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Airbnb offers to pay hotel taxes, NY hotel lobby says ‘no thanks’

April 18, 2014

Airbnb has taken steps to ensure that it will be able to begin collecting hotel occupancy taxes, possibly as soon as this summer. It’s just waiting on legislators and local regulators to give it the green light to do so in markets like San Francisco and New York.

But it seems the hotel lobby in New York doesn’t actually want Airbnb to pay hotel taxes, it just wants to complain about Airbnb not paying hotel taxes.

In a blog post this morning, Airbnb noted a shift in rhetoric from the same leaders in the hotel industry that were slamming the startup and its hosts for not paying the same tax that they do.

Get the full story at TechCrunch and AirBnB

Read also *Major Reservations: Why Cities Are Worried About Airbnb* at

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Sabre IPO raises less than expected

April 18, 2014

Six years after TPG Funds and Silver Lake Funds took the debt-ridden firm private for $5 billion, Sabre today debuted on the Nasdaq stock exchange. It priced its shares at $16 — below its expected $18 to $20 range - raising $627 million at a $3.93 billion valuation.

Despite five consecutive years of annual losses, Sabre is bullish on its future prospects. “We’re feeling very good indeed,” Rick Simonson, Sabre’s chief financial officer, told VentureBeat this morning.

Sabre transacts over $100 billion between travel suppliers and buyers each year - more than eBay or Amazon handles annually, Simonson noted. And if the company considered its cloud software business a separate company, it would be second in value only to Salesforce, Simonson asserted.

Get the full story at VentureBeat

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Starwood launches app for Google Glass

April 18, 2014

Starwood Hotels announced a pilot program that allows guests to swap physical keys for virtual keys. That program was essentially allowing guests to use their smartphones to check-in, check-out and also open the door to the room. Flash forward till present day and it looks like Starwood Hotels has gone another step forward with support for new technology. They have announced the SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) app for Google Glass.

The app is already available for use, but currently listed as being in beta. Starwood plans to continue updating the app based on member/user feedback, but for now there appears to be a decent set of features. This list includes being able to search (by voice) for any of the 1,100 Starwood hotels. Options here include searching by destination, airport code, or what is nearby. You'll also be able to book once you find the location you prefer.

Users can then get turn-by-turn directions to the hotel as well as explore and share images of the hotel, rooms and more. Perhaps key for SPG members -- you will also be able to access your account information to include details on any upcoming stay, your Starpoint balance, and more.

Get the full story at Android Community and GigaOM

Related Link: Starwood SPG for Glass

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Marriott on its ‘marketing journey of change’

April 18, 2014

Last summer, the flagship Marriott Hotels brand launched, which surprised a lot of people for two reasons. One, it was the first time a major promotional campaign for an international hotel brand focused on crowdsourcing and co-creation of this scale, above and beyond just using social media. Two, that international hotel brand was Marriott.

At the beginning, Travel Brilliantly was a three-pronged initiative designed for the U.S. market. First, the web platform showcased innovative ideas that Marriott was cooking up internally. Second, Marriott asked the public to submit their ideas about how to create a better hotel experience. And third, which was pulled earlier this year, the site directed readers to an integrated content marketing partnership with Wired, Fast Company and Mashable.

In April 2013, Marriott hired Katie Krum (see video) as director of digital marketing to help launch the new portal and study consumer response and engagement. Earlier this year, Krum expanded’s reach into the U.K., and today, she’s tweaking the user experience for a relaunch scheduled this summer.

Get the full story at Skift

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Travel agents love hotel websites

April 18, 2014

Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading US-based hospitality management company, announces the "Top Ten Travel Trends for 2014" as observed through a survey of the company’s extensive database of professional travel agents.

In a Benchmark-commissioned study, over 20,000 travel professionals were provided a comprehensive survey on consumer and business travel in 2014, for review and submission to an independent market research firm for compilation and analysis.

Trend #1 The Travel Industry is Poised for Strong Growth! Eight out of ten travel agents surveyed are highly upbeat about industry growth through 2014 and beyond. Over half are projecting “strong growth.”

Trend #2 Leisure Travel Leads The Way Nearly 75 percent of growth in travel is leisure related, with half of this growth coming from the luxury segment. It’s travel at a personal cost, however. A quarter of the travel professionals felt that the line of demarcation between business and personal travel is further blurring, with many executives bringing work with them on family and romantic vacations -- aided in large part by advances in communications technology.

Trend #3 The Specter of Direct Bookings What keeps travel agents up at night? It’s not terrorism affecting travel, or elevated costs or even OTA competition. It is customers increasingly bypassing the agents and booking directly. TAs see this as the greatest potential negative effect on their business in 2014.

Trend #4 Hit the Beach, See the World After six years of the greatest recession in living memory, travelers are ready to pack their bags, drop in a beach towel, and see the world. TAs are seeing strong expenditures in domestic beach-related travel – nearly 50% and with particular emphasis on Hawaii, the south and southwest, which following the winter of 2013-2014 may not be a surprise. Caught up on their tan, leisure travelers are boarding planes and heading abroad with the remaining 50% trekking across the Atlantic to Europe. Those who still need more sun are flying south to the Caribbean or on to South America.

Trend #5 Who is Spending? It’s the Boomers by far. Nearly 60% of travel agent bookings last year were from this group of consumers, followed by Seniors and GenXers both coming in at about 15% of bookings. The much focused-on Millennials account for less than 9% of travel expenditures for the year. Boomers may be spending, but they still demand value for the dollar. Nearly 50% of travel professionals view rate as the critical factor in the consumer travel decision process.

Trend #6 Online Travel Reviews and their Effect It’s huge, according to TAs, and growing. An overwhelming number -- 80% -- feel we’ve only seen the beginning of this consumer phenomenon. And over 50% of the travel agents surveyed use these online reviews in determining booking decisions for their customers. Hoteliers and airlines take note!

Trend #7 Most Important Features at Hotels & Resorts Well, yes, location is #1 for apparent reasons. But #2 isn’t free parking, or the availability of spa services, or numerous other possible traveler concerns. It’s Free Internet, and properties that continue to charge for this service should take note that this is deemed more important for travelers than the number of stars or diamonds a property achieves. Free Internet access is seen as a traveler’s right!

Trend #8 Hotel Websites Sell An attractive, appealing and user-friendly website with a direct booking option generates reservations. Maybe not a surprise to most, but what is interesting is that travel agents use this method 34% of the time for making reservations (GDS is 38% of TA bookings). You can toss your fax machine, though; it’s used for bookings only 1% of the time according to the study.

Trend #9 This Changes Everything! Well over half of the travel agents responding felt a paradigm shift occurred when the world went mobile. With around the clock accessibility, pop-up travel deals, immediate rate checks and even securing directions on your phone en route to a destination has given travelers, for the first time, the world at their fingertips no matter where they are on the globe. Hotels and resorts without mobile sites are left in the dust. A few key words from the TAs: mobile sites should be relevant, brief, readable, and formatted for ease of use.

Trend #10 Advice to the Hotel Industry from Travel Agents Ok, maybe not officially a trend, but this is increasingly top of mind with travel professionals and they wanted to share these words of advice with hoteliers: Keep your rooms and water glasses clean. Replace worn carpet. Invite us over -- FAM trips are back and there’s no better way for us to meet you and experience your property. Never forget the importance of customer service, ever! Partner with us for a win-win. We understand what “incidental revenue” means, but please don’t nickel & dime our customers. Your websites are beautiful, but we urge you to have your vital information just one click away. Always deliver value. And finally, we’ve said it before and we’re saying it again – travelers want Internet access to be FREE!

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Besides training: How to maximize hotel reservations conversions

April 18, 2014

by Doug Kennedy

The most important sales tactics are to ask the right questions to find out where they are at in their buying decision, such as “As I’m checking those dates, what questions can I answer for you about our location or amenities?” and then to provide alluring descriptions that “narrate the pictures they have seen online.”

Yet too often managers only implement the sale training component, and then if they measure the results at all, they do so exclusively through mystery shopping test calls. Being in the mystery shopping business I certainly think that is important, but if you are looking to keep your team on the continuous journey to reservations sales excellence here are some other components for long term success.

- Know when they are calling. Despite the availability of better technology at lower price points these days, too many reservations offices still lack proper call tracking available from their phone system and/or from their inbound 800 long distance provider: Call activity by hour, day, week and month; Dropped calls by hour, day, week, and month and percentage of dropped calls; Average hold time; and Average talk time per agent.

- Right-sized staffing. Make sure your reservations office has enough agents to realistically field the call activity you are receiving, which is why the staring place is to have the data from the above reports. Excessive budget cuts in this department only hurt bottom-line profits not help. Instead of looking at reservations with a “cost control” paradigm, look at it as a revenue-generating department.

- Cross-train other staff to field reservations calls during bottle-neck periods. Move the reservations function from being just a person or department into being an important function that others such as sales assistants, front desk staff, and even housekeeping or room service operators can cover when necessary.

- Streamline side-work. Make sure agents aren’t asked to toggle back and forth between selling on the phone and being a data entry clerk for rooming lists or extranet reservations. Otherwise, agents might rush callers in an attempt to clean-up their stack of side-work.

- Measure, measure, measure! In the reservations department as in life, you get what you measure. Again too many reservations departments only look at certain key metrics, preventing them to see an overall comprehensive picture of how agents are really doing. For example, some only look at total reservations booked or total revenue sold, thinking that the agent who sells the most is automatically their best producer. While this often proves to be the case, when you start to look at call conversion, you sometimes find that the top agent in terms of revenue/room nights is really just a call-grabber who rushes the indecisive callers or pushes them back to the website, moving on to the next caller who is ready to book. Make sure you are measuring: Total revenue sold by agent and by department; Total number of bookings by agent and by department; Total calls received by agent and by department.; Call conversion ratio (number of calls vs. bookings) on at least a “raw” basis (looking at all calls and all bookings.); and Average revenue per booking. Over time, this will indicate whether agents are taking the time to upsell to higher rated accommodations and packages.

- Implement a proper recognition and incentive plan. Many managers don’t want to offer an incentive because they argue “that’s what we pay them to do anyway.” Yet few managers make this same argument for their traditional hotel sales department. Still, it is true that employees should not receive an incentive for doing their job, which is to help the hotel achieve its expected transient revenue goal each month. That’s why the best incentive is to set a monthly goal about 10 days before the start of the month, based on the most updated forecast. When the goal is achieved, a celebration (i.e. pizza or ice cream party) can be held. Yet when the goal is exceeded, a percentage of the additional revenue can be shared with the team.

The true measuring stick for an effective incentive is how enthusiastic managers are about paying it out. If it is properly structured, you should be emphatic when agents receive large bonuses.

Indeed, implementing contemporary reservations sales training is a key ingredient of any recipe of reservations sales success, as are ongoing mystery shopping assessments. Yet other essential components such as those listed above will provide your team with the roadmap for continuous success on the endless journey to reservations sales excellence.

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry.

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Steps hospitality companies should take to establish their big data strategy

April 18, 2014

What big data does my hotel have?

Let’s start off with the amount of big data you have. The average data footprint per person is 1 Terabyte (TB) per year (or if you are as visually oriented as I am: 1TB of information printed on A4 paper would be 6.5km long, which is 20 times the Eiffel Tower in Paris).

Now let’s take a look at a traveler’s data footprint. Sabre data scientists are still working on the details, but even at this early stage, it’s safe to say that active travelers produce 90% of all data produced in the world! Knowing this, organizations should realize that knowing the ins and outs of these “data magnets” gives them a big opportunity to create value – for their own company as well as for their guests.

We now know what amount of data is out there, but what data is available?

- Booking data from airlines, trains, cars and hotels through agencies and in the direct channel
- Mobile and social check-ins
- Real-time information available through travel-companion apps (like TripCase)
- Shopping requests and reservations for event travel tickets and travel extras like ground transportation and restaurants
- Social activities specific to a trip

So, how to determine my strategy around big data?

With so much data, there are four steps to take in order to create a valuable big data strategy:

- Be picky. With so much data, you only should take the data that’s relevant to your business.

- Analyze. In order to take actionable insights from big data that can drive real business value, you need to analyze the data carefully. It’s all about being creative and thinking “out of the box.”

- Visualize. Current and historical data is easier to compare and draw conclusions from when viewed in, for example, a Word Cloud or Hotel Heat Map by Sabre.

- Predict and forecast. For the travel and hotel industry, identification of patterns from big data to predict future activities is at the heart of personalization – so it’s a critical step to take.

Get the full story at Sabre Hospitality Solutions

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Availpro and Pegasus Solutions join forces to deliver improved GDS connectivity

April 18, 2014

This new partnership between Availpro and Pegasus Solutions will help hotel owners boost their online sales and GDS visibility, as well as saving them time. Availpro continues to expand its network of partners and gain new certifications. As a result of these efforts, it is able to provide its customers with the connectivities they need to drive their revenue. They can select the channel most suited to their needs and sell their rooms through more than 600,000 online travel agencies worldwide. This repres ents a major advantage for customers looking to increase their online room bookings and their visibility among travel agencies.

"We are delighted to announce this partnership with Pegasus Solutions. Our new partner has an ex cellent reputation as a specialist within the market. We are convinced that this collaboration will provide new opportunities for our hotel-owner customers. We understand the importance of delivering solutions that are tailored to the needs of individual customers, and that is why we are constantly looking to expand our network of partners," explains Philippe Lamarche, Chairman of Availpro.

As major players in the market, this new partnership between Availpro and Pegasus Solutions is simply a natural progression. It enables both companies to deliver comprehensive services to their customers while cementing their leading positions in the e-booking sector.

By building on the complementary nature of their activities, these two international companies are now able to reach out to hotel owners more effectively. Their shared goal is to deliver solutions tailored to the specific needs of their customers.

"Customer satisfaction demands an innovative approach to developing new solutions and improving existing systems. We are delighted to have built a solid, stable partnership with Availpro. This partnership, based around Availpro's Smart Channel Manager and our RezView NG CRS, provides our customers with a state-of-the-art solution that enables them to maximise distribution across all channels," adds Alexis Dobbelaere, Senior Vice-President of Global Sales at Pegasus Solutions.

Related Link: AvailPro

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How hotel social media goes from online to offline

April 17, 2014

Between integrating a specific social media theme into the hotel itself to creating exhibits and social events, numerous properties are creating authentic experiences surrounding social-media themed experiences.

Last year, Meliá Hotels International, the leading hotel chain in Spain, debuted a new program in which its innovative @SolWaveHouse Hotel became the first ever “twitter experience hotel” in the world. The intent of the hotel was to facilitate interaction among social media-savvy customers plus increase excitement and stimulate “buzz” among the young audience that typically fills the hotel.

Similar to Sol Wave House, 1888 Hotel in Australia followed the trend of incorporating social media into the overall experience of staying at the Sydney hotel. They integrated Instagram into both the property itself as well as its marketing and ideal audience.

Anyone with more than 10,000 followers on Instagram can stay free at the property. A revolving digital mural of Instagram images greets guests as they enter the lobby, then, after checking in, guests are invited to stand in front of an open frame hanging in the lobby and snap a selfie.

Get the full story at Maximize Social Business

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How 3 innovative travel brands found success on Twitter

April 17, 2014

In November 2013, Loews Hotel & Resorts launched Social Reservations, a service that allows guests to book their hotel stays directly through Twitter. No calls or online booking forms required. Customers simply use #BookLoews in a tweet to @Loews_Hotels and a Loews Travel Planner will tweet a link to a secure chat connection to process personal and payment information.

“As we continue to evolve and build one our social media strategy, we are focused on meeting the needs of travelers throughout each stage of the travel continuum,” said the company’s Director of Social Media Piper Stevens. “When it comes to reservations, we recognize that giving consumers the option of booking efficiently on a network where they are already engaging on a daily basis is going to set us apart and grow our consumer base in a meaningful way.”

Of course, you don’t need to develop an exclusive app or whisk bloggers away on a dream vacation to succeed on Twitter. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re accessible to travelers on the social network. Twitter offers a variety of ways to showcase your brand or service, including Promoted Tweets. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your existing customer base. As them what they’d like to see more of and how they can feel like a bigger part of the brand.

Get the full story at Sprout Social

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Sabre cuts IPO size as deal prices below forecast

April 17, 2014

The Southlake, Texas-based company sold 39.2 million shares for $16 apiece, these people said, raising $627.2 million before the potential sale of additional shares to underwriters. Sabre had expected to sell 44.7 million shares for $18 to $20, according to a regulatory filing.

Sabre operates a so-called global distribution system, which acts as a clearinghouse for fares, schedules and seat availability for airlines. It owns the Travelocity website, but last year outsourced most of that site's operations-such as processing bookings and handling customer questions-to longtime rival Expedia Inc. EXPE +2.14%

Sabre has posted steady revenue growth the past few years, but failed to turn a profit due to high costs, a heavy debt burden and write-downs related to a series of acquisitions.

Get the full story at The Wall Street Journal and Sabre

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Yatra gets $23 million funding to compete in India’s increasingly competitive online travel market

April 17, 2014

"As the market becomes increasingly mass-based, with smartphone penetration heading towards 20%, we want to increase our brand presence, and ensure that we remain leaders in the category," Yatra cofounder and chief executive Dhruv Shringi said.

India's online gross bookings are expected to touch $12.5 billion in 2015, according to a report released by PhoCusWright, a leading travel research firm. Almost 40% of all domestic flight booking are booked online, according to industry data.

Founded in 2006 by Former Arthur Anderson and Ford Motor Co employee Shringi, Manish Amin and Sabina Chopra, has a market share of about 25%.

Get the full story at The Economic Times and Tech in Asia

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Google’s search revenues shift

April 17, 2014

In Q1 2014 data from Kenshoo, 69% of search marketing professionals worldwide rated the performance of PLAs as at least slightly better than paid search, with more than one-quarter of that group saying they were much better.

That most marketers are simply moving ad dollars from regular paid search to PLAs is likely why IgnitionOne cited Google’s Enhanced Campaigns, not PLAs, as the main driver of the 8% year-over-year increase in US paid search ad spending in Q1 2014.

While PLAs are drawing more attention, IgnitionOne noted that these won’t be replacing traditional paid search ads anytime soon, with both driving growth in the overall paid search spending space. In addition, paid search ads will likely improve their performance in the coming years, as Kenshoo found that 65% of marketers were using data collected from PLAs to better inform other paid search and cross-channel strategies.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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Is coding the next must-have skill of the modern marketer?

April 17, 2014

Marketing has evolved over time from “you can have any color you want as long as it’s black” to just-in-time marketing messages that encourage you to dunk in the dark.

We're embracing digital channels and understanding the need to create marketing people love more and more ... but do we actually grasp what's running behind the scenes of all these digital campaigns?

Code is what lies behind so many of our great marketing campaigns. Our websites, our emails, our apps and tools that are made to give your customers a better experience -- these all run because there are smart coders making them work.

Get the full story at HubSpot

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The TravelClick Perspective – March 2014 / 2014 Outlook

April 17, 2014

The group segment is up 3.9% in room nights committed (contracted). New group business added over the last month (pace) are up 4.0% over the comparable period last year. Transient room nights booked are up 5.5% compared to the same time last year. Average daily rate (ADR) is growing slightly above occupancy, up 2.8% based on reservations currently on the books for 2014.

For the first quarter of 2014, overall committed occupancy is up 3.0% in the top 25 markets. Committed occupancy for the group segments is up 3.8% and the transient segment is up 2.6% compared to a year ago. Average daily rate for the first quarter is up 2.6% over the same time last year. Business segment ADR, which includes weekday transient negotiated and retail segments, is up 3.0%. Leisure segment ADR, which includes transient discount, qualified and wholesale segments, is up 3.2%.

Get the full story at TravelClick

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Whitepaper: Digital Benchmarking for Hotels

April 17, 2014

Most hotel marketers use STR Global/STAR Reports, their own historical data and credible industry studies to compare performance to their comp set and the industry, but there are often common faults and ways to improve benchmarking practices. This paper pinpoints those common faults and provides the best practices that hotel marketers need to consistently and correctly implement benchmarking.

Vizergy’s client portfolio, which includes a mixture of branded and independent properties, along with numerous hotel management companies and groups contributed to the content of this paper. While many properties currently benchmark, it was apparent that property level managers sought more concrete guidance on the subject.

“With the myriad of online marketing performance analytics programs and third party data, it can be difficult to form a digestible and workable benchmarking process,” says Vizergy President Robert Arnold. “From ensuring you have the right data, to selecting the most relevant KPIs, to determining how often your team should meet, it’s critical to set a scalable benchmarking plan. If it’s implemented well from the beginning, it’s easier to spot strengths, weaknesses and opportunities later – which translates to better deployment of marketing dollars and revenue production.”

“We wrote this whitepaper to answer a major question everyone struggles with – am I doing what I need to in ‘Digital?’ Digital benchmarking is a strategic imperative and done properly is much more than site analytics,” says David Atkins, Principal of Digital DNA Infusion, LLC. “This paper is a starting point for you to read and apply. The complexities of digital are something all businesses across all industries are striving to find answers for with solutions and systems. There is a science and discipline to doing digital benchmarking and knowing if you are keeping up with the competition and industry.”

Download the whitepaper at Vizergy (free registration)

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How OTAs are expanding beyond mobile bookings

April 16, 2014

Mobile Marketer looked at the mobile offerings from five online travel brands: Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Orbitz and Priceline. Although streamlining the mobile commerce experience is still a big priority for many, brands are also looking at how to leverage other mediums to gain market share.

"We’re actively thinking about ways to use mobile devices in the future of hotel travel," said John Caine, chief product officer at Priceline, Norwalk, CT.

"Can a phone unlock a door?" he said. "Do you need a concierge? One of the most exciting things about our space is the rapid pace of technical innovation. Every new technology brings an opportunity to innovate."

Here is a look at how all five brands are taking their mobile strategies to the next level, in alphabetical order.

Get the full story at Mobile Marketer

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Travel sites sunk by ‘Google Blitz’

April 16, 2014

Unfortunately, the SEO team at Cruiseabout and Escape Travel made the big mistake of ignoring a warning issued by Google's Matt Cutts through his blog exactly two months earlier on January 20.

"Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop," he wrote.


"Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

"So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy."

Some listened, others didn't.

Get the full story at Travel Trends

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HotelTonight goes beyond the last minute

April 16, 2014

Beginning Tuesday, users will find the Look Ahead feature at the bottom of the screen when searching for rooms in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego and Dallas, with more cities to be added in the coming months.

To view projected rates, savings and availability, users can choose a specific day of the week, under which icons will denote any music festivals, Comicon conventions, business conferences or other happenings taking place in the city that day.

Seasonal or themed promotions being offered by hotels in the area, like spa discounts, drink promotions or package deals around Valentine’s Day or New Year’s, will also be promoted on the app.

Estimated room rates are based on historical and predictive booking data, as well as on input from the company’s marketing and data team.

Get the full story at The New York Times and TechCrunch

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How top travel sites use marketing technology

April 16, 2014

In the second installment of The Return on Marketing Technology research series, Lima Consulting Group and ObservePoint conducted extensive research on the top 140 global travel websites to get a granular look at their digital marketing technology deployments.

The research report titled "The ROI of Marketing Technologies: How the Top Travel Sites Stack Up" shows that only 89.3% of all pages audited have a web analytics tag; and 36.8% of pages report inflated page view metrics across all sites. These factors contribute to poor data quality for some of the web's biggest digital marketing spenders.

"According to research by Gartner, CMOs will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017," said Paul Lima, principal at Lima Consulting Group. "This should come as no surprise as marketing technology continues to have a bigger impact on the bottom-line of organizations that have a major ecommerce presence. However, marketing in a data-driven era means that the marketers need to ensure they are basing their decisions on accurate data. Correctly managing tags are at the core of this movement."

Key Findings

Lima Consulting Group's experts have distilled the data into the following findings:

- Online Travel Agency (OTA) sites are deploying the most marketing technologies, followed by airlines, online hotel booking aggregators, rental cars, and hotel brand sites

- One-third of all travel sites have deployed a Tag Management Solution (TMS), and half of those with TMS use free over premium enterprise-class web analytics solutions

- Sites with TMS use more technology, benefit from better user experience and performance, but do experience slightly decreased site load times

- Composite site performance scoring allows digital marketing teams to have greater confidence in data-driven business decisions

Get the full story at Lima Consulting Group

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How the travel industry is adapting to travelers use of smartphones and tablets

April 16, 2014

Travel pairs especially well with mobile devices because it allows travelers to continue and amend their trip-planning once they've taken off.

Mobile is expected to account for more than 25% of total U.S. online travel bookings by 2015, according to PhoCusWright.

In a recent report, BI Intelligence looks at how the worldwide adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other devices is dramatically changing how we travel - before, during, and after the trip - and what the impact of that change is to businesses in the travel space.

Players in the travel industry are emphasizing mobile as a core component of their business strategies, and working to make their products and services mobile-friendly. Those that do not risk becoming relics of a bygone desktop computing era.

Get the full story at Business Insider

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TripAdvisor now world’s most popular travel app

April 16, 2014

According to data from Distimo, a global leader in business intelligence and app market data, TripAdvisor is now the most popular travel app based on total App Store downloads1.

"As travel planning has shifted from something you do ahead of time to something that's possible anytime, the TripAdvisor mobile app has become the essential companion for millions of travelers," said Stephen Kaufer, president and CEO of TripAdvisor. "Reaching the milestone of 100 million downloads is evidence that travelers worldwide are benefitting from the TripAdvisor community's reviews and opinions, wherever their travels may take them."

The TripAdvisor mobile app is recognized in the industry for its function and innovation. The app that was recently named "Best Mobile App" by Eye for Travel in its 2014 Innovation Awards, includes a number of features and content to help travelers plan and have the perfect trip. The free app is available in 21 languages and is available to download at the iTunes App Store or Google Play.

Key features of the TripAdvisor app include:

- Global content: Provides travelers with a comprehensive travel planning resource on-the-go with more than 150 million user reviews and opinions of hotels, restaurants and attractions, and more than 19 million candid traveler photos, covering destinations around the globe.

- Helpful features: Travelers on their trips can use the Near Me Now and Point Me There features to find nearby places of interest, read traveler reviews and see to dynamic maps of their location.

- Available offline: Travelers may use City Guides anywhere with no data connection required to go on self-guided walking tours, and they may also use Trip Journal to add photos or comments to capture the highlights of their trip.

- Booking on-the-go: The TripAdvisor mobile app provides access to the site's Hotel Price Comparison (metasearch), enabling travelers to easily compare booking options at a glance with up-to-the-minute hotel prices and availability.

While TripAdvisor launched the first iPhone and Android mobile apps in mid-2010, and the first native smartphone apps in 2013, the company continues to make improvements. Three recently launched enhancements are:

- Type-ahead functionality for improved local results: This feature lets users quickly access more locally relevant search results based on their location.

- Google single sign on: Allows Android users to more quickly and easily log in to their TripAdvisor accounts using their Google accounts, and it also lets users automatically download the app if they have created an account on desktop.

- See your saves on the map: This feature allows users to see places they have saved on the map with other points of interest, which helps travelers select the restaurants and attractions closest to their saved places.

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TravelClick wins two awards at Web Marketing Association’s Internet Advertising Competition

April 16, 2014

TravelClick, a global provider of innovative revenue-generating cloud-based solutions that enable hotels to grow revenue, and its hotel clients, were awarded “Best” honors in two categories at the Web Marketing Association’s 2014 Internet Advertising Competition (IAC).

TravelClick’s first award was for “Best Hotel & Lodging Online Campaign,” for its work with Stein Eriksen Lodge. TravelClick created an advertising campaign to increase revenue and bookings for the property. In just the first 10 months, the campaign drove 179 extra bookings with a 16:1 Return on Investment and delivered $204,680 in incremental revenue.

The second award was for “Best Hotel & Lodging Social Media Campaign,” for TravelClick’s work with Hotel BLOOM! This holiday-season campaign aimed to increase user engagement on the hotel’s Facebook page, as well as to provide a fun gaming experience targeting users between 25- to 45-years-old. During the week of the contest, the property’s Facebook page showed an 86 percent increase in total reach compared to the previous week; subsequently, the number of people talking about the page increased by 33 percent for the same time period.

“We are extremely proud that TravelClick and our hotel partners received top honors for hotel advertising and social media campaigns at the IAC Awards,” said Jason Ewell, Executive Vice President, Business Intelligence, Media and Web Solutions. “TravelClick knows firsthand the power of online marketing and social media in driving engagement and ultimately increasing revenue.”

The Internet Advertising Competition (IAC) Awards are produced by the Web Marketing Association to honor excellence in online advertising, recognize the individuals and organizations responsible, and showcase the best in award-winning Internet advertising.

Related Link: TravelClick

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Free webinar: Earn five-star reviews with remarkable service

April 16, 2014

As more travelers turn to review sites to research trips and share experiences, positive reviews have become essential to a hotel’s success. And nothing influences review sentiment quite like guest service.

In the next installment of ReviewPro’s free #SMWebinar series, top-rated hotels and brands - from economy to luxury - share their tips and best practices for earning five-star reviews with “remarkable” service, both online and on property.

Mark your calendar!

Gather your managers and make it a team meeting! Register now to save your spot. Space is limited.

One-hour webinar: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

08:00 Pacific Standard Time
11:00 Eastern Standard Time
17:00 Central European Time
Note: A link to the recording will be sent to all registrants, so be sure to register even if you are unable to attend.


- Piper Stevens, Director of Social Media, Loews Hotels & Resorts, the first hotel brand to offer social reservations
- Darren Ross, General Manager, Magic Castle Hotel, rated No. 1 of 317 hotels in Los Angeles on TripAdvisor
- RJ Friedlander, Co-founder and CEO, ReviewPro
- Daniel E. Craig, Founder, Reknown, and former hotel general manager

Free registration at ReviewPro

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Twitter and Facebook ads don’t drive results, says Priceline

April 15, 2014

Priceline spends feverishly on Google advertisements to grab users searching for a hotel in New York or Paris - and because ads on Facebook and Twitter have failed to deliver results, Chief Executive Officer Darren Huston said.

“For Facebook and Twitter, we have endless amounts of money,” Huston said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. “But we haven’t found anything there.”

The comments by the chief of one of the biggest spenders on online advertising are set to stoke debate over which forms of digital marketing are most effective. Facebook and Twitter have grappled with questions of whether their social media ads provide a substantial return on investment for marketers, particularly at travel and e-commerce companies.

Get the full story at Bloomberg

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TripAdvisor, Hotwire top travel site ads, study shows

April 15, 2014

Phoenix Marketing International will release findings this week from an online travel audit analyzing consumer sentiment about the most popular travel industry ads on TV.

The study, "Online Travel Audit," fielded in mid-March, analyzed 50 television ads from more than 30 travel search and reservation Web sites. It also looked at travel-related advertisers, such as hotel and car rental, including American Airlines, Hotwire, Priceline, Trivago, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Southwest, United and Hilton. The study compiled more than 3,500 responses.

Josh Berger, research director at Phoenix Marketing International, gave MediaDailyNews a first look at results. He said researchers also tested ads from American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, and United, as well as travel destinations like Orlando and Texas. "Ads can succeed several ways, whether they engage through a relevant message or empathy," he said. "A straightforward approach as to what makes Trivago different than other search travel sites seems to work for the site."

Get the full story at MediaPost

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U.S. travel agencies close first quarter with 4.55% increase in air ticket sales

April 15, 2014

March 2014 ticket transactions increased 2.57 percent over the same period in 2013 to 39.5 million. Year-to-date passenger segments increased 2.4 percent to 87.3 million compared to 85.3 million in 2013.

More detailed information is available at ARC

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Seven dirty little secrets of the travel industry

April 15, 2014

Hotel-Room Rates Are Negotiable

In need of a last-minute hotel room? Sometimes, walking into a hotel and bargaining with the front-desk agent can really pay off. Most times, the first price you're quoted won't be the last, especially if a prospective guest pretends to walk out and go somewhere else. After all, the hotel makes no money on an empty room, so it's better for the hotel to let a room go at a reduced rate than to let it go unoccupied.

Deleting Your Cookies Can Get You a Cheaper Flight

Ever been shopping for a flight online only to find that after you've checked it a few times, the price has mysteriously gone up? Some travel websites covertly install your computer with a cookie that keeps track of your shopping behavior - and then jacks up the ticket cost once it knows you're interested. Try clearing your cookies and searching again if you don't think the price should have increased that much in a few hours.

Get the full story at The Huffington Post

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Booking lead times coming down as mobile usage rises

April 15, 2014

Other notable findings include:

- The global average revenue per available bed in 2013 remains €23.50 and the average bed occupancy rate is unchanged at 59%.

- When it comes to technology, the 28% of respondents who have developed mobile applications or ensured their sites are mobile-friendly report the largest number of bookings via mobile sources.

- The main age targeted by youth travel accommodation (YTA) operators is 25-34 years (61%). However, 10% of YTA properties are now aimed at the flashpacker market aged 35 or older, with bed and breakfast operators most likely to make up this market.

- In terms of revenue, third party websites are playing an increasingly important role in this sector, with 29% of hostel bookings now being made via these channels.

- Regarding third party booking channels, Hostelworld is the most important for hostels and with its recently-acquired Hostelbookers site also in the top three, now holds a significant market share in this industry. has also seen significant growth in this arena.

- Commenting on the report, David Chapman, Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation, said: “With a third of young travellers now using their smart phones when planning their holiday and lead times shrinking as online booking becomes easier, it’s increasingly important that the youth travel accommodation sector keeps up with the consumer’s technological demands – amongst other trends.

“Whilst we are finding that our members are increasingly spurred to be active on social media channels, just a third of our respondents indicate that they are active on social media of which 90% of these use Facebook and 43% Twitter. Our survey therefore suggests that the future of our industry will depend on smaller establishments embracing this trend as much as the larger operations.”

Related Link: Stay Wyse

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Hotels join the fee-for-all party

April 15, 2014

Hotels should consider emulating some airline policies, including the 24-hour cancellation rule and offering a room credit. Unfortunately, the lodging industry prefers some of the more customer-unfriendly policies, including booking fees and "gotcha" add-ons.

The Bellagio doesn't see it that way, of course. Its new booking fee, part of an effort to "modernize" policies at all MGM Resorts International, is presented as a guest benefit.

"The fee allows us to preserve the one-on-one service preferred by an important but diminishing segment of customers," says Bellagio spokeswoman Mary Hynes.

The Bellagio and most other Sin City resorts also have another long-standing guest "benefit" - the so-called resort fee.

Ge the full story at USA Today

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Three lessons hotels can learn from Airbnb

April 15, 2014

1. Offer authentic local experiences.

Alternative accommodation websites like Airbnb appeal to travelers looking for authentic and unique experiences. Instead of sticking to popular attractions and guide book-endorsed restaurants, these travelers seek out neighborhood eateries and sights off the typical tourist trail. Many seek hosts who can provide them with a taste of local life.

Hotels also have an opportunity to provide a glimpse into living like a local. Staff can be encouraged to offer up neighborhood knowledge and give guests advice on popular hotspots. Little touches like local microbrews and wines in the minibar or rotating exhibits of local artwork in the lobby can add to a distinctive and immersive experience.

2. Know which amenities are actually necessities.

Guests increasingly expect fast, reliable, and preferably free Wi-Fi. A high price for what many consider a necessity can leave travelers disgruntled, especially when Internet access is free at most peer-to-peer rentals. Some of these properties even offer additional connectivity by providing local phones or portable mobile hotspots to guests.

To cater to today’s plugged-in travelers, hotels should offer similar amenities, whether through loyalty programs or for free to all guests.

Get the full story at the Revinate blog

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7 fundamental tips to make your hotel photos pop using text

April 15, 2014

Online consumers stay on a website for only 10-12 seconds on average, so text needs to be succinct and captivating to keep travel shoppers engaged (Microsoft Research). Having too much "filler text" can dilute your message and overwhelm a potential guest. Consider this quote from Ernest Hemingway, often referred to as the shortest story ever told. It's a mere 6 words in length, but shockingly poignant.

Let’s cut to the chase, read these 7 fundamental Best Practice tips for accenting your images by focusing on the words you use to tell your story.

Get the full story at Leonardo

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Are Google’s travel plans too ambitious?

April 14, 2014

Right now, Google's online travel ambitions make sense, but there is some sizable risk involved in its decision. By jumping on board the travel express (pun intended), the company can get in on the action of a large and fast-growing industry. In 2013 alone, the travel and tourism market accounted for $450 billion in revenue and analysts expect the field to grow by 3.5% by the end of 2014.

Grabbing hold of just 10% of the travel and tourism market share would nearly double Google's $59.9 billion in revenue and could make for some serious profits. In 2013,'s net profit margin came out to 27.9%, a decent clip higher than Google's 21.6%. Jumping into this business could mean significant profits for the business and could pave the way for even faster growth moving forward.

Based on the data provided, it's pretty clear Google hopes to make quite a splash in the online travel business. How this will affect the business and its shareholders moving forward is something only time will tell, but if the company can effectively leverage its resources and overcome its competition, the rewards might be well worth the risk.

Get the full story at The Moetley Fool

Read also "What to make of Google’s latest expansion into hotel listings"

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A Chinese travel powerhouse in the making?

April 14, 2014

With Chinese online travel firms competing aggressively on price, it is no great surprise that companies are looking to consolidate, as this generally leads to cost reductions and synergy benefits. Ctrip, China's main online travel booking website, said it was in talks with Baidu's Qunar over a possible partnership, although the prospect of a merger has not been excluded. So far, Qunar has declined to comment on the rumors.

According to analysts, the deal makes sense for Ctrip, which often pays Qunar for web traffic to increase bookings. Partnering with a search engine is a logical step, as the two services are often intertwined. Moreover, the companies cater to different segments of the travel industry, and together, they would be able to more efficiently grow revenue in the space.

Qunar has been one of the companies making the mobile push, as Chinese consumers increasingly shop on their smartphones. A partnership would potentially give Ctrip increased access to this userbase, increasing traffic and lowering costs.

Get the full story at The Moetley Fool

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‘Digital travel buddies’ the OTAs of the future?

April 14, 2014

The digital travel buddy is a virtual companion that uses AI to accurately suggest and book trips for travellers.

As the consumer would be able to look at hotels, resorts and aircraft seats on their own, the need to consult a travel expert may be diminished. And wearable technology evolving from the recently launched Google Glass will become so small it will fit onto a contact lens, predicted Filipov.

However, he believes the threat will become an opportunity for those agencies that embrace the technology.

Get the full story at Travolution and Skyscanner

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How Ritz-Carlton adopts Tumblr

April 14, 2014

The brand’s first Tumblr foray will likely appeal to loyalists who want a more sustained interaction with the brand.

“To thrive in the social environment, a brand needs to immerse itself in the individual platforms selected and tailor content to suit,” said Ed French, chief of sales and marketing officer at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C.

“The research we did on Tumblr helped us to understand the use and views of the channel are broader than the subscribers, which drove the journalistic approach on travel that we adopted,” he said.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Marriott’s loyalty program ranks No. 1

April 14, 2014

Marriott Rewards received an overall customer satisfaction score of 707 on a 1,000-point scale, according to the first hotel-program survey by market research company J.D. Power.

The online survey, which was sent by e-mail March 11-25, ranks 15 hotel loyalty programs and is based on responses of more than 3,800 consumers who are in at least one loyalty program.

Customer satisfaction was measured by five factors: loyalty account maintenance/management; ease of redeeming points/miles; ease of earning points/miles; reward program terms; and customer service.

InterContinental Hotels and Resorts' IHG Rewards Club ranks No. 2, and Delta Hotels and Resorts' Delta Privilege program is No. 3.

Get the full story at USA Today

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Mathematicians claim they’ve solved jetlag - with an app

April 14, 2014

While the app’s foundations are built on the findings of doctoral students at Yale University, Entrain looks remarkably easy to use: It just tells you when to adjust the light of your surroundings (from light to dark or vice versa), based on your destination’s time zone. According to the University of Michigan:

“Start by entering your typical hours of light and darkness in your current time zone, then choose the time zone you’re traveling to and when, as well as the brightest light you expect to spend the most time in during your trip (indoor or outdoor.) The app offers a specialized plan and predicts how long it will take you to adjust.”

Get the full story at VentureBeat

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Creating a mobile strategy for hotels

April 14, 2014

Does your hotel have a mobile-friendly website and is it providing an optimal user-experience? Is your hotel effectively capturing nearby searchers looking for a last minute room? Is your hotel team proactively encouraging your guests to share their positive experiences on Facebook? If your hotel does not have a mobile-strategy in place, than you may be losing potential guests to your mobile-savvy competitors.

Blue Magnet Interactive will walk you through the necessary mobile channels that your hotel needs to be optimizing to increase bookings and drive more revenue in 2014.

Get the full story at Blue Magnet Interactive

Read also "Six essential tips for a successful mobile strategy for hotels"

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HMH partners with eRevMax to improve online sales for its hotel portfolio

April 14, 2014

Headquartered in Dubai, HMH offers a complete spectrum of options to travelers ranging from top-end luxury hotels to budget properties. With its growing network, HMH required an online distribution solution that would help them expand to new markets while keeping rate and inventory updates simple to execute. RateTiger was the natural choice given its vast network of two-way XML connections and leadership position in the market. The integrated module of rate shopping and channel management proved to be a perfect fit for HMH ensuring live ARI updates as well as delivery of relevant pricing reports to help adapt rate strategies as per demand scenario.

“We needed a reliable integrated solution for price shopping and channel management. We are aware of the success other hospitality companies have had with RateTiger to streamline revenue operations and this will enable us to achieve the same, while acting quicker and faster to the changing market dynamics. We have five new hotels opening this year and eRevMax is the perfect online distribution partner for our business needs. RateTiger will provide instant control over revenue management, allowing us to handle more product types while automating our distribution process,” said Laurent A. Voivenel, CEO, HMH.

“We are glad to be the chosen one for Hospitality Management Holdings. Middle East is a growing market and Dubai is expected to attract 15 million visitors by the end of this year. This offers immense potential for HMH to tap and acquire new customers through our solutions. Not only can they connect to new channels, they can also push direct bookings by leveraging the meta-search engines that we now offer as a new channel option thereby improving online revenue instantly,” said John Seaton, VP - Sales, EMEA at eRevMax.

RateTiger Suite is an integrated solution to manage third party sales updates, benchmark competitor room rates, and manage reservations through two-way XML connectivity. It helps hotels improve sales through real-time ARI updates and leverage rate movements as per demand scenario. It is one of the most effective hotel channel management solution to drive bookings and maximize online revenue.

Related Link: eRevMax

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What to make of Google’s latest expansion into hotel listings

April 11, 2014

By convincing travelers to start their hotel search on Google Search rather than TripAdvisor, Priceline, or Expedia Google is making a powerplay against two of its biggest customers.

Some suspect that Google will use its search platform to encourage hotels to advertise direct listings to potential lodgers if there is a sufficient data match, cutting out the online travel agencies completely. Everyone knows that Google has boatloads of user data. Targeted advertisements could be a compelling proposition for hotels which seek to avoid the fees from Expedia and Priceline which can be as high as 25%.

The company that is most directly targeted by Google's move into hotels however is TripAdvisor. Like Google Hotels, TripAdvisor is a search platform for travelers where they can find hotel listings they can book through the online travel agencies.

Just like everything else happening in tech right now, there is strong reason to believe that Google Hotels will be focused on mobile engagement. One successful and emerging mobile hotel booking app that Google may be taking a look at is Hotel Tonight. Hotel Tonight is an Android and iOS app that launched in 2010 and has now been downloaded over 8 million times. The app is perfect for travelers on the go because it specializes in matching buyers and sellers for last minute hotel bookings. Adding this type of service on top of Google Hotel's mobile app which launched in November 2013 would put even more emphasis on Google's mobile engagement which is already quite entrenched.

Get the full story at Seeking Alpha (free registration)

Read also "Google finally checks in to the hotel business", "Google Travel’s grand plan? Become the ultimate aggregator" at Skift and "Google just became a real problem for online travel agents" at InvestorPlace

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Priceline wants to be loved

April 11, 2014

Priceline Group has come a long way since 1998 when a serial inventor and entrepreneur named Jay Walker won a patent for buyer-driven pricing, setting the stage for the first online system that let consumers bid for plane tickets and later, hotel rooms.

The company has morphed into the biggest global online travel agency based on revenue, with an especially strong presence in Europe, where it was early to recognize consumers' fading resistance to electronic bookings. Its shrewd overseas expansion has been a lightning bolt that has shot its shares to record highs, making Priceline Group (PCLN) one of the top stocks of the past 30 years.

"Our brands are recognized for the outstanding consumer experience they provide," Priceline CEO Darren Huston said. "The way they do that is build it off the best product selection and travel options, great pricing and most simple online experience. That's a big deal. We're now the largest player in the space. Travel is a trillion-dollar industry and our share of that is still less than 5%. So we have lots of opportunities to grow and make a difference."

Get the full story at Investors Business Daily

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Credit and debit cards dominate online travel payment

April 11, 2014

Alternative payment methods such as E-Wallets, online banking and mobile payment are on the rise, and the digital currency Bitcoin is also accepted by some online travel agencies."

Global developments in online payments for online travel.

One general trend in online travel is the increasing use of mobile devices to make reservations, especially by business travelers and consumers who book last minute trips. With the increasing use of smartphones and tablet computers for travel planning, payment methods have to adapt to the emerging trend in consumer practice. A third of airlines already plan to facilitate the use of mobile payments for booking purposes in the next two years. PayPal is already accepted by an increasing number of travel booking websites.

Online payment fraud is a major concern of online travel agencies and booking websites. Though only around 1% of online travel payments is fraudulent, considering the size of the market, this is a significant number. Industry compliance with established safety regulations and keeping consumers informed about secure payment can contribute to decreasing the occurrence and cost of payment fraud.

Another trend on the online travel payments is towards immediate payment at the time of booking of hotels. Though both prepayment and reservation held by card for later payment at the desk are present on such travel booking websites as and, on other such as on pre-payment has become the dominant option.

Regional variations in online payment for flights and lodging

Though online travel is a global market, peculiarities of local payment environments influence travel payment practice. For example, budget airline Ryanair accepts direct debits on its website in Germany, where they are popular, and does not take surcharges on them. Online travel booking website, for which the primary market is Brazil, accepts the local banking payment method Boleto Bancario, while Japan-based All Nippon Airways accepts cash payment at convenience stores, which is an accepted payment practice in Japan. US airline companies United Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer the delayed payment method Bill Me Later, a PayPal brand, for customers with a billing addresses in the USA.

Related Link:

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Chains a threat to ‘boutique,’ hoteliers say

April 11, 2014

“Large companies, large-scale chains turning themselves into boutiques are only bastardizing the business in my opinion,” said Paul Ruffino, senior VP of Kept Hotels & Resorts, during a panel titled “What is so special about owning and operating boutique & lifestyle hotels?”

“What (brands) have done is they’ve seen what happened. And the big chains, in their defense, all they’re trying to do is do what people want,” said Larry Spelts, director of asset management at Charlestowne Hotels. “But there again, once there are 100 of this new boutique hotel, it has achieved ubiquity and you’re no longer unique. You’re no longer authentic to your locale because there are 100 of you.”

Boutique hotels are typically defined by their location and contain some sort of unique design or décor aspect to show that. The speakers agreed that what they dislike most about the brands expanding into their space is the overall lack of a true boutique guest experience.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Mobile search reshapes the path to purchase

April 11, 2014

Desktop search remains a favorite among marketers because of its deep consumer behavior history—which benefits search engine optimization on the desktop and mobile—its existing best practices, its measurable return on investment (ROI) and its wide usage. But with a mobile revolution under way, the desktop is finding a long-term home as a piece—but no longer the center—of the consumer journey.

Key to the future of desktop search is understanding how it will be informed by mobile usage in terms of design and measurement. Marketers now aim to intercept consumers at various times on various devices, and more frequently it’s mobile devices that catch consumers’ attention first. September 2013 data from comScore showed that overlap between mobile and desktop accounted for nearly half the unique visitors among the top 15 US web properties.

Adapting to a consumer who has already viewed something on mobile presents major shifts in how search results pages are designed.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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Evernote founder: Apps will soon be obsolete

April 11, 2014

Currently most Evernote users interact with it primarily on their mobile phones. But when Libin looks to the future of computing, he's extremely bullish on wearables. He said Thursday at the exclusive f.ounders conference in New York City that while productivity on desktop computers flows in cycles of two-to-three hours, productivity on a cell phone screen is achieved in much smaller chunks of time.

"It's not just that the screens got smaller, but on phones, you have to solve the problem of 'how do you make someone productive for two-to-three minutes,'" Libin said. And apps are ideal for short, minutes-long interactions.

Libin is a big believer that within a couple of years, smartwatches and eyeglasses will be mainstream. In other words, computers will be worn rather than held in a palm. And that will inherently change how individuals interact with the programs or systems the computers run--including Evernote.

Get the full story at

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Is your hotel hyper-local enough?

April 11, 2014

Wyndham launched this functionality in December and is currently tweaking the page to see what works and what doesn't.

Another project has been to link to events in a particular area from the hotel's own website. "The aim is to get consumer fully engaged on our website and not go to the competition," says Danica Boyd, the group's senior director of content operations. "If we give them innovative content, then hopefully they will book with us and not through the OTAs or third party channels."

In 2014, a major strategic focus is video. "We are pushing individual hotels to do new high-res photos/videos that stir emotion, work well for our tablet solution and are appropriately tagged for SEO," says Boyd. "We're moving away from shooting the brand standard."

Get the full story at EyeForTravel

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TripAdvisor helps hoteliers cut dependency on booking intermediaries

April 11, 2014

By Pedro Colaco

Having recently come back from quite a few trade shows and customer visits, and having spoken to tens of industry experts, I felt compelled to write this article about an idea that I have been sharing with our hotel customers and my industry friends for a while, but that I want to share with the industry at large and put out to debate.

The idea is simple: Tripadvisor's Tripconnect is the first real challenger to's dominance and is the first step to get hoteliers back in control of their online distribution channel.

Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

Hoteliers feel trapped

There is a mounting sentiment among hoteliers that hotel booking intermediaries like and Expedia are getting stronger by the day. Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are massively outspending hotels in online marketing and customer acquisition, and their aggressive online and TV campaigns are driving consumer traffic to their websites, away from hotel's official websites. is by far the most assertive player marketing hotels to consumers, having racked up significant advantage in all online promotion techniques like Google Adwords and other foms of PPC (pay per click) or re-targeting and re-marketing. This marketing aggressiveness has turned into the dominant hotel OTA in Europe and is already making significant dents in North America (see Alexa ranks of OTAs below). Hence, the attention of many hoteliers is on and how to decrease their dependency on them.

Commission checks have doubled and continue to rise

Specialized hotel OTAs do not only outspend hoteliers, they also seem to be outsmarting hoteliers with strategies to drive prices down and commissions up.

Prices are kept low by increasing available accommodation inventory with speciality lodging (bed and breakfasts, serviced apartments, hostels) and even thousands of individual apartments that can be rented on a daily basis.

Commissions are kept high by having as many players as possible bidding "to be on page 1", where a massive percentage (some say 80-90%) of all transactions happen.

According to a spot check at some of our customers, we estimate that over the last two to three years average commissions paid by hotels to OTAs in markets like London, Barcelona or Lisbon have gone up from 20% to 30%. These changes, tied to a stronger dominance of OTAs, represent an almost doubling of the commission checks that hotels pay to OTAs on a monthly basis.

Even "prime beef" is fair game now

In secondary markets the rise of the OTAs sales channel, and massive OTA spend in online advertising has created significant value: an increase in sales opportunities and therefore increased occupancy.

In primary markets or seasons where occupancy is guaranteed to be high, the rise of the OTA sales channel has had a negative impact in hotel operations profitability. There have been little strategies that hotels could run to protect their "prime beef" from being partially taken over by the OTAs, especially with clauses like "price parity" and "last room availability".

The meta-search promise

The rise of hotel OTAs as vertical search engines for hotels is also due to the fact that consumers are getting tired of a messy hotel search experience. Numerous studies by Google show that travelers visit tens of sites before booking accommodation.

Entrepreneurs, seeing the opportunity to improve the same search experience, launched specialized search sites that compare prices on several OTAs to guide consumers to the best possible deal, including the one on the hotel's website (Meta-search). Some of these sites, like Trivago, have experienced massive success due to an aggressive TV ad campaign to drive traffic to its website.

While growingly important contenders, these sites still attract relatively little traffic when compared to hotel OTAs.

Enter TripAdvisor Tripconnect

When TripAdvisor launched Tripconnect back in October 2013, it was positioned as a service that "allows TripAdvisor Business Listings subscribers to participate in Hotel Price Comparison and to drive direct bookings from TripAdvisor to their own property's website." So, nothing different than Trivago or RoomKey, right? Wrong.

TripAdvisor is the first truly viable platform to generate a massive amount of direct bookings. TripAdvisor can help hotel brands compete with the OTAs for their bookings mainly due to two factors:

To provide some market context on the opportunity, take a look at Figure 3. TripAdvisor is truly the #2 website for hoteliers. It is the only one that gets close to in terms of traffic (ranks #208 vs.'s #125), it outranks Expedia (#519) and blows fellow meta-search Trivago or RoomKey out of the water by 50 times! This is the sort of sales opportunity that hotel brands should participate in.

- The massive volume of users it already services on a monthly basis. According to TripAdvisor, over 260 million unique users plan travel on TripAdvisor each month. That's over 6,000 unique users looking at hotel reviews every second of every day.

- The target audience is already highly engaged with your brand. They are already looking at your hotel's reviews.

If this is PPC, won't the OTAs just outspend hotels again?

So, TripConnect allows hoteliers to bid on their own page. But OTAs are already listed on TripAdvisor's PPC programs, and have gained significant experience on bidding over the years. Moreover, TripAdvisor's business listing is considered expensive for many hotels. Managing PPC also adds to the list of tasks and budget line items in already cash- and resource-strapped independent hotels.

TripAdvisor has been running special pricing programs for hotels that sign up now. And bid management has been made very simple by TripAdvisor. So, all-in-all, if you want to cut your dependency on booking intermediaries, this is as good as it gets for now. And driving direct traffic is just the beginning.

This is just the beginning

With TripConnect, hotels now have a tool that allows them to be creative and compete with the OTAs based on total value offered to the consumers. I foresee that most price parity and last room availability clauses will be questioned. Hotels will drive special deals (e.g. free WiFi, 10% discount for Club sign-ups) that will test price parity clauses to the limit. And for high season, some hotels will be able to close out OTA sales and keep TripConnect open – and only their direct website prices will appear on TripConnect.

So, expect some backlash from the OTAs. But now you may have someone with clout on your side – TripAdvisor.

Is it going to be just TripAdvisor and

The point of this article is to regain control of your distribution, not to move your reservations from to TripAdvisor. In addition, Google has slowly (but surely) been incorporating smarter hotel meta-search into its products. It started with Google Hotel Finder, migrated to Google Local Business and is now being increasingly displayed in native Google Search (the hotel carousel is just one example of such integration). Expect Google to become a more significant player in Meta-search in the coming 12 months.

To regain control of your distribution I believe you need to divide and conquer: i.e. you need to make sure you have a balanced distribution strategy, with a few OTAs, a few Meta players and a lot of direct bookings. To do so should require little extra work, as you can leverage reasonably priced technology solutions that provide seamless integration with these channels.


2014 is the year of meta-search due to TripAdvisor's TripConnect. TripAdvisor, due to its scale, is the first viable alternative to drive significant bookings away from the OTAs. By being able to participate in the travel planning process of 260,000,000 travel planners every month, hoteliers will be able to start balancing OTA vs. direct bookings and begin to get control of their online distribution channel back.

But it's not magic: it has annual fees, marketing costs, and requires smart revenue management. Nothing you cannot deal with.

Related Link: GuestCentric

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How Google helps Hyatt to bring its brand experience to life

April 10, 2014

After an 18-month series of global listening sessions revealed striking customer insights from female business travelers, Hyatt saw a large opportunity to improve the business travel experience for all guests and to grow customer satisfaction with women in particular. Needing to share the new-and-improved Hyatt guest experience and its “we’re listening” brand message with female travelers, Hyatt turned to Google. Using unique ad formats in an integrated campaign across Google Display, YouTube and Google+, Hyatt reached its target audience and created an engaging brand experience.

Customers are at the center of the Hyatt brand experience, including marketing. In recent years, Hyatt’s marketing strategy has evolved to focus more heavily on reaching consumers online, where they often research and plan travel. “As consumer behavior evolves, it makes sense that we follow them into the digital platforms where they’re living,” says Dan Moriarty, Hyatt’s director of social strategy. “With digital channels, our marketing dollars are trackable and efficient, which is why we allocate more than half of our annual media spend to digital,” adds Frank Wong, Hyatt’s director of digital media.

Digital media played a crucial role in Hyatt’s recent campaign targeting female business travelers. After learning that a number of women “largely felt the hotel experience had been designed by men, for men, we made several changes to improve the female guest experience,” says Emily Wright, a senior manager responsible for Hyatt’s brand experience. Some of these improvements included adding high-quality bath amenities to every room, making female-friendly amenities such as curling irons available on request and updating the in-room dining menu with healthier options.

Get the full story at Google Think Insights

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The top 25 travel spots worldwide according to TripAdvisor users

April 10, 2014

TripAdvisor announced the winners of its Travelers' Choice™ awards for Destinations. The sixth annual awards honor nearly 500 destinations including the winners for the top spots in the world, and individual lists for Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, China, Middle East, Russia, South America, the South Pacific, the U.K. and the U.S.

"If you're looking for trip inspiration, look no further than the Travelers' Choice Destinations," said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. "Our global travelers are the tastemakers for uncovering the best places to visit around the world."

Travelers' Choice Destinations honor top travel spots worldwide based on the millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor travelers. Award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, attractions and restaurants in destinations worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period.

Top 25 Travelers' Choice World Destinations:
(+/- denotes change in ranking year-over-year, 0 is no change and new is new to the top 25)

1. Istanbul, Turkey (+11)
2. Rome, Italy (+2)
3. London, England (0)
4. Beijing, China (+17)
5. Prague, Czech Republic (+4)
6. Marrakech, Morocco (+13)
7. Paris, France (-6)
8. Hanoi, Vietnam (New)
9. Siem Reap, Cambodia (+14)
10. Shanghai, China (+12)
11. Berlin, Germany (0)
12. New York City, New York (-10)
13. Florence, Italy (-5)
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina (+4)
15. Barcelona, Spain (-10)
16. St. Petersburg, Russia (+4)
17. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (New)
18. Chicago, Illinois (-4)
19. Cape Town, South Africa (-3)
20. Bangkok, Thailand (-7)
21. Budapest, Hungary (New)
22. Sydney, Australia (-12)
23. Lisbon, Portugal (Ne
24. Chiang Mai, Thailand (0)
25. San Francisco, California (-18

Get the full story at TripAdvisor

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UK: Quarter of Thomson bookings via mobile devices

April 10, 2014

Tui UK and Ireland managing director Dave Burling said: "This shows the investment we have made in these devices. Customers want to research these holidays on the devices of their choice."

In the same period, 49% of total web traffic came through these mobile devices. The company also revealed online sales will hit 50% of total sales this year, worth £1.8 billion in turnover.

Burling added: "We have got a huge online business. This January we had half a million browsers of our hotel videos on our website; this gives you an indication of the scale of the business.

“The biggest trend online has been the move towards developing sites which can work not just on desktops but on tablets and smartphones. We are continually looking at investing in this business and in terms of the quality and service we give.”

Get the full story at Travel Weekly UK

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UK: New B2B bed bank ‘Magic Rooms’ launches

April 10, 2014

Magic Rooms, will launch on April 15, be registered in the UK and will be fronted by former OHG sales director Brian Young as managing director. Ex-OHG chief executive Steve Endacott will not be involved.

Fontenla-Novoa told Travel Weekly that about 15 of OHG's staff in finance, product and back office roles would be re-employed across the old business's two offices in Manchester and Crawley, but he stressed it would be a "slimmed down version" of the former operation.

Fontenla-Novoa said: "I do believe that there is a space in the market for a good independent B2B bed bank and also believe in Brian and his team. I also believe in the relationships that we will have with travel agents, which Brian is key to. Distribution is absolutely crucial."

Get the full story at Travel Weekly and an interview with Magic Rooms' Managing Director at Travel Weekly

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Travel agents divided on social media‏

April 10, 2014

That’s among key findings in ASTA’s just-released 2013 Technology & Website Usage Report, which details how the online habits of travel agencies have shifted as social media has become a larger part of the cultural and business landscape.

In one of the more pronounced shifts in agents’ technology use, just a third of agencies had an online booking tool on their site, down from 60% in a 2007 survey.

Why the change?

“When a lot were using branded online tools, they felt it was more of a workaround for suppliers than something integrated into their agency,” said Teates. “Some said they weren’t getting enough sales from online tools to make it worth their time.”

Royal Caribbean and Sandals & Beaches are the top branded leisure online tools used on agency websites.

Get the full story at Travel Market Report

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Majority of US travel agencies say revenue rose in 2013

April 10, 2014

“A second year of strong growth shows that agencies are connecting with consumers who want to work with a travel professional,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA’s president and CEO. “ASTA agencies are confident that they can continue to expand their business in 2014.”

Fifty-six percent of retail leisure agencies reported increased revenue; 59% reported an increase in clients. Forty-four percent of independent agents (for the purposes of this study, ASTA defined independent agents as owner/agents, independent contractors or hosted agents) reported increased revenue and 46% reported an increase in the number of clients.

Sixty-four percent of travel agencies reported a profit in 2013. When broken out, 72% of corporate agencies, 62% of retail leisure agencies and 57% of independent agents reported profits.

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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OpenHotel provides connectivity to 50 hotel clients with Pegasus Connect+

April 10, 2014

“We commit to offer the hotels we work with easy, manageable and affordable connectivity to the global distribution systems and online channels,” said Michelle Herrin, vice president of OpenHotel. “Delivering that through Pegasus Connect+ allows us to optimize the other tools we provide that help hotels compete online.”

With Pegasus Connect+, OpenHotel clients receive RVNG, the only central reservations system built to manage selling hotel rooms in the Internet age. Each hotel will also enjoy one seamless connection to the four global distribution systems (GDSs), and more than 1,000 travel websites. Pegasus Sales Connections offers OpenHotel clients RFP management along with an enhanced set of sales tools tailored to hotel revenue creation needs.

“Delivering for clients requires innovation – whether that means developing new solutions, or leveraging already proven existing tools,” said David Millili, chief executive officer of Pegasus Solutions. “We’re pleased to serve as the ‘existing tool’ for OpenHotel as its team continues delivering and developing their branded property management system and booking solutions. As we make more hotels available through Pegasus Connect+, travelers will be more driven to shop, knowing availability is representative of the actual global hotel market.”

Related Link: Pegasus Solutions

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DerbySoft receives $9 million funding

April 10, 2014

DCM, a global venture capital firm investing in early stage technology companies in the U.S., China, and Japan, was founded in 1996 and operates offices in Silicon Valley, Beijing and Tokyo with more than $2.5 billion assets under management. It has currently invested in more than 40 companies in China, including,,,,,, and Yongche, an Uber-style Chinese car rental service.

"We invested in DerbySoft because they are the recognized leader in connecting the world's largest hotel companies to the world's largest online travel sites," said Hurst Lin, co-founding partner of DCM China. "The vast collections of ‘Big Data’ associated with processing millions of hotel transactions daily provides an opportunity for DerbySoft to further their growth by providing new data-related services.”
Founded in 2002 by DerbySoft's CEO Ted Zhang and CTO Feng Ou, the company's headquarters are in Shanghai, with offices in Dallas, Texas, and London, Beijing and Tokyo.

DerbySoft's customers include the largest hotel companies in the world, such as IHG, Hilton, Carlson- Rezidor, Hyatt, Shangri-La, and Marriott, and as well as smaller regional chains including Home Inns, JinJiang Inns, Greentree Inns, and more than 1,000 independent hotels in China.

DerbySoft connects its hotel customers' central reservations systems (CRS) and third-party CRSs such as Trust International, and Sabre Hospitality Solutions / SynXis, to online booking and metasearch sites around the world, such as, Google, Kayak, Travelocity, Room key, Tripadvisor, Ctrip, Elong, Trivago, Qunar, Kuxun, Taobao, Weibo, Tourico, H.I.S, Wotif, HotelBeds, and many more.

Beyond its reservations system connectivity services, DerbySoft's innovative and sophisticated CRS caching services have recently come into higher demand due to the continued growth of metasearch sites, which can overwhelm a hotel CRS with room rate and availability requests.

DerbySoft was among the first to develop a system for hotel room providers -- which can include online travel agencies, tour operators, etc. -- to manage and optimize their real-time bidding, placement and ad spending on metasearch sites such as Google. DerbySoft officially launched its MetaSearch Manager last year.

"The demand for our MetaSearch Manager platform and related services has been almost overwhelming since we launched it publicly late last year," said DerbySoft Co-Founder and CEO Ted Zhang. "We intend to use the DCM funds to ramp up our team and operations to accommodate the exciting demand for this new product, and to continue to increase the quality of our existing services.

"This additional capital will also enable us to pursue other new opportunities that leverage our existing technology connections and infrastructure, such as potentially providing marketing services based on real-time aggregated hotel booking data," Zhang continued. "We are honored that such a top-notch, well-known VC has granted us this vote of confidence."

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Google finally checks in to the hotel business

April 09, 2014

The idea is to encourage travelers to plan more of their trips directly on Google. In the process Google gets them closer to making a booking, which experts expect will make referrals more valuable, prompting travel agencies and hotel operators to pay more for clicks on Google ads over time. It also encourages more hotel operators to place ads on Google directly, bypassing online travel agencies that charge commissions of up to 25%.

In its latest move related to hotels, Google on Monday struck a licensing deal that will give it access to technology from hotel-booking software startup Room 77 while adding engineers to Google's hotel-search team.

The potential market is large. In the U.S. alone, travel and tourism spending totaled $450 billion last year, and is expected to grow 3.5% this year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

But the move is risky: Online travel agencies are among Google's biggest advertisers. Priceline Group will spend more than $1.5 billion in 2014 on Google advertising and Expedia could spend another $1 billion, mainly to attract hotel bookings, estimates RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney. Those two alone could account for nearly 5% of Google's ad revenue this year, Mr. Mahaney estimates, even though the company has over a million advertising customers.

Get the full story at The Wall Street Journal

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Can Google disrupt the online travel industry?

April 09, 2014

Hotel Price Ads, or HPA, is perhaps Google's most prominent hotel booking platform. HPA are sponsored price listings that usually appear on Google Maps, Google+, and Google Hotel Finder. HPA is the hotel equivalent of ITA, a proprietary airline booking software.

The platform is aimed at hotel marketers who use it to leverage the opaque hotel pricing and reservation model. Opaque pricing refers to selling unsold hotel or airline inventory at discounted prices, but without revealing the identity of the supplier (hotel or airline) to avoid cannibalizing full-price retail sales. This is the pricing system for which Priceline is famous.

For example, whenever a prospective customer enters a search query about hotels, Google sifts through a list of hotel rates that have been submitted by hotel marketers using a real-time pricing feed. Google then produces hotel results with standard site ad copy, plus a drop-down menu listing available rooms within the hotel. Prices are submitted by OTAs as well as the hotels.

From a client perspective, HPA helps hotels cut out the middlemen (OTAs), and also provides a better return on investment than typical core paid search campaigns, although adoption rates are still low. From Google's viewpoint, the platform has achieved less-than-ringing success, with lower-than-expected traffic volumes.

Get the full story at Business Insider

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GBTA revises business travel growth forecast upward for 2014

April 09, 2014

U.S. business travel spending is now expected to rise 7.1% in 2014to $293.3 billion, a substantial upgrade from the 6.6% growth to $289.8 billion GBTA predicted last quarter. Total person-trip volume is expected to increase 2.0% to 464.7 million trips, according to the GBTA BTI™Outlook– United States 2014 Q1, a report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) sponsored by Visa, Inc.

- GBTA’s forecast upgrade will be fueled by strong investment in international outbound travel spending, which is now expected to increase 12.9% to $37.2 billion – up from 12.5% growth forecasted in Q4.

- GBTA’s outlook for group travel was also revised to increase 7% in 2014 to $126 billion– up from the 6.5% growth GBTA predicted last quarter.

“As the spring thaw gets into full swing businesses are feeling more confident, with pent-up demand to get their employees back on the road,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “Business travel growth is a leading indicator of job growth, and we’ve seen this play out in previous quarters as the private sector has finally regained all of the jobs lost during the recession. Today’s forecast suggests that this measured but steady improvement should continue.”

“According to the BTI forecast, business travel in the U.S. will see strong gains in 2014, fueled by outbound international business travel,” said Tad Fordyce, SVP, Global Commercial Solutions for Visa. “As more employees travel globally, organizations that use electronic payments have a convenient and secure way to pay for business travel expenses no matter where they travel in the world.”

Get the full story at GBTA

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Sabre and TripAdvisor partner to bring SeatGuru capabilities to travel agents

April 09, 2014

In addition, agents will have access to information on in-flight amenities including entertainment options, Wi-Fi access, power and USB ports and meals.

“As airlines do more to differentiate the traveler experience, it is critical that agents are able to quickly access information on different seat attributes and amenities,” said Chris Kroeger, senior vice president of Sabre Travel Network. “The SeatGuru Red App is another great example of how we use the Red App Centre to deliver unique and specialized business applications to our agency customers through innovative partnerships.”

Through the Red App Centre, agents can order the SeatGuru Red App and incorporate it directly into their Sabre Red Workspace, giving them more insight to select the best seats for travelers. The seat information from the SeatGuru Red App will build upon Sabre’s recently enhanced seat map and seat booking capabilities for airlines in the Sabre travel marketplace.

Get the full story at Sabre

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Using search intelligence and hotel data to improve booking behaviour

April 09, 2014

Today the travel supply chain has become highly fragmented, crowded and complex with suppliers of hotel rooms, airline seats, tour packages and cars existing alongside intermediaries. Many of these intermediaries exist to offer travel product suppliers another and sometimes faster route to the end consumers. OTAs, GDSs, B2B Accommodation Wholesalers, Metasearch price comparison sites, branded dotcoms – all are part of the huge online travel market worth $313 billion in 2012 (according to PhoCusWright).

The shopper for travel products is spoilt for choice both in the diversity of what is on offer and the myriad of online sites where he can go to make that purchase. But judging by the rising look-to-book ratios, making that choice easy with the needs and wants of the consumer in mind has not yet been achieved.

The online travel shopper, spends more on travel products than in other online retail stores and is passionate about his travel plans and finding the best deal for him. His research gives him instant access to flight, hotel, and car-rental options and the ability to play suppliers off against one another. A high degree of search activity across multiple sites usually precedes every booking. Of course there will always be shoppers who are not satisfied until they have researched all options to assure themselves that they are getting the very best price available, but that can take up valuable time. For intermediaries and suppliers to be able to serve up more limited options, but ones that more accurately match demand will help both the shopper to turn that look into a booking and the intermediary to turn that search into a conversion.

This empowerment of the consumer by the Internet is forcing travel companies to think more like retailers. This means learning to combine the data available on the products being searched for and bought with detailed knowledge of the customer, his situation and his preferences.

Get the full story at

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Complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi most valuable hotel amenities

April 09, 2014

Not surprisingly, hotel guests preferred Wi-Fi over any other in-room feature as the need for constant connectivity remains at an all-time high. Travelers also identified the bathroom shower and room size among the most important in-room features.

However, the survey found that food is becoming more of a factor when it comes to hotel property amenities. When asked which hotel amenities are most important outside of the room, complimentary breakfast topped the list, followed by presence of a restaurant. Wi-Fi availability in shared spaces of the hotel was also one of the top amenities.

"Popular hotel amenities like parking, non-smoking rooms and pools have become more standardized, and we're seeing that travelers are placing more value on quality food options than ever before which is good news for foodies!" said Taylor L. Cole, APR travel expert for

Get the full story and Infographic at Reuters

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InnLink acquired by parent company of Trust International

April 09, 2014

The combination enables both companies to leverage their complementary strengths by capitalising on their product, client and market synergies. With the acquisition of InnLink LLC, IHS GmbH also aims to strengthen its position in the attractive US market, building on InnLink LLC’s strong client base and proven track record. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

As a result of the acquisition, IHS now operates four business units under its umbrella, serving as a one-stop shop for the global hospitality industry: Next to InnLink LLC, this includes the international hotel group Worldhotels; the leading CRS provider Trust International; and the sales management solutions provider Nexus World Services. The company network supports 20,000 hotels in 65 countries, reaching approximately 120 million guests and helping its hospitality customers generate more than $3 billion in room revenue each year.

“InnLink LLC perfectly complements the IHS portfolio”, comments Steve Rowley, IHS’ Chairman and CEO. “We were particularly impressed by the company’s potential for growth, its high level of expertise as well as its world-class product set and services. Together we can offer an enhanced set of solutions to our customers worldwide.

“Becoming a part of the IHS family of brands is a tremendous value-add for all stakeholders” says InnLink CEO Richard Corso. “As InnLink and its clients have grown, so have their business needs. The expertise and resources will surely benefit our clients and staff.”

Related Link: InnLink

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Passkey launches new hotel booking portal for meeting planners

April 09, 2014

In the last twelve months alone, over 150,000 events used Passkey’s cloud-based GroupMAX™ system to book over 10 million hotel reservations and 30 million room nights. While these events ranged from large conferences and conventions to small corporate meetings and gatherings, they all had one thing in common: They allowed meeting planners to handle their hotel accommodation needs with unprecedented ease and peace of mind.

Today, Passkey is taking another major step in streamlining the hotel booking experience for meeting and events by launching PasskeyANYWHERE, a new, free and open-for-all online portal for meeting planners:

In addition to being a central location for meeting planners to access all of their events, the new portal lets any planner offer a dedicated hotel booking website for any of their events, while utilizing a powerful set of tools such as event dashboards and email alerts that enhance the event experience.

With the launch of its planner portal, Passkey is also unveiling a new set of cloud-based tools that help meeting planners drive even more successful events and financial value while reducing their workload, worry and risks. These tools include planner hotel reviews, preferred hotel and venue search and certified event histories (event certificates).
Tonya B., a planner at a major financial institution, reflects on her use of GroupMAX: "We have been using Passkey’s tools for over seven years and have had great success with increased pick-up, real time reporting and adding shoulder night. It’s a great service to everyone – the attendee, the planner and the hotel. Everything is in real time, so regardless of time differences, everyone is on the same page at all times. Going forward, we will use it for all of our events.”

Another meeting planner notes, "Using Passkey’s GroupMAX, I felt much more in control over my block and more confident in making decisions about my block." Audrey Young, director of conferences and events for Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, who recently used the system, continues, "I was able to keep track of pick up, view reservations, as well as make and modify reservations and send confirmations. All of this was extremely valuable to me, especially since I was concerned with duplications or individuals holding multiple rooms who had not yet registered for the meeting."

Here are some of the features meeting planners will now be able to enjoy across all their events using the new portal:

- Online hotel booking at any hotel: Meeting planners now have the ability to offer attendees the convenience of online hotel booking for any event, at any hotel, worldwide.

- Centralized accommodation management (All-new): Meeting planners can track reservations and other critical information about all of their events in one central location.

- Event Certificates (All-new): An event certificate summarizes an event’s actual performance history, including overall booking percentage, night-by-night booking and booking pace. It is available at the conclusion of any event in GroupMAX and can be instrumental for planners and hotels to reach mutually favorable terms for future events.

- Preferred Venue Search (All-new): Planners can easily find hotels and destinations that offer Passkey’s full set of tools as part of their standard event offering, helping them narrow their search to the best hotels and destinations.

- Planner hotel reviews (All-new): Planners can write a private hotel review (seen only by the host hotel) for hotels where their events were held and managed in Passkey. This provides both hotels and planners a valuable and credible review and feedback mechanism that is focused solely on the event experience.

“Today’s meeting planners need tools that provide convenience and efficiency, as well as allow them to deliver more successful events,” states Greg Pesik, CEO and president of Passkey. “With the launch of our new planner portal, not only have we made it more convenient for planners to manage their hotel bookings across all events, but we are also introducing new innovative features such as event certificates and hotel reviews which promise to make each event even better than the last.”

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Marriott uses global blending to enrich guest experience

April 08, 2014

To further understand how to create the sense of place affluent travelers are looking for, Marriott International has created a Gen-Y traveler profile named Gia. Like most affluent travelers, Gia is a tech-enabled global citizen interested in collecting experiences.

This type of traveler is not concerned with the status of travel but rather the richness of the experience. From five-star accommodations to commune stays, this traveler looks for experiences that resonate, and they are eager to share their adventures with loved ones via social media.

Through its analysis of likeminded travelers who are literate in international culture, Marriott International has learned to communicate with its guests through empowerment methods. By doing so the hotel chain is able to show it cares, is interested and can provide guests with an opportunity to achieve what they want.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Google to licenses Room 77 software in mobile travel-booking push

April 08, 2014

Room 77 co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Calvin Yang and many of its engineers are joining Google.

Google has bolstered investments in travel to capture a bigger portion of the dollars spent by tourists who book hotels and plane tickets online. In 2011, Google spent about $700 million to buy ITA Software Inc., a provider of flight information, and the company has a service called Hotel Finder that scans prices and availability from numerous online travel agents.

Room 77 is located less than three miles from Google in Mountain View, California. The startup, founded by technology investor Brad Gerstner, is maintaining its “brand, websites, mobile applications, patents” and other technology in the deal.

Get the full story at Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal

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Hotel website satisfaction higher than overall satisfaction

April 08, 2014

A website is a business necessity, but for some industries it is more critical to the overall purchase process than for others. Website satisfaction by industry tends to correlate with overall satisfaction, but not always. Two of the top three industries for website satisfaction—credit unions and consumer shipping—also do well in terms of overall customer satisfaction. Banks, on the other hand, show an overall ACSI score of 78, which lags the industry’s website score (85).

“The websites of banks, airlines and hotels add a great deal of value to overall customer satisfaction,” says Fornell. “For these industries, website satisfaction is much higher than overall satisfaction, but it doesn’t make up for weaknesses in other areas of the customer experience.”

Airline passengers are pleased with their carriers’ websites (80), but not with their flying. At 69, airlines rank close to the bottom for customer satisfaction among all industries and also show the biggest disparity between website and overall satisfaction (11 points). Another travel-related category, hotels, scores high for website satisfaction (84) but mid-range for overall customer satisfaction (77).

Get the full story at ACSI

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For airlines, social media unrivaled in its efficiency

April 08, 2014

Over the past few years, most major and minor carriers have established a presence on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to YouTube and Instagram.United and KLM started dabbling in the alternative medium in 2009 before fully committing a year or two later. Delta unveiled @DeltaAssist in 2006. Emirates is the kid brother racing to catch up. The Dubai company unveiled its handle March 25 and had sent out 17 tweets by the end of its first week on Planet Twitter.

Two events cemented the union between airlines and social media. During the mega-snowstorm of February 2007, the chief executive of JetBlue spoke to affected and frustrated passengers via YouTube. Three years later, the Icelandic volcano erupted, creating havoc over Europe’s skies. Overwhelmed with calls and queries, KLM turned to Facebook and Twitter to reach more eyes. Today, the Dutch carrier employs 135 social media agents who are available 24 hours a day and fluent in 10 languages.

“The airline industry is a front-runner in the adoption of social media,” said Raymond Kollau, founder of, “as it allows travelers in transit to get in touch with their airline in a much easier way. And, more importantly, social media has provided customers with a magnified voice that can have a huge impact on an airline’s reputation.”

Get the full story at The Washington Post

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Kuoni experts plan regular annual business mission for hoteliers

April 08, 2014

Kuoni Group travel experts hosted 20 leading hoteliers from nine European destinations on a visit to Beijing and Shanghai last month to learn more about Chinese travellers and their expectations when visiting Europe on group tours. Hosted by Marco Russi, Kuoni Group Travel Expert’s Vice President for Hotel Sourcing and Reservations, the whirlwind tour helped them understand how to better meet the particular needs of these visitors.

Says Marco: “As the biggest group travel provider in China, we bring a lot of visitors to European destinations and book hundreds of thousands of room nights every year. Many Chinese visitors are experiencing a long haul destination for the first time and to win more of their business, hotels need to reassure them of the welcome they will receive.

“Because of the size in our business in Asia, we can also help Europe’s hoteliers understand the nature of group travel in other countries with growing numbers of outbound tourists.”

Get the full story at Breaking Travel News

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Condé Nast tries its hand at social ads

April 08, 2014

The Accelerator has been in use for the past year by Wired and sibling pub Ars Technica, the latter of which created the platform. It looks at metrics like growth in views and shares and traffic sources to predict stories that will break a certain unique pageviews threshold (in the case of Wired and Ars, 100,000 unique pageviews).

Wired and Ars Technica have been packaging Accelerator as part of an overall media plan for a specific time period, like one week, with an eye toward advertisers that want to increase their exposure for a given period. Once a story seems like it has the potential to go viral, it is connected to an ad server, where an advertiser that has pre-bought the Accelerator will have its ad appear adjacent to the popular story. Porsche, LG, Motorola, HBO, Microsoft are among advertisers that have used the platform.

“We’d have these stories. like the Kim-Kanye story on Vogue, but we haven’t been able to monetize them, because we haven’t expected it,” said Josh Stinchcomb, vp of corporate partnerships at Condé Nast. “This allows us to monetize the spikes and lets the advertiser own that story. There’s over-delivery, typically, making the buy more efficient. More important, they get connected to the story everybody’s talking about.”

Get the full story at Digiday

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TripAdvisor improves Review Express service for hoteliers

April 08, 2014

After carrying out more customer usability studies, TripAdvisor decided to make three extra enhancements.

Users can now save their templates, meaning they don’t have to start from scratch every time they want to send an email, and they can update photos and “from” email addresses on multiple templates using default settings.

Perhaps most significantly, the Review Express tool can now be linked to a property’s internet booking engine (IBE), making it easier to sync reservations and email address databases with the marketing template.

TripAdvisor claims Review Express users have seen a 33% average increase in reviews since its inception.

Get the full story at Travolution

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What types of videos are effective for hotels?

April 08, 2014

Wondering what type of video is best for your hotel property? This VTV E-Marketing Minute identifies some of the most effective types of hotel videos, allowing hotels to start cultivating their own unique, targeted story through video and visual storytelling.

View the video at Leonardo

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Hotels need a new revenue strategy to stay profitable

April 07, 2014

To tackle these distribution complexities and regain control of their bottom line, hoteliers must implement highly integrated and flexible pricing strategies. Sales, marketing, distribution, digital, revenue management and all others tasked with generating revenue need unified approaches using shared market intelligence to achieve the same goals. The ultimate goal should no longer be just revenue, but net revenue.

To be clear, our partners have not stolen anything from us. We have failed to serve the needs of our customers when they are shopping for a hotel room, and we need to own that failure, understand it and devise ways to address it.

If hoteliers, the most important players in the hotel industry’s complex value chain, can’t rationalize the economics, there is a real risk the industry could face a similar fate to those in the airline, music and publishing industries.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Sabre seeks up to $895 million in IPO

April 07, 2014

Sabre looks to raise as much as $894.7 million in its initial public offering that the company first announced in January.

Sabre will sell 44.7 million shares and estimated that they will be priced at between $18 and $20 a share, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday. The company, which didn’t announce an offering date, will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol SABR.

Sabre’s owners — TPG, Silver Lake Partners and Sovereign Co-Invest — will sell about 17% of the company with the offering, reducing their collective share of Sabre from 96% to 79%, assuming that the underwriters don’t buy additional shares. At $20 a share, Sabre’s valuation would be pegged at about $5.26 billion.

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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Brand USA boosts travel intent 22% with Google campaign

April 07, 2014

Created in 2012 to address the problem of declining inbound travel, Brand USA’s goal is to promote international travel to the United States. Whether visitors are in search of big cities, the great outdoors or simply a taste of American culture, Brand USA helps them “Discover America” and plan their trips.

To attract more visitors, deliver its brand message to the world and maintain an effective digital presence, Brand USA partners with Google for its digital marketing. “Our primary goal and end result is to influence travel and spend to the United States. We have a tremendous platform to do that,” says Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA. “It’s the perfect vehicle for influencing customers to visit the U.S. and engaging them before, during and after their trip,” adds Jiri Marousek, Brand USA’s director of digital. And the results speak for themselves. Brand USA has increased intent to travel to the U.S. by up to 22% while reaching markets that represent 90% of inbound travel to the U.S.

Get the full story at GoogleThink Insights and the corresponding infographic at Google (PDF 1.2 MB)

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How Facebook impacts results on TripAdvisor

April 07, 2014

Frederic Gonzalo shares a great example on how the social media landscape has evolved in the past two years, with a higher level of integration.

Rather than seeing the #1, #2, #3 and so-on ranked-hotels on TripAdivsor, I actually will see the hotels that best ranked among my Facebook friends’ reviews.

So having a strong, vibrant community on Facebook not only helps you foster great customer service or perhaps conduct some research and development, not to mention a few promotional initiatives, it also impacts how your hotel, restaurant or attraction will perform and get seen on TripAdvisor.

Get the full story at Frederic Gonzalo

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How to optimize your mobile travel site for bookings

April 07, 2014

A recent survey of UK-based smartphone owners found that nearly nine out of 10 used their phones to research and plan their vacations, yet the majority of transactions were made on a desktop or laptop. And Nucleus study from October 2013 found that more than one in three visits to the 11 travel websites they researched were from mobile devices.

The opportunity seems obvious: make sure customers can use mobile devices from research to purchase and everywhere in between, and they will buy more tickets and not tie up your customer service lines.

Eric Miller, Monetate’s Enterprise Account Director, shares some tips on how travel sites can, and should, improve the mobile experience, beyond the standard responsive and UX related fixes.

Get the full story at Monetate

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Social usage during TV time still small

April 07, 2014

According to the study, just 16.1% of US internet users used social media while watching live or timeshifted primetime TV programs. However, 7.8% of that social usage was not TV-related. The remaining 8.3% was related to the television in some way, with 7.3% focusing on the actual show and 1.0% discussing TV in general.

The Council for Research Excellence/Keller Fay Group found that millennials were the age group most likely to engage with social media while watching TV—particularly, older millennials; 9.6% of 25- to 34-year-olds said they used social media while viewing primetime TV. Younger millennials, those ages 15 to 24, came in second place among age groups for social TV usage, with 9.2%.

Deloitte, which determined that 26% of US internet users used social media “always” or “almost always” while watching live or timeshifted TV programs, had similar findings when it came to age demographics, though its percentages were much higher. Around half of those in the 14-to-24 and 25-to-30 age groups typically used a social network as they watched television.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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Online travel trends in Europe

April 07, 2014

By Pamela Whitby

Across the board, it's been a tough few years for the online travel industry in Europe but things could be looking up. Late last year PhocusWright released figures that suggest European gross travel bookings are projected to hit record levels of over €250 billion in 2013. In fact, Europe's online travel market is forecast to grow faster than the total travel market, averaging 8% annual growth through 2015.

Ahead of the Travel Distribution Summit, Europe, we take a broader sweep of issues that may give brands the edge in Europe.

1. Rate parity: the wall is falling with the rise of meta
Hoteliers in Europe, where chains are less dominant, are more sensitive to rate parity issues than US counterparts - and they are starting to push back. For Conor O'Connor, co-founder and chief executive of Hot Hotels, parity is a throwback to the industry of old, and some hotel activity goes against what the EU would consider to be fair practices. "The days of free price competition is what gives customers the best deal and also fills the rooms of the best hotels," he says."It still amazes me that price-fixing and separate or different rates for the same markets can and do exist," he says.

But things are changing, if slowly, in Europe and Carl Michel, executive chairman, of Generator Hostels, believes that the rise of meta-search, which is "good news for hotels", is helping to level the playing field.

2. Help the traveller bag a bargain and build love
According to O'Connor, in Europe, the ability to grasp the subtle and not so subtle differences - and, in particular, the ability to deliver a good deal is important! Hot Hotels believes it has the edge over its main competitor - HotelTonight - in Europe because it understands this market better.

"Selling a $500 hotel in Chicago for $350 might work well in the States but it doesn't translate here," he says. "In Europe, consumers are looking for a €100 hotel for €50. The market here is lower end and it's much more fragmented."

HotelTonight's recent move to include more budget offerings such as hostels, packages and holiday rentals, indicates that it has now understood this trend.

3. Build love on both sides: don't make price your only point for differentiation
Bob Rogers, co-founder of DealAngel, a firm recently acquired by the Russian online travel agent (OTA) OneTwoTrip, has a contrary view. "Yes, price is important in Europe, but if you only differentiate on price then that is not sustainable," he says. "I'm a firm believer in building love in the services you provide and giving value on both sides."

In a world where OTAs are often making demands on hotels for parity and so on, Rogers says, for example, that they have developed a free rate-shopping tool. This allows hotels to see and understand their ranking on an OTA's website, a service many already pay for.

Mobile-only players - which help hotels sell distressed inventory, while helping consumers bag bargain - have also understood the importance of a two-way relationship. "Mobile is an opaque channel and we are not here to cannibalise the sales of our hotel partners," says O'Connor.

4. Be prepared for growth for mobile and the last minute
Of course, specific mobile trends can't be ignored as mobile bookings are growing explosively and by 2015, a fifth of all online travel bookings are expected to take place via smartphone or tablet. If you need more proof, generated more than $8 billion in mobile bookings in 2013, up from $3 billion in 2012 and $1 billion in 2011 - and it has invested heavily in making the user experience a seamless one. As O'Connor points out, around a quarter of of all hotel bookings are now made on the same day and 60-80% of those same day bookings are made on a mobile device. "We aim to be right at the apex of those trends," he says.

5. The rise of the repeat booker: find the right niche and you may just drive loyalty customers
"I've been in online travel for almost a decade and I've never seen repeat customer percentages [over 50% of Hot's customers are repeat visitors] like this," says O'Connor, who believes that not only is the European customer really looking for a deal, they want to complete it in record time so it's more important than ever to deliver a great, frictionless user experience. "If you go to an OTA website, search the list, enter contact details and so on, it's a three to four minute process. On our app it takes 10 seconds or less," he says.

That's got to be a good thing.

6. Geo-location, personalisation and packaging better
At no other point in history have people carried a computer in their pocket. From checking status updates to making phone calls or booking a hotel room, there is a lot of inherent geographic and geo-location technology built into a mobile device which allows customers to behave in a much more on demand way.

With the fall of roaming charges in Europe, coupled with access to a huge amount of data, there are real opportunities. Selling tours and activities during the trip is just one example. "Most time people are not in the frame of mind to book an activity, which can be weather dependent, before they leave home," says Rogers, who can't stress enough the importance of thinking creatively. For example, if the traveller is staying in a hotel near a popular museum, why not entice them in for breakfast with a discount, before the tour groups descend. The consumer benefits from a discounted ticket or meal, and the destination/venue sees customers at what is usually a quiet time.

7. The consumerisation of business travel
Speaking of that computer in a pocket, Nick Vournakis, Carlson Wagonlit Travel's (CWT) senior vice president, global marketing says the consumerisation of business travel and the power of travellers looking for an experience on par with what they would expect when booking leisure travel is a rising trend. "I expect that door-to-door booking capabilities, fully enabled on mobile devices,where a traveller can book a trip in a few simple clicks, will continue to rise in popularity," he says.

Related Link: EyeForTravel Travel Distribution Summit, Europe

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eRevMax predicts 2014 to be the year of Meta-search

April 07, 2014

The infographic, based on several market studies, advises hotels to invest in meta-search marketing and include it to their core marketing plan. Traffic to meta-search sites have been steadily increasing with over 36% online travellers using comparison shop before booking. This is evident from 13% growth in the meta-search traffic statistics over the last year amongst varying age groups. 39% of ‘Millennials’ cite meta-search channels as their preferred source of information, 35% of ‘Xers’ (age 35-48) opt for meta-search, 23% of Boomers (age 49-67) and 14 % of ‘Matures’ select these sites as their top source for travel information.

With the entry of TripAdvisor and Google in the meta-search space, it is no wonder that meta-search is going to take center-stage in 2014. Kayak has processed over 1577 million queries in 2013, and this is expected to reach over 3 billion in the next 5 years. According to December 2012 data from PhoCusWright and Experian Hitwise, 6% of US traffic comes from sites such as Kayak. TripAdvisor receives 260 million monthly visits and over 50% of them use the meta-search feature.

This tremendous growth can be attributed to the value proposition these sites offer to the travel consumers – not only do they provide real-time availability and rate data, and enable price comparison – these sites are one-stop platforms for travelers to research and consequently book their hotel stay.

eRevMax predicts the year 2014 to be the year of hyper meta-search expansion as companies spread their reach way beyond their home-market comfort zones. For hoteliers to sell through these channels effectively, eRevMax has added meta-search as a new channel option within its distribution network. Hotels can subscribe to push their rates and availability on multiple meta-search sites directly from their RateTiger and Connect platform to boost direct bookings.

View the infographic at eRevMax

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Yahoo on how travel brands can own the digital inspiration for consumers

April 04, 2014

A recent study Yahoo undertook saw that only 3% of travel brands are a destination for consumers when they are looking for inspiration. There is a massive opportunity to own this crucial phase in the travel cycle.

While travel brands should ensure their online presence is as inspirational as possible for browsing across multiple devices, they also need to optimise their mobile and tablet sites for bookers.

The IAB found that of the 48% of travel brands who have a mobile optimised site, only 6% are specifically designed for tablet devices.

For a consumer this means browsing beautiful images and being inspired on your tablet only to then have to log on to a desktop, or go through a clunky mobile experience, to actually book your holiday. Yahoo's message to the travel industry is to get it right on tablet now, not just for browsing but for transactions too.

Get the full story at Travolution

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Expedia launches Media Lounge to up app retention and engagement

April 04, 2014

The first Media Lounge offering, available today in the Expedia app, is Over, a photo-editing app that enables travelers to personalize photos by adding text and artwork. Regularly $1.99, Over is available for free through Media Lounge for a limited time.

In addition, the Expedia app will recommend content (both free and paid) to help customers with their travels. Both featured and recommended content are carefully curated to enrich the travel experiences of users everywhere.

"Here at Expedia, we believe that technology should deliver a delightfully relevant experience at every stage: from booking to check-in, and beyond," says John Kim, Senior Vice President, Expedia. "With the introduction of Media Lounge, we're taking the next step in providing a more complete experience for our users that are traveling with their iPhone or iPod touch."

Get the full story at Mobile Marketer

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Amadeus to acquire i:FAO Group

April 04, 2014

Amadeus, the leading technology partner to the travel industry, today announced its intention to acquire i:FAO through a tender offer process, conditional upon acceptance by a minimum of 75% of shareholders and regulatory approvals. Mr Louis Arnitz, the Chief Executive Officer of i:FAO Group, and other major shareholders have committed to sell their shares into the tender offer to be launched by Amadeus. In total, Amadeus has secured 68.5% of i:FAO’s share capital in the form of irrevocable undertakings to tender. i:FAO Group is a leading provider of travel management technology solutions for corporations in Germany and is traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

“This deal extends our reach and further develops our offering in a key area, and will significantly increase our growth opportunities in the Corporate Travel IT business”, said Holger Taubmann, Senior Vice President, Distribution, at Amadeus. “Corporations are one of the biggest consumers of travel services, and they account for about 45% of all trips made worldwide. The Corporate Travel IT business - focused on providing corporations with applications to help automate travel policy, handle their booking flow and simplify the travel expense claim process – is currently estimated at around €2 to €3 billion a year, with significant growth expected over the next years”.

“Since 1998, i:FAO has developed into a leading Corporate Travel IT company in the German speaking countries – Germany, Austria, Switzerland –, with a growing presence in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Central Europe”, said Mr Louis Arnitz, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of i:FAO Group. “Our experience, though, tells us that, more and more, global end-to-end travel IT solutions are critical for big multinational corporations’ requirements. Becoming part of a truly global leader in the travel industry with Amadeus, will allow us to develop the ability to meet our customers’ requirements worldwide.”

I:FAO Group, headquartered in Frankfurt and with its main development sites in Sofia (Bulgaria), has a significant presence in the German Corporate Travel IT market through its flagship cytric solution, which has an open and flexible architecture that allows easy customization to specific clients requirements. i:FAO will bring established relationships with blue-chip corporate customers. As a result of the deal, around 170 professionals, including i:FAO Group’s executive management team and more than 100 developers will join Amadeus.

In 2013, i:FAO Group obtained revenues of €14.4 million, with a 10.6% increase compared to 2012, and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.1% for the 2005- 2013 period. In that same period, EBITDA showed a CAGR of 22.1%. In 2013 EBITDA was €4.6 million and EBITDA margin reached 32%.

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Hotelbeds reveals growth plans for Americas region

April 04, 2014

Hotelbeds plans to extend the sale of transfers, activities and experiences under the Activities brand as part of growth plans for the Americas region.

It claims to offer “complete solutions” to the travel industry through class-leading technology to target growth in the mobile channel.

The business is already a leading distributor of these services, offering more than 8,000 transfers and 12,000 activity options in 110 countries.

Get the full story at Travolution

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New research reveals how business travelers use online travel sites

April 04, 2014

Phoenix Marketing International, one of the top consultative research companies in the U.S., today reveals new details from the company’s recently launched Online Travel Audit, a comprehensive industry study of the most prominent online travel brands. The audit found that among business travelers, Kayak is the site most likely to be recommended with over 76% of business travelers willing to suggest the brand to others, followed by TripAdvisor (74%) and Priceline (72%). Among leisure travelers, the site with the highest recommendation is TripAdvisor at 81%, followed by Kayak (74%) and TravelZoo (72%).

The audit tested 30 of the most popular sites in the online travel space including AOLTravel,,, Expedia, Hotwire, Kayak, Orbitz, TravelZoo, Trivago,, TripAdvisor, Smarter Travel, etc. Additional findings include:

- Among online travel agency users, 76% of leisure and business travelers consider travel websites as their “go to” for booking hotels, compared to only 24% who use specific hotel websites.

- Some of the top hotel booking sites include (18%), Expedia (15%) and Priceline (10%).

- Business travelers are more likely than their leisure traveler counterparts, to use travel websites for airline planning and booking. However, the top airline planning sites for both groups are Expedia (19% / 18%), Kayak (11% / 10%), Travelocity (10% / 9%), Priceline (9% / 8%), and Orbitz (6% / 6%).

- The three most important characteristics to consider for both business and leisure travelers when choosing a travel site are “ease of use”, “lower prices than booking directly with individual travel providers”, and “price guarantee”.

“Our Online Travel Audit is about more than just examining the basic competitors,” said John Antonello, Managing Director of Phoenix Travel and Leisure. “We look at the travel industry in its entirety, along with consumer sentiments around brands and advertising. This gives us more of a holistic approach to getting all-inclusive data and the ability to deliver actionable insights for brand and marketing professionals in the online travel industry.”

In the coming weeks additional findings will be released including details on the top ads in the Airline, Car Rental, Hotel categories. Ads from top Orlando destinations such as Disney, Universal and Visit Orlando are also part of this study.

Related Link: Phoenix Marketing International

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How email marketers should mark up messages for Gmail’s new grid view

April 04, 2014

For grid view, Gmail is using “Actions in the Inbox,” which it announced in early 2013. Actions in the Inbox uses markup that takes information in an email, turns it into structured data, and then makes the structured data usable as an action.

For example, the actions can be things like the ability to RSVP to an invitation, add a movie to a queue, watch a movie or track a package. In the new inbox grid view, Gmail allows senders to use the markup to define the featured image and content of the email.

The displayed email in grid view has four components: the featured image, the logo, the sender name and the subject line. Gmail recommends the following for each component:

- Featured Image: must be at least 580px x 480px

- Logo: Must have a verified Google+ page

- Sender Name: 20 characters or less

- Subject Line: 75 characters or less

Get the full story at Marketing Land

Read also "Gmail’s new grid view make images a key part of the email open rate equation"

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In-room tablet experience: Why you should offer it

April 04, 2014

Powerful upselling tool: In addition to providing key hotel information, the revenue driving feature for hotels, is the ability for guests to place room-service orders directly from the tablet, without ever having to pick up the phone. In fact, hotels that currently have a custom app have reported a 41% increase in room service revenue per occupied room. This is largely due to the fact that you can tailor an app to make suggestions after a guest selects a menu option. For example, the guest wants to order a burger, after putting the burger in their cart they’ll see a suggestion to add seasonal fruits or a Pepsi to that order.

Streamline room service/housekeeping needs: In addition to upselling when a guest is ordering room service, a custom app allows the property to streamline the process for guest needs. Once a guest places an order for either room service or housekeeping, the guest can track the status through the app.

Translations: Have a large international guest base? Translation issues disappear when the guests are using the app. Guests can select their native language, and proceed to review all information in that custom language. For example, the guest can change the language setting to Spanish, and on the backend the request still comes through in English. This removes a language barrier and provides an easy communication tool with International Guests.

Get the full story at Micros eCommerce

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Family trips on the rise in 2014, according to TripAdvisor survey

April 04, 2014

When asked the types of accommodations they plan to stay at for their family trips, the majority of U.S. respondents (71%) plan to stay at a hotel, 41 percent will enjoy the comforts of a vacation rental, and 20 percent will stay at the home of family or friends.

Top 10 Travelers' Choice Hotels for Families in the U.S.:

- Floridays Resort Orlando, Orlando, Florida
- Woodloch Pines Resort, Hawley, Pennsylvania
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Orlando, Florida
- Candy Cane Inn, Anaheim, California
- Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, North Conway, New Hampshire
- Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas, Kissimmee, Florida
- Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland, New York
- West Inn & Suites Carlsbad, Carlsbad, California
- Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground, Anaheim, California
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Orlando, Florida

Freebies and location top the amenities wish list for family travelers at hotels. The top five are:

- Complimentary breakfast
- Close proximity to local attractions
- Free Wi-Fi
- Swimming pool
- Room service

Summer Beach Trips are the Favorite for Families
The most popular season for family trips is summer as 78 percent of respondents plan to travel between June and August, with July being the most popular month at 30 percent. Sixty-six percent of family travelers will soak up the sun at the beach / ocean, while 46 percent will visit the city and 33 percent will make their way to a national park.

Taking Time Out
Eighty-five percent of U.S. respondents admit they take time to "escape" family during their trip. The most popular activities for those who escape are reading (53%), walking (45%), and napping (32%).

Family trips can sometimes test patience. The top annoyances when it comes to family getaways:

- Lugging extra gear
- Not enough quiet time for parents
- Keeping children occupied in the car
- Family Resemblance

When traveling with loved ones, U.S. respondents said they most identify with "The Griswolds" from the National Lampoons series, followed by Modern Family's "The Pritchetts," and "The Tanners" from the 1990s TV series "Full House."

"With family trips on the rise in 2014, the TripAdvisor community has identified some fantastic hotels for families," said Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications for TripAdvisor. "From the mountains of New Hampshire to coastal California, these properties will provide memorable stays for parents and children alike."

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Global travel industry set for decade of sustained growth

April 03, 2014

Shaping the Future of Travel: Macro trends driving industry growth over the next decade predicts an optimistic macro-economic outlook for global travel over the next 10 years, with the industry projected to outstrip global GDP by some 2%, growing 5.4% per annum. Moreover, global travel is now set to grow at a significantly faster rate than during the financial crisis, where growth was just 4.1% per annum.

At the same time, China’s growth in outbound travel, which as recently as 2005 stood at just 1%, will enable it to overtake the U.S. to become the world’s largest outbound travel market this year, with the number of Chinese households able to afford overseas travel set to more than double in the next 10 years to reach 220 million. China will also become the biggest domestic travel market by 2017, driven largely by rapidly increasing GDP, rising employment levels and higher consumer spending.

However, the report indicates that growth will not be exclusive to China, with forecasts showing that other large emerging markets such as Russia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Turkey will each also average more than 5% annual growth over the next 10 years. This will be driven largely by rising wealth and changing consumer habits.

Written by Oxford Economics, the world leader in global forecasting and quantitative analysis for business and government, the study draws on detailed macro-economic modeling as well as qualitative interviews with industry experts, to forecast a wide range of future trends, including pockets of growth and opportunity that will shape the next decade of travel.

“Forecasts predict a new golden era for travel, which will be welcome news for many segments of the industry that are only just beginning to emerge from recession,” said Holger Taubmann, SVP Distribution, Amadeus. “However, as the complexities in the business travel market clearly demonstrate, growth will be far from evenly distributed and there are likely to be both winners and losers.”

He added: “At Amadeus our people, our technology and our innovation are dedicated to helping our customers and partners to shape the future of travel, and to this end we are continually committed to better understanding our industry and encouraging debate and discussion around the topics that matter and have implications for the entire sector.”

Some of the report’s key findings include:

- Business travel will bounce back as links between East and West stimulate new demand, but western short-haul business travel will not reach pre-2008 levels until 2018. Asia will account for 55% of global business travel growth in the next ten years.

- Air travel growth will be led by emerging economies such as India, Indonesia and Russia, as non-OECD air travel is set to overtake that of OECD members for the first time, to become largest source of global air traffic by 2023.

- Demand for international hotel stays has outpaced demand for domestic stays since the recession, suggesting reduced domestic hotel spending is the new normal. At the same time, overnight visitor flows for Asia are set to grow nearly four times faster than Europe’s over the next ten years – but Europe will remain dominant.

“The global travel industry is gaining strength and changing as it emerges from the recent recession in developed countries. China’s development is an important driver but there are actually many more subtle factors also at play. Shifting competitive dynamics and the persistence of new behaviors that emerged during the recession are both impacting key indicators in the sector,” observed Andrew Tessler, Associate Director, Oxford Economics and the report’s author.

Download the complete report at Amadues

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Sustainable hotels earn higher guest ratings, says Cornell study

April 03, 2014

The study, which surveyed guests at 6,850 hotels in Spain, found that 4-star hotels particularly benefited from higher guest satisfaction scores when they held the ISO environmental management certification.

The study, "Environmental Management Certification (ISO 14001): Effects on Hotel Guest Reviews," is available at no charge from the CHR. It was written by María-del-Val Segarra-Oña, Angel Peiró-Signes, Rohit Verma, José Mondéjar-Jiménez, and Manuel Vargas-Vargas. Segarra-Oña and Peiró-Signes are at Politechnic University of Valencia, Mondéjar-Jiménez is dean of Social Sciences School of Cuenca at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, where Vargas-Vargas is an associate professor. Verma is a professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

"This is one of several studies that indicate clear benefits from eco-certification, and one of these benefits seems to involve improved operations," said Verma. "In this study, we see that guests do appreciate those operating improvements. This is especially true for upscale hotels, where certification boosted guest ratings significantly." The ISO 14001 standard, which can apply to any business, specifies a path for continuous improvement and control of a firm's environmental performance.

The Spanish study found that the guests gave significantly higher satisfaction ratings to 4-star hotels that met the ISO 14001 standard than to their non-certified competitors. On the other hand, guest rating differences relating to certification in 5- and 3-star hotels were muted. Thus, the results imply that acquiring ISO 14001 certification may give upscale hotels a distinctive asset that leads them to a competitive advantage over similar non-certified properties. On the other hand, in 5- and 3-star properties, it appears guests are focused on other factors when they make their satisfaction ratings.

Download the study at Cornell University

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The Internet of Hotel Things

April 03, 2014

Wearable technology such as smart watches and smart glasses will allow for an enhanced guest experience as the device can detect who the customer is using facial recognition as soon as they enter your property informing the wearer that:

- ‘Mr Jones’ has stayed at the hotel before
- likes a wake-up call at 6.00am
- prefers to communicate in his native language
- is a member of your loyalty club
- And deliver special offers based on this info to the latest Digital Signage as he passes

The IoT brings people, processes, data, and things together to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before, and its impact is no different at hotels than it is at your home, at work or in your car. Through the IoT, information is turned into actions that create new capabilities, richer guest experiences and unprecedented economic opportunity for hotels.

Get the full story at Hospitality Finance, Revenue and IT Professionals (HOSPA)

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DreamWorks partners with Expedia to push travel-heavy “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”

April 03, 2014

Film studio DreamWorks Animation worked with travel site's advertising arm, Expedia Media Solutions, to tap into a shared travel connection to drive ticket sales for the theatrical release of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, an animated film about the most accomplished dog in the world and a mischievous boy who travel the world and through time, on March 7.
The campaign includes Mr. Peabody and Sherman's Travel the World Sweepstakes, an effort that invites consumers to apply for a chance to win a trip to the destinations in the movie and which, as of March 26, had garnered more than 120,000 entries, Expedia says.

The promotion, which launched February 24 and closed March 31, also featured offers negotiated by Expedia to the movie's destinations in France, Italy, and Greece. Each location has a microsite with content like sample hotel deals.

Get the full story at ClickZ

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Landing pages becoming a key feature of email marketing campaigns

April 03, 2014

Three-quarters of marketing professionals worldwide use landing pages as part of their marketing efforts, according to November 2013 polling by ExactTarget. And more recent research suggests that these are becoming a key feature of email marketing campaigns.

In a February 2014 study by Ascend2, more than six in 10 marketers worldwide said that landing pages were the marketing channel most often integrated with their email programs. This was the most popular response by far, with second-place social media and No. 3 events each cited by around four in 10 respondents.

ExactTarget found that emails directing readers to mobile responsive landing pages were gaining ground. Among marketers worldwide, nearly two-thirds of all emails sent had a landing page with mobile responsive design at least sometimes.

Get the full story at eMarketer

Read also "Local Landing Pages: A guide to great implementation in every situation" at Moz

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Gmail’s new grid view make images a key part of the email open rate equation

April 03, 2014

Google is very good at forcing an issue. The company knows visuals are increasingly important for user engagement, so last week, it began testing a new image-rich grid view in the Gmail Promotions tab. The move to make images a key part of the email open rate equation should in turn compel marketers to pay more attention to the images they use in their campaigns.

However, many marketers aren’t quite prepared to show off their finery, and users aren’t being treated to a wealth of visual eye candy just yet.

“Images have the power to make a reader stop, pay attention, and give an email a second look,” says Ron Cates, Constant Contact’s Director of Digital Marketing Education. “The new Gmail layout gives marketers the opportunity to really stand out and catch readers’ attention by keeping your images front and center.”

Get the full story at Marketing Land

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TripAdvisor Review Express users seeing uplift in reviews

April 03, 2014

Review Express users are seeing an average uplift of 33 percent in reviews for their property on TripAdvisor as a result of using the service, helping hospitality businesses enrich their presence on the site.

Since the service debuted last May, TripAdvisor has launched a number of enhancements to the service with the aim of delivering a better user experience for business owners using Review Express. In July 2013, TripAdvisor introduced the Review Express Dashboard, providing users of the service with a useful summary of the effectiveness of their email campaigns, automatically updated to report on their most recent activity.

And in an effort to further improve Review Express for users, TripAdvisor today announced the latest enhancements to the service, including:

- More streamlined ability to save and reuse email campaign templates, allowing users to more quickly send email campaigns using saved templates

- Ability to update photo and "from" email address on multiple templates at once using default settings

- Ability to automate the sending of Review Express campaigns for reservations made through internet booking engines connected to TripAdvisor

- Additional how-to guides, tip sheets and best practice information on how to get the most out of using Review Express

"There's no question that reviews play a pivotal role in the booking decision for travellers - according to recent PhoCusWright research, more than half of TripAdvisor users will not book a hotel that does not have reviews," said Severine Philardeau, VP Global Partnerships, TripAdvisor for Business. "Review Express was created to help hospitality businesses encourage and generate more reviews for their property page on TripAdvisor and the service is delivering great benefits to business owners. Review Express is helping them to generate a third more reviews by using the service and, on average, over a quarter of their total reviews on the site come as a result of a Review Express email.

Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park, Victoria, has been using Review Express since it launched last year and has seen encouraging results. Adrian Dent, Director of Operations at The Lancemore Group, said they are extremely pleased with the number of new reviews they've received as a result of using the service.

"We used to send out emails to guests after their stay to ask for reviews but we've started using Review Express to collect guest feedback since it launched in May 2013," Dent said. "Review Express is a simple and cost-free way to encourage recent guests to post reviews based on their experience and has delivered encouraging results. We noticed immediately that hit ratio is greater than any other mechanisms we had put in place to gather feedback from our guests."

Hospitality business owners must be registered on TripAdvisor to use the free service. They can access Review Express via their Management Centre.

Related Link: TripAdvisor

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nSight launches new OTA intelligence solution for hotels

April 03, 2014

nSight’s comprehensive view of consumers across thousands of OTA and travel websites enables Heritage Hotels and Resorts to measure the impact of rate changes on search and booking volume and use that price intelligence to respond to competitive conditions, proactively adjusting rates to increase online guest conversion.

“Online reservations represent a large percentage of our portfolio bookings. To manage our growth in an increasingly competitive market, we needed visibility and insight into our third-party website performance,” explained Caryl Helsel, Vice President of Revenue & IT Strategies for Heritage Hotels and Resorts. “nSight will allow us to identify rate trends and elasticity across the OTA channel, specifically enabling us to see at what rate competitors are attracting shoppers from our properties and at what rate are shoppers convert to a booking. By comparing competitive rate data from active search and booking transactions, we can make better, more informed decisions that help us attract, convert and maintain more online shoppers.”

A customized web-based application, nSight allows hotels to easily benchmark performance against their competitive set across more than 5,000 websites in the OTA channel. Hotels can see OTA current search and conversion performance as well as forecast consumer demand with travel date filters up to 90 days into the future.

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Rethinking the threat of commoditization in hospitality

April 02, 2014

A survey from Accenture of more than 12,000 consumers in 32 countries that seems to debunk the idea that hotel guests are loyal to brands and individual properties. According to the study, 41% of hotel customers cite offers as a top differentiator when choosing a hotel. Only customers at retail outlets are more inclined (45%) to look for a deal first when choosing where to shop. More than 60% of those responding said they consider two or more hotels when shopping for accommodations, the highest proportion among industries covered in the study.

The other study, conducted by the Temkin Group, was even more damning. This survey of 10,000 consumers focused on customer experience, and the hotel industry should be ashamed of its showing: Among 19 industries studied, hotels placed 15th with an average positive customer experience rating of 60%, down 5.4 percentage points from a year ago.

“We saw customer experience in the hotel take a nosedive this year. It’s time for hotels to reevaluate their customer experience,” said Bruce Temkin, managing partner, in a news release.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Why aren’t hotel chains more worried about AirBnB?

April 02, 2014

Not according to ESSEC Professor Peter O'Connor. Here's why:

An amateur hotelier is just that… an amateur
Word of an IPO is generating a lot of buzz because the company has low overhead, owns no real estate, has no bell boys to hire and no room service orders to fill. But herein lies the problem. Even as Chip Conley, the new head of Airbnb Global Hospitality talks about ensuring "cohesive standards of hospitality within Airbnb's host community" by offering training programs, there's no way Airbnb can consistently deliver the kind of service hotel customers have become used to.

Airbnb's legal victory last year in France underscores this: Owners who occasionally put a room or their home on Airbnb are OK, while professionals who buy properties specifically to rent out on the systems are subject to more stringent requirements. In France (and in many other countries) at least, the sharing economy looks likely to firmly remain an amateur game.

Airbnb can't make many guarantees about their "products"
This amateur status is reflected in product delivery. Airbnb does not have any real control over the properties its rents on its service. Because of this, it can't make important guarantees, whether in terms of safety and cleanliness, or even whether the product actually matches the description advertised. In contrast, one of the reasons hotel chains have grown so strong is the trust they have developed with consumers precisely because they're highly regulated on such topics.

Regulation will rule!
In fact it is regulation that may ultimately be AirbnB's downfall. Already the ethics of the company's hosts are being called into question since some (many?) omit to declare the income gleamed from their rentals. And when things go wrong, questions have arisen in terms of insurance, both for hosts who have their homes ruined or clients ripped off or robbed by unscrupulous hosts. While such incidents thankfully remain rare, growth in the use of the service is prompting more municipalities to act, introducing requirements that complicate Airbnb's fluid peer-to-peer business model.

Get the full story at ESSECKnowledge

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Looking ahead at the changing European travel landscapes

April 02, 2014

According to the European Travel Commission’s latest tourism report in 2013 Europe hosted 563 million international visitors, some 29 million more than in 2012. This vigorous growth of 5.4% was well above the forecasts and 2014 is looking to be robust with expectations of a 3% – 4% increase in international tourism.

In view of that, European travel landscapes – specifically the Northern, Eastern, Central, and Southern regions – are showing great potential and travel players have a real opportunity to shape the future of travel here. Russia and Turkey are two of the fastest growing markets in our region, in terms of potential and capacity to purchase travel today and number of trips per person. The hotel market also shows significant untapped potential and exciting possibilities are emerging in leisure travel.

But developments in the mobile space could have the most influence in our region. Mobile is already a must in today’s world and our region was amongst the first ones to implement our new mobile suite platform, Amadeus Checkmytrip Premium, to selected customers. 70% of mobile searches are followed up by a consumer action within one hour and 64% of the people who viewed a mobile ad have made at least one purchase as a result. Smartphones are increasingly becoming the point of sale and decision, and this channel shift to mobile will have a huge impact on travel in our region. We are currently working hard with our colleagues in the region and in Amadeus to leverage these opportunities in mobile and 2014 is shaping up to be a significant year.

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Last-minute booking app Hot Hotels raises $1M

April 02, 2014

Like HotelTonight, Hot Hotels’ mobile apps offer a selection of last minute deals each day to help fill partner hotels’ inventory, while also passing on savings to customers. These span 43 countries and 257 cities in Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Israel. Whereas the HotelTonight model is based on direct relationships with hotels, Hot Hotels operates a hybrid model that also sees it contract hotels via third parties — a model it believes scales better since it ties into existing technology platforms used by the hotel and travel industry, essentially redesigning the experience for mobile, and also enabling it to offer a larger inventory of deals compared to others in the last-minute mobile-only hotel booking space.

In a statement, Conor O´Connor, CEO of Hot Hotels, comments: “With this investment by Axon, we now have the firepower to establish clear water between ourselves and our competitors in Europe. With the expertise of Axon’s investment team, as well as its global network of offices, Axon provides a base to accelerate our roll-out in fast growing Latin America.”

Get the full story at TechCrunch

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