Illusions to complete its first European acquisition

Illusions in European acquisition first

Dubai-headquartered company to buy Polish travel technology firm anixe

Illusions is poised to make its first ever acquisition, with advanced negotiations under way to purchase Polish travel technology firm anixe for an undisclosed sum.

The deal was announced on 23rd April at the FVW Travel Technology Day in Cologne, Germany, will give the Dubai head-quartered travel technology specialist access to exclusive technology, global hotel content and a brand new client base across Europe.

It’s an agreement that will see anixe, which specialises in distributing global hotel product to the European and UK travel trade, become integrated into the Illusions business.

Illusions Founder and CEO Faisal Memon said the acquisition allowed the technology firm to “cherry pick” the facets of the anixe business that would both complement and enhance its core product and its rapidly-expanding global travel marketplace, the i-World Travel eXchange (iWTX).

“It was anixe’s technology, customers, infrastructure, distribution strength and crucially, its team of technology experts, headed up by a very smart CEO, that clinched the deal and I believe we can grow this into a much bigger business,” he said.

“The product and distribution capabilities of anixe will grow iWTX’s hotel inventory to exponential proportions, with our combined offering amounting to a staggering half a million unique hotels.”

Memon has made no secret of his quest to be market leader in Germany, Europe’s biggest travel market in a short time frame, paving the way for the domination of the entire continent.

Illusions already counts Der Touristik, part of the REWE Group, as one its top clients and the anixe partnership brings another German heavyweight into its fold – the country’s fourth largest German tour operator and travel agency, FTI Touristik.

Under deal terms anixe’s current base in Wroclaw, known as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Poland, will become Illusions’ first office in Eastern Europe and its second on the continent. Its first European office opened its doors in Lisbon, Portugal just last week.

“Setting up a satellite office in Poland demonstrates our commitment to the European market, in particular Germany, and brings us much closer to our key clients, allowing us to meet their needs more effectively,” said Memon

anixe is a technology firm that like Illusions, has spent 18 years creating customised solutions specifically for the travel industry.

The company’s Founder and CEO Piotr Zolnierek said he been looking for an opportunity to grow his business for some time but had rejected acquisition requests from several interested parties until Memon came along.

“We share the same attitude to management and business and there are huge synergies between our two businesses,” he said.

“At anixe we have some unique inventions that Illusions can market and sell and with the expertise of our two companies combined, we will create a technology firm like no other.”

anixe will give Illusions access to technology that maps the same hotel product across different sources to a room type level, refining searches to show the best deals by room category, which no other system can offer. These searches are also customisable by market.

What’s more, anixe also boasts the technology to generate the different cache file formats unique to the German, French and Dutch markets, plus its processing times are lightning fast.

Memon said anixe’s innovative hotel mapping, real-time caching and booking engine technology was one of the firm’s top assets.

“With this acquisition comes a number of enhancements to our platform, with functionality and out-of-the-box solutions for the global travel industry that will set us apart in this competitive market place,” he said.

via Tour Operator & DMC software – Illusions Online Travel Technology – News – Illusions in European acquisition first.

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.

How Google Now is Improving Travel. – 4Hoteliers

google nowIt seems that with every new release, smartphones are changing everything, they have had a significant impact on the travel industry over the last few years, and this trend doesn’t  seem to be stopping.

A lot of the larger hotel chains have developed stand alone apps to try and gain better control over the guest experience.

These apps are typically targeted to members of their loyalty programs or frequent travelers, but Google has a new product that might make them obsolete and level the playing field for independent hotels.

Google Now

Available with the latest versions of Google’s Android OS and through the Google Search app for the iPhone, Google Now is changing the way users are interacting with their smartphones. Using what they call Google Cards, Google Now displays a custom feed of information tailored specifically to the user. Day to day use provides local weather reports, traffic conditions, where you parked your car and new stories relevant to your interests. It pulls this data from the usage of your phone, GPS data and emails.

Specifically when traveling, Google Now can be incredibly useful. By scanning your emails, Google Now will automate a travel itinerary and update it on the fly. It knows what time your flights leave and will alert you when it’s time to check in, leave for the airport and even if there are any delays.

Google Now even generates your Boarding Passes as a scannable QR code. Once you arrive and check in, Google Now can display local attractions, nearby restaurants and other areas of interest. Now has become not only your itinerary, but your travel guide as well.

So how can hoteliers use these services to their advantage? Every hotel should make sure their emails are coded to trigger Google Now Cards. Contact your booking engine provider to see if their coding is compatible. If you’re doing your own coding, Google has provided a basic tutorial to help get started.

Encoding your outgoing emails to be captured by Google Now will only impact those currently using the service, others will see your emails normally. Once set up the Card can display a photo of your hotel, a Click to Call button, Reservation number, and Check In/Out times.

As mobile Check In features become more robust they will be integrated into Now as well. Most of the larger OTAs are already coding their emails to work with Now, so it’s important for hoteliers to match and exceed that experience as services grow.

Joshua Meehan is a Marketing Specialist at E-Marketing Associates, where he assists independent hotels with marketing strategies, social media, and contributes regularly to the E-Marketing Associates Blog. E-Marketing Associates works exclusively with independent hotels and builds innovative online marketing products that increase direct bookings and drive top-line revenue.

E-Marketing Associates helps independent hotels increase direct bookings and reduce reliance on OTAs. We build innovative online marketing products that deliver the best ROI for independent hotels. Our products aim to ultimately drive top-line revenue.

via How Google Now is Improving Travel. – Friday, 16th January 2015 at 4Hoteliers.

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.