The travel agent is not dying

Travel AgenciesA recent research shows that what is known as “The Internet killed the travel agent” is not true. The travel agent is not dying as well. In 2014, 18 percent of American travelers used traditional travel agents compared to 12 percent in 2013.

Tech savvy millennials could easily use online travel aggregators, such as Expedia or Priceline, to book a leisure trip, but they’re choosing to use travel agents instead. In 2014, 28 percent of millennials used a traditional travel agent, compared to only 13 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 50 to 65) and 15 percent of Generation X (ages 36 to 49).

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are not leery of using on-line travel tools because they’re repeating past travel experiences, such as returning to the same hotel or a place they’ve previously visited. They’re a more seasoned traveler and don’t need a travel agent to guide them through decisions.

These are the results of a recent study by MMGY Global, a Kansas City-based travel and hospitality marketing firm.

Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global, said, “One of the most counter intuitive facts that comes out of our research is that millennials are actually using traditional travel agents at a higher rate than a lot of age groups.”

MMGY doesn’t see the trend toward travel agents ending anytime soon. In fact, the resurgence of travel agents made MMGY’s top 10 list of travel trends for 2015. One reason is travel agencies have perfected what they do best.

In the 1990s when online travel aggregators gained traction, a number of travel agencies either went out of business or began focusing on a niche, such as focusing solely on the cruise industry or trips to Europe. Travel agencies became specialists in the industry, which made them stronger, Reid said.

“They essentially became more valuable to the people who might use them because they were forced to become better at what they do,” he said.

MMGY’s research found that those who booked a leisure trip through a travel agent within the last year were more satisfied with their overall trip than those who booked through online third parties, such as Orbitz. In addition, three out of four leisure travelers said travel agents are in the best position to make recommendations for their travel.

“We’re seeing very high satisfaction levels with using a travel agent, which helps build momentum,” Reid said. “People have said they’ll go back and use a travel agent again because it’s making their trip better.”

Source: Kansas City Business Journal

via The travel agent is not dying.

World Marketing Group to lead business development for Destination Asia in North America

Destination_AsiaDestination Asia announces, effective 1 February 2015, World Marketing Group will lead its North American incentive travel and event business development for the Asian region. The new alliance offers customers access to highly skilled Asian operations, backed by in-market sales and marketing support and expertise.

“We are honored to have World Marketing Group represent the growing incentives and events business to Asia from North America, their specialty for over three decades,” stated Jim Reed, CEO Destination Asia Group. “Our dedicated meetings and events divisions are at the heart of the Destination Asia Group, aligning our services with the growing demand of business group travel to Asia. Our shared legacy of market knowledge and customer service in incentive travel and event management elevates our offering to effectively meet the growing customer expectations of this region.”

“Our 35 years of working with North American clients on their Asian programs aligns with Destination Asia’s superbly delivered customer experience,” said Jane Schuldt, CIS, CITE, President, World Marketing Group. “We believe Destination Asia’s laser focus on Asia-only operations positions them to deliver unparalleled value to customers seeking unique experiences. We look forward to putting the force of our expertise behind their initiatives.”

via World Marketing Group to lead business development for Destination Asia in North America.

Expedia Acquires Travelocity From Sabre for $280 million

By: MARTIN BLANC

Sabre & TravelocityPublished: Jan 23, 2015 at 3:40 pm EST

The online tourism market was shaken today with the news of Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) acquiring the online travel agency, Travelocity, from Sabre Corp. (NASDAQ:SABR) for $280 million in cash. The deal is the continuation of a strategic marketing agreement between Expedia, Inc. and Travelocity, which enables the former to power the technology platforms for the latter’s websites in US and Canada. This agreement allows access to Expedia, Inc.’s supply as well its customer service and support program.

Expedia is one of the pioneers of online travel industry, which, over the years, has cemented its position and made an extensive brand portfolio, covering many aspects of the tourism and travel market. It provides travel information, and hotel and flight bookings, as well as localized websites in 31 countries to cater to local audiences, amid other services.

Expedia, Inc.’s President and CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, commented on this development saying: “Travelocity is one of the most recognized travel brands in North America, offering thousands of travel destinations to more than 20 million travelers per month, The strategic marketing agreement we’ve had in place has been a marriage of Travelocity’s strong brand with our best-in-class booking platform, supply base, and customer service. Evolving this relationship strengthens the Expedia Inc. family’s ability to continue to innovate and deliver the very best travel experiences to the widest set of travelers, all over the world.”

Sabre is a leader in the global travel industry and provides technology, data, software, and distribution solutions. The company’s services are utilized by many players in the tourism and travel industry, from airlines to hotel management, in ensuring the success of operations such as reservations, revenue tracking, and flight and crew management. The President and CEO of the company, Tom Klein, acknowledged that Sabre and Expedia have had a successful partnership in boosting Travelocity’s business, and called today’s decision to be in the interest of the company.

Expedia, Inc. stock is up 2.16% today trading at $88.56, while Sabre stock is up 1.29% trading at $20.75 as of 3:25 PM EST.

via Expedia (EXPE) Acquires Travelocity From Sabre (SABR) For $280 million.

Marketing watch: Digital marketing trends for 2015 [INFOGRAPHIC] – TNOOZ

signal-2015-predictions-infographic11The new year begins well-intentioned on the marketing front. Marketing plans, heavily crafted and finessed late in 2014, begin to be implemented – only to discover that the landscape has already shifted, making said plan obsolete.

The cross-channel marketers at Signal have put their marketing tools to the grindstone of reality, with the result being some of the most important digital marketing trends of the year.

From beacons to data cooperatives that allow a consistent higher-level understanding of the customer, these trends continue to push marketers to become technologists. So rather than simply creating strategies to leverage OPP (Other People’s Platforms), the successful marketer must become a voice for marketing technology organization-wide.

via Marketing watch: Digital marketing trends for 2015 [INFOGRAPHIC].

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Expedia: Key Partnerships and Acquisitions in 2014 – Trefis

Expedia logoExpedia has experienced a healthy 2014.  The world’s second largest online travel services provider (in terms of gross booking volume of $39.2 billion) displayed a 22% year-on-year increase in revenues for the first nine months of 2014, to $4.4 billion. The key factors propelling this growth were the healthy performance of the hotel room nights and air tickets segments. The top line growth, combined with the disciplined investments in selling and marketing, led to a solid bottom line. Net Income for the first nine months of 2014 increased by 141% year-on-year to $332 million.

In this article, Trefis discuss the major acquisitions and partnerships undertaken by Expedia in 2014. They describe the strategic significance of the deals, and how these will lead to further growth in the future.

Extended Partnership With HomeAway: Expedia Forays Further Into The Vacation Rental Space

In September 2014, Expedia declared that it will continue its partnership (initiated in October 2013) with HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation rental website. HomeAway services account for approximately 15% of the U.S. and European vacation rental bookings market. [1] HomeAway’s website has more than one million live listings in 190 countries. [2]

Expedia would now be able to list 115,000 HomeAway vacation rental properties on its U.S. website. Vacation rentals are privately owned residential properties that property owners and managers rent to travelers on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis. According to a study by PhoCusWright, the market for vacation rentals in the U.S. stood at $23 billion in 2012, lower than its levels prior to the recession. However, the share of online sales in vacation rentals doubled from 12% in 2007 to 24% in 2012, and this is expected to increase to 30% by 2014. [3]

Expedia believes that the vacation rentals listing will complement its existing business and will not undermine its hotel bookings, which currently accounts for more than 70% of its revenue. While the partnership will give HomeAway vacation rental owners and property managers exposure to more than 13.4 million monthly visitors on Expedia, Expedia users will get the benefit of being able to bundle home rentals with flights, cars and other travel bookings offered through the website.

Expedia’s Wotif Acquisition: Ensuring Market Dominance In Australia And New Zealand

In November 2014, Expedia completed its acquisition of Australia-based Wotif Group for $612 million. Wotif Group is a prominent player in the Asia Pacific market with a host of travel brands under its umbrella, including Wotif.com, lastminute.com.au, travel.com.au, Asia Web Direct, LateStays.com, GoDo.com.au and Arnold Travel Technology. Wotif’s portfolio focuses on hotel and air, offering consumers more than 29,000 bookable properties across the globe. The group currently operates from Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, UK and Vietnam. [4]

Wotif was Expedia’s major rival in Australia and New Zealand. With 1.3 million hotel reviews on its platform, Wotif had a market leadership in hotel reviews in the Australia New Zealand (ANZ) market. According to September 2013 data from Experian Hitwise, among top travel websites in Australia, Wotif held the second position and Expedia, the third position. Also, among top New Zealand travel websites, Expedia enjoyed the first position and Wotif, the second. [5]

According to a report by PhoCusWright, the Asia Pacific (APAC) market overtook Europe to become the global leader in regional travel in 2012. The Australia-New Zealand market accounted for 17% of APAC’s online travel market and earned $13.7 billion in online gross bookings. For 2015, the market size is estimated to be around $126.6 billion. [6]

Hence, both now and in the future, Asia Pacific will be a strategically important sector for online travel companies. The ANZ market is the third largest market in the APAC region, and Wotif is a prominent player in the ANZ market. Hence, we expect the acquisition to propel Expedia’s growth in the ANZ market and this in turn would be a contributing factor in establishing Expedia’s dominance in the APAC market.

Expedia’s Auto Escape Acquisition: Boosting The Car Rental Service Segment

Expedia acquired French car rental company, Auto Escape, in June 2014. The acquisition increased its exposure to the $36.9 billion global car rental industry, which is expected to grow at a compounded rate of 13.6% to reach $79.5 billion by 2019, according to Transparency Market Research. [7]

Auto Escape offers car rental services from over 300 car rental suppliers in 125 countries, and has a fleet of over 800,000 vehicles. It is estimated that Auto Escape’s revenues increased fivefold in the last five years to €120 million ($160 million). [8] Auto Escape became a part of the CarRentals.com brand, a business unit managed by Expedia’s Hotwire Group.

Although the contribution of car rentals and cruises to the valuation of Expedia is in low single-digits, we believe that the Auto Escape acquisition will help it sell more vacation packages and destination services since car rental is an integral part of such offerings.

via Expedia: Key Partnerships and Acquisitions in 2014 — Trefis.

Press Release: Over 30 travel marketing experts to provide insights at The Travel Marketing Forum, Dubai 24th Sept

PRESS RELEASE 

Middle East’s Premier Travel Marketing Event to convene in Dubai on 24th September

Insights from over 30 leading travel marketing experts

Dubai Tourism, Expedia, Yahoo, SkyTech and IBEX Global added to the conference content

Travel Marketing leaders to gather in Dubai to discuss a diverse yet interrelated set of topics

 

Press Release: Dubai – 18th September 2014 

In just under a week the Middle East’s premier Travel Marketing event will take place in Dubai.

Some of the world’s leading travel brands and marketing services providers will gather for a day of knowledge sharing and business development.

 

Amadeus, a leading travel technology company, will present a report on Middle East booking trends, internet penetration, smart phone usage, booking and  payment patterns, booking channels and social media trends in the travel sector.

Illusions Online, a Dubai based travel business technology provider for the leisure sector, will talk to their new generation cloud based leisure packaging capability and their strategy to create a global online travel exchange.    

 

Other speakers come from leading brands such as Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, Jumeirah and Emirates.

The programme also includes interviews with the Head of Strategy for dnata travel and the CEO of The Entertainer.  Technology companies such as SkyTECH Solutions and Comarch will share their views on Big Data and Customer Relationship Management in the travel sector.

In a key panel on destination marketing, Dubai Tourism will highlight the power of local advocacy.

Yahoo will present a case study on how they have assisted travel companies with their online exposure and IBEX Global will highlight their recent regional launch of their Customer Experience Management Technology.

Mohamed Al Rais, Deputy CEO of Al Rais Travel, will be joined by representatives from Expedia, destinia.com and e-Tourism Frontiers on a panel debate on the development of the online travel market.

Porton Group will reveal a revolutionary technology that can be used by the travel sector to screen travellers for potentially contagious diseases without significant disruption to the airline check-in process.

Duncan Alexander, Director at The Travel Marketing Store stated “We have been delighted by the response that we have received from the travel marketing community to the concept of our event. The content is truly exceptional and we look forward to what will be an enlightening day”.

Over 40 companies will be represented at this year’s event which will also hold “The Global Travel Marketing Awards” and “The Market Place for Travel Marketing Services” where buyers and suppliers meet to discuss new services.

via Press Release: Over 30 travel marketing experts to provide insights at The Travel Marketing Forum, Dubai 24th Sept.

Opportunities in video remain, as brands become media companies: Tnooz

Consumers increasingly perceive brands as media companies, a perception that is both fueled by companies creating more engaging content and consumer expectation of more interactive and interesting advertising.

A recent report sheds some light for travel marketers looking to engage more deeply with video content – a medium ideally suited to the beauty and story of the travel experience.

The survey of 1,000 Americans, and 500 marketers, comes from content marketers LevelsBeyond, and points out that brands are leaving opportunities on the table, as many brands don’t believe that their customers even want to see videos from the brands.

Video consumption disconnectThere’s also a disconnect between what consumers want to watch and what brands provide.  Surprisingly, consumers are especially eager to consume videos that are instructive and teach how to do a particular skill. This insight could be leveraged by travel marketers in spaces where active sports or other insider knowledge could be packaged as a “how to” for a specific destination, vacation or location.Comedy comes in a second, following by product videos, micro-documentaries and animations. Travel marketers should take note of the 33% of surveyed consumers that enjoy micro-documentaries – this result is a sign that this type of content could be a way to hook browsing travelers into a purchase mindset.

However, the surveyed marketers did not match what the surveyed consumers wanted to watch. Brands are focusing less on instructive videos and more videos from their own branded events. A slight focus switch from “event videos” to “micro-documentaries” could be a welcome move by consumers.  Social sharing also becomes a very important component of successful online video, as consumers are much more likely to watch videos that were shared within a network. And when a video is trending, a solid 38% of respondents would be more inclined to watch that video.Despite this compelling evidence that successful social sharing drives ROI of video, brands are behind in understanding how this mechanic works.

Another piece of data from Videology shows an immense shift into what video advertisers are seeking for the investment. The jump in cross-screen analysis reveals that this has quickly become one of the most important metrics for video advertising.The videos are pegged to their ability to bring attention and traffic across screens, liberating some of the conversion pressure for one particular platform as its impact can be tracked across screens.Marketers are finally starting to see video as a key component of the cross-platform marketing mix; now brands must be more considered when it comes to matching consumer appetite for video.The full report can be downloaded here.

via Opportunities in video remain, as brands become media companies.

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing

Earlier this year, we celebrated Facebook’s 10th anniversary, LinkedIn boasted more than 300 million active users while TripAdvisor now has more than 175 million reviews. We have come to expect seeing travel & hospitality stakeholders managing accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or even Google+. In other words, social media marketing has moved beyond bells and whistles and is now the mainstay of a sound digital strategy, along with having a transactional, mobile-optimized website and a clean database for frequent, automated emails and/or newsletters. But while social media is now recognized as important, in particular within the travel vertical, managing it remains a constant challenge.

BEST PRACTICES

During its most recent annual summit in Vegas, DMAI Destination Marketing Association International shared the results from a recent study conducted by Development Counsellors International, surveying more than 100 individuals responsible for social media marketing at destination marketing organizations across North America. Some findings were real eye-openers, confirming what many observers suspected: while social media are considered important for a majority, budget allocation remains marginal, at best.

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing image Screen Shot 2014 07 24 at 12.32.29 PM 600x391

This chart shows that 71% of destinations surveyed must deal with a social media marketing budget of less than 25,000$. Perhaps even more surprisingly, 99% of organizations have a digital marketing budget, yet only 60% have a dedicated envelope for social media activities.

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing image Screen Shot 2014 07 24 at 12.33.03 PM 600x436

This second chart demonstrates beyond any doubt how social media are under-represented in the big picture of digital marketing budgets. Roughly 76% of destinations allocate less than 10% of their total marketing budgets to social media, regardless of the size of the digital marketing budget to being with!

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing image Screen Shot 2014 07 28 at 10.17.19 PM 600x170

So how are social media budgets spent? Some very interesting findings here, shedding light on some best practices by destinations in their social media efforts. According to the survey, most popular budget allocations are:

  • 39% in paid promotion: promoted tweets, Facebook ads and promoted posts, etc.
  • 29% in content development: graphics, writing, photos and videos, apps.
  • 28% invest in Human Resources for engagement.
  • 18% spend on contest initiatives.
  • 13% spend their budget on monitoring tools such as Radian6, VocusSocial, Sysomos, etc.

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing image Screen Shot 2014 07 24 at 12.37.04 PM 600x487

One eye-opening finding is that destination brands with intermediate social media marketing budgets seem to be the ones outsourcing this function the most. In particular organizations with budgets within the 25,000-50,000$ bracket, 83% of which outsource their social media activities, handing it over to agencies and/or freelance experts. We are not so surprised to see that destinations with the smallest budgets tend to keep activities in-house, since budgets are scarce to being with. Nevertheless, it is somewhat surprising to find out that virtually one out of every three DMO outsources its social media activities.

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing image Screen Shot 2014 07 24 at 12.40.51 PM 600x478

Finally, when surveying what are today’s top social media challenges face by DMOs, again I was somewhat surprised not to see some concerns rank higher, i.e. maintaining engagement, or budget constraints. In fact, the biggest challenge seems to be one shared by many industries alike, and not just in marketing: time, or a lack therof. Over 30% of destination marketing managers identified time as a key challenge, specially with new social networks and mobile apps creeping up all the time and despite of softwares that help managing it all.

It’s no wonder the second biggest challenge is to stay abreast of new trends and technologies that can help making sense of it all. In fact, attending industry events, conferences and participating in various training and webinars is a key component of staying on top of evolving trends and finding out the tools and tech to help managers in their everyday chores handling social media activities.

Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing image Screen Shot 2014 07 24 at 12.44.31 PM 600x78

One last word. Return on investment (ROI) is almost always a key performance indicator in most organizations, yet it remains elusive in particular in destination marketing, where direct sales are not core to their business model (compared, say, to a hotel, restaurant or transportation). Nevertheless, it’s surprising to see only 8.1% of respondents identifying this challenge as key. Does it make it less important to measure? Of course not, but it does reflect how difficult it remains to “prove” social media campaigns, and that destination marketing organizations have integrated different ways to address this concern in some shape or form.

via Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing.

Airbnb roll out a new brand identity centered on “belonging anywhere in the sharing economy”

Airbnb have recently announced and launched a complete overhaul of its brand identity. 

Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique spaces around the world through mobile phones or the internet. Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences at any price point, with over 800,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.  It has found accommodation solutions for over 15 million customers.

airbnb old logo

Old Logo

airbnb_logo_detail

New logo

The launch is not without controversy with a number of industry commentators poking fun at the suggestive nature of the logo in addition to claims of plagiarism.

We like it….and have taken an extract from their blog written by Brian Chesky one of the co-founders that provides insights to the thinking behind the new brand identity.

“In the end, nothing can express our identity more profoundly than the stories of people who make up this community. When we started Airbnb, I had no idea about the people we would meet, or the friendships I would make. Then I met Amol, one of the first guests, who later invited me to his wedding in India. I met Sebastian, who was trapped in his house in the middle of the London Riots in 2011. Before his own mother had a chance to check that he was okay, seven of his former guests did. And I met Shell, who saw the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, and listed her home for free to those who were displaced. 100415a-HQ28-007 NATO Headquarters Brussels. These people, along with millions of others, have their own unique backgrounds and life experiences. We all come from vastly different cultures and places. And yet, no matter how many miles may separate us, we are united by the universal, powerful, human desire to connect, to understand, and to belong. So together, with this new identity, I look forward to starting the next chapter of this improbable journey with the idea that first set it in motion—the belief that belonging can take us anywhere”. — Brian Chesky airbnb_logo_4things

Read more on the drivers behind the new brand positioning at:

http://blog.airbnb.com/belong-anywhere/