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OTAs dominate search for travel deals

October 24, 2014

We’re at the outset of Q4, which means that the holidays are fast approaching. Travel deals, accommodations and hospitality are always in high demand this time of year, as consumers lock down holiday travel plans and make reservations. Whether you’re a travel agency, an airline or a hotel, your company needs to be prepared to capture market share in this highly competitive season. It’s not enough to create content for content’s sake; in such an oversaturated market, marketers won’t be able to move the needle without understanding where the demand lies — and what they can do to take full advantage.

Today, agencies and conglomerates have proven highly effective at understanding consumer demand and developing content to cater to that demand. Online travel agencies (OTAs) dominate within each category, boasting an almost consistent share of the top three listings across the board. Hotels, airlines and individual providers, on the other hand, are taking a less strategic approach, fueled primarily by guesswork and basic content creation efforts.

But this guesswork isn’t enough anymore. With vast amounts of marketers creating content on a daily basis, and if brands want to rise above the noise and make an impact, they’ll have to go beyond traditional content creation and focus on performance. By understanding the ecosystem that surrounds content — particularly what consumers want and when they want it — marketers can conceive and deliver content that meets consumer need and delivers effective, relevant information. Trial-and-error strategy won’t cut it in today’s sophisticated content market; instead, if marketers focus on targeting demand and optimizing content accordingly, performance will naturally follow.

For our latest quarterly report, we’ve leveraged our BrightEdge Data Cube — a massive content repository built to analyze large data sets (including rich media, content, international, etc.) and their performance on the web — to perform this research. Utilizing the BrightEdge Data Cube Time Machine, holiday trends were also analyzed historically over time. Our findings focus on three specific travel categories, Travel & Accommodation; Travel only; and Accommodation only. These three segments of the travel industry encompass a huge variety of suppliers, vendors and agencies, which all experience different levels of content marketing success.

Click here to download the complete report (PDF 262 KB)

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Accor reveals guests’ social media behaviour

October 24, 2014

The survey discovered that 70% of travellers across Asia Pacific now use social media when they travel, with those from China (84%), Vietnam (83%) and Indonesia (82%) being the most active users. On average, travellers are spending 2.8 hours per day on social media platforms, with the Indonesians, Malaysians and Thais all spending around 4 hours daily.

Accor worked with ORC International to survey over 6500 travellers across 13 countries to uncover which sites and platforms are most important to its guests across Asia Pacific.

Accor’s vice president digital marketing & distribution Jens Uwe Parkitny has said, “Social media has become all-pervasive in the travel industry as we can see from the results of the latest Accor Hotels Social Media Monitor.”

Get the full story at Travel Weekly

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Expedia launches image library

October 24, 2014

Expedia announced the next evolution of its highly acclaimed Expedia Viewfinder Blog with the launch of the new Expedia Viewfinder Image Library – a free online resource containing more than 40,000 images for media outlets, journalists, bloggers and other content creators. Empowering the travel community with incredible access to free high-quality travel visuals and inspiration, users can browse the extensive selection of reproduction-quality images with embedded metadata to help tell their stories on a broad range of third-party sites and projects by visiting the Expedia Viewfinder Image Library.

"Expedia has a great dialogue with bloggers and the media world, and the common need we find is compelling photography to illustrate a story and to connect with the readers on a deeper level," said Sarah Gavin, Expedia's Senior Editor. "After launching the Expedia Viewfinder Travel Blog over a year ago, the travel community and consumers have been coming to us as a resource for travel tips, suggestions and more. It's only natural that we wanted to further extend support for our media and blogger partners with a new visually inspiring resource."

The Expedia Viewfinder Image Library is compatible with both desktop and mobile devices, and presents an intuitive interface that enables users to freely browse a well-organized array of powerful travel images that showcase 4,000 incredible places and breathtaking moments from around the world. Results can be easily narrowed by specific geographic location, experience, or a combination of the two, and explored using four different viewing options including small, large, slideshow or map mode. To help inspire everything from quick getaways to far-flung adventures, the Expedia Viewfinder Image Library also displays relevant travel suggestions for flight and hotel accommodation options based on a current image search.

Many images in the Expedia Viewfinder Image Library are digitally tagged with data-rich insights, such as a short description and link to additional information about its location, and can be displayed on third-party websites. Additionally, the entire collection can be instantly shared via email and social plug-ins, either as galleries or as single images.

In the past year, the Expedia Viewfinder blog has grown to more than a dozen dedicated travel bloggers who represent a wide spectrum of the everyday traveler and craft content that speaks directly to Expedia customers. The bloggers help fuel the passion and personality behind the blog and keep the brand current in the resources it provides.

Related Link: Expedia Viewfinder Image Library

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Splendia launches crowdsourced travel guides

October 24, 2014

For its 10th anniversary, luxury hotel booking site Splendia took to Instagram to both create unique crowdsourced city guides as well as boost its awareness level. Working with Paris-based agency Kindai, the travel site launched Instagramers City Guides, a visual guide for locations such as Rome, New York, Istanbul, Barcelona, Lisbon and Paris.

Splendia reached out to influential Instagramers with a passion for travel and photography such as Vutheara in France, Misshattan in the U.S. and Saaggo in Mexico. Over the course of the year, the brand collected images from the global travelers as they traversed iconic cities across the globe and recently launched the first edition of the Instagramers City Guide.

Though the site displays the “like” and “favorite” counts of the various photos that have been brought together, it isn’t actually connected to Instagram, nor are visitors able to interact with the photos directly.

Get the full story at Marketing Land

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Online travel reviews raise question of ethics

October 24, 2014

The review was written for TripAdvisor by Howard Olarsch, a Florida retiree who loves to travel. Olarsch, in a phone interview, said he’d complained to the hotel while he was there about mold in his room, ants and other issues, but “they couldn’t have cared less.” Olarsch went to TripAdvisor “to vent. … My intent was to make other people aware what a dump that was.”

After the review was posted, the hotel contacted him. “For a tidy sum of money, I was bought off and had to remove the review,” Olarsch said.

Olarsch wrote to The Ethicist, a New York Times Sunday Magazine column, “to justify what I had done, to see who was the most unethical” — him or the hotel, he said.

Get the full story at the Las Vegas Review Journal

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The shifting landscape of mobile

October 24, 2014

On search, mobile device (smartphone and tablet) share has increased significantly in the past year, with smartphones capturing the lion’s share of the growth. Year-over-year (YoY), desktops have lost 8.5% click share, with smartphones snapping up 6.1%.

However, while eyeballs and clicks may have been migrating more to mobile, consumer wallets have been slower to follow. Advertisers devote over 42% of all spend on mobile devices, but mobile conversions only make up about 30% of search conversions.

Advertisers are struggling to either convert a mobile search click to a mobile conversion, or they’re potentially under-attributing the value of assistive mobile conversions (or perhaps both). Additionally, the value of the assistive conversion becomes more significant because consumers are still not as comfortable converting on mobile as they are on desktops.

Get the full story at Marketing Land

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Email newsletters: The content marketing strategy your hotel needs

October 24, 2014

For years email marketing, has been a go-to means of reaching consumers for a number of industries, including hospitality and travel. As hoteliers plan for 2015, there is quantitative proof that not only is email marketing alive and well, but that sending hotel newsletters is a tried-and-true marketing tactic that should be an aspect of your property's strategy.

Consider these statistics:

- The number of worldwide email accounts is projected to jump from over 3.9 billion accounts in 2013 to over 4.9 billion by the end of 2017 -- that's more than the total number of Facebook and Twitter users combined.

- According to ExactTarget's Channel Preference Survey, more than 91% of consumers check their email at least daily.

- The same survey noted that 66% of consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email they have received.

- Email is almost 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.

- 8 out of 10 smartphone users send and receive emails from their devices.

Providing timely, scannable content to past, repeat and potential guests goes beyond keeping your website up to date. Email marketing, particularly the distribution of monthly newsletters aimed at sharing your property's newest promotions, the latest goings-on in the local area and information about hotel special events, is an effective way to keep guests informed and interested.

"The key to being not just effective, but successful, is to share easily-digestible, timely content on a consistent basis packaged in a fresh, mobile-friendly design that contains clear, streamlined calls to action," says DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive. "Achieving this, the professional look and message needed for a successful newsletter, requires expertise and time. Many hotels are tapped for both, which is why outsourcing your newsletter copywriting and design is an ideal solution."

Lodging Interactive's Email Newsletter Marketing offers properties a fully managed email marketing service. Experts design and write the email newsletters that hotels approve and then distribute them to the property's mailing lists, which are also built and managed under the service. Newsletter marketing with Lodging Interactive also includes access to an analytics dashboard so that hoteliers can see the effectiveness of their campaigns 24/7.

Lodging Interactive's eNewsletter Service Features:

- Email sign up widget placed on hotel's website to build mailing list.
- Email list management of unsubscribes and de-duping.
- Uploading & cleansing of hotel's existing email list.
- Creative design & development of the eNewsletter.
- All copy writing & editing services.
- Hotel's approval of all eNewsletter drafts prior to sending.
- Distribution of the eNewsletter to email lists.
- 24/7/365 web based email performance reporting portal.

"Our complete eNewsletter service provides hoteliers with a solution to a problem many properties face -- keeping up with their digital marketing initiatives and producing fresh, focused and planned content that past, present and prospective guests want to receive and read," says Vallauri. "Lodging Interactive's eNewsletter service take the burden off of the hotels by designing, curating and managing every step of your email marketing and providing comprehensive analytics so you know your audience is being reached."

Related Link: Lodging Interactive

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Better media targeting that drives online bookings

October 24, 2014

On Wednesday, October 29th, GCommerce and nSight will present an informative webinar on the benefits of nSight’s online travel intelligence solution and what it means for your business.

Tune in to learn how nSight can deliver:

- Better media targeting and higher ROI for digital marketing campaigns
- More traffic and bookings through your website and OTAs
- Higher converting web content and segment specific promos
- Smarter rate decisions that drive higher conversions

Wednesday, October 29th / 12:00pm to 12:30pm MST

Click here to register.

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Pegasus Solutions spins off reservations business to Regent Equity Partners

October 23, 2014

Skift learned of an imminent acquisition involving Dallas-based Pegasus in late September, and the company today provided Skift with a statement about the transaction, although some of the details are still sketchy. Pegasus’ employees and clients received messages about the deal over the last few hours or days.

In the transaction, Regent Equity Partners essentially gets Pegasus’ CRS business and related offerings, while the Pegasus Solutions brand will continue to provide distribution-related services connecting hotel CRSs to global distribution systems such as Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport, channel managers and other distribution companies.

While Pegasus Solutions’ CRS business has been in a state of decline in terms of market share, the distribution side of the business, which it retains, is said to be holding its own. The CRS business is said to have generated roughly $100 million in revenue in 2013.

Get the full story at Skift

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TripAdvisor adds Best Western brands to ‘Instant Booking’ feature

October 23, 2014

TripAdvisor users have booking access to rooms at more than 4,000 Best Western hotels in more than 100 countries, Best Western said in a statement Tuesday. The feature is available on both TripAdvisor's desktop and mobile sites.

TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel review site, is looking to diversify its revenue sources by increasing the number of travel bookings through its website. The company, which was spun off by online travel agency Expedia in late 2011, went live with its Instant Booking feature in June with inventory from Choice Hotels International, hotel-booking site and TripAdvisor's discount hotel-booking online travel agency, Tingo.

The following month, TripAdvisor added hotel inventory from GDS operator Travelport to the Instant Booking feature, giving users booking access to Travelport's listings for 580,000 hotels worldwide, including 480,000 nonbranded properties.

Source: Travel Weekly

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Expedia’s Wotif acquisition delayed again

October 23, 2014

Expedia's planned $703 million purchase of Holdings has been delayed again after the New Zealand Commerce Commission issued a letter of "unresolved issues" relating to the acquisition of the online accommodation provider.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approved the deal earlier this month and Wotif shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of the acquisition via scheme of arrangement. However, the NZ regulator has postponed its final decision on the deal several times.

In an update to the market, Wotif said the NZCC letter focused on its continuing investigation of the competitive constraints between online travel agencies (OTAs), including from domestic and international OTAs, bricks and mortar travel agents, metasearch sites and other evolving online business models and from other distribution channels, including direct hotel bookings.

Get the full story at the Bisbane Times

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The future of travel: Total connectivity

October 23, 2014

Here are some highlights of the study:

- By the end of next year, most airlines will offer mobile check-in, most will sell tickets through mobile apps, almost all airports will provide kiosks for automated check-in, and most will also provide automated self-service baggage tag printing. The take-away here: We'll make sure that you do more of the work we used to do.

-- In five years, you'll have an automated individual "e-agent" that goes everywhere with you, inside a watch or piece of small jewelry, and a few years later, biometric data cards will replace passports. The latter would be a great idea -- provided the data card can actually help you get through customs and immigration procedures more quickly, not just provide security information. I'm not holding my breath until that happens.

-- The 10-year forecast sticks with its connected theme, suggesting that travelers will be able to walk straight through a hotel lobby to an elevator and a room without having to go through any check-in process. Beyond that, however, the forecast goes a bit off track. The writer predicts airline seats that remember you from previous trips, mold to your body, and have individual climate control. Oh? And how, exactly, does that square with the "tighter, lighter, narrower" mantra?

Get the full story at the Chicago Tribune

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Now you can update your business listings on Apple Maps with Maps Connect

October 23, 2014

Apple will take you through a phone verification process, much like Google Maps and other mapping services would do. After the update or addition is submitted and verified via the phone, Apple says it would take about week to show up.

The feature is only available for US business, but Apple hopes to expand it globally soon.

There is also another feature named “Indoor” that enables highly trafficked businesses to use iBeacons to enable users to map the inside of their stores and venues. It is currently a beta feature that Apple is testing.

Get the full story at Marketing Land and Apple Maps Connect

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Eye Tracking: How users view and interact with today’s Google SERPs

October 23, 2014

One of the biggest changes from SERPS 9 years ago to today is that Google is now trying to keep people on the result page for as long as they can.

An example is in the case of the knowledge graph. In Mediative's study. when searchers were looking for "weather in New Orleans", the results page that was presented to them showed exactly what they needed to know. Participants were asked to click on the result that they felt best met their needs, even if, if reality, they wouldn't have clicked through (in order to end that task). When a knowledge graph result exactly met the intent of the searcher, the study found 80% of people looked at that result, and 44% clicked on it. Google provided searchers with a relevant enough answer to keep them on the SERP. The top organic listing captured 36.5% of pages clicks—compared to 82% when the knowledge graph did not provide the searcher with the answer they were looking for.

It's a similar case with the carousel results; when a searcher clicks on a listing, instead of going through to the listing's website, another SERP is presented specifically about the business, as Google tries to increase paid ad impressions/clicks on the Google search results page.

Get the full story at Moz

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Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas achieves 15% RevPAR growth with IDeaS pricing system

October 23, 2014

IDeaS Revenue Solutions, the leading provider of pricing and revenue management software, services and consulting, announced that Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas (Anantara) has achieved an average year on year Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) increase of 14.86 percent following the adoption of the IDeaS Pricing System in 17 of its hotels across Asia.

Anantara chose to implement IDeaS Pricing System to more effectively collect and analyse data from its hotels. The solution has helped increase efficiency and accuracy around pricing decisions throughout the entire estate. As a result of this implementation, the hotel group has seen significant growth in their average daily room revenue of 17.31 percent.

According to STR Global, The Asia Pacific hotel industry opened 351 new hotels with 50,913 rooms in the first two quarters of 2014 alone, all of which has increased pressure on local tour operators, hotels and resorts to ensure they have the right systems and offerings in place for their market.

"In today's competitive regional hospitality landscape, a hotel group that doesn't have accurate forecasts of guest demand is operating blind. The ability to be able to set optimal hotel room pricing and plan staffing levels centres on the ability to be able to predict future occupancy levels," said Bryan Bailey, Group Director of Revenue & Distribution, Minor Hotel Group (parent company to Anantara.)

"IDeaS Pricing System has strengthened Anantara's approach to pricing, ensuring its properties are setting accurate daily room rates and getting to market quickly. Our solution ultimately helps attract the right guest at the right price," said Gladys Ang, Regional Director of Sales – South East Asia for IDeaS. "In addition to a significant increase in RevPAR and average daily room revenue, IDeaS Pricing System has also helped Anantara properties increase their average daily room rate 15.74 percent, which is a really pleasing result."

Following the implementation of IDeaS Pricing System, Anantara has also experienced efficiency benefits across its properties. This has been achieved through automating revenue management practices and minimising manual data entry tasks.

"Employing IDeaS Pricing System has enabled us to streamline the revenue management process, allowing our Revenue Managers to spend more time analysing data rather than manually manipulating spreadsheets," said Mr Bailey.

IDeaS Pricing System has also provided the hotel group with an improved suite of management reports which are useful for many areas across the business including sales, marketing and operations. These reports, along with a more inclusive approach to revenue management, help build understanding and support for pricing decisions across the hotel group and support a sustainable revenue management culture within Anantara.

Following the success of the initial deployment of the IDeaS Pricing System into 17 of its properties across Asia, Anantara has now expanded its revenue management program with IDeaS and is utilizing IDeaS Pricing System in 23 properties across the region. In addition, IDeaS is in place at Atrium Bangkok, a property managed by Minor Hotel Group, which is to be rebranded to the group's AVANI brand next month.

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is a luxury hotel brand, currently with 31 properties in operation in eight countries across Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and Africa. Anantara offers heartfelt hospitality and indigenous destination experiences to story-collecting travellers and its portfolio of luxury properties ranges from intimate facilities with less than 50 guest rooms to larger scale hotels and resorts with more than 400 guest rooms.

Related Link: IDeaS

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The world’s best hotels and resorts according to Conde Nast Traveler’s readers

October 23, 2014


- Top U.S. City: Charleston, S.C., is the #1 city in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row!
- Top Hotel in the U.S.: XV Beacon, Boston
- Top Resort in the U.S.: Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming
- Top Island in the World: Palawan Island, The Philippines
- Top Hotel in Europe: Il Salviatino, Florence
- Top Hotel in Asia: Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong
- Top Hotel in South America: Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, Colombia
- Top Safari Camp: Londolozi, Sabi Sand, South Africa
- Top Airline in the World: Singapore Airlines
- Top Large Cruise Line: Disney
- Top Midsize Cruise Line: Crystal Cruises
- Top Small Cruise Line: Windstar Cruises
- Top River Cruise Line: Grand Circle Cruise Line
- Top Beach Resort in Mexico: Viceroy Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen
- Top Beach Resort in the Caribbean: Jade Mountain, St. Lucia

New Categories

- Hall of Famers, iconic properties that more than withstand the test of time

- The Newcomers and the Comebacks, new and recently refreshed properties that are destined to become future classics

New Travel Trends

- What a man wants: A weekend getaway to Telluride or Las Vegas
- What a woman wants: The beach in The Hamptons or Cape May
- Top destination for 20-somethings: New England
- The 30- to 50-year-old set heads to: the Rocky Mountains
- 50-plus-year-old travelers are fascinated by: Alaska
- The most popular honeymoon destination: The Caribbean, followed by Hawaii

The Readers' Choice Awards are announced in the November issue of Conde Nast Traveler, on newsstands nationwide on October 28, 2014.

View the full list at Conde Nast Traveler

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Yelp adds hotel reservations

October 22, 2014

Yelp says that its booking capabilities encompass 28,000 business locations and that 50 percent of bookings happen in its mobile app:

"Approximately 28,000 businesses in all major US markets are available for booking on Yelp Platform today and we’ll continue to roll out more in the coming months. With approximately 250,000 transactions happening through Yelp Platform in Q3 2014 (and more than 50% of those on mobile), it’s clear Yelpers love the convenience of booking and purchase options within Yelp."

So far Yelp doesn’t charge businesses anything directly for access to the transactional capabilities, although the third party services do and Yelp gets a revenue share. However it’s only a matter of time before Yelp integrates payments (Apple Pay) capabilities to become a full-fledged e-commerce platform for travel and local services.

Get the full story at Marketing Land

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Hotels lead in open booking

October 22, 2014

According to research conducted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, 40% of hotel bookings in North America are made outside the preferred booking channels for managed business travelers. An example of this is when a managed business traveler books directly with a hotel to obtain a discounted rate offered by a conference.

Previously, these bookings weren’t incorporated into the travel management programs so it was difficult for the travel management companies to track travelers and offer customer service. However, technology has advanced so these bookings can be incorporated into the travel management companies. While it is unlikely that the number of off-channel bookings (those bookings made outside the preferred channels) will grow, more companies are showing interest in tracking these bookings better and others are going to fully embrace open booking as a travel policy.

The evolution of open booking will bring greater transparency to the hotel market when it comes to business travelers.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Priceline’s interest in Ctrip not waning, ups its investment once again

October 22, 2014

Priceline made a US$500 million investment into Ctrip this summer, and then upped its investment by another US$135 million or so in September by buying Ctrip’s publicly-listed stock. That left it having invested a total of about US$635 million for a 5.84 percent share of Ctrip as of the end of September.

But October’s filing shows that Priceline has continued to buy shares in Ctrip. Over the month so far, Priceline has picked up about 3 million more of Ctrip’s American Depository Shares, thereby investing another US$76 million in the company and upping its share to 7.9 percent, according to our calculations.

Apparently, Priceline’s interest in the company is not waning. Its original agreement with Ctrip enables the company to buy up to ten percent of the company, and it appears as though Priceline is planning to do just that.

Get the full story at Tech In Asia

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Video: How smart design is shaping the future of travel

October 22, 2014

Drawing from real-world examples, as well as the Jetsons and Wall-E, Nurko laid out where brands are meeting the evolving needs of travelers and where they fall short. “They forget that the brand is as important internally as it is externally,” he told Skift earlier this year. “And it isn’t about words and pictures, but rather it is about ideas, experiences, affinity and actions.”

Over the next three weeks, we will publish in full the presentations and interviews from the Forum. To follow along as they are added, bookmark this page.

View his talk in full at Skift

Read also "The future of smart travel"

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Marketing trends from HubSpot’s “State of Inbound 2014”

October 22, 2014

According to the State of Inbound, although proving ROI is the top challenge, it’s ranked as a relatively low priority. That unexpected disconnect needs to be reconciled. If leadership is expecting ROI, marketers need to deliver on that.

While ROI tops marketing challenges, the number one marketing priority (according to the below chart) is lead generation (24%) followed by lead conversion (21%). A modest 15% of marketers, across all company size categories, ranked ROI as their top priority.

Collaboration can eliminate many challenges. Unfiltered, objective data facilitates alignment by providing marketing leaders and practitioners with a common pool of information upon which to base decision-making and prioritization.

Get the full story at Growth Learner Marketing

Download HubSpot's "State of Inbound 2014" at HubSpot (free registration)

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The content is out, but where’s the ROI?

October 22, 2014

There’s no doubt that business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are using content marketing. In an August 2014 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, 77% of B2C marketers in North America reported doing so. And responses indicated that marketers were getting more effective at the tactic: 37% said their organizations were effective at content marketing, up from 34% last year and 32% three years ago.

What metrics are most common for evaluating content marketing success? Website traffic remained the most popular metric for assessing content efforts, cited by 62% of B2C marketers. Fully 54% of respondents looked at sales, and conversion rates arrived on the scene. Actual time spent on the website and qualitative feedback from clients fell in importance.

Still, B2C marketers surveyed were struggling to measure content marketing efforts. Just 23% said they were successful at determining return on investment (ROI). In comparison, 32% of respondents were unsuccessful, and more than one-fifth weren’t even trying to track ROI. Similarly, measuring content effectiveness was the top content marketing challenge, cited by 51% of respondents.

Get the full story at eMarketer

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What will 2015 bring for hotel digital marketers?

October 22, 2014

It’s that time of year again – the period in which we reflect back on 2014 and prepare for what 2015 will bring, and what it’ll mean for hotel marketers.

In 2014, we saw our digital marketing world continue to evolve into a place that emphasized visual storytelling (think of the visual redesign of many websites including Yahoo Travel, Trivago,, Intercontinental Hotel Group, and perhaps your own property website), a growing dependence on mobile capabilities, community marketplaces thanks to the likes of Airbnb, along with other expected changes and some surprises…

As we look to 2015, we’ve got our eye on a number of key trends that will motivate hoteliers to tell a better hotel story on whatever channel travelers are using. Today’s consumer shops easily across many channels, looking for the right experience at the right price. The savvy hotel marketer recognizes this behavior, and, as a result, ensures that their story is aligned with destination and review sites, social networks, OTAs, and, of course, their brand and property websites, to provide confidence in their hotel purchase decision.

Get the full story at Leonardo

Join Leonardo's webinar "Big, Bold, Visual: What You Need to Know About Hotel Marketing in 2015" on October 23rd at 11 AM ET (8 AM PT). Register here.

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Wotif Group completes 2-way XML integration with eRevMax

October 22, 2014

Australian-based 'Wotif Group' ( Holdings Limited), which operates a portfolio of leading travel brands in the Asia Pacific region including, has completed integration with eRevMax to offer XML connectivity to its growing base of hotel customers.

As a result, accommodation providers which list their inventory on Wotif Group sites will now be able to make real-time ARI (Availability, Rates & Inventory) updates and receive bookings generated via Wotif Group channels through eRevMax solutions directly into their property management systems. This will result in more efficient rate distribution, enhanced rate optimisation and the streamlining of all connections.

Greg Berman, Chief Operating Officer of eRevMax said, "ANZ is a matured market for online travel, but remains a potential growth region for us. This integration with Wotif Group will certainly improve our portfolio and bolster our offering of a diverse range of distributors through the eRevMax Channel Ecosystem."

Hotels using the RateTiger channel management product suite and eRevMax enterprise solution can update rates across a range of room types and numerous channels in one step, and the updated rates will be immediately available to customers on Wotif Group sites.

Wotif Group offers over 29,000 directly-contracted accommodation options across the world. The integration with eRevMax will give Wotif Group customers access to a broader product range and greater availability both locally in APAC, and globally. The App has over 9 million downloads (installs and updates), and mobile now provides 44% of overall traffic to Wotif Group sites.

Matt Harris, Executive General Manager EMEA & Americas for Wotif Group said, "The enhanced partnership with eRevMax will provide properties with an easier way to use the interface to manage rates and allotments distributed through the Group's online channels. eRevMax's robust distribution platform allows our hotel partners to better-manage multiple channels online, and our seamless integration with them will significantly reduce the time and tools our clients need to manage their rates and inventories."

"eRevMax's established strength in Europe and rapid growth in the APAC market matches our own strategy to further enhance inventory strength for our customers travelling internationally from Australia/New Zealand," concluded Mr. Harris.

The new functionality is now available to all existing eRevMax hotel customers looking to leverage distribution through Wotif Group's sites.

eRevMax is developing its connectivity solutions to offer sophisticated real-time revenue management functionality to the hospitality industry. This includes solutions for independent and mid-market accommodation providers, scaling up through to large, global hotel groups. The Channel Ecosystem provided by eRevMax facilitates quality, certified connectivity and relationship management services to support complex revenue generation strategies.

Related Link: eRevMax

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Leading Hotels of the World on dealing with the mystery of ecommerce attribution

October 21, 2014

The online path to purchase is a holistic journey, and ecommerce marketers should do their best to give credit to all the steps involved, rather than foisting all credit on one or two obvious steps. However maddening this effort may seem at times, it safeguards a brand from shortchanging key areas such as social media.

“To be honest there’s really no one size fits all answer,” said Debbie Johnsen, director of interactive marketing at The Leading Hotels of the World, New York. “It really depends on what kind of vertical you’re in.

“The length of the customer journey and level of complication will usually lead to additional steps,” she said. “Take a look at the different models and see what best works for you and the insights you can glean from it.”

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Online bookings in Japan to grow, still lagging behind mature markets

October 21, 2014

Travel retail is expected to post a 1% CAGR in terms of value sales at constant 2013 prices to reach ¥8.1 trillion (£47 billion) in 2018. Travel retail online sales are expected to grow by an 18% CAGR to take share from travel retail offline sales.

An 18% growth for online compared with 1% for the overall market over the next five years is impressive. In terms of share, however, it is lagging – online sales in Japan in 2013 were worth ¥1.5 trillion (£8.7 billion), equivalent to around 19% of the total market worth ¥7.7 trillion (£44.7 billion). By 2018, online travel sales will be ¥3.4 trillion (£19.7 billion), giving it a 42% share of the market.

But this share still sees Japan’s online travel sector lagging behind other mature e-commerce markets, suggesting that the growth story still has more legs in what is the world’s third largest economy.

Get the full story at Tnooz

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Asian travelers increasingly plugged-in

October 21, 2014

Travellers from Australia, New Zealand and Japan are the least active, but even from those countries two in five are unable to peel themselves away from their devices while travelling.

On average, travellers are spending 2.8 hours per day on social media platforms, with the Indonesians, Malaysians and Thais all spending around four hours daily.

Facebook remains the most popular platform for travellers, followed by WhatsApp. Since last year’s survey however, Asian-made social media platforms appear to be gaining traction, with WeChat up 13% and Line up 11%.

Get the full story at Travel Daily Asia

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Travelport has no plans to sunset Apollo GDS

October 21, 2014

Apollo is also one of two GDS platforms used by Travelport agents in North America. The other is Worldspan, which it acquired in 2007. Some Japanese agents also use Apollo. And Travelport operates a third GDS platform, Galileo, in Europe and some other parts of the world.

With United’s migration to the HP Shares system, Travelport would seem to have little incentive to maintain all three platforms.

But Gordon Wilson, Travelport CEO, has steadfastly maintained that the company would never force travel agents to convert to a different system.

Get the full story at Travel Market Report

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An educated guess at the revenue model driving the ‘TripAdvisor’s Click-to-Uber Deal’

October 21, 2014

According to the article, the partnership will only have a slight impact on revenue going forward, representing less than 1% of total revenue for each company. But for TripAdvisor, this revenue will be much easier than revenue that has required thousands of sales calls to local businesses. For Uber, it’s just another way to quickly add users to build its empire and undercut its competitors.

Improving the user-experience for TripAdvisor customers while simultaneously becoming a larger part of how they decide to patronize a business, i.e. helping “close the circle” on their transaction with that business is one of them. TripAdvisor can take these metrics (how often people took an Uber to a business page featured on TripAdvisor) and show businesses that TripAdvisor quite literally drives customers to their businesses. Being able to show this should help the sales-team close more deals — the more traffic a business gets on TripAdvisor, the more customers they get delivered to their door. The Click-to-Uber improve TripAdvisor’s product by providing its users the benefit of being able to do more from the TripAdvisor app or mobile site itself. This improvement in the user-experience, like all improvements in user-experience, should help TripAdvisor acquire and retain users.

Get the full story at Medium

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Follow-ups create meaningful customer engagement

October 21, 2014

In a sales context, the importance of follow up is magnified. And the follow up should be on-going because we want the relationship to last. So let’s look first of all at the benefits and why we need to stay in touch, and then we’ll look at some ways that we can do it that will not only maintain the relationship but will also add value. So, what can be gained?

- They say that in order to maintain a relationship, opportunities for meaningful contact should occur at least every 90 days. So we are going to have to get creative with how we can achieve this, because we do not want to follow up in ways that make us appear self interested or look like a stalker.

- We want to create a relationship that is based on trust. In his book “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M R Covey (the son of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” author) he says, “I submit that while high trust won’t necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one”. By implementing good follow up and tactics for staying in touch we can both establish and build on the trust we need to succeed.

- Part of staying in touch is to maintain our “front of mind” position. We want to be the person or the business that first comes to mind when our clients are thinking of things like organising a corporate rate or a conference...even a night out to celebrate a milestone birthday. In order to do this, we have to make sure that another business does not take that position away from us.

Now that we have established some of the reasons it is important to stay in touch, how can we do this in such a way that our clients welcome the contact?

Get the full story at eHotelier

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Millennial travelers more diverse than you think

October 21, 2014

According to a PATA report, The Rise of the Young Asian Traveler, more than 70 per cent of young Asians book their travel online. This is rising fast according to Tourism Australia.

The expected stereotype also holds up around the role of social media in travel. According to the PATA report, social media posts by young people's friends were in the top five most influential factors across the 13 countries in the survey. The influence of friends' social media was the greatest for Thais and Filipinos.

Young Asian travellers said that social media apps were the most useful while travelling - more than maps, language tools, deals, and dating sites.

But human beings are more complex than that. Here are 10 different drivers that could help us profile customers.

Get the full story at TTG Asia

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Hotels use reviews to personalize the guest experience

October 21, 2014

They seem so long ago, those days when hotels were wary of online travel reviews, largely feeling they would be open to unjust public criticism. Then, the industry shifted and began using this feedback to make the guest experience better by improving service and facilities based on guest comments. Shortly thereafter, hotels began publishing reviews on their own sites: trust in transparency. Now with the advent of ORM (online reputation management) integration with CRM (customer relationship management), the potential for hotels to truly embrace online travel reviews has come full circle, as online relationship management becomes synonymous with the highest level of guest service.

Hotel group Lindner - with 34 hotels across 7 European countries - is one of the first to integrate their ORM data with Serenata, their CRM provider. This integration takes guest service to a completely new place. By integrating TrustYou online survey data into Lindner's CRM and PMS (property management system), the hotel group is able to create detailed guest profiles and VIP reports. This means that upon check-in, hoteliers have a full report with details about what guests have said about Lindner Hotels in which they have stayed in the past. Guest service may then thank the guest for their feedback in person, as well as address any concerns that may have come up in the past.

"With this new integration, we're able to truly customize our guests' stays based on their feedback. Our ORM is speaking directly to our CRM, and this means that especially with VIPs, we can review their past comments prior to arrival, make changes to their guestroom experience or make notes about their preferences in service style. This allows us to deliver exactly what the guest is expecting—or, ideally, more," says Gunnar von Hagen, Corporate Director of Operations and Central Project Management for Lindner.

It would be easy to think of this integration as a digital data solution, but it is fundamentally a way for hotels to truly personalizing guest service. Hotel staff can quit assuming a one-size-fits-all service solution and begin, instead, providing customized service based entirely on the guest's expressed desires.

"Most guests don't expect perfection, but they do expect to be heard. This new technology allows guests to not only feel heard via survey, but then to have their feedback validated in person and reflected in their stay. It provides a much more fluid guest experience," says Benjamin Jost, CEO and co-founder at TrustYou.

Related Link: TrustYou

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Travel taking over the app store

October 20, 2014

As the industry becomes increasingly crowded, travel aggregators — which make up five of the Top 10 Travel and Transportation apps — are optimizing their online offerings for smaller screens and facilitating curated search, efficient payment processes and last-minute, location-based deals. These aggregation apps are also maintaining their edge by adding new app features to extend their services beyond reservation booking.

As an example, HotelTonight stands out as a trailblazer in the industry. The mobile-only company simplifies booking a last-minute hotel in just eight seconds, with three taps and a swipe. The clean UI appeals to today’s tech-savvy, self-sufficient traveler, and while similar self-service tools are available from select hotels and airlines, HotelTonight lets customers access these conveniences across thousands of brands. The company aims to create the most frictionless hotel experience by investing in features like mobile check-in and keyless entry.

Get the full story at TechCrunch

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Global online search for luxury hotels up 7.7pc

October 20, 2014

Search volume has become a statistically significant indicator of sold rooms, making it imperative for hotel brands to boost their visibility on various search engines. Indeed, search is repeatedly turned to throughout a consumer’s purchasing journey and can often be the decisive factor in nudging a reservation.

“Such a significant increase in interest for luxury hotels from China can be attributed to a few things,” said David Sadigh, founder and CEO of Digital Luxury Group, Geneva.

“Firstly, numerous western hotel brands are opening in second, third and fourth-tier cities, building brand awareness in parts of China where wealth is increasing and overall luxury hotel awareness may be low,” he said.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Momondo receives £80 million cash injection

October 20, 2014

In August the company, which was started as an attic-based operation in 1996, hired advisors at corporate finance boutique Arma Partners after receiving buyout offers from a clutch of private equity firms and rival travel businesses.

The equity injection by the US private equiy firm values Momondo at more than £132m and allows the existing management team to stay in place with Hugo Burge remaining as chief executive.

“After a robust process we are pleased to be working closely with an investor who understands our culture and shares our vision – in a partnership which we believe represents the best outcome for our diverse range of stakeholders and investors”, Mr Burge said.

Get the full story at The Telegraph

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Travel’s mobile revolution to drive expert agents

October 20, 2014

“I see agents as being like ‘centres of excellence’ says Robert Bailey, president & CEO of Abacus International. If you look at any of these knowledge-based businesses, the core [value] is the know-how,” Bailey said in an interview at the Abacus International Conference (AIC) in Abu Dhabi.

“[They are] adding value by understanding travellers’ requirements, understanding what is required in terms of the supply side, how to put it together, how to package it, and how to [turn it into] a compelling value proposition, and supporting their customers.

“So I would say that the logical evolution is that travel agents… [start to] act as a concierge. They can be a ‘virtual concierge’, they can be a concierge acting through a mobile-enabled delivery channel, or they can be a destination expert or a subject matter expert, like a niche diving site. And that will add value to the consumer side,” he continued.

Get the full story at Travel Daily

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Restaurant chains can enhance mobile ordering with gender-based targeting

October 20, 2014

Popular restaurant chains such as Subway, Domino’s, Chipotle and others are offering consumers the ability to place orders before they arrive at the premises. Recent research, such as food delivery ordering guide GrubHub’s September study, reflects how restaurant chains and other marketers could enhance mobile ordering with more targeted marketing tactics.

“At GrubHub, we’re always working to learn more about our diners and how they use our products,” said Meghan Gage, senior associate of public relations for GrubHub, New York, NY. “Looking at gender preferences and ordering habits presented us with a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the differing tastes of our male and female diners.”

A study published last year by Harvard Business School discussed research showing that loyal consumers would get upset when a brand typically associated with a male audience expanded to include products marketed towards women. This was especially true in cases where men personally identified with a certain brand.

Get the full story at Mobile Commerce Daily

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Google releases Penguin 3.0 update

October 20, 2014

Some noticed major changes in Google search results beginning late Friday night US time and speculated that this was due to the long-awaited Penguin Update that Google had said to expect this month.

Google verified to us today that this has happened. Google hasn’t yet given more details on the percentage of search results the latest version of Penguin has impacted or if there were any major changes made to it since the last release. We’ll update if we get these details.

This is the sixth release of Penguin. Google itself hasn’t given it a number, but we’re calling it Penguin 3.0 because it’s been so long since the last release of Penguin that it’s worth counting as a major release.

Get the full story at Search Engine Land

Read also "Google Penguin 3.0 damage report" at Branded3

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End to end mobile experience for new generation hotel guests

October 20, 2014

The companies behind the products, based in Munich and Berlin respectively, have teamed up to roll out the solution to future Ruby Hotels as well as several other properties.

Hotel guests at Ruby make their reservation online and check in on a tablet-based kiosk in the hotel lobby, both powered by hetras. Entering the room, the guest is greeted by SuitePad, a sleek tablet computer which serves as a hotel guide, virtual concierge, daily newspaper, surfing station, guest survey and of course includes a booking button to book the guest's next stay at any Ruby property. The booking function is powered by hetras. The multi-faceted SuitePad not only replaces the traditional hotel information folder but it evens streams music – Ruby's own internet radio station - when the guest enters the room for the first time. Every digital touch-point follows Ruby's distinct design guidelines, therefore providing a true seamless experience for the hotel guest.

hetras provides the hotel management system, booking technology and, via a powerful API, all the links which integrate the various technologies in use at Ruby. The integration between hetras and SuitePad includes personalization of the tablet, future bookings guest surveys and checkout. hetras Managing Director Ulrich Pillau goes one step further. "We didn't merely integrate multiple systems at Ruby. We supported Ruby from the beginning to design the right processes that fit with the right technologies so that Ruby could put their new generation hotel concept in place on time."

SuitePad delivers the in-room tablets along with custom apps. "The popularity of the tablets at Ruby continues to exceed our expectations. 91% of the guests use the tablets at least once per day." explained Moritz von Petersdorff-Campen, Managing Director of SuitePad. "New generation hotel guests, though they all carry their own devices, appear to appreciate the power and the convenience of SuitePad ."

The seamless digital guest journey from reservation to check-in and check-out appeals to the new generation hotel guest, judging from Ruby's outstanding ratings for guest service. Guests can, however, still opt for a classical check-in or concierge service, if they prefer. "We offer our guests both options and leave it to them to decide. Our guests, we believe, value this choice", explains Ruby founder Michael Struck. As both the tablet-based check-in as well as the digital in-room concierge help streamline the front-office processes and free-up resources, they indirectly even benefit the 'human' service: "In effect, we have more personal time and attention - not less – available for our guests", Struck observes.

Among the most popular features in SuitePad is the virtual concierge. This may be due to the highly functional and attractive design but equally as likely due to the wealth of offerings in Vienna. Ruby plans to implement both hetras and SuitePad in future properties.

Related Link: Hetras

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LaTour Hotels and Resorts selects RateTiger Channel manager to boost occupancy

October 20, 2014

LaTour Hotels and Resorts delivers highly personalized vacation experiences at four-star golf, ski, urban and oceanfront properties in the United States, Mexico and Venezuela. With RateTiger, these hotel properties can now sell rooms from an allocated inventory pool across multiple channels from a single platform thus automating online distribution efforts and saving time.

“We wanted to be more proactive and promote our rates and inventory on various channels to boost occupancy. eRevMax is recognized for its product quality and superior service - the implementation of RateTiger has resulted in faster and extensive rate and inventory management allowing us instant control over our distribution processes and online sales,” commented Lauren Doran, Director of Sales and Marketing at LaTour Hotels and Resorts.

"We are glad to have LaTour Hotels and Resorts as an esteemed client. The LaTour team is well positioned to leverage the various features and functionalities within RateTiger. They can diversify their product offerings by creating new products and packages to cater to the needs of a wider audience, which will have a positive impact on their bookings and revenue,” said Ricky Castoldi, VP Sales Americas at eRevMax.

RateTiger by eRevMax is a fully integrated channel management and connectivity solution that helps automate the connection between hotel inventory systems and distribution channels, regardless of the business model, connectivity type or geography.

Related Link: eRevMax

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Cornell publishes eye tracking study on what drives online hotel choice

October 17, 2014

Until now, the reports published about how people choose hotels online have mostly been based on surveys or on capturing clickstream data to map how users navigate from page to page. This new study, which is explained in a pair of reports by researchers Breffni M. Noone and Stephani K.A. Robson, demonstrates the eye tracking methods. The reports are available at no charge from the CHR.

"This work was a way of getting the 'lay of the land' during both the browsing and deliberation stages of the hotel choice process," says Noone, Associate Professor at the Pennsylvania State University School of Hospitality Management and co-author of the first study, "Using Eye Tracking to Obtain a Deeper Understanding of What Drives Online Hotel Choice." "We found that when people are browsing through search results, they tend to look more frequently at hotel names than any other feature, and that pictures of the hotel appear to be hugely influential during both stages of the search. Our next project will be to dig more deeply into what we uncovered in this initial study, looking at issues such as what kinds of images have the most impact on guests during their searches, or how users balance price with other factors when they make their choices."

In the second CHR Report, "Show Me What You See, Tell Me What You Think: Using Eye Tracking for Hospitality Research," co-authors Robson and Noone outline the principles of eye tracking research and identify several ways that this technology can be used to address hospitality problems. "For example, there is little empirical research on how guests actually experience hospitality environments," says Robson, Senior Lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. "Eye tracking can let a designer or a hotel brand see whether a design captures guests' attention, or explore how to best present the hotel online or in print. Eye tracking is a powerful tool and deserves to be used much more frequently in our industry."

Download the study "Using Eye Tracking to Obtain a Deeper Understanding of What Drives Online Hotel Choice" at Cornell University and "Show Me What You See, Tell Me What You Think: Using Eye Tracking for Hospitality Research" at Cornell University

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Airbnb listings mostly illegal, state contends

October 17, 2014

Commercial operators, not hard-luck residents, supply more than a third of the units and generate more than a third of the revenue. At least a handful of landlords are running what amount to illegal hostels.

Property owners on Airbnb are indeed making money, but it is not being spread around. Most rentals are in three high-profile Manhattan neighborhoods. Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island barely figure.

Airbnb declined to aggressively dispute the numbers in the report, which draws on four years of data it provided to the attorney general after a court fight.

“We need to move forward,” an Airbnb spokesman, Nick Papas, said. “We need to work together on some sensible rules that stop bad actors and protect regular people who simply want to share the home in which they live.”

Get the full story at The New York Times

Read also "Is Airbnb 'Great for New York City?' New York's AG Definitely Doesn't Think So." at Entrepreneur

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Can Sabre offload its travel website

October 17, 2014 is part of Sabre's Travelocity business, which it is gradually exiting to focus on its core growth areas.

"As part of Sabre, has significantly improved its technology and operations, and is now perfectly positioned to unlock its full growth and profitability potential," said Sabre chief executive Tom Klein in a statement. "The decision to review strategic options for supports Sabre's strategy to focus on our core business." Sabre officials declined to comment further.

Compared to where was once headed, the company is "rather behind" in the age of flash sales and emergence of mobile channels, said Henry Harteveldt, chief research officer at Atmosphere Research Group.

He explained that the company has a great name and is in a space with sizeable market opportunity. But the question regarding its future comes down to whether lastminute can leapfrog its competition.

Get the full story at The Street

Read also " into profit after write-off" at TTG Digital

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Travelers use mobile devices as concierges

October 17, 2014

Travelers rely on their personal devices to look up restaurant and hotel reviews, activity information and updated travel times. Mobile devices also allow for easy sharing of vacation snapshots on social media sites.

A new Expedia/Egencia study revealed that 76 percent of travelers claimed their smartphones are “very important/critical” to daily life, while more than one-third of the world’s travelers use their mobile device more while traveling than while at home.

However, consumers believe themselves to be well-versed in mobile device etiquette, with 53 percent of surveyors saying that making calls on speakerphone is considered offensive in public, followed closely by taboos of playing music without headphones and taking photos of strangers.

Get the full story at the Mobile Marketer

Read also "Expedia/Egencia study reveals global differences in mobile behavior"

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Google defends flight search

October 17, 2014

Discussing Google’s former involvement in flight search, Schmidt said:

“We showed a bunch of links to other sites, where users then had to enter their query over again. And we noticed lots of repeat searches, a sure sign of user frustration. People wanted direct answers, with fewer clicks.

“So we created Flight Search — and now you can quickly compare prices and times from different airlines right from the results page.”

Get the full story at Tnooz

Read also "Google Flight Search, four years in: Not the competition-killer critics feared"

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The mobile marketing trends brands need to be aware of

October 17, 2014

The iBeacon is a simple technology that sends a Bluetooth signal to a mobile device in the form of a push notification when a phone with certain permissions comes into proximity. It may not seem incredibly innovative from the outset. That’s until you realise the potential power.

For example, iBeacons can alert a user to a special offer on their phone that may interest them when they walk by a certain isle in a store, or it can be used to welcome them via push notification when they enter a shop. Alternatively, it can send them a link to download an app that may result in them enjoying a specific in-store experience, or offers. There’s a myriad of ways that it can be utilised and these are just some of the examples.

Get the full story at Reve News

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HSMAI, Duetto release white paper on open pricing

October 17, 2014

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and Duetto have released a white paper titled “Opening the Doors to New Revenue.”

The white paper makes the case for moving past best available rates and pricing all room types, channels and dates independently of one another to maximize revenue.

“While in the short term, hotel industry revenues continue to rise, commissions paid to third parties are growing twice as fast – threatening hotel revenues and profitability. A response from the industry is needed – and improvements in business intelligence, data and analytics are providing hoteliers better forecasts by specific channels. Together with new technology that is allowing connectivity among property management, central reservation and revenue management systems, open pricing is becoming a reality,” said Patrick Bosworth, CEO and co-founder of Duetto.

Dynamic pricing, which has many different meanings, involves managing rates based on fluctuations in supply and demand in the market. Hotels capture revenue by adjusting their rates on a daily, or hourly, basis. But typically all of those rates are a derivative of the best available rate (BAR).

With open pricing, hoteliers can price each room, segment and channel based on actual demand.

“Open pricing is the future,” concluded Bosworth. “It means never closing the door on a guest who wants to book a hotel. It’s also what revenue management should be about: Maximizing revenue by selling the right room to the right customer at the right time for the right price.”
The open pricing model also balances shoulder dates more effectively, and allows the modifier between standard and premium rooms to fluctuate versus staying the same all the time.

“Most hotels are missing the opportunity to use differentiated pricing applicable to different behaviors exhibited by people booking from other channels,” says Marco Benvenuti, a co-founder of Duetto and its chief analytics and product officer. “Is someone booking through an OTA automatically only going to accept paying 35 percent less? Maybe they’d be willing to pay 30 percent less. Maybe even 20 percent less.”

As revenue per available room (RevPAR) has risen so has the cost of customer acquisition. A recent study from the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA) revealed the rate of growth for business acquisition costs is growing almost twice as fast as the rate of revenue growth. And as demonstrated in the Distribution Channel Analysis, published by the HSMAI Foundation, the U.S. hotel industry was paying $3.8 billion to intermediaries in 2010, but that number could double by 2015.

The HSMAI-Duetto white paper explains that open pricing will better align supply with demand and also with rising distribution costs. As technology and revenue strategies evolve, so do the opportunities available for hotels to move beyond a fixed-tier approach to pricing.

The “Opening the Doors to New Revenue” white paper is available in the HSMAI Foundation Knowledge Center (members only).

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Thinking outside the vendor RFP process in hospitality digital marketing

October 17, 2014

Why do hotel companies go through an RFP process when selecting a website design vendor or a digital marketing firm? For some, this is due to corporate mandates, for others there is a “We have always done it this way” mentality.

The vendor RFP process is typically long and drawn out. It consists of selecting a list of vendors known to provide the service/product in question (a PMS, a CRS, website design, digital marketing and consulting services, etc.), preparing an RFP (request for proposal) outlining the hotel company’s needs and wants, sending the RFP to an identified list of vendors, conference calls to go over questions about the RFP, sifting through proposals and RFP responses, identifying a short-list of vendors, organizing and sitting through face-to-face or online presentations, going through a round or two of final Q&As, and finally, selecting the winning vendor.

The Current Vendor RFP Process is Intrinsically Flawed

Some believe the vendor RFP process allows a hotel company to pick the most qualified service/product provider through an unbiased decision process. Perhaps this is the case for commoditized supplies or services (housekeeping supplies, linens, laundry, etc.) where the RFP process allows for comparing the proverbial “apples to apples.”

Beyond website design, digital marketing and building a direct online revenue channel encompasses strategy, technology, and marketing expertise. Top digital technology and marketing firms take a robust and comprehensive approach to the digital channel including accommodating user behavior on the three screens (desktop, mobile, tablet), website and campaign analytics, the integration of different technologies, dynamic content personalization, dynamic rate marketing, reservation abandonment tools, social media, SEO, SEM, online display advertising, and more. In addition, there needs to be a core understanding of business needs, budget planning, and industry terminology. Because the digital marketing world is fast-paced, prospective clients oftentimes lack the capacity to prepare an effective vendor RFP.

At a typical hotel, who is equipped with the latest best practices in digital technology and marketing to sufficiently and adequately prepare a vendor RFP? Very few hotel companies have the bandwidth and depth of knowledge to adequately identify the digital needs of the property. Nor can they convey the property’s needs and wants in the digital space and where it needs to be in 6, 12, 24 and 36 months from now. Lastly, who at the property can afford to devote considerable time to research and prepare a vendor RFP that asks the right questions, conveys the right objectives and provides a solid framework for evaluating and comparing one digital technology and marketing firm to the next?

On the hotel side, the typical vendor RFP process easily takes 50+ hours from beginning to end. On the digital technology and marketing vendor side, time to review, respond, and present takes upwards of 25-40 hours. Typically, three vendors compete and with all parties combined the entire RFP process will cost upwards of $15,000-$20,000. Beyond the cost, this process consumes the time and energy of multiple people and departments on an average of every two years for the hotel company.

The traditional vendor RFP process is becoming less and less relevant in this fast moving, highly dynamic, and increasingly complex world of hospitality digital marketing. Other more efficient and relevant options are available to address the increasingly important and high value direct online distribution channel. With so much at stake for hotels, finding the right digital technology and marketing firm that fits your hotel profile and goals is crucial to long term success.

Alternatives to the typical vendor RFP process such as the Trusted Partner, the Digital Marketing Partner Interview or the user-friendly Scorecard model cut to the chase. It is time for us as an industry to modernize the process and start thinking outside the traditional vendor RFP process.

Get the full story at HeBS Digital

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Amid rising rates, hotel capital spending buoys buyer satisfaction

October 16, 2014

Of the 53 hotel brands rated by 368 corporate travel buyer respondents in the survey, only nine had total scores that were lower than they were in 2013. Scores were flat at three brands and up across the rest.

Unlike the 2013 Hotel Chain Survey, in which scores generally were up year over year in the lower tiers but down in the higher tiers, the 2014 showed improving buyer satisfaction in all tiers. Many of the highest increases included upper upscale and luxury hotel brands making up for their drop last year.

At the same time, buyers are facing a challenging hotel negotiating season, with the average corporate negotiated hotel rate in the United States for 2015 projected to increase between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent year over year, according to analysis by Bjorn Hanson, a clinical professor at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. At the same time, however, hotels this year are investing more capital back into their properties than ever before, which Hanson suspects is a key factor among the score increases.

"The hotel industry sought and was granted forgiveness from travelers for the period when rates were not keeping up with inflation," Hanson said. "Consumer expectations increase at the same time, and the properties are improving at the same time these rates are going up."

Get the full story at Business Travel News and/or access the digital version of the survey at Business Travel News

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Expedia/Egencia study reveals global differences in mobile behavior

October 16, 2014

Expedia and Egencia released the results of the 2014 Expedia/Egencia Mobile Index, a global study of mobile-device-related behavior and preferences among travelers in North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

The 2014 Expedia/Egencia Mobile Index was commissioned by Expedia and conducted online by Northstar, a global research and consulting firm. The study was conducted among 8,856 employed adults across 25 countries.

"We are entering a new era where people are moving fluidly across desktop, phone, tablet, even wearables as they dream, plan, book and then ultimately take their trip," said Dara Khosrowshahi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Expedia, Inc. and President, Expedia Worldwide. "Travelers are not only researching and booking trips on mobile, but they're also complimenting their meals, complaining to providers and capturing every trip detail. This is the new normal when it comes to travel. We chose to take a closer look at multi-device habits amongst both leisure and business travelers worldwide to better understand how technology is being used throughout the journey so we can continue to deliver contextually relevant mobile experiences."

"For business trips, mobile devices are already a requirement for most travelers, and mobile usage trends are still increasing. This is because mobile devices and enabling-apps make corporate travel smoother and more productive. Our study makes clear how business travelers integrate mobile functionality into their trips, and helps us develop the best experience on whatever device they use," says Rob Greyber, President of Egencia.

Mobile devices effectively serve as a concierge, guide and companion for travelers, who rely on smartphones and other mobile devices at every stage. On the whole, 76% of travelers say that their smartphones are "very important/critical" to their daily lives. 70% say the same about their laptop, and 48% say the same about their tablet device. Indians are the most dependent on smartphones, with 95% categorizing the device as "very important/critical." The world's least smartphone-dependent people can be found in Norway, where only 57% consider their smartphone to be critical/very important. More than one-third (35%) of the world's travelers use their smartphones more when they travel than they do at home.

Mobile Etiquette Held in High Regard

The 2014 Expedia Mobile Index revealed that travelers are well attuned to mobile device etiquette. Courteousness and noise consciousness are particularly important, as is privacy. "Taking photos/videos of people they do not know" is considered offensive smartphone behavior by 42% of the world's travelers, trailing only "making calls on speakerphone" (53%) and "playing music/games/videos without headphones" (47%).

Technology-fueled etiquette violations respondents consider offensive include if done in public:

- Making calls on speakerphone: 53%
- Playing music/games/videos without headphones: 47%
- Taking photos/videos of strangers: 42%
- Making calls while in restaurant: 36%
- Video calls/FaceTime/Skype: 27%
- Loud mobile device alerts: 26%
- Messaging/emailing at seated performance/activity: 24%
- Photographing food during meal: 18%

Complimentary WiFi Considered Top Hotel Perk

Given the ubiquity of mobile devices in travel, travelers increasingly prioritize WiFi accessibility. 56% of travelers report that WiFi availability and pricing impact their purchasing decision when selecting a flight and hotel. When asked to rank mobile-related hotel amenities, leisure travelers ranked "Complimentary WiFi" first, ahead of high-speed Internet access, wired in-room connectivity and a business center with computers and printers. Business travelers deem complimentary WiFi even more important, with 86% of travelers rating it as very or somewhat important when booking a hotel for business travel.

When they are on the road, the following mobile app/device functions are the most frequently utilized by both leisure and business travelers:

- Email/messaging: 61%
- Camera/video recording: 50%
- Maps/navigation: 47%
- Social media: 45%
- Weather: 38%
- Utility (alarm, calculator): 33%
- Entertainment: 24%

While laptops and desktop computers are the most common way to book travel, 78% of business travelers have used their smartphone in a travel planning capacity and 71% use tablets. The most common uses for both devices are managing itineraries (37% and 32%) and researching destinations (35% and 32%). Other popular activities are shopping for hotels, receiving flight alerts and checking in for flights. Globally, 28% of employed adults who own a mobile device have used a smartphone or tablet to book a hotel.

Losing a passport ranked among the top fears of global travelers, with 40% citing it as their top travel anxiety. Losing money ranked second. Somewhat surprisingly, "unexpectedly losing my travel companion" came in third, but only 2% of the Spanish cite this as a fear, versus 53% of the Danish. "Losing my mobile device" tied with "losing my luggage" in the list of top five travel fears for all travelers.

"Losing all my personal information" was the top anxiety associated with losing a phone while traveling, with 58% listing it among their fears. 41% would worry about their ability to contact home. 37% would worry about the replacement cost. 29% would feel insecure/isolated, while 19% would miss their apps, music and social networks.
Despite the seeming desire to stay connected while traveling, only 35% of travelers purchase an international data/roaming plan when traveling. Indians are by far the likeliest to do so, with 68% saying yes, while in contrast only 12% of the French purchase such a plan.

16% of global travelers keep a power cord with them at all times, to recharge their mobile device the moment it loses power. A full 47% reported that they would wait to recharge a powerless phone until they returned to their hotel. 14% carry a rechargeable case/battery pack. Only 1% would pay to use a public charging station or secure power kiosk.

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UK: Expedia ordered to clarify all non-optional hotel charges in future adverts

October 16, 2014

Expedia argued that the resident fee at the WestHouse Hotel was not included in the price because it was payable directly to the hotel on checkout and it was difficult to quantify and calculate an accurate fee for customers at the time of booking.

However, the company pointed out that fee applicable to the WestHouse Hotel was displayed in two places on its website − on the hotel details page and on the payments page under a link entitled "taxes/fees paid at hotel - details".

Expedia said its approach of displaying resident fees was “consistent with market practice” in the UK and it believed the complainant would have been aware of the charge prior to completing the booking.

Get the full story at Travolution

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Life currently a nightmare for TMCs

October 16, 2014

A one-stop source consolidating content such as hotels, car rentals, air fares and ancillaries could be the solution to issues of non-compliance corporate travel managers face today. The point was raised during a panel discussion on disruptive technology at yesterday’s CAPA 2014 Asia Pacific Corporate Travel Innovation Day held in Singapore.

Ian Heywood, vice president, global supplier strategy, GDSs, Travelport, said: “Life is currently a nightmare for travel management companies (TMCs). There’s an overload of information that isn’t coming in in a sensible manner, you’ve got to go to multiple websites to access it, and airlines continue to have different product differentiation.

“This is breaking down booking models. The corporate traveller may go out and book it themselves, or the TMC may book the flight but can’t book the ancillary and has to go to the airline website. And this is costing a lot more money. No one in this industry is making the returns they need to make.”

Get the full story at TTG Asia

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How to create a unique social hotel experience

October 16, 2014

Since social media is now commonplace, especially when it comes to travel, hotels are burdened with the additional responsibility of standing out among the noise. While having a strong, consistent social media presence is essential, hotels can take their guests’ experience to the next level by injecting social into the overall culture of the property.

Of course, this is easier said than done as it would involve a complete overhaul of the operational structure. However, if done well and incorporated throughout various phases of the booking and staying cycle, a hotel can cultivate a truly authentic experience for its tech-savvy guests.

Here are a few ways to create a truly “ social hotel ” experience.

Get the full story at Maximize Social Business

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How Tumblr is making its case to brands

October 16, 2014

The study also suggests that media consumption has a tangible, positive effect on how Tumblr users view brands. Tumblr users who engage with — either by liking, following, clicking on or reblogging — user-generated Tumblr posts are 2.6 times more likely to take an off-site action related to the content of that post. When Tumblr users engaged with brand-produced posts, the lift was even higher (3.3 times).

Tumblr may be a great place to publish branded content, but brands and agencies have to date been uninterested in its ads. Indeed, Yahoo has yet to boast about Tumblr bringing in significant ad revenue. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer crowed about 65 of the largest U.S. advertisers being on Tumblr, but not spending on Tumblr.

“The ads themselves are native, large, beautiful – and now even in video form. But CPMs and minimums can be higher than Facebook and Twitter. And many of our clients need more than inferred geography and gender, targeting-wise,” Ben Winkler, chief digital officer at media agency OMD, said. “Our clients love to see their content there. The challenge is getting them to pay for it.”

Get the full story at Digiday

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eRevMax shares key insights on Chinese travel industry

October 16, 2014

The increase in high disposable income and rise of middle class has influenced the purchasing behaviour and travel decisions of young, educated and technologically skilled Chinese travelers. The Internet is the primary source of travel planning with 95% of Chinese travelers beginning their search at Baidu, the 800 lbs Gorilla of China Search.

The steady economic growth in the country has increased the consumption power, but the middle class Chinese traveler still remains price sensitive and compares rates on meta-search channels before booking.

An increase in disposable income, a broadening middle class, and an improved road and rail network has encouraged more people to travel. The amount of money spent on travel in China has been growing at 20% compound rate for the last few years, and has made Chinese travelers the big spenders.

Digital media and e-commerce have moved into the mainstream of Chinese Internet users’ lives with them spending about 1 billion hours online each day, more than double the daily total in the United States. When it comes to online travel - Ctrip, eLong and dominate the market. The internet penetration in the country is being led by smartphones, and this has led to an exponential rise in mobile travel bookings. A whopping 89% travellers use smartphones to access websites and 45% of business travellers use mobile for travel arrangements.

When it comes to booking decisions, Chinese travelers trust online reviews more than friends or families. The volume of reviews posted nearly doubled in 2013, and peer recommendations influence not only where travelers go, but also where they shop for travel products. The Infographic notes that 48% of travellers use social media in trip
planning and 89% of luxury travelers write reviews after the trip. Sina Weibo, the local micro-blogging site rules in the social space with over 550 million active users.

To access the full infographig go to eRevMax

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Leonardo selected by CHECK24 to provide hotel visual content

October 16, 2014

Under the agreement, has subscribed to Leonardo’s MediaConnect product to source high quality photos and rich media for hotels listed on its website. With this subscription, is now a member of Leonardo’s VNetwork, the most extensive visual media syndication network in the global travel industry.

Seamless image sourcing and processing

Under the agreement, will gain access to over 1.5 million photos from the global travel industry’s largest hotel media library for over 100,000 GDS listed hotels globally. will also benefit from the image sourcing and processing features included in the MediaConnect product, such as:

- Delivery of media in multiple formats and sizes along with meta-data including categories and captions

- Brand and hotel certified content that is updated regularly to ensure accuracy and freshness of content on CHECK24’s website and minimize rogue image issues

- Media sourcing through advanced XML connectivity based on industry standards from HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation) and Open Travel Alliance

Engaging multi-media will also embed Leonardo’s media display technology to display multi-media for hotels that subscribe to Leonardo’s VBrochure Online Merchandising System. With customized multi-media stories displayed alongside the images will source and display, subscribing hotels will provide enhanced visual experiences for travel shoppers on

“By choosing Leonardo technology for their hotel visual content, will provide their travel shoppers with more immersive and visually engaging hotel shopping experiences that lead to increased engagement and conversions. We’re pleased that hotels that subscribe to VBrochure will further benefit by having their multi-media players displayed on this travel website,” said John McAuliffe, Leonardo’s President.

“Having access to Leonardo’s extensive library of hotel visual content will give our consumers significantly more clarity to enable them to make the hotel selection that is best for them, for hotels only and package deals. We’re pleased to offer our travel shoppers researching and booking on CHECK24 travel websites with a more enhanced selection of hotel visual content,” said Georg Heusgen, CEO of CHECK24 Travel.

Related Link: Leonardo

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UK: Mobile travel bookings still lagging behind

October 15, 2014

However, ABTA’s data did point toward a potential “changing of the guard,” with young UK millennials much more likely to make travel bookings on their mobile devices. Indeed, while 88% of 16-to-24-year-old internet users stated they had used a PC or laptop to book travel in the 12 months ending July 2014—the smallest proportion across all age groups - 35% said they had used a mobile phone, the highest percentage across age brackets.

When it came to the research aspect of digital travel, where the overall populace is becoming more reliant on mobile, UK millennials again displayed advanced digital behaviors, this time putting a greater emphasis on social media than other age groups. While 18% of total internet users used social media to research and plan travel, that number rose to 44% among 16- to 24-year-olds.

This behavior is all set against steady, if unspectacular, growth in digital travel sales in the UK. According to eMarketer, sales will reach £21.42 billion ($33.47 billion) in 2014, up 13.7% from 2013.

Get the full story at eMarketer

Read also "Mobile devices trending for UK travel researchers" at eMarketer

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U.S travel agency air ticket sales up in 2014

October 15, 2014

ARC, the financial settlement link between airlines and travel sellers, reported today that the consolidated dollar value of airline tickets sold by U.S.-based travel agencies rose 4.78 percent* year-over-year in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, totaling $70.6 billion versus $67.3 billion in 2013. Sales for September 2014 were up 5.72 percent at $7.5 billion compared to September 2013 at $7 billion.

Ticket transactions through September 2014 increased 2.65 percent over the same period in 2013 to 114 million. Year-to-date passenger segments increased 2.76 percent to 285.6 million, compared to 277.4 million in 2013.

Get the full story at ARC

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What clients want from travel agents

October 15, 2014

The survey findings were released at the American Express Travel Retail Network’s Learning Forum & National Summit in Orlando last week.

The guidance clients seek from agents takes varying forms, the study found.

Seventy four percent of agents said their clients ask them to design their entire trip, the “whole package” while 60% said clients want help in finding the best destination and experience.
Fifty-three percent of agents said clients who’ve done their own research want help in finding deals.

“Resources” - the ability to access deals as well as their relationships with suppliers—are agents’ most important selling tool, said half of the agents surveyed.

Get the full story at Travel Market Report

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How hits the content sweet spot

October 15, 2014 has produced a lovely piece of content designed to show parts of London that only the discerning have discovered*. It's called 100 Things in London and it's a nice bit of content marketing.

Jo Harris-Cooksley, content marketing manager at, worked with local tour guides, historians and bloggers to find the right mix of trivia associated with each thing.

The 'near me' feature is an example of how all experiences are now striving to provide extra degrees of relevance. By providing locational relevancy, this content has an extra use.

Get the full story at eConsultancy

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When bad online reviews are good for you

October 15, 2014

In his book “Click: What millions of people are doing online and why it matters” "Bill Tancer pulls heavily from best practices in the hotel industry. He started writing the book in a hotel as a matter of fact - the Hotel 41 in London. Tancer had planned to stay for two days on business, but the Eyjafjallajökull volcano had other plans. After it erupted, air traffic throughout most of Europe was grounded, and Tancer’s two-day stay stretched to 10.

He started noticing things during that time: how staff interacted with guests. How they dealt with complaints. How they tried to surprise and delight their customers at every turn.

Maybe that’s why Hotel 41 was No. 1 on TripAdvisor, Tancer thought. “That hyper-attention to service and making sure the guest experience is as good as possible has a lot to do with their reviews,” he said.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Moz local ranking factors 2014 study shows mostly the same formula

October 15, 2014

David Mihm from Moz said the biggest takeaways he noticed were:

1. Behavioral signals such as click through rate, are more of a factor this year that others.

2. With Pigeon‘s release, experts are saying Domain authority is more of a signal today.

3. Google may have tuned up the proximity to searcher factor as well.

Get the full story at Search Engine Land

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Where do hotel direct bookings come from in 2014

October 15, 2014

The biggest change is position number 1, which belonged to TripAdvisor last year and this year has returned to Friends and Family.

When TripAdvisor had the top spot last year, WIHP speculated that this could have been due to their newly launched TripConnect platform, but that doesn’t seem to be the source. The fact remains that respondents are saying it isn’t where they discovered the hotel.

Another interesting fact is that OTAs are steadily declining as a source of Direct Bookings for hotels. While still high at 16.2% it is interesting that they are declining showing that their strategy to retain guests is working.

Get the full story at WIHP Hotels

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Free whitepaper: Hotel website secrets

October 15, 2014

As consumer purchasing behavior has shifted more towards shopping on the internet, having an effective website is more important than ever. Whether you are the owner of a small lodge, hostel, guest house, inn, bed & breakfast, or hotel with less than 50 rooms, a custom hotel website can increase your operation's performance, yield direct bookings, and produce greater long-term financial growth.

Travelers of tomorrow will spend more time and money researching a site before traveling to a destination. With that your website will need to help them find you, capture their attention, and create opportunity so your customers can make direct bookings through you.

By making an investment in developing a hotel website, you're on your way to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Hotel Websites Today

More than ever, today's hotel websites need to be functional both for the hotels and the visitors. The design and purpose of your hotel's website can greatly affect your potential and existing visitors' online experiences and ultimately tap into your target markets. If you simply think website traffic will determine your marketing success, then you'll need to think again. The effectiveness of your website should be measured based on the following two major issues:

Conversion rates: Is your website converting lookers into bookers?
Website optimization: Is your website driving visitors to your site?

First, your website is a sales tool; therefore, speed and quality of the site's accessibility will affect your users' satisfaction. The site needs to offer a simple, easy-to-use navigation scheme and a good link strategy in addition to site attractiveness.

Second, your website needs to include technical and marketing principles to attract bookings. These would include well-written content, keywords, sales text, technically acceptable photography, researched and carefully chosen search terms/phrases, workable description, and Meta Tags title.

Third, you should develop and utilize the website to its full potential. You will need to incorporate a functional reservation booking system or inventory management system. Additionally, your site needs to include a medium that establishes e-Relationships, one-to-one communication, or a form of interactivity with the users.

Fourth, the website needs to provide the optimal paths to maximize sell-through and conversion rates. Your website needs to be user-friendly especially in the number of steps to make the actual reservation. The key is to maximize usability and minimize bailout rates.

Marketing through your Hotel Website

According to Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, the least expensive way to receive bookings would be through hotels' own website and online reservation booking sites. Reservation requests that require handling by email or phone can become a significant cost factor. By automating the reservation process, you're on your way to increasing efficiency and reducing cost. Additionally, reservations that come from online or offline travel agents often incur a 10% or more commission on each booking.

Google reports that the average traveler visits 22 different websites over the span of 9.5 research sessions before making a travel related booking. This means you need to have a website that is effective in predicting, responding to, and connecting with customers' needs. Your next guest may use an online travel website to discover you, but they are also likely to search for hotel websites after the initial discovery in order to shop for other hotels and promotions.

Through a functional website, you will give your guests greater opportunity to spend their money directly with you instead of through a middleman. Now...that is what we call earning more without spending more.

Download the complete Whitepaper >> Click here for FREE DOWNLOAD

Hotel Size does note Matter

The only time when hotel size matters is when you have oversold your hotel. As you evaluate your website strategy, you just need to think about the following two questions.

First, "Who can tell a better story and describe your hotel better than you."

Your hotel website allows you to describe your rooms, amenities, and nearby attractions that you believe to be the most important for your guests. Whether it is a small hotel with 20 rooms or medium hotel with 65 rooms, you can update your hotel information and change rates on the fly.

The second important question is, "Are you ready to confirm more online direct bookings."

Your hotel website can provide immediate results and bookings around the clock. Once in a while, you may even get more bookings than you can handle. Direct bookings from your website cost far less than reservations coming from a travel agent. Not every hotel website performs the same, therefore you want your website to be competitive whenever and wherever possible.

Encourage User Generated Content - Guest Reviews

Utilizing user-generated content allows you to establish e-Relationships and create interactive opportunities with readers that would inspire more people to want to know about your property.

Cornell University recently released the results of a study that showed a hotel can yield great benefits from guest reviews on the accommodations. Guest reviews on review-sites or hotel's blog site can provide insight for you to improve your services and products. As the hotel gets more reviews, your hotel will become more recognizable. You can also share the ratings and reviews through other online and offline media to promote your property.

The bottom line is that on your website you need to encourage user-generated comments about your property. Ideally, you want your hotel name to show up on travel site such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and CitySearch.

Designing Your Site - For You and Your Guests

There's so much to consider in order to blend your needs with your guests' needs into one effective website. Having photos on your website will generate interest about your products and services. You also need to have searchable text and stimulating content.

Your users will find it hard to ignore a hotel website with nice photos without reading the text. So, focus on texts to highlight the most important features of your property such as location, property type, and services. Does your site read like it was written by a techie? Do you have typos that give a poor impression of your product? Do you have words in the text that search engines can't see?

If you answered yes then it is time to give your content a makeover. The first two to three paragraphs should include a number of keywords/phrases to increase searches. You also do not want to overdo it or you could be accused of spamming. Write as if you are talking to your visitors. Additionally, you need to focus on sales then features and benefits. Talk plainly!

Making Your Website Sell

There are a number of reasons to have a hotel website, and the most important reason should be providing real-time online reservation bookings channel.

Sell...Sell...Sell...your website needs to have photos and content but most importantly a booking system that allows you to maintain rates and room inventory. Websites with no booking system, just contact information or an email button is a sure way to lose out on potential bookings.

Once you have the framework for your website, then you can shop for a booking system/engine that charges a flat fee each month with no commissions or booking fees. Attaching a booking system to your site is a minor expense because you'll be better positioned in the marketplace and to capture many direct bookings that you could be missing.

Booking Button

Location...Location...Location...A nice website with the booking button behind many layers of pages is less effective than if the booking button is on the homepage. Having the "check availability" button on the homepage will maximize your sales strategy.

For instance, in 2013, Hotel San Jose in Austin, Texas and The Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island were recognized with great hotel websites. These websites have rich media, booking buttons on the homepage, and are considered to be user-friendly.

Booking Engine to Use

A hotel website with a booking engine gives customers the opportunity to "Book Now". One size does not fit all when choosing the booking engine to use. Sirvoy hotel booking system and RezOvation are two systems that offer abundant features for small to medium sized properties. While you may want features like Facebook integration and revenue management, your website will also need to have a hook that creates a reason to book now, such as one of the following:

- Free breakfast, meal, or dessert
- Complimentary upgrade upon check-in if available
- Discounts on hotel parking and local attractions
- Free use of spa or fitness room
- A gift certificate for the restaurant or future stay

Social Sharing Buttons

One way to get the word out about your property is to optimize your website for social media. You would also want to extend your reservation and front desk services by encouraging your guests to connect with you through social media.

A lot of times, you visit a website and there are social networks buttons. The top five social networks are Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Yelp, and Google+, which they have become a dominate force in pushing information and pictures out through various social networks to the public as well as capturing people's attention to visit a website. With all the social media buttons out there, your first step is to determine whether you want social media follow buttons or social media sharing buttons/links. Here's the thing with decisions. You know how to make the decision, you just want to feel sure about it afterward. The decision here is going to be so simple that you won't have to contend with going with your gut feeling or listening to your heart.

In a Nutshell

As a hotelier, one thing that you have to love about a custom hotel website is that the website can do so much for you.

At the current pace of technology, nearly everyone you know or ever met probably owns a desktop, mobile phone, laptop, or tablet. You ought to believe that shopping for travel and hotel products on the internet is an unbelievably popular thing to do.

The key is that you need to find time and resources to work with a graphic/website designer, booking engine company, SEO experts, copywriters or content writer, photographers, and people who know how to write code and tell them what you need. The secret to an effective hotel website is combining all the elements that we have presented in this guide.

Here is a short recap:

- A simple and visually appealing site with concise messages and a user-friendly navigation system and booking system that reduces reservation abandonment rates.

- An information system that will tell you about your target markets, keywords or phrases that will bring you more customers, and types of amenities and services that work for your property.

- A manageable website so you can utilize the sales tool for its intended purpose: Sell...Sell...Sell...

- Once you have crafted a functional website then focus on strengthening connections with potential and existing customers and distinguishing your products and services. You can do these by a combination of social and digital media, online and offline promotions, and the use of technologies.

- Lastly, put on your travel hat. Find your site through a search engine. Book a room through your website. Evaluate your overall experience. Examine the features that your website has to offer. Write a blog about your products and services.

These are some of the tasks to perform to ensure the effectiveness of your website. The more closely you look at your site from the customer's point of view, the more likely your website will generate more direct bookings. And when that happens, you are on your way to filling more rooms and turning more one-time guests to repeat customers.

Download the whitepaper at Customer Alliance

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AmEx predicts global expansion of meetings activity in 2015

October 14, 2014

Following a period of economic recovery for the meetings industry as well as new budget pressures in 2014, 2015 meeting budgets are likely to show positive movement, either through growth or less of a decline than was seen previously. This is due to powerful drivers, such as compliance, global expansion, and standardized processes that can help to reduce risk and elevate the visibility and strategic importance of meetings programs within companies. New for this year’s edition, the 2015 Forecast breaks down predictions by meeting type to provide more insight into the purpose of meetings and where business priorities lie.

“The meeting industry overall appears to be very much ‘back in business’, in particular as a key component of sales and marketing strategies for many organizations,” said Issa Jouaneh, Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events. “The last few years have given focus to meetings and events in a way that has driven a more disciplined approach around approvals processes, increased scrutiny on spend and a larger focus around accountability and expected outcomes for meetings.

“2014 has been an exciting year for American Express Meetings & Events, as we have worked with clients to help develop and expand their programs – often in response to global need and growth, and together identified strategies to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the changing technology landscape. In 2015, we look forward to continuing this momentum with existing clients and jointly designing and implementing meetings programs with new clients.”

In North America, the positive sentiment for 2014 continued with a slight 0.3 percent increase in meetings activity expected in 2015. At the same time, many meetings have been reduced in size over the past few years, increasing the demand for meetings at airport properties, as meeting owners try to maximize the productive time available for attendees. Overall, there is a continued push to stay close to home and host meetings where the largest number of attendees live. Attendee levels in North America seem to have stabilized, with no major changes expected next year. For the first time, respondents were also asked to answer questions on meeting activity, number of attendees, length and more by individual meeting type. Training meetings lead the pack in North America in terms of growth in number of meetings, and in regard to meeting length, the findings revealed that incentive and special events were reported to be the longest meeting by category, followed by conferences.

In Europe, meeting activity predictions from survey respondents generally mirrors the current economic situation of the individual countries. Across Europe, an incremental decline in the number of attendees in nearly all meeting types are predicted. Germany and the United Kingdom, two regions with positive predictions in the 2014 Forecast, are expecting slight declines in attendees across the board in the coming year, while Spain and France are seeing smaller declines predicted for 2015, compared to previous years. Doing more with less is the mantra of most meeting owners, and their 2015 budgets reflect that. The outlier among European countries in meeting length is clearly Spain, where incentives and special events last on average almost five days, nearly two days longer than the European average.

Meeting activity in Asia Pacific is more mixed, surging ahead in some countries and softening in others. The Chinese mainland continues to experience strong demand as a destination and healthy growth in the number of meetings, while in Australia some meeting cancellations are contributing to a slowdown. A similar softening seems to be underway in Hong Kong. Across the region, attendee levels range from stable to moderately reduced, and meeting owners are leaning toward fewer and shorter meetings overall, freeing up resources to spend on marquee events. Over 85 percent of meetings and events in Asia and 94 percent of those in Australia are expected to take place in large cities in 2015.

Central and South American respondents see meeting activity remaining much the same in 2015 as predicted for 2014, but are expected to make the most significant adjustments. Like North America, training meetings appear to be ‘coming back’ in 2015, with the largest increase of 2.4 percent predicted, followed by incentive and special events at 1.3 percent. The dominant effect of the recent sporting events in Brazil is expected to continue through the 2016 global sporting event in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, respondents are predicting a rise in the share of meetings in large cities from 65 percent in 2014 to 72 percent in 2015.

Below are high-level snapshots of the key 2015 predictions based on a survey of meetings professionals in each region.

The Forecast reveals that in North America, Orlando, Florida slipped to second place this year, with Chicago, Illinois ranking as the number one meeting destination choice among meeting planners. Las Vegas, Nevada; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Diego, California rank in the top five meeting destinations in North America for the second consecutive year. In Central and South America, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Riviera Maya/ Cancun region in Mexico retained the top two spots for meetings and events. In Europe, all top four cities, including London, UK; Paris, France; Barcelona, Spain; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, have retained their spots from last year’s Forecast. In Asia Pacific, Singapore took the top spot from Shanghai, China, which ranked number one in 2014.

Insights and Best Practices

Forecast participants also provided insight into what’s top of mind for 2015 meetings and events planning. Key areas of consideration for 2015 include:

Empowering Digital Event Solutions – Meeting professionals now have the opportunity to rethink meeting design and content delivery to capitalize on digital solutions and engage the audience in new and exciting ways. Four solutions – attendee management, event mobile applications, social media solutions and hybrid meeting solutions – can increase the prevalence and importance in digital event solutions.

Planning Meetings & Events in Emerging Countries – The meeting business in emerging countries has grown significantly in recent years, as these economies have increased in importance. There are five aspects to meeting planning that are imperative for planners to focus on in order to ensure their meeting goes smoothly in an emerging country: security, technology, transportation, food & beverage, and payments.

The Benefits of Attendee Travel Management – Best practices and customer feedback have demonstrated that integrating travel planning with meetings management can provide substantial benefits related to experience, cost, and duty of care. Integrating air travel as part of the overall planning process can benefit meeting planners and attendees alike. Air travel is an integral part of the logistical, financial, and experiential aspect of an event. In particular, group air planning can benefit a meeting at all stages, from destination evaluation, budgetary savings, and agenda optimization to improved communications, increased productivity, and risk reduction.

Event Production Trends and Insights – As technology and the role of mobile apps, virtual/ hybrid meeting tools and more play an increasing role in meetings and events, event production agencies can serve as a guide to integration into the overarching event experience. Meeting owners should consider if the use of technology is appropriate for the event experience and if it can serve a real purpose and not act as a distraction.

The Forecast findings are based on a comprehensive survey, extensive meetings and events data, and in-depth interviews of meetings professionals – including planners, buyers and hotel suppliers from around the world – conducted by American Express Meetings & Events. The Forecast examines predictions regarding budget, spend, the number of meetings, lead times and other meetings-specific metrics by geographic region. It also provides insight into key trends in meeting planning for 2015, and explores some of the key tactics meeting planners are expected to use to reduce costs and improve program efficiency.

Download the complete report at American Express Meetings & Events

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CWT readies mobile hotel-booking pilot for select clients

October 14, 2014

Search results include preferred rates and properties per a corporate travel policy, and CWT service teams can retrieve bookings if travelers need further support.

Additionally, the app integrates with CWT's Portrait traveler profile tool, so it can pull traveler details, including credit card information and loyalty program membership, when travelers make hotel bookings. Users also can scan credit cards through their mobile devices' cameras when entering payment information.

Currently, only CWT employees in the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland have access to the app's hotel booking features, and the ability "will roll out to select CWT global clients shortly," according to the TMC. The majority of users will have access to it by the end of 2014.

Get the full story at Business Travel News

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Airlines’ next big money-maker: In-flight entertainment

October 14, 2014

Large carriers such as Delta Air Lines have invested heavily in touch-screen entertainment systems that are built into seat backs. Southwest Airlines and others offer only onboard wireless Internet so passengers can watch movies and television shows using their own tablet computer or smartphone.

A few airlines have installed both systems.

“Airlines are taking very different approaches because each airline has a different perspective on how they run their business,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst for Atmosphere Research Group.

Get the full story at The Seattle Times

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Brand, independent debate heats up

October 14, 2014

Representing the brand perspective was Chuck Henry, founder of Hotel Capital Advisers, which manages the international hotel activities of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Hotel Investments. The company counts 20 properties in its portfolio, primarily comprising the Four Seasons, Raffles, Fairmont and Mövenpick brands.

Siding with the independents was Michael Barnello, president and CEO of LaSalle Hotel Properties, which has a portfolio of more than 40 hotels, the majority of which are independent.

The executives tackled a number of topics during the fast-paced, sometimes heated discussion, including Yield and Sales Office vs Online.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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AdWords vs. AdWords Express

October 14, 2014

Time and Resources

AdWords: If you’ve got the time to manage online campaigns – ideally an extra five to 15 hours per week minimum – then AdWords might be for you. AdWords gives you the ability to show up on, the Google Display Network, and Google Maps. Depending on how you build your campaigns, and how active of a manager you are, will dictate how much time you’ll need to spend on campaign management and optimization. However, expect to create an evolving campaign structure, choose keywords, set bids, write text ads or create display ads, and optimize on your own. If this sounds like a bit too much work for you, but you’re willing to invest in resources, consider hiring an in-house marketing manager or a Google Certified Agency to help manage your campaigns.

AdWords Express: If time is of the essence, and you need your campaigns up and running quickly with limited resources, AdWords Express might be your best bet. Don’t just think about short term, though. If over the long term, you don’t think you’ll have time to manage online campaigns successfully and you don’t anticipate hiring a consultant or agency, AdWords Express is for you. This option is ideal for small and medium-sized business owners who wear many hats – and working on their businesses’ advertising is an additional role that’s taking up time. With AdWords Express, you can set a budget and based on your type of business, Google will come up with a list of keywords to trigger ads to your site or Google+ page. Minimal ongoing management and maintenance is also provided by Google. To quickly see the success of your AdWords Express account, consider downloading the AdWords Express app for Android or iOS.

Get the full story at Search Engine Watch

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The press release remains the cornerstone of PR

October 14, 2014

Websites and social media have certainly made an impression on the world of marketing, but the vastness of “online” has far from replaced traditional forms of advertising and PR. Traditional press releases are still in use today, and in many cases, are still the best form of communication for vendors to get their products or events noticed. To understand why, let’s review the purpose of, and history behind, the press release.

Traditionally, the first press release is claimed by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, which released an official statement following the tragic deaths of more than 50 people in 1906. Press releases aren’t just used to manage crisis situations, however. Companies use this century-old form of communication to talk about any “hard news” they want to tell the public.

In the last 100 years, the format of press releases has been standardized, and has earned its place in journalism by providing verifiable and timely information to reporters who daily generate thousands of articles, radio and TV spots.

Get the full story at PR Daily

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Travel trends from YouTube: What hotel marketers need to know about video

October 14, 2014

In fact, in 2013, 81% of online travel bookers consulted videos before making a purchase. This statistic is significant, but perhaps not surprising – considering 65% of consumers are visual learners.

One of the easiest ways for marketers to get started is to use a video-sharing platform like YouTube to broadcast your story to the world. And today’s online travel shoppers turn to YouTube to do just that: to find out what makes your hotel unique, to get a better glimpse of the experience they’ll have at your hotel, and to provide confidence that this is the right choice for them.

For insights into what travel content people are watching online, Google recently published the first-ever YouTube Travel Whitepaper which revealed some significant video trends.

Get the full story at Leonardo

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Amadeus to host hackathon focused on shaping the future of travel

October 14, 2014

Amadeus, a leading global provider of advanced technology solutions for the travel industry, today announces it will host its first hackathon in North America, Amadeus HACK@1050, to provide developers and visionaries with an opportunity to develop innovative ideas that will help propel the travel industry forward.

Amadeus HACK@1050 will be held November 7-9 at Amadeus’ new Research & Development center in Waltham, Massachusetts, and is a free three-day event open to college students, professionals and hackers.

“As a leading technology partner and R&D innovator to the travel industry worldwide, we are excited to be hosting our first hackathon for students and developers in the Boston community,” said Mary Keagul, Amadeus’ head of Research and Development for the Americas region. “At Amadeus, we are always pursuing new approaches in the travel industry and driving innovation forward. By providing students and professionals with the opportunity to address the challenges and opportunities in this ever-changing industry, we hope to foster and showcase how dynamic ideas can ultimately shape the future for the travel industry and travelers alike.”

With a total of over $30,000 in cash prizes at stake, participants will work in teams of three to five people toward solving one of four travel industry challenges which will be revealed to them a week prior to the hackathon.

Keagul added that veteran travel technologists, developers and software experts from Amadeus’ Boston-area R&D team will be on hand to provide expert guidance to the participants, who will also be using Amadeus technology tools and travel content during the hack.

Get the full story at Amadeus

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The impact of technology on the hotel sales role

October 13, 2014

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Asia Pacific's 10th Annual AsiaConnect Conference was held in Singapore on September 3, 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Conference Center.

At the conference, a Kekynote Speaker, Robert Gilbert, President & CEO of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association (HSMAI), delivered a keynote speech about the evolving reality of the modern sales professional. His talk was followed by a panel session led by moderator Lucas Peng, CEO of Peak Hospitality Solutions, took place together with Gilbert, Andrew Chan, CEO of ACI HR Solutions and Carmen Lam, VP Sales & Marketing AP, FRHI Hotels & Resorts. The panel discussed how technology is impacting the role of the Sales Manager, and that of the Revenue Manager in hotels.

Traditionally, the role of the Sales Manager has been to manage the customer relationship and convert the sale. But as technology deepens its impact on the sales cycle, marketing is no longer responsible only for acquiring and qualifying prospects. Together with Revenue Managers, these departments are encroaching on the traditional sales relationship by enabling the conversion to sales, especially in a business to consumer sense, online. The role of the Sales Manager is changing to that with an emphasis on building business to business relationships along with strategic oversight at the regional and global level for the performance of accounts, as well as having responsibility for winning and maintaining accounts at those geographic levels.

The evolution of the Modern Sales Professional

Since the 1800's selling was more about manipulation - making sales through any means. These salespersons believed that the impossible was true. Sales, when they occurred, were sporadic. They used the bait and switch methods and were dubbed snake-oil or used-car salesmen.

Selling evolved to control. The 'Father knows best' mentality was exercised. The power resided with the seller; the buyer listened and learned about how the product or service, if bought, was the best way to solve your problems.

As sales people became wiser, the consultation method/approach was used. They explained features and benefits. The power still resided with the seller, as the expert. The sale was structured for efficiency and around how it benefited the buyer needs. The seller was someone the buyer liked to do business with.

Today, the art of sales is about collaboration. A sales person solves problems, provides advice and works together with the buyer. The power has shifted to the buyer.

In hotels, the role of the sales person is to communicate how their service benefits the target organization; to do account management on a global/regional or local basis for the mutual benefit of the customer. It is a long term, team approach, solving problems through planning and analysis.

Bob Gilbert said, "What's driving this is that the Buyer is more educated, engaged, knowledgeable and sophisticated than ever before. Their behavior transforms all market segments."

Defining the Modern Salesperson's role within the hotel ecosystem

The art and science of selling today is having insight into clients, a clear focus on situations and knowing the priorities of the customer.

Gilbert says that the role of the Modern Salesperson is to be a strategic collaborator. "Internally, they rely on the support of an integrated team. Externally, the client might not always be the decision maker or the sole decision maker, so the salesperson needs to source meaningful extensions."

During the panel session, Lucas Peng questioned the panel as to what they suggest to transition to the Modern Sales Professional.

"To transition, I think you really have to look at the customer and what the customers are doing these days", said Carmen Lam. "You have to look, not only at your own company and the product you want to sell, but at what the customer needs, how they are behaving, how they are making decisions, what is the structure in the company. Yes, you are selling the product, but you have to look at the customer first. Then formulate a plan of action".

The impact of technology on the Sales role

The panel stated that technology and the digital landscape is transforming the hotel sales process of the past and with the bulk of the transactional activities going online, the sales cycle is more streamlined which affords sales people more time to provide higher-touch customer service and insightful solutions that customers value most. They need to leverage data in a timely fashion, to create useful information. And they have to go outside of their normal sources to obtain information about potential clients to bring value to a package. Critical thinking skills are required.

"No matter how analytical the salesperson is today, you still go back to relationships", observed Carmen Lam. "That's what salespeople really have to know. How to cultivate a relationship and what are the things you can leverage, because one size does not fit all."

Sales Managers are collaborators and negotiators, not simply guardians of the customer relationship.

Attracting the right skill set

The hospitality industry is finding that there is insufficient talent available with the skill sets necessary to negotiate the type of sales contracts they need on a global/regional/local level. People from outside of the industry, say from logistics, travel management companies or airlines, are sometimes better equipped to negotiate the modern hospitality sales contract.

According to the panel, with the shortage of skilled people in the market, hoteliers are casting a wider net for sales talent and looking at ways to restructure the sales organization, which can result in redeployment of people with specific skill sets and proximity to customers and their needs. Restructuring can mean scaling back on headcount, however the panel emphasized that hotel companies are seeking highly skilled, adaptable and efficient people, and that hotel companies are prepared to invest more in the career development and remuneration of these individuals.

Andrew Chan responded "This is where I see the new talent coming to the industry do particularly well with that, because it is a bit of a paradigm shift. So you've got some of the younger talent, Gen Y talent, who are comfortable with the use of social media. Where they are particularly comfortable is using technology, and new technology, to find people and be connected, versus your more traditional sales person. Such talents are coming out of hotel schools; they may not have the experience yet, but are certainly worth exploring."

The cost of customer acquisition is rising at a rate higher than the industry metric REVPAR (revenue per available room). Labour is a huge part of that cost.

Brands are refining global sales to be strategic – eliminating redundancy at the property level with the use of analytics and technology to drive REVPAR. Salespersons are becoming more senior, accountable for profit generation and are now being positioned at the corporate head office, rather than at the property level, particularly for accounts that use multiple hotels in many countries.

Related Link: HSMAI Asia Pacific

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The evolving role of hotel revenue management

October 13, 2014

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Asia Pacific’s 10th Annual AsiaConnect Conference was held in Singapore on September 3, 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Conference Center. At the conference, two panels discussed how technology is impacting the role of the Sales Manager, and that of the Revenue Manager in hotels.

It sounds simple doesn’t it? The role of the Revenue Manager is to get the right product, at the right price, to the right customer, through the right distribution channel. The diversity of online distribution, along with the implicit direct sales model of mobile, means that hotels are receiving richer data, allowing them to make one to one offers to individuals at the right place and time.

This technology is enabling the revenue management team to become deeply involved in decision making to cater to an ever-more complex sales matrix, impacting the demands for new skills to manage revenue.

Revenue Managers are no longer optimizers of profit alone but are becoming chiefs of strategy offering analytical insights.

Revenue Management reporting lines are shifting

Maunik Thacker, SVP Marketing for Marina Bay Sands, led a discussion on “Revenue management and integrating it into the organization.

Thacker started the discussion with the observation that, “At some point, revenue management started out as being in charge of reservations. Back then, no one really knew what Revenue Management was. ‘Since it’s to do with room bookings, I guess it should be with reservations.’”

“In those days, reservations was under front office. Suddenly people started seeing the value in the revenue management function, and they decided to put it under sales and marketing. And then the GM said this is really quite valuable and took it out of sales and marketing, not to mention the conflict between revenue management and sales. Most places still have a revenue manager reporting to the general manager, but the problem is, I think no one really understands, or not everyone understands, what this Revenue Manager guy is doing”.

Jurgen Ortelee, VP Revenue Performance, Pan Pacific Hotels Group concurred. “Over the years, people have got smarter about what revenue management is and talked about it, and put it into a better place and position within the hotel, became more educated. In the beginning, revenue managers were really reservations managers that were used to working with spreadsheets and from there, it’s evolved into what it is today. Just the distribution side is a lot more than it ever was before. We had a phone and a telex machine back then, that was about it.”

Ben George, Vice President of Revenue Management-Asia Pacific for Hilton said, “Hilton decided about 14 years ago that it did not want to have a revenue manager reporting to the GM. Instead, it created a role called ‘Director of Business Development’ which sat between the GM and the revenue manager and that person who was responsible for sales, marketing, revenue management, ecommerce and PR, could moderate any conflicting discussions between sales and revenue management.

The evolving role of Revenue Management with hotels

As a profession that’s still developing, the role of the Revenue Manager to date has been focused primarily on rooms revenue. As technology mechanizes the traditional tasks of revenue management, the role of rooms revenue management for hotel groups like Hilton has been taken out of the hotel property and is now with a centralized office. At the property level, the focus is being diverted to areas of ancillary revenue streams – F&B, conferences & meetings, spa and the like. The biggest challenge at the new frontier of Revenue Management is the lack of data, and the lack of resource to collect the data.

Jeanette Ho, VP Revenue Management and Analytics at FRHI Hotels & Resorts said, “We are on the cusp of an exciting time for Revenue Management where we can make headway to this dream of total hotel profit optimization by really make use of the data collected, understanding Analytics and knowing what to do with data. By moving more of our systems to the cloud, information is no longer fragmented and locked down ‘property to property’, and this will make our data more visible and useful to the organization.”

On the subject of total profit optimization and available data, Ben George remarked that “Most Salespersons can answer questions regarding room occupancy, but if you ask them ‘what was your meetings occupancy last month?’, most sales people can’t answer it. Meetings are off-the-chart complex. Data technology and focus is required and hotels have veered away from tackling it because it’s so complex and we don’t have the level of money to tackle it.

An exciting development in revenue management is mobile technology. Jeanette Ho said “Mobile allows Revenue Management to do a one on one offer. Mobile combined with customer insights allows us to get engagement and communication one on one.”

To wrap up the session, Maunik Thacker asked the panel “Are the lines between ecommerce, marketing and revenue management becoming blurred?

The panel’s comments were “Once, the hotel had rigid market segmentation, but the days of linear customers have gone. The world is changing and we have to adapt as consumers are no longer channel specific. Revenue management is getting more and more complex and with the convergence of sales, marketing and revenue management, we have to ask, how do we structure ourselves in these disciplines to take advantage of that?”

Related Link: HSMAI Asia Pacific

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GBTA and CWT release 2015 Global Travel Price Outlook

October 13, 2014

The GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), today released a new joint 2015 Global Travel Price Outlook report with Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). The report gives an early indication of what businesses can expect in 2015, helping them plan ahead during the upcoming budgeting period.

The report highlights that demand from emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil and improved economic growth in advanced economies, combined with limited advances in travel supply, will result in an upward pressure on rates, particularly in high-demand travel markets. The study shows that travel managers are prepared for this, however, with those surveyed by GBTA are expecting airfares to increase among all categories due to consolidation in major markets.

"The study reveals that travel managers expect price increases next year across the board on travel categories including airfares, hotel room rates and rental car rates," said Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation vice president of research. "Risks to the forecast including the escalating Ukrainian crisis; declining European inflation; burgeoning debt in China and oil price shocks could potentially have a negative influence on travel demand and pricing however, so travel managers are advised to consider contingencies for these risks in their planning."

"With business travel prices on the rise, this study is the key to effective budgeting," said Christophe Renard, vice president, CWT Solutions Group. "Working with the GBTA Foundation has allowed us to share best practice, industry knowledge and expertise to create a wide-ranging look at the year ahead."

The 2015 Global Travel Price Outlook is split by category: Air; hotel; ground; and meetings and events, making for easy comparison across regions.

With rising demand, favorable cost structures and slowly expanding capacity, airfares are expected to rise gradually through 2015, by as much as 2.2%, although low-cost carriers are limiting price increases in some regions.

Latin America will see the highest price increases of any region advancing 3.5%, while price growth in Europe will be much more modest. Expect the growth in traffic among low-cost carriers to lead to diminished pricing power of many legacy carriers in Asia Pacific and North American air prices to be driven by airline consolidation and falling capacity.

Hotel suppliers will be in a better negotiating position than they have been for some time in 2015, due in part to stronger demand and investor interest, and favorable capital costs. This improved outlook could lead to greater pressure on negotiated rates for travel managers and buyers, and globally, prices are expected to rise by as much as 2.6%.

Price growth will be led by Latin America, where we expect a 6.3% increase in managed rates. Hotel prices in North American and Asia Pacific will see moderate growth, while hotel rates throughout EMEA will grow slower than the global average throughout 2015.

In contrast to the air and hotel sectors, the ground transportation industry has an abundance of supply. With industry consolidation and strong competition, global prices are expected to remain flat throughout 2015.

The trend will be similar across all regions, except Latin America, with moderate price growth of 2% expected in 2015 based on generally high travel demand throughout the region.

Meetings and Events
Compliance will remain a concern for the meeting and event industry next year, regardless of industry or geography. While there are some exceptions by country, there are several trends expected across the industry in 2015, including a rise in the use of social technology.

It is expected that there will be more domestic meetings and shorter booking lead times across the globe in 2015. Mid-price hotels offering core meeting and event services will be most popular.

Download the complete report at GBTA (free registration)

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Expedia comes on strong as OTA wars heat up

October 13, 2014

Expedia andPriceline make most of their money from hotel bookings. Priceline skews more heavily to Europe, Expedia the U.S. But both are expanding in each others' turf and other parts of the globe.

In July, Expedia said that it would acquire Australia's leading online travel agency, Holdings, for $658 million.

At the end of Q2, Expedia's global websites featured nearly 325,000 hotel properties, including around 120,000 in China through its eLong online travel site. Expedia's global hotel count, including eLong inventory in China, was up almost 50% vs. a year earlier, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a Q2 conference call.

Much of the growth came from Europe, the top travel market, which is fragmented with many boutique and independent properties.

In the U.S., Expedia has ties with most of the big hotel chains. "They have to make more of an effort to sign up those individual hotels (in Europe)," said Naved Khan, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald.

Get the full story at Nasdaq

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The future of smart travel

October 13, 2014

One of the more interesting points came from Airbnb’s head of global hospitality and strategy Chip Conley, who said the landscape of short-term rental hosts has changed dramatically in just six years.

In 2008 and 2009, for instance, those hit hard by the global economic crisis began turning to Airbnb to supplement their income. But in recent years, Conley said an entirely different group has emerged the fastest growing segment of Airbnb hosts: empty nesters.

“These are people like me who have older kids who have moved out, who got laid off last year, and still want to stay in their home,” he said.

Get the full story at AFP

Read also "The tweets behind the first Skift Global Forum" at Skift

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How marketers can get in sync with the multi-screen world

October 13, 2014

An August 2013 poll by the Association of National Advertisers and Nielsen found that two-thirds of marketers spent up to 25% of their media budget on integrated multi-screen campaigns. Fast forward more than a year later and there are even more advancements in technologies, with the increased adoption of cross-device targeting and the new iPhone.

The age of multiple screens provides the opportunity for advertisers to engage and influence consumers across more channels; however, it also comes with a new set of challenges and considerations for marketers to keep in mind.

This article includes some tips on how to reach audiences across screens.

Get the full story at Marketing Land

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How dynamic hotel website content can shift market share away from the OTAs

October 13, 2014

Hotels have the ‘home field’ advantage: they know who is coming to their hotel website, and they should be personalizing the content according to this data.
Here’s an example of how a full-service resort in Florida should be dynamically personalizing content, based on the type of website visitor:

- Family travel planner: visual and textual content should be all about family fun; promotional content should focus on family packages, specials and family-friendly accommodations and activities.

- Corporate meeting/retreat planner: content on the site should “scream” meeting-friendly resort with customized imagery depicting corporate retreats, conference facilities and team-building events. Textual content should describe the resort as the ideal meeting destination, emphasizing meeting facilities and amenities. Promotional content should focus on complete meeting packages, hot dates, and other corporate group promotions.

Same website, completely different, personalized experience.

Multiple E-commerce research companies have found that the more relevant a website’s content is to the user, the more it resonates with user preferences and purchasing behavior, translating into higher conversions on the website. Companies that are personalizing content, promotions and user experiences on their websites are reporting uplifts in E-commerce sales as high as forty percent.

Get the full story at the HeBS Blog

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Al Bustan Centre & Residence enters partnership with ReviewPro

October 13, 2014

The luxury Dubai residence will leverage ReviewPro’s market-leading solution to further refine guests’ experiences and increase revenue.

ReviewPro provides critical insight into operational and service strengths and weaknesses by aggregating hundreds of millions of online reviews and social media mentions from over 100 of the most relevant online travel agencies (OTAs), review websites and social media platforms.

“We chose ReviewPro because of its integrated approach to creating insight for action in sales & marketing, operations, quality and revenue & distribution,” says Moussa El Hayek, Chief Operating Officer. “We can now drive ADR and RevPAR better than ever before and ReviewPro is one of the foundations to help us make that happen."

At the heart of ReviewPro’s analytics is the Global Review Index™ (GRI), an industry-leading online reputation score which can benchmark a given hotel, group of hotels or chain, make comparisons between properties, compare results with competitors and track the evolution of a hotel’s performance over time.

Al Bustan Centre & Residence will also benefit from ReviewPro’s fully-integrated Guest Satisfaction Survey (GSS) tool by creating questionnaires to collect, analyze and act on direct guest feedback. ReviewPro’s easy to use solution will provide Al Bustan Centre & Residence with 360-degree guest intelligence to facilitate operational and service improvements, all from a single dashboard.

RJ Friedlander, ReviewPro’s CEO, says, “Pro-active guest satisfaction management can directly improve a hotel’s bottom line. ReviewPro will better enable Al Bustan to leverage big data analytics from the social web, identify necessary changes to improve guest satisfaction, boost online reputation and ultimately drive gains in revenue.”

Related Link: ReviewPro

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As reviews increasingly drive booking decisions, hotel price setting must follow

October 10, 2014

A study conducted by TrustYou and Donna Quadri-Felitti, clinical associate professor at New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, concluded that guest reviews have a significant impact on hotel conversion rates as well as the rates that travelers are willing to pay.

Given equal prices, travelers are 3.9 times more likely to choose a hotel with higher review scores, the study showed. And when hotel prices are increased for hotels with better review scores, travelers are more likely to book the hotel with the higher score despite the higher rate.

Get the full story at Hotel News Now

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Should hotels share their best images with OTAs?

October 10, 2014

Brand sites should provide quality content and visuals to their own site as well as third party intermediaries. So why do brands need to provide the same visuals to OTAs?

It doesn’t matter if a consumer is looking at your hotel on your site or through an OTA, your hotel needs to be well represented. By providing high quality, up to date visuals, you’re providing consumers with an in depth look into their travel plans.

Want even more engagement? Hotels that provide 20+ photos receive 150% more engagement than hotels that provide only a few photos (TripAdvisor, 2013). Your hotel is being represented on hundreds of OTAs.

Get the full story at Tnooz

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The Nikko SF on how social isn’t for interns anymore

October 10, 2014

Dani Ortega, social media manager for the Nikko, explained that at one point the hotel relied on interns for its social media engagement. Then came a realization, she said, “you have to be invested in the hotel and in others – with a passion for the hotel.”

“It’s not that our interns didn’t have a passion for the hotel,” Ortega went on to say, but it was clear that experience matters as well.

Joseph Curran, Vice President of Marketing for the Nikko San Francisco, elaborated on the point, noting someone like Dani, who has worked at the hotel for ten years, brings to the task of social media engagement a depth of knowledge about the hotel that lets her answer inquiries fluidly and with an understanding of the hospitality business that a young intern would be hard pressed to match.

Get the full story at Business 2 Community

Read also "The Case of the Disappearing Social Media Team" at newBrandAnalytics

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Hotel brands operating in China behind in mobile offerings

October 10, 2014

Prestige hotels’ Chinese mobile sites are missing a lot of opportunities. They lag behind their global counterparts in all areas except for geo-location and click-to-call customer service. For example, just 27% allow users to read reviews compared to 39% of their global counterparts. Just 52% allow users to modify their reservations on mobile compared to 82% of global sites.

Get the full story at L2's The Daily

Read also "Hotel brands rush to harness China’s travel boom" at Luxury Daily

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Google offers a mobile app to help beginner marketers get started

October 10, 2014

“We realize that some of the Google ad-tech products which connect businesses to customers also widen the gap between rookies and marketing pros,” Google explained on the app’s companion website. “We want to fix this.”

To do that, Google has teamed with “industry experts” to create case studies, tips and interactive quizzes that walk the user through the basics of how to use various digital tools to connect with customers. Currently, three topics — content marketing, PR and media, and search advertising — are covered; Google promises that more will come in the future.

The app was designed to be used in spare moments. All the content is available off-line “so you can learn marketing on the subway, in an airplane or anywhere else you’re signal-free.”

Get the full story at Marketing Land

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Google upgrades conversational search functionality

October 10, 2014

The Google Search app on your smartphone is probably not the first place you would turn to when planning a trip, but that may no longer be the case after today’s announcement regarding conversational search.

Google has upgraded its conversational search functionality with new features that aim to make it easier for people to plan things. Here is an overview of the new features:

- Location-based conversational search — search for locations near you by asking something like “Ok Google, show me restaurants near my hotel”. You don’t even have to use the hotel name if the reservation info is stored in your gmail.

- Reservations — When you have found a restaurant near you that you’d like to eat at, tell Google to make a reservation for you and as long as the restaurant is on OpenTable Google will fill out all the details for you.

- Directions — Google will remember your selection, and you can continue your restaurant search by asking for directions to the one you just made a reservation at.

Get the full story at Search Engine Land and Goolge

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Early bird rate for HEDNA’s Winter Conference ends October 15

October 10, 2014

Highlights of the Winter Conference include:

- Maximize the Conference Value. Engage with your colleagues from other companies and take back to your company a wealth of knowledge, innovative ideas and new relationships. HEDNA also provides breaks, lunches, an evening event dinner and a discounted member rate to keep your expenses down.

- Relationship Building. Connect with contacts old and new during the many networking breaks and receptions offered throughout the conference.

- Engaging Speakers. HEDNA conferences offer you a diverse group of engaging speakers who address the major issues affecting our industry. This conference is a chance for you to not only hear from these experts but establish a dialogue with them about the topics affecting your company.

Get the full story at HEDNA

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Are global travel organizations undervaluing regional social media?

October 10, 2014

Travel industry engagement in the major global social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – is nearly universal. Social networks now play a considerable – and growing – role in travel companies' marketing, customer engagement and service, according to The State of Social Media in Travel, a new Global Edition study from PhoCusWright.

However, despite widespread prominence of social networking use across the travel industry, less than 10% of respondents to a new study cited any engagement with key regional social networks. In China, home to the world's largest social networking population and where nearly all Chinese travelers are active on local social platforms, only 6% of travel companies are currently active on some of the most popular social networks, such as Sina Weibo.

"Given the scope of our study, it was quite surprising to see that so few travel companies are engaged in regional social networks," says Douglas Quinby, PhoCusWright's vice president, research. "These platforms are especially important in fast-growing markets like China. Any travel organization with a shred of global ambition needs to appreciate global social media diversity and begin tackling those platforms in key markets important to their growth."

Get the full story at PhoCusWright

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Airbnb and Uber face some harsh realities

October 09, 2014

In Europe and the US we are beginning to see a backlash against the sharing economy idea. For Uber, this means fighting the existing taxi industry and its government backers. The prevailing argument is that Uber drivers aren’t regulated like taxis and it creates an unfair advantage.

Meanwhile Airbnb has been accused of undermining laws related to hotels and rental agreements. It has reached the point where the two companies can’t simply pretend they are casual startups trying to launch a new kind of business. There’s far too much at stake now with their huge valuations and billions in venture capital –and these political and social elements could be beginning to catch up with them.

Airbnb was created as a way to rent out an extra room or even your house or apartment during times you weren’t there, but over time it has morphed into more than that, and now some people see bigger profits using their properties for short-term rentals using the Airbnb platform.

Get the full story at TechCrunch

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Now that Airbnb has won over San Francisco, other regulators are watching closely

October 09, 2014

Each urban triumph paves the way for future legalization in other places. San Francisco, the home where Airbnb matured through a rocky adolescence, is no small step on the road to mainstream acceptance.

The implications for San Francisco’s Airbnb legalization aren’t clear-cut. Perhaps it will make some cities more likely to consider passing laws in apartment sharing’s favor. San Francisco has willingly offered itself up as a testing ground. The rest of the world can watch and see – does legalizing Airbnb in this way hurt the city and raise rents by limiting available living spaces? Or does it give current residents a much-needed cash flow, encourage tourism, and raise more money for the city through the hotel tax? With a framework to follow, legalizing apartment sharing looks like less of a daunting challenge.

Get the full story at GigaOM

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Aussie online travel sector to be dominated by US giants after Wotif takeover

October 09, 2014

Expedia has not yet disclosed details of its plans for Wotif. Analysts expect it will keep the Queensland-based company as a separate brand but integrate its technology, hotel inventory and back office functions. The deal means the online travel sector in Australia will be dominated by Expedia and US rival Priceline.

Expedia will have its eponymous brand, Wotif and while Priceline has and Agoda in the local market.

However, analysts said Wotif would have needed to raise its 12 per cent commission rate even if the Expedia takeover was not approved.

Get the full story at The Sydney Morning Herald

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Virgin Hotels present its new lodging concept

October 09, 2014

The services and amenities of Virgin Hotels featured on the new website and in the new video include free Wi-Fi with no bandwidth restrictions; more reasonable “street” prices for minibar items; a guest room that can be subdivided by a sliding door into sleeping and dressing areas; a bed that contains a corner, pop-up seat back, where a guest can read; an app, slated to be available in December, that will let the guest control the environment, entertainment and service in the guest room and check out remotely; and multiple, easily accessible electric outlets.

In late August, Virgin Hotels introduced a preliminary website with a “rumor campaign” meant to be a teaser promotion for the hotels. On the site, Mr. Branson discussed fanciful rumors being spread about the brand, like his personally tucking in each guest at night. Website visitors were invited to submit their own rumors about Virgin Hotels; the brand picked the best one each week for five weeks and will give the grand prize winner a stay during the Chicago hotel’s opening. In addition, some rumors were printed on red doormats — red is Virgin Group’s signature color — that were placed outside competing hotels around Chicago.

Get the full story at The New York Times

Related Link:, YouTube video

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A glimpse into marketers’ social media strategies, even the big guys struggle to measure ROI

October 09, 2014

Almost every company puts much money and effort behind social media strategy, with goals ranging from enhanced brand awareness to direct leads or sales.

But while 97 percent of those surveyed said they use some form of social media marketing, only 37 percent reported being able to measure ROI - and this problem extends to even the largest marketers, 78 percent of whom said they struggle with this measurement.

Get the full story at AdWeek

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Apple iPhone now by far most popular email client

October 09, 2014

Traditionally the main email clients to target were the main webmail services plus different Outlook versions.

- Hotmail
- Yahoo! Mail
- Gmail
- Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010

In 2014 this is radically different – you also need to think really seriously about how emails will render on different mobile platforms.

Get the full story at Litmus

Read also "Which email clients should we design and test for? 2014 update" at Smart Insights

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How and why you should create a visual website

October 09, 2014

With the advent of snackable content on social media sites, consumer attention spans have dipped over time to a surprisingly low average of eight seconds. Meaning that you can’t effectively reach travel shoppers with plain text anymore, you need photos, videos, and virtual tours to truly amplify your hotel’s story online and make an impact. In fact, 90% of all information that gets transmitted to our brains is visual.

The shift towards creating a visually-driven online experience isn’t coming out of left field, it’s being implemented across the web right now, especially when you take into account that 65% of the population are visual learners. Almost all of the most popular social media sites, for instance, have moved to a stronger visual approach in the past few years because they understand the potential of photos and videos on their growth:

- Instagram
- Pinterest
- Twitter
- Facebook

The shift isn’t limited to social media channels, it’s being implemented across the web in multiple industries, especially travel.

Get the full story at Leonardo

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eRevMax announces new strategic partnership in Italy

October 09, 2014

eRevMax has signed an agreement with Seneca making them an official provider of RateTiger Suite, the industry leading integrated channel manager for rate and availability updates, rate shopping and reservation delivery.

Headquartered in Guardiagrele, Seneca Travel Affair offers a complete spectrum of options to travelers ranging from top-end luxury hotels to budget properties. The company's IT solutions provide business travelers and hotels, benchmarking and expense management, self-booking tools, web services, interfacing to proprietary platforms or third-party reporting matrices. Seneca required a solution that would help them offer its hotel customers an integrated tool to manage all aspects of online distribution. RateTiger was the natural choice given its vast network of two-way XML connections and leadership position in the hospitality technology market.

"eRevMax is the perfect online distribution partner for our business needs, and with this alliance we will be able to provide our hotel customers the best in class technology to streamline their online distribution. RateTiger's automated rate and inventory distribution and rate shopping capabilities complements our proprietary technology platform Xenia making it a one stop solution for hoteliers to manage online sales. This partnership will help hotels to be more effective in managing their room supply on the different demand channels including GDSs while at the same time gain access to high level rate forecast data and analysis based on market scenario," said Ercolino Ranieri, CEO, Seneca Travel Affair.

"Italy is an important market for us, and this partnership with Seneca Travel Affair will help us keep up with our commitment to provide expanded local presence in the region. The integrated module of rate shopping and channel management will prove to be a perfect fit for hotels ensuring live ARI updates as well as delivery of relevant pricing reports to help adapt rate strategies as per demand scenario," said John Seaton, VP Sales, EMEA & APAC, eRevMax.

RateTiger Suite is an integrated solution to manage third party sales updates, Benchmark competitor room rates, and manage reservations through 2-way XML connectivity. RateTiger helps hotels improve sales through real-time ARI updates and leverage rate changes as per various demand scenarios. It is the most effective hotel channel management solution to drive bookings, reduce distribution costs and maximize online revenue.

Meet the teams from Seneca and eRevMax at TTG Incontri (Hall A3 - Stand 105) in Rimini from 9 – 11 October 2014.

Related Link: eRevMax

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Marriott on how it seeks mobile contextual moments that matter

October 08, 2014

Marriott made the decision last year to develop customer solutions from a mobile-first perspective. Previous to that, it took a Web first approach However, mobile comes with a unique set of challenges that need to be overcome.

“It is a much broader scope, you have different countries, different operating systems, different types of users than the desktop,” Ms. Preski said.

The company looks to create a seamless experience between Marriott the brand, Marriott the Web and Marriott the apps. At the same time, Marriott is trying to avoid mistakes made by competitors who may have launched too many apps.

Get the full story at Mobile Commerce Daily

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Travelocity founder launches WayBlazer, a big-data driven travel concierge

October 08, 2014

Industry pioneers in travel and technology are announcing WayBlazer, a company that uses leading edge technology to redefine the way consumers dream, plan, personalize and purchase travel.

The company is led by Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and founding chairman of, who serves as chairman; Manoj Saxena, former General Manager of the IBM Watson Group, is co-founder and early investor.

WayBlazer utilizes the cognitive power of IBM Watson, which takes massive amounts of information and organizes it, infuses it with intelligence, personalizes it, and learns more with each use. The WayBlazer Insight Engine uses a standards-based cognitive cloud from Cognitive Scale, which is powered by IBM Watson technology.

WayBlazer addresses the growing issue of the sheer breadth of options and data required of travelers planning their next destination. On average, users explore 20 or more websites to research flight, hotel, and activity information, while weighing personal preferences and insights from social networks, online review sites and more. WayBlazer will form the industry's most robust travel concierge by letting its customers ask questions using a natural language interface. WayBlazer links places, offers, and preferences, with social, cultural and economic data to recommend targeted travel insights and commerce offers that are tailored and customized for each consumer's experience.

"To date, online trip planning has been a complex and time-consuming chore lacking a way to connect, organize and personalize data," said Terry Jones, WayBlazer's executive chairman and co-founder. "WayBlazer, makes sense of the information overload and presents it to consumers as a personal travel concierge. Travel suppliers from destinations and hotels to airlines and rental car sites can use WayBlazer to provide a one-stop solution with personalized recommendations, accelerating the pace and frequency of online bookings."

"When IBM (NYSE: IBM) opened the Watson Ecosystem last year, the goal was to attract innovators to create new cognitive apps across many different industries," said Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group. "WayBlazer is a great example of how Watson can be leveraged as a game changing technology, and in this case, how people plan their vacations."

WayBlazer has also partnered with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau who will use this technology suite across their online channels to source valuable traveler insights to generate relevant, location-aware and bookable content and offers for Austin.

"Austin has long been home to technology companies, start-ups and innovators, and with technology changing the way we travel, the Austin CVB is pleased to partner with Austin-based WayBlazer to bring this exciting travel tool to the marketplace," said Bob Lander, Austin CVB President & CEO. "This technology is a real competitive advantage for Austin, and the functionality and industry changing capabilities that WayBlazer delivers creates a trusted travel advisor for any traveler or even locals looking for something new."

Austin is also home to IBM's Watson Lab. Comprised of a strong technical and academic community, Austin and greater Texas is now an innovation hub for cognitive computing.

The IBM Watson Solutions Lab excels as a development facility that benefits both IBM and its clients, with both learning from each other and exploring new areas for research and innovation.

Related Link: WayBlazer

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The Ritz-Carlton encourages branded social media through mobile app

October 08, 2014

The updates to Ritz-Carlton’s app were officially unveiled Oct. 2. In addition to the travel posters, there is now easier access to services.

Instead of having to enter a rewards number, consumers can now get to mobile check-in, check-out, offers and room services from the homepage, by sliding a bar and logging into their rewards account.

The Ritz-Carlton recently unveiled its new mobile application after extensive research on the original app led to useful insights. The updated app aims to cover the entire consumer experience, from check-in to check-out. An effective mobile strategy is crucial for both generating bookings and creating a fulfilling guest experience.

Get the full story at Luxury Daily

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Uber shows how its new carpooling feature reduces traffic congestion

October 08, 2014

In select cities where Uber’s version, UberPool, is available, Uber confirmed to Venturebeat that the service reduces traffic congestion by roughly 55 percent. This statistic jives with the estimate that a recent MIT study of what carpooling could do for the taxi industry.

After analyzing traffic and trip patterns, the MIT researchers found that 95 percent of all rides could be shared. Perhaps most concerning for the taxi industry (and Uber drivers), ubiquitous car-sharing would reduce the taxi fleet by a whopping 40 percent.

“Our analysis shows that New York City offers ample opportunity for trip sharing with minimal passenger discomfort,” concludes the researchers.

Get the full story at VentureBeat

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