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Why 2016 needs to be the year of the digital guest standard

Posted by on in Industry News

The hotel market is renowned for its inertia and late adoption to technological innovations.

Yet, it was one of the first industries to move online around 1995/1996 (when Travelocity and Expedia first appeared).

NB: This is a viewpoint from Max Waldmann, chief executive of Conichi.

Hospitality relies heavily on the digital world and the standards which go along with it, but it increasingly fails to meet these standards inside its properties. Hotels invest a lot of time, effort, and money into establishing a connection with guests pre-stay, but there is a noticeable break in this communication once a guest enters the hotel.

At this stage one must question why no digital connection to the guests exists – the hotels’ most important relation.

In a time where guests are used to the ease of digital services, they don’t want to give up this comfort during hotel stays. This has led to a competitive market situation where large hotel chains and newcomers, most notably Airbnb, are improving the guest experience at a rapid clip.

Guests are getting used to these enhanced standards and are willing to give up some of their personal information in exchange for digital services – 75% are willing to share personal information if they get something in return.

One could argue that various individual hotel apps have already established a guest connection. However, these apps have brought very little, if any, value to the respective guests. Firstly, because there is too much effort in the use of these applications for both the guests and the hotels, and, secondly, the functionalities are very questionable.

When taking a closer look at many of these hotel apps, it’s evident why user figures are so low and churn rates so high – opening times or hotel pictures can also be viewed on the respective hotel website so why download a dedicated app?

For apps to be useful, they need to be context-aware and provide the user with what they require at any given moment, e.g. ordering room service or special pillows for their beds.

But even enhancing the functionalities of an app doesn’t solve the long-term problem: the effort on both the guest’s and the hotel’s side is too high on all levels. For hotels, it’s very costly to build and maintain these apps. For guests, the effort of downloading and registering personal details – in order to integrate useful functionalities which are personalized – is enormous.

Hotels are not software companies, and neither should they aim to be. It’s evident that there must be a universal digital connection to the guest instead, in order to meet the requirements of the digital traveller. Using this connection to boost the experience will ultimately generate greater returns for both guests and hotels.

This digital standard is a necessity for the hospitality industry to survive in the digital age, in which hotels will have to increasingly connect and integrate with new digital services centered around the traveller.

Large chains in particular are seeing the signs: Starwood is implementing Whatsapp, – the de facto messaging standard – even without the availability of an API, to be able to meet guests’ demand to exchange text messages with their hotel.

But workarounds like this are quite inefficient and, again, create effort. A technical standard must be established instead, allowing for efficient communication and connectivity from both sides. A standard which can easily grow with the requirements of the rapidly shifting digital world. A platform on top of which partners in the travel chain build their services in order to enhance the guest journey while increasing the efficiency of in-house processes.

If this standard is created, the possibilities are endless. For example, if transport providers are connected to this standard, they could push delays to hotels, automatically requesting late-check-out for respective guests. Hotels could use this standard platform to enable corporates to directly link to them, reducing travel cost management efforts while making the accounting easier for both parties.

There are many more ways a platform can act as a universal interface to make hotels and the guest journey a lot smoother. That is, of course, if guests are willing to opt in because the benefits of sharing information are compelling.

A technology standard made widely available at low cost can create a level playing field for smaller hotels to compete with chains, because the additional effort is low and the guests’ stay is vastly improved.

Hotels have the advantage of a unified interface from which they can overview and manage their entire guest connection, controlling which services their property should offer. Only a standard will allow all parties to benefit from digitization.

For this, tech companies and hotels have to work together in overcoming market fragmentation and creating a truly unified standard to make the hotel stay as easy and smart as possible.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Max Waldmann, chief executive of Conichi.

NB2: Guest experience image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Special Nodes
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Abu Dhabi connects the tech, Gulf Air flight plans, and more…

Posted by on in Industry News

This is a roundup of product news and announcements for travel SYSTEMS in tourism and hospitality for January 2016.

Tuesday 5 January 2016:

Abu Dhabi Airports connects the tech

SITA is to provide an airport management system, as well as check-in, kiosk, boarding area, baggage handling IT. The five-year contract will also include flight information display technology and follows the appointment of SITA to handle IT for the airport’s Midfield Terminal Building, currently under construction.

Gulf Air upgrades flight plan systems

Sabre will extend its existing eight-year partnership with the Middle East-based airline for its AirCentre Flight Plan Manager technology. The platform allows the airline to manage its fuel, operations and planning systems.

NB: Travel systems image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Tnooz
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Looking back and ahead — the sharing economy goes big

Posted by on in Industry News

As we reach 2016, Tnooz is unveiling its customary series of reflections on the year behind us and what the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry might expect looking ahead.

And, as always, we’ve asked friends and family of Tnooz to help us out.

Here is the twelfth part of our 13-section bonanza – the sharing economy goes big.

Erik Blachford, an active private investor, and a venture partner at TCV, based in San Francisco

By the end of 2015, travelers everywhere thought nothing of paying other individuals for a place to sleep, a seat in a car going to the next city on their list, a seat at the table for a home-cooked meal, or a spot in a ski lesson or whitewater rafting trip.

It’s just the way we are programmed to think about things now. Oh, and by the way? We expect to book these things from our phones, in-destination, at the last minute, via real-time availability.

Somewhat strangely, we also expect to use different sites or services to book each of these components.

Perhaps I look at the world through OTA-coloured lenses, but I can’t help asking – where is the OTA of the new sharing/renting economy?

The OTA that offers up non-hotel lodging, ground transportation through individually owned cars, or shared rides, tours and activities offered by individuals or small businesses rather than the big tour operators, micro-restaurants operated by aspiring cooks in their own kitchens (underpinned by a great big shared network of ratings and reviews)?

In other words, where is the Expedia of the sharing economy (with TripAdvisor built-in)?

My hunch is that 2016 is the year we see the emergence of a sharing economy OTA, a company that books your sharing economy segments and handles them with a smart new mobile-optimized PNR.

I would guess the most likely candidates are the companies already booking a lot of non-hotel lodging, but you never know.

It’s early days yet, and the incumbents have to be thinking hard about how to offer up what their travelers so clearly want.

Perhaps the Expedia of the sharing economy will be … Expedia.

That said, I think it’s one of the few areas left in travel that could be a rich vein to mine for a start up, and expect that at least one well-funded new player will make a bid to build a business based on this new class of inventory, even as the big guns think about it as a game to be played down the road.

Original author: Special Nodes
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Travelport adds HRS to accommodation network, and more…

Posted by on in Industry News

This is a roundup of product news and announcements for travel DISTRIBUTION in tourism and hospitality for April 2015.

Wednesday 1 April:

Travelport adds HRS

The European accommodation service will be added to Travelport’s distribution channels as part of a multi-year agreement. HRS will supply around 70,000 hotels to the platform, the majority of which are independent properties. Travelport-connected agencies will also be able to access HRS’s Business Tariff service for discounted rates for corporate travellers in 35,000 hotels on the system.

NB: Send links or releases related to travel distribution directly to Tnooz via email.

NB2: Travel image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Tnooz
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Nezasa pivots to B2B with distribution of travel packages for travel agents

Posted by on in Industry News

Nezasa (TLabs here) was created to deliver customizable bespoke travel packages online, meaning that travelers could create more complicated itineraries using the Internet — something that most consumers have come to expect. The idea wasn’t necessarily to replace travel agents but to sit between basic OTAs and offline agencies by offering an online means of booking complex trips.

The startup has now pivoted its business model to compete less with offline travel agents and become a engagement tool for travel agents and their customers. Co-founder Manuel Hilty calls this model “global distribution for DMCs,” as it focuses on surfacing the content created by local DMCs straight into an agent’s workflow.

This direct sourcing means that the inventory is made available without relying on an outbound tour operator to source the content from the destinations that the tour operator travels to. The outbound tour operator margin is therefore eliminated and the quality of inventory can increase since it’s DMC direct.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 12.46.10 PM

Nezasa For Retailers allows agents to access content created by reputable, verified Destination Management Companies and to fold it into the Nezasa interface for further customization. This can either be done by the agents themselves or by the customer in their own home — one of the key advantages of the technology is that it also speaks to the traveler’s desire to take control of their own destiny.

The support of omni-channel commerce is quite new for many travel agents, who don’t often have many options for hybrid selling that combines an offline presence with a traveler-facing online tool that can increase both satisfaction and average package price.

NB: Where to travel image courtesy Shutterstock.

Original author: Nick Vivion
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Going global, Rocketrip rewards compliance with corporate travel policy

Posted by on in Industry News

Rocketrip, a website that gives a company’s employees monetary rewards for cutting costs on business travel, is optimising itself for a global audience.

The New York startup challenges employees to stay within corporate travel policies. Employees get a share of the savings when they book under budget.

For example, an employee who saves $200 on travel would earn enough reward points for $100 worth of merchandise from well-known retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, and J Crew.

Rewards options vary globally. In Europe, examples include Marks & Spencer,,, and iTunes.

The startup claims that its customers, including the companies Opower, ShareThis, and Elite SEM, have saved an average of $238 per trip during the first three months of 2015.

Global travel can make arrival times, multi-destination hotel booking and currency conversion tricky. To make its trip-planning tools more friendly for international and multi-stop itineraries, Rocketrip has rolled out a few fixes:

Employees can now sort flights by ones that will arrive by a specific time, as an alternative to sorting by departure time. Users can now generate a budget in any of 165 currencies. The site now enables multi-hotel bookings, something it says its competitors can’t.rocketrip


The company has raised $6.2 million to date from received funding from Canaan Partners, Genacast Ventures, Crunchfund, Y Combinator, and others.


Startup pitch: Rocketrip wants to remove travel management friction

Original author: Sean O'Neill
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Meta is the place for Expedia – Trivago doubled its revenue in just one year

Posted by on in Industry News

Ever wondered why the online travel agency giants decided to take metasearch so seriously?

One reason, presumably, is that the likes of Expedia and Priceline could see that the sector was on the cusp of some significant growth.

In terms of acquisitions, Priceline invested the most, as we all know, with a massive $1.8 billion splashed out to get its hands on US giant Kayak in November 2012.

Expedia followed suit just a few weeks later with a deal to buy a majority stake in European brand Trivago for $632 million.

Two years on from flurry of activity, Expedia is perhaps starting to some kind of return on its investment.

In a filing today to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, Expedia has outlined a recasting of its financials for both 2013 and 2014 due to a change in how it will report across its various segments.

The company is now divided into four areas:

Core OTA (Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, Venere, Wotif) Trivago Egencia eLong

The filing then goes on to break down the revenue and other financial reporting lines for each segment, with the Trivago division perhaps catching the eye.

Trivago took $216 million in revenue during 2013, but this figure jumped to $414 million by the end of 2014.

This has come at a cost, however, with adjusted EBITDA at Trivago falling from $18 million to $4 million over the same period.

To compare against another part of the business, Core OTA took $4.069 billion in revenue in 2013 and $4.905 billion in 2014, with adjusted EBITDA climbing from $1.172 billion to $1.387 billion over the same period.

The huge jump in revenue at Trivago could be, in part, down to the massive investment in advertising across the group during 2014 when $2.8 billion was spent on marketing.

Original author: Kevin May
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When lighting up social media with kindness proves a better way to engage

Posted by on in Industry News

This is a story of how a little human kindness created a bigger social buzz for a hotel than pushing rooms via social media such as Twitter and Facebook might do.

As this year’s Edinburgh International Festival drew to a close social media lit up as patrons and locals captured in glorious social detail the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert which marked the finale to one of the city’s largest calendar events.

Amongst those enjoying the spectacle were Rory, Jenny and Susan. That these three were brought together is a wonderful example for hotels on how truly human engagement can be a better place to start in pushing brands out into the socialverse.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Alan Garland, digital marketing manager of Apex Hotels. It originally appeared on hotel marketing blog Hotel Speak.

Brave 10 year-old Rory suffers from leukaemia and mum Jenny had reached out through Twitter asking central offices and hotels in Edinburgh if they could help Rory see the fireworks without being out in the cold.

Can any central offices/hotels in Edinburgh help Rory, 10, who has leukaemia, see the festival fireworks without being out in the cold?

— Jenny Kemp (@jennykemp) August 27, 2014

Susan is part of the staff at Apex International Hotel with a heart as big as her amazing cakes. Spotting Jenny’s post she immediately replied from the International’s twitter account with the offer for Jenny, Rory and his dad and sister, Merlin and Elspeth, to watch the fireworks from the hotel’s Heights Restaurant which overlooks Edinburgh Castle where the display is held.

And that’s when it happened. A grateful Jenny thanked Susan and the International Hotel but then so did a lot of other people. Friends and followers enthusiastically re-tweeted the interactions expressing their own appreciation of Susan’s offer.

In a Hollywood moment the goodwill kept on multiplying and Virgin Money was soon providing goodies for the family on the night.

@jennykemp have you found anywhere yet ? Would he like to come watch from our 5th floor restaurant ?

— Apex International (@Apex_Inter) August 28, 2014

Huge thanks to @Apex_Inter for offering my brave boy Rory somewhere warm and dry to watch the #VMFireworks on Sunday. Thanks to all for RTs!

— Jenny Kemp (@jennykemp) August 28, 2014

Susan’s week has got off to a great start with a lovely note waiting for her from Jenny.

“I’m so grateful to Apex. Rory has had a rough six months, he was in hospital having chemotherapy for six months, he starts radiotherapy today, and then he will have a stem-cell transplant. He’s been so brave throughout. Treats and kindness give him, and the whole family, a boost. We feel so lucky that Susan spotted my tweet and replied, and that Rory had such a great evening.”

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TripAdvisor sheds light on what drives a hotel booking

Posted by on in Industry News

Some fascinating global data from the folk at TripAdvisor, released as part of a presentation in China this week.

Lily Cheng, TripAdvisor president for Asia-Pacific, including the DaoDao brand which it operates under in China, was speaking at the Travel Daily Summit in Shanghai and sharing feedback from a sample size of more than 50,000 travellers.

First up is a run-down on what drives the decision-making process for travellers when booking a hotel.

The results are pretty interesting, especially when considering the differences between leisure and business travellers.

For example, price is the most important factor for leisure travellers, but online reviews and the opinions of others drives business types.

The other most important factors:

Leisure – reviews, previous experience, proximity to attractions, near to transport Business – price, recommendations from friends, previous experience, proximity to attractions

What about the amenities in a property?:

Leisure – free in-room wifi, breakfast included, in-room services, staff can speak traveller’s own language, free parking Business – information readily available (surprising), free lobby wifi, free in-room wifi, free parking, flat screen television

How travellers of both hues using their devices:

Mobile – calling, texting, finding way around a destination, personal email, looking for restaurants Tablet – browsing online, reading books, reading news, looking for restaurants, directions/email/reading reviews Laptop – browsing online, personal email, looking for hotels, business email, looking for things to do

Influence of social media and reviews:

Inevitably, TripAdvisor comes out on top as the leading source of information for hotels, but what other services play a part?

Word of mouth User generated content on other travel websites Travel guides and brochures Travel guide websites Online travel agencies Mainstream media

And, finally, what about the booking windows?

Most travellers plan their trips around three to four months before departure, but only start the booking process between one and two months in advance.

Specific to Ling’s region, around 6% of Asians (China is 10%) booked a hotel via mobile and 27% book offline.

NB: Hotel facilities image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Kevin May
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Forget the enormity of China (and its travel brands), what about its startups?

Posted by on in Industry News

Perhaps it is easy to get carried away with the monumental opportunity that many believe comes along with the growth of the Chinese travel industry.

It’s hard not to see why given the eye-watering numbers of travellers expected in the coming years, investments being made by major players into new products and the pace of change of its travelling public.

But spare a thought for the startups in the country – those that are just like the countless other new businesses seeking to disrupt (that word again) an industry often considered to be stuck in its ways or just plain difficult to establish a foothold in.

They encounter the same problems as their more high profile counterparts in Silicon Valley, and the hundreds of others that are sprouting up in many countries around the world.

First of all, most still need capital or resources of some description to get going (and survive in their early stages).

They often also have the same barriers to entry that exist elsewhere.

And almost all are trying to solve a problem they believe needs fixing in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.

As a finale to the Travel Daily Summit in China this week, a string of startups took part in the now traditional travel conference pitch session in front of a group of peers/judges (and a further 1,000 delegates).

Despite the seemingly (but perhaps not, when you get under the skin of the place) different business and cultural structures that exist in China, startup competitions in travel appear to be wonderfully (or terrifyingly) similar, wherever the location.

Delegates heard about a new dynamic packaging distribution system called Lixing, focusing mostly on tours and activities.

A heady strategy and agenda for a new brand given the complexity of that particular sector, but perhaps a somewhat refreshing (think about it) comment up-front in its pitch:

“We found a gap in the market before coming up with a solution.”

Other newbies included GogoGlobal (a shopping guide and discount service for outbound travellers) and a mobile-based tour guide search engine for China called Beijing Super Guide.

Two particular brands stood out – Yoyoo8 and DFB365.

The former was a product distribution system and marketing platform for cruise products, an area of the industry in China which many believe will soar in the next few years. Yoyoo8 is not only trying to get traction with a consumer-facing brand but also has designs on being a major player with existing brands by way of a series of APIs to connect agencies to operators.

DFB365, however, was to some extent the (probably unintentional) joker of the pack.

In short, the mobile app is a last-minute and instant booking service for hotels. But it doesn’t cover room nights – instead it focuses on room “hours”.

Cue curious chuckles from pretty much most of the male audience (and a fair few blushes from some of the female delegates).

“It can help young people with their logical demands [there's a new phrase]… but also business travellers who just want to find a place to sleep.”

Beyond the eyebrow-raising proposition of one part of its strategy (one can only imagine the complexity surrounding revenue management for rooms in hotels based solely on hours), the corporate exec element shouldn’t perhaps be brushed aside so easily.

Any visitor to China will often notice the “sleeping tents” that can be found in airports and railway stations for passengers looking to rest their weary bones between journeys. Still, an offshoot of HotelTonight to emerge in the west maybe?

Nevertheless, the eventual winner was a new service called Weekend Travel, essentially a tours and activities platform which uses students as guides and runs on the WeChat platform (seriously, the buzzy brand of the moment in Chinese social media).

Focusing solely on the WeChat platform has seen it expand rapidly to capture one million users in just a few months, all looking to search and book bus tours and packages. It also now uses the equally popular QQ messaging system.

Interestingly, a group of investors and senior execs from the likes of CTrip and eLong who appeared in a session earlier that afternoon offered surprisingly little in terms of tips on how to raise money and areas which challenge startups every day, but the one area they all agreed on which is ripe for a brand to come in and capitalise: attractions.

NB: China technology image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Kevin May
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