You’ll Never Guess Which Travel Site Americans Are Most Loyal To (Hint: It’s Not Priceline) | The Motley Fool

You’ll Never Guess Which Travel Site Americans Are Most Loyal To (Hint: It’s Not Priceline)  Steve Symington

With the advent of online travel sites, it’s never been easier to book a quick vacation, business trip, or even a spontaneous jaunt for almost anywhere in the world. Though the online travel industry is relatively young, it’s still growing quickly, with dozens of viable sites ready to make your trip happen.

The sites with the most loyal customers stand to grab the biggest share of this market as Internet usage increases around the world. But maintaining customer loyalty is even more challenging in markets like the United States, where online travel is becoming second nature as nearly 90% of the population is already online.

Thanks to online travel sites, resorts like this are just a click away.

This of course begs the question, which travel site are Americans the most loyal to?

Thanks to prominent advertising campaigns, several incorrect names might immediately come to mind. Take the various sites operated by Priceline Group (NASDAQ: PCLN), for example, which notably include priceline.com, KAYAK, booking.com, rentalcars.com, and — thanks to a $2.6 billion acquisition last year — even restaurant reservations specialist OpenTable. Since it was founded in 1997, Priceline has enjoyed the charisma of spokesman William Shatner talking up its negotiating skills, while KAYAK earns business by comparing the prices of “hundreds” of travel sites at once.

Collectively, these businesses helped Priceline Group achieve $50.3 billion in total gross bookings last year alone. And with a market capitalization higher than $61 billion as of this writing, it’s no surprise Priceline regularly calls itself the “world leader in online accommodation reservations.” But “world leader” or not, none of Priceline’s sites are tops in customer loyalty.

Or how about Hotwire? Specific financial details are scarce for the privately held site, but Hotwire earns customers by selling off unsold travel inventory at a huge discount, saving people planeloads of cash on all their travel needs from airfare to hotels, rental cars, and comprehensive travel packages.

Unfortunately, though, even Hotwire’s approach doesn’t translate to the most loyal users. It’s not Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE), either — though we’re getting closer.

Travelocity’s roaming gnome, Credit: Travelocity

Love for the Roaming Gnome

According to the 19th annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, American consumers are most loyal to a travel site acquired by Expedia less than two months ago: Travelocity.com. On January 23, 2015, Expedia paid $280 million in cash to buy Travelocity from travel-technology specialist Sabre (NASDAQ: SABR), which itself was a subsidiary of American Airlines until being spun off in 2000.

According to Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff, 2015 was Travelocity’s first year atop its category in loyalty. And this year’s results were driven by the brands’ abilities to “identify customers’ expectations and address them via authentic emotional values.”  So why do Americans specifically love Travelocity so much?

A little focus goes a long way

First, keep in mind that Travelocity signed a strategic marketing agreement with Expedia in mid-2013. Per the terms of that deal, Expedia agreed to take the reins of the technology platform powering Travelocity’s U.S. and Canadian websites. In exchange, Expedia received performance-based marketing fees that varied based on the amount of travel booked through those Travelocity-branded sites.

Travelocity’s #IWannaGo campaign was wildly successful, Credit: Travelocity.

While this meant less revenue for Travelocity at the time, it also greatly improved the site’s profitability by drastically lowering operating costs. In its most recently reported quarter as part of Sabre, for instance, Travelocity’s adjusted revenue fell nearly 45% year over year, to $89 million, while adjusted EBITDA skyrocketed 116% to $16 million. Without the need to focus on maintaining its technology platform, Travelocity was free to redirect those resources toward promoting its brand — something it arguably did more effectively than any of its deep-pocketed rivals, anyway.

Take Travelocity’s “Roaming Gnome” mascot, for example, whose offbeat TV spots have been at the heart of its viral advertising efforts for more than a decade. But starting in 2013, Travelocity also began using the gnome to engage consumers on a personal level with a wildly successful social media campaign centered around the hashtag #IWannaGo.

By following the @roaminggnome handle on Twitter or Instagram, then using the hashtag to tell Travelocity where you wanted to go, you were automatically entered to win a chance to make your travel dreams come true. Then. last year, Travelocity built on that momentum by combining the hashtag with its new “Go & Smell the Roses” tag line.

According to Travelocity chief marketing officer Bradley Wilson: “‘Go & Smell the Roses’ is more than a tag line in an advertising campaign, it’s a rally cry. […] We are using our most powerful asset, the iconic Roaming Gnome, to inspire and instigate people to get off the couch, to go and smell the roses.”

If Brand Keys’ latest Loyalty Index is any indication, Travelocity’s efforts to connect to customers on an emotional level are obviously proving effective in its core American market. If it can translate that good work under Expedia’s wing to inspire people around the world, something tells me Expedia’s $280 million purchase price will look brilliant in the end.

via You’ll Never Guess Which Travel Site Americans Are Most Loyal To (Hint: It’s Not Priceline) | The Motley Fool.

The Online Travel Industry: Investing Essentials

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The Online Travel Industry: Investing EssentialsBy Asit Sharma | More Articles August 25, 2014 | Comments 0Barajas Airport, Madrid. Source: Jean-Pierre Dalbera under Creative Commons license.The speed at which the Internet evolves can make milestones from 10 or 15 years ago seem worthy of encasement in a glass museum display. Take this quote from Priceline Group’s first annual report after its 1999 IPO:

Priceline.com commenced its service with the sale of leisure airline tickets. The number of airlines participating in priceline.com’s airline ticket service has increased to a total of 10 domestic airlines and 20 international airlines.

The online travel industry has grown exponentially since those heady days when Priceline managed to sign up 20 international carriers, not to mention pitchman William Shatner. While traditional travel agencies, especially those that cater to business travelers, haven’t disappeared, most of us now find it second nature to book travel on our desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices.

What is the online travel industry?

Companies that facilitate purchases of flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and travel-related activity over the web comprise the online travel industry. The industry includes well known travel services such as ExpediaTravelocityTripAdvisor, and Orbitz Worldwide. It also encompasses newer, smaller companies, often competing on the basis of incremental innovations. For example, travel site Hipmunk.com presents airline query results in a visual format, ranking results not only by price but also by travel length. 

How big is the online travel industry?

The online travel industry is a subset of the global travel and tourism industry, which, according to Statista.com, had a direct impact of $2.2 trillion on global GDP in 2013. U.S. revenues of online travel companies were estimated at $157 billion in 2013. Revenues of the global online travel industry, sometimes referred to as the global “digital travel industry,” are estimated to be between $400 billion-$500 billion annually. With increasing Internet usage worldwide, we can expect this market to continue to expand, especially in developing markets such as Latin America.

How does the online travel industry work?

Corfu, Greece. Source: iwiseguy71 under Creative Commons license.

The online travel industry is divided into three primary categories: suppliers, online travel agencies (or OTAs), and aggregators. Suppliers are the airlines, hotels, and rental car companies offering their services to businesses and individuals. Suppliers sell services directly to consumers via their own websites, but also widely utilize OTAs and aggregators to market their inventories. OTAs provide suppliers’ pricing to consumers and fulfill online orders. Aggregators provide a means for web users to compare prices of OTAs and suppliers for specific travel queries, routing users to back to these organizations for purchases.

In recent years, major OTAs like Priceline and TripAdvisor have extended their revenue base by purchasing aggregators, blurring the line between the two business models. Priceline owns aggregators Kayak.com and Booking.com. TripAdvisor counts Airfarewatchdog.comand BookingBuddy.com among its properties.

OTAs and aggregators rely on both organic and paid search (i.e., searches for travel sites on search engines like Google) as well as other advertising spends to capture customers. Priceline and Expedia are by far the largest digital advertisers; according to e-commerce research organization eMarketer, Priceline’s 2013 global spend of $1.8 billion was equal to over half of all digital travel advertising spend in the U.S.

What are the drivers of the online travel industry?

Several trends and financial factors drive the online travel industry. Most prominent is global economic growth. As you might expect, rising discretionary incomes play an important role in the industry. However, as OTAs receive commissions on sales, the direction of hotel room rates and airline rates also affects revenues. Rising average daily hotel room rates since the recession of 2009, for example, have benefited OTAs’ top-line revenue.

Meta-search, the process by which an online travel site includes results of several different OTAs on a single page for easy comparison, also drives this industry. The convenience of meta-search results has propelled the rise of aggregators and is partially responsible for the recent popularity of aggregators as acquisition targets by traditional OTAs.

Perhaps the most noticeable trend driving the online travel industry is the shift from desktop computing to mobile phones and tablets. The general tilt in the population toward “mobile” usage is having a marked impact on the online travel industry. According to industry research group PhoCusWright, mobile phones and tablets made up 20% of online travel spending in 2013. As this share of the total industry rises, OTAs and aggregators will invest significant resources to optimize their interfaces for mobile devices.

The growing tendency for digital apps to foster consumer-to consumer transactions will also influence the online travel industry in the near future. Home sharing site airbnb.com raised nearly $500 million of private venture capital investment in 2014, at an impressive valuation of more than $10 billion. The interest of Silicon Valley in pioneers of the sharing economy like airbnb indicates that new breeds of travel sites — bypassing both suppliers and OTAs — have the potential to unsettle the business model of this still-young industry.

Finally, long-term capacity trends in the airline industry will drive online travel opportunities for years to come. Expansion in the online industry has occurred in tandem with the falling cost per mile of air travel to consumers, as airlines have revamped their fleets with lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft and focused on lowering fixed costs and increasing profitability. Air travel is vital to the online travel industry, as healthy aviation traffic drives not only sales of flights, but hotel stays and rental car bookings as well.

via The Online Travel Industry: Investing Essentials.

How to angle for better attribution in travel and tourism using analytics – eTurboNews.com

Attribution is difficult but digital data can help. Ritesh Gupta, EyeforTravel’s Travel Journalist, gets the low-down and the highbrow from a marketing expert at Travelocity. No marketing investment can be committed to unless it can demonstrate a tangible impact on metrics. Digital advertising is no different. However given its potential to be a high performance medium that delivers intelligent and relevant data, works strongly in its favor.

Indeed, actionable data intelligence today is being converted into targeted marketing actions: SEO templates, content initiatives, link building and so on. So when marketing executives see technology that can process huge quantities of structured and unstructured data, while at the same time gleaning actionable insights, then they are in a better to ‘sell’ campaigns that actually deliver to the rest of the business.

via How to angle for better attribution in travel and tourism using analytics – eTurboNews.com.

What travellers can expect from a Travelocity-Expedia marketing agreement – The Washington Post

By , Published: September 6

Depending on whom you talk to, Travelocity’s unexpected announcement last month that it has reached a strategic marketing agreement with long time rival Expedia will either create a dominant new Internet travel agency, give consumers access to more hotel choices or raise prices.

All three things could happen, actually, but the conjecture surrounding the announcement reminded me of the fallout from the last big online travel deal.

via What travelers can expect from a Travelocity-Expedia marketing agreement – The Washington Post.

PhoCusWright – The Affiliate Deal of the Decade


The Affiliate Deal of the Decade

Travelocity’s New Deal with Long-Time Rival Expedia Marks the End of an Era

It was the fall of 1999, the heyday of online travel 1.0, among many other heydays.

Sabre, the parent of Travelocity, had announced the acquisition of Preview Travel, then the third-largest online travel agency (OTA). The combined entity would be an online travel powerhouse, pushing Travelocity well past number two Expedia, with whom it had been in a rough-and-tumble knife fight for the top spot.

“This is going to be a very, very impressive business in terms of its reach,” said then Sabre Chairman Donald J. Carty, quoted in an October 1999 article in the Wall Street Journal.

And so it was. The acquisition catapulted Travelocity to a leading position, with 35% of the OTA market in the U.S. in 2000, when total OTA gross bookings reached $6.6 billion. But the experience of being top dog was a fleeting one. Sabre’s subsidiary was quickly outflanked.

Within just two years, Expedia had shot ahead with its market-making merchant model for hotels, powered in part by the acquisitions of two online lodging aggregators, Travelscape and VacationSpot. Expedia’s new hotel platform gave it an edge that left its competitors as well as hoteliers in a daze amid the recession of 2001 and 2002. By 2004, one year after the additions of Hotels.com and Hotwire, Expedia was the U.S. market leader by a longshot, with nearly half the market.

read more via PhoCusWright.

Expedia, Inc. and Travelocity announce strategic marketing agreement « Media Releases « SabreNews

BELLEVUE, Wash. AND SOUTHLAKE, Texas – August 22, 2013 – Expedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) and Travelocity today announced entry into an exclusive, long-term strategic marketing agreement, whereby Expedia will power the technology platforms for Travelocity’s existing websites in the US and Canada, while providing Travelocity access to Expedia, Inc.’s supply and customer services. Upon the implementation of the agreement, Travelocity will focus its efforts on promoting its brand and marketing the broad offering of travel services and supply made available through this agreement. Travelocity will remain wholly-owned by Sabre Holdings Corporation, and independent of Expedia, Inc. Travelocity-owned lastminute.com in Europe and the Travelocity Partner Network are not included in this marketing arrangement. – See more at: http://www.sabre.com/newsroom/expedia-inc-and-travelocity-announce-strategic-marketing-agreement/#sthash.OPAjRhRO.dpuf

via Expedia, Inc. and Travelocity announce strategic marketing agreement « Media Releases « SabreNews.