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04
Sep

How seemingly unique advertising strategies can create the perfect online mix

Posted by on in Industry News

Over the past couple of years, the industry has obsessed over two unique trends: native advertising and programmatic media buying. Both have given marketers cause for excitement.

Native promises an opportunity to engage customers with custom, integrated ads that don’t look or act like ads, while programmatic intends to make media buying simpler, more targeted, and most importantly, more cost-effective.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Michael Goldberg, senior director of marketing at TripleLift.

The idea that programmatic marketing and native advertising can be combined, on the surface, seems like an oxymoron. Programmatic appears designed for large scale, automated media buying, while native is so custom, each buy must require manual execution. So, while these two trends do not seem to have much in common, the industry is already betting that these two strategies can coexist.

According to a study by content and commerce company Purch, conducted by Advertiser Perceptions, 42 percent of marketers plan to purchase native advertising through programmatic platforms within the next six months and 79 percent expect to do the same within the next 12.

With regards to the travel industry, programmatic is looking like it too will receive a lion’s share of marketing dollars according to a recent survey conducted by PhocusWright.

Will you be among those numbers? Before you answer, let me explain once and for all what each of these strategies really means, and why they are perfect for the travel marketing vertical.

Programmatic ad buying is not really new. It’s been done on Wall Street for some time. With regards to advertising, it typically refers to the use of automated technology to purchase digital advertising inventory, as opposed to the traditional process that encompasses a whole lot of paper work and manual labor.

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04
Sep

As off and online travel agents feel the squeeze, a check-list to claw back some ground

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The reality of the so-called “friction-less” Chinese travel industry is that it is evolving so rapidly.

In turn, some areas are struggling to keep up with developments such as the outrageously (in a good way) mobile connected population who are also eager to explore.

This desire to “see the world” (remember, China is an enormous country, so much of this also covers both international travel and their own backyard) will see one billion Chinese having travelled to another country within five to seven years.

Indeed, some estimate that around 8-10% of ALL international travel will eminate from the Asian giant within a few years.

More factoids to make your head hurt a bit:

By 2023, around 220 million Chinese will be travelling each year – or put another way, one in five people taking a leisure or business trip at any given time are likely to be Chinese.

We all know the primary reasons for this – there is a growing middle class with money to spend who, beyond arming themselves with technology and other high-end consumer goods, have as previously mentioned simply want to see what is beyond their borders.

One of the important things to note is that the Chinese have always travelled – this isn’t a sudden mobilisation of people, it’s just at a far more tremendous scale.

“Traditional” Chinese travellers, as Bart Tompkins, managing director for Greater China at Amadeus, reminds delegates at the Travel Daily Summit in Shanghai this week, were mostly in groups and often seeing trailing a tour guide wielding a brightly coloured umbrella around a city centre.

This is inevitably changing.

Those heading overseas are more adventurous, better educated, sophisticated, keen to have different types of experiences beyond trawling around the museums and other landmarks of the world’s popular capitals.

In fact, Tompkins says around two-thirds of Chinese travellers are now NOT in groups, a sizeable change in behaviour from just a few years ago.

This sudden switch in expectations is, of course, also having an effect on the industry.

Tompkins says 54% of Chinese travellers are using their mobile devices at the “inspiration” phase of the trip cycle.

They want a more personalised AND unique experience, meaning that the product range needs to be broader in its geography AND more creative in its type.

What is also starting to take place, according to Tompkins, is a shift towards a direct relationship with suppliers, whether they are airlines or hotels or tour operators.

As a result, around 50% of hotels are booked direct by travellers.

This is not at the expense of just traditional offline intermediaries – this is a deliberate bypass of both offline AND online travel agents.

Therefore, what can these various types of travel agencies do to fight back?

Someone from Amadeus is inevitably going to say agencies, both off and online, should be armed with more innovative tools and bits of technology to help attract travellers to their brands.

But, he is right – any agency that cannot give instant, accurate and real-time information to those researching a trip will be left behind.

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04
Sep

Australian regulator casts doubt over $658 million Expedia bid to buy Wotif

Posted by on in Industry News

Probably not part of the script – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has raised issues over the sale of Wotif to Expedia.

The ACCC cites a number of reasons to question the $658 million deal, including the potential to decrease competition and increase commission.

The regulator says there are three big OTAs in Australian market – Expedia, Wotif and the Priceline group (housing Booking.com and Agoda) - which contribute a significant share of hotel bookings in the country.

But the “statement of issues” released by ACCC highlights the potential for the deal to “substantially lessen” competition in the Australian market and also the threat of Expedia hiking commission rates for hotels and other accommodation providers in the country.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says:

“Market inquiries have indicated that Wotif is a major source of bookings for Australian accommodation providers and charges a lower commission rate than Expedia.”

Expedia and Booking charge less commission in Australia when compared to their other markets in which they operate, according to ACCC.

Sims adds:

“Although the recent expansion of Booking.com and some smaller OTAs such as Hooroo might suggest that barriers to entry and expansion are not significant, market participants have identified barriers in the form of the high costs of advertising necessary to capture a critical mass of consumer ‘eyeballs’ and bookings, and sunk costs associated with the development of an online platform.”

ACCC’s recent actions in the Australian travel industry include:

In March 2013, ACCC imposed a penalty of about $10 million on FlightCentre for entering into “anti-competitive arrangements” with three airlines. In December 2013, in an effort to eliminate fake online reviews, ACCC released a set of guidelinesfor any Australian business (and also for review platforms) that has reviews in their website.

NB: Law image via Shutterstock.

Original author: Karthick Prabu
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03
Sep

NDC hits US at last: United taps Amadeus’s XML to sell ancillaries [UPDATED]

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Today Amadeus said that United Airlines is the first carrier in North America to adopt a new way of connecting to the company’s new XML-based ancillary sales service.

It is the first global distribution system XML feed for merchandising that has been configured to be compliant with the new communications standards approved by US officials in August.

Amadeus’s Airline Solutions‘ new XML feed new way of connecting its service to a carrier* — namely, via NDC version 1.0-XML connectivity — will make the carrier’s Economy Plus seat upgrades available to travel agencies in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, during the initial booking or after a ticket has been issued.

United Economy Plus

*CLARIFICATION: The “industry first” is that IATA NDC version 1.0 is being used in production by a carrier in a travel agency network. It is not the NDC-XML connectivity that delivers ancillary services. I’ve replaced my original wording of “new XML service” in the above paragraphs to be precise. To be really technical, the sanctioned NDC standard is still being refined in its fine points, and while a version has been sent to stakeholders, the sanctioned standard has not yet been officially promulgated.

It may seem like a mundane and technical announcement to people outside of the trade. But for insiders, it is symbolic of an industry tipping point.

It represents something of an about-face by Amadeus. The technology giant is getting out in front of the industry by adopting new communications standards — at least in their version 1.0-format — that it has resisted for years.

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03
Sep

TripAdvisor shares top on-site engagement strategies for hotels

Posted by on in Industry News

TripAdvisor is a master of traveler engagement. The company thrives when users consult the website for every hotel purchasing decision, and therefore has a completely vested interest in ensuring active hotel profiles within a thoughtful user experience.

The company analyzed data from a sample of properties across the 25 most reviewed cities during the period of July 7 to August 7 of this year. This extended timeframe delivered insight into how management responses affect review ratings. The actual content on the listing page – photos, videos, rate of response – can then be compared to overall engagement, as defined by page views per session and the number of booking inquiry clicks.

Grenoble House on TripAdvisor

The following is what the analysis determined.

The top factors that drive the most engagement on accommodation pages, in order of impact, are:

Number of photos. Total number of reviews. Management responses in the past year. Number of reviews in the past year.

More photos!

Note that the most impactful section of a hotel’s listing is one in complete control by the property. There’s no excuse to not have more photos of a property – it’s a relatively affordable and straightforward way to increase engagement without having to solicit reviews through an active marketing effort.

As the company emphasizes in the release sharing the research:

Photos are essential, driving not only higher levels of engagement from travellers but also leading to more potential bookings. Just going from not showing any photos to having photos on hotel and B&B pages results in 138 percent more engagement from travelers.

Here’s how the number of photos increases engagement levels, when compared to properties with no photo at all:

Properties with at least 1 photo: 138 percent increase in engagement. Properties with over 100 photos: 151 percent increase in engagement. Properties with over 1000 photos: 203 percent increase in engagement.

Of course, management is not likely going to be able to deliver over 1,000 photos on its own, and users are more apt to trust a variety of photos from all kinds of guests. Hotel marketers should therefore focus not only on soliciting reviews, but also the sharing of photos on TripAdvisor.

This increased engagement then leads to more interest in actually booking a property, which pans out like this when compared to having no photos whatsoever:

Properties with at least 1 photo: 225 percent increase in likelihood of booking enquiry. Properties with over 100 photos: 238 percent increase in likelihood of booking enquiry.

One of the toughest tasks in hospitality is responding to negative reviews – it’s easy to take strength and share thanks for a positive review, so it’s the negative reviews that really demonstrate a grasp of true hospitality. It’s also one of the most fraught and potentially demotivating tasks for management – it’s impossible to fix something that has already occurred and made it into a review, and yet this review is now permanently public for everyone to see.

That’s why the management response is essential. Not only does it address an individual guest’s experience, but it also shows a potential guest that management is active and engaged with the guest experience.

From the research:

The more reviews the manager responds to, the higher the average review rating. The level of engagement from travelers also increases with the presence of management responses – hotels and B&Bs that have responded to at least one review already see 17 percent more engagement from travelers compared to those with no management responses.

Properties that respond to reviews at least 13 percent of the time see a 21 percent boost in engagement compared to properties that do not respond at all. The increase in engagement trends upwards the more management responds.

In conclusion, notice how the trend moves as far as the average review versus the actual rate of management response:

0% response rate = 3.81 average review rating 5%-40% response rate = 4.04 average review rating 40% – 65% = 4.05 average review rating 65%+ response rate = 4.15 average review rating

Original author: Nick Vivion
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03
Sep

Indoor maps are where it’s at as Baidu invests $10m in magnetic location firm

Posted by on in Industry News

Chinese search giant Baidu has invested $10 million in Series A funding for IndoorAtlas, a company which uses magnetic fields to establish indoor location.

Baidu plans to boost its indoor mapping capabilities through the tie-up which also sees IndoorAtlas signing an exclusive agreement for China with Baidu.

According to a statement IndoorAtlas uses earth’s geomagnetic field to pinpoint the exact location inside a building and has an accuracy of two metres.

Founder and chief executive of IndoorAtlas Professor Janne Haverinen says:

“With this partnership, we now have access to over 1.34 billion potential subscribers at one go. We see this as a huge opportunity not just to make a mark in Asia, but globally, and to make indoor location services ubiquitous and available to everyone.”

The company will use the funding to boost its research and development, engineering and business development across the US, Asia and Europe.

Baidu says IndoorAtlas enhances its existing location-based services and maps offering and will help it develop its capabilities for Asia as well as beyond.

A recent report from Opus Research, a specialist in proximity marketing, predicts magnetic positioning will become the basis for indoor location development and highlights the limitations of technology such as beacons.

Google unveiled Indoor Maps about two years ago, including a ‘where am I’ function, at airports, train stations and other venues in the UK, US, Switzerland and Japan. The search giant also enabled any venue owner to upload blueprints to be included in the technology.

More recently Gatwick Airport claimed it had the largest installation of Indoor Maps and Streetview.

Here’s an IndootAtlas clip:

Original author: Linda Fox
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27
Jun

Startup pitch: Bridj bridges the transportation gap with Big Data and luxury buses

Posted by on in Industry News

It’s not often that travel sees a truly innovative play, a new product or service that really affects a particular embedded legacy travel system. A new travel startup called Bridj appears poised to be one of those services that changes the structure of transportation. It’s a sort of mashup of public transportation, Uber and private corporate limo buses.

The startup takes a data-driven approach to surface the most popular destination pairs, and then plies luxury buses on these routes so travelers can enjoy the door-to-door advantages of private transportation while also supporting a public-style shared infrastructure at a small premium over public transit.

The Boston-based startup has a team of 12, including founder Matt George, COO Desmond Pieri and Chief Scientist David Block-Schachter

From the startup’s homepage:

Bridj™ uses big data to predict how a city moves, then deploys dynamic transportation networks to match popular origin and destination pairings with direct service on luxury shuttles. Bridj™ uses machine learning algorithms to get smarter as more users enter the system, allowing for a living, breathing, and thinking transportation system.

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27
Jun

Sabre heads to Azerbaijan, Amadeus gets BSP certification in China, 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 June 2014.

Friday 27 June 2014:

Sabre enters Azerbaijan market

The US-based GDS and tech giant will open its first office in the country in the capital of Baku. Operations will be headed by Gabil Allahverdiyev (owner of Headstart Consulting in Azerbaijan) and director of business development, Natig Nabiyev (director and owner of APG Azerbaijan).

Wednesday 25 June 2014:

Amadeus gets BSP certification in China

This approval means that Amadeus is one step closer to allowing authorised travel agents in mainland China the ability to fulfil the entire billing and ticketing process of travel products offered by foreign BSP airlines. Recently, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) allowedauthorised international airlines to be bookable via Amadeus in China.

Amadeus launch travel agency solutions in Taiwan

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27
Jun

How to go fishing in the Big Data lake of travel

Posted by on in Industry News

If you are chief technology officer of one of the world biggest travel technology companies, you have to be a man on a mission.

Edmond Mesrobian, CTO at Expedia Inc, is one such man, tasked as he is with delivering data driven decisions across a portfolio that features Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire and Venere.

NB: This is a report by Pamela Whitby, editor for EyeforTravel.

With the avalanche of big data upon us, that task is a tough one. But with Priceline’s recent acquisition of OpenTable, which gives Booking.com a much stronger lever with hotels, Google’s ongoing creep into multiple areas of travel, and many hoteliers driving a harder bargain, it’s business critical.

Inevitably (and somewhat sadly), corporate communications policy prevents Mesrobian from commenting on Priceline’s latest buy, other than to say that Expedia will continue to invest in the mobile space to help travellers on the go.

However, he does share some insights into how the firm is leveraging Big Data and analytics to become more personal and more competitive.

Of course, Expedia is not alone. From OTAs to hotels, airlines and metasearch players, firms across the travel space are looking at how to hone their strategic approach to big data and analytics.

The recent acknowledgement of Dara Brady, Ryanair‘s head of online development, that “ultimately big data has changed the way they view the customer” speaks volumes.

For the low-cost airline that built an empire from advertising revenues on its website and ancillary fees, rather than jsut bums on seats, that may be a significant shift, but for a travel tech company like Expedia making use of data isn’t (and shouldn’t be) new.

What has changed, however, and across the industry as a whole, is the volume of data and the number people needing to access it.

“Across all our organisations there is a huge thirst to make data driven decisions. It’s no longer just the marketing guy or somebody in the analyst community or the guy doing business objects, it’s also the plus 3,000 developers we have today who want access to that data.”

In this environment where there is “far more aggressive consumption of data,” Expedia knows only too well how important it is to have the right analytical foundations in place.

Clearly what’s important today is how organisations handle the avalanche of data and what they are doing to leverage it.

Expedia recognises this and is taking a three-pronged approach to tackle the issue, which throws up some lessons for others too.

1. Test and learn for better results

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27
Jun

Startup pitch: Hotels Prives offers up commission free, direct distribution

Posted by on in Industry News

Hôtels Privés is a members’ only hotel deals service which offers hoteliers a commission-free platform and promotes direct booking.

The Paris-based business, launched earlier this year, says it wants to help people travel more via its discounted hotel rates.

Hôtels Privés was founded by Julien Laz, who set up online travel guide service Cityzeum (TLabs here) in 2010.

The startup is currently self funded but seeking its first round to the tune of EURO 500,000 to finish the first version of the platform, sign up hotels and create brand awareness.

While the hotel market is sizable, the company wants to offer a hand-picked selection of properties from tw0 to five-stars as well as include some bed & breakfast inventory.

The target is to have about 3000 properties on the platform by the end of this year and grow to about 40,000 properties worldwide in the medium term.

Hôtels Privés is facing stiff competition from online travel agencies which charge commission to existing private sales platforms, which also charge commission. However, the startup says that in its short history there are already more offers online on Hôtels Privés.

The company differentiates itself via its commission-free which it says enable it to offer real discounts on hotels. It is based on a classified ads model but will also offer, for a small fee, premium services to hotels such as visibility features, micro flash sales, last-minute sales and presence on affiliate sites.

Laz says:

“Hôtels Privés is aiming to be 10 to 20% less expensive than OTAs, more respectful than competitors on the hoteliers job, and is not acting as an intermediate since it links hoteliers to travellers. The platform is providing a Saas service where hoteliers will be able to publish flash sales and last-minute deals in a minute.”

hotels prives 2

What problem does the business solve?

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