexibility and efficiency to tour operators, travel agencies and consumers.”

Gordon Wilson, President and CEO of Travelport, commented: “The announcement today rounds off a year that has seen a number of important strategic investments for Travelport in our Travel Commerce Platform. We have expanded our Beyond Air capabilities in the payments, corporate travel and hotel distribution areas with our increased investment in eNett, our investment into Locomote and our acquisition of Hotelzon respectively. This latest tuck-in investment in travel-IT for Germany is consistent with our strategy to address the previously unmet needs of our customers and to redefine travel commerce using newer and better technology to enable unrivalled access to travel content through empowered selling systems.”

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On the strength of the dollar, Americans travel abroad

January 09, 2015

The upside is that it makes traveling overseas cheaper for Americans. It is a kicker for U.S.-based hotel brands that have a large spread of international hotels - think Marriott, Hilton, etc. Many U.S. travelers, even though they are traveling abroad, appreciate the familiarity and perceived safety of U.S. brands.

The stronger U.S. dollar is also helping publicly traded hotel companies on Wall Street.

Conversely, a stronger U.S. dollar tends to curb overseas travel to the U.S. However, lower oil and gas prices allow U.S. travelers to hit the road more easily, which should mitigate some of the loss in overseas dollars.

Get the full story at Hotel Management

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Marriott leads travel brands in Snapchat-focused marketing

January 09, 2015

The three month-long campaign kicks off on Dec. 18 by launching the @MarriottHotels channel on Snapchat, featuring content from social media influencer Shaun McBride. In a bid to entice a younger demographic of travelers, each of the four chosen influencers will be traveling to key Marriott properties worldwide, taking trip itinerary suggestions from fans and documenting their journeys on Snapchat.

“Exploring new advertising territories with a platform like Snapchat is smart for any brand looking to reach a younger audience,” said Kevin Canty, vice president of sales at Kargo, New York. “Perhaps the greatest opportunity with an effort like this is the need to create customized content for mobile marketing.

“Too many brands try to fit their above-the-fold creative into mobile windows, and that doesn't always work. Creating unique content for a specific platform like Snapchat will likely lend credibility to the campaign with its target audience.”

Get the full story at the Mobile Marketer

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Consumers don’t write online reviews to release anger

January 09, 2015

While this is good news for businesses that don’t provide the best customer service, it also means that those who do want good reviews need to work extra hard to please customers - not just do what they need to do to get by during the purchase process.

YouGov respondents claimed to view online reviews positively, with 86% saying they were trustworthy, but further questioning suggested they did indeed have negative feelings about online review practices today.

Fully 64% of internet users said they thought individuals wrote online reviews without actually having purchased a product or service, and 68% believed businesses posted negative feedback about competitors’ products and services. Even more, a whopping 80% thought businesses wrote positive online reviews about themselves.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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How to deal with your hotel’s digital marketing challenges

January 09, 2015

Great storytellers create impressions that catch your attention, are memorable and inspire you to take action and share; the same results that hotel marketers hope to achieve with their digital marketing efforts.

Using Vizlly, Leonardo’s new Multi-Channel Digital Marketing System, our experts explained how to navigate the complex shopping journey to drive bookings. Other topics covered include:

• Keep up with content creation and syndication
• Differentiate your hotel from the competition
• Manage your time and resources more effectively

If you couldn’t attend, check out the highlights from the webinar in this short video at Leonardo

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Five technologies that will impact your hotel experience in the future

January 09, 2015

1. Keyless Entry

You will soon be able to bypass the front desk altogether and go straight to your room with mobile room keys. Proxce, a Silicon Valley-based company, has developed an identity management system that allows guests check-in with their smartphone. "Right now people think of keyless entry as a technology of the future, however it's here and it will be more common than you think." said CEO Madhu Madhusudhanan.

2. Mobile Payment

Mobile payment systems are rapidly being adopted by retail businesses all over the world and will surpass $1.3 trillion by 2017. Payment technologies such as Apple Pay and digital currency like BitCoin ensure that these systems will be more widely accepted in the future.

3. Social Media-Based Customer Service

The next time you have a complaint during your stay will you resolve your issues with the staff or air your grievance on Twitter or Facebook? More hotel guests are turning to social media sites to vent when complaints arise.

Get the full story at Hospitality Net

Related Link: Proxce Inc.

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How brands connect with the modern mobile traveler

January 08, 2015

The full series includes takeaways such as:

- Millennials lead the mobile travel charge: most mobile travelers are consumers between 25-44 years old. They spend, on average, 35% of their time looking for travel content on smartphones and tablets.

- Mobile bookings have become a basic customer expectation: mobile bookings grew 20% in the first half of 2014 compared to only a 2% increase in desktop bookings.

- Multichannel is key to the customer journey: 40% of Expedia customers use multiple devices to book while almost half of all travelers research destinations and travel ideas before booking on another device.

- Loyalty programs greatly increase the chances a consumer will book a flight or hotel room by up to 86%, with approximately 50% of millennials considering loyalty programs “very important” to booking.

- 4 out of 10 travelers are now willing to share personal data in order to receive personalized benefits

View the presentation at SlideShare or download the eBook at Usablenet

Read also "Mobile’s growing adoption prompts festive flurry of usage claims in travel" at Travolution

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10 essential features for travel websites

January 08, 2015

The article illustrates with examples the following ten essential features of modern travel websites:

- Straightforward search filters

- Predictive search

- Huge beautiful images

- Customer reviews

- Favourites list

- Simple, idiot-proof calendars

- Clear pricing without hidden fees

- Use evocative and interesting copy

- Google map integration

- Simple checkout

Get the full story at Econsultancy

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Affordable luxury, the new take on luxury lodging

January 08, 2015

Luxury is back. That’s according to recent data from PKF Hospitality Research showing RevPAR for the luxury-lodging segment jumping almost 7 percent in 2015. And while it’s clear that any setbacks the luxury tier suffered during the downturn are a distant memory, few new luxury projects are under construction, given their high cost relative to the construction costs associated with other lodging segments. Partly in response, a new take on luxury lodging has sprung up, a variation on a theme loosely referred to as “affordable luxury.”

Clearly, there’s no one definition of the term, but that hasn’t kept major hotel companies like Marriott International, Wyndham Hotel Group and Hyatt Hotels Corp. from introducing brands they feel will help satisfy this unmet consumer need. While less expensive for developers to build and consumers to book than the usual luxury property, these hotels are still distinct from the usual mid-price lodging product in design and ambience. “Our market research has identified an independent traveler who is looking for a different type of experience than the one offered by traditional hotels, where consistency has been highly valued,” said Eric Jacobs, CDO for select-service and extended-stay hotels in North America at Marriott International.

Get the full story at Hotel Management

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Future hotel design to fuse old and new trends

January 08, 2015

Some anticipated trends that we’re already starting to see take shape include:

- Storytelling: The rules are changing. Design isn’t driven by the new ‘it’ color or motif. Brands today integrate storytelling into every aspect of the property, from the public spaces to the guest rooms. This will continue to be important moving forward.

- The pressure on luxury: The select-service and mid-tier brands have stepped up their design in a huge way over the last decade, putting the pressure on luxury to differentiate itself in a new way.

- The disappearing front desk: We’ll be seeing how brands accommodate guests that want a human touch vs. those that want a tech-friendly check-in.

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How to get your website messaging right

January 08, 2015

Website aesthetics are important and should not be ignored, but tweaking website design elements to increase clicks will go only so far. A green or red CTA button won’t make a difference if people don’t understand in those first moments how your business creates value for them.

Communicating your message clearly isn’t always as easy as it sounds. First, it’s a common mistake to believe your visitors see your website the way you do and already know the benefits of your product/service. They don’t, and educating them is dependent upon your website messaging.

Eugene Schwartz was a legendary copywriter whose material is still highly applicable to marketing and business today. He encourages us to enter into the conversations your prospects are having in their own heads. To get your messaging right and capture your visitors’ interest and trust, you must answer the questions running through the minds of your target audience.

Get the full story at KissMetrics

Read also "How reducing options can increase conversion" at KissMetrics

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New payment options make slow gains in Europe

January 08, 2015

The research uncovered significant variations from one country to another. In France, for example, bank cards were more popular than elsewhere, while respondents in Germany were more attached to cash than those in other nations. Those in Italy were more likely than respondents in other countries to look forward to electronic wallets and other innovative payment schemes, while many in Poland were early adopters of contactless cards.

Except in Poland, at least 80% of those polled said they used cash most often for small everyday purchases, such as grocery items and tobacco. Generally, though, bank cards were used more than any other option for grocery shopping. Respondents in France, particularly, were sold on card transactions for groceries (77%).

Overall, there was strong support for continuing to use cash and bank cards as the preferred means of payment, though the balance between the two was tilting, as more consumers planned to adopt cards (including contactless bank cards) instead of cash for future payments.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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buuteeq becomes BookingSuite

January 08, 2015

Buuteeq published the following article on its blog:

"As of today, buuteeq officially joins forces with, a division of the Priceline Group, which acquired us back in June.

Since then, we’ve continued to provide our customers with amazing digital marketing services designed specifically for the hospitality industry. The only difference today is that the same buuteeq you know and love will operate under a new name, BookingSuite, a unit of

Please visit our new website at for more information."

Related Link: BookingSuite

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HUAZHU Hotels Group sharpens portfolio strategy, targets network expansion

January 08, 2015

By Ritesh Gupta

Being in control of distribution is always high on the agenda of hotel organizations. Other than negotiating with online travel agencies (OTAs), and other online intermediaries, hotels keep a tight vigil on initiatives such as OTAs’ promotional campaigns that can have an adverse impact on their pricing strategies.

China is one market where there is no dearth of action in the distribution space, and seemingly new battle lines are emerging on a regular basis.

HUAZHU, which recently finalized a strategic alliance with Accor, is focused on sustaining a strong distribution mix that is tilted “heavily” towards the online direct business.

“Direct sales currently accounts for 90% of our total bookings, and around 10% of room nights come from OTA and offline agents,” shared Jenny Zhang, CFO and CSO, HUAZHU. “Our focus would be on sustaining this distribution mix, as we head for major expansion in the next five years.”

The group has aggressive growth plans, and as Zhang says, this would mean that the group would emerge as a key room supplier or a customer for OTAs. Though Zhang didn’t comment on how the increasing inventory would eventually impact the financial structure of the deals, she acknowledged that there is scope for significant changes in the long term depending upon how “negotiations” shape up.

Bigger network, stronger say in distribution

“China has huge market potential, and our strategy is to expand our coverage aggressively,” shared Zhang. The group’s primary objective is to go for hotel network expansion, featuring multiple brands, and thriving franchised and managed hotels portfolio.

If we assess the market in China, the market share of established groups is as follows - HUAZHU (2%), Home Inns (2.4%), Plateno (2%), and Jin Jiang Group (1.6%). HUAZHU shared the same in its Q3 presentation, mentioning that the overall addressable hotel market features 1 – 5 star hotels, economy and midscale hotel chains and other independent hotels or guest houses. There is ample scope for growth in this share, and the addressable hotel market cumulatively is around 110,000.

The team at HUAZHU is focused on strengthening its economy and midscale portfolio, especially with the addition of Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis and Ibis Styles (the MEB portfolio). HUAZHU has bagged the exclusive rights as a master franchisee in mainland China, Taiwan region and Mongolia for these brands. The group’s brands in the economy hotel segment include ibis Styles, ibis, Hanting, Elan and Hi Inn, and the midscale category now features JI, Starway, Novotel and Mercure. By the end of September, 2014, the group had 604 leased hotels, 1,237 manachised (franchised and managed) hotels, and eight franchised Starway hotels in operation in 282 cities.

Zhang mentioned that the group intends to open 350-400 new hotels under the MEB portfolio in the next five years, representing a CAGR of 34% to 37% from the existing network. “We are targeting 5000-6000 properties in the economy and mid-scale segment over the next five years,” she said.

Zhang is optimistic about building on its direct sales capability. And one crucial element that is going to drive the online direct sales is the overall customer experience. “Today if a guest walks in our property, they can check-in in less than 30 seconds,” promised Zhang. “We already offer guests an option to select a room via our website and mobile app. One can see the floor, the room, and then choose a room accordingly. Their ID can be scanned once they reach the property, and they are all set for the room. Even check-out can be done in advance.”

Going digital

Zhang shard that the group’s digital channels currently account for 40% of the group’s bookings, and mobile contributes a majority of the bookings in the digital channel. The group also can’t ignore the other avenues such as call centre, walk-in customers etc. as these remain a major source of bookings, too. “We are constantly improving our website, with focus on standardized and transparent facets of our rooms for our economy and mid-scale segment,” said Zhang. The group has been working on an investment plan pertaining to IT spending to enhance its digital strategy, especially focused on introducing new features in its mobile app, and website, but details haven’t been shared.

In fact, the company, in its Q3 earnings call, referred to Accor’s five-year €225 million digital-focused investment plan, and mentioned that HUAZHU is developing its own strategy. Today hotel organizations are investing in IT infrastructure and data management to offer relevant, contextual experiences across the journey of a guest. Also, the infrastructure is being transformed to ensure that operational decisions are driven by analytics, based on the data garnered, including at the property level.

Other than its IT investment, for HUAZHU, the alliance with Accor would also result in several significant synergies, but it’s too early to divulge details. For instance, the teams are looking at interfaces in order to capitalise on respective CRS for maximizing bookings. The expanded membership base would have 47 million members, and hotel owners stand to gain from increased traffic. “We have already started work on English content for HUAZHU’s properties, and they are going to feature on Accor’s English website. Similarly, a lot of other plans are in the offing, but can’t share much at this juncture,” shared Zhang. Similarly the two groups are looking at automating conversion for loyalty-related initiatives in order to simplify the assimilation of benefits for loyal members. “A member of HUAZHU loyalty programme would be shown option on how to redeem their points, say at an Accor property. This is again a work in progress, and special features/ tabs are being worked out for websites so that loyalists would benefit from them.

Being in control

No hotel group is immune to some of the marketing tactics adopted by OTAs that can have an adverse impact on a hotel brand. Zhang acknowledges this and says, “Major OTAs, being heavily funded (or with aggressive marketing expenditure in their arsenal), tend to burn money. But we know this is not going to last forever.” Expanding on this, she said, “The tactics where OTAs tend to offer coupons or rebates attract bookings, they are driven by competition among the OTAs, but all of this is not sustainable. For instance, we are completely against rebates, as it impacts our price strategy.”

Zhang is clear that the group-owned channels are the avenues for bookers to gain access to the lowest price. So what about OTAs and mobile specialists offering hefty discounts for the last-minute bookings on their sites and apps? The team at HUAZHU doesn’t participate in such revenue generation tactics, said Zhang, who added that the group works with around 10 OTAs in China.

The group’s selling and marketing expenses for six months starting from April 2014 stood at close to $15m. Other than strengthening its e-commerce capabilities and promoting its brand, and membership programs, the group has invested in IT services to pave way for cost reduction for its franchise hotels. While Zhang didn’t share details, hotel groups are increasingly eyeing cloud based solutions for various reasons. Be it for offering customers new technology, say activating new payment solution in a multi-channel world or precise view of last minute room availability, hotels are refining their customer-facing and backend systems.

Other than improving upon its infrastructure for group hotels, HUAZHU is also working on plans to set up a distribution platform that would enable independent hotels, and small chains to capitalize on the group’s expertise.

“We are assessing a service provider’s role in order to help hotels in China in several areas. These include distribution, IT services, and loyalty-related initiatives to garner incremental revenue,” shared Zhang. She said the platform is still in the development mode, but eventually all non-HUAZHU hotel brands would be offered a transactional platform. Wouldn’t there be a cannibalization? “Not really,” shared Zhang. She added, “We are mainly looking at working with upscale hotels, a category where HUAZHU is considering additional properties. Our core strength continues to be economy and mid-scale brands.”

As for the service provider’s role, HUAZHU is open to a variety of services, including aiding hotels in indentifying the most suitable distribution tool, apt infrastructure for broadband access, security registration for id scan at the property level etc.

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Travel advertising: Which trends are taking off?

January 07, 2015

The takeaways from Expedia Media Solutions were:

- The fastest growth will come from social and video commercial channels.

- In 2013, the number of travelers who used online video for planning increased 10 percent year-over-year.

- Social and video ad budgets will nearly triple between 2011 and 2014, accounting for 18 percent of all digital dollars.

- 84 percent of travel advertisers are currently using or experimenting with Facebook page photos or link photos.

- 68 percent of travel advertisers say Facebook ads are at least moderately effective, while 53 percent rank Foursquare as the least effective form of social advertising.

- 46 percent of ad buyers find social extremely or very effective for generating brand awareness.

- In the coming year, 30 percent of advertisers plan to experiment or adopt Twitter‘s lead-generation cards, while 28 percent will look to Google Plus or Pinterest.

- 33 percent of advertisers are currently using targeting or retargeting technologies, while 12 percent of advertisers are currently experimenting with these methods.

Get the full story and infographic at AllFacebook

Read also "Are marketers underestimating the power of Facebook ads?" at Internet Retailer

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Mobile accounts for 51% of travel content social shares

January 07, 2015

Other research suggests mobile has solidified its position among digital travel content visitors. A July 2014 study by comScore for Expedia Media Solutions found that 40% of the US travel audience only accessed digital travel content via mobile. Mobile-only visitors totaled 62 million, compared with 52 million people who only engaged with digital travel content through a PC.

eMarketer’s estimates for digital travel researchers put mobile users in the minority, with 61.1 million US consumers expected to look up information prior to a trip via a mobile device this year—representing 47.4% of digital travel researchers. But next year, the roles will reverse as the number of total mobile travel researchers rises nearly 20% to hit 72.8 million, or 54.6% of those who research travel digitally. By 2018, mobile travel researchers will account for 71.3% of digital travel researchers in the US.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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How hotels plan to shine on social media in 2015

January 07, 2015

Managing social media in 2014 was increasingly challenging for hotel marketers as the digital landscape became even more fragmented, according to sources.

To be successful in 2015, hotel marketers must create authentic engagement and recognize and reward brand loyalists every step of the way.

In HNN’s virtual social media roundtable experts in the field reflect on their biggest wins from the year that was and to flag some of the obstacles for the year ahead.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

Read also "Social media as we know it is over" at Tnooz

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Competition shaking up online travel space

January 07, 2015

The online travel agencies (OTAs) had gross bookings exceeding $150 billion in 2013, representing 38% of the global online market and 13% of the global travel market. The online travel sales figure is estimated to be growing at 12% annually. OTAs have 15% of total hotel sales in the U.S. with around $19 billion of gross bookings and are expected to grow 5-6% over the next two years. OTAs customer segments span across business, leisure, and group. OLT websites play multiple roles, acting as marketing engines, booking engines, and search engines, as well as existing as an execution platform for customers.

The global leaders in this space clude: Priceline and Expedia, which individually sell more than 22 million and 12 million hotel room nights per month, respectively. The world’s largest travel review platform, TripAdvisor receives 315 million monthly unique visitors, on its website.

This article discusses three companies - Amazon, Alibaba and TripAdvisor - who are gearing up to provide competition to the existing leaders in the coming months.

Get the full story at Trefis

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