Category Archives: Online Resources

UK Travelers Blackmailing Hotels with TripAdvisor

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A recent article in The Telegraph reported that hotels and restaurants in Britain are being targeted by “blackmailers” who demand free meals and stays in exchange for not writing bad reviews on the TripAdvisor website.

Guests are warning staff that they will post bad comments on the review website if they are not given better service, meals, or upgrades.

Restaurant, hotel, and B&B owners in Britain have reported a huge rise in the number of customers using the site as a threat. Guests are typically making a complaint and then threatening to post a bad review unless given a free bottle of wine, dessert, or bill reduction.

Martin Couchman, the deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that he was in talks with TripAdvisor to improve the service.

How Important is Online Reputation Management?
According to TripAdvisor, the average traveler reads between six and twelve reviews during the research phase of the trip planning process. For this reason alone, it is important for your most recent reviews to shed your property or establishment in a positive light.

To be honest, I’m shocked that this kind of scheme did not happen earlier on in TripAdvisor’s existence (and perhaps it has, but has been kept under wraps). The company is not hiring millions of travel experts to research properties for them. Instead, they are putting that power in the hands of the masses, assuming that travelers will have no ulterior motives for giving a positive or negative review.

To answer the question, your property’s online reputation is incredibly important as far as how travelers perceive the quality of stay they will be receiving when they stay with you. If TripAdvisor has to worry about “fraudulent” reviews being posted for all of the wrong reasons, they will lose credibility.

To read the full Telegraph article, click here.

Google’s Hotel Moves Worry Travel Sector

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Recent partnerships by Google Inc. with hotel chains have raised some concern among others in the travel industry that the search giant is trying to grab more advertising dollars. The company currently owns ITA software, a flight information provider, and has a hotel price-ad program that routes consumers to the hotel websites for booking.

In recent months, hotels have agreed to test Google products, and last month, Google reached a licensing agreement with a startup called Room 77, which lets guests compare hotel prices and book rooms.
Many analysts do not think Google is a big threat to online travel agencies in the immediate future. However, such agreements have sparked buzz about what it could eventually do in the travel sector.

Google’s Major Drawback
Right now, industry researchers do not believe Google is looking to get into the business of processing purchases done by online travel agencies (OTAs), which are some of their biggest advertisers. To add the transaction business would require certain capabilities that would bring new overhead and fixed costs. Google has said they would like to court more travel advertising revenue.

On its earnings conference call last month, Google said its travel efforts were meant to provide “more and more detailed information when people do searches” for hotel bookings or tickets.

Douglas Quinby, vice president of research at PhoCusWright, said that after its recent moves, Google is directly competing with hotel search companies like TripAdvisor, Priceline, Kayak, and Expedia’s Trivago.

Does Google Really Have to Worry?
Of the $4.7 billion spent on U.S. travel advertising last year, 52% went to websites and other digital channels according to PhoCusWright data. Of that, hotels spent the most, followed by online travel agencies and airlines.

While Google’s moves could put some ad revenue from OTAs at risk, Quinby said the online agencies will not cut ties with the company. “Google is just a huge source of traffic,” he said. “It’s not like some of these big (online travel companies) are suddenly going to stop advertising on Google.”

To read the full Reuters story, click here.

U.S. Travelers Booking on Mobile Devices

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There was a time in our technological history when desktop personal computers were considered the standard, and laptops were typically only used for business trips.  The proliferation of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, gives users a “computer” with the same capabilities of the early PC’s right in the palm of their hand.

According to a recent eMarketer study, as more consumers adopt these mobile devices, mobile travel bookings are beginning to boom.  U.S. mobile travel sales, which include travel purchases on both tablets and smartphones, totaled $16.36 billion in 2013, and will increase another 59.8% this year to reach $26.14 billion. Continue reading

Airbnb’s 10 Fastest Growing U.S. Desinations

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As the travel industry continues to grow, it is important to recognize the cities of the United States that have seen the most individual growth.  With this in mind, travel startup Airbnb announced its list of the Top 10 trending U.S. travel destinations for the summer of 2014.

These top trending destinations were determined by comparing bookings from Labor Day 2013 through April 2014 for travel from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014 against bookings at the same destinations between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year.

Airbnb’s Top 10 Fastest-Growing U.S. Desinations

1) Nashville – With great points of interest like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and Bridgestone Arena, America’s home for country music saw bookings jump 365% over last year.

2) New Orleans – The home of the NFL’s Saints and the NBA’s Pelicans, New Orleans is known for being a jazz music hub, as well as having a tremendous variety of food.  Interest in the Big Easy has risen 340% for summer getaways this year.

3) Palm Springs – An area that was once known as being a “winter-only” getaway has transitioned nicely to a year-round destination for all ages.  Travelers have the opportunity to experience the San Jacinto Mountains, the Living Desert Zoo Gardens, and the Palm Springs Air Museum.  For all of these reasons, and many more, this area has seen a 334% increase in booking over last year.

4) Portland, Maine – Portland has been a premier New England destination for quite some time thanks to historical attractions like the Portland Observatory, the Merrill Auditorium, and Old Port.  Recent travel to Portland is up 328% over last year.

5) Santa Barbara – The state of California’s second entry on this list, Santa Barbara, provides travelers with more of a coastal feel than Palm Springs, and also offers history buffs a great destination to explore in Mission Santa Barbara.  The city has seen a 320% increase over last year’s booking numbers.

6) Oregon Coast – Golfers, sand-boarders and dune buggy enthusiasts love the Oregon Coast, helping boost its popularity 316% this summer.

7) The Adirondacks – Whether it is the region’s mountains, forests, and wild landscapes, or just finding the right Adirondack chair by the water, New York State’s playground was up 316% in bookings this year over last.

8) Denver – The Mile High city is home to four professional athletic franchises (the Avalanche, Broncos, Nuggets, and Rockies), the Downtown Aquarium, and plenty of museums and other cultural attractions.  When a city offers all of this, it should come as no surprise that bookings were up 306% over last year.

9) Coastal Orange County – California’s third and final entry on this list is highlighted by picturesque beaches and an easy living lifestyle.  The Orange County region saw bookings increase 306% over last year.

10) Boulder – At the base of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder’s summer bookings are up 291% over last year’s numbers.  Colorado’s second entry on this list offers travelers the perfect blend of outdoor mountain beauty with attractions for all ages.

Yahoo Announces Launch of Digital Travel Magazine

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With Google making a recent splash in the travel market with their Hotel Finder feature, it should come as no surprise that Yahoo had its own travel news to announce on April 28 at Digital Content NewFronts. The company announced that it is bringing readers a first-class ticket around the world with the launch of the new Yahoo Travel – an immersive digital magazine that makes those daydreams to getaways near and far a reality. Continue reading

TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer Provides Industry Insight

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Smartphones give travelers the ability to research, plan and book trips right from the palm of their hand, but TripAdvisor’s latest TripBarometer survey indicates that only four percent of worldwide travelers used this channel to book their last trip.  Here are some of the key stats and findings from a recent survey by Ipsos, conducted on behalf of TripAdvisor.

The biannual study highlights country, regional, and global travel trends, according to more than 61,000 travelers and hoteliers around the world.

Overall Travel Industry Numbers

  • Travelers are planning to spend more on their holidays in 2014 with an average annual traveler spend rising from $5,955 to $6,136 for this year, an increase of 3%.
  • The proportion of travelers planning to travel more has increased across almost all markets.  This year, 90% of global travelers are planning to travel domestically (up from 87% in 2013) and 77% plan to travel internationally, up 12% compared 2013 (65%).

Hoteliers Gaining Confidence

  • 70% of hoteliers globally say they are optimistic about their profitability in the year ahead (up from 67% in 2013).
  • Although just one in five global hoteliers plan to hire staff, an encouraging 37% of accommodation businesses will be investing in staff training, perhaps indicating renewed efforts to deliver excellent customer service.

Mobile Booking on the Rise, but Global Uptake Still Slow

  • Globally, travelers are attached to their mobile phones, with 91% saying they use their smartphones on holiday.
  • 37% of travelers use their smartphone to find things to do, and 27% are searching for hotels.

Despite the increasing number of travelers using their smartphone to plan and research, the trend has not yet crossed over to the booking stage.

  • Only 4% of global travelers booked the accommodation for their last trip via mobile, however China is leading the pack with 10% of Chinese bookings coming via mobile.
  • Thailand (9%), Indonesia (7%), and Malayasia (7%) are the next highest countries in percentage of bookings made on smartphones.

Hoteliers appear to see the value in offering mobile options for travelers.

  • Three quarters of hoteliers (76%) already have a mobile offering for travelers in place.
  • Of those hoteliers who do not have mobile offerings, 50% plan to introduce a mobile offering in 2013.
  • 45% of hoteliers allow guests to book rooms via their website on a mobile device and 38% have a mobile friendly website.

To learn more about the Ipsos/TripAdvisory TripBarometer, click here.

Tensions High For Airbnb, New York Attorney General

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The New York Times had a great one-liner relating to the Airbnb case being argued in Albany right now:

“There was no room for agreement, and no agreement about rooms, in court Tuesday in Albany.”

The State of New York and the world’s largest startup have found themselves in a stalemate after the first day of hearings in a case that has taken the travel industry by storm.

Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, has issued a subpoena for Airbnb’s list of hosts in New York City because he thinks some of them are breaking the law.  It is illegal in New York to rent out an apartment for less than 30 days.

Airbnb is arguing that the government’s subpoena is too “extreme and incredible” in scope, as the state of New York is requesting users’ names, emails, the address of the rental, the dates, and the amount charged to rent.  The company sees this as a fundamental attack on its very existence because much of what it offers in New York is short-term rentals in apartment buildings. Continue reading