You’ll Never Guess Which Travel Site Americans Are Most Loyal To (Hint: It’s Not Priceline) | The Motley Fool

You’ll Never Guess Which Travel Site Americans Are Most Loyal To (Hint: It’s Not Priceline)  Steve Symington

With the advent of online travel sites, it’s never been easier to book a quick vacation, business trip, or even a spontaneous jaunt for almost anywhere in the world. Though the online travel industry is relatively young, it’s still growing quickly, with dozens of viable sites ready to make your trip happen.

The sites with the most loyal customers stand to grab the biggest share of this market as Internet usage increases around the world. But maintaining customer loyalty is even more challenging in markets like the United States, where online travel is becoming second nature as nearly 90% of the population is already online.

Thanks to online travel sites, resorts like this are just a click away.

This of course begs the question, which travel site are Americans the most loyal to?

Thanks to prominent advertising campaigns, several incorrect names might immediately come to mind. Take the various sites operated by Priceline Group (NASDAQ: PCLN), for example, which notably include priceline.com, KAYAK, booking.com, rentalcars.com, and — thanks to a $2.6 billion acquisition last year — even restaurant reservations specialist OpenTable. Since it was founded in 1997, Priceline has enjoyed the charisma of spokesman William Shatner talking up its negotiating skills, while KAYAK earns business by comparing the prices of “hundreds” of travel sites at once.

Collectively, these businesses helped Priceline Group achieve $50.3 billion in total gross bookings last year alone. And with a market capitalization higher than $61 billion as of this writing, it’s no surprise Priceline regularly calls itself the “world leader in online accommodation reservations.” But “world leader” or not, none of Priceline’s sites are tops in customer loyalty.

Or how about Hotwire? Specific financial details are scarce for the privately held site, but Hotwire earns customers by selling off unsold travel inventory at a huge discount, saving people planeloads of cash on all their travel needs from airfare to hotels, rental cars, and comprehensive travel packages.

Unfortunately, though, even Hotwire’s approach doesn’t translate to the most loyal users. It’s not Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE), either — though we’re getting closer.

Travelocity’s roaming gnome, Credit: Travelocity

Love for the Roaming Gnome

According to the 19th annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, American consumers are most loyal to a travel site acquired by Expedia less than two months ago: Travelocity.com. On January 23, 2015, Expedia paid $280 million in cash to buy Travelocity from travel-technology specialist Sabre (NASDAQ: SABR), which itself was a subsidiary of American Airlines until being spun off in 2000.

According to Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff, 2015 was Travelocity’s first year atop its category in loyalty. And this year’s results were driven by the brands’ abilities to “identify customers’ expectations and address them via authentic emotional values.”  So why do Americans specifically love Travelocity so much?

A little focus goes a long way

First, keep in mind that Travelocity signed a strategic marketing agreement with Expedia in mid-2013. Per the terms of that deal, Expedia agreed to take the reins of the technology platform powering Travelocity’s U.S. and Canadian websites. In exchange, Expedia received performance-based marketing fees that varied based on the amount of travel booked through those Travelocity-branded sites.

Travelocity’s #IWannaGo campaign was wildly successful, Credit: Travelocity.

While this meant less revenue for Travelocity at the time, it also greatly improved the site’s profitability by drastically lowering operating costs. In its most recently reported quarter as part of Sabre, for instance, Travelocity’s adjusted revenue fell nearly 45% year over year, to $89 million, while adjusted EBITDA skyrocketed 116% to $16 million. Without the need to focus on maintaining its technology platform, Travelocity was free to redirect those resources toward promoting its brand — something it arguably did more effectively than any of its deep-pocketed rivals, anyway.

Take Travelocity’s “Roaming Gnome” mascot, for example, whose offbeat TV spots have been at the heart of its viral advertising efforts for more than a decade. But starting in 2013, Travelocity also began using the gnome to engage consumers on a personal level with a wildly successful social media campaign centered around the hashtag #IWannaGo.

By following the @roaminggnome handle on Twitter or Instagram, then using the hashtag to tell Travelocity where you wanted to go, you were automatically entered to win a chance to make your travel dreams come true. Then. last year, Travelocity built on that momentum by combining the hashtag with its new “Go & Smell the Roses” tag line.

According to Travelocity chief marketing officer Bradley Wilson: “‘Go & Smell the Roses’ is more than a tag line in an advertising campaign, it’s a rally cry. […] We are using our most powerful asset, the iconic Roaming Gnome, to inspire and instigate people to get off the couch, to go and smell the roses.”

If Brand Keys’ latest Loyalty Index is any indication, Travelocity’s efforts to connect to customers on an emotional level are obviously proving effective in its core American market. If it can translate that good work under Expedia’s wing to inspire people around the world, something tells me Expedia’s $280 million purchase price will look brilliant in the end.

via You’ll Never Guess Which Travel Site Americans Are Most Loyal To (Hint: It’s Not Priceline) | The Motley Fool.

The role of price transparency in converting hotel guests online | By Fig Cakar

The role of price transparency in converting hotel guests online

By Fig Cakar, Managing Director – the Americas, SiteMinder

Hotel brands, online travel intermediaries and technology solution providers are all too aware that online conversion is a huge issue. Depending on who you talk to, online conversion rates for most travel websites sit in the low single digits and all stakeholders are challenged with what to do about it.

So, which way is the industry moving and how does price transparency fit in?

While more hotels are today educated about the ‘billboard effect’ and its role in increasing direct sales, research released by SalesCycle earlier this year will have been welcomed by anyone involved in selling travel online for the insight it provided into the reasons travellers abandon a booking.

As a refresher, most travellers (39 percent) say they are just looking and want to do further research, while high prices/desire to compare and the need to involve others in the process were cited as the next two biggest reasons.

Finally, stumbling blocks – such as an over-complex booking process, technical issues and payment problems – were also reasons cited for abandoning a booking.

Empowering travellers to make the choice

A deeper dive into the SalesCycle research also reveals where in the booking path travellers drop off and more than half admit to abandoning a booking when they are shown the total price.

It’s no wonder, then, that brands and intermediaries employ various techniques to keep people on their sites and ensure they have everything they need to complete the booking.

One good example, recently reported by Tnooz, was a move by UK-based chain Shire Inns which recently introduced a price comparison feature on its website.

It seems like a risky move because the hotel group could lose the booking altogether by enabling potential guests to compare its rates against those of four large online travel agencies (OTAs). It could also risk the ire of those same OTAs but Shire argues that it recognises travellers want to shop around.

Getting the distribution mix right

Early results are positive for Shire, with the chain experiencing significantly-improved, double-digit conversion rates. Not a bad result when considering the industry average is around four percent.

What the story highlights is the need for hoteliers to track where their guests are coming from and ensure they are getting their distribution mix right, both direct and indirect.

On the one hand, hoteliers should not be paying twice for guests they believe they would have attracted anyway. However, most hoteliers recognise the value they get from the OTAs, in terms of the extended reach they offer via the sales marketing clout that sits behind the online giants and helps smooth out the peaks and troughs in the hotel business.

So, moves from hoteliers to push the direct channel are only a part of the equation.

SiteMinder recently produced its own findings on the power of direct bookings, showing that while Booking.com continues to hold the top spot when it comes to revenue generation, TheBookingButton Internet booking engine came third in terms of business to hotels.

So where does hotel distribution go from here?

2014 was certainly a year of upheaval with further consolidation in the online travel market and new entrants to consider in the mix. 2015 has not been that different so far with Expedia’s planned acquisition of Orbitz and rumours around Priceline acquiring RocketMiles.

No one can say where it will all end up.

Hoteliers will continue to consider initiatives like Shire Inns’ price comparison tool because, ultimately, it’s about attracting, reaching and converting all travellers, and giving them the choice to book what they want in the way they want.

But as part of the increasingly-complex distribution strategy that today’s Internet economy demands, hoteliers will – and should – also continue to sell rooms via a mix of channels, direct and indirect, to ensure their businesses reap the benefit of reaching both global and local travel markets to generate the most value and in the most effective way.

via The role of price transparency in converting hotel guests online | By Fig Cakar.

Travel Companies Ranked on Best Social Media Practices | TravelPulse

Engagement Labs, the technology and data company, has recently released the social media rankings of the top performing hotel chains, airlines, online travel agencies (OTAs) and metasearch sites.

The rankings are based on Engagement Labs’ eValue scores, which take into account three factors: Engagement, Impact and Responsiveness.

Travel Companies Ranked on Best Social Media Practices

The top three hospitality companies on Twitter are (in order) Hyatt Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Trump Hotel Collection. Hyatt was highlighted for using highly visual vacation-related content and the use of creative hashtags.

The top three Facebook marketers in the hotel industry are The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Country Inns & Suites by Carlson. Ritz-Carlton stood out based on its regular engagement with travelers and its posting of images and facts of its resorts.

“As social media is increasingly becoming an all-purpose communication tool, the hotel industry excels by providing real-time information to their customers on their social media channels,” said Bryan Segal, chief executive officer of Engagement Labs, via a release. “Companies like The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Hyatt Hotels utilize their social media channels to provide up-to-date resort news and industry information as a one stop shop for their audiences.”

American Airlines, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines led carriers in Twitter marketing. American Airlines also was No. 1 in Facebook marketing, followed by Island Air and Delta Air Lines.

On Twitter, American Airlines was adept at responding to consumer postings and weaving in topical news and events to drive interest, according to Engagement Labs.

On Facebook, American Airlines received a high eValue score for updating travelers on company information and relating major news and events back to the airline industry (to celebrate Women’s History Month, the major carrier asked Facebook followers to share stories about female American Airlines members who exemplified premier customer service).

In terms of the travel aggregators (OTAs and metasearch sites), Hotels.com, OneTravel and CheapOair were the top Twitter marketers (parent company Fareportal owns both OneTravel and CheapOair). Hotels.com was highlighted for using Twitter to dish out the latest deals and promotions, as well as posting travel tips and trivia to boost engagement.

BookIt.com, Orbitz Worldwide and Travelocity were the top three Facebook marketers. BookIt.com scored highly in large part because the site posted articles that included travel ideas, tips for things to do in particular destinations, and contests for their followers to win trips to different destinations.

Travelers on social media “want convenience, trusted brands and good deals,” Segal said. “Social media is a key resource to help consumers navigate the complexity of travel today. We see marketers optimizing social channels to enhance user experience, customer satisfaction and develop trust and loyalty with their audiences.”

Engagement Labs’ eValue Analytics leverages more than 300 conventional social media metrics to produce a single benchmarked score, analyzing more than 75,000 handpicked, verified brands that include marketers, advertisers, publishers and broadcasters around the world.

via Travel Companies Ranked on Best Social Media Practices | TravelPulse.

Vayant and ArrivalGuides team up to inspire travel shoppers

vayantVayant brings its FastSearch, the inspirational sub-second airfare shopping product that precomputes large datasets of customer-defined flight search results and keeps them fresh and easily available for marketing purposes via API.

Vayant Travel Technologies, a leading company in airfare search innovation, and ArrivalGuides, the destination content supplier, announced a partnership agreement for a joint marketing solution that allows travel companies to target flight offers alongside inspiring destination images and content.

By combining their respective strengths the partners aim to make it easier for airlines and travel agencies to provide rich content-driven experiences on their ecommerce websites. As the world’s leading network of high quality and up-to-date destination information and city guides, ArrivalGuides brings compelling destination content to inspire travellers to choose, book and plan their trip. Currently, this covers over 500 destinations and includes 35,000+ points of interest.Vayant brings its FastSearch, the inspirational sub-second airfare shopping product that precomputes large datasets of customer-defined flight search results and keeps them fresh and easily available for marketing purposes via API.

Offered as a one-stop-shop web solution, the combined destination and flight content API can be used by travel companies to power map displays, calendar displays, banner ads, email campaigns. Iskra Rasheva, Marketing Manager, Vayant Travel Technologies, said: “Today’s travellers expect to find inspiration when they shop online, with exciting travel choices accurately priced, attractively presented and available to book.

With ArrivalGuides we’re making it easy for all kinds of travel sellers to deploy this kind of quality content on their websites.”Ola Zetterlof, Director of Content Solutions, ArrivalGuides, said: “High quality destination content is key for inspiration and to trigger a booking – with Vayant, we add a new dimension with airfare pricing that’s fast and accurate.” –

See more at:

http://www.traveldailynews.com/news/article/64859/vayant-and-arrivalguides-team-up#sthash.U9GDR367.dpuf

via Vayant and ArrivalGuides team up to inspire travel shoppers.

Tourism Marketing: E-travel giants get more individual – fvw

Leading travel e-retailers are using technology to speed up and individualise their offers, according to top executives at a recent fvw event.

Expedia-Europa-Chef Andreas Nau

Online travel giant Expedia cannot afford to carefully plan a medium-term strategy, Andreas Nau, head of Expedia Europe, told the fvw Online Marketing Day in Frankfurt. “We have to be fast, test and be allowed to make mistakes,” he declared.

For example, Expedia is currently testing a new form of hotel evaluation in 60,000 properties via a new app. “Customers can quickly give their views on the reception, service and overall impressions via smileys,” he explained to some 270 participants. Hoteliers “are already addicted to it” and respond quickly, he said.

Outlining some new products, Nau said that Expedia has developed a tool enabling hoteliers to change their prices via a mobile device, and is working on a method of presenting room prices like on a stock exchange.

Tom Breckwoldt, TripAdvisor’s Germany chief

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor is rapidly embarking on a new ‘customer journey’ and adapting itself to changing user habits, and the rapid advance of mobile devices, above all. “More than 50% of all content is consumed by mobile today,” said Tom Breckwoldt, Germany chief of the evaluation portal.

TripAdvisor no longer just wants to display hotel rankings ahead of a trip but also offer additional services at the destination, such as restaurant visits or excursions. The company has already bought content providers such as restaurant finder La Fourchette and activity finder Viator. Such activities will then be bookable on the company’s mobile portal.

Breckwoldt stressed: “Our core business remains the rankings, the evaluation of hotels and other services.” But he also predicted rapid growth of destination-based mobile bookings due to the spread of mobile devices and free wi-fi.

Facebook is also a good source of information for online tourism marketing, especially because companies can form clusters of users to target, Benjamin Schroeter, managing director of Facelift Brand Building Technologies, told the event. Tour operators, for example, could target specific groups for last-minute sales, he pointed out.

Meanwhile, this year’s fvw Online Marketing Award was won by the Hamburg tourist board for their mobile app, which acts as a city guide with detailed additional information as well as user evaluation options. The app has been downloaded more than 65,000 times since its launch in mid-2014.

via Tourism Marketing: E-travel giants get more individual.

The Travel Market Digest February 2015

The Travel Marketing Digest 11th February 2015 – Volume V, issue 2

Welcome to the latest edition of The Travel Marketing Digest and some of the top travel marketing stories over the last few weeks.

In this edition….

  • ReboundTAG’s innovative microchip baggage tracking solution: and a cool corporate giveaway…
  • Marriott’s GoPro marketing campaign
  • Hotelplan to buy Kuoni Switzerland?
  • City visitor rankings report by Euromonitor
  • How Google Now is improving travelUNWTO reports a 4.7% growth in travellers, 1,138 million arrivals in 2014
  • The survival of travel agents
  • World Marketing Group to promote Destination Asia in North America
  • Expedia acquires Travelocity
  • Marketing travel to US Affluent
  • iBeacon technology and travel marketing

The Travel Marketing Digest

Beacon Technology: The Next Big Marketing Tool for the Travel Industry? | TravelPulse

mobile marketingThe increase of mobile devices has changed the world as we know it, as businesses have needed to adapt and become more mobile-friendly.

Beacon technology—placing beacons to send location-based information and offers to these mobile devices—could have a similar impact in the travel industry and beyond.

Evan Schwartz, CEO of ActionX, a mobile app and cross-screen retargeting company, certainly sees the potential in the technology. The technology has been gaining steam in the last few years, Schwartz said, but it’s about to “explode” in 2015.

The draw of beacon technology to businesses is simple. You aren’t communicating with consumers across a TV screen, where they could be miles away from your business. You are communicating with them at the selling location itself. Retailers have begun to introduce the technology to the public, and it’s starting to make its way into the travel industry, with hotels, airports and airlines beginning to use it.

Miami International Airport, for example, recently launched a new app that uses beacons to help consumers find the correct gate for departure while sending them notifications on their mobile devices for restaurant and retail deals while they’re travelling through the airport.

Marriott International now features beacon technology at 14 of its properties in the United States since unveiling the technology in July 2014. The LocalPerks initiative is available exclusively to Marriott Rewards members, making Marriott Rewards the first major hotel loyalty program to offer geo-targeted, mobile offers during a guest’s stay.

Schwartz, who already has several clients lined up to introduce the technology in the future, told TravelPulse that he sees beacon technology making a similar impact to the travel industry as mobile apps did. He specifically highlighted Virgin Atlantic and Apple as examples.

Virgin Atlantic ran a trial in May 2014 for Upper Class passengers at London Heathrow Airport using Apple’s iBeacon technology. Upper Class passengers had the opportunity to receive special partner offers as they passed through the airport, such as 0 percent commission at a MoneyCorp currency exchange booth.

At the time, Reuben Arnold, brand and customer engagement director for Virgin Atlantic, said the airline had only “skimmed the surface” of the technology, exploring the ability to notify customers of open appointments at the Clubhouse spa or introduce crew members as they board their flight, via the Virgin Atlantic blog.

Beacon technology makes a lot of sense because it almost works like a business owner standing outside and inviting customers in: it’s directly targeting customers at the point of sale.

In fact, Schwartz told TravelPulse back in October that the clients ActionX works with are no longer content with a boost in app downloads—they want to see a clear indication of a boost in revenue. In that sense, beacon technology is naturally a new way of doing just that. It’s no surprise that major companies such as Virgin Group and Apple are embracing the technology with open arms. It’s also no surprise that ActionX—a company that specializes in mobile advertising—has taken it and ran with it.

But why has it taken a few years to really get beacon technology off the ground? Well, as with any advanced technology, it takes some tinkering to completely understand. Businesses have been learning how to fully implement beacon technology into their properties, Schwartz said.

As Sarah Bradley, director of Marriott Rewards Digital Strategy and leader of the LocalPerks initiative, told TravelPulse in December, it’s particularly more difficult to implement the technology at, say, a large-scale resort than it is at a small retailer. You have to make sure beacons don’t cross signals and bandwidth usage can be a problem.

“Installing beacons is a relatively simple process, but the strategy behind their placement and how to trigger the messages is more complex then we had expected,” Bradley said at the time. “The number of outlets, the layout of the hotel and the type of business the hotel drives all impact the placement and message strategy. We have learned quickly, however, and our core team has done a fantastic job of creating a unique experience.”

And for those worried about getting blasted with digital offers everywhere they are (futuristic movies such as “The Fifth Element” come to mind), rest assured, you not only have to download a specific app, but you also have to turn on Bluetooth, location services and the app’s notifications. Similar to personalized on-line marketing these days, advertisers using beacon technology don’t want to bombard consumers with offers, Schwartz noted. They are targeting them for a reason: It could genuinely be of interest to the consumer.

And as travellers move across this wondrous world, beacon technology is only a natural fit for the travel industry.

via Beacon Technology: The Next Big Marketing Tool for the Travel Industry? | TravelPulse.

Nobox Leads the Creation of Marriott’s Innovative Marketing Program with GoPro | Business Wire

marriott(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nobox, a leading social marketing agency, is the creative force behind the innovative marketing program between Marriott Hotels, Marriott International’s flagship brand, and GoPro. “Our creative goal is to engage Marriott’s guests and empower them to share richer, more immersive content,” said Jayson Fittipaldi, Chief Creative Officer of Nobox. “Ultimately, the surprise and delight that guests who participate experience and the amazing content that they are sharing with the world continues to elevate the Marriott Hotels brand among Millennial travelers. The alchemy of putting GoPro’s in the hands of eager guests have resulted in social marketing gold for Marriott.”

“Nobox’s continuous contribution to our success has transcended the scope of a social marketing agency to become Marriott’s creative agency for the region.”

This match made in “marketing heaven”, invites Marriott Hotels guests to take GoPro HERO4 cameras for a “test-drive” and capture their travel experiences in a richer, more immersive way. Guests are encouraged to share on social media using the hashtags #GoPro, #TravelBrilliantly, and #ViajeGenial for a chance to be featured on http://www.travelbrilliantly.com/gopro, Marriott’s social media profiles, and even on a dedicated TV channel in the in-room entertainment system of participating hotels. To celebrate the launch of the program, the most inspiring content submitted by guests will be selected to win prizes such as vacation stays, Marriott Rewards points and GoPro cameras.

“Travelers tend to be more active in social media during and after their trips because it elevates their profile. That said, smartphones will not capture our most adventurous travel experiences like parasailing, diving, etc. Combining Marriott and GoPro creates a perfect setting for Human-to-Human marketing; transforming happy customers into a brand ambassador,” said Carlos Garcia, CEO of Nobox.

“This program is a perfect example of how Marriott continues to innovate and attract the next generation of travelers,” said Craig S. Smith, President of the Caribbean and Latin America at Marriott International. “Nobox’s continuous contribution to our success has transcended the scope of a social marketing agency to become Marriott’s creative agency for the region.” The execution of this program spans across many touch-points beyond digital and social. Most notably, the program is embedded in the hotel experience and has dedicated Marriott associates at every participating hotel. Nobox even created a program management tool for Marriott associates to keep track of GoPro cameras and engage participating guests at the property level.

Watch the video: http://youtu.be/3IJd0OS6wE4

Visit the website: http://www.travelbrilliantly.com/gopro

Marriott press release: http://news.marriott.com/2015/01/gopro-marriott.html

via Nobox Leads the Creation of Marriott’s Innovative Marketing Program with GoPro | Business Wire.

Why investors in online travel need to be picky about China in 2015 | Sally White EyeforTravel

Silvana ComugneroThere can be no doubt that China is a crucial market for travel brands but it may not be for everybody, writes Sally White

Fast growing China’s foreign travel market may be, but investors should be very picky about buying into this story. Certainly, the market is eye-wateringly large – 100 million outbound trips were made in 2014, according to the China National Tourist Administration (CNTA). Adding to its allure for companies wanting a growth story to woo shareholders, this figure could reach 1.4 billion by 2030 with a spend of $1.8 trillion. Also, the number of countries Chinese travellers can visit easily rises this year as more governments and tourism boards are offering them visa-free access.

But these numbers could be a snare and delusion for foreign corporates not already well established. Most of these travellers keep to their own turf, with 90% staying within Asia according to the CNTA. Not only are local giants already well established, spending heavily and growing fast in all areas of online travel trading! The international heavy-weights are there, too, with the necessarily thick wallets to help their Chinese partners and subsidiaries.

via Why investors in online travel need to be picky about China in 2015 | Travel Industry News & Conferences – EyeforTravel.

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].