Category Archives: Travel News

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

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