The Hotel and Travel Week

Google Hotel Finder launches in Germany

This week saw the launch of Google Hotel Finder in Germany. Now, the hotel search is also available in German language and is incorporated into both Google Maps and Web search. Hotel Finder lists every hotel world-wide that is also found in other hotel or travel portals. The data come exclusively from the various vendors, that when the search is successful, will process the booking.

Google Hotel Finder @ www.google.de/hotels/

While the search is presented in a very simple way with 2 form fields asking for destination and check-in plus check-out dates, the results page much reminds of Google Maps.

Google Hotel Finder Results Page on Google.de

On the right a map displaying hotels as red dots which show the hotel name when hovered over. The same results are also displayed in list form on the left. Some filters such as price, star rating, user rating and brand can be found directly above the map.

Google Hotel Finder Custom Area Search on Google.de

By clicking on “Custom Area” the desired area can be chosen on the map, and the results change accordingly. There seem to be pre-defined sectors in major destinations but the user can also define their own specific area. Zooming in works in the same way.
Once you’ve found an interesting hotel, but would still like to keep looking, it may simply be dragged and dropped into the list – where it can be accessed again in one click later on.
Also interesting is the price comparison indicating whether the chosen accommodation  is cheaper or more expensive than average on the desired dates. All other details about the hotel are displayed in the detailed view, including reviews from Zagat and Google+ likes.

Google Hotel Finder Detail Page on Google.de

The hotel reservation can then be carried out via various providers or directly on the hotel website, although the owners website is usually shown at the bottom of the booking link list and doesn’t have a rate indication (see above). Google will then forward the booker to the partner website and has done it’s job. It is not involved in the booking process, though there is speculation that Google gets 0.2% commission per booking.

Google Hotel Finder Form on Google.de

Google has also integrated its hotel finder in the web search. For searches like “Hotel Berlin” there is a form displayed with the choice of check-in and check-out dates.

It will be interesting to see how OTAs will fare with this new Google offer. On one hand Google Hotel Finder might render OTAs unnecessary and their traffic may suffer.
On the other hand, Google still forwards all bookings to the websites user select and this could often be OTAs if they offer a competitive price.

We would love to hear from you, what you think!

 

The Hotel and Travel Week

We’ve visited World Travel Market London 2012 last week and here is a quick round-up of impressions:

WTM London 2012 –
destination promoter walking the halls

The most obvious fact compared to previous years was the lack of large OTA exhibitors – the likes of booking.com, HRS etc. Only Expedia showcased with a smallish booth. Are they saving money or don’t they need representation anymore we asked ourselves?

A similar picture with large hotel brands – no corporate IHG, Starwood or Wyndham stands – only smaller groups such as Warwick, Jumeirah and Millienium Copthorne Hotels were present. However, individual hotels exhibited under their given destinations, both branded and independent.

Destination booths there were plenty from all over the world, showing off with costumes, colours and ‘noise’ even though some of their budgets have been cut, too – as Enrique Ruiz de Lera, Head of the Spanish Tourist Office, UK and Ireland told the audience at a social media marketing conference taking place aside the WTM show. During the seminar titled ‘Spain – Marketing in the time of nada’, he offered figures of his marketing budget having shrank from 90 million per year to only 10 at present and how to approach this difficulty.

20.7% of guests who booked on the individual hotel website
found the hotel on an OTA portal.

There was a large technology section, ranging from tech offers like booking interfaces, channel managers, on-site search to mobile and payment solutions. Several seminars and presentations took place on social media marketing (Facebook, Foursquare, Blogging), trends such as the one by PhocusWright on ‘Innovation: Shaking Up the Travel Marketplace’ and general hotel online marketing. During one of the latter, online marketing agency Wihp offered an interesting fact they found doing some market research. OTAs listen up: 20.7% of guests who booked on the individual or brand hotel website found the hotel searching an OTA portal.
Maybe this answers our question above?

QR codes everywhere (stands, posters, hand-outs, business cards) were the big trend at this year’s show. We were slightly surprised that the travel industry took so long to take them on board as we’ve got a QR code on the back of our business cards since 2009!

It also surprised us that only now travel companies are beginning to think about monetising their social media presences and moving on from marketing to social media merchandising. Again, we introduced Hotel FaceBooker 3 years ago – a booking interface enabling users to check availability directly from within Facebook which links to the hotel’s booking engine: www.hotel-facebooker.com

We don’t want to praise ourselves but both facts speak for the accuracy of our company slogan: creative  web solutions for the hotel and travel industry: www.e-conceptory.com

WTM London 2013 we are coming!

The Hotel and Travel Week

London 2012 Update
Following up our London 2012 post, according to new data from STR Global the summer Olympics appear to be helping London’s hotel performance after all. From 27th July to 5th August 2012, hoteliers across London reported 87.7% occupancy and £216.42 (US$335.18) ADR. This represents an increase of 3.2% and 87.1% compared to the same days a year ago.
“However, Heathrow and Gatwick, in the west and south of London and therefore less convenient for Olympic venues, have reported occupancy declines for the Olympic period.” said Elizabeth Randall Winkle, managing director of STR Global.

Online Travel Agents hit by European crisis
Global economic weakness, in particular in Europe, took a toll on online travel agents this week. Shares of OTAs such as Orbitz and Priceline were smashed by investors after the companies had published weaker profit outlooks. These reflect in part consumers’ reluctance to spend on leisure travel while uncertainty remains over many of the world’s largest economies. Moreover, the weakness of the Euro against the U.S. Dollar has reduced the value of international bookings which account for most of Orbitz’ and Priceline’s business. For example, 60% of Priceline’s hotel online bookings come from Europe.
Online travel agents receive higher commissions from hotel bookings than airfares and airlines have an advantage over hotels as they are able to adjust to changes in demand by decreasing capacities.
Shares of other online travel sites also plummeted on Wednesday. Expedia’s share price dropped about 5%, as did shares of TripAdvisor and Kayak.

Expedia’s Traveler Preference programme
Expedia’s new payment model and potential impact on the hotel industry was also discussed this week. The Expedia Traveler Preference programme could put the relationship between hotels and online travel agencies under renewed pressure. The new technology will allow travelers to choose whether to pay Expedia at the time of booking (and Expedia will pay the hotel) or upon checkout (and the hotel would pay Expedia post stay). The model is similar to what the Priceline Group offers via Booking.com: travelers reserve a room with a no-fee cancellation policy and then pay the hotel after their stay.
Some hoteliers remain skeptical, particularly with regards to the model’s commission structure and cancellation fees. Commissions paid to Expedia will be the same whether the traveler pays at time of booking or upon checkout. Hotels criticize that Expedia is applying a merchant commission to an agency model.

Joie de Vivre Hotels reward rebels
Guests at 6 Joie de Vivre Hotels in the U.S. Southwest can take part in the chains’ Ditch campaign and tweet an excuse for ditching their everyday responsibilities taking a photo upon arrival wearing a disguise provided by the property. The best excuses and photos will win a 2-night stay at one of the hotels. The contest will continue until 15th November.

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.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Profits of the InterContinental Group surged in 1st quarter
This week, IHG reported a surge in 1st-quarter 2012 profits which is based on strong growth in the United States and China. Net profit more than doubled to US$154 million, from US$69 million a year earlier, though this was boosted by an exceptional tax credit. Revenue rose by 3.3% to US$409 million. Operating profit, a key measurement, rose by 5.3% to US$118 million, while RevPAR increased by 7% (7.7% in the Americas and 12% in China). Despite ongoing challenges in Europe, IHG added a total of 9,300 rooms to their pipeline with China representing 30% of this.


Starwood will move HQ to Dubai for a month
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced plans to temporarily move the company’s headquarters for a month to Dubai in 2013. Last year, the group had relocated their headquarters for one month to Shanghai. During next year’s relocation to Dubai, Starwood’s team will focus on their extensive operations throughout the Middle East (50 hotels in 11 countries and 30 in the pipeline) and meet with regional customers, partners, developers and owners, while also touring new properties in the region. “Dubai is emblematic of how globalization is creating new travel patterns and travel hubs, and serves as a crossroad between the emerging and developed worlds,” said Frits van Paasschen, Starwood president and CEO.


Flash Sales Companies among Top 1% of U.S. Travel Retailers
Daily deals sellers are relatively new to travel distribution, but flash sales have captured industry attention. According to a PhoCusWright Publication, the 2 leading brands – Groupon Getaways and LivingSocial Escapes – would rank among the top 1% of travel retailers in the U.S. if their 4Q11 gross billings were representative of an entire year. The publication addresses the following questions: Should suppliers participate in daily deals? Can these outlets be effective at moving distressed inventory? Do these deals really attract new customers and lead to repeat business? How can they avoid cannibalizing their existing customers and more profitable points of sale? What makes deals successful, and how can travel suppliers turn a profit on such steep discounts?
What is your experience with Flash Sales? We would love to hear from you!

The Hotel and Travel Week

Everything seems to be about social media marketing these days and it’s no surprise that a new award for hotels has been created in this area:

  • The HOTELS Magazine launches the Social Hotel Awards to honour both brands and individual hotels in 10 categories from Best Facebook page, Twitter account, best use of Foursquare to best use of digital video etc. Winners will be named in each category and will receive a custom trophy as well as a digital badge to put on their website. Moreover, HOTELS will publish features about the winners in an exclusive online series and a print story. Free entry forms can be downloaded here and must be submitted by 7th June at: www.yousendit.com
  • Pinterest is the new hype in social media and Aqua Hotels & Resorts, based in Honolulu is offering a free 5-night stay as part of its Pinterest competition. In the “Pin Hawaii: Hawaii Bucket List Contest,” also called the “Pin It to Win It” contest, people are asked to post images on a “Hawaii Bucket List” showing what they would do on their dream trip to Hawaii. They will then submit their boards to pinhawaii.com and one winner will be chosen.
  • Google+ has seen millions of users sign up since its launch in July 2011, however it seems to have failed to engage people and participation is lagging behind other social networks. For example, comScore reports that the average time users in the US spent on the site was down to 3.3 minutes in January 2012, from 5.1 minutes in November 2011. Are you using Google+ as an individual or brand? We would love to hear about your experiences!

And here some interesting hospitality statistics at the end:

According to STR Global, the hotel inventory compound annual growth (CAGR) increased by 1.6% over the last 12 months. The total global hotel inventory increased by more than 2,315,000 guestrooms since 2000 to reach 13,443,014 rooms in February 2012. This was led by Asia Pacific and the Middle East/Africa region, which grew respectively by 2.7% and 2.5% CAGR. North America remains the leading market for branded hotel rooms at 66% of the region’s inventory in February 2012. It also represents 41.4% of the global room stock with 5,565,866 daily available rooms, closely followed by Europe at 29.7% with 3,998,603 daily rooms and Asia at 21.6% with 2,897,823 daily rooms.

The Hotel and Travel Week

There is plenty of news this week and I couldn’t decide which ones to choose, therefore they come in bullet points this time.

  • Online bookings accounted for more than half the travel sales across Europe for the first time last year, says industry analyst IPK International. However, agency sales continue to dominate Europe’s biggest travel market: Germany. 55% of all travel bookings in Europe were online in 2011, up 15% on 2010.
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers,
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
  • Abu Dhabi starts limiting hotel licenses in a market that is going into an oversupply phase. The emirate recorded occupancy levels of 69% in 2011, an increase of 7% over 2010. However, ADR dropped 14% year-on-year to US$133.12 and is expected to drop another 10% in 2012.
  • Jumeirah Hotels are selling the historic Essex House hotel, located on the edge of Central Park in New York City. The 515-room Art Deco hotel was built in 1931 and is famous for its signature red neon sign on the building’s roof.
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched a new application for the iPhone and iPod Touch which includes FaceTime – a first for a non-Apple application – fully integrated booking, member information, comprehensive hotel searches and travel details, customer service and social media. Starwood iPhone application
  • Room Key, a new venture backed by six of the world’s leading hotel companies, announced that it acquired hotelicopter last year in an asset deal. The acquisition is meant to enrich Room Key’s user experience quickly.
  • Also this week: Worldhotels joins Room Key.
  • Hotels in Germany are called to boycott HRS. The German OTA is trying to increase their commission payments from 13% to 15%. Further criticism focuses on a preferential treatment clause that denies hotels the right to offer better prices through any other booking channel. In February, the higher regional court of Düsseldorf had ordered HRS in a preliminary injunction not to enforce its preferential treatment clause.

The Hotel and Travel Week

The New Umbrella Brand for JDV and Thompson – Commune
Commune Hotels & Resorts is the new name of the joint venture company created last year between lifestyle operators Thompson Hotels and Joie de Vivre. In addition, the company announced that it will launch the JDV Collection for its Joie de Vivre hotels in summer and also introduce a design-driven, value-oriented 3-star brand later in the year. Apparently, the company is open to buying existing brands in order to build critical mass. Since the merger Commune Hotels has opened 3 high-profile projects: Thompson’s Belgraves in London, The Saguaro Scottsdale and The Saguaro Palm Springs. Under development are Thompson properties in Chicago and Miami, and Joie de Vivre hotels in Honolulu and Palo Alto, California.

Travelocity Launches New iPad App
Travelocity announced its new iPad app, giving travelers the ability to book flights, hotels and car rentals all in one app. The app joins the company’s existing apps for iPhone and iPod touch, as well as devices on Android and Windows Phone 7. “This is not your typical mobile app,” said Carl Sparks, President and CEO, Travelocity Global. “Travelocity for iPad can easily replace your PC to search and book flights, hotels and cars, whether you are sitting on your couch or riding in a taxi. It’s also possible to read user reviews, view maps, filter search results, and track where you’ve been and where you are going.”
To celebrate the launch of the app, Travelocity is holding a Twitter competition until Friday, 2nd March with winners receiving a USD 500 Apple gift card. To enter the sweepstakes, visitwww.twitter.com/travelocity.
The Travelocity App is available from the App Store on iPad or at www.itunes.com/appstore.

Even – A New IHG Brand
IHG launches a new health-conscious midscale hotel brand, Even. The company plans to own and operate its first several properties and then look for franchisees. The first locations will be announced in the 2nd quarter of 2012 and opening in 2013. The brand will be launched in the U.S.

Best Western Launches Facebook Booking App
As part of their continued dedication to engaging with its customers via social media, Best Western International unveiled a new booking app this week that allows travelers to reserve hotel rooms on Best Western’s Facebook page. With more than 4,100 hotels, Best Western is the first major International hotel chain with this capability. “More than ever, Best Western’s customers are integrating social media into every part of their personal and professional lives,” said Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s senior vice president of marketing and sales. “It’s imperative that we answer the call from our customers to make it easy to research, book and share travel experiences through their preferred channels.”
This new Facebook booking app is the latest step in allowing travelers to book a Best Western hotel wherever they are on the web: Best Western Facebook Page

Are you interested in a Facebook booking app for your hotel or chain? Contact us for a proposal! More information on the Hotel FaceBooker website.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Tripadvisor banned from claiming reviews are real – profits up
early February 2012

Following complaints that hoteliers had posted fake comments on Tripadvisor to boost their own properties or sabotage others, the UK Advertising Standards Authority found that it was possible for “non-genuine content” to appear on the travel review website.
According to the advertising watchdog, reviews can be posted on the website without any form of verification. Therefore, Tripadvisor was told “not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted”.
The ruling came because Tripadvisor had advertised its services on the website, claiming that it contained “reviews you can trust” and are “honest” opinions from “real travelers” which was found to be misleading.
Tripadvisor’s official statement reads: “We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on Tripadvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip… We know that our users approach Tripadvisor with common sense, and make an educated decision based on the opinions of many. If people did not feel the insight they gained from our site was an accurate reflection of their experience they wouldn’t keep coming back…”
Indeed, Tripadvisor’s revenue has gone up by 30% during its first quarter as a public company and after spinning off from Expedia. Revenues are generated from click and display-based advertising as well as from subscriptions.

Personalized search results become concern
early February 2012

In January 2012, Google announced that from 1st March, search results on Google.com will incorporate content from a user’s Google+ network, highlighting links, photos and comments within search results. This has led to some concern, particularly about privacy.
As search and social media are becoming more interconnected, AYTM Market Research asked US internet users if they liked the idea of personalized search results. While 15.5% of the respondents said yes, 39.1% said yes, but that they were concerned with privacy at the same time. Almost half, i.e. 45.4% replied that they would prefer everyone to see the same search results.
According to AYTM, only 19.3% of respondents actively use Google+. An additional 20.3% have an account but do not use it and nearly 20% of respondents (19.5%) reported that they don’t know what Google+ is. This leads to concerns that Google+ may not fully represent a user’s social media life.
Twitter, especially disagrees with Google’s plan to integrate Google+ content, while not including that of Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Google previously had a relationship where Twitter content showed up in Google’s real-time search results. However, the partnership was discontinued in July 2011.