The impact of trends on the Internet landscape, effectively using metrics, legal issues, blogs and what the future holds for travel and hospitality industry marketing defined the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) 6th Travel Internet Strategy Conference held last week in New York City. A recurring theme in the day's sessions was the influence and power of the consumer.

"On all fronts the conference exceeded expectations, from outstanding content that gave attendees great take-away and action steps, to the cross-section of top level attendees from the full spectrum of the travel industry," noted James Zito, director, interactive marketing & development, Affinia Hotels and The Benjamin, and co-chair of the HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Committee.

"The diversity of the program satisfied every level of travel Internet marketer, offering best practices, emerging marketing tools and the basics that everyone should have top of mind," stated Karmela Gaffney, director, eCommerce, Best Western International, and co-chair of the HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Committee.

Timed in conjunction with TIA's TravelCom, 250 industry professionals came out to hone their skills and get current from an impressive roster of speakers and experts. The following offers highlights.

In his keynote address, Michael Tchong, a trend analyst and president of Ubercool, defined Ubertrends as those major trends that will impact lifestyles for all of us as they ripple through society.

Ubertrends are an indication of how consumers are changing their lives. The first and foremost Ubertrend impacting life today is "time compression." As an example Tchong noted that in 1893 it took 15 minutes to cook cream of wheat. In 1960 the time was reduced to 5 minutes and today it takes only 30 seconds, "but for some that's too long," he noted.

"We are living in an on-demand society where we want it now," he said, adding that children throughout the U.K. have been known to be walking around with checks totaling more that 400 million pounds in their wallets because they don't have the time to cash them.

Everybody is multitasking. Everything is moving faster and it will not stop. One hundred years ago the record player was invented, but it took 10 years for the VCR to make it from invention to lifestyle acceptance and only one year for the DVD.

Some statistics Tchong noted included:

- 75% of people claim they must have a personal computer and 54% must have mobile phones. - $4 billion in ring tones were sold for mobile phones last year. - Text messaging is now being use by people getting divorced as well as employers telling employees they have been laid off. - 45% of people watch television alone and those that do it with others are now said to be co-viewing. - The number of Japanese women that remain single increased to 54% from 31% a decade ago.

Marketing venues are shifting because 7 out of 10 people do not want marketing messages via television or the Internet. However, since jeans, houses, breasts and ring tones are customizable, there is a growing shift to entertainment marketing putting advertising on cups, breasts, covers for goats and cows in the pastures.

Marketing must also be linked to online searching which is growing steadily because people want it when they need it. Online travel purchasing is up and virtual reality trips for hotels are a growing marketing necessity. Another marketing trend is viral marketing which is underutilized.

"We need to create products and services that allow people to use their time the way they want to," said Tchong, adding: "Just look at the new Swiss Army knife which now has a memory stick instead of a fork because we would rather get data than eat."

METRICS "Gather metrics to figure out why users are doing what they do and evaluate campaigns and transaction performance." She also suggested implementing pull marketing so customers can get information from multiple sources, ask questions of data in real time and implement one-on-one marketing.

"To know if you are doing a good job, you need to understand the metrics and which metrics can be benchmarked," says Estis Green. Examples are revenue and conversion results, click through analysis and satisfaction issues. Looking at the website's ROI, how to affect results and compare it to your competitor.

Sara Stevens, director, comScore Networks discussed who is online and what they're doing, noted the following:

- Consumers are slowly shifting their travel spending to supplier sites, yet agencies continue to capture a larger Internet audience. - The hotel segment experienced the greatest shift in spending over the last year; nearly 60% of online dollars are captured by supplier sites. - Supplier sites and agencies lost nearly the same amount of dollars to each other in Q4 2005. - Familiarity does not breed contempt for agencies; prior experience brings people back. Rewards are a critical attribute in drawing people to supplier sites. - Increased cross-shopping reduces the likelihood that consumers will return to the starting site and transact. - Price remains the number one reason for returning to a site to transact, yet rewards programs and site usability are critical factors that ultimately drive booking choice.

Addressing click through analysis and user behavior, Bill Schneider, product marketing manager, WebTrends noted: - Over 56 percent of marketing executives said that the web was either the hub of their organization's marketing strategy, or that it will become the hub in the next year.

He suggested you create performance dashboards, be targeted for better site conversion and match offers with customers needs.

In analyzing travel Internet users, Daniel Taras, vice president, solution specialist, iPerceptions says it's about "understanding the experience and what motivates them to book and what causes them to abandon." "It's about a site's user desirability and its usefulness - is it easy to find it, navigate it, does it answer questions, do they trust it, is it convenient"

He offers the following considerations:

- Can visitors locate what they are looking for? - Are their needs anticipated? - Is the content what they want? - Can they interact in the way they want? - Will they make repeat visits and develop loyalty?


A panel on "Unclogging the Blog" explored this relatively new marketing avenue that went from "obscure to trendy" said Shirley Talbert, director of marketing distribution, Historic Hotels of America, and moderator of the panel. With 34 million blogs in cyberspace, "this "online journal encourages interaction with an audience and can increase search rankings," said Amanda Watlington, Ph.D, author and blogger.

"Explore how blogs and podcasts can fit into your overall marketing strategy, and monitor how your brand appears on other websites," urged Ryan Bifulco, podcaster & president, Travel Spike.

Robin Ingle, vice president of international development, Trip Advisor told suppliers to encourage guests to write about their stay and submit reviews.

The panel recommended blogs be written in a human voice that is savvy, honest and conversational and that you don't trash competitors.

A podcast audio recording of this session is available at


Those promoting their hotel online need to be aware of a few issues to proactively manage their online presence and brands in the crowded and fluid digital space. Sue Heilbronner, executive vice president of business development, TIG Global addressed legal requirements of data collection and email programs; how to stay on the right side of the search engines in terms of keyword usage in one's hotel's website; and uses of trademarks in paid search bidding and paid search advertising. In terms of copyrights, she suggested ensuring elements of your site have copyrights, as well as those supplied by a third party.


In a candid and inspirational closing session, "Innovation - What's Next on the Horizon," Lalia Rach, associate dean, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University went one-on-one with visionary Terry Jones, chairman of Kayak and founder of Travelocity.

Jones defined his experiences as being fueled by innovation, risk and change. Citing Kayak, "it's about being fast, nimble and loving change."

"You need to understand early on abut the consumer," he stated. If they're calling to complain, know why and fix the consumer experience."

He said to stay committed in the virtual world and open every door for customers to work together seamlessly. Today's generation is a virtual generation, so you need to get the web right, improve and innovate. "It's all about customer service in multi-channel world. Establishing trustful relationships, give reassurance and reinforcement to get people over their fear."

He urged all to listen to the customer, let them speak and recognize that the future will be about the power of the customer.

HSMAI's next Travel Internet Marketing Strategy Conference will be held Dec. 6, 2006, in Ft. Lauderdale, in conjunction with HEDNA.