The Hotel and Travel Week – London 2012 Olympics Edition

London 2012 and the winners are…

Just before the Olympics opening ceremony, London hotel bookings are looking good, says Travelclick, with committed occupancy at an average of 80.4% over the Olympics period. According to the hotel booking engine provider, hotel prices during the Games are up an average of 70% compared to the same time last year. Rates reach a high of £193 (average price taken across the hotels sampled) on the night of 5th August – the night of the men’s 100m final.

On the other hand, JacTravel – which claims to book more than half a million bed nights in London per year – says it is seeing ‘a substantial decline’ in London hotel rates as the Olympic Games deter visitors. Rates have recently been falling from inflated levels and are currently only around 40% higher than normal. Rates after the Olympics are even 15-20% down on the same period last year. The company reports that the majority of its hotel partners have reduced rates significantly in the past couple of weeks. Angela Skelly, JacTravel Director: “For example, four-star hotel quoting wholesale rates of £300-£400 have dropped them by around 50 percent to £160-£165 (US$248 to US$256). Declines in the lower categories have been even more substantial, with some two-star properties cutting trade prices 75 percent from £200 (US$310) to £50 (US$78).”

UK tour operators have not benefitted from the Games either, as the rooms allotted to them in a normal year have not been made available and/or the rooms were overpriced. Until, of course, recently. For London hoteliers, the best-case scenario was to sell their rooms at a much higher rate than they would in a normal year. Chris Rodrigues, Chairman of VisitBritain, described the hotelier’s perspective in an interview when he said: “I’m going to move my rates much closer to the event when I’ve got a better line on my sight of occupancy, and I will then distribute it through the ‘Expedias,’ through the ‘Travelocities,’ ‘the last-minute.coms.'”

According to The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), it has become abundantly clear who are the winners during the London Olympic Games – the ‘lastminute.coms’ and last-minute travelers.

Happy Games!

The Hotel and Travel Week

It’s Friday the 13th and a good day for a new update on the current online marketing affairs in the hotel and travel industry after a longer break:

How Orbitz attempted more personalization and got bad press
Apple fans took to Twitter last week with their outrage after The Wall Street Journal reported that Orbitz is recommending higher priced hotels to Mac users than to PC users. There was a media frenzy with follow-up articles condemning Orbitz’s discrimination against Mac users. In defense, Orbitz’s PR firm released a statement highlighting what the company considered an overlooked fact: Orbitz does not show Mac and PC users the same hotel at different prices. The Wall Street Journal was blamed for burying this fact in the article and so misleading many readers. The point is, Orbitz identified last October that Mac users had the preference of booking more expensive hotels and simply made it easier for them to find what they were looking for. This is personalization. In addition, Orbitz say they use other information to determine results, such as past purchases and location. Therefore, search results are not only determined by hardware but many other factors that are being used to offer the user a better experience.
Still, the damage has been done and it remains to be seen whether the media outrage puts (Mac) users off Orbitz.

Apple wins a major patent for iTravel 
Apple has received a major patent that relates to transportation check-in and to employing near field communication for identification and ticketing by transportation providers. The timing for this patent is perfect as Apple recently announced a new feature called Passbook which is coming to iOS 6 this autumn. Scott Forstall, Apple’s Senior Vice President of iPhone Software, stated that Passbook would include travel services such as a boarding pass and express check-in both covered by the iTravel patent. The Near Field Communications (NFC) aspect of the patent will also be important for Apple’s future iWallet application.
Apple’s iTravel check-in system will work with Macs, but more importantly, with iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Ticketing and identification information will be stored on the iOS device and transmitted, to another electronic device e.g. via near field communication. The device may be used to check into flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, trains, buses, and so forth.

Element Hotels launch Pledge to Pedal Facebook campaing

The Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide brand Element Hotels is challenging its Facebook friends to replace one weekly car trip with a bike ride. 10 winners of the I Pledge to Pedal Facebook campaign will win a built-to-order bike. The campaign runs till 17th September. Each of the 10 U.S. Element hotels has also designed its own dream bike, which will be displayed in the lobby during the promotion.