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.

Why leisure matters by Illusions Online – Arabian Travel News

illusionsThe travel trade can harness technology to grab its fair share of the increasingly lucrative leisure travel market

It has become a well known fact that the growth of leisure travel is outpacing business travel globally.

Over the last five years, spending on holidays has increased 25% and visiting family and relatives’ (VFR) spend has shot up by 17%, both outgrowing business travel expenditure, which increased 16% over the same period, according to World Travel Monitor 2013 by IPK International.

Since 2009, the volume of city trips taken by international travellers has grown by 47% and the number of tours purchased by 27%, all of which spells good news for destination management companies and the travel firms that successfully package these components.

International tourist numbers continue to grow year-on-year, breaking the one billion barrier in 2012 and increasing by another 5% in 2013, according to the UNWTO.

This brought an additional 52 million interna-tional tourists into the mix, with a further 4.5% increase anticipated in 2014.

But this will be a drop in the ocean come 2030 when the UNWTO predicts the majority of all international tourist arrivals (57%) will hail from emerging economy destinations, namely the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia. India and China.

Add to that the already explosive growth of the Pan-Asian travel market, plus longer term, the potential of the North American market to switch from domestic to overseas travel and the opportunities for the travel trade to harness the leisure segment are mind-boggling.

But where do you start?

Firstly, I believe it’s imperative to get your business model right and decide which segments of the incredibly broad leisure travel market you are best suited to serve.

The Gulf’s travel industry has its foundations in corporate travel, so that’s as good a starting place as any because leisure matters for business travellers.

Your corporate clients will, more often than not, have a small amount of leisure time to spare during their trip and if you’re savvy, you can boost your revenues and customer service kudos by building leisure add-ons into their itinerary.

The options are endless; city tours, day trips, spas, restaurants, museums, attractions, experiences, sports events, theatre productions, music gigs, to name but a few.

If your client is travelling to Kuala Lumpur and you know they like golf, why not book them into the famous Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, or KLGCC as it is known? Or if they are travelling inbound, to Dubai for example, get them VIP tickets for a music event, to which they can invite a corporate client.

The majority of businessmen who arrive in Dubai will be looking to make the most of their stay and will refer to listing publications when they arrive. They may even miss out on their chosen activity because tickets are sold out. Imagine if you could book it for them in advance, without them even asking? What about if you anticipated their needs and provided a value-added service that will keep them coming back for more?

This might sound time-consuming, but if you have the right technology in place that can do the work for you, it will take just minutes of your time.

Firstly, if your technology integrates sophisticated CRM capabilities, you will know your customers’ tastes and preferences and be able to tailor your leisure offering accordingly.

Secondly, if your technology can provide you with access to the best content, from core products such as air, accommodation and tours, to the aforementioned fiddly bits such as attractions, restaurants, spas, et cetera, all bundled into one package, it’s a no-brainer.

Crucially, the solution must give you rates, availability and the ability to book and confirm instantly, in real-time.

This is the next frontier in travel distribution and a vision that at Illusions has become a reality.

All of our technology from our off the shelf fully integrated solutions, to our online global travel marketplace, i-World Travel eXchange (iWTX), makes booking a complicated package, involving many facets, whether for business or leisure, possible.

Our system is built to optimise business processes, whether it’s CRM or booking engines, and all other front and back office functions a travel firm requires.

Illusions products are designed to bring simplicity and efficiency to the travel industry, helping companies to focus on customer service and maximise revenue.

By cleverly leveraging technology, the travel trade can thrive and start to take command of a leisure travel market brimming with infinite growth opportunities.

via Tour Operator & DMC software – Illusions Online Travel Technology – Articles – Arabian Travel News – November – 2014.

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].

Travel Booking Sites Spent $624 Million on TV Advertising in 2014 – Skift

TV advertisingIn the hotly contested TV advertising wars, 18 online travel brands spent an estimated $624.7 million on national television advertising in the U.S. in 2014.The biggest spending brand was Germany-based Trivago at $108.5 million as it tried to build its brand in the U.S. Trivago edged out the U.S. TV ad spend of Expedia.com at $105.8 million.But Expedia Inc. companies, namely Trivago ($108.5 million), Expedia.com ($105.8 million), Hotwire ($92 million) and Hotels.com ($50.2 million) accounted for 57 percent, or $356.5 million, of total online travel TV spend in the U.S. in 2014.The spending estimates come from iSpot.tv, which tracks “paid TV media and related earned digital activity across social, search & video,” the company says.Using iSpot.tv data, AdAge reported that Trivago spent the 7th most, or $64.3 million, of any brand — not just travel brands — on U.S. TV advertising in 2014 on a single ad. Trivago  was the only travel company in AdAge’s top 10 list.

via Travel Booking Sites Spent $624 Million on TV Advertising in 2014 – Skift.

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.

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/

Bitcoin Acceptance Yields Marketing Wins for Expedia | ClickZ

Expedia LogoExpedia is now accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. The move gives the company cost savings and also allows it to market itself as a high-tech, customer-focused e-business.

Bitcoin_logoOnline travel site Expedia.coms announcement that it is accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for hotel purchases is not only a sign of the decentralized peer-to-peer payment network inevitably going mainstream, but it also gives Expedia, like other early adopters, some distinct marketing advantages.

As of last week, customers can shop from Expedias inventory of hotels and pay for accommodations using Bitcoin. Expedia partnered with third-party Bitcoin payment processor Coinbase to integrate payment support into the hotel booking experience on its website.  An Expedia rep says its “basically just a matter of time” until the brand rolls out the functionality to other product lines like flights and car rentals and notes the speed will depend on the demand the brand initially sees with hotels.  According to the Bitcoin Press Center, Bitcoin is in use by a growing number of businesses and individuals, including restaurants, apartments, and law firms, as well as online services such as Namecheap, WordPress, Reddit, and Flattr.

via Bitcoin Acceptance Yields Marketing Wins for Expedia | ClickZ.

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.