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05
Sep

In-depth: the global disruption in hotel channel managers

Posted by on in Industry News

Hotel technology provider SiteMinder hails from Australia. But during the past two years it has booked a majority of its revenue in Europe.

The digital distribution start-up’s next target is North America. The company is using part of the $30 million it raised in January to establish a beachhead in the US.

In late spring, SiteMinder opened a Dallas office, where it intends to hire about 80 sales and support employees within the next year. The expansion will add to the company’s 300 employees in Sydney, London, Bangkok, and Cape Town.

Fast growth

Since November 2013, the company claims to have brought on 4,000 hotel customers, boosting its client list to 14,000. Recent wins include Red Lion Hotels, Grand City Hotels, Dorsett Hospitality, and Derag Livinghotels.

Direct distribution tools like SiteMinder’s are becoming more popular as hotel owners become aware of the need to better control their distribution, such as by building direct relationships with guests in distant markets.

SiteMinder’s software-as-a-service tools helps hotels sell their rooms on dozens of popular booking websites worldwide, such as Expedia, Wotif, Booking.com, and Agoda.

Rather than have hotel staff update inventory on each site, they can use SiteMinder’s channel manager as a single interface that communicates with the third-parties and with the hotel’s property management system (PMS).

SiteMinder Mike Ford

Tnooz caught up with founder and managing director Mike Ford to inquire about the company’s plans.

He seems sprung from Central Casting for his role as the Aussie CEO: someone who is plain-talking and affable, but not someone who is easy to play against in a competitive sport.

You’ve been on a hiring spree. How do you make sure all these people you’re hiring, and who are are scattered worldwide, maintain the company’s DNA?

That’s an excellent question. We’ve hired 70 people since January. It’s a eye-opener.

What happens is, unless you hire the executive level in line with that, you find your current executive group gets too stretched. It’s about having the right ratio of top-level with the general staff.

©tnooz.com
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04
Sep

Mobile marketing set to evolve with VR and hyper-local targeting

Posted by on in Industry News

Two pieces of mobile news – one in marketing and one in mapping – have triggered an interesting conceptual framework for the future of mobile marketing for hospitality.

Apple’s virtual reality mapping technology

Two recently published patents by Apple – “federated mobile device positioning” and “registration between actual mobile device position and environment model” – reveal a new direction for mobile mapping technology.

These patents are basically creating a virtual reality layer for maps using the user’s location and actual orientation of the phone. A user would be able to point a phone at a specific building, and Apple would use crowd-sourced imagery, satellites, and other available media assets to peel back the layers of the building to offer an inside view.

Apple patent

The combined usage of WiFi, GPS and localized sensor information will offer the most comprehensive viewpoint from available data, which allows the unique “peel back the layers” approach.

This functionality could be layered within the iOS 7 flyover feature, making it possible for a crowd-sourced exploration of buildings worldwide.

The ability to “see inside” a building is a frothy part of the travel ecosystem, as the recent $10 million funding announcement for inside mapper InsideAtlas demonstrates. This particular startup will be leaning on “magnetic anomalies” to create internal maps, as this segment begins to deliver individual solutions to the indoor map challenge. As the full external world has been mapped, the next frontier is clearly everything hidden from satellites.

©tnooz.com
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04
Sep

Starwood folds travel professionals into targeted rewards program with $30 million of marketing

Posted by on in Industry News

With a $30 million marketing splash, Starwood is moving away from offering a separate incentive program for meeting and travel professionals, and offering one comprehensive loyalty account.

Previously known as StarwoodPro, the new professional loyalty program is now called SPG Pro. Rather than offering only StarwoodPro discounted rates, the new program allows professionals booking rooms to enjoy a direct benefit for their Starwood spend.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 10.10.04 AM

©tnooz.com
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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.

©tnooz.com
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04
Sep

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

Posted by on in Industry News

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.

©tnooz.com
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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]

Posted by on in Industry News

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.

©tnooz.com
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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
©tnooz.com
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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.

©tnooz.com
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