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.

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.

Hotelplan looking to buy Kuoni Switzerland – TTG Asia

Kuoni logoHotelplan looking to buy Kuoni Switzerland

Raini Hamdi, Singapore, January 16, 2015

THE Hotelplan Group has emerged as a suitor for Kuoni Switzerland.

CEO Thomas Stirnimann confirmed with TTG Asia e-Daily “we are looking at it” when asked if the company was keen to buy Kuoni Switzerland.

“I guess we would be the best owner by far,” he said when asked for his views on who would be the likely buyers of the outbound businesses Kuoni has put up for sale.

If the deal goes through, Hotelplan would consolidate its position in Switzerland, where it is the second-largest tour operating company after Kuoni.

Asked about the future of the tour operating business, Stirnimann said: “We can only say that it is working out well for us, but you needed to adapt a couple of years ago. Today there is no more B2B or B2C business but only business with which you serve all channels.”hotelplan logo

Now that Kuoni has made known its intention to sell its outbound units, a few sources interviewed speculated that potential buyers could be the bigger players in the Middle East, private equity companies, or other non-travel related investors.

“I would be surprised if any of the larger travel groups in Europe purchased them given their current directions, although maybe Flight Centre might see value in their global expansion plans,” opined Chris Bailey, senior vice president sales & marketing Centara Hotels & Resorts Thailand.

On who they wished would buy, several Kuoni groundhandlers in the region are wistful.

“There are not many companies that invest in customer care and training like Kuoni does. Many talk about it but pass it to the ground agency to carry it out. Kuoni ensures the ground agency understands what the brand stands for, how important the customer is to Kuoni and why you should be proud to be part of the Kuoni group. The annual training for our staff looking after Kuoni customers are well organised and gives our staff a sense of pride to be a part of Kuoni,” said Judy Lum, group vice president sales and marketing, Tour East Singapore.

Lum wished Kuoni would reconsider. “I had hoped they would synergise the model of GTA with Kuoni tour operating and be the first to be able to give the consumers what they expect as a holiday, yet deliver the efficiency in the booking process for the customers of today. I know the business models of GTA and Kuoni are different worlds but they serve the customers of the same planet who expect a lot from each,” she said.

A source lambasted Kuoni for the sale announcement. “I do not think that it is wise to announce a sale of a company when you have no buyer.

“Firstly you demoralise your own staff, secondly you discourage existing and new clients to book with you, and thirdly you devalue your own company image/share value,” said the source.

Centara’s Bailey shared some of that sentiment. “All situations like this have an impact on the staff (I have seen a few myself [as a tour operator before]), however upbeat the message from management. It’s the fear of the unknown and potential change that always disrupts people’s attention to their day job.

“On the other hand, as I said before, if staff can be engaged with the change and kept in the loop with regular updates, then they can go the extra mile during this transition period.

“The other threat is of course from the competition as it’s often an opportunity to cherry pick talent and or commercial arrangements in such times.”

Kuoni contracting managers contacted by TTG Asia e-Daily on the impact on them did not respond at press time.

via Hotelplan looking to buy Kuoni Switzerland – TTG Asia – Leader in Hotel, Airlines, Tourism and Travel Trade News.

Why Priceline’s peers are struggling to maintain operating margins » Market Realist

By Smita Nair • Apr 29, 2014 9:00 am EDT 

Operating margins

Priceline and its peers such as Expedia (EXPE) and Orbitz Worldwide (OWW) have been investing in marketing and promotion, technology, and personnel in an attempt to improve long-term operating results, but these expenses have pressured operating margins. Priceline’s management said on the earnings call that “operating margins were impacted by 146 bps of deleverage and offline advertising mainly related to our Booking.com TV campaigns in the U.S. and Australia and the inclusion of KAYAK offline advertising.” Although Priceline has managed to efficiently improve its margins, its peers have struggled.

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In 2013, Priceline’s total online advertising expense was approximately $1.8 billion, up 41.2% year-over-year. A substantial portion of this was spent internationally through Internet search engines, meta-search and travel research services, and affiliate marketing. The company has worked on building brand awareness for Booking.com, Priceline.com, Agoda.com, KAYAK, and Rentalcars.com via aggressive marketing and promotion campaigns. It said it uses online search engines (primarily Google), meta-search and travel research services, and affiliate marketing as primary means of generating traffic to its websites. It also invested approximately $127.5 million in offline advertising via television, print and radio.

Priceline said its online advertising ROIs were down year-over-year for 2013. Its online advertising as a percentage of gross profit has increased due to lower returns on investment (ROIs) from online advertising, brand mix within the group, and channel mix within certain of its brands. Plus, its international brands are generally growing faster than U.S. brands, and usually spend a higher percentage of gross profit on online advertising.

Priceline CEO Darren Huston said in a Bloomberg interview that the company spends more on search ads on Google, and that results from Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) haven’t worked out for the company. Huston said in the article that the ad spending would be modified to include TripAdvisor Inc. (TRIP), the KAYAK travel search engine, and Expedia’s (EXPE) search site Trivago. When asked about the emergence of Google as a potential competitor, Hudson said he was not worried, adding “Google of course respects us as an advertiser.”

Expedia mentioned in its annual filing that its marketing channels include social media sites such as Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR). The marketing initiatives also include promotional offers and traveler loyalty programs such as Welcome Rewards and Expedia Rewards that are recorded under its expenses. Orbitz (OWW) said in its annual filing that its marketing expense increased 16% or $39.5 million to $292 million, due largely to the growth of its private label distribution channel, which increased affiliate commissions by $23.5 million, and search engine and other online marketing of $32.7 million.

via Why Priceline’s peers are struggling to maintain operating margins » Market Realist.

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The Muslim travel market: The Kuoni Group has a vision – eTurboNews.com

Crescentrating, the world’s leading authority on halal travel, and the world\’s leading group travel provider Kuoni Group Travel Experts, have announced a global partnership that will enable Kuoni Group Travel Experts to market Crescentrated halal friendly group travel arrangements. It will see Muslim families, leisure and MICE groups enjoy better travel experiences around the world thanks to a network of Crescentrating accredited travel agents in Asia.

The partnership launched at the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai (25-26 November). Fazal Bahardeen, Crescentrating’s CEO, spoke at the event alongside several of Kuoni’s hotel partners, to highlight the value of the global Islamic economy and latest trends within halal industries such as food, travel and lifestyle.

via The Muslim travel market: The Kuoni Group has a vision – eTurboNews.com.

Introducing Where2TravelNext – A Powerful New Marketing Platform for Travel Professionals Provided at No Cost to Travel Agents, Subsidized by Travel Suppliers – Press Release – Digital Journal

Tallahassee, FL (PRWEB) September 30, 2013

Introduced by Travel Research Online, Where2TravelNext is the next-generation marketing platform to help today’s travel agents utilize their existing email database and Social Media channels as lead generators. It is designed to tap an agent’s own customers and prospects to increase sales using email marketing and social media. Best of all, the platform automates several elements of marketing so agents do not need to do any additional work, and since the program is funded by travel suppliers, it is provided at no cost to travel agents.

“Where2TravelNext enables travel agents to further enhance their offerings with an entire suite of marketing options with no extra work for them and at no additional cost as it’s subsidized by travel suppliers. The secret to increasing sales is to rev up marketing frequency. Where2TravelNext agents do just that by automating a lot of the work for them! We highly encourage travel agents and group planners to take advantage of this incredible lead generation platform,” said Caroline Hughes, travel agent support for Travel Research Online.

“Plus, Not only does Where2TravelNext provide agents with targeted ways to build interest and market to their clients, but it also gives our travel supplier partners assurance that their specials and deals are reaching more than one million consumer travelers who are directed back to their preferred travel agent for planning and booking expertise. It’s an exciting way to drive leads for travel agents and support travel suppliers at the same time,” continued Hughes.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1496899#ixzz2gq3wj05d

via Introducing Where2TravelNext – A Powerful New Marketing Platform for Travel Professionals Provided at No Cost to Travel Agents, Subsidized by Travel Suppliers – Press Release – Digital Journal.

Marketing experts give Cook rebrand cautious thumbs up – www.travelweekly.co.uk

Marketing experts give Cook rebrand cautious thumbs up

Marketing experts gave a cautious welcome to Thomas Cook’s decision to rebrand the company with a new heart logo and ‘Let’s Go’ strapline.

There is no doubt such a largescale change – which sees the globe logo and ‘Don’t Just Book It’ strapline disappear – is high-risk, according to Brighter Group chairman Steve Dunne.

“After all your logo is the personification of the brand; the symbol that the customer becomes familiar with and, if it is doing its job properly, reassures and reinforces everything about the brand in their eyes,” said Dunne.

The challenge to keep pace with change is one many traditional retailers face, added Branwell Johnson, acting editor of Marketing Week magazine.

He said: “Thomas Cook has the same problem as many legacy consumer retail and service brands in trying to transform itself into a 21st century powerhouse – it has to shed all its cumbersome baggage in terms of an overstuffed brand portfolio and the assoc

via Marketing experts give Cook rebrand cautious thumbs up – www.travelweekly.co.uk.

Why travel agents aren’t completely pointless – MarketWatch

By Catey Hill

Job site CareerCast recently put them on its “most useless professions” list, many consumers have stopped calling or visiting them, and even some within the industry worry they may soon be out of work. After all, when it’s so easy for consumers to plan and book their own travel online, does anyone need a travel agent anymore?

While “travel agents used to be mostly mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar shops selling trips to Disney World and cruises and things like that,” that’s all changing, says Elias Garcia, a marketing specialist at travel company Global Basecamps. Many agents still provide such services of course, but fewer and fewer are doing so, because those package deals, as well as one-off plane tickets and hotel rooms — once more difficult for regular people to find and compare on their own — are now at most everyone’s fingertips, he says. Despite that, one in four airline tickets is still sold by brick-and-mortar travel agents, according to industry estimates. (70% is for corporate travel and the rest leisure.)

via Why travel agents aren’t completely pointless – MarketWatch.