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.

Affluent Travelers Tougher For Marketers To Reach

by Tanya Gazdik Irwin

Comment

This year will be challenging for travel marketers hoping to appeal to affluent consumers, according to a study from Unity Marketing.

Changes in affluent travellers’ attitudes and behaviour call for marketers to develop new strategies to capture some of the roughly $8,000 they plan to spend on their next vacation.

The demographic will be looking for new luxury travel experiences, all the while scrimping and saving on experiences that don’t mean as much to them (such as how they get to their destination) and splurging once they arrive. They will delay making plans till the last minute and will be less loyal to their travel rewards programs, as they search out promotions that offer more meaningful and motivating rewards, according to the study, “Affluents Will Travel in New Luxury Style in 2015,”

Affluents plan to take an average of three vacations in 2015, but they are waiting until the last minute to book. This works in their favour, as they carefully research all the available options, compare the many promotional offers received, and tap the Internet and social media for reviews and recommendations.

For travel planning, they are more DIY this year, using travel professionals less than in 2013. Furthermore, due to growing global unrest and the Department of State “worldwide caution” warning issued on Jan. 9, it only makes sense to wait until the window of opportunity is right.

The share of affluents who are undecided about their travel plans this year more than doubled from Unity Marketing’s 2013 luxury travel study, says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of the new study.

“Further, the projected budgets for their next vacation is lower than we’ve tracked since 2009,” she says. “Consumer uncertainty and lack of confidence is never a good sign for marketers and that is the environment that travel marketers face this year.”

Travel marketers’ mantra this year should be “hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” she adds.

“Given all the factors that can impact people’s willingness to travel, especially overseas, travel marketers need to recognize that their customers will be harder to commit to proposed trips this year,” she says. “Those customers will be more demanding when it comes to getting the most for their investment and may look more aggressively to cut expenditures wherever they can. Further, this may be an especially good year for the travel insurance business.”

Rewards programs are less motivating for affluents in 2015 than two years ago. A growing share of affluents have no plans or are undecided if they will redeem rewards for travel this year. Affluents report being less influenced in their choice of travel provider by the opportunity to collect rewards points.

“Since travel marketers rely heavily on rewards programs to market their services, this is an important call to action,” Danziger says. “It points to the need for travel providers to focus their marketing and rewards programs toward rewards that are more meaningful and motivating to affluent travelers.”

via Affluent Travelers Tougher For Marketers To Reach 01/23/2015.

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.

Expedia Inc EXPE Cashing in on Growing Travel Market | Tech Insider

expedia-logo-300x150Expedia Inc NASDAQ:EXPE has released its second quarter results for the fiscal year 2014, beating analysts’ expectations which helped the stock to advance by 5% in the aftermath. In a segment on CNBC, Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia’s CEO has commented on the company’s strong second quarter results, saying travel market is expanding and “online” takes an ever increasing chunk of it.

The travel company has seen its gross bookings number rise to $13 billion in the second quarter and its revenue increase by 24% year-on-year. Room nights grew at a pace of 20%, hitting a record, and adjusted earnings per share jumped 60% year-on-year.  Such positive results give the company an opportunity to spend more on marketing and investment, which in turn brings more customers and revenue, according to Khosrowshahi.

“Right now we are in a pretty good spot within a competitive marketplace. […] We are seeing our marketing spending going up faster than revenue but these are big scale businesses when you’re talking about $13 billion of gross bookings in one quarter, so we are able to scale off of our fixed expenses. So I think it is a great situation when you can spend aggressively into marketing but still increase profits […],” he added.

Last week, Expedia Inc NASDAQ:EXPE’s competitor Priceline Group Inc NASDAQ:PCLN announced the acquisition of OpenTable Inc NASDAQ:OPEN for $2.6 billion in cash, in a deal that marked its expansion into the restaurant business. Asked if  Expedia Inc NASDAQ:EXPE has similar plans, Dara Khosrowshahi said that such a move is not in the cards at the moment, as there are still plenty of opportunities in the travel market, which is a $1 trillion dollar-industry and growing. He has disclosed instead that the company plans to look for growth in Europe and Asia.

via Expedia Inc EXPE Cashing in on Growing Travel Market | Tech Insider.

Tourism New Zealand win PATA Gold Award for marketing

PATA Gold AwardsTourism New Zealand‘s 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand campaign has once again been recognised on the world stage, with its latest win the prestigious Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Grand Award, Marketing. 

The annual PATA Gold Awards recognise tourism organisations that have made outstanding contributions to successfully promote the travel industry in Asia Pacific.  This year, more than 180 entries from 66 organisations and individuals worldwide were received.  The award will be formally presented to Tourism New Zealand on 19 September at the PATA Gold Awards Luncheon as part of the PATA Travel Mart in Cambodia. 

The Marketing Award will be presented to Tourism New Zealand for its “100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” campaign.   Tourism New Zealand aims to leverage the huge media and consumer attention that The Hobbit Trilogy has and will continue to achieve, and convert that attention into travel to New Zealand – the country where the movies were made.  The campaign, developed in partnership with The Hobbit moviemakers Warner Brothers and Weta Workshop, has been the primary marketing campaign for Tourism New Zealand in its key offshore markets. The Hobbit and associated marketing campaigns have been a significant contributor to visitor arrival growth to New Zealand over the last 18 months. 

As an international marketing body it is incredibly encouraging to receive acknowledgement of our campaign activity from fellow international tourism bodies and professionals – and we are extremely proud to receive this award“, says Kevin Bowler, Chief Executive Tourism New Zealand. 

Our 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand campaign continues to go from strength-to-strength, and it is fantastic to receive such significant acknowledgment as we gear up to launch our activity to leverage the third and last of The Hobbit movies – set to be released later this year.

Holiday arrivals into New Zealand for the year-ending May 2014 were up 8.9 per cent on the previous year with key target market for the Middle-earth campaign, the United States showing 15.3 per cent growth in holiday arrivals.

Voice interaction is changing the face of travel marketing – Travolution.co.uk

call centreWe all want to acquire new customers and gain the loyalty of existing ones – but what is really the key to achieving this? Travel brands are increasingly focusing on the digital journey to support the customer objective, but this does not help anything if the offline customer journey is ignored. It’s not just all about online interactions; there is still a real value in doing business over the phone.

It makes sense to focus on online, especially as in 2013, 72% of all adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 2008. The constant evolution within social media have dragged businesses’ attention to social and digital platforms. However, when it comes to actual conversions, 65% of businesses consider phone calls to be their highest-quality lead source. This is where the human side of the customer journey comes into play and the point at which the voice can make or break the sale.

travolutionvia Guest Post: Voice is changing the face of travel marketing – Travolution.co.uk.

Online travel agents: Sun, sea and surfing | The Economist

economist logoIn 1996, when Microsoft was still ahead of the big technology trends, it launched a small brand called Expedia Travel Services. It hoped to persuade customers to book holidays online. It was not an immediate success. Few households had an internet connection then and, just as importantly, most people thought the idea of buying a holiday through the ether not to mention typing their credit-card details into a web browser plain foolish.

Few think the idea crazy now. Expedia, which Microsoft sold in 2001, has become the world’s biggest travel agent see chart. Last year, through brands such as Trivago, Hotels.com and Hotwire, as well as its eponymous operation, its gross bookings were $39.4 billion. The third-largest travel agent is also an online firm: Priceline, whose brands include Booking.com, made reservations worth $39.2 billion in 2013. Last year online travel agents OTAs had combined bookings of $278 billion, according to Euromonitor, a market-research firm.

Indeed, when it comes to reserving flights, hotel rooms and rented cars for holidaymakers, the online-travel market looks quite mature in many rich countries. PhoCusWright, another research firm, reckons that online booking now accounts for 43% of total travel sales in America and 45% in Europe. Since much of the rest is accounted for by business trips handled by specialist corporate-travel agents such as Carlson Wagonlit, scope for the OTAs’ market to grow seems limited. That explains Priceline’s purchase, announced on June 13th, of OpenTable, a restaurant-reservation website, for $2.6 billion: it sees this as a way to earn commission on another chunk of tourists’ spending.  There are some big markets where online bookings have yet to take off.   Germans still typically arrange their holidays through traditional travel agents. Although the Chinese now spend more on travel in aggregate than any other country’s population, in 2012 they booked only 15% of their trips by value online, says PhoCusWright.   It thinks this will rise to 24% by 2015, making the Chinese online-travel market worth around $30 billion.  Much of the expansion will be driven by ambitious local firms. Ctrip, the biggest, makes most of its money from air tickets and package tours to Greater China. But as Chinese tourists become more intrepid—ranging farther afield and no longer shuffling around in big tour groups—online hotel bookings are becoming more important.  Ctrip’s hotels division has grown at an average of 25% a year for the past five years, according to Trefis, a stockmarket-analysis firm, and had revenues of $366m in 2013. It will not be long before it eyes Western markets more keenly.

To stay ahead, the big OTAs are having to follow their customers as they switch from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets.  By 2017 over 30% of online travel bookings by value will be made on mobile devices, thinks Euromonitor. In part this will be the result of OTAs making their apps more appealing by, for example, adding location services that help travellers find the nearest rooms and restaurants. But it is also because the way people plan trips is changing. It generally takes a family more than three weeks to book a holiday, from deciding to travel to clicking the “pay now” button, in which time they may visit seven websites, says Faisal Galaria of Alvarez & Marsal, a consultant. In future, travellers are likely to become more impetuous, he says, and smartphones appeal to those making last-minute bookings.

For those still surfing for holidays on their PCs, other technological advances are on the horizon.  Amadeus, which supplies the software behind many OTAs’ booking systems, is developing new ways to entice customers to the agents’ websites. One is to use browser-tracking technology to aim personalised ads at consumers, showing them the latest prices for trips in which they had previously shown an interest. Such targeted advertising has been common among non-travel retailers for some time. However, until now it has proved trickier for the travel business as it involves collating frequently changing data from many airlines and hotels.

Gorilla marketing

Even with help from such marketing tricks, the smaller OTAs will find it increasingly hard to compete with the big two. Online travel is an industry in which size counts. The scale of Expedia and Priceline means they can sign up more hotels, and negotiate better prices, than their smaller rivals. This is a business that requires heavy spending on marketing, which hands another advantage to the big two.  OTAs will spend more than $4 billion this year on digital advertising, according to eMarketer, also a research firm; and Priceline and Expedia will account for over half of this. Some smaller rivals may find profitable niches, but in general it will be hard for them to grow. Whenever they open a door, “there are already two 800lb gorillas fighting it out in the room,” says Mr Galaria.

Not only gorillas. The observant may also spot an elephant in the room.  In 2010 Google bought ITA, a maker of flight-search software, and the next year it launched a flight-comparison website. The giant search company has also improved its hotel listings by including photographs and virtual tours, as well as price information. It has the clout to disrupt Expedia and Priceline if it so wishes. It has not done so yet. Google, many believe, would be loth to cannibalise such a large chunk of its main business: analysts think the big two will account for as much as 5% of its advertising revenue this year.

So besides Ctrip, perhaps the biggest threat to the big two OTAs is TripAdvisor, a popular travel-reviews site spun off by Expedia in 2011. This month it said travellers would be able to book hotels directly through its smartphone app. Weeks before Priceline’s deal with OpenTable, TripAdvisor announced it was buying La Fourchette, another online restaurant-booking service. The online-travel market is consolidating fast, but so far holidaymakers need not worry about a lack of options

via Online travel agents: Sun, sea and surfing | The Economist.

Big data fuels rise of real-time travel marketing – TTG Asia – Leader in Hotel, Airlines, Tourism and Travel Trade News

Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, Bangkok, June 20, 2014 

pata logoTHE growing availability of large public and private information sources has led to the development of big data analytics, a potential trove of information that travel businesses can leverage to deliver more effective and tailored services to their customers.

In particular, Asia’s high rates of smartphone penetration, skyrocketing demand for ‘phablets’ mobile devices straddling smartphone and tablet and immense popularity of social media underscore the vast opportunities big data present, said speakers at PATAcademy-HCD, which takes place in Bangkok from June 17 to 20.

“The Internet of things” – a term that refers to the advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services – can enable travel brands to capitalise on the potential of “real-time marketing” to personalise the customer experience and predict their current and future needs, said Sonal Patel, business development director, exchange – APAC, Twitter Singapore.

Google_Glass_V2_OOB_Experience_36695

 

Moreover, the emergence of wearable technology like Google Glass will further enhance the development of real-time marketing.

 

Citing his market research firm’s findings, Laurens van den Oever, global director for travel at GfK, illustrated how big data can be used to understand the booking seasonality and characteristics of destinations around the world.

For example, German and English travellers are early bookers while Italians and Russians tend to be late bookers when it comes to a summer vacation in Spain; within the region, Singaporeans are extremely late bookers, usually just four weeks in advance, he shared.

Applying booking seasonality trends to crisis communication, PATA COO, Mario Hardy, remarked: “If a crisis in a destination happens during high season, how you communicate to your markets is also different from when it happens during low season.”

While online is a part of nearly all travellers’ consumer journeys, van den Oever also pointed out that offline remains a major influencer. “Cross-channel usage is strong, so travel marketers should ensure a synergy of message across online and offline touch points,” he said. “For package tours, travel agencies and catalogues are still important touch points.”

Moreover, he also emphasised the complexity of travel purchase journeys, as consumers go through multiple pathways – ranging from generic search and aggregators to destinations and travel agencies – prior to making a booking so it is vital for travel marketers to consider the placement of their message. “Being present on all touch points is becoming mission critical,” he stressed.

via Big data fuels rise of real-time travel marketing – TTG Asia – Leader in Hotel, Airlines, Tourism and Travel Trade News.