aloft Hotel London ExCeL

aloft Hotel London ExCeL
aloft Hotel London ExCeL, a photo by Corinna Witt on Flickr.

aloft Hotel London ExCeL

aloft London ExCeL is located next to the exhibition centre and not far from London City Airport. It’s particularly popular during trade fairs such as World Travel Market (WTM London) but not a bad choice for tourists either, especially since Emirates Air Line takes you over the Thames to The O2 (formerly Millennium Dome) at North Greenwich.

The Hotel and Travel Week

It’s Friday the 13th and a good day for a new update on the current online marketing affairs in the hotel and travel industry after a longer break:

How Orbitz attempted more personalization and got bad press
Apple fans took to Twitter last week with their outrage after The Wall Street Journal reported that Orbitz is recommending higher priced hotels to Mac users than to PC users. There was a media frenzy with follow-up articles condemning Orbitz’s discrimination against Mac users. In defense, Orbitz’s PR firm released a statement highlighting what the company considered an overlooked fact: Orbitz does not show Mac and PC users the same hotel at different prices. The Wall Street Journal was blamed for burying this fact in the article and so misleading many readers. The point is, Orbitz identified last October that Mac users had the preference of booking more expensive hotels and simply made it easier for them to find what they were looking for. This is personalization. In addition, Orbitz say they use other information to determine results, such as past purchases and location. Therefore, search results are not only determined by hardware but many other factors that are being used to offer the user a better experience.
Still, the damage has been done and it remains to be seen whether the media outrage puts (Mac) users off Orbitz.

Apple wins a major patent for iTravel 
Apple has received a major patent that relates to transportation check-in and to employing near field communication for identification and ticketing by transportation providers. The timing for this patent is perfect as Apple recently announced a new feature called Passbook which is coming to iOS 6 this autumn. Scott Forstall, Apple’s Senior Vice President of iPhone Software, stated that Passbook would include travel services such as a boarding pass and express check-in both covered by the iTravel patent. The Near Field Communications (NFC) aspect of the patent will also be important for Apple’s future iWallet application.
Apple’s iTravel check-in system will work with Macs, but more importantly, with iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Ticketing and identification information will be stored on the iOS device and transmitted, to another electronic device e.g. via near field communication. The device may be used to check into flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, trains, buses, and so forth.

Element Hotels launch Pledge to Pedal Facebook campaing

The Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide brand Element Hotels is challenging its Facebook friends to replace one weekly car trip with a bike ride. 10 winners of the I Pledge to Pedal Facebook campaign will win a built-to-order bike. The campaign runs till 17th September. Each of the 10 U.S. Element hotels has also designed its own dream bike, which will be displayed in the lobby during the promotion.

The Hotel and Travel Week

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


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


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

The Hotel and Travel Week

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

Monday, 24th October 2011

Starwood adds hotel reviews to their corporate website and is the first global hotel company to do so. The new function will let Sheraton, Westin, W and other Starwood hotel guests write an assessment of their recent hotel stay directly on Starwood websites. Like TripAdvisor, Starwood will first check reviews for bad language before publishing. Then, Starwood will take the added step of confirming the reviewer’s stay. The process could take 2 or 3 days. Once a review has been vetted and confirmed, Starwood will publish it – no matter whether good or bad, they say.

Tuesday, 25th October 2011

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts is adopting a new brand positioning, targeting ‘strivers’ who are ‘traveling for success’, a group they say represents 9% of all annual hotel stays and is currently unsatisfied with available options in the marketplace. Strivers are defined as individuals who are climbing the ladder to success but have not yet arrived. Crowne Plaza will adopt its new positioning during 3 phases to be completed in 2015.

Wednesday, 26th October 2011

OTAs are now part of the deal at Google Flight Search. Intermediaries are no longer completely shut out of the service. Although airlines are still more prominent, all 4 major online travel agencies now advertise on Google Flight Search, for example Priceline, Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity as well as Cheapoair and Kayak.

Thursday, 27th October 2011

Google is taking its Street View feature indoors. Last May the company announced it would be taking interior shots of stores, but now it is moving out of this pilot phase with more 360 degree interiors showing up online. In order to have your hotel’s interior photographed, you must fill out an application with Google. If chosen, you will be contacted by Google’s photographers to set up a time for the shoot. Google owns all rights to the photos, though including the right to keep an image up, even if you object to it. In order to have an image removed, you must submit a request for it to be taken down. According to a Google spokesperson, the company has already worked with thousands of businesses to shoot these 360 degree interior views. Photos will be available on your Google business page as well as the Google Maps Street View.

Friday, 28th October 2011
The European Travel Commission (ETC) publishes its third quarterly report on European Tourism in 2011 for the third quarter of the year. According to the report, travel recovery is continuing. However, the rate of expansion is slowing with few exceptions because of the economic landscape which presents a challenging environment for travel. Through August, room demand has grown nearly 4% and been particularly strong in Eastern and Southern Europe, with occupancy rates up 7.3% and 5.2%, respectively. Although occupancy growth has been relatively weak in Western Europe (2.4% YTD), room rates have performed well above average, growing 4.8%. European inbound travel is expected to slow markedly, to 2.3% in 2012 from 5.6% in 2011. The core Eurozone countries are most exposed to the downturn.

The Hotel and Travel Week #12

Monday, 1st February

InterContinental Hotels Group win a battle over 1.500 domain names, which were owned by a German who controls over 70,000 domains. Many of the now transferred domains linked to websites with booking engines selling rooms at IHG and other hotels. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) took the decision according to the principle that domains can be transferred if the brand owner can show that a name is identical or confusingly similar to their own brand, the domain owner has no rights to the domain name and where the name is registered and used in bad faith.
Tuesday, 2nd February
Travelclick and HSMAI name the best eMarketer of the Year 2009. The award goes to Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a California-based collection of boutique hotels, and recognises the best integrated e-marketing programme in the hotel industry, Travelclick say. Joie de Vivre run Facebook and Twitter campaigns and have won the prize before in 2006.
At the same time, Travelclick announces the launch of their community website: www.HotelConversations.com
Wednesday, 3rd February
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts announce a USD 20 million multimedia marketing campaign to highlight their USD 6 billion revitalisation effort. The Rediscover Sheraton campaign emphasizes a new trend in tourism which combines business and leisure travel with slogans like ‘Who brings business suits and bathing suits together’. The campaign will run on websites such as TripAdvisor.com, NYTimes.com, Kayak.com and CNN.com as well as in print.
Thursday, 4th February
Choice Hotels launch their re-designed website at www.choicehotels.com.
The new website has the ability to search by attraction, city, zip code, address and more. It also has a personalisation feature where guests can save their favorites. It results from direct feedback of hotel guests as well as extensive research, Choice say, and has been designed and developed by digital agency Razorfish.
Friday, 5th February
Starwood report a USD 186 million loss for the 4th quarter of 2009.
British Airways also announce a pre-tax loss of £342 million for the last 3 quarters of 2009. This is compared to a loss of £ 70 million for the same period of the previous year. However, BA saw an improvement during the 3rd quarter of 2009 and is hoping to be able to turn the corner.

 

The Hotel and Travel Week #6

Monday, 23rd November

The World Tourism Organization UNWTO publishes the latest Tourism Barometer which suggests that the lowest point of the financial crisis may be over. The organization monitors short term tourism trends on a regular basis 3 times a year in January, June and October. They say, tourism has been seriously hit by the recession, although coping better than other industries. International tourist arrivals declined by 7% between January and July 2009. The data in October however show a smaller decline of only 3% compared to last year. This is been seen as an indication that tourism is picking up again. Tourism Barometer
Tuesday, 24th November
IHG starts an online marketing campaign on Twitter inviting consumers to follow their Deals Twitter account. Followers have the chance to win prizes, including a 7-night stay at any IHG hotel in the world. The Tweet Away campaign starts on 1st December and runs until the end of 2009.
Wednesday, 25th November
Another hotel giant announces that they will start an online promotion on the 30th November. Starwood will kick-off their Cyber Monday Sale on that day which will only run for 3 days. Special rates at 50 of the world’s best resorts in premium destinations like the Bahamas, Bora Bora, Puerto Rico and Tahiti are on offer. Get a sneak preview.
Thursday, 26th November

Hotels in the United Arab Emirates see the sharpest decline in occupancy in October compared to the same month last year, according to a new report by STR Global. RevPar (Revenue per available room) plummets by just over 30% to USD194,5. The occupancy rate drops by 10% to 74,4%. The heavy decline is said to be caused by falling demand, but in the case of Dubai also by increasing supply. This comes along news of Dubai World, the Emirate’s state-owned property developer, possibly defaulting on its debt. Maybe some destinations haven’t hit the bottom line, yet?

Friday, 27th November
The number of WTM (World Travel Market) attendees in London earlier this month has dropped by approximately 8% compared to last year. Here are the figures.

The Hotel and Travel Week #5

Monday, 16th November

SpringHill Suites by Marriott launches an online video memory contest to celebrate its latest redesign. A new prototype property design is hugely popular with guests and guest feedback has been tremendous, says Marriott. Now everyone can take part in the online game and win prizes. Based on the concept of a memory game, the SprinHill Suites video memory contest takes players on a tour of the new design and challenges them to recall what they saw in the lobby, guest room or fitness area. The score can then be shared with friends on Facebook or Twitter which increases the chances of winning a prize. Take the quiz yourself to test your memory.
Tuesday, 17th November
TripAdvisor now offers business listings on their site. Hotels can list URL, telephone number and email address of their property on the world’s largest and most popular travel community website. This represents a new opportunity for hotels to connect directly with millions of researching travelers and potentially converting them into bookers. A flat fee will be charged for the service depending on number of rooms and starting with USD600 per year for a one-year subscription in the U.S. TripAdvisor also offers a 50% discount for properties subscribing until the end of January 2010. The listings will begin to appear from 4th January 2010.
If you are a hotel or B&B owner you can register now at: www.tripadvisor.com/businesslistings
Wednesday, 18th November
Marriott unveils the new look of marriott.com. Marriott says, the improvements include a modernized look & feel, more intuitive layout and one-click guest access to their Marriott Rewards account from anywhere in the site. marriott.com gets more than 12 million visits each month. According to Marriott, more than 75% of their guests say they use the website when planning or booking their hotel stays. However, intensive customer testing had revealed that the site could be confusing and often led to customers booking elsewhere. Marriott therefore redesigned the website and involved its customers in evaluating multiple new design concepts before settling on the one that went live this week. To encourage customers to visit the new site, travel and gift card prizes can be won from now until the 8th of December: www.marriott.com
Thursday, 19th November
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, one of the world’s leading hotel and leisure companies with 982 hotels and brands including Sheraton, Westin and W Hotels, announces that it will move its headquarters from New York to Stamford, Connecticut in 2012. The relocation to Stamford will bring millions of dollars in investment and 800 jobs to the state.
Friday, 20th November
Last month, Hilton Worldwide quietly announced to members that it is raising the number of loyalty points required next year to book a free night. The change will basically devalue Hilton HHonors points by about 20%. Travel industry analysts question this move at a time when hotel demand is down on corporate, conference and leisure travel as guests might just go somewhere else.