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How to influence’s algorithm without paying more commissions

December 19, 2014

Francesco Canzoniere, CEO of Travel Performance, argues in a piece for Tnooz that just as hotels have engaged in price wars on the OTAs during the downturn, now they compete by offering ever increasing commissions on OTAs to improve their listings.

He continues by explaining how the algorithm works and that it is not just price or commission that influence it, but also other factors that do not eat into a hotels ROI from OTA bookings.

Some of the key points that he suggests hotel marketers pay closer attention to include improving their hotel content on OTAs - including more pleasing images, increase comments volumes and their management responses, as well as pro-actively manage room inventory available for sale at OTAs.

Get the full story at Tnooz

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User experience best practices for mobile travel sites

December 19, 2014

Usablenet's focus group respondents preferred integrated experiences when connecting with brands through social networks. Enrich your brand’s sense of community with effective integrations of TripIt or Trip Advisor. By enabling these sharing features, users can browse other traveler’s recommendations, experiences and travel tips. To extend your brand’s role in the travel journey, encourage users to share their experiences or itineraries with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram integrations from within your mobile experience.

Personalization on mobile
Simple actions that save time resonate with those traveling and on-the-go. Help create a customized travel experience with personalized offers, promotions, and suggestions based on browsing behavior and past travel experiences. Retain “recently viewed” searches throughout browsing and leverage push notifications as reminders and alerts for new promotions, soon- to-expire deals, and updated availability messages. Airline and hospitality loyalty programs offer added incentives for business and leisure travelers alike. Create special promotions or unlock additional functionality for rewards members who log-in via mobile and ease their experience with saved information, travel history, preferences, etc.

Engage with localization
Relevant content increases customer engagement, builds brand loyalty and drives sales on mobile. Enhance travelers’ journeys by broadening the mobile experience to include local information that will be valuable both when planning travel at home and itinerary building on-the-go. Integrate customizable 3rd party maps, such as TripIt and Google Maps, so that travelers can save favorite attractions, restaurants, and activities.

Download the complete whitepaper at Usablenet (PDF 640 KB)

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Stayful, the Priceline for boutique hotels, comes to iOS

December 19, 2014

The service works with a variety of independent hotels to find empty spots and then algorithmically determines what a fair price would be for the room. But consumers don’t have to go with that price – they can choose to offer the hotel their own lowball bid if they choose, and find out immediately if their offer is accepted. This makes the service comparable, to some extent, to something like Priceline, which lets you name your own prices for flights, hotels, and more .

Because Stayful’s focus is on filling unsold inventory, it only books stays that are set to occur in the next 30 days – though, obviously, the closer it is to your stay, the more likely it is that a hotel would take your lower-than-suggested offer.

In addition, for travelers who prefer to stay in boutique hotels, Stayful is also useful for helping them find the right ones by describing them by themes – like hip, classic, kid-friendly, etc., plus offering descriptions and photos of the venue.

Get the full story at TechCrunch

Stayful grows its network of boutique hotels by 4Xs in one year

Stayful is celebrating its one-year anniversary today, and all the milestones it has achieved along the way. Over the past 12 months, Stayful has experienced tremendous growth, quadrupling the number of markets and expanding its service abroad. To kick off their anniversary, Stayful today launched their Refer-A-Friend program just in time for the holidays. Stayful users can earn up to $500 by inviting friends.

Stayful helps travelers discover and book the best independent and boutique hotels within a 30-day window. Its real-time bidding platform features hundreds of hotels from around the U.S. and Canada that offer more unique travel experiences. Stayful's pricing engine determines a fair price for the room based on supply-and-demand in the market, and travelers can negotiate room price with hotel owners until both sides agree on a price.

"Boutique and independent hotels enable travelers to experience the cities they visit in a local, authentic way," says Stayful's CEO Cheryl Rosner. "Stayful's approach clearly resonates with travelers of all kinds. We are excited about our refer-a-friend program where Stayful users can earn as much as $500 to experience these great hotels. This is the first of many new Stayful features and innovations to come in the year ahead."

Stayful launched in November 2013 with 6 markets. Now, the startup is active in 24 markets, including the international city of Vancouver, and has laid the groundwork for extensive international expansion next year. It has also grown its network of hotel partnerships around the country, driven by close communication with its customers to better fulfill their needs.

In addition to more unique hotel experiences, Stayful's platform also helps travelers save significant amounts of money. The largest amount saved on a single booking in 2014 was $465, and the site enabled savings by as much as 45%. The average savings of most transactions was 16%. New York City is the most-booked city on Stayful's platform, followed by San Francisco.

Earlier this month, Stayful made headlines with its first-of-its-kind TweetStay campaign, where people could book hotels on Twitter. Customers tweeted where they are going and their travel dates with the hashtag #tweetstay or #tweetstayful. Stayful then bid on hotels within their price range, and returned a tweet with a link to complete the booking at one of three hotels. The campaign was wildly successful, and customers can expect more of this type of innovation in the year to come. Stayful's other big plans for 2015 include a mobile app, and further expansion that will encompass Europe, the rest of America, and adding more resorts.

Related Link: Stayful

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How to deal with travel writers

December 19, 2014

Consider this: Every magazine has a Website. Some have exclusive, web-only content, and perhaps their own blogs, in addition to their print copy. Many freelance journalists -- like me -- contribute regularly to print media but also write Web-only copy, even as we maintain a busy social media presence and operate our own blogs.

So how do you find the right people to help you get your message out to the public? Often, journalists and writers will find you. But sometimes, you'll want to find them as well, to make sure you're reaching the right audiences. To check out print and traditional journalists, you can pay to use services like, a site that provides influencer identification with a media database that uncovers your audience's biggest influencers.

The world is filled with lots of travel blogs, and lots of travel bloggers. So what should you look for to make sure they fit your goals? Two important factors that you'll want to compare and weigh are quality and quantity. In other words, a blog with two million followers sounds impressive -- but it doesn't mean much if the quality of the content is bad, or if none of those readers ever buy travel and aren't interested in what you're selling.

Get the full story at The Huffington Post Part 1, Part 2

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Top five trends in China’s outbound travel market for 2015

December 19, 2014

1. The Number of Independent Travelers Will Continue to Rise

Under the new visa policy, Chinese travelers can continually visit the US for ten years on a single visa and no longer need a travel agency to complete the application process. While this is not important for tourists who travel in groups and rarely leave China, this is a major win for independent Chinese travelers, who are becoming repeat guests to businesses worldwide. It’s predicted that the new policy will result in up to 7.3 million Chinese visitors to the US by 2021, with an economic impact of $85 billion, according to a report by the US Department of Commerce.

2. They Are Seeking Authentic Local Experiences

With a new visa policy that allows them to visit the US multiple times over ten years, Chinese tourists don’t need to rush their experience and be forced to visit the well-known attractions in big cities all at once. They can plan their own itineraries, spend an extended period of time in one region and enjoy unique local experiences like horseback riding in the Grand Canyon or skiing at a New Hampshire resort. They seek local and unique experiences that other Chinese, especially the group tours, do not have access to.

3. The Growing Importance of Search and Booking Trips on Mobile

According to the China Internet Network Information Center, China now boasts more than 618 million internet users, more than 80 percent of which access the web via a mobile device, and the percentage of those using mobile apps has risen from 6 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2014. The rise of the digital age in China means that travel booking is also going online with more than half of Chinese international travelers (53 percent) booking their hotel accommodation on the web or via mobile apps, a method that is particularly popular with independent travelers under the age of 25.

Get the full story at eTurboNews

Read also "What are the Chinese’s favorite destinations?" at Attract China

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Wearable tech set to ‘take travel to the next level’

December 19, 2014

However, some early-adopter airlines like Air Berlin and Iberia have already introduced pilots for smartwatch boarding passes, which can be used by owners of devices such as the Samsung Gear 2, Pebble, Pebble Steel and the Sony Smartwatch 2.

Travel brands will have to adopt multi-screen strategies, rather than focusing purely on mobile, Sojern suggests.

“For more than a decade industry pundits have been predicting the year of mobile but they’ve largely missed the point. Focusing on the mobile device alone is tantamount to tunnel vision,” the report says.

Get the full story at Travolution

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Why real-time discovery and delight pose a challenge to tours and activities

December 19, 2014

With advances in technology tours and activities can now be integrated into the online booking experience but is that what travellers really want? The beauty of vacation experiences is surprise, delight and discovery in real-time. So for the suppliers of tours and activities there is a real challenge when it comes to what many are saying will be the holy grail in 2015 – personalisation.

Tours and activities are the last piece of the itinerary booked. However, aside from the historical technology barriers that desire for a real-time experience may be the true reason consumers book most of their activities when they arrive at their destination.

So while research shows that if done correctly, personalisation can yield positive outcomes, it may be particularly difficult to successfully implement in tours and activities in the near-term. Brett Asbury, Executive Vice President of Gray Line, a tours and activities provider, cites the following reasons why:

- The sector has less direct correlation and causation data that successfully predicts consumer behaviour. This is partially due to lack of technology systems and behaviour data compared to other established travel verticals.

- There are unique considerations for tours and activities that may not be present in other travel sectors. As an example, it may be nearly impossible to predict that a business traveller may want to swim with the dolphins on a family vacation.

- Tours and activities often represent once in a lifetime experiences and sometimes they satisfy a consumer’s vacation persona rather than their everyday social profile.
Using big data to populate hotel offers or flight itineraries will likely prove to be easier. “Companies like Adara which are using multiple data sets to populate intelligent advertising, which is awesome, still have little knowledge about tours and activities as their booking patterns relate to other verticals,” says Asbury.

Still, it’s all about timing and Gray Line has been working hard to ensure that, wherever possible, analytics and data can be used in a game-changing way in 2015.

Over the past two years, the group has invested in getting thousands of products and hundreds of suppliers onto one common technology platform. “For us it wasn’t just a technology system or data management change, but an operational change on the ground for our suppliers to use technology in a new way that has never been done in our sector,” says

Against the backdrop of challenges facing tours and activities, Asbury believes that the best thing that companies in the tour and activity sector can do is pay attention to trends happening on consumer driven resource sites for in-destination experiences. By this he means the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare and so on.

Rosie Akenhead, Manager Of Local Business Outreach,Yelp UK & Ireland agrees and backs up the point with research that shows that 78% of consumers now turn to review sites to find local businesses.

“It's clear that many people are looking to pre-qualify where to shop before they spend money,” she says.

So as consumers across the globe increasingly turn to sites like TripAdvisor, FourSquare or Yelp to help find things to do and places to go, it is imperative that business information and photos on a page are kept up to date.

According to Asbury, it will also be important for suppliers in tours and activities to accumulate data from other companies, which have information about consumer behaviour happening earlier in the purchase funnel.

In conclusion Akenhead has this to say: “You need to become a bigger part of the conversations happening about your business online if you want to help consumers make those all-important buying decisions," Akenhead adds.

Brett Asbury, Executive Vice President of Gray Line will be speaking next month in New York at Smart Travel Analytics, North America (Jan 28-29). Early Bird rates expire this Friday (December 19th). Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for details on how to secure your discounted pass.

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15 hotel marketing trends for 2015

December 19, 2014

1. Personalisation2015 will see a rapid rise of personalised web experiences. Hotels will begin to use data in more sophisticated ways to develop tailored content & target customers based on their preferences & online behaviour.

2. Mobile isn't a Trend. Mobile bookings will continue to grow at a fast pace throughout 2015, With a prediction that mobile travel bookings will reach $39.5 billion in 2015, Contributing to 25% of the total online travel market.

3. Booking Abandonment.With approximately 98% of visitors to a hotels website abandoning the funnel, booking abandonment tools are the answer to driving customers back through the conversion funnel for 2015. 4. Meta Search.There is still a long journey to be taken by Meta Search providers to make this an effective channel for hoteliers. The challenge for 2015 is to ensure Meta search channels deliver bookings at a profitable CPA.

Get the full story at NetAffinity

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How Accor wants to lead ‘digital hospitality’

December 18, 2014

The interview with Accor's Vivek Badrinath, Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of marketing, digital solutions, distribution, and information systems, was conducted by Peter O’Connor, Academic Director at ESSEC Business School, for the Hotel Yearbook.

The plan stresses "reinventing the customer experience through digital technology". What exactly do you mean by this?

Today's world has become increasingly digital, which has a massive effect on how customers behave. In particular they are better connected and better informed, with the explosion in information available over digital channels giving them access to a wider variety of options. Switching between brands is now also easier than ever, because they can get the feel of a brand just by surfing the web. Lastly they place a lot of trust in other people opinions, in particular their personal and professional networks, a process that has been simplified by the growth in social networks.

These behaviours have had a huge impact on how customers interact with and book hotels, prompting us to relook at how we manage every stage of the customer journey - from dreaming and selecting the ideal property through the pre-stay and stay, and ultimately to how we facilitate post stay interactions. Our objective is to rethink the way in which we work with the customer and incorporate digital technology where appropriate to give them a better experience where ever possible.

Concretely we will do this by improving our knowledge of the customer to enhance the welcome they are given and the services they receive. For example our "Mobile First" initiative features a single mobile app incorporating all of Accor's services before, during and after the stay, and will act as the customer's primary point of contact with both the property and the chain. The "Seamless Journey" initiative takes this idea a step further by enhancing customer convenience, for example with electronic payment, one-click booking, and online check-in. Lastly our "Customer Centric" initiative focuses on leveraging customer data to ensure highly personalized service and follow-up, as well as centralizing feedback into a single platform called "Voice of the Guests".

Read the complete interview at Hospitality.Net

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Travel program integration, smarter data analysis top corporate travel agenda in 2015

December 18, 2014

Stewart Harvey, Group Commercial Director for HRG, comments: "2015 is going to be about clients demanding more from their commercial agreements with TMCs and improving their travel risk management procedures. The macro economic situation remains unchanged on the whole and clients are seeking to extract more from their spend without reducing the quality of their service.

"Meanwhile, geo-political instability and weather related incidents are becoming more frequent; both represent greater risk to travellers. Clients have a legal requirement to ensure the safety and well being of their workforce. Improving travel risk management programmes is a growing requirement that we expect to see continue into 2015.

"How are they going to achieve all of this? We are going to be seeing an increase in integration across client travel programmes so that we can utilise smart data to achieve the goals that will be set in 2015."

Programme Integration

Single sourcing of travel technology and services is not always achievable, as such clients are looking to stitch together their technology to deliver a common and consistent programme in order to deliver compliance, control and cost savings.

"In itself this isn't anything new", Harvey explains. "These are three objectives we have spoken about before but what is exciting now, is how we are working with our clients to achieve them. A fantastic example of this can be seen across our Energy and Marine client base. Due to the unique requirements of operating in the most challenging of situations, clients in this sector have historically developed their own internal technology, such as contractor databases.

"They need the right contractors, at the right place, at the right time. And crucially with the right documentation. Travel is essential to their operational success and by integrating this standalone technology with their existing external reporting, booking and expense management tools, clients can reduce costly delays and ensure a common and consistent approach across their travel programme."

Smart Data

Clients are becoming smarter in the way they use their travel data and this is a trend that is likely to continue in 2015, according to Harvey: "Clients are using their travel data in ways we could never have imagined three years ago. What used to be the realm of the data analyst can now be understood by anyone who can use a mouse and keyboard.

"We see this clearly in the way clients are using and shaping the development of HRG Insight, our mapping and reporting tool. Insight was initially designed with data specialists in mind, providing them the opportunity to pore over all types of travel data. However, feedback from clients revealed that they wanted to use this data in a meaningful way by placing it in the hands of their travel managers. Therefore we improved the relevance of the data through areas such as additional reporting functionality."

One client with operations in 90 countries has over 4,000 cost-centre owners, many of whom do not have a lot of experience with travel data. The improved reporting from HRG Insight means HRG is able to supply these cost-centre owners with ready to use data ranging from year-on-year spend comparisons right through to individual traveller behaviour when booking travel.

Harvey adds: "By providing smart, relevant and timely data, we are able to help clients increase visibility over their travel spend at a cost-centre level, drive policy compliance by focusing on traveller behaviour and benchmarking performance to deliver future cost savings."

Commercial Savings

Consolidation has been a key feature of clients' travel programmes in recent years and is essential for improved benchmarking and supplier negotiations, data management, traveller tracking and controlling costs. As clients integrate additional markets, air and hotel expenditure and expense management data into their travel programmes, they are gaining increased visibility over their total travel spend.

Harvey explains: "Having additional data is great. But what is important is what you do with it. Increased visibility of travel spend allows you to identify opportunities for the future. This may mean improved negotiations with suppliers, making more informed decisions over where to hold meetings or driving traveller behaviour.

"With the additional data, HRG's team of data analysts can conduct more trending analysis. We are looking more and more at who is booking travel, when they are booking and who they are booking for. By applying a "what if" analysis, our data analysts can make recommendations across a clients travel programme, identifying opportunities to make further commercial savings and make better use of travel budgets."

Travel Risk Management

Clients' duty of care obligations ensure that travel risk management will remain at the top of the agenda in 2015, particularly in the face of increasing geo-political instability and the adverse effects of extreme weather related incidents.

"Travel risk management is an area that clients know they should be doing more in order to meet their duty of care requirements" Harvey comments, "however as risk covers multiple business areas it is difficult to ascertain who is responsible for each component of a travel risk management programme. This means when something goes wrong the response is not as prompt or effective as it should be."

While most clients currently have a policy in place, a clear understanding of internal structures and responsibilities for when an incident occurs is required. This will ensure the policy can be communicated effectively, remain flexible to changing business requirements and yet remain robust in times of adversity.

Harvey adds: "It is business critical for clients to develop a travel risk management policy that has the mechanisms in place to respond to a crisis. By developing and implementing an integrated travel risk management strategy that is clearly communicated across their organisation, clients can mitigate their vulnerability across four areas: corporate reputation, financial risk, duty of care and legal obligations."

Related Link: Hogg Robinson Group

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Technology partnerships and customer engagement key to airline survival

December 18, 2014

The travel industry generally, and airlines in particular, are in a world of pain. Volatile fuel pricing, intense competition, security concerns and a focus on the environmental impact of air travel have resulted in airline profitability taking a nosedive. indeed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that global airlines will only see a 2.4 percent net profit this year. While that is better than the year before, it pales in comparison to the double digit margins enjoyed a generation or so ago.

At a recent World Aviation Summit held in Belgium, Uwe Klenovsky, the Commercial Director of Thomas Cook Airlines discussed this need to broaden the revenue base for airlines. He detailed the traditionally unfriendly relationship between Global Distribution Service (GDS) companies and airlines. These companies enable automated transactions between third parties and booking agents in order to provide travel-related services to consumers. A GDS can link services, rates and bookings consolidating products and services across all three travel sectors: airline reservations, hotel reservations, car rentals, and activities.

Traditionally airlines have been reluctant to engage with GDS, instead they prefer to list the lowest airfares on their own websites – the rationale for this approach is to avoid losing more revenue by way of commissions to GDS partners. Indeed Ryanair, the home of discount airfares, once vowed never to work with GDS vendors, but this year signed a deal that reverses that decision. Ryanair has realized, as have other airlines, that GDS vendors bring a wealth of consumer information that can in fact increase their revenue – since GDS services tend to have a better insight into traveler behavior (destination, duration and booking preferences etc), airlines can target specific offerings to specific customers by partnering with GDS’ – to this end partnerships can actually be accretive in terms of revenue rather than decremental.

Get the full story at Forbes

Article location: Top 10 travel trends for 2015

December 18, 2014

With so much to do and see,™ is narrowing it down with their predictions for top travel trends in 2015.

"As we compiled our top 10 list, we looked beyond technology for data and travel patterns that signaled some trends that we think will really stand out in 2015,"said Taylor L. Cole, APR, travel expert for" We found that everything from food to bicycles to fashion will impact travel in Canada and beyond."

Top 10 Travel Trends in 2015:

1. Increase in Luxury Travel: Whether it's five-star accommodation, fine dining or activities, Canadians aren't afraid to open their wallets to improve their travel experience. In the most recent report by The Canadian Tourism Commission Canadian travel spending was $30 billion a year, making Canadians one of the highest per capita spenders worldwide.

2. Demand for Complimentary Breakfast & Wi-Fi: We all love getting something for nothing, but based on the latest Amenities Survey, these two topped the list. Breakfast ranked as the most important overall hotel amenity, while Wi-Fi topped the list for in-room offerings for the past two years.

3. Use of Mobile Wearables: Another item that's likely on the wish list for techies across the country, smart watches, are also changing the face of hotel bookings. Travellers can conveniently access details about their hotel and receive notifications when it's time to check in.

4. Visits to the Big Apple and Big Ben: The U.S. is the most visited international destination for Canadian travellers – not surprising considering its close proximity – and we don't see this slowing down. Although New York City and Las Vegas dominate the top spots, the folks across the pond in London are close competition in the third spot.

5. Checking Guest Reviews: Savvy travellers are doing their research and reading and writing reviews have become an integral part of the hotel booking process. With 11 million genuine guest reviews on the site, travellers can choose properties based on their ranking in categories including service, comfort and cleanliness.

6. Local Redemptions for Free Nights: When the opportunity arose to use loyalty credits for a free* night in Canada, members of the Welcome Rewards™ program preferred Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. These cities will remain popular amongst travelers according to research.

7. Booking Bike Tourism: Already popular in Europe and growing in the U.S., with new routes popping up cross-country, Canada is poised to be next in line for bike tourism. The close proximity to the U.S. and expansive landscape makes it a natural fit for cycling and Quebec is a great example being home to La Route Verte, North America's longest bike path. Plus, it's eco-friendly.

8. New Purchasing Options: Technology and innovation has made it easier than ever to pay for your travel, and new payment options continue to enter the market. Canadians are likely to embrace new and convenient payment tools like Apple Pay, Google Wallet or even gift cards like the new gift card.

9. Travelling to Give Back: The holidays can bring out the spirit of giving, but Canadians are no strangers to volunteer work all year round, ranking third in the 2014 World Giving Index. Whether it's within Canada or abroad, "Voluntourism" will grow in popularity as travellers look to give back to the countries they visit.

10. Getting the Local Experience: With the rise of personal home rentals or swaps that provide a more authentic taste of the city or country, it's expected that experiential travel will continue to be sought after among Canadians. In fact, a recent survey, showed the highest guest-rated hotel accommodations in Canada are two locally-run bed and breakfast establishments.

Article location: Top travel hot spots for 2015

December 18, 2014

From Orlando to Oahu, Costa Rica and Barcelona, travelers are in favor of ditching the snow for sandy beaches and enjoying a relaxing getaway.

"Within the U.S., Las Vegas continues to be a hot spot in the New Year, followed by New Orleans, Miami and Fort Lauderdale – all three cities flew to the top of this year's list of places to visit," said travel editor Brian Ek. "If interested in traveling abroad, must-visit international destinations include Cancun, Cozumel, Costa Rica and Los Cabos, demonstrating that Latin America is a trendy travel hot spot for 2015."

For the most bang for your buck, travelers should consider taking a vacation in either Dallas, TX or Salt Lake City, UT, both of which showed the lowest average daily hotel room rates on in 2014. Dallas boasts many attractions, including a lakeside Botanical Garden and an indoor ice rink in the Galleria shopping complex connected to a major hotel that's convenient for travelers. Salt Lake City claims to be the Genealogy Capital of the World where travelers can check out the Family History Library, all while enjoying sweeping, mountainous views.

Other value destinations with the lowest average daily room rates include:’s 15 Most Affordable Destinations for 2015
(Based on 2014 ADRs on

Destinations Average Daily Room Rate (ADR)

1. Dallas $86.31
2. Salt Lake City $88.24
3. Orlando $89.57
4. Charlotte $92.37
5. Phoenix $93.44
6. Tampa $94.03
7. Las Vegas $96.27
8. Atlanta $96.99
9. Louisville $101.69
10. San Antonio $102.69
11. Houston $103.72
12. Orange County $107.91
13. Minneapolis $106.69
14. Denver $109.20
15. Portland $109.30

Those looking to get the best hotel and airfare deals in 2015, in addition to the list above, can also try’s Name Your Own Price® offering for up to 60 percent off hotel retail rates and up to 40 percent off airfare by bidding on the room and tickets. Last-minute travelers can grab great deals on’s mobile app, which offers Tonight-Only hotel deals for savings up to 50 percent or more, and Air Express Deals® for an average of 20 percent additional savings off of the lowest retail prices.’s Top 2015 Travel Hot Spots
(Based on advance hotel reservations made on

United States International

Orlando Puerto Rico*
Las Vegas Cancun/ Cozumel, Mexico*
New Orleans London, England*
Miami Rome, Italy*
Ft Lauderdale Costa Rica*
New York City Paris, France*
Orange County Toronto, Canada
Boston Los Cabos, Mexico*
Atlanta Sydney, Australia*
Oahu* Barcelona, Spain*

*Denotes cities that were not included on’s 2014 top destinations list.

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Researchers using Yelp to predict when a restaurant will shut down

December 18, 2014

While it seems obvious that restaurants with lower ratings are more likely to close, the professors and Ph. D. students involved in the research indicate there's more to a restaurant's success than numerical ratings.

Looking at 2,000 restaurants that were open at the time of the study plus 450 that had closed down in the last few years, researchers found that words like "good," "like," and "friend" were more commonly used in Yelp reviews of restaurants that ended up staying open longer. By combining text analysis with restaurant rankings, researchers created software that can predict if a restaurant would close within the next three months with 70 percent accuracy, reports the Washington Business Journal.

Get the full story at The Washington Business Journal

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The Analytic Hospitality Executive in 2014: A review

December 18, 2014

by Kelly McGuire

Well, Analytic Hospitality Executives, the year has once again flown by, and here we sit just before the holidays looking back on 2014, and figuring out what it all means for 2015. I traveled even more than usual this year (if that’s even possible), spending a significant amount of time with our hospitality and travel colleagues in Asia Pacific, which was absolutely fantastic. It’s refreshing to see that while the scenarios might be slightly different, hospitality and travel companies around the world are realizing the value of their data, and the need for powerful analytics to unlock that value.

The industry really seems to be accepting and embracing that the volume, variety and velocity of data today is creating a big data challenge (and opportunity) for the industry, particularly when it comes to non-traditional formats like text or web data. Companies that are able use analytics to turn all of this big data into meaningful actionable insights, especially those that improve the guest experience, will be the ones that win. I’ve had many conversations around the globe on these topics this year, and expect to have many more in the years to come. Our blog posts this year have attempted to help our analytic hospitality executives understand where and how to identify these opportunities. Here is a review with links in case you missed anything, or wanted a refresher.

Right from the beginning of 2014, we started hearing the term “personalization” around the hospitality industry, with most major hospitality companies announcing strategic initiatives to develop a more relevant and engaging relationship with their guests. We kicked off the year with a couple of prediction blogs, one from the research faculty at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, our blog partners, and one from me “The 14 actions for hotels in 2014”. The CHR researchers talked extensively about the role of technology and data in improving the guest experience – reflecting the growing conversations about personalization. In my blog, I provided a set of “to do” items to help organizations prepare themselves for the data ,analytics and business process change required to set themselves on the path to personalization.

Get the full story at The Analytic Hospitality Executive

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The rise of mobile hotel check-in and room entry systems

December 18, 2014

Slowly catching on to the latest technology trends, traditional hotels are now also wanting to offer their guests more technology, boost their online booking rates and/or update their image. In that respect, according to hetras' managing director Philip von Ditfurth, "the best technology is the kind that guests don't even notice is there and just does its job." However, von Ditfurth also believes that mobile hotel check-in and room entry systems are generally going to move more and more center stage in 2015. "The air travel sector", so von Ditfurth, "has already successfully shown us how." That notwithstanding, von Ditfurth is also convinced that the hotel sector is going to adopt far more rapidly to modern technologies, such as the equivalent of the mobile check-in and boarding card systems used by the air travel sector in recent years.

A simple and elegant technology
What this means in detail is that hotel guests take control over their stay. These days, most people check in for their flights from their smartphones - which is exactly what is also happening in the hotel sector now. "If you are able to chose your seat on a plane from your mobile, it doesn't require much of a stretch of the imagination to recognize that you should also be able to chose a place to sleep - i.e. to book a room to sleep, from your mobile phone", explained von Ditfurth.

This view is very much shared by Christian Dorow, owner and managing director of Hotel Prinz in Munich, who explained that "We are trying to make our guests' hotel stay as pleasant and as uncomplicated as possible. If, for example, routine actions such as checking in and out can be completed in a more simple and elegant way using the right technology, then that has to be an advantage." Christian Dorow has now been a hetras customer since 2013 in order to pursue a very clear goal: "hetras' technology frees up our staff and so allows them to attend far better to each individual guest."

Three trends for 2015:

1. Mobile hotel check-in and room entry systems are 'hip'.

2. Just as most New Generation Hotels have already been doing for some time, traditional hotels are now also increasingly enabling guests to book standard services from their phones (conference rooms, gym use or room service).

3. Huge monolithic systems are being replaced with lean applications with intelligent interfaces.

Related Link: Hetras

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Europe’s hoteliers say ‘no’ to, demand complete hotel rate parity ban

December 17, 2014

HOTREC, the organisation representing the hotel sector in Europe, opposes to any commitment by Online Travel Agents trying to maintain parity clauses in hotel room distribution in one form or the other. Complete entrepreneurial freedom of hoteliers shall be restored allowing them to set their prices for any kind of distribution channel according to their business purposes.

The European Commission announced yesterday the launch of market tests in the antitrust investigations by the French, Swedish and Italian competition authorities in the online hotel booking sector, as has offered commitments in order to end investigations.

"There are 3 major sites realising 90% of hotel bookings via Online Travel Agents – the biggest one by far being - , compared to around 200.000, mainly small hotel enterprises in Europe. From this proportion the bargaining power in the market is not difficult to be judged, therefore the protection for the small ones is crucial. Authorities should be careful in assessing who regulates the market and sets the rules at the end.” – says Christian de Barrin, CEO of HOTREC.

Under the current parity conditions applied on the market, hoteliers’ hands are bound and their entrepreneurial freedom is undermined, as they are not able to decide themselves which room prices and conditions to offer on the different distribution channels. This is restricting competition and customers will be denied from the possibility of enjoying the full benefits of competition.

"HOTREC calls upon competition authorities in Europe to ban all types of parity clauses from hotel distribution contracts, in order to allow hoteliers to decide themselves, and not the retailers, on how and for which price their hotel rooms are sold on the different distribution channels” – says Markus Luthe, Chair of HOTREC’s Distribution Task Force.

It has to be taken care of, that the European Digital Agenda and competition rules are not benefiting in an imbalanced way the oligopolistic structure of hotel distribution portals, but are taking into account SMEs, forming the backbone of the European economy, and their entrepreneurial freedom.

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

Article location: sold for fraction of its 2005 price

December 17, 2014, the travel site that became one of the best-known names of the dotcom era, has been sold for a fraction of the price it fetched almost a decade ago.

Bravofly Rumbo, a European online travel agent, will pay £76m ($120m) to Sabre, the US owner of Travelocity, which paid £577m for Lastminute in 2005.

Brent Hoberman, who founded Lastminute “in a broom cupboard” at the back of an office in Portobello Road in London in 1998, banked about £26m from the sale, while co-founder Martha Lane Fox pocketed almost £14m.

Sabre indicated in August it wanted to sell the business to focus on its core technology operations, which handle more than a third of the world’s travel agency transactions.

Get the full story at The Guardian and The Dallas Morning News

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Marriott’s content studio rapidly expands presence

December 17, 2014

Marriott International, Inc.'s industry-leading Content Studio has announced a third round of industry-first content development, production, and distribution deals. These new production and development deals continue to fuel Marriott International's content marketing strategy of creating content that informs, entertains, and adds value to travel lifestyle consumers.

The latest deals include:

- The casting and start of production of the TWO BELLMEN at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE produced in collaboration with Substance Over Hype and directed by Daniel "Malakai" Cabrera.

- The launch of the hotel industry's first-ever branded Snapchat programming with leading content creators on December 18 in collaboration with Naritiv and on behalf of the company's flagship Marriott Hotels brand.

- The December 16 launch of Gone, a new travel lifestyle vertical in collaboration with, the blog publishing platform founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, with an initial focus on Haiti and the soon-to-open Marriott Port-au-Prince.

- Two development deals with YouTube stars and adventure travelers Louis Cole and the Vagabrothers

Marriott's Content Studio is dedicated to publishing, distributing and sharing digital content across multiple platforms and on all screens. To further the company's focus on next-generation travelers and drive new business, the studio aims to own original content marketing and produce engaging content that builds worldwide communities of people passionate about travel that will drive commerce to the company's hotels.

"We're moving rapidly to continue to engage development and production partners get into physical production and to deliver content to travel consumers. These programs significantly expand both the breadth and depth of our content initiatives by reaching into new content areas where few brands—and even fewer other hospitality brands—have ventured before," says David Beebe, Vice President, Creative and Content Marketing at Marriott International. "We aim to activate and leverage global reach and distribution to become the leading publisher of travel lifestyle content that engages next-generation travelers and build Marriott's reputation as the world's favorite travel company."

Marriott Hotels is partnering with Snapchat-focused marketing and analytics agency Naritiv to become the first major hotel company on Snapchat, launching their @MarriottHotels channel December 18 through a creative three-month program with the most creative storytellers on the social media platform. The first month of the campaign will feature @Shonduras (Shaun McBride), one of the first Snapchat-born influencers, and the hilarious Brittany Furlan (@brittanyjfurlan) who built a huge following on Vine before jumping on Snapchat to tell stories in her own unique and hilarious way. Storytellers will travel to key Marriott Hotels properties around the globe, co-creating their trip itineraries with their followers and documenting their journeys through their own Snapchat stories, as well as through the @MarriottHotels Snapchat channel. Other contributors include YouTube, commercial director and TV show creator Casey Neistat (@caseyneistat), and Louis Cole (@funforlouis), a British filmmaker and YouTube personality.

Gone on
Marriott is collaborating with to launch Gone, a new travel lifestyle brand on which will feature over sixty pieces of original story-driven content presented by the Marriott International portfolio of brands. Medium is the blog publishing platform launched two years ago by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Marriott is both the presenting sponsor of the publication and a content contributor and periodic editorial subject. Not only does Gone pioneer a new model in travel journalism, it also drives Marriott's mission to create content to create community to create commerce. GONE's debut story, running December 16, is about Haiti—where the Marriott Port-au-Prince is under construction—and recounts the country's social and business revival through the compelling personal experiences of four people, and subsequently the wonder and beauty of Haiti as a destination.

Two Bellmen
Marriott has announced casting and start of production on its first short film, TWO BELLMEN, a collaboration between Marriott and renowned dance, parkour, extreme sports, martial arts, and music collective Substance Over Hype. To be directed by Daniel "Malakai" Cabrera, TWO BELLMEN features the landmark JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE as a "character" in the film. The short film, which starts production January 5, 2015, stars William Spencer (SPIDER-MAN; SPIDER-MAN 2) and Caine Sinclair (NBC's Grimm; How I Met Your Mother) as The Bellmen. The cast also includes Henry Simmons (Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.); Miles Brown aka Baby Boogaloo (ABC's Black-ish; Sophina Brown (Shark; Numb3rs; The Good Wife); noted B-boy dancer Josue "Beastmode" Figueroa (Southland, STEP UP REVOLUTION); Josue Antonio (STEP UP series; The LXD); Taryn Southern (The Single Life); and So You Think You Can Dance hip hop legend, Stephen "tWitch" Boss (STEP UP films; So You Think You Can Dance; MAGIC MIKE XXL), as well as other amazing talents from Substance Over Hype. TWO BELLMEN will also feature cameos by AMP Live, Scarub, and Fingazz.

Louis Cole
Marriott has signed an exclusive development deal with Louis Cole (@funforlouis), a British filmmaker and YouTube personality from Surrey. He is best known for posting a daily video blog about his life and travels on the channel "FunForLouis." With more than 750,000 Instagram followers and 500,000 on Twitter, his recap of his 2013 travels garnered nearly 1.8 million views. He is currently acting as one of the judges for Marriott's

Marriott has signed a development deal with Vagabrothers Originally from San Diego, Marko and Alex Ayling are backpackers and bloggers on a mission to discover the world through its people. They are globally engaged storytellers and winners of the international video contest, the Biggest, Baddest, Bucket List which enabled them to travel the world for six months checking off their travel bucket list and documenting the experience through YouTube videos, articles, and photos.

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What corporate clients want in 2015: HRG’s industry predictions

December 17, 2014

The company predicts more detailed analysis will lead to a better understanding of traveller behaviour, which will coincide with driving policy change to deliver “wider visibility” of travel spend – key important factors for clients next year.

“2015 is going to be about clients demanding more from their commercial agreements with TMCs and improving their travel risk management procedures. The macro economic situation remains unchanged on the whole and clients are seeking to extract more from their spend without reducing the quality of their service,” HRG group commercial director, Stewart Harvey said.

“Meanwhile, geo-political instability and weather related incidents are becoming more frequent; both represent greater risk to travellers. Clients have a legal requirement to ensure the safety and well being of their workforce. Improving travel risk management programmes is a growing requirement that we expect to see continue into 2015.”

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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Mobile rewards gain stature as currency for airlines

December 17, 2014

The mobile environment enables airlines to pursue co-branded opportunities and partnerships with retail and online stores so that loyalty program members have more avenues to earn and burn. The transformation of rewards that can be tracked and redeemed from a mobile device into a traveling form of currency points to how airline-related retailers are responding to consumer demands for more rewards flexibility.

“Mobile devices present unique opportunities for us to reach our customers and offer them benefits that make their travel and other activities easier and more convenient,” said Karen May, spokeswoman and public relations manager for Chicago-based United Airlines, an industry leader in mobile rewards programs.

“Last month, we began offering our MileagePlus X mobile app to a test group of members, enabling them to use their mobile devices to earn miles when making purchases at certain stores.”

Get the full story at Mobile Commerce Daily

Read also "Mobile is shaking up traditional loyalty marketing programs"

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100 hotels that change the way we see the world

December 17, 2014

A prerequisite for a Gold List property is a high standard of service, luxury, and beauty. Yet what earned each winner a spot on the list was the unforgettable special touches that bring a hotel's ethos to life. The housekeeper at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani who delivers a message to the tooth fairy after hearing a young guest has lost her tooth, the scent of lavender in the air at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, or the feeling of picking a mango from your balcony at Strawberry Hill in Jamaica.

"The result," says Editor in Chief Pilar Guzman, "is a group-written love letter to the properties that inspire memories that linger long after we've left them. Like travel itself, the best hotel experiences often can't be measured by a point system—they're as ineffable as memory itself."

The U.S. hotels on the 2015 Gold List are:


- Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur
- The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
- Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles
- Shutters on the Beach, Los Angeles
- Sunset Tower Hotel, Los Angeles
- Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, Ojai
- Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, San Diego
- Hotel Vitale, San Francisco


- Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach

- Halekulani, Oahu
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island
- The Royal Hawaiian (A Luxury Collection Resort), Honolulu


- Hidden Pond, Kennebunkport


- Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

New York

- ACE Hotel New York
- Lafayette House, NYC
- The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, NYC
- The Mark, NYC
- Trump SoHo, NYC

Rhode Island

- Watch Hill Inn


- Montage Deer Valley, Park City


- Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

The 2015 Gold List is published in the January issue of Conde Nast Traveler, on newsstands December 23, 2014, and online at

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2015 hotel meeting trends forecast

December 17, 2014

As the largest operator of independent hotels and resorts in North America, Destination asked an experienced group of corporate, association, government and independent planners - 55 percent of whom control more than $100,000 per year in direct meeting spend for their organizations—about how their planning duties and their meetings themselves are changing. These changes stem from general macroeconomic trends, the continued strength of the hospitality industry in particular, attendees’ evolving needs and preferences, advancing technology, and other factors. Here is a summary of the survey results, plus front-line analysis.

Meeting Budgets Continue to Rise

37 percent of respondents said that their 2015 meeting budgets would increase, while another 51 percent said their budgets would remain the same and just 12 percent said budgets would decrease, a notable and all around positive shift from 2014. Another encouraging indicator is that planners said their organizations will conduct more meetings in 2015 than in 2014, while 65 percent said they will hold the same number. Because the percentage of planners with increasing budgets is higher than the percentage who indicated that they will coordinate more meetings, it is evident that many organizations are willing to spend more per meeting in 2015. Specifically, Destination Hotels has already seen a resurgence in the food and beverage space and predicts this will be an area where groups will once again choose to invest in dinners and special events with quality options.

Booking Patterns Have Shifted; Planners Must Negotiate Differently to Stay on Budget
Survey results indicate that overall, meetings are shifting away from the middle ground—the two- to six-month window and will now focus on the under 60 days and six to 12 month booking windows. Planners also indicated that groups are getting back to using the spa and playing golf, a definite shift from recent years. This means that groups will commit more dollars to on-site social events and recreation in exchange for lower room rates. Destination Hotels see this as a benefit for all parties.

Factors in Selecting a Host Property: One Surprising Shift
Geographic location and room rate continue to be the most important factors to planners when selecting a host property but for the first time in Destination Hotels' annual survey of planners, food and beverage options rated third in importance. Destination Hotels recognizes the importance of high-quality culinary experiences as these are often used for networking and connection objectives. For example, the hotels have transitioned to offering seasonal menus to ensure the freshest ingredients are served that highlight the property's location. Destination Hotels is also tailoring menus to meet a variety of dietary restrictions including vegan and vegetarian items plus alternatives for guests who need to avoid nuts, gluten, tomato, bell pepper, and other items.

Supplier-Provided Technology: Critical Within a Meeting, and Critical to Planners before a Meeting Too
Sufficient bandwidth for high-speed wired and wireless connectivity to the internet, as well as a rising demand for large LCD panels to display constantly-scrolling social-media feeds in break areas at meetings are two areas that planners noted of importance in the survey. However, another item that is not yet part of a standard meetings-tech package—but which might be soon—is the mobile-device charging station. Destination Hotels, recognizing the need to eliminate power cords, recently introduced portable charging stations which does not require devices to be plugged in at all. These battery-powered towers can be placed in common spaces, or directly in meeting rooms.

Teambuilding Takes on a Local Flavor
Active, adventure and wellness-focused teambuilding activities ranked high in meeting planners' interests for 2015 and Destination Hotels' emphasis on bringing authentically immersed experiences into meetings meshes perfectly with these preferences. At Destination Hotels, attendees can experience scenic walking trails, take part in GPS-aided scavenger hunts, kayak into secluded coves or rollerblade on an oceanfront boardwalk, among a plethora of other activities. Whichever Destination Hotels property planners choose, an endless list of unscripted discoveries and locally-inspired options are available.

Download the complete white paper at Destination Hotels

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2014: A year of digital innovation and success for HeBS Digital & client portfolio

December 17, 2014

With multiple established best practices and new revenue-driving digital technologies released this year, clients were set up for success in 2014 and the results speak for themselves.

This year, HeBS Digital and its hospitality clients took home 29 major industry awards that ranged across the hotel digital marketing spectrum. Awards for hotel and restaurant website design and technology, multichannel marketing campaigns, software programming, and interactive marketing applications include:

- Gold Adrian Award – Nickelodeon Suites Resort Website
- Gold Adrian Award – Nickelodeon Suites Resort Kids Corner
- IMA Best in Class Award – Martini’s Restaurant Website
- IMA Best in Class Award – Kahler Hospitality Group Website
- IMA Best in Class Award – Triumph Hotels Website
- IMA Best in Class Award – Panorama Restaurant Website
- IAC Award for Best Hotel & Lodging Interactive Application – Major Resort / Timeshare Company –Black Friday Travel Sale
- Gold Magellan Award – Brush Creek Ranch Website

Get the full story at HeBS Digital

Article location: offers to loosen rate-parity requirement for hotels

December 16, 2014

Online travel agent has offered to scrap a practice which prevents hotels from giving discounts to its rivals, in a bid to end investigations by competition authorities in France, Sweden and Italy, the European Commission said on Monday.

Such so-called parity clauses in contracts between online booking sites and hotels are common in the industry and have led to complaints by competitors and scrutiny by regulators across Europe who are worried that they may dampen competition and hurt consumers.

" has proposed to abandon the parity requirement in respect of prices which the hotel makes available to other online travel agents," the Commission said in a statement.

It said however that could still have clauses in their agreements with hotels preventing them from offering discounts or lower rates on the hotels' own websites.

Get the full story at Reuters and Bloomberg

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Online travel’s future is not only in emerging markets

December 16, 2014

The refrain of online travel over the past half-decade is often repeated: as developed markets in North America and Europe mature and slow, travel companies must look abroad to emerging markets for the next big wave of growth. There is no question that online travel markets in developed economies have matured, and the heady double-digit growth rates of the markets' early years are a thing of the past.

Indeed, whether looking at the total travel market (that is, all gross bookings, purchased both online or offline) or specifically at online channels, emerging markets are growing much faster. Between 2011 and 2015, travel in the developed markets of North America, Western Europe and Australia, New Zealand and Japan in Asia Pacific is growing at a combined compound annual rate (CAGR) of 2.5% vs. 7.4% for all emerging markets. For online travel, the difference is even starker: 7% in developed markets vs. 22% elsewhere.

However, the significant difference in the rates of online travel growth across emerging and developed markets does not tell the whole story. The global online travel market will grow 47% between 2011 and 2015, adding $156 billion in new gross bookings. Most of that – 55% – is coming not from emerging markets, but developed ones. In other words, online travel in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East may indeed be growing at a substantially faster rate, but the developed markets of North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia/New Zealand are still adding far more in total new online gross bookings.

Get the full story at PhoCusWright

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New opportunities for travel brands on social media

December 16, 2014

Americans have places to go and people to see. Whether for lesure, business or bleisure, travelers are estimated to increase mobile bookings by over 1,000% from 2011. And with users spending approximately 60% of their social media time on mobile devices, this potential technical convergence provides brands with a change to use consumer trends to create their own success stories.

Here are five tips for brands to capture the trend:

1. Mobile is a must
People are on mobile more than ever. Given that travelers are increasingly using their phones for both booking travel and Twitter/Facebooking, brands should heavily lean on mobile targeting and ad units in their social strategies.

2. Merge your messaging
Business and leisure behavior continue to merge as 46% add personal travel days to business travel every or most trips. Consider presenting offers that encourage additional time for R&R after company business is completed.

3. Pursue unsure users
Use social retargeting to stay front of mind with potential customers who have visited your website but didn't book.

4. Leverage your list
Turn your online booking email list into a powerful social targeting cluster to upsell or resell past or current customers.

5. Step up social staff
Social media can be a powerful tool, not only for driving online booking, but also for customer service. Make sure you have enough social savvy employees on staff to respond quickly and effectively to inbound inquiries.

Get the full story and infographic at Social Media Today

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Luxury travel conference tackles sharing economy

December 16, 2014

If you can’t buy a palace, at least you can stay in one of them. That’s an encapsulation of one of the topics of discussion (the collaborative economy) that took place during keynote presentations on the first day of the International Luxury Travel Market’s (ILTM) annual flagship event earlier this month.

The conference, which was held in Cannes, France, from Dec. 1 to 4, revealed the push-pull nature of the global luxury travel market, in which suppliers continue to try to raise the bar on exclusivity while more people than ever are now able to access a luxury travel experience.

The collaborative economy, largely believed to be having its greatest impact on more moderate levels of travel, is edging its way into the luxury sector, said ILTM Global Forum speaker and collaborative-consumption expert Lauren Capelin, who discussed the concept of “idealizing access over ownership.”

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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How to retain guests at independent hotels

December 16, 2014

“It’s easy to say from a philosophical standpoint that you’re providing an experience. But you really have to have the people,” said Jonathan Hansell, hotel manager at The Strand Hotel in New York City. “They have to take pride in what they do. You can’t control that from upstairs.”

The Strand Hotel, an independent hotel located in “a land of giants,” hit a homerun with its staff, Hansell said, which has been a differentiator for the hotel located next door to two Marriott-branded hotels.

Concentrating on great service appeals to most people’s sensibilities. “There’s so much power in that,” said Brenda Fields, founder of Fields & Company, a sales and marketing consulting company that specializes in independent, boutique hotels and resorts.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Mobile is shaking up traditional loyalty marketing programs

December 16, 2014

Loyalty programs have been incredibly enduring -- from that very first American Airlines frequent flyer program in 1981 to the Starbucks Card Rewards program nearly 30 years later. The average U.S. household now takes part in 21.9 loyalty programs every year, according to Colloquy research.

Yet mobile is shaking up the traditional loyalty model, just as it's shaken up so many other things. The mobile phone has become the remote control for life, and we're using it to change channels on our loyalty programs as well. More and more digitally-savvy consumers are giving up on traditional one-size-fits-all loyalty programs and choosing mobile-driven offerings that fit their specific needs.

And that's very good news for brands. Because the mobile phone is where brands can reach consumers anytime and anywhere -- where they'll find engaged users who are ready to receive valuable and relevant messages.

Get the full story at AdAge

Read also "Are loyalty programs worth it? Ask Amazon" at eMarketer

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What should hotels focus on in 2015?

December 16, 2014

In this special episode of our VTV eMarketing Minute, we asked digital marketing experts from hotels such as citizenM and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, to hospitality influencers from companies such as RockCheetah, what trends will impact your property in 2015. We’re talking about the importance of content marketing, social media, driving direct website traffic and boosting revenue through storytelling.

Watch the video at Leonardo

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Conde Nast Traveller presents the Conde Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair

December 16, 2014

The world's leading travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, will hand pick the utmost professionals in luxury tourism for a private, one-day B2B event.

Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair is the first global luxury travel trade event, organized by the world's leading publishing house Condé Nast. Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair is the only luxury travel trade event in Eastern Europe officially recognized by the UNWTO.

Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair gives participants opportunities to make new, prosperous business connections with luxury travel companies and go beyond the traditional exchange of experience. Participants of the Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair will enjoy an exceptional opportunity to learn about the latest travel trends from leading brands, to trade stories and ideas, and to hear inspiring lectures from the world's most respected professionals.

The Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair hand-picked exhibitors include the top 100 companies in the travel industry - recognized leaders in various segments of luxury tourism and leading suppliers of high-end travel services. More than 800 selected leading representatives of the tourism industry, corporate clients and media from the entire Eastern Europe will have a unique opportunity to participate in this invitation-only exhibition in 2015.

There is no better time to leverage the spending power of Easter Europe than at Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair, where the very best travel agents and advisors from across Easter Europe meet the world's very best luxury travel experiences.

Related Link: Condé Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair

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As demand grows, hotels push for dynamic pricing with corporate clients in 2015

December 15, 2014

With the exception of Europe, demand is likely to grow again as the global economy strengthens, but although this should give hotels more pricing power, suppliers are not taking demand growth for granted.

Hotels know corporate clients are still nervous about authorizing too many trips and are looking to substitute travel with technology wherever it makes sense. On balance, therefore, rates are likely to grow in 2015. While some hotels will push for more, increases will be modest outside of the world’s busiest business cities (such as New York and London) where rate rises will continue to be much stronger.

Rate growth will be only 1-3% in many Asian countries, including China, where growth in demand and supply will be well-matched. The same range is expected for most of Europe, where negotiating opportunities remain strong for buyers. Even German cities that have traditionally been ultra-expensive during trade fairs are not selling out as they once did, giving buyers a chance to secure good rates year- round.

The Americas will see most of the highest increases. Rates in the U.S. and Canada will rise 3-4%. In Latin America, a combination of inflation and fast-expanding business travel markets will fuel rate rises of 8-10% in Argentina and 6-8% in Brazil. However, rising travel costs are persuading more companies in Latin America to control their spend; better management should help offset some increases.

Download the complete report at Advito

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Asia-Pacific OTAs reveal key priorities for 2015

December 15, 2014

The event saw leaders from over 70 leading online travel retailers from across Asia Pacific come together to discuss the evolving online travel landscape and how businesses need to re-shape their strategy, with technology as a key driver for growth.

A survey held at the event, revealed that online travel retailers recognise the need to put the traveller at the centre of their services, connecting with them at every stage of the travel experience. Ancillary services, mobile and data analytics were identified as playing a crucial role in the future success of online travel.

Key highlights from the survey include:

- Big data and analytics as the ‘next big thing’: Big data was seen as instrumental in driving the ability to offer personalised experiences, with seven out of ten travel retailers indicating that data analytics should be leveraged to optimise search and shopping which will differentiate them from competition,

- Mobile as a game changer: 48 per cent of the attendees believe that the mobile channel will completely change the travel landscape. Another 45 per cent of these respondents also recognised that the use of mobile would offer more opportunities for engagement with their customers,

- Ancillary services a must: over 80 per cent of respondents indicated that the distribution of ancillary services would be important for airlines, travel agents and travellers, and that ancillaries will be a key area of focus for online travel retailers in 2015 and

- Personalised loyalty: In this era of the ‘always on’ traveller, online travel retailers rated the customer’s online experience and targeted promotions as the top two priorities in building customer loyalty.

Angel Gallego, President, Amadeus Asia Pacific said, “Amadeus Online Connect 2014 brought together the best minds of the Asia Pacific online travel industry to discuss today’s landscape which continues to evolve at lightning speed. We remain committed to meeting the needs of our customers and ensuring they are well-placed to take their business to the next level through our technology and content. Amadeus Online Connect makes sure we know exactly what’s important to our customers, what is keeping them awake at night and how we can help.”

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China’s OTAs enter “industry-wide loss-making era”

December 15, 2014

President Xi Jinping said during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing on Nov 9 that the number of outbound tourists from China will exceed 500 million in the next five years. By then, more than one third of Chinese will travel overseas each year.

The year 2014 also means a lot for China's tourism industry as the number of outbound tourist departures from the Chinese mainland has exceeded 100 million within a calendar year for the first time, according to China National Tourism Administration.

While the growth pie is big and luring, the road to a slice of it might be thorny and costly for China's online travel agencies.

Get the full story at AsiaOne

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Ritz-Carlton to lure consumers away from OTAs with free WiFi

December 15, 2014

The Ritz-Carlton introduced this offer to its newsletter subscribers via email, telling them what they have to do to “stay connected.” Consumers are directed to enroll for The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.

Gold and platinum elite members of the program will still receive complimentary enhanced in-room Internet, where available, with any booking method.

Hotels have been building packages around connectivity. This is in the property’s best interest, since it makes it easier for guests to share their vacation photos through social media.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Relationship advice for millennials and tour operators

December 15, 2014

"Do millennials matter?" USTOA President Terry Dale asked the organization's members during a general session meeting.

On the one hand, they represent the future, right? So it makes sense to get into their heads and try to engage with them while they're still developing the ways in which they want to explore the world -- the "get 'em while they're young" approach. But on the other hand, baby boomers still represent the majority of wealth in this country and continue to have that even more priceless commodity of time.

And boomers are still the bulk of business for tour operators. According to the annual survey of USTOA members, about half of their customer base is made up of travelers age 50 and older. So why should tour operators even care all that much about millennials?

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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How visual content on social media is going to evolve in 2015

December 15, 2014

Good storytelling in 2015 will be all about what we see. If you don’t tap into your audience’s visual needs, you are missing ​out on ​an opportunity to make an impact. Larger brands getting out of their comfort zone & taking a lot more risks with visual content in 2015, because if they don’t, there are emerging disruptive brands who will.

The more visual the communication is, the better chances there are for it to be remembered. Getting creative with infographics, memes, charts, graphs, video clippings or even cartoons to tell your brand’s story will not only differentiate your brand from the rest of the digital noise, but will also engage and provoke strong emotions among the consumers. We will see brands getting creative with video production.

In 2015, quick visually oriented social networks such as Snapchat, Instagram and Vine will gain further momentum by taking UGC & spontaneity to another level for the consumer who “doesn’t have time” and Visual content marketing will be explored not as one aspect of social media, but as a channel on its own.

Get the full story at Business 2 Community

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Hotel marketing tips for better managing 800 numbers

December 15, 2014

by Doug Kennedy

Even those who search and then book exclusively online often call just to reconfirm that the reservation came through. Therefore it is important for hotel marketers to effectively manage their 800 numbers. Here are some tips:

- Move beyond having just one “legacy” 800 number. Many hotels still fixate on having one traditional 800 number, which is often a vanity number that allows guests to dial by letters that spell out the hotel name. Yet with mobile searches soon to exceed desktop searches, more guests simply click to call versus dialing anyway. It is better to have several different 800 numbers that can allow you to track calls generated by different channels, such as website, print, paid search, etc…

- If you do have a vanity number, be sure to also post the numerical version as some mobile phone keypads no longer show the letters on the keys.

- Have a separate 800 number that appears in mobile search ads. One reason why the conversion might appear to be so low from mobile searches is that many guests are simply pressing the number to auto-dial the hotel instead of booking the reservation on their device. By having a separate 800 number just for mobile search ads you can better track the ROI on these channels.

- For full service hotels, have separate 800 numbers for revenue generating outlets such as restaurants, spa, golf and/or ski calls. These numbers can bypass the reservations or phone operators and bring callers straight to the person who can assist. Having separate numbers also allows you to track activity.

- Avoid having too many 800 numbers. While some hotels are still using only a single 800 number, a few others have so many 800 numbers that it is difficult to manage and track ROI. Generally, having more than a dozen creates information overload.

- Post your 800 number prominently on your website. Too many hotels hide their phone numbers in a small font size that is difficult to read at the bottom of the page, or have a “click here” button that you have to press to display the 800 number. Instead, post your 800 number prominently to encourage direct bookings. While there is certainly a cost to field a call versus a website booking, it is still far less than the commission you might have to pay to an OTA or other third party. Also, for some famous “legacy” properties there are what I call “cyber squatters” who will purchase paid advertising listing your hotel name and a prominently displayed 800 number in an effort to syphon off business that they will then intercept and book for you while charging back a travel agent commission.

Harness new innovations in 800 number tracking.

- These days there are numerous companies that provide detailed tracking of inbound 800 traffic. Most all carriers will tell you information about the geographic origins of calls, which helps for marketing purposes, and the peak times of day and days of week, which helps for staffing.

Others will also provide you with a web-based call recording of the actual calls, which provide an excellent tool for training, coaching and also for verifying guest honesty. The costs of inbound 800 access through such providers is not much more than what most hotels are already paying if they are using a traditional phone company.

- Still other companies are offering long distance services that integrate with a CRM or lead tracking tool, allowing your inbound reservations and hotel sales department staff to turn calls into leads, attaching the recordings to the customer record and allowing the staff to generate a follow-up action step on their task list. (Contact me directly if you would like more details on companies that are offering this type of upgraded long distance service.)

Understand that you own your 800 numbers, not your phone company.

One question I frequently hear my clients ask is if they are able to keep their same inbound 800 numbers if they change carriers. Many feel locked-in to their current provider out of a fear of the unknown. According to all of the providers I have spoken to, you can "port over" an 800 number to a new carrier much in the same way you can with your mobile phone number when you change providers. (I recommend checking with the carrier you are switching to for a confirmation on their process.)

Some charge a fee, but the ones I recommend do not. When I searched online I found three related articles posted by the FCC with more details.

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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STAAH partners with China’s leading OTA Ctrip

December 15, 2014 International, Ltd is the leading travel service provider of accommodation reservations, transportation ticketing, packaged tours, and corporate travel management in China. Ctrip brings together a large range of hotel and flight information to enable both business and leisure travellers to make informed and cost-effective bookings.

As China’s leading travel agent Ctrip has the biggest network in China with over 170,000 hotels in China and 1,600 flight routes throughout the country. Ctrip also has international coverage with over 9,000 flights and 510,000 hotels in 199 different countries.

“STAAH is excited to integrate with Ctrip, China’s largest online travel service provider. This gives our growing list of clients and opportunity to have direct access with Ctrip and increase their online presence,” says Edwin Saldanha, Head of Sales at STAAH Limited.

With over 60,000 destinations and attractions in Mainland China, Ctrip has a member base of 250,000,000 and over 30,000,000 real user reviews. The partnership with Ctrip gives STAAH’S clients the fantastic chance to connect with these Ctrip members and maximise their own online visibility.

China is expected to account for one-third of the Asia-Pacific travel market by 2015 with online gross bookings for China predicted to double in that time. With STAAH’s clients now having direct access with the leading online travel agency in China, they will have a dominant head start in this market.

Related Link: STAAH

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Expedia launches real-time hotel reviews

December 12, 2014

The instant reviews work by pinging guests after they check-in for a live review, asking about specifics such as the check-in experience and room quality. The guest can thus offer live feedback on the experience, rather than waiting until later to complain or identify issues.

The hotelier then has the new opportunity to address any negatives and enhance any positives while the guest is still on-property.

Given the power of user reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, this is huge for hoteliers. There’s never been an easy way to tie into guest sentiment in real-time, and that’s a value proposition that Expedia now hopes to deliver.

Get the full story at Tnooz

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Hotel play pays off: Double-digit gains boost outlook for U.S. OTAs

December 12, 2014

According to an upcoming Global Edition report, OTA hotel bookings are projected to grow 15% in 2014, outpacing hotel website gains for the third consecutive year. OTAs' share of the online hotel market will increase to 48%, up from 46% in 2012.

"OTAs have leveraged the return of deal-hungry, mid-market hotel shoppers to reverse the recent shift in favor of suppliers and replace revenue lost to airline-direct bookings," says Phocuswright research analyst Maggie Rauch. "A strong hotel market, paired with improving air sales and an early advantage in capturing mobile travel bookings, is boosting the outlook for intermediaries."

Hotel and lodging will comprise a growing share of OTA revenues, increasing from 44% of U.S. domestic OTA gross bookings in 2012 to 51% in 2016. OTA hotel bookings via the mobile channel – a key driver of overall mobile bookings growth – will contribute to those gains. In 2014, mobile will account for nearly one quarter of OTA hotel bookings, compared to 11% of hotel website bookings.

Related Link: Phocuswright's U.S. Online Travel Overview Fourteenth Edition

Article location: becomes first major OTA to integrate Apple Pay

December 12, 2014

Today's traveler is an early adopter of new technology and according to PhoCusWright research[1], mobile travel is growing at a torrid pace. mobile customer adoption of iOS 8 outpaces industry trends by 14 percent[2] as customers embrace new technologies, functionality and faster checkout options. The company has seen more than a 110 percent growth in Express Deals reserved via mobile since the beginning of 2014 and its mobile customers look for quick access to deals with over 65 percent of's mobile customers making reservations less than 24 hours before a stay.

"Our customers are smart, and on-the-go, and our mobile customers are 2X more likely to choose an alternative payment method than our desktop customers," says's Chief Product Officer, John Caine. "Apple Pay makes purchasing travel easy and secure so travelers can pay quickly and seamlessly with a single touch."

The app received a substantial technology and design overhaul to take advantage of iOS 8 and the larger screen on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus including:

- For easier checkout, Apple Pay was added for hotel Express Deals for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

- Hundreds of new mobile-exclusive deals with three and four star hotels and an expansion of's popular Tonight-Only deals for same-day reservations.

- iOS 8 "Today Widget" that is displayed in the Today View of the Notification Center allowing travelers to view upcoming trip information without launching the app.

- Cross-device Handoff from iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite feature for a seamless experience from iPhone and iPad to Mac so consumers can shop for deals wherever they might be during the day.

With Apple Pay, customers can effectively cut their reservation path from an average of five screens to three and can pay for select hotel without having to manually enter credit card information. Actual card numbers are not stored on the Apple servers. Instead, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted, and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in the iPhone and iPad. And when a traveler makes a purchase, the Device Account Number, along with a transaction-specific dynamic security code, is used to process the payment.

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New for Facebook Pages: ‘Book Now’ button

December 12, 2014

Here’s Facebook’s announcement:

Pages are an important destination for people on Facebook, and we’re building new ways for people to interact with businesses through them. Today, we’re announcing a new call-to-action feature that will help Pages drive business objectives.

Designed to bring a business’s most important objective to the forefront of its Facebook presence, call-to-action buttons link to any destination on or off Facebook that aligns with a business’s goals.

Get the full story at Facebook

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Online travel in Latin America: A big, complicated opportunity

December 12, 2014

By 2016, total travel spend will approach $100 billion. Online travel is taking off, growing at 15% on average with certain markets growing even faster.

Low online penetration means big gains for tech-savvy intermediaries but also technology providers that can offer value to supplier networks growing weary of established and outdated distribution channels.

Complexity also brings opportunity to online and travel tech companies, as local suppliers expand throughout the region and look for new partners.

To give our travel colleagues a bit of a head start, here are five high-level findings explored in much greater detail in Phocuswright’s latest report, the Latin America Online Travel Overview Second Edition.

Get the full story at Tnooz

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What’s behind Choice Hotels’ massive IT hiring?

December 12, 2014

Davis told Fierce CIO the push to hire is really around a few things, and all business and market driven. Technology is a big part of the travel industry and mobile is growing, he said.

“We are competing in the marketplace through Internet distribution, marketing and so forth,” Davis said. “We're expanding into new markets, and that would include international markets, so there is a lot of capabilities of things that we're doing to be able to provide to both the customer and our franchisees in international markets.

“We're creating new lines of business. Our operating performance has been extremely well, and part of that is not only because of our brands and our marketing, but the technology we've put in place. It ties back to our global distribution platform. That system must be kept strong and running fast, because from a consumers' standpoint, when they're on the website they don't want to have to wait. We also made it very easy to do a three-point booking on our mobile app to book a reservation."

Get the full story at Hotel Management

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TravelClick wins 13 awards for website design and digital marketing

December 12, 2014

“We want to congratulate all of our clients who were recognized by the Adrian and Davey Awards. With more annual award wins than any other website developer for the hospitality industry, TravelClick continues to maintain its leadership position in the sector,” said Jason Ewell, Executive Vice President, Product for TravelClick. “We are proud to be able to work with some of the most prestigious hotel brands from around the world to create dynamic, compelling and effective web sites to increase bookings and drive revenue.”

The HSMAI Adrian Awards honor creative brilliance and best practices in hospitality, travel, and tourism-related marketing. In its 58th year, the competition has evolved into the world's most renowned and prestigious advertising, public relations and digital marketing competition specifically tailored for the hospitality, travel and tourism industries.

Get the full story at TravelClick

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HeBS Digital takes home multiple 2014 HSMAI Adrian Awards

December 12, 2014

HeBS Digital, the industry's leading digital technology, full-service hotel digital marketing, website design and direct online channel consulting firm, has been awarded once again for excellence in digital marketing by receiving seven HSMAI Adrian Awards this year. The HSMAI Adrian Awards recognize the best in advertising, public relations, and digital marketing in the hospitality and travel industries and are judged annually by experts in hospitality, travel, tourism and media.

All of the winning websites were built using HeBS Digital's proprietary content management system technology – The smartCMS – which recently won the prestigious Gold Stevie ® Award in the Best Software Programming/Design category in the 2014 American Business Awards SM. The smartCMS empowers the property to have complete control over the textual, visual and promotional content on the property/chain website and features responsive/adaptive design for the three screens, an innovative smart personalization engine and one-to-one-marketing capabilities, reservation abandonment prevention technologies, as well as an enhanced merchandising functionality to highlight promotional offers and packages throughout the site.

"It's great to see that HeBS Digital's passion for helping hoteliers profit from the direct online channel, increase website revenue and customer engagements, and ultimately shift share from the OTAs results in esteemed awards like the HSMAI Adrian Awards," said Max Starkov, President and CEO of HeBS Digital. "We are honored to share these seven awards with our clients, who benefit tremendously from HeBS Digital's innovative digital technology and marketing applications, revenue-focused campaigns and websites that target and consistently surpass our clients' business goals and result in impressive ROIs."

Get the full story at HeBS Digital

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Why do consumers prefer booking with OTAs and not hotels direct?

December 11, 2014

Despite the common belief that tourists prefer to book their hotel directly and that the intermediary and its peers add little value for the customer, the facts alone speak for themselves.

Not only are OTAs dominating in the arena of sales against direct bookings through hotel websites, they are also becoming the preferred reservation method for tourists, most notably when up against small chains and individual hotels.

According to a recent report from Google, The 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision, 50% of corporate tourists prefer to book through a travel agency with approximately 33% of leisure tourists opting for the same.

Get the full story a Tnooz

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UK: Only 1% of Google organic hotel search results are captured by independent hotels

December 11, 2014

Ian Miller, search director at Crafted, said: “The internet makes it easy for travellers to find and book hotels, but if the majority of the Google results are filled with links to comparison sites, consumers are more likely to book via these third parties.

“OTAs often have large media budgets, expansive digital marketing teams and a strong brand presence. Although it would be difficult to play these sites at their own game, independent hotels can use their agility and unique offerings to outwit them, with the right digital strategy in place.”

Crafted has released a free practical guide to help independent hoteliers become more visible in Google searches. It advises them to use tools such as Google + Local, mentions on other websites such as directories and blogs, and customer reviews to optimise organic search results.

Get the full story at BigHospitality and Crafted

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New AH&LA industry survey reveals top U.S. hotel trends

December 11, 2014

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and its Foundation today released the definitive industry survey examining the top trends in the hotel industry, which this year is marked by personal service, healthy lifestyles and convenience.

This survey, funded by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF), shows that in addition to advancing consumer service, hotels are also giving back, making charitable contributions and being good stewards of the environment. Environmentally-friendly programs, such as towel reuse programs, recycling capabilities and water savings programs are increasingly popular, with overwhelming majorities of hotels participating. Hotels are also giving to charities, and employees are offering their personal time to volunteer efforts.

The innovation and creativity of the hotel industry continues to benefit the guests. Travelers can expect high-speed and wireless Internet in more places, as well as in-room video on demand services and high-definition, flat screen televisions. Hotels are also prioritizing convenience and comfort with mobile check in, mobile apps, better bedding, and allergy-free rooms. The hotel guest can also expect a healthier experience, with more access to healthy menu choices, free breakfast and health facilities.

"Providing the highest level of quality service is paramount in our business and keeping ahead of guests' needs is a critical component," said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AH&LA. "From high-tech gadgets and amenities to charitable giving to being good stewards of our environment, the hotel industry continues to grow, innovate and accommodate changing consumer behavior. It is this flexibility and remarkable adaptability that allows the hotel to grow and thrive even as other business sectors struggle."

"Since 1988, this survey has been the most authoritative and comprehensive Benchmark of services that are so important to our industry," said Amanda Hite, President and COO of STR. "The hotel industry continues to push for innovation, staying ahead of the curve to ensure hotel guests have an excellent experience. It has been a privilege working with AH&LA on this survey, which is a helpful guide for hoteliers, industry vendors and the traveling public."

Key findings include:

- High-definition televisions in rooms are the standard with 84% of respondents saying that these are provided. Flat screen televisions are the norm, with 96% of respondents stating their facilities stock them.

- Mobile apps for hotel service continue to grow in popularity with 33% of hotels offering an app for their guests.

- Most hotels (86%) provide computers in the lobby for complimentary use.

- Fewer hotels are charging for in-room Internet services. Only 11% of respondents charge for Internet service. This figure is down from 23% in 2012.

- 93% of respondents have a linen/towel reuse program.

- The popularity of recycling programs continue to increase, climbing steadily and achieving 64% in 2014.

- The percentage of hotels with electric car charging stations has grown to 11% from 5% just 2 years ago

- 84% of participating hotels contribute to charities, and the majority of hotels (84%) make in-kind contributions of room nights, meeting space, goods or services.

- 82% of hotels offer complimentary breakfast. An all-time high of respondents (74%) stated that they provide healthy menu choices.

- Conversely, fewer hotels are offering newspaper delivery, in room DVD players, and mini bars. Jacuzzis are also on the decline.

This is one of the longest-running surveys of its kind. The 2014 Lodging Survey is conducted every two years, and with more than 9,600 participants, it is the most comprehensive analysis of the trends in the hotel and lodging industry based on direct feedback from hotels. Respondents are also representative of the geographic makeup of the hotel industry.

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Manhattan Courtyard drives hotel stays with mobile check-in app

December 11, 2014

Courtyard New York Manhattan/SoHo is aiming to ramp up business by leveraging a mobile application that enables guests to check-in and checkout of the hotel without waiting in long lines.

“The introduction of a mobile check-in app is a great first step by Courtyard Marriott to modernize customer processes,” said Puneet Mehta, CEO and co-founder of mobile marketing automation company MobileROI, New York. “While it removes friction from one step of the customer experience, the hotel cannot stop at mobile check-in and check-out.

“It must start looking at orchestrating across the complete customer journey. This might involve bringing in a centralized engagement layer that could handle beacons, prediction and marketing automation to ensure a consistent, personalized experience throughout the entire customer journey to really move the needle.”

Get the full story at Mobile Commerce Daily

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Bellagio Las Vegas most reviewed hotel on TripAdvisor in 2014

December 11, 2014

TripAdvisor now features more than 200 million reviews and opinions from its global travel community, covering more than 4.4 million businesses and properties in 145,000 destinations.

“Our global travel community adds 115 contributions to the site every minute, helping to make TripAdvisor the world’s best place to plan a trip,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “We thank our most active members, as well as each of our contributors. Their candid feedback is the lifeblood of TripAdvisor and helps others find the information and advice they need before they travel or visit a business.”

The most-reviewed cities in 2014 were:


1. London, United Kingdom (565,742)
2. Rome, Italy (438,118)
3. Paris, France (414,700)
4. New York City, New York (375,905)
5. Barcelona, Spain (256,962)
6. Las Vegas, Nevada (244,331)
7. Orlando, Florida (213,340)
8. Milan, Italy (179,303)
9. Florence, Italy (153,235)
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (148,543)

United States

1. New York City, New York (375,905)
2. Las Vegas, Nevada (244,331)
3. Orlando, Florida (213,340)
4. San Francisco, California (106,375)
5. Chicago, Illinois (93,978)
6. New Orleans, Louisiana (81,296)
7. Washington, D.C. (76,149)
8. San Diego, California (63,445)
9. Los Angeles, California (62,512)
10. Miami Beach, Florida (62,096)

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Best Western and Expedia enter global partnership

December 11, 2014

This partnership is truly global in nature. Expedia features more than 150 travel sites in more than 70 countries, while Best Western boasts more than 4,000 hotels in over 100 countries and territories worldwide.

Melissa Maher, senior vice president of the Global Partner Group at Expedia, Inc. said "Best Western is one of the most recognizable and popular hotel brands in the world. We are thrilled at the opportunity to drive demand to their owners, and offer Expedia shoppers a swath of new Best Western hotel options to book."

"Expedia is an incredibly valuable distribution and marketing channel, and we see this new strategic partnership as a great investment to ensure hoteliers can easily and efficiently sell their hotel rooms on their sites. Expedia excels at driving demand from around the world, and their marketing power is something that our hotels will benefit from leveraging," said Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Best Western International, Inc.

The agreement includes participation in the Expedia Traveler Preference program, which provides Expedia shoppers with an option to pay at the time of the booking, or pay the hotel at the time of stay. Further, technology enhancements between the two companies will also ensure that rates and availability of rooms will be reflected in real-time on Expedia sites, providing the best possible customer experience with seamless booking integration.

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The direct booking hotel marketing cheat sheet

December 11, 2014

Per a recent unpublished survey of some 700 hoteliers and hotel marketing staff in hotels 77% of hotels surveyed replied that they handle most of their internet marketing efforts in-house. 12% replied that they used an agency 5% rely on their brand and 4% on their management company.

When asked which channel drives the most traffic to their brand website, 33% of the same hoteliers answered that they weren’t sure. So if the majority of hotels manage their own marketing in-house and the largest group of those don’t know where their direct traffic comes from, there’s obviously a problem.

Yet, most hotels agree that they want to generate more direct, commission free, revenue.

Get the full story at WIHP - Hotel Marketing Agency

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TripAdvisor launches new Special Offers power tools

December 11, 2014

Now, it’s easier than ever to use Special Offers to increase your accommodation’s exposure on TripAdvisor:

- Specify a future start date for your offer - any time within the next year
- Schedule several Special Offers at once
- Reactivate offers you’ve used in the past

Schedule a calendar of several customized Special Offers based on the needs of your business. First, check out the trends in your Property Dashboard. Then set offers based on seasonality or to capture visitors attending local events. You can also view and reactivate Special Offers you’ve used before.

Special Offers are powerful attention-grabbers. Business Listings subscribers should always have one posted, if possible. Once scheduled, your Special Offers automatically transition from one to the next. The new offer will launch on the start date you choose, replacing the old one. No action is required on your part, so you’ll never miss any potential guests!

Get the full story at TripAdvisor

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Cornell study highlights customers’ role in service quality

December 10, 2014

Using the cruise ship as an ad hoc laboratory, the study identifies four types of service relationships in the shipboard environment: the passenger as expert, the passenger as manager, the passenger as friend, and the passenger as a team member. As explained in the CHR report, "Managing Context to Improve Cruise Line Service Relationships," by Judi Brownell, managers can use this framework as a tool for anticipating the challenges that emerge and identifying strategies to improve service delivery in each relationship. The report is available at no charge from the CHR.

"Due to the distinctive features of the cruise ship environment, these four relationships serve as an effective framework for examining the customer's role in creating his or her service experience," explained Brownell, who is a professor of organizational behavior at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. "Based on my interviews and on numerous studies of the interactions between customers and employees, the passenger roles that emerged suggest direction for both researchers and practitioners."

Brownell outlined the framework as follows.

- With their prior knowledge of cruise ship activities, "expert passengers" can help new passengers understand the ship's routines, but they also can interfere with or short-circuit actions that employees are required to take.

- "Manager passengers" have specific and personalized service goals in mind and will reward or punish employees in connection with those expectations. For management, the challenge is to ensure that the passenger managers' goals are congruent with the employee's job requirements.

- Given the frequent interaction during a cruise, passengers often befriend employees and both are likely to share personal information. The more intimate relationship that develops with these "friend passengers" can be beneficial as long as the passenger's behavior is genuine.

- Finally, passengers can band together as teams in certain cases. Again, this can be a favorable outcome as long as the "team" energy is positive, but negative attitudes can be amplified if "team members" become angry and dissatisfied.

In summary, Brownell suggests that managers place increased focus on dimensions that form the context of the service relationship as they strive to increase customer satisfaction. The goal is to identify elements of the service environment that can be managed to improve specific interactions between customers or between customers and service employees and thereby enhance the service experience.

Download the full report at Cornell University

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Data helps Asia Pacific, European travel managers save money

December 10, 2014

"Data has become an integral part of our daily lives and can be an extremely valuable resource to help Travel Managers make smarter decisions for their company and colleagues," said GBTA Vice President of Research Joseph Bates. "We're already seeing data affect vendor selection and assist in negotiating rates, with the potential for even more benefits in the near future."

Approximately 80 percent of Travel Managers in Asia Pacific believe they know how to best maximize data and turn data into action as well as using it to identify the most cost effective and best options when booking travel. Roughly 70 percent of Travel Managers in Europe felt the same way. Additional key highlights of the report's findings:

- Corporate card programs and Corporate Travel Accounts are the top two forms of payment for business travel and meetings-related expenses in both Asia Pacific (61 percent and 49 percent, respectively) and Europe (70 percent and 73 percent, respectively). Both groups say they find the data to be highly useful.

- In several cases, respondents in Asia Pacific felt they were twice as effective as their European counterparts in utilizing travel data from corporate card programs and Corporate Travel Accounts. For example, Asia Pacific Travel Managers use travel data from Corporate Travel Accounts for reconciliation (74 percent), budget purposes (67 percent) and managing risk and traveler safety (44 percent) . In contrast, only about one-quarter of Travel Managers in Europe use data for reconciliation, approximately 30 percent use data for budget purposes and 20 percent use it for managing risk and traveler safety.

- Extracting data from expense management systems is another useful source of data for Travel Managers. Usage is similar to corporate card and Corporate Travel Accounts. Total airline and hotel spend top the list of data metrics gathered as 75 percent or more of travel managers say they collect these metrics.

- Most companies have not consolidated their travel data from multiple data sources (49 percent in Asia Pacific and 59 percent in Europe). Consolidating data serves as an area for opportunity for Travel Managers in both regions to minimize the challenges of working with multiple sources and formats and out-of-date information.

"Travel managers are continuously searching for ways in which to drive down costs, increase compliance, improve efficiencies and more. The more robust and accurate data they are provided, the greater their success in these efforts," says Ricardo Leite, Vice President of Global Commercial Payments with Diners Club International, sponsor of the research study. "Capturing this valuable data and providing a clear view into the essential elements of any travel program is critical."

The study, "Travel Managers' Data Needs and Challenges," was previewed at the GBTA Berlin Conference 2014. It is available exclusively to GBTA members. Non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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The 9 ways meetings will impact hotels in 2015

December 10, 2014

The event planning software company Social Tables and the advocacy group Meetings Mean Business have collaborated with industry experts on a trend report called “The 9 Ways Meetings Will Impact Hotels in 2015.”

Some of the areas where hotel and meeting trends will mesh in 2015:

1. Cybersecurity: A recent property/casualty insurance newsletter dubbed 2014 “The Year of the Hack.” Indeed, the country was shocked at the breadth and depth of the hacks that affected huge companies, most recently Sony. According to the Social Tables/Meetings Mean Business Trends Report, Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration surveyed the computer networks of nearly 150 hotels and determined that the VLAN system in place at the W Dallas-Victory was the most secure. On the flip side, the Trends Report warns that hotels can get sued for not providing adequate security, as is the case for Wyndham, currently defending itself against a suit alleging it made “cybersecurity promises it couldn’t keep.”

2. Meaningful Measurement:Today, hotels are able to “track the entire ecosystem of an event”—and each attendee’s journey to and through that event. This will enable “greater efficiency and better customer service,” says the Trends Report. And if hotels successfully share relevant data with meeting planners, those planners can use that data to demonstrate ROI and thereby ensure continued investment in meetings. The ability to track attendees’ actions “in exquisite detail,” says tech guru Corbin Ball in the report, will emerge as one of the “most significant advantages of having a mobile event app.”

Get the full story at MeetingsNet and download the complete report at socialtables (free registration)

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Wellness travel trends for 2015

December 10, 2014

Here are a few trends to consider for 2015:

1. Conscious spending will influence millennial vacation picks
Gone are the days when millennial travelers book the cheapest fight to the beach to drink themselves into oblivion during their week of freedom. Instead this group of travelers spends time hunting the Internet for travel opportunities that will render their experience as exploratory instead of favoring the typical tourist track. In the next twelve months we'll continue to see an uptick in spending for customized vacations that offer authentic local experiences and vacations with a social responsibility angle such as staying in eco-friendly properties or asking if hotel restaurants cater to specific dietary needs and environmental practices.

2. Doubling your Fitbit goals on vacation
Setting and tracking fitness goals is moving beyond your daily life in a big way. The outpouring of wearable tracking technology aimed at following fitness, sleep, and healthcare goals by balancing hours sitting at your desk and getting up to move became popular in 2014. As we continue to increase our life-work balance, travelers are aiming to increase their healthy goals on holiday. Fitness tracking junkies will look to try and double their goals on vacation by exploring cities via borrowed bicycles, renting Stand up Paddleboards instead of sitting to sip margaritas on the sand, or taking advantage of the numerous hotel wellness offerings that are emerging (see below).

3. Taking a picture with your mind
Documenting every second of your life on social media has become the norm, but Dr. Linda Henkel of Fairfield University has warned of the 'photo-taking impairment effect' where you outsource your memory of an experience to an external device instead of experiencing it first hand. In the past few months, Pravassa's wellness travelers have opted to put away their camera phones and make an effort to engage more in an activity instead of just photographing it for later. This had led our travelers to have richer vacation memories and experience emotional benefits such as stress-reduction as they no longer have to worry about capturing a shot. More people will opt to put away their digital devices in 2015 and make a true connection.

Get the full story at The Huffington Post

Read also "Hotel Wellness Programs Can Boost ADR and Valuations Without Breaking the Bank" at Hospitality.Net

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Choice Hotels reveals 2015 travel trends

December 10, 2014

Choice Hotels International, Inc. (NYSE: CHH), one of the world's largest hotel companies, has revealed the findings from its 2015 travel trends survey. The survey found that in exchange for a discount in the new year, 55 percent of American travelers would forgo alcoholic beverages, 53 percent would give up daily housekeeping services, and 26 percent would go without their smartphone. The most important hotel amenity for the average American leisure traveler in 2015 will be free parking, ranking just ahead of free Wi-Fi and free hot breakfast.

A Spike in Leisure Travel
As the economy continues to improve, Americans are planning to spend eight percent more on leisure travel, and five percent more per trip than they did in 2014. Millennial leisure travel spending will increase by six percent, spending for families traveling with children will increase by five percent, and senior spending will increase by 33 percent. However, leisure travelers are still searching for the best deals, as 62 percent said the most influential factor when selecting a leisure travel destination was budget.

Despite being budget conscious, American travelers are willing to splurge for unique travel experiences, including "Set Jetting" (visiting a destination seen in a movie) and "Culinary Tourism" (food-inspired travel), which are projected to increase 18 percent and 30 percent, respectively, compared to 2014.

U.S. Go-To Events and Destinations in 2015
When asked which event they'd most like to attend in 2015, Mardi Gras in New Orleans (25 percent) ranked just ahead of the Cherry Blossom Festival (24 percent) and Superbowl XLVII (23 percent).

When asked which iconic American tourist attraction they'd most like to visit in 2015, 24 percent of Americans would visit the western national parks.

"Choice Hotels' 2015 travel trend survey revealed the desire for greater value as Americans take more leisure trips, and it's important that hotels stay abreast of the wants of American travelers in order to grow their loyalty base," said Patrick Pacious, executive vice president, and chief operating officer at Choice Hotels. "Free Wi-Fi, free parking, and free hot breakfast are just a few of the many amenities we offer to our guests at most of our hotels, and we look forward to leveraging our brands' offerings throughout 2015."

U.S. Travelers Going Abroad
Furthermore, 11 percent of participants say there are planning to visit Europe in 2015. As the main desire for their trip, over half want to visit Europe's historical sights and almost 40 percent would like to immerse themselves in European culture. The most popular European cities Americans would like to visit are London, followed by Rome and Paris.

"Americans venturing across the pond will find numerous Ascend, Clarion, Quality and Comfort brand hotels located right in the cities they want to visit the most, providing the great service and amenities they've come to expect from our brands," commented Pacious.

Other findings from the survey include:

- Over 40 percent of American travelers regularly stay at mid-price hotels, like Comfort Inn, when traveling for leisure, spending an average of $115.94 per night.

- July is the preferred month for leisure travel.

- Most Americans would prefer driving to flying for leisure travel in 2015.

- While 60 percent of American travelers are planning a trip with their spouse or partner in 2015, half would rather stay home than take a vacation with Ben Affleck, Derek Jeter, Kim Kardashian, Oprah Winfrey or Warren Buffett.

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A beginner’s guide to creating visual content

December 10, 2014

Marketers have to start pretending they have 3 seconds or less to catch someone’s eye if they want to get an idea across. It’s as simple as this: if you can’t win your prospects’ attention, you can’t convert them into customers.

We live in an age of information overload. “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003,” according to former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt. In 2011, there were over one TRILLION pages on the internet. 1,000,000,000,000! Trying to comprehend how much information that is is like trying to comprehend how big the universe is.

As wonderful as it is having so much information at our fingertips, humans can only consume so much at a given time. We have multiple inboxes overflowing with email, several social networks flooded with real time updates, and one or more mobile devices buzzing and beeping with even more messages. It’s no wonder our attention spans for one piece of information is shrinking. To truly cut through the clutter, it’s more important than ever for marketers to create web content that’s both useful and aesthetically pleasing.

The rapidly growing user bases of photo-centric sites like Instagram and Pinterest, and the recent photo-centric redesign of Facebook’s news feed are just two of many indicators that consumers are gravitating toward visual content that conveys an idea and sparks an emotional response fast. Even our own research shows that photos generate 53% more likes than the average post.

If you want to create quality photos, images, charts, graphs, infographics, and other visual representations of data your customers and prospects actually want to consume, keep reading to glean the tips, design basics, and easy-to-use tools that will empower everyone on your marketing team to do so.

Download the eBook at HubSpot (PDF 4.2 MB)

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Wyndham first global hotel group to leverage Sabre’s SynXis Enterprise Platform

December 10, 2014

Wyndham Hotel Group, a part of Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (NYSE: WYN), is the world’s largest hotel company with approximately 7,540 properties franchised under well-known and award-winning brands including Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham®, Days Inn®, Super 8® and Ramada®.

As part of this agreement, Wyndham Hotel Group expects to migrate over 4,500 of its North American properties to Sabre’s SynXis Property Manager beginning mid-2015.

The open architecture of the SynXis Enterprise Platform will allow Wyndham Hotel Group to integrate critical hotel functions into one intelligent, reliable system. This turnkey system will offer hotel owners an integrated and automated revenue management system that will optimize rates, occupancy and revenue per available room (RevPAR) to grow market share for Wyndham Hotel Group licensees while enhancing hotel-level security with cutting-edge credit card capabilities designed to support tokenization and chip and pin technology.

“After a six-month search to identify best-in-class, innovative providers, we are extremely pleased to partner with a leader like Sabre,” said Wyndham Hotel Group President and CEO Geoff Ballotti. “Wyndham Hotel Group’s strategy is to leverage partners who deliver state-of-the-art solutions across the global travel and service industry landscape for our owners and franchisees.”

Currently, more than 20,000 independent and chain hotels deploy Sabre hospitality technology and SaaS solutions to operate and market their properties around the world. The SynXis Enterprise Platform integrates distribution, reservations, property management, retailing and guest experience solutions to help hotels increase revenues, grow market share and create memorable guest experiences.

“Whether a small independent property or a global leader like Wyndham Hotel Group, Sabre delivers innovative hospitality technology solutions combined with deep strategic engagement to help our customers enhance property performance and guest experiences,” said Tom Klein, president and CEO of Sabre Corporation. “Sabre delivers the only SaaS-based platform solution for hoteliers that integrates across all operational, commercial and guest experience systems. This best-in-class technology will help Wyndham Hotel Group enable a new level of guest experience, revenue generation and operational excellence.”

Related Link: Sabre Hospitality Solutions

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Vertical Booking USA launches new website, system redesign

December 10, 2014

Vertical Booking USA announced this week the launch of their brand new website,, directly targeting the North American Hotel Market.

"We're aiming directly at independent hoteliers who are looking for a booking solution that will minimize costs and offer innovative Web tools, " said Mark Lewis-Brown, President of Vertical Booking USA. He said the site will bring the same affordable options and services currently provided to the international clientele, but catered to the North American market.

The new Vertical Booking USA website offers a modern design, user friendly functionality, and an informative site experience. A solutions tab on the site features information about GDS connectivity, Vertical Bookings' patented booking engine, full-service channel management, and an easily accessible login feature for clients to access their accounts.

With the unveiling of the new website this month, Vertical Booking also released an update to their Central Reservation System. The CRS includes an entire system redesign, with a clean and streamlined graphical user interface designed to drill down to only the specific tools they need to access on a regular basis. This new feature, called My Menu, allows managers to simplify the CRS for basic users, or customize their dashboard to reach the features they need quickly.

"We're very excited about this new website and how it will enhance Vertical Bookings' fast expansion and growth," Lewis Brown added.

Founded in 1999, Vertical Booking is present in 57 countries, translated into 26 different languages and usable in all currencies. The global reservation technology provider serves 2,500 chain and independent hotel clients, and just recently expanded its operations to North America.

Related Link: Vertical Booking

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Suppliers to gain more “pricing power” in business travel

December 09, 2014

“Overall, with persisting economic uncertainty in specific regions and countries, the balance of power is expected to shift back to suppliers, thus putting additional cost pressures on travel managers responsible for optimizing travel spend and in working with their travelers to do so,” said Pedro Paredes, vice president, Global Business Consulting.

“In this environment, organizations and their travel managers will need to be extremely disciplined in defining their travel objectives in relation to their corporate strategy and enforcing the related travel policy,” he added.

Globally, air, hotel and ground transportation prices are expected to be neutral to slightly higher, according to the report.

Get the full story at Travel Market Report and America Express

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Cyber Monday saw more offers from travel players, more revenue

December 09, 2014

And despite the barrage of inbox-cluttering offers from every nook and cranny of the retail world, several travel sellers reported that their messages did make their way through the noise, resulting in a healthy bump in revenue.

Traditionally a time for consumers to get a jump-start on their holiday shopping, the day-after-Thanksgiving Black Friday sales events and the online deals on Cyber Monday - which have quickly expanded into Cyber Week - have become a time to shop for deals on anything and everything.

And despite the level of promotional frenzy and competition from other retail sectors, the travel industry this year was committed to capturing a slice of the consumer holiday-spending pie.

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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State of the industry: Understanding today’s travel agent

December 09, 2014

According to a survey by the American Society of Travel Agents (which represents close to 6,000 travel agents), 47 percent of agents reported higher revenue in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013. On top of that, 45 percent reported more transactions and 43 percent said they increased their client base, year-over-year. About 74 percent of travel agents reported the same amount of revenue (27 percent), less than a 10 percent increase (28 percent) or more than a 10 percent increase (19 percent).

Travelers may understand the value of agents more than ever now because they’ve tried other methods of booking travel - including booking themselves - and discovered it’s not as easy as it looks to get a great price and a great experience.

When OTAs like Expedia first popped up in the mid-1990s, they could offer better prices to travelers than agents. But travelers don’t get personalized service with OTAs. And travelers are also realizing that successfully planning their own trips on the Internet - in terms of price and experience - is more difficult than it appears.

Get the full story at Travel Pulse

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HotelQuickly plans to disrupt online hotel bookings in Australia

December 09, 2014

Expecting to sell distressed hotel inventory and fill a void for Australians looking for a last-minute getaway deal, the mobile-only app will enable customers to book rooms “with just a few taps”.

“HotelQuickly avoids the complications of most travel websites and enables bookings with just a few taps, carefully curating the hotels it offers to show only the best deals in a given location each day,” the company said in a statement.

According to HotelQuickly’s Sydney-based co-founder Christian Mischler, Australia was recognised as a “key market” to become a dominant player in the Asia-Pacific region.

Get the full story at Travel Weekly UK

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The content marketing strategy behind Kimpton Hotels’ website

December 09, 2014

Kimpton Hotels launched an all-new version of its website in the summer of 2014 to interact with viewers on a deeper and more personal level, while engaging them longer on a year-round basis.

“Our goal was to ensure that our digital experience really matches and aligns with the hotel experience,” says Kathleen Reidenbach, SVP of marketing at Kimpton Hotels. “Anyone can put a great website together that has glossy pictures and cool content, but does the website and blog make you smile? We want to make sure that the love affair that occurs between guests and Kimpton is happening when you plan your next trip.”

The strategy behind the website redesign integrated Kimpton’s primary brand values: different, original, down-to-earth, healthy, simple and carefree. So the new website is more visual-first in its delivery, and the content is more localized and in depth with a 50-50 split between hotel and destination editorial. The non-hotel content is further split between travel information, such as the top 10 places to go for bike rides near a hotel, and lifestyle-oriented posts with actionable takeaways, such as recipes and fashion trends.

Get the full story at Skift

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How consumers prefer to receive marketing messages

December 09, 2014

Some 9% like text messages and 7% are fans of snail mail. Just 5% of respondents say social media is their preferred way of being contacted with marketing messages and offers.

For non-emergency customer service issues, email again is the most liked channel, with 32% of respondents saying that is how they prefer to initiate interactions.

Phone conversations are the next most popular channel for non-emergency customer service issues (29% prefer), followed by online chat (9%) and social media (7%).

Get the full story at MarketingProfs

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Bookassist takes top title at World Travel Awards

December 09, 2014

The Dublin-based company, which operates worldwide, won the renowned World Travel Award title in 2012 and 2013. As a result of strong voting from the global hotel industry, Bookassist picked up their third successive trophy at the Grand Final Gala Ceremony in Anguilla.

“A single win might be chance, two wins mean you’re certainly doing something right, but to win the title three times in a row is unbelievable, and it means that Bookassist is now a world leading travel technology brand.

“This title leaves the industry in no doubt about Bookassist’s quality. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Des O’Mahony, chief executive of Bookassist.

“This record third win is a win for the company’s hotel clients who place their trust in Bookassist and also an endorsement of the whole team.

“It’s an exceptionally great triumph in this fast-paced industry, considering the high ranking of fellow nominated companies, including other industry powerhouses such as Sabre and Amadeus.”

The World Travel Awards carry special weight for the winning brands, which are voted by the global travel industry.

“Bookassist will continue to be a highly sought after brand for hotels now that it officially ranks as the World’s Leading Booking Engine Technology Provider.”

Related Link: Bookassist

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Olery connects feedback surveys to TripAdvisor, HolidayCheck and others

December 09, 2014

Users are able to choose to which of the following partners of Olery the responses get sent.

- TripAdvisor, the world’s largest hotel review site

- HolidayCheck, one of Europe’s top holiday portals

- Zoover, market leader in the Netherlands

- MeetingReview, upcoming review site for meeting rooms

Get the full story at Olery

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How AirBnb is using content marketing to stay on top

December 08, 2014

Over the years, Airbnb’s blog has evolved into a content-rich resource for consumers. The Local Lens section shares individual narratives in a similar fashion to Stories. One post follows an Instagram photographer who made a weekend of snapping fall foliage in New York, while another taps third-party blogger expertise to explore Moscow’s cafe culture.

Throughout all of its content channels Airbnb makes a point of profiling its more interesting hosts, such as a Stockholm couple that lives a vegetarian lifestyle and rents out a souped-up 1976 school bus for $98 a night. Also included on the blog is a recap of this year’s first annual conference for hosts, where over forty countries were represented.

If other brand blogs read like a marketing requirement that gets in the way of the fun stuff, Airbnb’s is a gamesome wealth of content.

Get the full story at Contently

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New European package travel laws ‘damaging’ to OTAs

December 08, 2014

The Council agreed a “general approach” on reform of the directive at a meeting on Thursday and confirmed: “The revised directive will extend the current protection for traditional pre-arranged packages to combinations of separate travel services . . . sold online.”

The European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA), which represents leading OTAs including Expedia, warned the directive would be “damaging”.

Christoph Klenner, secretary-general of ETTSA, said: “It tries to shoehorn any type of arrangement between online traders into a framework designed for traditional tour operators in the 1990s.”

Get the full story at Travolution

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Alibaba’s Alitrip stirs up China online travel market

December 08, 2014

When Alibaba Group Holding Limited ( BABA ) spun off its travel sites into a separate business called Alitrip in October, the growing importance of China's online travel booking market was highlighted. Alitrip combined national and international bookings for airplanes, hotels, cruises, package tours, and more from across Alibaba's key Chinese e-commerce marketplaces -Taobao, Tmall, and the Juhuasuan daily deals site.

It's not very difficult to see why the Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, wanted to rebrand and refocus on its travel business.

According to online travel tracker PhoCusWright, gross bookings in China's online travel market reached $18.2 billion in 2013, making China second in the Asia-Pacific region only to Japan. He expects China to beat Japan by 2016.

Get the full story at Nasdaq

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Zuji unveils deals platform

December 08, 2014

Zuji Exclusives, a click away from the Zuji Singapore site, offers packages in a voucher-based format and varies greatly from the OTA’s current sales method.

After purchasing a voucher, the user will then proceed to enter a live web chat with Zuji employees to select dates and other details for his/her trip.

The OTA also offers a “21 days no questions asked” refund policy up till the point before the user reaches the live web chat, and also a price promise that if a user can find a cheaper version of the exact same product that the OTA offers, the holiday will be free.

Get the full story at TTG Asia

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How marketing and customer service approach customer engagement

December 08, 2014

Marketing may be in charge of social media for a company, but customer service teams are the kings of customer engagement,

The customer service team does so by using tools such as social media monitoring, engagement dashboards, CRM integration, personalized routing, supervisor visibility, and access to back-end systems.

Marketing also uses social media monitoring and engagement dashboards, but it usually also focuses on content curation, content creation, and analytics.

Get the full story at MarketingProfs

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Google and Facebook to account for half of UK digital ad spend in 2015

December 08, 2014

Google is a well-established player and has long enjoyed its position as the UK’s No. 1 digital publisher; however, the same cannot be said for Facebook, which has experienced a meteoric rise in recent years. Google’s share of UK digital ad spending is expected to reach 41.6% in 2015, up from 40.5% this year, and eMarketer estimates its market share will remain stable for the remainder of the forecast period.

Facebook, on the other hand, will see impressive growth. This year, its share of the UK digital ad market will reach 7.9%, up 5.9 % year over year, and eMarketer predicts that this number will surpass 10% by 2016. UK ad revenues at Facebook will reach £576.1 million ($900.2 million) in 2014, and the company will grow its UK ad business by 29.0% next year, eMarketer estimates, to £743.0 million ($1.16 billion).

The two companies’ hold on the UK digital display market is almost equally as strong as their hold on the total digital ad market, though shares of the display market are more evenly distributed between the two. This year, for the first time, Facebook will take a larger share of UK digital display spending than Google, with 25.0% and 23.0%, respectively, eMarketer estimates. This trend will continue over the next few years, with Facebook continuing to grab the lion’s share of UK digital display spend.

Get the full story at eMarketer

Read also "Google’s display advertising dominance raises concerns" at DigiDay

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The Apartment Service links with Vertical Booking

December 08, 2014

The Apartment Service, EMEA’s longest established apartment booking agency, today announced that it has linked with Vertical Booking, a division of A.E.C. Advertising and Electronic Commerce s.r.l of Italy to provide a cost effective, synchronised channel management solution for property operators. A two way XML service that interfaces between the Apartment Service’s website booking engine and Vertical Booking’s Channel Manager.

Vertical Booking is a global hospitality company, present in over 55 countries, supplying software to over 2500 accommodation providers worldwide. Channel manager, GDS connectivity, real-time shopping of competitors and online marketing tools are all available.

Charlie McCrow, CEO – The Apartment Service says "This is a first, and unique, opportunity for property operators who previously found access to these marketing outlets too expensive to justify a ROI. Property operators can now market their late availability slots as well as capture forward bookings on the leading online travel agents, such as, without lengthy contractual terms or a minimum number of nights or rooms required".

McCrow adds "This service is already active and has been fully tested – the added benefit is property owners can add this booking tool to their own homepage to receive commission-free reservations, for a small transaction fee.

Any reservations, from whatever sources chosen, close off availability instantly, making it easy to manage and this avoids double bookings".

Shabina Awan, Sales & Marketing Operations Manager, The Apartment Service says "As most property managers’ inventory is already listed on the Apartment Service website, it means there is just a simple click left to accept the OTA’s terms and marketing commences."

Jo Layton, MD Group Commercial Sales, The Apartment Service adds "This is another exciting development in the ongoing distribution strategy for The Apartment Service that will add further value to the TAS Alliance members and partners".

Layton adds "Our goal is to provide the most cost-effective, simple solutions for our members and partners to help drive access to online bookings that were previously out of their reach".

Related Link: Vertical Booking

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Key benefits of hosting review data on your hotel website

December 08, 2014

Keep the right traveler on-site

Research by Bazaarvoice has shown that the number of reviews and the average rating for a product correlate closely with conversion to purchase. Additionally, travelers who read reviews show a lift of 77% in conversions and 61% in revenue per visit. Travel companies that link out to travel reviews are naturally reducing their chances of capturing the bookings of these lucrative review-reading travelers.

Travel intermediaries benefit not just from increased conversions when hosting travel review data but can also opt for a review provider that emphasizes verified travel reviews, increasing traveler confidence in the reviews and in the overall intermediary. To my next point…

Increase confidence and decrease booking abandonment rates

The booking abandonment rate for OTAs is an astounding 89.1%. Hotels, on the other hand, have the lowest abandonment rates in the travel industry at 67.6% (Tnooz). The jury is still deliberating on why OTAs have such high booking abandonment rates, but the cause is likely located in travelers’ insecurity about OTAs (i.e., how cancellations will be handled and the potential for customer service problems) as well as frustration that crops up during the booking process. Travel intermediaries still suffer from a confidence crisis that directly affects booking abandonment so any initiative that increases consumer confidence—third-party powered travel review data on the intermediary site, for instance—stands to increase bookings.

Personalized travel reviews as a marketing tool

When a traveler is reviewing 6-12 websites during the process of booking, they probably as many windows open on their device. And at least some percentage of the time, they drop the booking process because they find something more compelling in one of those other windows at the last minute. A travel intermediary can’t just rely on low rates to close the deal. Hosting travel reviews with a personalized search capability can become a way to make your site more attractive than your competitor. Draw travelers in and keep them engaged with custom searches (i.e., allow searches based on a hotel that’s like another hotel the traveler enjoys or add qualitative review data to the search capability).

Get the full story at TrustYou

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Travelers share on Facebook and Twitter, engage on Pinterest

December 05, 2014

Some other insights from the study include:

- 10 percent of users share travel-related information on social media.
- Travel-related content generates 40 percent more click-backs than other types of content.
- 71 percent of travel sharers are women, despite the fact that men and women plan trips at almost equal rates.
- Travelers like to share content during the day, using evenings to plan and research.
- The top U.S. cities for travel-related sharing are New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas and San Jose, Calif.

ShareThis has some recommendations for online marketers in this space. From the study:

- Travelers are a valuable audience: Travelers are active, engaged and influential sharers, especially when in the process of planning a trip. Regardless of your objective, identify and activate this audience to amplify your messaging.

- Diversify your channels: Facebook is the main forum for travel, but users engage with Pinterest and Blogger more actively when in the planning phase. Spread out your media strategies accordingly to reach users at the height of engagement.

- Know your audience: Millennials, women, Hispanics and Asians are the most social travel sharers. Align with such demographics when looking to activate the valuable travel audience.

- Content alignment is key: Certain topics, like budget and international travel, drive more social buzz than others. Align your media delivery with such content to unlock additional value from travel sharers

Get the full story Social Times and get the detailed report at ShareThis

Read also "Travel-Related shares drive 40% more engagement than other content" at ClickZ

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PKF-HR forecasts broad-based US RevPAR growth

December 05, 2014

Rising levels of employment, combined with increased geographic expansion of the national economic recovery, will result in revenue per available room (RevPAR) growth in excess of long-run averages for all hotel chain-scales, most location categories and the vast majority of markets from 2014 through 2017.

"No matter what hotel performance indicator you look at for any type of hotel, we foresee extremely favorable movements the next few years," said R. Mark Woodworth, president of PKF-HR. "Our firm is projecting demand growth to outpace changes in supply in the U.S. through 2016. That will result in industry wide occupancy levels at, or above, all-time record levels through 2017.

"With scarcity now a reality for consumers in many markets for a growing number of property types, hotel operators will have the leverage they need to drive room rates well above the pace of inflation," Woodworth added. "Real average daily room rate (ADR) growth driving RevPAR will contribute to a six year period of double-digit increases in hotel profits; something we have not seen in the 78 years PKF has been tracking the U.S. lodging industry."

The December 2014 Hotel Horizons report forecasts ADR to increase by an annual average of 5.4 percent from 2014 through 2017. In turn, PKF-HR is forecasting unit-level net operating income to increase at an average annual rate of 11.8 percent during this same period.

It's the Economy

"Moody's Analytics, our economic forecasting agent, projects that the U.S. is on track to reach full employment by 2016," said John B. (Jack) Corgel, Ph.D., the Robert C. Baker professor of real estate at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and senior advisor to PKF-HR. Moody's forecasts show that by year-end 2014 the national unemployment rate will drop down to 5.9 percent from a great recession high of 10.0 percent in 2009.

"What impresses me most is the profile of the populations that recently have seen the greatest declines in unemployment," said Corgel. "Individuals at the lower end of the income spectrum, and those with the lowest levels of education, lately have enjoyed the greatest gains in employment. This is completely opposite of the employment patterns we observed in 2009 and 2010."

Previous research conducted by PKF-HR found that changes in employment have the greatest impact on the performance of hotels in the lower-priced chain-scales, while changes in income influence the demand for upper-priced lodging facilities. "Employment gains now have reached all segments of the population, which translates into strong RevPAR forecasts for all segments of the U.S. lodging industry," Woodworth surmised.

The favorable impact of employment gains is evident in the forecast performance of individual lodging markets across the U.S. "Half of the 20 Hotel Horizons® markets forecast to enjoy the greatest increases in employment, also are projected to benefit from the greatest increases in lodging demand," Corgel noted. "Further, according to Moody's, close to 90 percent of the local economies in the U.S. currently are classified as being in either a recovery or expansion phase. Accordingly, we will see 15 of our 55 Horizons® markets achieve all-time record high occupancy levels in 2015."

Peak Persistence Over Oil

"The current favorable economic outlook is not only deep, but long as well," Woodworth concluded. "That will result in an extended period of peak performance for all participants in the U.S. lodging industry. As if that were not ample good news, the world oil market dynamics are generating prices for transportation fuel that work to the benefit of travelers. If low energy prices are sustained, 2015 hotel performance will be better than expected.

Read also "October, another record month of US hotel growth" at Hotel News Now

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Four Seasons on engaging the luxury traveler

December 05, 2014

Creating luxury for a guest or consumer requires the brand to be authentic, but not fake, to create an emotional response, but not to intrude on the consumer’s privacy. Balancing these lines can be difficult, but with the right information and interest, the consumer can have a life changing experience that will deepen their alliance to the brand.

“Authenticity is one of those soft, subjective qualities you sort of know it when you see it,” said J. Allen Smith, president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “There is a genuineness to it that can’t be prescribed.

“One of the qualities that we look for in people who work for us is emotional intelligence. You can’t prescribe everything, you can’t do everything by a script,” he said. “Our consumer, our guest is incredibly discriminating, they can discern a fake, whether it is a luxury good or the way someone enables them. Cultivating that sense becomes really important.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Hotels shouldn’t seek technology for its own sake

December 05, 2014

Justin Malcolm, general manager of Aloft Bangkok-Sukhumvit 11, shared that the brand has literally rolled out robot butlers at the Cupertino property in Silicon Valley in August this year, and parent company .

Thirty out of 300 rooms at Malcolm’s hotel are categorised as Touch Rooms, coming with Fingi devices that allow keyless entry, control of in-room amenities, connection to guest services, and acts as a local phone number and free wireless hotspot for the traveller who wants to be connected all the time.

However, he cautioned: “We should never get to the stage where we replace human interaction. Technology should enable and make processes that have taken too much effort become seamless, or connect us globally to make us better service providers.”

Get the full story at TTG Asia

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The expectations of Chinese outbound travelers

December 05, 2014

As of now, the top destinations for Chinese travelers tend to be the foremost tourist cities. They want to experience the best the West has to offer. In the US, this entails New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco while in Europe, it’s primarily London, Paris and Rome. However, as more direct flights open up and Chinese visitors become acclimatized to international travel, new locations are quickly gaining ground – Boston and Orlando (theme parks being the essential factor here) in the US, and Barcelona, Madrid, Florence, Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Amsterdam in Europe.

A cardinal expectation amongst most Mandarin speakers is that foreigners won’t comprehend their language. As such, they come prepared; they’ve done their homework and research – often starting upwards of six months out from the departure date. They know the specifics of their daily itineraries well before they set foot in another country, and they have near memorized how to get to and from the airport.

In line with this, a hotelier shouldn’t expect last minute bookings from this group as they typically complete their reservations at a minimum of one month ahead of time. Free and independent travelers will most likely find your hotel through online resources (and they’ll reserve online, too) whereas groups will book through a travel agent.

Get the full story at eHotelier

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Mobile search will surpass desktop in 2015

December 05, 2014

For marketers, there is an important caveat: Return on investment (ROI) has not reached a similar tipping point. ROI on mobile search is improving, but it will continue to trail desktop search ROI next year - and further into the future, until mobile performance measurement, particularly in relation to the impact on sales in physical stores, gets more precise.

But the ubiquity of smartphones, and consumers’ growing use of phones in almost every waking moment of the day, means that search will be more mobile than desktop next year. The importance of search in the digital experience makes this a trend that bears watching.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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All you need to know about TripAdvisor’s TripConnect Instant Booking

December 05, 2014

Every month, millions of travelers come to TripAdvisor to plan the perfect trip. Now, for the first time ever, these travelers can book directly on TripAdvisor with the “Book on TripAdvisor” button. And TripConnect instant booking gives you an easy way to claim these bookings.

All about “Book on TripAdvisor”

“Book on TripAdvisor” is a high visibility placement in the TripAdvisor Hotel Price Comparison search. It appears alongside the cost-per-click ads for your property, including those from other distribution partners, like OTAs. The difference with “Book on TripAdvisor” is that it takes full advantage of a natural consumer behavior: When travelers find the accommodation they want on TripAdvisor, they want to book it immediately. Clicking “Book on TripAdvisor” gives them the easiest possible transition from research to booking with you.

The booking process is fully optimized for desktop, tablet and mobile platforms in 25 languages and many global currencies. Plus, travelers are more willing to book when they know they can stay on TripAdvisor, rather than leaving the site to complete their reservation.

How TripConnect instant booking works

TripConnect instant booking gives you an easy way to capitalize on millions of travelers booking directly on TripAdvisor.

Pay for Stays: TripConnect instant booking is based on a simple pay-per-booking commission model. You don’t pay for bookings until travelers complete their stays.

Direct Booking Benefits: TripConnect works with your connectivity provider to add your rates and availability to the “Book on TripAdvisor” button. Once travelers make their reservations, the booking details are passed to you directly through your connectivity provider. You own the relationship with your customer from the beginning. Any customer service inquiries or changes will be managed by you.

Maximize traveler views and bookings

A traveler view occurs each time “Book on TripAdvisor” appears for your property in search results. Sometimes travelers will be viewing your rates; other times they will be seeing your distribution partners’ rates. You can choose the share of traveler views you’ll receive when setting up TripConnect instant booking.

Choosing a 15% commission rate allows you to claim half of all traveler views, as well as any resulting bookings those views generate. Or you can choose a lower 12% commission rate, to get a quarter of all traveler views and any resulting bookings.

You’ll be invoiced on a monthly basis, with each invoiced item reflecting a completed stay that was booked via TripConnect instant booking. You’ll have the opportunity to review these charges, and make any necessary adjustments based on booking changes.

Read also "TripConnect Instant Booking: Quick Start Guide", "Answers to 5 Top TripConnect Instant Booking Questions", and "FAQs: TripConnect Instant Booking"

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Why the guest experience is the essential weapon for hotels

December 05, 2014

Watching Priceline’s moves in 2014 has been a bit like being a fan of James Bond. In 2014, we’ve seen a number of new actors cast in the Priceline show - first, it bought online restaurant reservation system, OpenTable, then digital marketing agency, Buuteeq, and then property management system, Hotel Ninjas.

Very likely, it’s all part of the plan to create a complete product for hotel brands. After all, and other OTAs already offer white label website solutions.

And a white-label solution PMS for hotels in addition to a website offering, could be’s winning line given that development and maintenance of a site is one of the biggest expenses of a hotel/brand.

Get the full story at Tnooz

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Web analytics for hospitality: It’s time for better data and better integration

December 04, 2014

This problem is not new to Suneel Grover, senior solutions architect for digital intelligence at SAS, since he started his marketing analytics career building predictive models for online marketing campaigns.

“I really wanted to use web interaction data in my models, to more accurately predict the outcomes of these online marketing campaigns” he told me. “When I went to the web analysts to get access to the underlying data, it fast became apparent that they didn’t have it.” Most web analytics data is being hosted in the cloud, then aggregated to produce the kinds of reports that tell you how many people came to your website last week, how many came from one search engine versus another, what version of the search engine they were using, etc. These reports can be very helpful, but do not give you the type of data you need for a deeper analysis.

Where this impacts hospitality firms the most is when it comes to personalization and targeting. Without a more granular level of data, your segmentation will remain at a very macro level. You also need the underlying data for building predictive models. “And if you cannot do predictive analysis on digital data, then your personalization efforts will plateau very quickly,” Suneel explained.

“Basically, web analytics is still functioning at the descriptive level,” Suneel said, “and few web analysts have ever built predictive models, or are familiar with predictive techniques.” That makes it rather difficult for there to be common ground between the marketing analyst and his/her web analytics counterpart. And these two need to be able to work together to meet the demands of the industry today. “To achieve effective personalization and targeting, we need to be able to work with both online and offline data in an integrated format,” explained Suneel. “This is extremely important - if hospitality companies are going to be relevant and engaging as they interact with their consumers across online devices and offline interactions - these two functions need to come together.”

Get the full story at The Analytic Hospitality Executive

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Amazon Local infrastructure to power its hotel business

December 04, 2014

Amazon’s decision to route travel purchases through Amazon Local also signals a little bit about the company’s strategy for 2015. Amazon Local was founded in 2011, and since then has served as a deals aggregator and as an informal liaison for Amazon to build links with local businesses in strategic markets. But after the great deals rush of 2011 and the rise and fall of omnipresent online couponing, Amazon Local seemed to occupy an unsure place in Jeff Bezos’s ecosystem. This seems to be changing.

Over the weekend, Amazon quietly put the finishing touches on a restaurant delivery service designed to compete with Seamless/GrubHub and Eat24. The delivery service, currently only available in Seattle, is also built on top of Amazon Local’s infrastructure. One of the things Amazon is leveraging is a local business portal originally developed for their deals service which allows individual businesses to quickly run promotions through them. Now, it seems, the same backend is being converted toward more purposes than simply offering loss-leading discounts for local stores, restaurants, and services.

All this means that Amazon faces an outside chance - but a decent chance - of cracking the travel market. Well-established firms such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline currently dominate the field, and Amazon has opted to build its own travel product organically rather than acquiring a potential competitor. The real question for now is if customers will see it as an appealing proposition… and if it will give Amazon inroads to sell airline tickets and rental cars sooner rather than later.

Get the full story at Fast Company

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Room blocks and red flags: How hoteliers think

December 04, 2014

Since room rate is the holy grail when it comes to a hotelier evaluating meeting business, according to a recent MeetingsNet survey of hoteliers (and clearly, for planners as well), “give a rate range,” advised panelist Kevin Boland, director of sales, San Diego metro market, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. He said most meeting hotels use the STAR report, a monthly report released by STR (Smith Travel Research) that shows a hotel’s performance in comparison with its local “competitive set” of properties.

“Salespeople are given revenue parameters each week,” based on those reports, added Julie Mullins Scuras, key account director, America sales, InterContinental Hotel Group, Chicago. So date flexibility for your meeting or event is critical, she added. “Shifting your meeting pattern by even one day could save you $75 per room night.”

Of course room rate is not the only consideration for a hotel when evaluating group business. The biggest red flag, according to our survey of hoteliers? Concessions that are lengthy or unrealistic. “Highlight the concessions that are most important to your group,” said Boland. Partnerships and relationships still play a key role in getting the dates, rates, and space you need, said panelist Keri Kelly, senior director of hotel industry relations, onPeak, a GES Global Company, which offers third-party housing services.

Get the full story at MeetingNet

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Adaptive vs. full responsive design: How to choose the right option for your hotel website

December 04, 2014

By Max Starkov and Mariana Safer

Today, there are two prevailing “schools of thought” regarding website design and optimizing the hotel website for the multi-screen device world we live in: Responsive Website Design (RWD) and Adaptive Web Design (AWD). AWD is also known as Responsive Design on Server Side (RESS).

The main difference between RWD and Adaptive Design/RESS is the type of content as well as the manner in which web content is served on the different devices: desktop, mobile (smartphones) and tablet.

- Traditional Full Responsive Website Design (RWD) serves the full (and same) website across all devices (desktop, smartphone, tablet) by modifying and reshaping the exact same website so that it fits into all screen sizes: From large desktop screens to small smartphone screens. The intent is to optimize the “viewing” experience regardless of the device being used by the website visitor.

- Adaptive Web Design (AWD) aka Responsive Design on the Server Side (RESS) customizes website content and the overall user experience to the device (desktop, mobile, tablet) the website visitor is using. This is achieved from the same Content Management System (CMS), and ensures the maximum user experience, relevancy of information and conversions by device.

HeBS Digital’s extensive website design and development expertise includes the use of either Full Responsive Design (RWD) or Adaptive Design/RESS. Our award-winning Content Management System (smartCMS) is specifically designed to accommodate either design approach.

Here are some important factors to consider when deciding on Full Responsive vs. Adaptive/RESS Design:

- Cost: a Full Responsive Design typically requires up to 50% more website design and development time compared to an Adaptive/RESS Design, which translates into higher website cost and longer delivery time.

- Design: Full Responsive Design is practical for simpler, “thinner” websites (15-20 content pages) that require simpler design that can render well on all screen sizes and devices. For boutique, luxury, high-end or upscale hotels or resorts that want to a) stand out from the competition via custom website design (uniquely personalized to the property), and b) create an engaging and highly visual experience for the website visitor, then an Adaptive /RESS Design would be the preferred option.

- User Experience: Fitting the same website into every possible screen size via Full Responsive Design may address the viewing experience across all devices, although it may not fully accommodate other best practices such as optimum user experience, relevancy of information, download speeds, etc.

Full Responsive Design may provide a sufficient user experience for smaller and simpler websites (e.g. a 15-20 page restaurant website, a select or limited-service property website, or a database-driven website), but may negatively affect hotel websites with deep content and rich imagery.

You cannot differentiate what content displays on the same page across different devices. For example, you cannot have one image on the desktop homepage and a different image on the mobile homepage.

A side effect of this is mobile load time. Each mobile page needs to load all of the content of a desktop site. Mobile devices are generally much slower than a full desktop computer so they will take longer to process all of the content.

Important to note – when creating a link to an external site such as a booking engine, the external site might not have the ability to redirect to mobile automatically. Normally, this would mean using a different link on the mobile page and a different link on the desktop page. However, with fully responsive sites, you may need to resort to including multiple links.

For websites with deep content and rich imagery, the user experience may be compromised on mobile and tablet devices. For example, The New York Palace’s desktop website features deep content + rich imagery with over 500 pages, files, folders, PDFs, images, etc. Trying to research and quickly make a booking on the iPhone 6’s 750×1334 screen (if utilizing Full Responsive design) would be difficult.

- Download Speeds: Full Responsive designs typically suffer slower load time than Adaptive Designs because each page has additional script that is needed to fit the page for each particular screen size and device. Although not a significant issue for websites with minimal content (15-25 pages), deeper content websites with big imagery and lots of graphics may load at significantly lower speeds. Search engine rankings and conversions are increasingly dependent on fast load time speeds and travel consumers are less likely to book on websites with slow load time.

- Relevancy of Information: There are differences in a user’s intent when they visit a hotel website on different devices. For instance, the always-on-the-go mobile traveler requires short, slimmed-down content with an emphasis on property location, area maps and directions, real time “smart rates” and availability, an easy-to-use mobile booking engine and a click-to-call property reservation number. Fully responsive websites do not let you display different content on mobile.

- Conversions: Due to usability and security issues, six out of every ten mobile bookings actually happen via the voice channel. Very few smartphone users are comfortable entering their credit card information into their iPhone in a public place. Factors like relevancy of information, quick access to rates and availability or special offers and discounts are crucial for turning mobile lookers into bookers. Overwhelming a mobile user with the full desktop content of 100-300+ content pages of the desktop website means the user may not be able to quickly find the information they need in order to make a smart purchasing decision.

HeBS Digital Recommendations:

- Choose Full Responsive Design (RWD) for websites that do not need more than 15-25 pages of content: restaurant websites, and websites for select-service to midscale-service properties. Design should be simpler and content should be kept minimal so the user experience is not compromised.

- Choose Adaptive/RESS Design for premium, luxury, boutique, upscale and full-service properties, multi-property and brand websites with deeper content (26 plus content pages), extensive imagery, and a complex product.

Related Link: HeBS Digital

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How to fix a hotel’s Google+ business listing

December 04, 2014

Google’s mission is essentially to give searchers the most accurate data at any time. They created Google My Business so business owners have the option to input their correct business information and control how their business displays when users are searching for them on Google.

You may be thinking, “I updated my Google+ Local business listing last year, so Google already has all of my correct information. I guess this article isn’t for me after all.” Wrong. There are a number of reasons your business data could be incorrect on Google, without you even knowing it.

A quick peek at the Local Search Ecosystem from Moz shows that Google is being inundated with data from many outlets and ultimately displays what it sees as the "official" business information. If a hotel has incorrect or differing information across any of these sites, this information could eventually make its way to Google. Not only does an incorrect phone number or address create a confusing and frustrating customer experience, but it also negatively affects your local SEO.

Get the full story at Blue Magnet Interactive

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Key trend for 2015: The customer journey moves to center stage

December 04, 2014

Some marketers have become quite sophisticated in testing, personalization, and design, but for this more traditional group, digital marketing is still about batch-and-blast push emails focused on products, offers, and company news.

Today’s more "mainstream" marketers are harnessing marketing automation technologies and using their digital marketing platforms to increase efficiency and effectiveness – scheduling their emails out over time, using automation for projects like drip nurtures, or replicating campaigns for new events or product launches.

Leading marketers – the organizations pushing boundaries and driving significant business results – realize that great marketing entails helping prospects along in the customer journey. What makes a customer’s journey especially meaningful? Helpful content as a prospect moves through his or her buying experience and additional follow-up information to encourage lifetime loyalty.

Get the full story at ClickZ

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What to look for in a hotel web publishing system

December 04, 2014

The online travel shopping journey has grown in complexity - travelers now have more options than ever before and visit anywhere between 10 to 30 different sites before booking, from OTAs and Meta Search sites, to corporate booking tools, social media sites and your own hotel website.

Reaching and engaging travelers across all these channels is difficult especially as consumer attention spans have become shorter than ever (you have approximately five seconds to capture the attention of a visitor to your website before they leave). We know that ultimately, hotels want to drive direct bookings via your hotel website, the most profitable channel you have to garner revenue.

Because of this, it’s more critical than ever that your hotel website attracts, engages and converts shoppers into bookers. To do this, you need to be able to effectively communicate your hotel’s story with engaging content and compelling visuals.

An effective hotel website drives direct bookings. In fact, we’re now seeing most leisure travelers make their final decision on whether to book by visiting the hotel’s website.

Successful hotel marketers understand that in order to create an effective hotel website, you first need to make sure you’re utilizing a web publishing system that makes it easy for you to update your website and provide the content travelers are looking for, fast – speed is critical for an effective web presence.

Here are the key features you should look for when choosing a web publishing system:

1. Find a solution that easily allows you to store a variety of media in a centralized location.

The right web publishing tool for your organization depends on your needs, the type of content you plan to publish and how much content you want to produce. Ideally, find a system that allows you to store an unlimited amount of media so that you are not restricted by media limitations when you want to update your website regularly. Essentially, your web publishing system acts as a central content management system – so make sure you can upload rich, dynamic content such as videos and virtual tours that help tell your hotel’s story.

2. Managing all of your content can be tricky. Consider a solution that lets you organize your media into groups, or tag and categorize it, so that it can be easily sorted and published together.

Your content – photos, videos and virtual tours – should be easily accessible to the travel shopper. Multimedia galleries are a common and logical step. Divide them into sub-sections that each tells part of your story in an easy and straightforward way to publish your content in an engaging and interesting manner.

3. Look for a solution that lets you publish directly to all channels including social media, either through galleries or scheduled regular postings, to get the word out consistently.

The integration with social media opens up opportunities to find new ways for companies to get their message across and attract more visitors to existing sites, giving you a simple and user-friendly way to manage all your online marketing in one place.

4. Your web publishing system should help you work more efficiently. Look for a system that allows you to create content once and then publish versions to other channels like mobile.

Along with publishing to your own standard website, you also need a system that allows you to easily publish smartphone- and tablet-optimized versions of your hotel website to give shoppers a seamless, multi-media rich experience when browsing from mobile devices. The same goes for distributing to third-party travel websites to expand the reach of your hotel’s story.

Ideally, you want to find a system where you can create your content or stories once, and then publish it to a variety of different channels without having to consistently curate original material.

5. Along with efficiency, you also want something that is simple to use and doesn’t require the help of a webmaster or agency.

Creating your hotel website is just the first step. There will likely be many changes you want to make along the way – such as updating your website with seasonal offers and content. Look for a solution that makes it easy for you to update your hotel website – without having to spend the time and money turning to a webmaster or agency.

6. Media is important, but so is vital hotel information. A great web publishing system acts as a true content management system as well.

Storing your photos, videos and virtual tours is a must – but so is storing all your hotel information. We’re talking about everything from your contact information and address to room types and amenities. Your web publishing system should act as a central repository as well as manage all your content.

7. An effective hotel website gives travelers what they’re looking for, such as reviews and important hotel information.

Choose a web publishing system that allows you to seamlessly integrate third-party widgets like TripAdvisor reviews and Google Maps. This ensures travelers don’t have to leave your site to search for reviews online and can easily find the information they need to make a booking.

8. To drive direct bookings, your hotel website must make the booking process simple.

Today’s consumers have low attention spans so don’t make them jump through hoops to make a booking. A booking button should appear on every page of your hotel website and connect seamlessly with your own Internet Booking Engine to capture direct bookings.

9. Your web publishing system should make it easy to measure your success.

In-house reporting and analytics capabilities allow you to track where and what consumers are engaging with online. This solution also makes it convenient to identify your top content and channels and strategize accordingly. It also allows for a seamless evaluating process rather than having to extract your data from third party sites.

10. The world is changing rapidly – make sure you’re using advanced technology.

Gone are the days when you had to use a specific device to update your website. Look for a web- or cloud-based web publishing system that allows you to update your website as needed, no matter where you are in the world, with no delays or lags.

For almost 90% of consumers, the travel shopping journey begins online. Hoteliers can no longer afford not to have an updated, fresh web presence – and that includes a hotel website that exemplifies what your hotel can offer prospective travelers. In order to do this, you must be selective when choosing a web publishing system. The features mentioned above are just a start of what you should be looking for to ensure that you can easily and consistently update the look and feel of your hotel website, immersing travelers in the experience they can expect to have at your property.

Related Link: Leonardo

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Leading Asian OTA integrates with eRevMax for advanced XML connectivity

December 04, 2014

Accommodation providers using eRevMax distribution solutions including RateTiger and Connect LIVE platform will now be able to make real-time ARI (Availability, Rates & Inventory) updates and receive bookings generated on this channel through eRevMax solutions directly into their property management systems.

Following the 2-way XML interface certification with eRevMax, joins the eRevMax Channel Ecosystem, thus providing the channel direct connection to the leading hotel PMS and CRS and enhancing its product proposition to potential hotel clients. The data flow between the channel and the hotels are immediately reflected on the’s platform in real-time and give them the opportunity to improve booking conversion, offer a wide range of products and increase revenues. is a major online accommodation provider in Asia offering 125,000 hotels and 5,500 tour operator in 248 cities worldwide.

“Our partnership with eRevMax allows accommodation providers to further reduce their time to update rates and availabilities while automating reservation delivery directly into their PMS, enabling us to provide a better user experience for our customers. In addition, connecting with the eRevMax Hotel Ecosystem will give us the opportunity to explore new supply partners and improve our global inventory supply,” said Stella Ng, Director of Market Management,

"Asia is the largest regional travel market, with online travel penetration expected to reach 31% by 2015. Our integration with will improve our portfolio by offering a diverse range of distributors through the eRevMax Channel Ecosystem. A greater number of hotels can now leverage the benefits of our Channel Ecosystem while streamlining their distribution efforts," said Greg Berman, Chief Operating Officer, eRevMax.

eRevMax is developing its connectivity solutions to help industry partners better match supply with relevant demand in a timely manner. The company’s sophisticated real-time distribution technologies are already being effectively used by over 20,000 hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals worldwide.

Related Link: eRevMax

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Melia Hotels opts for digital transformation, aims for 40% direct bookings in 2017

December 03, 2014

The digital challenge is transforming the way companies interact with their customers, and especially in travel and hospitality, where the new digital paradigm plays an even greater role. According to Google, in summer 2014, more than half of the searches related to travel and tourism in Spain were made through mobile devices.

Meliá has spent many years leading online development in the industry and has become its most important sales channel, recording annual sales growth of 25% over the last three years. has been an essential lever to improve performance lever, weather the economic crisis, and generate increases in RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room), with the Spanish hotel company outperforming all other major international brands in RevPAR growth in recent years.

Meliá aims one again to anticipate the future and lead the technological evolution in the industry to optimize customer relationships and boost satisfaction, and thus maximise hotel profitability.

Inevitable evolution

The objective is that by 2017, 40% of Company revenues come from its direct sales channels, particularly from members of its Melia Rewards loyalty programme. In parallel, other channels are also expected to grow and contribute the remaining 60% of revenues. All in all, in 2015 online channels in general (direct channels, Online Travel Agencies and Online Tour Operators) will already surpass offline or more traditional channels.

For Jose María Dalmau, SVP Business Development at Meliá: “our digital transformation is not an option, we can only choose between leading the transformation or being dragged along by it. We have chosen the former”.

Steps towards transformation

The Melia digital transformation is not limited to the sales or customer relations, but will extend to the entire hotel value chain and will focus on three key areas:

- Customers: the Meliá Digital project will transform all of the interactions: with the end customer (B2C) through the development of and mobile applications; with professional customers (B2B) by developing the MeliaPro programme; and for business trips thanks to Business Travel by Meliá, which currently has 125,000 registered companies. The revolution also extends to the hotel front desk as customers may, amongst other innovations, check in using their phones or tablets.

- Employees: the digital transformation of the sales force was launched during the Company Global Sales Convention, held last week at the Melia Villaitana in Alicante. More than 300 members of the sales team witnessed the digital change and also the new features of a "Meliá Sales App" which brings together in a single tablet App all of the tools needed by the sales team. Meliá is also implementing digital projects in all areas of management such as Finance, Expansion, Human Resources, etc.

- Hotel owners and investors: one of the most important projects to cater to stakeholders - whose importance continues to grow as Meliá adds more hotels under management to its portfolio under its Strategic Plan - includes the creation of a new Owner Portal with extensive information about the Company and its products, access to owner benefits and to their personal reservations.

The Meliá Digital project will be led by the new VP of Global Digital Sales & Marketing, Lluís Pons, who was previously head of digital strategy and marketing at Vueling, achieving excellent results.

The multinational Accenture group, leader in consultancy and digital transformation, has also joined the project providing skills, technology and experience in digital transformation in the hospitality industry worldwide. Its experience and extensive international presence will undoubtedly be of vital importance to adapting the strategy to the 43 countries in which it Melia currently operates.

Major investments in 5 key transformation areas

Meliá Digital is backed by an in the project over the next three years of around €100 million, focused on five major areas: strengthening the team (recently increased by 30 people), technology, digital marketing, boosting the Meliá Rewards loyalty programme, and the partnership with Accenture.

As Jose Maria Dalmau explains, "the major revolution is the personalization of our value proposition to customers: multidevice technology, customization and prediction engines, and new digital marketing platforms all enable a true customization of the customer experience at all times during the so-called "customer journey", (preparation of the trip, booking, travelling, and post-travel). I believe Meliá Digital to be a pioneering and innovative project which will require a strong base in technology, but also a different mentality in our people, a new way of thinking, a new "digital culture". It is a project that a global hotel company requires to ensure its maintains and enhances its market leadership into the future".

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Ryanair, Emirates predict radical distribution disruption

December 03, 2014

Some CEO interviews at industry conferences are bland affairs with evasive, nondescript answers to anemic questioning. Not this one.

Interrogated here at last month’s GBTA Europe conference by Global Business Travel Association senior vice president for global development Paul Tilstone, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary took potshots at numerous targets, including global distribution systems, Google, the International Air Transport Association’s New Distribution Capability and, above all, himself.

But, while all good knockabout fun, what really caught the eye was the strikingly similar radical vision laid out by both O’Leary and Emirates chief Sir Tim Clark for drastically more direct, personalized distribution strategies made possible by digital platforms and big data analytics. Both men made it clear they will work in a very different way with all players in the distribution chain henceforth.

Get the full story at WIT

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CWT research studies wasted business trips

December 03, 2014

Among the ingredients of the recipe for traveler dissatisfaction are a low number of meetings during the trip and booking only a few days before departure, meaning time to plan the meetings properly is limited. Avoid those characteristics, said CWT, and, in theory, companies should ensure that a higher percentage of trips are productive and therefore travel dollars are more wisely spent–voilà, a higher return on investment.

CWT asked travelers to rate the usefulness of their last trip on an ascending scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most useful. Eighty-eight percent of respondents scored their most recent trips as a 4 or 5 (which CWT deemed a success), 9.5 percent rated them as a 3 (which CWT deemed only marginally worthwhile) and the remaining 2.5 percent scored them as 1 or 2, which the TMC considered an unequivocal failure. CWT therefore labeled any trip scored 1 to 3 as unsuccessful.

CWT then matched these figures with the number of meetings held during the trip, and generally found that the more meetings respondents held, the more successful they considered the trip. Nineteen percent of trips that involved only one meeting were unsuccessful, for example, while 14 percent of trips with two meetings were unsuccessful, and 8 percent of trips with six meetings or more were unsuccessful.

Get the full story at Business Travel News

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10 important statistics marketers need to know about providing discounts

December 03, 2014

Let’s dissect 10 relevant statistics related to offering discounts:

1. About 93% of Shoppers Use a Coupon or Discount Code Throughout the Year

This means that the vast majority of consumers are seeking a good deal. Everyone appreciates a good deal, right?

Maybe it’s more accurate to put it this way: Everyone appreciates thinking they’re getting a good deal, even when they aren’t. Recognize that people do indeed seek discounts, but they must be implemented properly to earn the rewards.

2. A 50% Increase in Quantity Is the Same As a 33% Discount

If you do the math, you will understand that this statistic is true.

It’s simple enough, but consumers fail to realize this and will typically opt for getting more instead of paying less. When planning your brand’s next discount, consider offering a larger quantity before offering a reduced price.

3. You Can Sell Up to 73% More if You Offer a Bonus Pack

Going along with quantity over reduced price, one study showed a 73% increase in the sale of lotion in a value pack. Consumers opted for the larger quantity over the other option, which was a reduced priced for a reduced quantity, but at the exact same price.

Get the full story at Convince & Convert

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