The Hotel and Travel Week

London 2012 Update
Following up our London 2012 post, according to new data from STR Global the summer Olympics appear to be helping London’s hotel performance after all. From 27th July to 5th August 2012, hoteliers across London reported 87.7% occupancy and £216.42 (US$335.18) ADR. This represents an increase of 3.2% and 87.1% compared to the same days a year ago.
“However, Heathrow and Gatwick, in the west and south of London and therefore less convenient for Olympic venues, have reported occupancy declines for the Olympic period.” said Elizabeth Randall Winkle, managing director of STR Global.

Online Travel Agents hit by European crisis
Global economic weakness, in particular in Europe, took a toll on online travel agents this week. Shares of OTAs such as Orbitz and Priceline were smashed by investors after the companies had published weaker profit outlooks. These reflect in part consumers’ reluctance to spend on leisure travel while uncertainty remains over many of the world’s largest economies. Moreover, the weakness of the Euro against the U.S. Dollar has reduced the value of international bookings which account for most of Orbitz’ and Priceline’s business. For example, 60% of Priceline’s hotel online bookings come from Europe.
Online travel agents receive higher commissions from hotel bookings than airfares and airlines have an advantage over hotels as they are able to adjust to changes in demand by decreasing capacities.
Shares of other online travel sites also plummeted on Wednesday. Expedia’s share price dropped about 5%, as did shares of TripAdvisor and Kayak.

Expedia’s Traveler Preference programme
Expedia’s new payment model and potential impact on the hotel industry was also discussed this week. The Expedia Traveler Preference programme could put the relationship between hotels and online travel agencies under renewed pressure. The new technology will allow travelers to choose whether to pay Expedia at the time of booking (and Expedia will pay the hotel) or upon checkout (and the hotel would pay Expedia post stay). The model is similar to what the Priceline Group offers via Booking.com: travelers reserve a room with a no-fee cancellation policy and then pay the hotel after their stay.
Some hoteliers remain skeptical, particularly with regards to the model’s commission structure and cancellation fees. Commissions paid to Expedia will be the same whether the traveler pays at time of booking or upon checkout. Hotels criticize that Expedia is applying a merchant commission to an agency model.

Joie de Vivre Hotels reward rebels
Guests at 6 Joie de Vivre Hotels in the U.S. Southwest can take part in the chains’ Ditch campaign and tweet an excuse for ditching their everyday responsibilities taking a photo upon arrival wearing a disguise provided by the property. The best excuses and photos will win a 2-night stay at one of the hotels. The contest will continue until 15th November.

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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.

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TripAdvisor drops list of ‘Dirtiest Hotels’
10th January 2012

TripAdvisor decided to drop its annual ‘Dirtiest Hotels’ list, which instigated a lawsuit by a hotel against the company in 2011. TripAdvisor had previously justified the list as empowering travelers with an honest source of information. Now the company has changed its mind.

Room Key Online Portal

Hotel big players launch their own online portal
11th January 2012

Six of the world’s largest hotel companies have joined forces to create an online portal that offers bookings on better terms than most online travel agencies (OTAs). A beta version of RoomKey.com was officially launched on Wednesday. Its operating company Room Key was founded by Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corp., IHG, Marriott International Inc. and Wyndham Worldwide Corp. and includes direct booking facility of 23,000 hotels affiliated with these companies worldwide. Each hotel company owns an equal slice of Room Key. The company earns a commission from the booking, claimed to be at a more supplier-friendly rate than what third party OTAs are offering. A major plus being that the site redirects users to the hotel company’s websites for direct booking. Room Key is looking to add additional hotel companies and said a major announcement on this is planned for next week. However, Best Western International already announced on Thursday that it has signed up as the first partner to supply hotel inventory. Room Key is concentrating on U.S. consumers initially before expanding globally in summer.
www.roomkey.com

We would like to hear your opinion about this effort to compete with existing OTAs.
Please, take part in our poll on the right!

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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!

 

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Monday, 17th October 2011

TravelCube, the Kuoni-owned online bed bank launches weekly flash sales exclusively for travel agents. TravelCube’s sister company GTA will negotiate discounts similar to the Groupon model which will then be available on the website for 7 days. The first flash sale launches on Monday in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, offering discounts on hotels in London, Monaco and Bangkok of 40% to 50% lower than the hotels’ rack rates.
Tuesday, 18th October 2011
The Arab Spring has taken a toll on tourism in nations from Jordan and Egypt to Morocco and Tunisia, costing the region more than US$7 billion, according to the Arab Tourism Organization in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The number of visitors to North Africa and the Middle East dropped by 13% and 11% in the first half of 2011, said Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization in Madrid.
Wednesday, 19th October 2011
The owner of the Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Force, Tennessee sues online hotel review company TripAdvisor for US$10 million. He alleges that TripAdvisor ‘maliciously and wrongfully’ hurt his hotel’s business by placing Grand Resort atop its ‘2011 Dirtiest Hotels’ list for U.S. hotels in January. According to TripAdvisor ‘The top 10 list of dirtiest hotels is compiled based on traveler ratings for cleanliness on TripAdvisor.’
Thursday, 20th October 2011
Google announces the expansion of its Hotel Finder experiment to include hotels around the world on their Web Search Community forum. The Hotel Finder service is still in English only and with hotel prices in US dollars. There was no further information when the experiment could evolve into a beta or even final product.
Friday, 21st October 2011
Hilton HHonors, Hilton Worldwide’s loyalty programme, launches ‘the world’s largest social media treasure hunt’, giving away 500 free hotel nights over the course of 5 consecutive days this week. In each city, the first 100 people who correctly complete the task and find the Hilton HHonors team will be awarded with a free night certificate, redeemable at any participating property in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands. Clues for the treasure hunt are being given on the Hilton HHonors Twitter account and Facebook page.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 25th July 2011

Google removes snippets of customer reviews from sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor from Google Places and Maps. The move, announced in Google’s official blog at the end of last week, follows the disclosure of an U.S. anti-trust investigation last month. The federal investigation is looking into whether Google abuses its market power by favouring its own services over those of competitors. Now, a user looking at a hotel listing will get all the existing content (photos, address, website link, prices) but the number of reviews has been stripped down dramatically. This comes at a time when the Sunday Times announces an investigation of TripAdvisor reviews after both hoteliers and freelance writers advertised for fake hotel reviews on freelance writing websites such as i-freelancer.org.
Tuesday, 26th July 2011
Hilton Hotels & Resorts launches “Stay Hilton, Go Everywhere” – the group’s first iAd campaign. iAd is Apple’s mobile advertising network which reaches millions of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users through applications. With this campaign, Hilton aims to showcase virtual vacations at nine Hilton properties around the world. It features Twitter and email integration, photography and downloadable wallpapers.
Wednesday, 27th July 2011
Facebook debuts a step-by-step online guide aimed at helping small businesses to use the social networking website. The ‘online education center’ gives directions on how to set up a profile page, create targeted ads and deals and interact with customer feedback online. Interestingly, this comes just a week after Google began shutting off all company profiles on its Google+ social network. Access the guide at: facebook.com/business
Thursday, 28th July 2011
Researchers at Cornell University in the U.S. have developed software which can identify fake hotel reviews by analysing its linguistic structure, they claim. The technology tested 800 reviews of hotels in Chicago and was able to pick out ‘deceptive reviews’ with almost 90% accuracy. Apparently, the software analyses sentiment, word structure and grammar. While true reviews use more concrete words like ‘bathroom’, ‘check-in’ etc. fake reviews are more about setting the scene, they say. Moreover, it would appear that deceivers use more verbs while truth-tellers use more nouns. Cornell students see the technology being applied in the travel industry perhaps as a ‘first round filter’, allowing sites to score potentially false reviews which require further investigation.
Friday, 29th July 2011
Google launches Hotel Finder for hotels in the U.S. which is a search tool designed specifically to make it easier to find and compare hotels. Click on the screenshot to enlarge:
The main features include: drawing simple shapes to define the destination areas of interest, seeing popular locations on maps, adding a hotel to a shortlist with just one click, where they can be reviewed easily later on. In addition, users can see if they will get a good deal by comparing a hotel’s current price with the typical one.
The filter on the left-hand side offers various options such as: location filters, arrival and departure dates, price point filters as well as hotel ratings & user rating filters.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 15th August 2011

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

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

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

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 11th July 2011

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

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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.

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.