Category Archives: Travel News

Travel, Hospitality Brands Hop On Board with Google Glass

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The hospitality and travel industries have always been ahead of the game when incorporating new technology into their day-to-day operations, and now some of these brands appear to be ready to hop on board with Google Glass.

OpenTable, TripIt, and foursquare have all rolled out efforts for Google Glass, highlighting the role that utility plays for marketing developing wearable initiatives. All three companies have been added to MyGlass, which is a portal that houses all of the apps found on the Glass devices.

“Glass presents an exciting opportunity to think about how traveling should work,” said Amy Jackson, director of public relations at TripIt, San Francisco.

Jackson also discussed some predicaments during the travel experience – having to carry multiple bags, pulling out a boarding pass, and moving through line after line – where having something to guide travelers through their trip, without requiring them to reach into a pocket or bag would be incredibly helpful.

What Will These Apps do to Help Travelers?
Synching up a TripIt account to the device pushes travel information to Google Glasses so that consumers can view their travel information quickly. The app refreshes Google Now content as well so that a traveler’s information is all in one place. It is also able to pull in car rental, hotel and travel reservations once a consumer has landed.

The foursquare app leverages location to let consumers view a list of nearby places at which then can check in.

OpenTable is tapping Google Glass to trigger last-minute restaurant reservations. Via the app, consumers can view a list of nearby restaurants at which they can make a reservation. Making restaurant reservations and reading reviews continue to be some of the most popular features that consumers are accessing on smartphones, making the switch to Google Glass a logical choice for OpenTable.

To read the full article on Mobile Commerce Daily, click here.

10 Things Every Hotel Website Must Have

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Your hotel website gives potential travelers a chance to view the most important aspects of your property.  People are not going to visit your property before they stay to ensure it meets all of their needs.  Your property website needs to be able to attract leads and eventually help sell the deal that this is where a traveler should stay.

In order to attract potential guests to your website, you need to know what these individuals are looking for.  Noise, a New York City-based creative agency, was tasked with creating a list of the most important things all hotel websites must have.  Here is what they came up with. Continue reading

Clear Goals Key to Social Media Success

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The travel and hospitality industries have embraced social media channels in recent years as a means to communicate with potential travelers before, during, and after their travel experience.  However, if one tried and true lesson has emerged from all of this social media use, it is that hoteliers should not spread themselves too thin.

According to panelists at the seventh annual Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel conference, the best way to ensure that you are not spreading yourself too thin is to have goals in place before testing the waters in any one social channel.

Examples of Setting/Reaching Goals
Mac Joseph, senior manager of social media marketing for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and one of the panelists at the conference, talked about his own company’s social media goals.

For the luxury hotel company, the aim is to generate awareness on a global scale while fostering meaningful engagement at the property level.  This is reflected in the company’s social media approaches:

  • Mandarin operates a single YouTube channel for the entire portfolio.
  • Individual properties employ Instagram accounts, which are easier to manage with finite resources.
  • Each hotel also has a presence on Google+, although Joseph admitted the network is more challenging. (“If nothing else, Google+ provides and ‘incredible’ boost to search engine optimization,” said Joseph.)

Loews Hotels & Resorts had a number of goals, according to director Piper Stevens, including but not limited to:

1) Establishing a more social culture on property
2) Creating buzz through integrated campaigns
3) Driving social commerce

The company took a look at the booking funnel to determine which channels would be the most appropriate.  You can see some of the steps taken on different social channels:

  • In the initial dreaming phase, inspiration often comes from sensory experiences such as photos or videos.  Loews responded with campaigns on Instagram and YouTube, among others, to spark that yearning for travel.
  • The company bolstered its efforts on TripAdvisor to make an impact in the researching stage.
  • For the actual booking, Loews was the first brand to introduce reservations on Twitter to make the process as painless as possible.
  • During and after the trip itself, Loews encourages guests to share their experiences via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, thus promoting inspiration for the next wave of travelers.

To read more about social media goals discussed at the EyeForTravel conference, click here.

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

TripAdvisor Falls Short of Q1 Projections

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One of TripAdvisor’s main priorities for 2014 was launching the direct booking of hotels in its mobile apps and mobile site – Instant Booking. However, the mobile platform not yet attracted the partner lineup the company was seeking.

During the company’s first quarter earnings call, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer said about 150,000 properties, or about one-third of those e-commerce-enabled, are now available for direct booking, or Instant Booking as TripAdvisor calls it. This can be done on its mobile site, as well as through iPhone and Android apps.

TripAdvisor’s Q1 Earnings
The news on the Instant Booking feature was overshadowed during TripAdvisor’s earnings call, mainly because the company failed to hit its Q1 projections. Sales for the travel review website climbed 32% to $281 million, shy of analysts’ consensus at $282.9 million.

TripAdvisor raised it’s 2014 growth forecast for referral revenue after reporting a nine percent rise in quarterly profit, helped by increased revenue from referrals and display advertisements. Because of this, TripAdvisor’s shares rose as much as 3.8 percent after it reported a 16% increase in referrals income, which makes up three-quarters of its revenue.

The company forecasts 2014 referral revenue growth in the high 20’s in terms of percentages, up from a previous forecast of growth in the low 20’s.

The company is benefiting from higher fees every time a user clicks through to a third-party booking site, after the company changed its display to show prices more prominently. The site now lists prices of hotel rooms from booking sites alongside its user reviews, allowing for easy comparison. This translates into fewer clicks for each booking site, but each click is more likely to lead to a booking.

TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking
Instant Booking enables travelers to book a hotel without leaving the company’s app or mobile site, but is currently only visible to about 10% of U.S. users.

The introduction of Instant Booking in TripAdvisor’s hotel-metasearch product on mobile is extremely important as TripAdvisor believes it will greatly increase monetization. That’s because users will not find themselves lost in the handoff to third-party hotel or online travel agency sites in order to book their stay.

The lack of take-up by bigger online travel agencies like Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz, means TripAdvisor’s major rivals at this point are reluctant to further empower an already formidable competitor.

To read more about TripAdvisor’s Q1 earnings call, click here.

To read more about TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking, click here.

U.S. Hotels Courting Chinese Travelers

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Hoteliers and property managers should always be looking for segments of the travel market that are trending upwards.  Chinese travelers fit that bill which is why many U.S. hotels are beefing up on their knowledge of China’s culture so that they can improve the experience for these big-spending international travelers.

According to a recent NBC News article, the staff at the New York Marriott Marquis hotel recently got a crash course in how to welcome some of Amway China’s 1,500 guests who won incentive sales trips to New York City in April.

Subtle Changes to Help Promote a Positive Experience
In the case of the Marriott Marquis, in-room carafes were replaced so that guests could make tea each morning.  From the days when its only Chinese visitors were high government officials, the Marquis had already assigned names (Royal, Pinnacle, etc.) to presidential suites on the 44th and 45th floors, because the number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture.

The number eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture, so standing out to a Chinese guest “can be as simple as what the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook did, which was to put eight chocolate coins and candy in a small mesh back with an attached welcome note,” said Seema Jain, director of Multicultural Markets and Alliances for Marriott International.

The Target Market is Big – and Getting Bigger
In 2013, an estimated 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the United States.  For 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries expects that number to rise by 21%, to more than 2.1 million, with increases of about 20% per year through 2018.

Los Angeles and New York City received the most Chinese tourists in 2012, according to the Department of Commerce.  In the New York region alone, Marriott has seen a 17% growth in 2013 over 2012 for the Chinese market, according to Robert Ambrozny, Marriott international sales director for the New York City region.

To read the full NBC News article, click here.