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.

Why TripAdvisor and Priceline Wish Facebook Ads Performed Better – Skift

Both Priceline and TripAdvisor have expressed their disappointment in recent months in the value of Facebook advertising. Pictured, TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer at the PhoCusWright Conference in November 2010. PhoCusWright / Flickr.com / Flickr.com

Both Priceline and TripAdvisor have expressed their disappointment in recent months in the value of Facebook advertising. Pictured, TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer at the PhoCusWright Conference in November 2010. PhoCusWright / Flickr.com / Flickr.com

Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston’s lament that Facebook and Twitter can’t do what Google advertising can when it comes to driving travel transactions is not news to TripAdvisor, which complained of the same shortcomings five months ago.

At the time, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer said using Facebook to promote its Cities I’ve Visited Ap leads to better monetization, but Facebook falls short in driving transactions in the way that Google Adwords does.

“We weren’t able to get the same traveler in shopping mode to come over to TripAdvisor in any scale that matched Google,” Kaufer said, referring to advertising on Facebook, when speaking at an investor conference in November 2013.

Unlike Huston, Kaufer didn’t address the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of advertising on Twitter at the time.

The independent statements of Kaufer and Huston are a blow to Facebook advertising as a travel-transaction-booster. Both TripAdvisor and the Priceline Group were previously rooting hard for Facebook advertising to succeed as both companies look for other ways to advertise in addition to Google’s platform.

TripAdvisor, in particular, has engaged in lots of disputes with Google when it felt Google was pilfering TripAdvisor reviews and artificially limiting traffic to TripAdvisor in favor of Google promoting its own travel products.

In addition, TripAdvisor was once considered Facebook’s best friend in travel because of TripAdvisor’s Cities I’ve Visited Facebook app, with Facebook even citing TripAdvisor’s promotions on Facebook in its IPO registration papers.

Read MoreBrand USA’s 47-to-1 Return on Investment Claim Attracts Doubts Even Among Supporters

Travel companies do have an alternative to Google, though, in one growing channel — travel metasearch through companies such as Kayak, Trivago, Skyscanner, and TripAdvisor, among others.

You only have to look at the Priceline Group’s acquisition of Kayak for $1.8 billion, and Expedia’s acquisition of Germany’s Trivago for $564 million in cash and 875,200 shares to see how Priceline and Expedia were looking for an advertising hedge against Google’s dominance.

Many travel industry companies hoped that alternative would be Facebook, but so far Facebook hasn’t delivered in the view of some major players, at least.

Facebook declined to comment on the issue.

via Why TripAdvisor and Priceline Wish Facebook Ads Performed Better – Skift.

Enhanced by Zemanta

MediaPost Publications TripAdvisor, Hotwire Top Travel Site Ads, Study Shows 04/15/2014

by Laurie Sullivan, 14th April 2015, 2:35 PM

Phoenix Marketing International will release findings this week from an online travel audit analyzing consumer sentiment about the most popular travel industry ads on TV.

The study, “Online Travel Audit,” fielded in mid-March, analyzed 50 television ads from more than 30 travel search and reservation Web sites. It also looked at travel-related

Español: Logotipo de trivago

Español: Logotipo de trivago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

advertisers, such as hotel and car rental, including American Airlines, Hotwire, Priceline, Trivago, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Southwest, United and Hilton. The study compiled more than 3,500 responses.

Josh Berger, research director at Phoenix Marketing International, gave MediaDailyNews a first look at results. He said researchers also tested ads from American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, and United, as well as travel destinations like Orlando and Texas. “Ads can succeed several ways, whether they engage through a relevant message or empathy,” he said. “A straightforward approach as to what makes Trivago different than other search travel sites seems to work for the site.”

Business and leisure travelers identified Trivago for its advertisement The Perfect Hotel as the overall top-performing message. More than 55% of leisure and 50% of business travelers said they would recommend the site to others. The newcomer’s message tells consumers the site can compare hotel prices from more than 100 Web sites, adjusting the price depending on the budget.

Image representing TripAdvisor as depicted in ...

TripAdvisor via CrunchBase

Berger said Google did not rank within the first five sites. Other sites like TripAdvisor and Hotwire maintain a category lead. “We really think that as the survey product gets built up over time, it will give us a better understanding of trends and the growth of Google, as well as sites like Trivago,” he said.

Overall, Hotwire took the No. 2 and No. 3 spot among leisure travelers, with its ad From New York to Texas ranking No. 1 with the highest recall at 81%, followed by its Florida to Seattle ad with 79%. Expedia and Priceline rounded out the top five overall spots for leisure travelers, respectively.

While many leisure travelers are more concerned with saving money, business travelers look for conveniences. Business travelers ranked Hotwire No. 2 and Hotels.com, No. 3, with Kayak and Expedia following in that order. Hotels.com, The Obvious Choice & Captain Obvious, had the highest recall among business travelers.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s 50 Million Tree Pledge took the most buzzworthy ad in the category, with 30% of travelers saying they would likely speak positively about the advertisement to others. The ad improves the consumer’s impression of the car rental company by tapping into charitable effort. After seeing the ad, 60% of people feel better overall about the company compared to a travel average of 36%.

via MediaPost Publications TripAdvisor, Hotwire Top Travel Site Ads, Study Shows 04/15/2014.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Hoteliers vs. OTAs: The Quest for a Perfect App

2014-04-09 BY PHILLIP BUTLER

Image representing Skift as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Will mobile technology negate travel service providers’ direct revenue streams? An insightful post by Skift’s Dennis Schaal points to the big OTAs and the coming leverage game of travel bookings via mobile.

Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, a plethora of booking channels now clutter the hospitality booking lobby, and these carry varying degrees of effectiveness and economy.

While Schaal’s report does allude to hoteliers suffering ever increasing pains at the hands of OTAs, there is another side to the story. Schaal quotes Macquarie Equities Research’s Tom White on the operational disruption TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Priceline can cause. Furthermore, it’s no big secrete TripAdvisor would like to rule the entire hospitality revenue roost. Schaal elaborates using the equity research expert’s intuition, accentuates by TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer’s proclamation over owning the “entire cycle.”

Certainly there’s ample concern on the hotelier end of things here. Clients of our own Pamil Visions travel PR, associates across the spectrum of travel marketing, and even some players in the app building arena have expressed virulently the pluses and minuses of this new “mobile travel ” game. What Shaal and the others mentioned have not shed light on is the flip side of such revenue disruptive technologies.

How the Hotel Will Always Be Right

Somehow the hospitality cart managed to get far out ahead of the hotelier horses, first via the WWW, and now (ostensibly) via the power of an ever growing mobile constituency. Let’s face it, prophesying huge corporate online travel agencies monopolizing guest bookings, that’s a bit like watching a man with a chainsaw standing in front of a redwood, and predicting he’s intent on chopping it down. Excuse the metaphors, but Expedia and the like have made a living providing far reaching reach, with a minimum of effort I might add, to tap into the coffers of every hotelier on the planet. However effective these businesses may be however, unless they plan on hiring bell hops and desk clerks, hotels are still their customers. And the customer is always right, right?

Expedia_logo

Expedia_logo (Photo credit: Svetlana Gladkova)

This article on BigHospitality speaks for the hotelier fed up with battling their own service providers (OTAs) over who owns the business of serving guests. In this piece the balance of equity is the needed shift in favor of the real guest services providers. Nial Kelly Vice President Acquisitions and Development at Starwood Hotels talks suggests leveraging OTAs by only working with those that are for balance. In essence, big and small hotel groups can put the proverbial “squeeze” on Expedia and others. This is what is about to happen if our information here is accurate. All the independent or major chain hotels need is the right catalyst, the right app developer, or an existent player willing to think outside the box.

The “Who” of Direct Mobile Bookings

A couple of months ago I was speaking with Stefan Weitz, head of Microsoft’s Bing about forward movement on Bing’s Travel App. Like other major corporations in the game, Microsoft and Bing came up with an imminently useful app for travelers here. Not unlike

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

our friend’s at Stay.com, Bing put a lot of quality in, features users get the most out of, and ultimately the ability find and reserve the best hotels in the world. Also like Stay.com, “depth” and a lack of appropriate marketing left conversions in a shortfall situation. You see there’s no lack of expertise in creating such tools (even for individual hotels), the cost of such development has been driven down dramatically. The real rub for hotels or corporations like Microsoft is “commitment” – to put it bluntly some companies have more money and resources than drive, when it comes to breaking out into mobile. It’s as if those that should most believe have become too conventional in their thinking.

Therein resides the biggest hurdle for Dennis Schaal’s omnipotent OTA rulers too. TripAdvisor and the rest are super slow on the uptake historically. In fact, in my view, TA and the rest have been lucky somebody like Microsoft has not already snapped up their market share. While Google was the heir apparent to digital travel mastery, today the original OTAs retain their places among marketing channels for hospitality. I am fairly amazed at this, to be honest. Looking at Bing’s app, like everything else at Microsoft it’s Microsoft-centric. These companies act as if they’re the only game in town, like gigantic ostriches. (Sorry Stefan, you know it’s true)

Finally, to give you a few “for instances” on how hotels can rescue themselves from lobby takeovers, here’s a list of apps that could be used to snatch a bigger share of the mobile pie. This says nothing for us working to create regional apps to help hoteliers ourselves :)

via Hoteliers vs. OTAs: The Quest for a Perfect App.

Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Multi-Country Sites Strategy For Online Travel Brands: A Deep Dive – Skift

Skift logoThe largest online travel sites grapple with this question daily: What is the most effective way to conquer the world and plant roots everywhere from Greece to Colombia and Indonesia?It’s a complex question with many elements in such an expansion strategy, but one of the tools in these companies’ arsenals is launching distinct country sites with their own unique, top-level domains such as TripAdvisor.com.br TripAdvisor Brazil, Trivago.ro Trivago Romania, or FlightCentre.com.cn Flight Centre China, for example. googletag.cmd.pushfunction { googletag.display”div-gpt-ad-1390432568424-0″; }; Skift examined the URLs of the top online travel sites around the world and came up with a list of the top 10 travel-booking companies with the most top-level domains, and uncovered some surprises and nuances in strategy.Priceline 240, Expedia 81, and HotelsCombined 61 have the most country sites with distinct, top-level domains for consumer-facing websites. In this list, which is an estimate based on companies’ answers to our queries in some cases, public filings, and our own research, we counted top-level domains such as Hotels.com and Hoteles.com, but not ca.hotels.com or num

via The Multi-Country Sites Strategy For Online Travel Brands: A Deep Dive – Skift.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Top Emerging Global Destinations Travelers Are Actually Going To – Skift

Rafat Ali, SkiftSkift logo

Outside of Google, TripAdvisor is the global travel search engine, with a direct line into user behavior on where travelers are actually planning and going, instead of just intent. The primary use case of TripAdvisor is built around it: its millions of users, mostly landing from Google and elsewhere, search for accommodations in the places they’re going to.That is why when it comes out with a list of its destinations on the rise, you take it a lot more seriously than say the editorially-opaque destinations list from LonelyPlanet and others. TripAdvisor’s criteria: the places that have seen the “greatest increase in positive traveler feedback and traveler interest”, based on millions and millions of searches and reviews.

via The Top Emerging Global Destinations Travelers Are Actually Going To – Skift.