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

Travel websites let you Give the Gift
6th December 2011

© Almgren – Fotolia.com

Expedia.com has launched the Travel Wish List on Facebook. It works like a gift registry, building on the Groupon Getaways for Expedia programme which started last July. Once you find a Groupon Getaway you like, you can post it on your Facebook Wall and friends and family can buy it for you. LivingSocial has also started to offer Winter Warm Up deals featuring trips to 10 tropical destinations. For an extra US$2.99, LivingSocial will giftwrap the certificate and deliver it to the recipient, showing only the value of the trip and not what you paid for it.

TripAdvisor goes solo
6th December 2011

On Tuesday, shareholders of Expedia.com approved the company’s spinoff of TripAdvisor.com. The transition is expected to be completed by the end of the year but won’t affect the user experience on TripAdvisor.com, says the announcement. Reason for the spinoff are the different business models of both e-commerce websites. While  Expedia’s business is built on transactions, TripAdvisor makes money with advertising. At the same time, there are voices saying TripAdvisor’s model with it’s millions of reviews from anonymous strangers is outdated. New successful startups such as Gogobot.com focus on ‘friend sourcing’ as users become ever more involved in social networking and turn to people they already know and trust to get travel advice.

Mobile last-minute hotel reservations on the up
8th December 2011

Hotel Tonight iPhone application

Aiming to draw impulsive buyers who are addicted to daily coupon alerts, hotels and OTAs are introducing a flurry of new specials and features targeting those who book a room locally on the day of their stay. Orbitz, which launched its hotels app for iPad in summer, says 65% of mobile bookings are same-day reservations (versus 14% on desktop computers). Orbitz will also launch a redesigned mobile website next week that will include a new tonight-only deals feature. They are in good company with the Priceline Tonight-Only Deals which launched in October and Hotel Tonight, an app featuring daily deals from U.S. hotels with at least 20% discount for the night. Hotel Tonight has become one of the most popular travel apps, with more than 800,000 downloads and also won HEDNA’s Spirit of Innovation Award earlier this week.

Marriot pushes Facebook Likes
8th December 2011

For the month of December, Marriott is giving away 5 million points to members who ‘Like’ their new Marriott Rewards Facebook page. Members of the loyalty programme can earn and redeem points at more than 3,500 Marriott International hotels around the world. The new Facebook page is said to “offer a new way to join the conversation and connect with the program and each other. It will also feature rich content from Marriott Rewards experts.”

Christmas Valet delivers traditional trimmings
8th December 2011

Christmas Tree at Rocco Forte Hotel Berlin

Finally, in this holiday-heralding post news about a new service being introduced at the Hilton Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast Hotel, Australia. For the first time, traditional trimmings such as a Christmas tree and other seasonal decorations will be delivered to guest rooms by the new Christmas Valet service. The hotel also offers secure present storage for parents, a “Santa’s Post Box” in the hotel lobby and, for families with younger children, delivery of cookies and milk for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve. “We have developed this service with families in mind to make sure Christmas is just as memorable for those on extended stays at the hotel, with all those special touches,” said General Manager David Kelly.
What a brilliant idea!

 

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 31st October 2011

Expedia publishes their latest figures saying that gross bookings were up 11% in the 3rd quarter of 2011, while transactions were up 9.4%. Worldwide hotel revenue rose by 18%, with nights stayed up 16%. Air revenue however again decreased, this time 5%, as 10% fewer tickets were sold but at 6% higher prices on average. The OTA also announces that they sold 15,000 travel deals in the first three days of launching a partnership with Groupon but 3 months later Expedia is questioning the long-term value of those bargain shoppers and questioned whether customers would return to Expedia to book other trips.

Tuesday, 1st November 2011

Users of the Google Maps API will soon have to start paying for usage. The general price will be US$4 per 1,000 map loads but not everyone will be charged immediately. For regular maps, the first 25,000 users will be free. For Styled Maps, the initial limit goes down to 2,500 users. Google promises that they won’t block overused APIs right away, so users have time to think about what they want to do. Simply embedding Google Maps into a website without using the API is still free.

Wednesday, 2nd November 2011

Marriott International launches a section of its website specifically for their restaurants and bars. The new Restaurant & Bar Showcase, tells the stories of some of the company’s most popular venues. It also links to the outlets’ home pages and, where available, to Open Table or other equivalent sites to make a reservation. With this website, the hotel group looks to boost business for restaurant partners.

Thursday, 3rd November 2011

According to TRI Hospitality Consulting’s HotStats MENA market review for September 2011, Dubai and Saudi Arabian hotels are seeing strong growth, while Egypt’s continue to see declines in demand. Margins in Abu Dhabi are hurt by increased supply. Dubai is clearly benefitting from the Arab Spring and getting business from unstable countries such as Egypt and Syria. Occupancy was 78.6% compared to 71.8% in September 2010 which prompted hotels to increase rates by 10.9% in September, resulting in a 21.5% growth in RevPAR for the month.

Etihad Towers in January 2010
Etihad Towers in January 2010

Friday, 4th November 2011

Dubai-based Jumeirah Group opens its first property in Abu Dhabi, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. The hotel is located on the Arabian Gulf in the Ras Al Akhdar area of the UAE capital and features 382 guestrooms and suites, 199 fully serviced residences, 12 F&B outlets, the Talise Spa and one of the largest conference centers in Abu Dhabi. Etihad Towers is 280m tall and consists of 5 towers, containing residential, office and retail space.

Please, view also Hotel Pic of the Week: Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 3rd October 2011

Thompson Hotels and boutique hotel operator Joie de Vivre Hospitality announce that they have merged into a new venture provisionally known as JT Hospitality. This is the first step in creating a global, multi-brand lifestyle hotel group with plans to increase the number of properties from currently 45 to 75 within 3 years.
Thompson Hotels is an international collection of 12 luxury lifestyle hotels, while Joie de Vivre mainly runs boutique hotels in California.
 
Tuesday, 4th October 2011
Best Western International launches their ‘Virtual Accelerator‘ Facebook application. The app lets Best Western Rewards members, who like the Facebook page, take a spin behind a digital wheel. Players can win rewards points, redeemable at Best Western hotels. The group say they will give away a total of 10 million points via the application, which is the equivalent of more than 1,200 free nights.
Wednesday, 5th October 2011
Several airlines have to cancel flights to and from Greece as as the country’s air traffic controllers join a 24-hour general strike.
Thursday, 6th October 2011
News about the death of Steve Jobs, Apple founder and visionary, break and tributes are being posted throughout all social networks. The 3 top trending topics on Twitter are RIPSteveJobs, #ThankYouSteve and #iSad. Apple set up a special email address on their website for people to share ‘thoughts, memories, and condolences’: www.apple.com
Thank you, Steve Jobs for having had the vision of bringing solutions onto the market that were truly innovative and solved problems we didn’t even know we had, products that make working with them easy, playing with them fun and that let us see the future!
Friday, 7th October 2011
The French government orders online travel agent Expedia to pay a fine of €427,000 for ‘misleading marketing practices’. According to a French court ruling Expedia was displaying incorrect information on hotel room availability, incorrect contact information for hotels and inaccurately described standard rates as promotional discounts. The French hotelier federation Synhorcat initiated a complaint with the government about Expedia’s practices which led to the ruling.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 18th July 2011

Expedia.com launches a new platform to support its Travel Agent Affiliate Programme (TAAP). TAAP is currently used by more than 15,000 Travel Agencies worldwide. Expedia Access was developed in consultation with Expedia Travel Agent affiliates and delivers new benefits from a simplified login procedure over personalisation to activity reports. It also allows agencies to put an Expedia Search Widget on their own website, while still earning commission on bookings.
Tuesday, 19th July 2011
Orbitz for Business, the corporate travel arm of Orbitz Worldwide introduces a programme that gives hotels prominent website visibility and search placement in exchange for providing refundable rates and amenities. Corporate customers that participate in Business Advantage can access the discounted rates with no online booking or cancelation fees if the reservation is canceled or changed at least 24 hours before check-in. Orbitz had launched a pilot in January 2011 where participating hotels have seen a 62% year to year increase in Orbitz for Business bookings (compared to a 20 percent increase for non-participating hotels). The programme is available from hotel partners in the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Concorde Hotels & Resorts, Paris, announces the launch of a new, comprehensive digital strategy later this month that includes social media, e-commerce and a new website spending a total of US$568,000 (400,000 Euros) with an expected return on investment of 13% to 20% within 18 months.
Wednesday, 20th July 2011
InterContinental Hotels Group launches a Priority Club Reward application for the Windows Phone 7 operating system. The new app enables guests to find and book hotel rooms, check rates and view or cancel reservations for all 7 IHG brands.
Thursday, 21st July 2011
Marriott Caribbean & Mexico Resorts start a Facebook contest for couples that are followers to win a free resort trip in exchange for blog submissions, detailing why they need a trip in the Caribbean sun to revive their romance. From July 15-28 applicants can submit a written narrative or short video clip. Following the submission period, 10 finalists will be chosen and then voted on by Facebook fans. The two finalists with the most votes will receive a 4-night stay, as well as a resort credit and activities unique to the chosen resort. Both couples will commit to posting at least three blog entries per day, to be published on Resort to Romance Website and the Marriott Resorts Caribbean and Mexico Facebook Page.
Friday, 22nd July 2011
Price comparison website Kelkoo Travel will relaunch next week in an attempt to get a larger slice off the UK and European online booking market. Kelkoo Travel has been online since 2002/03 but has suffered from a lack of investment, they say. Kelkoo’s hotel booking site will relaunch in the UK first, then rolled out to their other nine European markets. Flights and car hire will be added in September.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 15th August 2011

Travel portal Travel Republic wins 10 places in the list of top UK e-retailers and ranks now number 18 compared to 28 last year.

According to IMRG, an industry association for online retailers, Thomson was the best performing brand, finishing in 10th place, one ahead of EasyJet. Expedia finished in 14h place and British Airways 34th. Travel Republic and the Train Line were the only companies ranking higher in the last quarter than the previous year.

Tuesday, 16th August 2011
The financial crisis in Greece sparks a surge in holiday bookings to the country, says Directline Holidays. They saw bookings for Corfu up 21% in recent weeks while Rhodes has attracted a 5% increase. Holiday makers try to grab a bargain while recent economic events in Greece enable competitive pricing.
Wednesday, 17th August 2011
A new survey from Ypartnership and Harrison Group finds that U.S. travelers are becoming more tech-savvy and driven by value, when determining which hotel to stay at. 77% of the 2,500 adults queried agree that they are “smarter shoppers” because of the economic situation and 2 in 10 have used flash sale sites. However, the lowest price is not the biggest motivator, as 64% said they were willing to pay full price to get the quality and service they believe they deserve. To find out the best value, people increasingly use the latest technology. 61% said they check TripAdvisor for hotel reviews when booking a hotel. And the number of people that downloaded a smartphone travel application increased from 19% in 2010 to 28% in 2011.
Thursday, 18th August 2011
Beverly Hills Hotel Los AngelesThe Beverly Hills Hotel Los Angeles opens its 2 new luxury Presidential Bungalows. Each offers nearly 5,000 465 square meters of living space inside and out and has their own private entrance. Rates start from US$13,610 to US$15,380 per night.The royal couple Prince William and Kate (The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) also stayed in one of the bungalows during their 2011 trip to Canada and Los Angeles.
Friday, 19th August 2011
Air Berlin announces a €32.2 million loss for the second quarter and is terminating regional flights to the UK as part of a plan to shed unprofitable routes. The airline will cut its fleet by 8 aircraft, cutting one million seats from its overall capacity. CEO Joachim Hunold who resigned yesterday, said: “In order to become profitable we need to make cuts in our flight routes and in our fleet.” Harmut Mehdorn, an Air Berlin board member since July 2009 and controversial former boss of Deutsche Bahn AG, will become interim CEO from 1st September.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 11th July 2011

Hilton announce that they will outfit more than 1,000 hotel fitness centers around the world with new customizable technical equipment, including touch screen consoles, iPod compatibility, ePub readers, pre-loaded sample exercises, Internet connectivity, integrated television and personal TV screens with nearly 40 channels to choose from. The phased roll out throughout all of Hilton’s brand portfolio will begin next year and continue until the end of 2012.
 
Tuesday, 12th July 2011
 
TripAdvisor acquires Where I’ve Been. This acquisition underpins TripAdvisor’s continued focus and growth in social media. Where I’ve Been allows users to share their world map on social networks and interact with others. The Facebook application has 10 million users.
Wednesday, 13th July 2011
Expedia and Groupon’s new joint venture launches in the U.S. Groupon Getaways is a flash sale site offering discounted hotel stays. Deals follow the Groupon model and are available for a limited time and quantity with a discount rate of about 50%. The website is also very similar to the main Groupon site: www.groupon.com/getaways
Thursday, 14th July 2011
 
Embassy Suites Hotels launches a promotional contest giving away 14 nights and 15k US$ to the family that submits their most awkward photo. Working with the partner website AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, Embassy Suites engage with 40% of their customers who are traveling for leisure with their families. The brand also stays consistent with previous unusual online promotions such as the ‘Business Travel Blunder’ essay contest in 2009. Submit your photos at: awkwardfamilyphotos.com
Friday, 15th July 2011
Hyatt acquires 24 hotels from LodgeWorks, a privately held hotel development, ownership and management company for 802 million US$. All the properties are located in the U.S., including 5 in California and 2 in Washington. Hyatt will manage all hotels and brand them under Hyatt labels. The acquisition enables the company to introduce Hyatt-branded hotels in 9 new markets where it hasn’t been represented to date.

The Hotel and Travel Week #14

Monday, 22nd February

Orbitz is blurring the line between on-line and off-line by announcing it will pay commission to travel agents for hotel reservations and package bookings. The first 500 travel agents who sign up to www.orbitzforagents.com by the end of March will earn higher commissions for a year. The ground-breaking initiative is meant to stimulate bookings who insist on using a live agent instead of booking directly on-line.
Tuesday, 23rd February
Expedia unveils that they will bring a more substantial iPhone app to the iTunes store in a couple of weeks. The new application will have the ability to book hotel rooms and flights. The current application only offers information about a booked trip.
Wednesday, 24th February
 
e-conceptory will be at ITB Berlin from the 10th until the 12th of March:
 
Please, contact us to make an appointment and talk about your online project!
 
Thursday, 25th February
UK business travel recovery remains fragile, according to a new study of The Guild of Travel Management Companies. The study reveals that several areas of business travel that had experienced a downturn are seeing slight improvement. The hotel sector also showed a slight improvement in the 4th quarter with transactions only being down 2% year on year compared to having been 13% down in the third quarter of 2009.
Friday, 26th February
London’s hotel operators can celebrate. The city has by far the highest Gross Operating Profit per Available Room (GOPPAR) across a sample of European cities in the latest HotStats survey from TRI Hospitality Consulting. With 20% increase in profitability during January London was with a GOPPAR of €63.67 approx. 35% above the closest comparable city, Paris (GOPPAR €41.35). London’s growth was primarily led by a 9.3% increase in RevPAR (revenue per available room).

The Hotel and Travel Week #4

Monday, 9th November

Hilton Worldwide announces the launch of ‘the most comprehensive iPhone application in the lodging industry’. The application encompasses 7 brands in the United States: Conrad, Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn. It also features a ‘Request Upon Arrival’ service whereby a traveler can place an order for room service upon arrival at a Hilton, Doubletree and Embassy Suite hotel. Moreover, there is the ‘e-check-in’, for remote check-in up to 48 hours in advance. Both these features are a first in the hotel industry.
The launch comes after reports of a 59% increase in mobile revenue for Hilton during the third quarter of 2009 compared to the first quarter of the year which is primarily generated from the company’s mobile website that was launched 2 years ago.
The hotel owners / OTA row, initiated by Choice vs. Expedia 4 weeks ago, continued on Monday when the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the world’s largest association of hotel owners, took stance against last-room availability. Read more.

Tuesday, 10th November

 
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts launches a new website and becomes first in the industry to use Facebook Connect. Users can now connect directly to their Facebook account from sheraton.com, share travel experiences, upload pictures and more. If they are not on Facebook, they can still participate and also create a two-way dialogue with the brand through the site’s new online community. Sheraton.com has also been optimised for search so that visitors will be able to find stories by activity and interest, including beach, romance, sports, business and spa. Each story is accompanied by hotel information, a booking interface and applicable special offers.
The new site is part of a USD6 billion worldwide effort to revitalise the Sheraton brand.

Wednesday, 11th November

Choice Hotels International and Expedia announce to have signed a new three-year agreement to include Choice properties on the more than 80 sites Expedia operates worldwide. The hotels will start to be available again on expedia.com and hotels. com within a week and later on hotwire.com. The terms of the agreement and whether Choice is offering Expedia the much discussed last-room availability have not been disclosed.
This announcement seems to mark the end of an argument between Choice and Expedia that had started publicly a month ago and dominated the hotel industry news.
Thursday, 12th November
TUI explains its reasoning behind the launch of the new portal Cheqqer.com during a seminar on travel technology at World Travel Market London. The site has been launched in the Netherlands this summer and provides user-generated reviews which are then rated by other users. The highest quality reviews are always displayed first. The user can also filter reviews by demographic to best suit their requirements. While there have only Dutch reviews been loaded so far, reviews from across the TUI travel portfolio will be added in future with a plan to have 1 million reviews loaded in early 2010.
 
Friday, 13th November
British Airways and Iberia agree upon merging and will become the world’s third largest airline by revenue. The merger is expected to be completed in late 2010. The aim is to combine the carriers’ leading positions in the UK and Spain. The new group should also enhance the two airlines’ strong positions in the international long haul markets. Both individual brands and current operations will be retained. BA also says, the merger won’t have an impact on the further job cuts that had been announced last week.