A day at AGHZ – Deutscher Hotelkongress 2013

As every year, AGHZ (Allgemeine Hotel- und Gaststättenzeitung) invited hoteliers and restaurateurs to attend the German Hotel Congress (Deutscher Hotelkongress) and Hotelexpo. The event took place at Maritim Hotel Berlin at the end of January 2013. Several subjects were covered in presentations and podium discussions throughout the duration of the conference – from Human Resources to future trends in hospitality and gastronomy. We attended the distribution conference at the end of day two and here are some of our impressions.

Three hoteliers spoke about the difficulties in present day hotel distribution and the shift from traditional  to hotel online distribution which finally seems to be taking place in Germany as well.

For example, the Freizeit In Hotel Göttingen – an event and wellness hotel – will spend 35% of their total marketing budget in 2013 online.

Slide reads: “We invest in Online Marketing – now!”
Olaf Feuerstein, CEO, Hotel Freizeit In GmbH

At the same time, online distribution via OTAs was highly unpopular amongst the presenters because of commissions to be paid and the fear to loose control. OTAs constantly change their cooperations and it would be nearly impossible for a hotel to unravel and stay on top of the complexities of online portals.

Jürgen Gangl, Area Manager at Event Hotels Berlin showed that there is a profitability loss of 25% to 45% when hotel rooms are being sold via OTAs.

Profitability Loss of 25 – 45% when selling hotel rooms through OTAs
Jürgen Gangl, Area Manager Event Hotels Berlin, Esplanade Berlin

Direct distribution via the hotel’s own website is much cheaper, even when marketing costs are taken into account since there is no OTA commissions. The share of the room rate staying at the hotel would be more than 75%:

Profitability Loss of less than 25% when selling hotel rooms directly online
Jürgen Gangl, Area Manager Event Hotels Berlin, Esplanade Berlin

Similar stats were displayed by Marco Nussbaum, CEO of prizeotel Bremen with the direct online distribution channel also being the most profitable:

Share of rate staying at the hotel: web direct, retailer, GDS, merchant, wholesaler
Marco Nussbaum, CEO und Mitgründer, prizeotel Bremen GmbH & Co. KG

All presenters were clear that selling rooms via the direct channel, i.e. the hotel’s independent website would be the way to go.

However, difficulties of this approach would be a professional web design, guests finding the hotel website in search engines, i.e. search engine optimization (SEO) and the new Google Travel ads of Google Hotel Finder where ad costs had increased considerably over the past months.

Any hotels wishing advise on these issues, please contact us here.

More information about the event at: www.deutscher-hotelkongress.de

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

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.

SEO Tools : Software Review

Everyone looking for a little advice regarding which tools to use for search engine optimization (SEO) in order to to analyze and improve their search engine rankings should read on. There is plenty of tools on the market but only a few deliver what they promise.

Advanced Web Ranking is particularly search engine friendly.
Automated search requests can be penalized by search engines with a drop in rankings. Advanced Web Ranking however simulates manual search queries by pausing in between each search request. For search engines it is therefore indistinguishable from someone using a browser.
The software uses the following method: It queries a certain keyword, then the search engine returns a number of pages. Advanced Web Ranking downloads these pages and analyses them locally. These three steps are being repeated for each search query.

Advanced Web Ranking has been developed by Caphyon and is a comprehensive SEO software tool for web projects to boost website ranking. It has been re-written recently and improved.

The software still comes in 4 different editions: Standard, Professional, Enterprise, Server.
The Standard edition should be sufficient for hobby website publishers. Professionals who need to generate reports, print and email them to their clients, will at least need the Professional edition.

Advanced Web Ranking for Mac

Starting a new project is very easy. When opening the tool for the first time it asks for the domain name which is to be analyzed. In a second step, the keywords and keyword phrases need to be entered but they can also be imported from a website, CSV, WPG or XML file. Preferences with regards to which search engines are to be analyzed need to be set. Google will probably be the preferred search engine. However, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines should not be neglected, especially when working on projects targeting countries outside Europe. The tool offers  1000+ search engines to choose from when checking search results for different countries and languages, e.g. in google.co.uk rather than google.com. Depending on the number of keywords and domains and the internet connection, this step may sometimes take several hours. Once the update is complete, the results can be filtered and displayed in numerous layouts. For easy reading of reports, charts etc., domains and keyword phrases can be color-coded.

Summary of the main features of this SEO tool:

Search Engine Rankings
Easy and effective racking and analyzing of search engine rankings.

Google Analytics Integration
Advanced Web Ranking can now integrate analytics metrics from Google Analytics which helps measuring traffic and conversions for the keywords already in the projects. The advantage of this is that visitors and conversions data can be combined with the search engine rankings and link building information in one report.

Link Building
An important part of any SEO campaign is link building. Advanced Web Rankings has now integrated a link building module in order to have all SEO tasks in one place. With this module, comparing the link profile to that of competitors and discovering new linking opportunities becomes possible using the same tool.

Keyword Research Tool
The most important step when developing a search engine strategy is defining relevant keywords and keyword phrases. Whether keywords are relevant for a project needs to be analyzed and depends on search volume, search trends, niches etc. Therefore, the Keyword Research Tool is essential. This module helps finding additional keywords and keyword combinations, even if there is a pre-defined keyword list. For example, it uses data from Wordtracker, the Google Keyword Tool or Yahoo Search Marketing which is then imported.

Automated Reports, Backups and Updates
Essential for measuring SEO success. Creates reports which can be automatically sent to clients.

Data Privacy, Enhanced Security and Reliability
Stores all the data gathered from search engines on your local computer or server.

There is a 30-day trial version of Advanced Web Ranking which can be downloaded here: http://www.advancedwebranking.com/download.html

Advanced Link Manager

In order to identify backlinks to a website and keywords that have been used in the anchor text, Advanced Link Manager is another package sold be the same company.
With Advanced Link Manager backlinks can be found, tracked over time and visualized in charts. This is particularly useful when monitoring the success or failure of link-building campaigns. Link popularity of the backlinks can be analyzed and the development of a website’s link popularity over time can be controlled. The tool also helps keeping track of paid links so that they aren’t lost while still paying fees.
Link partners can be found and the quality of one or multiple domains of potential link partners can be checked in order to decide which domains are worth getting links from.
As with Advanced Web Ranking, comprehensive reports can be generated and personalized for individual clients. There are numerous templates for reports but bespoke reports may be generated, too.

Some of the data that can be collected using this SEO tool:

  • Domain Page rank
  • URL Page rank
  • Alexa rank
  • Number of links on the page
  • Links with nofollow attribute
  • etc.

Summary of the main features of this SEO tool:

Website Optimization
Website Optimization module for targeted keywords.

Comprehensive Competitive Analysis Tools
Helps keeping track of incoming links and competitors’ websites. Keeps track on competition.

Automated Reports, Backups and Updates
Essential for measuring SEO success. Creates reports which can be automatically sent to clients.

Data Privacy, Enhanced Security and Reliability
Stores all the data gathered from search engines on your local computer or server.

There is a 30-day trial version of Advanced Link Manager which can be downloaded here: http://www.advancedlinkmanager.com/download.html

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, 4th July 2011

International tourist arrivals increase by 4.5% in the first 4 months of 2011, compared to the same period last year, despite of the still lingering recession and increased oil prices in many parts of the world. This is the result of a survey carried out by the United Nations World Tourism Organization. South America (increase of 17%), South Asia (14%) and Southeast Asia (10%) see the largest increases. Only the Middle East register a decrease of 14% and so does Northern Africa with 11% because of the ‘Arab Spring’.
Tuesday, 5th July 2011

Google shuts down Realtime Search as their deal with Twitter expires. The deal dated back to late 2009 when both parties agreed that Google would show realtime Twitter results in Google searches. On Tuesday Google announced via Twitter that it had temporarily shut down its Realtime Search service while working on the company’s new Google+ social networking attempt. Apart from that, Google or Twitter say little why the deal has ended.
Wednesday, 6th July 2011
Online travel agency Orbitz releases its first iPad application on Wednesday. Users can book hotels and airfare with the application which features tools not available in the iPhone app. According to Orbitz: ‘The new Orbitz Hotels App for iPad delivers the entire selection of Orbitz hotel properties, refined comparison tools, and secure booking in just 3 taps.’
The application can be downloaded for free at: Orbitz Hotels App for iPad

Thursday, 7th July 2011

StumbleUpon, a bookmarking and sharing engine, is now the biggest traffic driver among social media websites in the U.S., according to web analytics service StatCounter. StatCounter say that the company overtook Facebook during June 2011. StumbelUpon, which finds and recommends relevant web content and calls itself the Discovery Engine, was founded in 2001 and sold to eBay for $75 million in 2007. StatCounter tracks hits to over 3 million websites. Its social media data is gathered by analyzing every hit originating from a social media site.
Google announces that Google+ brand pages will be launched in 2 weeks time. Similar to Facebook brand pages, Google will also offer pages on it’s new social networking service Google+. Companies can apply and Google will approve brand pages according to how successful companies have been with social media in the past. The first brand page is already online, though: Ford on Google+. Apparently, thousands of companies have already applied and Google is overwhelmed by the interest.

Why hotels need an individual website

Statistics show that travelers become ever more educated if it comes to their search behaviour.
According to a study by Ypartnership and Yankelovich, Inc. this is where travelers first go when looking for a hotel or resort:

Web site of online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity 31%
Search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN 26%
Web site of specific hotel chain 21%
Web site of individual hotel/resort 10%
Meta search engine that compares rates 5%

(See: Travelers’ Online Search Behavior Evolves)

You may say that the figure for ‘website of individual hotel/resort’ at 10% is still quite low. However, what this statistic doesn’t cover is what people do after their first visit.
I argue, that a large number of people after doing some research on the top three – online travel agency sites, search engines and even specific hotel chain sites – will search for the individual hotel/resort website of a property they have preselected. The reason being, that all of the above, in most cases, only offer very limited information about a property and show small or bad quality photos. A traveler cannot be certain what exactly to expect at the hotel and usually, this is not enough to make a buying decision. At least not for a leisure traveler who is about to book a hotel room, mirroring their lifestyle, for a very precious few days of their life: holiday. After all, successful hotels these days don’t sell rooms, they sell an experience.
Take a look at the following two examples, favourite websites of the Hotel Magazine, and you see what I mean:




Neither of the top three places to which travelers initially go in order to search for a hotel or resort, could possibly cater for the experience an individual hotel website can and should create.

The second element to focus on is trust. As the above figures show, travelers have come to use online agency websites and do trust the big ones they know. Though they may not trust a site they have never used before, even if it sells rooms at a cheaper rate.
However, if they visit an individual hotel website which is professionally done, layed out well and maintained properly – i.e. they get the impression that the hotel staff is looking after it – they will probably trust this site more and prefer to cut out the intermediary. If the rate is higher on an online agency site because of booking fees or commission, the decision will be even easier.

This is exactly what I could see happening in my last position when analysing the website and booking statistics of our large network of chain, traffic and individual websites. The individual hotel websites brought in many more online bookings than for example the chain site or other sites with more than one hotel featured. Moreover, traffic very often came from the search engines where people were searching for a specific hotel name. It is unlikely that all those people would have known the hotel name from previous visits, offline marketing or friends and family. No, they have found the name on online agency, destination, review and hotel chain sites during the first step of their search and looked for a preselected property in the second step.

This is the reason why your hotel/resort needs an individual website. Create an experience, establish trust and you will increase your online revenue. – Plus, each booking will also come you much cheaper than any reservation made via a TPI (Third-party Intermediary) or OTA (Online Travel Agency) which usually costs you around a quarter of the value in commission.

What are the most important search engine ranking factors in 2009?

SEOmoz have just published their bi-annual study about the most important search engine ranking factors, i.e. the factors that decide over whether your website comes up on the first or last page of Google results when a user types in a keyword that is relevant to your site. The ranking factors were rated by their panel of 72 SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) experts. Obviously, Google can change its algorithm at any time. So even if you take all the factors into consideration and are doing an excellent job, you are not operating in a static environment in which that will necessarily be the case tomorrow.

I’m quoting the top five factors from the most relevant areas for SEO below:
(see full Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009 study)

On-Page (Keyword-Specific) Ranking Factors

1. Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag
2. Keyword Use as the First Word(s) of the Title Tag
3. Keyword Use in the Root Domain Name (e.g. keyword.com)
4. Keyword Use Anywhere in the H1 Headline Tag
5. Keyword Use in Internal Link Anchor Text on the Page

On-Page (Non-Keyword) Ranking Factors

1. Existence of Substantive, Unique Content on the Page
2. Recency (freshness) of Page Creation
3. Use of Links on the Page that Point to Other URLs on this Domain
4. Historical Content Changes (how often the page content has been updated)
5. Use of External-Pointing Links on the Page

Page-Specific Link Popularity Ranking Factors

1. Keyword-Focused Anchor Text from External Links
2. External Link Popularity (quantity/quality of external links)
3. Diversity of Link Sources (links from many unique root domains)
4. Page-Specific TrustRank (whether the individual page has earned links from trusted sources)
5. Iterative Algorithm-Based, Global Link Popularity (PageRank)

Site-Wide Link-Based Ranking Factors

1. Trustworthiness of the Domain Based on Link Distance from Trusted Domains (e.g. TrustRank, Domain mozTrust, etc.)
2. Global Link Popularity of the Domain Based on an Iterative Link Algorithm (e.g. PageRank on the domain graph, Domain mozRank, etc.)
3. Link Diversity of the Domain (based on number/variety of unique root domains linking to pages on this domain)
4. Links from Hubs/Authorities in a Given Topic-Specific Neighborhood (as per the “Hilltop” algorithm)
5. Temporal Growth/Shrinkage of Links to the Domain (the quantity/quality of links earned over time and the temporal distribution)

Geo-Targeting Factors

1. Country Code TLD of the Root Domain (e.g. .co.uk, .de, .fr, .com.au, etc.)
2. Language of the Content Used on the Site
3. Links from Other Domains Targeted to the Country/Region
4. Geographic Location of the Host IP Address of the Domain
5. Manual Review/Targeting by Google Engineers and/or Quality Raters

Negative Ranking Factors

1. Cloaking with Malicious/Manipulative Intent
2. Link Acquisition from Known Link Brokers/Sellers
3. Links from the Page to Web Spam Sites/Pages
4. Cloaking by User Agent
5. Frequent Server Downtime & Site Inaccessibility

Factors Negatively Affecting the Value of an External Link

1. Domain Banned from Google’s Index for Web Spam
2. Domain’s Rankings Penalized in Google for Web Spam
3. Link is Determined to be “Paid” Rather than Editorially Given
4. Domain Contains Links to a Significant Amount of Web Spam
5. Domain Has Not Earned Trusted Links

Welcome to the Hotel Online Marketing Blog!

About the author:

For the past 10 years I have been doing e-commerce or online marketing for hotels and the tourism industry. This month, I have just set up my own consultancy business under the name of e-conceptory.

Until about 3 years ago, I have been working for a company called Open World in Bath, UK. Open World was specialised in publishing websites and doing online marketing for the luxury hotel industry. My clients were hotels and hotel chains from around the world, such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Worldhotels, Swissotel, Small Luxury Hotels to name but a few. I moved back to Berlin, Germany two years ago, where I worked as Corporate E-Commerce Manager at a Hotel Management Company. I developed the company’s online strategy, set up a large network of group, individual and traffic websites to generate and increase online revenue from all the company owned sites.
I finished this contract a few months ago and have been keeping busy since, preparing for my own e-commerce consulting company.

In short this is what I have to offer:

e-commerce, ecommerce, e-business, ebusiness, online marketing, internet marketing, new media marketing, web project management, web design, web programming, usability, accessibility, functionality, seo, sem, display advertising, affiliate marketing, web 2.0, social media marketing through blogging, micro-blogging, communities, online reputation management