All posts by Paul Manzey

Mobile Travel Market Set to Double in 2014

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Regular readers of the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog have probably noticed that we dedicate a fair portion of content to emerging technologies and maximizing the tools available to the modern traveler.  Your website’s visibility depends heavily upon receiving views from a wide variety of sources, including smartphones and tablets.

How important are mobile devices for the future of the travel and hospitality industries?  Recent projections by PhoCusWright predict that U.S. mobile bookings will almost double in 2014 to $24.3 billion, up from $12.3 billion in 2013.  This means that mobile bookings – which include both smartphone and tablet bookings, but not reservations made under a “click-to-call” function – will account for 18% of the online travel market, and that $1 of every $12 spent on travel bookings will be generated via mobile.

With these numbers in mind, ResortsandLodges.com released a newly enhanced version of its mobile website at the beginning of the year, and has instantly seen positive results.  Nearly 30% of website visitors through the first three weeks of 2014 accessed ResortsandLodges.com through a mobile device.  Just over half of this demographic (15.9%) accessed the site on a tablet, while 14% of customers hopped on from a smartphone.

“I’m excited that our website now has an outstanding platform that caters to mobile users,” said Bryan Vargas, Director of IT.  “It is always important to deliver a first-rate experience to such a significant portion of our traffic.”

More Key Facts and Figures

-Despite having a similar visit duration time (2 minutes 48 seconds) as desktop (2:56) and tablet users (3:26), smartphone visitors at ResortsandLodges.com view more than three times as many pages (9.38) as those using a desktop (2.58) or tablet (2.77).

-Travelers from New York, Chicago and Minneapolis have been the most frequent users of the mobile site from smartphones.  The top three cities from which tablet users originate are New York, Houston and Chicago.

-Apple products dominate the landscape for mobile visitors at ResortsandLodges.com, with the iPhone (44.4%) and iPad (27.3%) making up 71.8% of the mobile viewing audience.

Marketing E-mails Going Mobile

Having mobile capabilities is not just important for a company’s website.  It is also important for marketing purposes.  According to a report from Movable Ink, an e-mail marketing provider, 65% of marketing e-mails were opened on mobile devices during the last quarter of 2013, up from 61% during the third quarter.  These percentages skewed heavily in favor of e-mails opened on smartphones (48%) over tablets (16%).  To see more data from the Movable Ink report, click here.

Examining Metasearch Online Travel Agencies

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Online travel agencies (OTAs) are a vital part of the supply chain in the travel industry. They are widely considered one of the main factors behind rapid growth in online travel bookings across both mature and emerging markets.

New online channels have been created in recent years with the intention of lowering hotel distribution costs without decreasing occupancy levels.  Of these options, the metasearch channel has separated itself from the pack as a highly successful venture.

In a recent interview with HotelMarketing.com, Siteminder’s CEO Mike Ford illustrated the opportunities that metasearch channels present for hoteliers.

Ford begins the discussion by explaining that metasearch OTAs collect room rates from multiple online channels and displays them to the consumer in a single list.  This allows potential travelers an expedited process to find and compare hotels and pricing options.  Some of the most popular sites include Google Hotel Finder, Trivago and Kayak.

Those hoteliers that are taking advantage and becoming early adopters of new sales and distribution technologies stand out, but ultimately the name of the game is converting clicks to bookings.  No matter the type of property, the number of rooms, geographical location, star rating or amenities offered, the companies that are the most profitable will be those with a high click conversion.

Ford also discusses his feelings about TripAdvisor’s TripConnect in comparison to the other major metasearch OTAs as well as tips for hoteliers on how best to implement metasearch channels into their online visibility.

To read this entire interview, and to learn more about the importance of metasearch OTAs going forward, click here.

Emerging Travel Trends: The Silent Traveler

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The rise of digital technology and marketing in the hospitality industry has created a new kind of traveler who is adept at all available online and mobile tools.  They use these tools to jump across all industry-defined silos.  These new travelers do not require a lot of handholding, they shun human interaction and know their way around everywhere they go.

These travelers were documented in a Skift report titled, “14 Global Trends That Will Define Travel in 2014.”  How can you reach these travelers and keep them satisfied during their stay at your property?  Let’s take a look at some options that are geared towards the newly emerging “Silent Traveler”.

Mobile Check-in Opportunities

No traveler really enjoys the tedious process of a front desk check-in.  Waiting in line can be a hassle, and Silent Travelers do not always feel comfortable with extended amounts of face-to-face interaction.  One of our recent blog posts, “Hotels Expand Mobile Check-In Options” discusses steps hotels are taking to make the check-in process simpler and mobile-driven.

Third Space Creativity

Silent Travelers still need a place to be able to operate the technology they travel with, putting a premium on creating a usable third space on your property.  All travelers are looking for Wi-Fi connectivity, and most of them believe this should be a complimentary service.  Click here to learn more about third spaces.

Response to Feedback

If the hospitality — the actual human to human interaction — part of the travel industry becomes less and less important, how does the industry define itself? How does it understand the needs of its customers and fulfill them?

Although these Silent Travelers may not be talking to people face-to-face, they are often jumping on review sites, or a property’s own website, to leave feedback about their stay.  It is important to manage these channels and respond to this feedback as soon as possible.  This ensures that the voice of the Silent Travelers is being heard, and their concerns are addressed like those of any other guest.

Roomer Travel: The Resale Marketplace Dynamic

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Have you heard of StubHub and EBay?  These well-known sites provide a secondary marketplace for buyers and sellers of valuable products.  What would happen if there were a secondary marketplace for hotel rooms bought in advance, that need to be sold because of unforeseen circumstances?  Welcome to the idea behind Roomer Travel.

Richie Karaburun, Roomer Travel’s United States Managing Director, was recently on the Emerging Market Trends Panel at the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) conference, and he discussed the business model behind the startup.

Here is how Roomer Travel works:  travelers who have booked, and prepaid, for a non-refundable room can put their room up on the site, where they can re-sell it to another person.

On the surface, there is some fear from hoteliers and room suppliers that “hotel scalping” will become the norm, creating a potential disruption in the hotel supply chain.  For example, what is stopping a person from buying a room at $100 six months in advance, and then selling in later when the Best Available Rate is higher than the price originally paid – thus making a profit? Shouldn’t this profit be going to the hotel whose inventory is being re-sold rather than the customer?

Karaburun pointed out, the average discount they have seen on their platform is 37%.  He claims this is a far cry from scalping, and more of a way to help customers with not having to eat the cost of the pre-paid hotel room when plans change.

The main goal of the company is to connect sellers – traveler who can no longer use their hotel reservation, but do not want to pay the cancellation fee – with other travelers who are willing to buy the reservation for them.  This creates value for the hotels – which do not need to re-market the room and sell it for less (the hotel still gets the full price for a reservation).  Hotels also have the opportunity to capture the incremental revenues (WiFI, minibar, etc.) which would be lost if the room is not re-sold.

Four Immediate Challenges Facing Roomer Travel

1) The true size of the market remains uncertain.  Although Karaburun estimated that there are 80,000 hotel daily no-shows in the United States in an NBC News interview, this may be a slightly exaggerated figure.  The key here is that not all hotels are offering a resale market option, and some of these rooms may not be non-refundable.

2) Unlike airlines, hotels allow name changes on a reservation now.  If a consumer finds himself or herself unable to use a prepaid reservation, he or she can reach out to others using social media to see if anyone is interested in using a room.

3) Hotels may resist using Roomer if they believe it will have a negative effect on their revenues.

4) Simple convincing hotels to participate in this new marketplace will be a tough sell.  Roomer could find it difficult getting branded hotels to participate.  An easier angle to work may be independent hotels, but this reaches a limited consumer base.

The Declining Value of Social Marketing

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Is social media a marketer’s dream, or a dreadful nightmare that just does not seem to go away?  Is everybody using it, or are people just hopping on board right as the calendar changes to 2014?  NextStage surveyed 1,700 U.S. and Canada-based companies about their own social media use, and the results may surprise you.

It is first important to get some context on exactly what social marketing entails.  Social marketing means creating a social presence and using that social presence to drive conversions.  Conversions cover everything from loyalty to acquisition to retention, and even customer service.

All interviewees were director level and above, knowledgeable social managers with two or more years’ experience in social, with more years in marketing in general.  Companies ranged from mom and pop shops to Fortune 100 corporations.  Wide varieties of tools were used to glean information about social campaigns including Expion, Google Anayltics, HootSuite and ReviewAnalyst among others.

So what did these businesses think?  Would they do it all over again?

Marketers who said they are new to social media: 6%

It almost seems like a cardinal sin for a marketing manager to have at least two years of experience on the job and still claim to be new to social media.

That being said, with so many social media platforms out there, it stands to reason that some marketing managers may be new to outlets like Pinterest, Instagram or Reddit.  Part of people’s newness claims did amount to an inability to keep up.  One respondent even said, “We’re not sure the platform we need is out there yet.”

That “which platform” question will be a considerable challenge for marketers in 2014 and beyond.

Marketer who said they were happy with social media: 7.75%

This low a percentage should not be a real surprise to marketers.  All successful efforts came down to four essential details.  The top two spots in this regard were knowing and respecting their audience.  Those who claimed success talked about knowing their audience and showing it respect.

Respect came in several forms including shared interests, shared social causes and shared social beliefs.  Letting an audience have a say and digital transparency that was seconded on non-digital channels were also highly ranked.

The third basic element for success was the old “location, location, location” slogan.   You want to go where your audience is, while not trying to push them in a direction where they do not wish to go.

The final element was deciding what to measure and then finding or making the tool that could accurately measure it.  A marketing manager’s office is a revolving door of vendors with lots of solid products, but they have to be the correct product for what you are attempting to measure.

Marketer who said they are going to “do something else”:  10.5%

This can include everything from revamping social marketing campaigns to completely rebuilding social teams to everything in-between.  Although these people are unhappy with their results, they are not unhappy enough to abandon social media altogether.  However, they are just unhappy enough to consider alternative spends.

Did these companies consider this social spending a waste of money?  Definitely not.  All of them considered their social campaigns learning experiences, and most believed that the campaigns simply did not succeed as well as they would have liked.

To find out what percentage of companies were dissatisfied with social, and where the rest of respondents fell on the survey, click here.

Modern Travelers: Smile Onsite About Service, Irate on the Internet

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Picture this scene:  You are traveling to see family during the holidays, and you decide to stay at a hotel for a few days.  The building itself is beautiful, with a nicely decorated lobby filled with incredibly friendly and helpful staff members.  You walk into your room and instantly notice it is bright, clean and big.

This was the travel experience of TrustYou’s marketing director Margaret Ady, and despite all of these positive aspects of the hotel, she gave a mediocre review.  What was her reasoning behind this decision?  She had to pay nearly $22/day for internet service.

Her frustration in having to pay for the internet service is not unique in today’s travel landscape that offers Free WiFi nearly everywhere you go.  To go online and voice one’s concerns with an average, or below-average review has also become the norm in the hospitality industry.

TrustYou worked with New York Univeristy’s Donna Quadri-Felitti PhD, from the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, to release its first annual global reports, based on an analysis of over 14 million reviews written in 2013 to identify key trends in user reviews.

The consensus from the data matches Ady’s experience:  in most destinations, travelers were smiling about service, but irate over the internet in 2013.

As travelers turn increasingly to reviews to help with their hotel booking decisions, hotel management is under constant pressure to focus on improvement of review scores connected to their hotel portfolio.  In 2013, hoteliers rose to the challenge, with a majority of regions/countries (including leaders the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom) posting an increase in scores.

To read more about this report, including the recent drop of five-star reviews in major markets across the globe, click here.

Top Weekly Travel Ads: A Family-Friendly Summer

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As companies begin to gear up for family-friendly summer in 2014, travel ads use children and parents to capture a large and profitable portion of the traveling public.  Skift.com put together a list of the five top travel ads from the past week, which you can view here.

You may not have advertising budgets that allow you to create and distribute commercials like this, but capturing the family message is important because it is such a key travel demographic.

Priceline’s latest ad features William Shatner reprising his role as the Negotiator.  He plays the role of a protective parent after his daughter’s date books a room using Priceline’s no-bid Express Deals hotel booking tool.  Negotiator Rises

Disney Theme Parks is not marketing to protective parents, but they do encourage them to create unforgettable memories with a child’s first trip to this vacation wonderland.  Disney’s message is simple: Take your children to a Disney theme park if you want to make them happy.  Magical “Firsts” at Disney Theme Parks

Expedia’s new ad tugs at a parent’s heartstrings, following a young boy whose bedtime storybook seems to come to life when on vacation with his mom.  The ad encourages would-be travelers to discover their real-life fairy tales via travel.  Create Your Storybook

A To-Do List for Hotels in 2014

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Kelly McGuire of the SAS Institute created a to-do list for analytic hospitality executives in 2014.  This list includes higher-level items that will help to build a strong strategic analytic culture.  There are also tactical items that will help you stay on top of trends McGuire thinks will have a major impact on the industry in the near future.

1) Think More Strategically – This is a common goal for every company at the beginning of a new year, but it is easy to be bogged down by the day-to-day analyses or job tasks.  Keep asking the important questions like where you and your team are, and where you want to go.  Do you understand your organization’s business strategy?  Do your goals line up with this strategy?

2) Encourage Cross-Departmental Decision Making – With digital marketing coming into the forefront, and the recognized value of review and ratings data across multiple departments, cross-departmental thinking will be even more of a focus in 2014.

It is important to establish regular communication with counterparts in other departments (marketing, operations, finance and revenue management).  Bringing your best information to the table and making decisions as a team will strengthen your group as a whole, as well as the individual members.

3) Develop a Common Business Language – A number of companies have started data visualization projects to pull together data from across the organization and provide “single version of the truth” reporting for executives and managers.  Without first establishing a cross-functional team to come to agreement on definitions of key metrics, kata access and data acquisition rules, these projects will fail.  McGuire believes there will be much more of a focus on data management in 2014 as these initiatives get underway.

4) Carefully Evaluate New Data Sources – With plenty of new data sources available to you on a daily basis, it can be tempting to gravitate towards all that is new and shiny.  However, you need to realize that adding new data sources can be time-consuming and resource intensive.  You need to fully understand what the data is and how it can contribute to your decision making process.

Make sure you can develop clear answers to the following questions:

Can the data enhance or augment existing analyses or business insights?

Do you have resources available that can understand the data and be able to use it in analyses?

What actions could you take with insights gained from that data source?

5) Tell a Story With Your Data – Getting your point across to a wide range of personas within your organization requires careful thought about how you use data in your presentation material.  Rows upon rows of numbers, mathematical formulas or complex graphs will not grab the attention of any but the most advanced audiences.  Instead, use a couple of “pictures” that make your point with the most impact.

To read the rest of McGuire’s to-do list for the new year, click here.