Category Archives: Travel News

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.

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.

TripAdvisor Acquires Vacation Home Rentals

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TripAdvisor, one of the premier travel metasearch engines a traveler review directories, continued their growth within the vacation rental sector of the travel industry by recently acquiring Vacation Home Rentals, a Massachusetts-based vacation rentals website.

Vacation Home Rentals features more than 14,000 properties around the world. This brings the number of vacation rentals featured on TripAdvisor to 550,000 rental properties worldwide. Continue reading