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At the same time, there are voices saying TripAdvisor’s model with it’s millions of reviews from anonymous strangers is outdated.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

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.

 

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 10th October 2011

According to the UNWTO Tourism Towards 2030 global forecast, international tourist arrivals are to grow at a more moderate pace of 3.3% per year but will still reach 1.8 billion by 2030. Therefore, an average 43 million additional international tourists will travel every year. It is expected that arrivals will pass the 1 billion mark by 2012, up from 940 million in 2010. Due to the slower growth of North America, there will be increases in the global market shares of Asia and the Pacific (30% in 2030, 22% in 2010), the Middle East (8% up from 6%) and Africa (7% up from 5%), and further declines in the shares of Europe (41% down from 51%) and the Americas (14% down from 16%).
Tuesday, 11th October 2011
Hotel marketing company Travelclick has recently conducted a survey of 455 hoteliers around the world with interesting findings regarding mobile marketing. The poll, carried out during a webinar at the end of August, found that 50% of hoteliers plan to increase mobile marketing during 2012 while 24% intend to keep it at 2011 levels. 3% will likely decrease their spending, and 22.5% don’t have mobile websites or engage in mobile marketing and will keep it that way. “According to Nielsen, 40% of the Western Europe and 38% of the U.S. cell phone markets are dominated by smartphones. Given these rising numbers, it is essential that hoteliers optimize their websites for mobile use to increase direct bookings from travelers that are using their mobile devices to select rooms,” said Jason Ewell, TravelClick’s senior vice president of e-commerce.
© Scott Maxwell - Fotolia.com
© Scott Maxwell – Fotolia.com
 
Wednesday, 12th October 2011
Hotel Management Company Interstate explain how they have driven revenue through local SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Optimisation techniques included adding detailed location information about surrounding neighborhoods, arenas, attractions, convention centers and nearby colleges and universities, as well as upcoming convention dates and calendars of local events, they say. Moreover, they have made the hotels unique by adding specific descriptions of hotel amenities such as conference and meeting facilities, banquet halls, restaurants, pools and wedding planning services all key factors that frequently appear in travelers’ search criteria. Custom hotel page content was also distributed through a content management system to Google, Yahoo, Bing and hundreds of online directories. Interstate say this drove US$4.3 million in additional business for the company which meant a whopping return of US$84 in bookings for each marketing dollar invested.
Thursday, 13th October 2011
Marriott International launches a new website for their Autograph Collection which is aiming at the “individualistic” traveler. The website design presents visitors with the option to browse by experience type, destination or property name and is highly interactive.
Launched last year, the Autograph Collection is a group of exceptional independent hotels, each picked for their originality, character and uncommon details. To date, the Autograph Collection portfolio includes 24 properties in the United States, Europe, and the British Virgin Islands, with plans to double by the end of the year.
 
Friday, 14th October 2011
HRS acquires 61.6% stake in hotel.de in an attempt to strengthen the two companies’ market position in an increasingly competitive market climate. Dr. Heinz Raufer, CEO of hotel.de AG: ‘This combination comes at exactly the right time, will boost hotel.de’s position in the global hotel portal business and provides us with a superb basis for our further development.’

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 20th June 2011

An Irish hotel is taking Google to court over autocomplete.
When searching for Ballymascanlon House Hotel and beginning to type in the hotel name, the second autocomplete option coming up is ‘Ballymascanlon hotel receivership’ wrongly suggesting that the hotel is going into receivership. As a result, worried customers have contacted the hotel, concerned it may close down before their arrival. The hotel also argues it is losing bookings because of the autocomplete search term in Google Suggest. Google Ireland say autocomplete results are automatically generated by an algorithm based on the most common searches. It is anyone’s guess how the search term became so popular. Apparently, there is a precedent of Google correcting search terms manually, although this was mainly done to rectify copyright issues in the past.
Tuesday, 21st June 2011
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) has hired InnLink LLC to create a customized portal solution that will allow to book multiple stays within one transaction. The portal will facilitate online booking across nearly 100,000 U.S. hotels – i.e. both AAHOA member and non-member properties. The portal is planned to go online later this year and may become a competitor to traditional OTAs.
Wednesday, 22nd June 2011
TripAdvisor reveals their 2011 Accommodation Owners Survey and find that most owners embrace online engagement with customers. 57% of owbers expect their social media marketing budgets to increase this year. Virtually all owners (99%) plan to respond to online guest reviews. Mobile marketing is also a growing trend with 27% of survey respondents planning to launch mobile programmes for the first time in 2011. The TripAdvisor annual poll surveys more than 1,000 U.S. accommodation owners.
Thursday, 23rd June 2011
Marriott International’s nine resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico are turning Manhattan’s Madison Square Park into a free tropical spa on Thursday. The one-day “Step Into Summer” contest is open exclusively to Facebook fans who are given an invite after ‘liking’ the Facebook page. The event features free relaxation activities like massages and pedicures as well as the chance to win a four-night vacation for two at CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa by entering through a secret website address given to them at the event.
Friday, 24th June 2011
Google is finally rolling out behavioral targeting to all of its advertisers. Users can now be targeted by interest — based on their previous browsing activity. The system looks at the types of pages a user visits, considering how recently and frequently the visit has taken place and associates the browser cookie with the appropriate interest category. Advertisers can choose from over 1,000 interest categories on a cost-per-click basis.

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 #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.