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

Editorial

Just before the end of year and after a short break, the Hotel and Travel Week is back in a new format. Instead of listing news as they occurred each day of the week, we will now order our online marketing and other news from the hotel and travel industry by topic. This way, the article should be easier to scan and enabling the reader to choose the parts they are particularly interested in.
Enjoy and give us your feedback, please!

Venere.com mobile website

Venere goes mobile
28th November 2011

The European OTA, member of Expedia, Venere.com went mobile this week with the launch of its new free mobile website. The initial launch covers the following languages: EN, IT, ES, DE, FR. As mobile is becoming predominant for booking last minute accommodation online, for Venere.com this is another investment in meeting customer needs with suitable and convenient travel options, the company says.
The website – optimized for the most common mobile devices – can be accessed either by typing www.venere.com on any mobile device or simply by typing explicitly m.venere.com

Europeans defy debt crisis and travel
28th November 2011

Despite the economic downturn travel is up in Europe this year according to a report by PhoCusWright. The number of trips rose by 8% in France, 4% in Germany and 5% in Britain. “When it comes to leisure travel, we’ve found that European consumers are rather resilient,” said Carroll Rheem, an analyst with travel research firm PhoCusWright. They may cut down on the length of their summer holiday but won’t scrap it completely. “People in Europe are largely still employed, still spending money and still traveling,” said Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Capital IQ.

Hotels enter the Cyber Monday frenzy
29th November 2011

Apparently, Cyber Monday isn’t just for online retailers anymore. In their quest to boost brand.com bookings, hotels were offering online-only discounts in the U.S. this year.
Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving and has become famous for customers going online and doing their (Christmas) shopping. Hotels have geared up over the last 3 years to get a slice of the cake in Cyber Monday sales.
Hotel deals this year were ranging from city properties of the Trump Collection to beach spots like Loews Hotels in Santa Monica. Others came from Omni Hotels & Resorts, Marriott and a special deal from Kimpton Hotels were discounts depended on time of booking on Cyber Monday.

Google Maps iPhone application
showing sponsored ad

Google adds ads to maps
29th November 2011

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Google has been quietly adding new ad placements on maps in some of its most popular search destinations. Sponsored ads now appear among all the little, red pins indicating search results in the iPhone Google Maps application. If, for example, you are looking for a hotel in the area you are in Google will show you a map with a bunch of red pins showing your choices. One hotel, however, could be flagged with a subtle ‘Sponsored Link’ written underneath. This is a pretty powerful way to stand out from the crowd.

Hyatt Hotels mobile iPhone application

Hyatt’s new mobile app
30th November 2011

Hyatt has launched a mobile app that allows iPhone users to search hotels using location-based technology, book new and view existing reservations. Users can also join the hotel company’s loyalty programme, find deals and track point balances with the new application. “We wanted our app to offer a clean design with an intuitive flow so travellers can easily have all the most important details at their fingertips to make their travels as simple and seamless as possible,” said Bill Bernahl, vice president, e-Commerce, Hyatt.
An Android version is currently under development.

 

Apple iPhone 4G announced by Steve Jobs today

Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs just announced iPhone 4G in San Francisco.

The new iPhone is being launched with the slogan:
This changes everything. Again. – In so many ways, it’s a first!
New features are:
Video calling with FaceTime
The new iPhone 4 features two cameras – one on the front, one on the back – so you can switch back and forth during a video call.
Retina Display
According to Apple this is the highest-resolution phone screen ever.
Multi-tasking
With the new iPhone 4G third-party apps can be run simultaneously and you can switch between them instantly.
HD Video recording and editing
Shoot your videos in high definition and even in low-light settings thanks to a backside illumination sensor and built-in LED light.
5-Megapixel Camera with LED Flash
In addition to the backside sensor, the new front-facing camera makes it easy to take self-portraits.
Also new: Folders for apps and iBooks for iPhone 4.
The new iPhone 4G will be available from 24th June in the U.S. and Europe and can be pre-ordered from the 15th of June.
More information at: www.apple.com or watch the official Apple iPhone 4 video

Location Game Apps – New in Social Media

End of last year, Foursquare started out with its location-based game iPhone app, whereby people check into venues around town and are being rewarded with points and badges. The application scans your current location and shows you a list of venues to choose from. If the venue you are at isn’t listed, you simply add it and tag with relevant keywords, thereby creating user-generated content which earns you 5 points. You can also add tips, for example how much you liked the pasta dish at that Italian restaurant you’ve just had dinner at with your friend. Or you save some To-Dos for later when you come back. Once you are a regular at a venue, you have the chance to become their Mayor. Checking in, you decide whether you want to notify your Foursquare friends or publish the check-in on Facebook or Twitter.

Foursquare iPhone appFoursquare Blackberry app

It’s all good fun and quite popular in the U.S. Some tourist boards have already teamed up with Foursquare in order to promote their destination (see our post about: Chicago Tourist Board and Foursquare).
Recently, several new game apps have been launched using a similar concept, e.g.: Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt, Whrrl, iWassuu
There are two questions I’d like to ask:
1. What are the privacy issues with apps like this, when essentially using them your entire life becomes public? Will this concept survive once it has been abused, for example by an ex-boyfriend or boss following your every move…
2. How could these games develop commercially, especially in terms of tourism and travel?
Question 1 I would like to open up to the public and would love to hear your comments, though my feeling is that we’ve already pushed out the boat a fair bit in terms of privacy with web 2.0 and boundaries are shifting.
Question 2 I’d answer with Advertising!
Like Facebook and other social media sites and even going back to the old days of ‘simple’ search, location-based applications collect valuable data about peoples’ habits and social interaction. This in turn will enable advertisers to target their promotions more precisely than ever. That’s what we call behavioral targeting in online marketing.
Imagine a business traveler visiting London and looking for a hotel for the night. We know from his extensive use of location-based games what kind of places he likes, say up-market, design hotels and posh gourmet restaurants. No need for a budget hotel to spend advertising dollars on him…
So, while it’s all a game right now, there is huge potential for businesses to use such applications commercially in future.
That is, if they survive… What do you think?

iPhone App Review: Peninsula Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels

Ok, I admit it. I’m addicted to my iPhone. I would definitely book a hotel room on my mobile but then I’m what we call an ‘early adopter’ in the marketing world.

How about you?
Vote in the poll on the right!
I’ve just downloaded two hotel apps last week.
Two rather different companies in the luxury hotel segment:
1. Peninsula Hotels – a small but prestigious hotel chain
2. Small Luxury Hotels – a Hotel Marketing Association with over 500 member hotels world-wide
I’ve worked with both companies before and so I’m taking a special interest in what they are doing in terms of online and mobile marketing.
Their iPhone apps follow very different approaches.
While Peninsula goes straight for the booking procedure, SLH present the hotels with a short description, location map and image. This makes sense since Peninsula regulars will know their hotels. However, a tiny bit of information about each Peninsula property would be nice.
The SLH app is divided into three sections: Discover, Enjoy, Share.
Discover is all about finding the right hotel in your desired destination.
Enjoy features a brief destination guide once you have arrived at the hotel.
Share let’s you manage and share your favorites, by email, on Facebook, on Twitter.
What I like most about the SLH application is the various ways to choose a hotel:
  • by Hotel types such as city centre, beach resort, country house etc.
  • by Destinations (pretty map guys!)
  • by Special offers, whereby this button let’s you navigate through various categories such as Adventures, Spa Breaks or Honeymoon and Romance to your desired destination
The Hotels near me feature is great, too – it finds you hotels close to your current destination which can be displayed either on a list or pinpointed on a map. Ok, some of the hotels the application found are actually quite far away. SLH got to work a bit on the parameters there.
Something completely lacking from the Peninsula iPhone app is a destination guide.
SLH’s Enjoy section mainly let’s you search for landmarks nearby, then sends you off to the iPhone map and shows you how to get there. This section has more potential. SLH should check out the Langham Hotels iPhone app to get some ideas.
Something completely missing from the SLH iPhone app is an online booking form.
There is only a Call to Book button which links you to your local SLH call centre.
All in all, I really like the SLH iPhone application – one of the best I’ve seen so far. Stylish, easy to navigate, with all the necessary information but an online booking form should be added.
The Peninsula app looks stylish, too but needs more content in my view: some info about each hotel, perhaps a destination guide but mainly a section that sells add-ons at the hotel once guests have checked in. It seems to me Peninsula are missing an opportunity here.
I’m curious about the next releases of both applications.
Download from iTunes:

ITB Berlin Round-up

The weather has been fairly nice during ITB this year.

Unusual! It only started snowing again when the world’s largest travel trade fair closed its doors on Sunday afternoon.

The figures:
  • 179,351 visitors in total
  • 110,953 trade visitors
  • 68,398 visitors of the general public
  • 6 bn Euros in orders
  • 11,127 companies exhibited (2009: 11,098)
  • from 187 countries
  • 12,500 delegates taking part in the ITB Convention
  • approx. 7,200 journalists from around the world covered the show
The online and technology trends:

Social Media

Social Media was the most obvious trend at ITB Berlin this year.
People either love or hate it, but it’s in everybody’s mouth.
My favorite concept:
word of mouth becomes word of mouse

My favorite thought:
Google Live Search, Google Buzz – search is slowing down social media and enables the customer to find deals when they need them. @yenlee
The main questions asked:
How to generate tangible revenue using social media?
How to monitor and control reputation in social media and fight fires?
The main issue to be resolved in 2010:
How to track bookings generated through social media campaigns to the bottom line?
A couple of (technical) solutions:
  • Facebook Connect to transfer customer data
  • Facebook integration of booking interfaces
The largest events, featuring social media panel discussion, lectures, networking events etc. were:

iPhone apps

iPhone apps were displayed on almost every booth – at least that was my impression.
Everyone, from hotel and travel to technology company seems to have launched an iPhone or mobile app just in time for ITB. Some of them but not all were clearly rushed and need to be worked on in terms of usability.
Only a few examples:

Last but not least iPhone apps especially launched to get around ITB:

Is this the year of mobile as predicted at World Travel Market last November?

In which case an appeal to travel fair organizers around the world:
We need iPhone charge stations at the grounds to power up our mobiles after a long day of using all those apps and tweeting! How else would we be able to book our hotel room for the night?
It’s been a great show and I wish there was another one next week.
Thanks to everyone I’ve met for all the exciting discussions.
Keep in touch!

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 #10

We are back and it’s a new year.

So, a very happy New Year 2010 to everyone!

Earlier in January:
Travelclick launches a new Business Intelligence Application – Hotelligence360
This suite of interactive intelligence applications offers hoteliers a complete historical and forward-looking view of their performance compared to that of competitors and so enables them to source new customers and maximise profit, Travelclick says.
Hotelligence360 will launch in a property and enterprise edition.
This week:
TripAdvisor honors the world’s top hotels with it’s 2010 Travelers’ Choice Awards. The 8th annual competition which is based on opinions of millions of travelers recognises 719 properties this year and is the largest ever with new categories such as trendiest hotels, best relaxation/spas and world’s top hotels by region.
Hyatt Regency Greenville, priding itself on being a progressive, fashionable alternative to other hotels in the region, launches an iPhone application built on CBCblue’s Mobile Gorion Platform. Guests can request everyday amenities and order room service from anywhere with this application. The hotel says, the application has proven ‘extremely popular’ with 80% people who visit Hyatt’s Room Service portal (www.HyattRoomService.com) use mobiles to get there. In fact, the launch of this application has resulted in a 300-400% increase in usage of the portal as well as increased sales.
The Hyatt Regency Greenville iPhone application can be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/6AnSDO
New York-based travel services company Travelport, launches a USD 2 billion initial public offering to cut debt. Blackstone, which had bought the company from Cendant in 2006 and owns a 70% stake may later sell existing shares. Rivals Orbitz, Priceline.com and Expedia all traded higher after the announcement.
Dubai’s Real Estate collapse is proving to be a huge challenge for the destination’s hotel industry. A lot of business was driven by real estate. With the property slump, Dubai has not much to fall back on. For example, RevPAR at the Fairmont Dubai was down more than 25% in 2009. However, the prediction is that tourist numbers will pick up this year and even further in 2011.

The Hotel and Travel Week #9

Monday, 14th December

Abu Dhabi comes to Dubai’s help with USD 10 billion. Half of it will be used to repay Dubai World’s debt. The news instantly boosted stock markets in the UAE with Dubai’s main share index closing 10% up and Abu Dhabi’s rising more than 7%. This seems to mark the end of Dubai’s debt crisis – at least for the time being.
On the same day Abu Dhabi and Hyatt Hotels disclose a deal. An Abu Dhabi wealth fund buys a 10.9% stake of Hyatt’s common shares.
Tuesday, 15th December
Accor is to split into 2 companies, pending shareholder approval. The group’s board of directors recommended to separate prepaid services and hotel businesses in order to step up the pace of growth. The services division sells prepaid benefits such as gift vouchers or lunch vouchers and generated as much as 60% of the companies revenue last year.
Wednesday, 16th December
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts announces the launch of a new social media platform: Sheraton Shared Moments. The new site enables users to share travel experiences with friends, family and the public. People signing up to the portal also have the chance to win one of five dream holidays to a luxury Sheraton Hotel or Resort. www.sheratonmoments.com
Thursday, 17th December
According to Sir Richard Branson space travel is only three years away. The Virgin boss unveils the Virgin Galactic space liner which will be called VSS-Enterprise and have room for at least 5 passengers. Apparently, there are already 13,500 potential customers for the 3-hour and USD 190,000 trip.
Friday, 18th December
Design Hotels and Unlike Media announce the launch of 11 Apple iPhone City guide applications. 10 English language city guides for the following cities can be downloaded at a charge: Amsterdam, Miami, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, London, Sao Paulo, Vienna, Shanghai and Barcelona. The city guide content is updated every 24 hours, free of charge. Since it is available offline, there is no need to worry about expensive roaming fees while you travel. www.designhotels.com/iphoneapp

 

The Hotel and Travel Week #8

Monday, 7th November

Dubai still doesn’t seem to be out of the woods and there are more news that yet another state-owned Dubai company may be defaulting – the personal investment vehicle of the emirate’s ruler Dubai Holding. The company has been on a spending spree to realise ambitious projects in Dubai as well as create a private equity firm that bought stakes in Tussauds and the budget hotel chain Travelodge.
Tuesday, 8th November
The average cost of a hotel room in Moscow may fall below RUB 3,000 (EUR 67.65 USD 100.32), according to the company NAI Becarm. This will be the lowest rate within the last 6 years.
Wednesday, 9th November
Accor launches its iPhone application which enables customers to reserve a room in their approx. 3,000 hotel rooms of the following brands: Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Mercure, Novotel, Suitehotel, Adagio, Ibis, all seasons, Etap, Formule 1 and hotel F1. The application also includes personalisation and memorises current reservations as well as favourite hotels. It synchronises with iPhone contacts and is available in 5 languages: English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
Thursday, 10th November
U.S. room rates drop over the holiday period, according to Travelocity. A week-by-week analysis shows that overall ADR has dropped from USD 181 to USD 150 per night. At the same time international hotel rates are rising as Christmas approaches.
 
Friday, 11th November
eBookers is trimming its 12 European country sites and makes them into 3 regional sites, including:
Region 1: UK, France and Ireland
Region 2: Switzerland, Germany and Austria
Region 3: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Benelux
The company says the new regional structure will increase speed of execution and “catalyze innovation”.