Monday, October 13, 2008

Now's the Time to Start Your Blogger Fam Program


If you've been in the hospitality business for any length of time, you're familiar with travel agent familiarization programs.  If you're not, then here's a quick summary. 

Travel agents help to direct customers to your service (airline, hotel, rental car, etc.).  You as a supplier want the travel agent to refer guests more often to your service than that of your competitor.  To do this you offer perks to travel agents.  One of the most popular travel agent perks was the familiarization trip or FAM trip.  The supplier drastically discounts the service, or comps it, when the travel agent uses the service for himself.  The idea being to attract them to stay at their property.  While there, some suppliers required the travel agent to take a tour and/or fill out some type of questionnaire to show that they could better sell their property.  Occassionally, CVB's or clusters of hotels would arrange these tours for groups of travel agents.

Fam trips haved declined in popularity and effectiveness over time as travel agents do less research for clients and have less of an impact on the actual decision making process.  Additionally, hotels and travel suppliers are looking to cut costs and reduce these marketing expenses that have no proven ROI.

Well the idea for familiarization trips may be making a come back.  Actually, it may be more of a familiarization meeting.  Bloggers have more influence and power than ever.  As more people look the internet for recommendations, reviews and resources on booking their travel.  Bloggers in the travel field are putting their mark of approval on hotels, airline seat placement and rental car programs.  More importantly, Jane Q. Consumer is listening.

This post from Chris Brogan about his recent visit to St. Louis and why local tourism agencies should be building relationships with bloggers highlights a program being started by VisitPittsburgh to reach out to influential people coming in for conventions to educate them about the city.  What struck me about this is that in the hotel industry, we often look at guest reviews as the holy grail of what's happening online, but we tend to lose focus on the influencers that are out there in our industry.

To that end, I am advocating that hotels start up their own "Blogger Outreach" program.  Here is my formula for getting this started at your property or organization:
  • Start by tracking what is being said about your hotel and your competition using tools like Google Alerts(Let me know if you have other tools you use to track buzz on your company.  I'll talk about them in future posts.)
  • Participate in online forums and leave comments on web sites that mention your hotel.
  • Identify the bloggers that have influence and forumulate a plan to educate them about your service.
  • Reach out to the bloggers and ask for more information about their stay and for additional feedback.
  • Next time the blogger is coming to town invite her to lunch.  Don't expect a review from it, but you never know.  Just opening up the door for conversation is what is important here.
Before long, you'll be ahead of the competition in using social media to make a difference to your bottom line.

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The Next "Hotel Evolution" in Increasing Ancillary Revenues

A new software company, Runtriz,
hopes to use the iPhone and iPod Touch to make it hip to carry these
gadgets when you stay at your next hotel.  An article in the Washington
Post highlights the test of the "Hotel Revolution" product from Runtriz at the Malibu Beach Inn in Malibu, CA.  The "Hotel Evolution"
application can either be loaded onto a guests existing iPhone or iPod
Touch, or in the case of the Malibu Beach Inn, the guest is loaned an
iPod Touch if they don't own their own.  The software makes it possible
for the guest to order room service, book spa treatments, retreive
their message and set wake up calls.  There are other options as well.  This could turn into a gold mine for hoteliers, especially those in the upscale and above categories.

is what I call bringing convenience to your hotel stay.  Runtriz says
that since the application is web based it will eventually be released
for Blackberries and other cell phone platforms, like Google's Android.  Imagine not being tied to making a call from your guest room when you want to have room service in the room when you arrive from a business trip.  How about being able to schedule spa treatments while out shopping.  Really, you can put the convenience and power of the hotel's concierge staff at the finger tips of your guest.

The cost can be a bit pricey.  The first month is around $20/room with subsequent months around $10/room.  The price does vary by hotel.

This is the first application of it's kind that I have seen.  How about you?  Any exciting mobile technology we should be talking about on eComm Insights?

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Is the Effectiveness of Travelzoo Declining?

If you are in the travel marketing business, you have heard of Travelzoo. If you haven't you should look into it. Travelzoo is at it's heart an email list of over 12 million subscribers worldwide. Travelzoo uses this list to market travel deals for airfare, hotel rooms, cruises, Broadway show tickets and more.

Advertisers submit their deal to Travelzoo for approval and addition to their weekly email blast the Top 20. It can take weeks or months for a supplier to get an open space in a Top 20 Newsletter. Travelzoo's team of producers will evaluate the offer to determine if they believe that it will be successful. If they don't like the offer, they'll tell you what it takes to get in the newsletter and if you don't make the changes they can deny putting the offer in the email blast. By doing this they insure the success of the offer and the value to their customer.

When they create the newsletter, they also offer the participating travel supplier a landing page that is created by Travelzoo. The landing page is where most of the work happens as Travelzoo then editorializes the offer. They really try to sell the offer by providing their readers value and a comparison of other offers they have seen, like this landing page fore Playa del Carmen:

If the person is interested in booking they are then sent direct to the supplier web site. Which as we all know is the holy grail to online promotions we are running.

Travelzoo also offers cost per click advertising and placement in their Super Search product. These are relatively new services for them.

A recent post on the Compete TravelTrends Blog talks about the growth in site traffic for Travelzoo. Compete estimates that Travelzoo's site traffic increased 95% over one year from 2007 to 2008. Additionally, they are saying that Travelzoo was able to grow volume by 33% since the beginning of the year. This isn't too shocking to me. The current economic downturn has hit the leisure traveler the most and what most of us are looking for is a way to stretch our own dollar to get more out of our vacations. Travelzoo is the channel in which to do this.

They are agressive in growing their email list by only allowing users who have signed up for their emails access to their online deals. Additionally, they run promotions with existing users to submit email addresses of friends for solicitation in Travelzoo's Top 20 with the offer of sweepstakes entries. One such offer last year offered the winning entrant every special that was listed on the Top 20 during the week. Not too shabby.

The bigger issue in my mind is that with all of this growth, the demographic of the Travelzoo customer is changing as are the economic times. The post goes on to say that the visitors to Travelzoo have spent consistently less time on the site over the last 13 months. People have less money to spend on luxuries like travel. More often than not, people are traveling only when they have to so when they go to Travelzoo, they know exactly what they are looking for.

(Graphic courtesy of Compete Inc.)

No longer is Travelzoo being used as a place to find a quick getaway. It is being used more often to find deals for the trip you were already going to take. Additionally, with more suppliers offering discounts now, you don't have to just go to the Travelzoo site to get the best deals. You can find them just about everywhere.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Bring on the Mashups - Merging Hospitality and Technology

Quick - define the term "mashup". No I am not talking about mashing up the potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner or what happens when you leave free pieces of paper floating around in your laptop bag for a couple of days. I am talking about mash-up in terms of the internet. Here is how mashup is defined in wikipedia:
a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool; an example is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps
to add location information to real-estate data, thereby creating a new
and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either
You've seen mashups before, like this one that shows YouTube videos on a map from the upload location as they happen or some hotel booking sights combine maps with hotel locations on them or this one where you input a domain name and it pulls information from various sources to give you a report about the domain. Most of the mashups, like those above, are based in a web browser.

Now, IHG is taking a step to move the mashup out of the browser and into Google Earth. The new IHG Trip Planner makes it easy for guests to plan and make their reservations for all IHG branded hotels, InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo®, Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®. At the same time, they can see the weather, find out about the traffic, identify places that they would like to visit and see the hotel in 3-D. This truly is thinking ahead of the pack. By creating this mashup, IHG is giving travelers one place to go to make reservations, and since the icon can reside on their desktop, they don't have to go other places to comparison shop - this is there hope. Look for a review of this new offering here on Hotel Ecomm Insights next week.

I wonder how long it will be before other companies follow suit. Are you planning anything like this for your hotel? If you are please pass it along and I will review it here on the site.

Check out the link to download the IHG Google Earth Mashup here.

Lodging Interactive: TripAdvisor Launched a Hotel Mashup Tool in October, 2006
GoogleMapsMania: Other Hotel Mashups out there.
iGuide: Interactive Travel Guide

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Monday, September 29, 2008

A-Ha Stories for Personal Inspiration: Achievement IQ Moments

I have been. . . am. . . and always will be looking for ways to improve myself.

In both my professional and personal life, I have been able to achieve beyond my expectations because of this desire. My wife asks me why I feel the need to read self help books. I think that the desire comes from my grandfather telling me that he always wanted to learn something new everyday. He loved doing crossword puzzles for this very fact and did at least one every day until he passed away last December. I now have so many self improvement books that they have moved out of our home library to the work bookshelf. I guess that I am a serial self-improver. If I am struggling with an issue or problem, I want to get better at it. I only wish that there were as many how to be a better husband and father books as there are business improvement books.

Luckily enough for me, I had the chance to get an advance copy of Acheivement IQ (A. IQ) Moments a book written by Stanley Bronstein. I discovered Mr. Bronstein via Twitter,as MrAchievement, again one of those channels to learn and grow through people you may never otherwise get the chance to meet up with. He frequently sent out links to his blogs posts. I had read of few of his "Laws of Positioning" posts and really liked them. Then I saw this tweet:

Looking for another learning experience and a way to provide a service to my readers, I jumped at the offer. A week later, the book arrived in the mail. With all that out of the way, read on further for my review of A. IQ Moments

The book Achievement IG Moments is really a supplement to two other books Mr. Bronstein had previously written about success in life and success at work through Achievement IQ, but taken alone what you have is book that is a source of inspiration through the stories of others. Life's epiphanies don't always show us the true beauty of their occurrance until some time later. The stories range from. . .
Artist Peggy Chun who has found a way to keep expressing her artistic needs despite loosing the use of her hands, feet and mouth. She now uses her nose and the assitance of others to paint.
To. . .
Professor Luis von Ahn who is using the scourge of the internet, spam, to help decipher writing in old scanned documents through the reCaptcha software so common today.
I seem to remember a line about necessity and invention coming to mind here.

Overall, I really liked Achievement IQ Moments. The stories were told in a simple manner and could easily be picked up and read in any order you'd like. In fact most of the stories are 4 to 5 pages in length, perfect for that 10 minutes you have between meetings. The book builds up steam and inspiration as you move through it, sort of like Mr. Bronstein's trek to get the stories down on paper which you can learn about more in the book. I think that the other benefit you get from the book is being able to go back through your own life and identify your own a-ha moments and reflect on what those have meant to you.

Each chapter or Achievement IQ moment starts off with a relevant quote, tells the story of the interviewee, points out the A. IQ Moment(s) and then gives you the web site addresses or contact information to learn more about the subject individual(s). The author compiled these stories in a 50 day journey traveling over 10,000 miles. I can imagine he must of filled up many notebooks, audio tapes and hard drives with the great experiences and stories his subjects had to tell. Occasionally, I felt like I was sitting at the table with the author and the subject as they were having a long dinner and just kept talking into the night.

My only desire for the book is that Mr. Bronstein would have grouped the stories into related themes and provided a grouping in the Table of Contents or an Index for related themes. For example "relationships", "problem solving" and "goal setting" are a few that come to mind.

The book Achievement IQ Moments has definitely given me my next journey. . . to read Mr. Bronstein's two other books.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Get Me There, but Don't Hurt the Environment

The economy is in a downturn, that not news, but what matters most to travelers during this time period is. A recent study from eMarketer uncovers the incentives that can turn lookers in to bookers. At the top of the list in these troubled times, getting a rebate on gas expenses (47.6% of respondents said this would provide them the incentive to book). That is followed by discount offers by hotels (30.8% of respondents).

We have several hotels who have benefited from these gas packages. You may also often see them framed as "staycations". This year's hot term in travel. However, travelers are also looking at the environmental policies of the hotels, and while this alone isn't influencing the decision, the amount of work you are putting into minimizing the impact of the hotel and guests on the environment is a contributing factor in their decision.

What incentives are you offering to getting lookers to book at your property?

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Booking Channels are Changing - GDSs Left to Compete with Internet

It's no longer news that there is a major move on for people to now book from the internet. Travel agent and voice bookings have been in a steady decline for many years now and hoteliers have been happy because the cost of taking a reservation via the internet is usually at least half of what it cost via GDS and more via phone.

One has to ask, when do the GDSs start charging more for the connectivity to there systems and Travel Management Companies start charging more to cover their bookings costs to make up the short fall in revenues. This article from Business Travel News Online highlights the inducements that the GDSs are making to Travel Management Companies and airlines to keep them booking. The article goes on to talk about the Sabre Expedia relationship and how that has reduced GDS margins and set the new market price point for services. Ironically, this parallels what has happened to Expedia as suppliers have taken back control of pricing and inventory.
"There is more risk related to GDS economics than there has been in the past," said Carlson Wagonlit Travel executive vice president of global supplier management Mike Koetting. "TMC margins are small enough that almost any disruption to our revenues ultimately impacts our ability to service, or requires a cost increase to, our customers."
The potential for a price increase and level of service change is emminent in my mind.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Stolen Customer Data, Might as Well Have the Keys to the Hotel

A Hacker potentially captured the data of millions of guests of Best Western Hotels in EuropeWired covers this story out of Europe where a hacker installed a trojan virus that steals customer data on a Best Western hotel PMS system. Best Western claims that the only customer data lost was for the hotel only and effected only 10 people. Where as the Sunday Herald paper in Scotland is claiming that the hacker potentially stole the personal data of millions of people from the 1,300 plus Best Western hotels in Europe.

Regardless of the exact numbers of lost data, data security concerns have to be at the top of mind of hoteliers. We collect a lot of data when we book reservations. Some people would say that we ask for everything but the name of the guest's first born child. There have been efforts to minimize credit card access in these same reservation and PMS systems. It also goes to show why the IT guys keep a close watch on these systems.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Slowing Economy Got You Down? Use the Internet Dummy!

declining economyWhile many have already come to the conclusion, the economists aren't ready to admit it. We are in a recession. It may not be a "full blown" recession as economists define it, but to the average Joe it feels like things are getting worse not better. To that end, with gas prices going up and the cost of everyday necessities such as food increasing as well - the money left over for travel is way down.

The travel industry and hotels in specific are feeling the pinch. If you haven't been a part of the internet revolution in the travel space - you need to check into the 21st century and get a clue. If you have been, it's now time to reexamine your online strategy and make sure that you are covering the essentials. Lodging Interactive has a good starting point for that internet marketing reevaluation in this blog post.

They claim that. . .
Eighty-three percent of travel planning is booked online. This means that the internet has emerged as the premier distributor of hospitality. Since this is the case, it only makes sense that we work through the internet for the best possible ROI.
The keys to your success can be found in the following areas of your online strategy - website optimization, strategic linking, email and search marketing and web analytics and performance tracking. If you don't have plans in each of these areas, you should reevaluate your strategy. Much of what is covered in these areas are long term strategies for success, but supplemented by the email and search marketing you have powerful tools for filling in need times and building occupancy for terms you can't organically optimize for.

How do you move forward?

  1. Take a look at what has been successful thus far. Keep it or expand on it. If it isn't working and it is costing you ROI - then eliminate it.
  2. Use your hotel web site as an extra person selling 24 hours a day. Is the message consistent with how you sell your hotel in person? What can you learn from your site and change the process on property?
  3. What makes your hotel unique? Location? Facilities? Staffing? Make sure that the message is lound and clear.
  4. Goals are important for everything. Measure. Assess. Change. Constantly be looking for improvement.
  5. Get involved in online conversation. Word of mouth marketing is out there whether you are a part of it or not. Make sure that you know what is being said about your hotels on review sites. Search for your hotel on the search engines and see how you are being sold. Are the images correct? How about the information - when was the last time it was updated?

You may be surprised at what you find. You'll definitely be surprised at the impact that internet marketing can have to your bottom line.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

One of My Favorite Tools: Evernote

I realized today after reading a review on the Inquisitr about Evernote, that I had never told my readers about the great tool. In fact, I think it is so good that you should go out and download it now. I have been using the tool for 3 years now, since it was a stand alone desktop application, and love it even more now that it has the web component.

Evernote is easy to use and has a clean interface. You can split your notes into different notebooks (and even make the notebook public to share with others), tag them to make notes easier to find in the future, they have good editing capability (although there are some limitations).

Not only does the article tell you about Evernote, it makes some suggestions as to how to use it. Personally, it is my one place to keep all notes, article clippings, screen shots, etc. Everything is all in one, place. Not only that, but you can access your notebooks from any computer and keep them synchronized. They have an iPhone application and I understand that they are working for a Blackberry application as well. You can also keep up to date on Evernote by following them on Twitter.

I'd be interested in knowing what you think of Evernote once you download and use it for a while. Keep me informed.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Tribe, a Village, a Community


The current social web trends are really changing the way we do things. Seth Godin - the author that is always looking to change the way we think about life in general and marketing in specific - is starting his own "tribe" to promote his new book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

Membership is only being promoted through his blog. With Seth's track record, I think this is one "tribe" that I want to be a part of. Sign me up or should I say "What right of passage will get me in the tribe"?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

It can be difficult to explain search engines, search engine optimization and just about any other internet concept to the layperson. I know - I am responsible for internet marketing for 28 hotels and I have taught the same basic information at least 5 times over the last 4 years to basically the same people. Some times the ability to combine words and graphics together to illustrate a concept or idea is underatted. People that are able to do this well create "infographics" which are defined as
1. It's a visual explanation that helps you more easily understand, find or do something.
2. It's visual, and when necessary, integrates words and pictures in a fluid, dynamic way.
3. It stands alone and is completely self-explanatory.
4. It reveals information that was formerly hidden or submerged.
5. It makes possible faster, more consistent understanding.
6. It's universally understandable.
(from the Communication Nation blog)

I wish I had access to some of these "infographics" from Elliance during my presentations. They do an excellent job of turning words and ideas into easily understandable graphics. Check out this graphic that explains how to use search engine marketing (SEM) tactics to acheive marketing goals.

They have infographics for everything from keyword research to search algorithms.

Here is a blog that focuses on infographics. I think it helps to see how others are able to represent ideas using these strategies. It makes creating presentations and explaining concepts easier for me. Hope this can help you as well.

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A Moment for Personal Growth: Are You Interesting?

Thanks to Hugh MacLeod for his tweet regarding "how to be interesting".

I love the ideas that Russell Davies gives in his blog post. I can talk to anyone in a small group, but when I get in to larger groups or networking events I often feel lost and don't feel that I have anything to talk about or share with others. Russell's post definitely gives me some food for thought and strategies on how I can feel I have more to contribute.

Anyone else have any good tips for a person who becomes introverted in large groups?

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Travel Suppliers At Odds With Google

Google may be the 600 pound gorilla of the internet, but right now they have big trouble on their hands from travel suppliers like Marriott and American Airlines. These suppliers are asking Google to get tougher with advertisers who utilize a tactic called piggybacking.

Piggybacking in the process of advertisers using trademarks and service marks of other companies in their advertising copy. The hope is that the consumer will get confused and click on the offender's ad instead of going to the site of the real deal. The major search engines, including Google, have policies prohibiting this currently. However, they aren't very good at enforcing these policies, unless violations are brought to their attention. In fact, one of Google's own systems for generating advertising copy can create and publish ads that violate this policy. Ouch!!

It is important that as hotel suppliers we look out for this type of activity. While we alone may not be able to stop it with the help of our brand partners, we can help put pressure on Google to solve the problem. The volume of travel related search traffic is big enough that given enough pressure, Google will surely see the light and fix the problem.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Moving On Up - Online Hotel Bookings Contine Move to Supplier Sites

Score one for the good guys. In 2005 hoteliers started the drive for best rate guarantees and it continues to pay off. The latest comScore study shows that 72% of online hotel bookings are currently going to supplier sites. This is a positive 3.2% change from the same time last year. This trend indicates what I have been thinking for a while that travel agent sites are becoming more of a shopping tool.

This is great news from my perspective. However, hoteliers need to be careful not to end up back in the same spot they were in during the downturn in 2001 to 2003. The key right now is to increase exposure via ppc and other ROI driven online marketing.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Economic Downturn Got You Worried?

Are we in a recession or not? There are varying opinions on just what state our economy is in right now. I am not convinced it is a full blown recession. However, I do know that in the hospitality industry things are definitely slowing down, largely in leisure business. Why? The answer is simple. . . the rising cost of fuel translates in to increased costs for just about every consumer product we purchase, from food to clothing. What's left for most families isn't much. So everyone wants to stretch their dollar right now. Some are taking the wait and see approach.

Right now everyone from grocery stores to us in the travel industry have their hands out trying to get a piece of the "economic stimulus" checks that tax paying families are receiving, but this is short sighted. We need to think long term in the current economy. The immediate reaction for most operators is to start cutting costs to achieve budgeted flow through. This strategy is very shortsighted. Instead, I think we should be looking to invest more, smarter. This article from Guy Maser in iMedia connection gives 7 Strategies for Marketing in a Downturn.

Most of these things we should already be doing. That is why we have taken such a big move into online marketing. We get that are messages need to be targeted and we need measurable results. One item that Guy talks about is seeking assistance from our media partners. What can they do to help us achieve our goals? He suggests that we ask them some key questions:
  • Do they have your target audience's attention?
  • Can they keep your company visible to prospects and customers at all times?
  • Do they offer a variety of integrated marketing solutions aligned with your goals?
  • Can they provide both visibility and lead generation?
  • Do they deliver targeted, quality leads with full contact information?
  • Do they provide reports you can use to measure the performance of your marketing and justify your marketing investments?
This is smart business. It is important for us to understand the full offering that our media partners bring to the table. I think we should constantly be pushing them for improvements and results. We shouldn't be afraid to pull out of a partner that isn't giving us the results we need.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Travel.Google.Com is Closer to Becoming a Reality

I mentioned the potential for Google to get in the travel vertical of search previously in my blog. Here is a blog post from the Tech Beat blog at Business Week discussing more in depth Google's plans to get into the very lucrative travel search arena. That's a $90 billion market to quote numbers from the BW post.

The interview with Rob Torres, Google's Managing Director for Travel, exposes some of the search giants plans for travel. One item mentioned was the integration of destination videos from YouTube on their travel pages. This allows Google to monetize YouTube indirectly.

It is interesting to note that they are going to be staying out of the booking business all together.
It’s worth noting one thing that any future Google offering won’t have—airline fares or hotel bookings. Even Google is unwilling to try its hand at the part of the beleaguered industry’s business. The customer service investment is huge, explains Torres.
More likely is that they would sacrifice major ad revenue from some of the major online travel agencies who spend BIG TIME with them right now. I could see Google purchasing a travel meta search site like Kayak to get into this area down the road though.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

How Do You Keep Up - The AdAge Power 150 Media and Marketing Blogs

There could not be a better place to start your online marketing education than the blogs listed in the Power 150. Thanks to Jacob Morgan for sending this out via Twitter.

Not every blog is going to work for you, but the goal is to find the one or two that you regularly get information from. I was amazed to see how many of the top 150 I am already looking at regularly.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

HOT TOPIC: How to Measure the Success of Social Media Campaigns

If business getting into the social media conversation is hot, then determining how to measure the success of social media participation has to be one of the hot topics of the year.

Do you measure increased conversion? How about increased time spent on your web site? Or do you look at how often your hotel is mentioned in blogs, review sites, etc.

The trouble for most advertisers, and specifically hoteliers, is that we want to get some type of measurable ROI because in the end it is all about the revenue it has generated for us. I have to be honest and say that in the current environment, I don't think anyone has the perfect set of measurement tools. Depending on the level of integration you have with your site, your booking engine and your analytic tools you may or may not be able to get to an ROI calculation.

This post from m-Travel shows the discussion that Eye For Travel had with industry executives and what they look at in their social media campaigns.

What are you using to measure the success of your social media campaigns?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gaining Consumer Trust - Search Engines Making Ground

In this post from m-Travel's blog, Porter Gale, from Virgin America, says that the work done by search engines to reduce spam and improve the quality of pay-per-click landing pages has gone a long way to improve consumer trust in paid search engine listings.

I have to agree here. Search engines are all about providing the correct relevant content to their users whether it be from the organic or paid listings. Obviously they have made big improvements reducing the search engine spam from organic listings. They constantly refine their "secret sauce" - algorithms - to eliminate elements for manipulation whether you are talking about metatags, cloaking, keyword stuffing or paid linking. They took on paid advertising spam, when they started giving ads quality scores and requiring relevant landing pages. All of this done to improve their search results and hopefully their share of those results and the money it brings in.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

WeGo Bezurk: What's in a Name? Confusion I Say

In the latest renaming game that's happening online,, a travel metasearch site, like, is changing it's name to

I guess it makes sense, but why do online companies insist on creating confusion. In all the rush to create "unique" names that stick, we forget that consumers have to remember them in the first place. Perhaps we need to spend more time on that part of the research process.

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Kayak Ad Network - Need Date Targeting, It's About Time


I love it! The Kayak Ad Network is coming. Currently, their network is composed of the following sites:
  • Kayak
  • Sidestep
  • TravelPost
  • AOL
  • USA Today
  • Comcast
  • Lonely Planet
That's not really what I love. I love that they are,
enabling travel marketers to target their advertising based on search parameters including city or city pairs, trip dates, length of stay, and specific airline or hotel brands.
Finally a company that get's the travel industry needs. The GDS's have had this capability for a long time. What' so great, you only display advertising when a customer shops over dates that you need help on. Less waste, better conversion, improved ROI. Ah ha ha ha, It's Alive!!!

Now back after that brief moment of madness, does anyone know of any other online advertising networks that have this functionality? If so, please share.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Email Subscriber Attrition Tactic - The Opt-in Email

Email marketing is one area that we as a company don't do enough with. The fault is not entirely our alone though. The brands make it difficult, if not impossible to access, the emails that they collect on their site - even though the guest made there reservation with us. They want to control the message and the frequency of the blasts to make sure that their guests aren't bombarded. While I get the importance of protecting the permission that these customers gave us when they signed up, I am sure that at least half of them expected to get some relevant offers from the hotel in which they made a reservation. I can almost guarantee you that this isn't happening.

This article from Media Post talks about how to reengage those customers by sending an opt-in email. Here are the best practices that they outline in their post:
  1. Be clear in the subject line
  2. Restate your value proposition
  3. Use YES and NO options
  4. Send a second request - where appropriate
For full details on the use of this tactic, click through to their article.
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Monday, May 5, 2008

Hotel Internet Marketing - A Squidoo Lens

I follow Seth Godin's blog. He frequently mentions a company that he is a part of called Squidoo. The idea behind the site is that individuals create lenses that shares their recommended resources for a specific topic (i.e., Elvis Presley movies, sports collectibles, etc.). So in short, everyone is an expert as Seth explains in his blog.

So I created my first lens for hotel ecommerce and internet marketing. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Do you have a lens you'd like to share? Send me a link and I'll share it here.
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Did the Hotel Come First or the Web Site?

That's an easy one to answer? The hotel was there way before web sites were around.

However, it today's age of transparency and information surfing. The days of having an average hotel and a super flashy web site are out. We need to go to an integrated approach of marketing our hotel consistently across channels to the customers we are targeting. This post from Blizzard Internet Marketing, shows how one hotel, the Hotel So in Chrischurch, New Zealand got it right.

Brand identity commands a price premium.

Here are a few items I noticed while walking through the site:

  • You see the curved edge boxes on the site are repetition of the similar wall panels found in the public space of the hotel.
  • The repetition of the patterns on the guest room walls to the web site.
  • The color palletes are similar
  • The contiuation of the hip minimalist hotel to the site.
By properly branding the site and the marketing message with the hotel, you can get so much more.
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How to Recession Proof Your Hotel? Engage Your Customer

According to a new PeopleMetrics study, hotels that do a better job of engaging their guests also have better financial results that those with low engagement scores.

"At a time when business and personal travel budgets are being slashed, a focus on guest engagement is key to surviving the economic downturn."

Engagement doesn't necessarily happen only online, since we are on an eCommerce blog I needed to point that out. It is important for your front line employees to be engaging and interactive with your guests. Do they smile and say hello, do they take the time to talk with your customers or quickly answer and then go back to work? According to PeopleMetrics, customer engagement is the hotel industry is impacted by functional and emotional elements of the guest experience.

Of course, there is also a lot of recent talk about continuing the engagement process past the stay and to the sharing part of a person's trip. I think this is key because if you can create that wow experience, by following up to see how the trip was afterwards, you will get return customers. When was the last time you followed up with a customer?
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Where Do You STAND on hotel reviews?

Love 'em or leave'em online travel review sites are here to stay. In the hotel industry the current trend is using a report or monitoring system to track what travelers are saying about your hotel, staff and outlets.

Starwood Hotels have weighed in with their choice to provide this service. They are going to use ReviewAnalyst by Standing Dog Interactive. The selling points for this product is that it allows you to. . .

Track - you can look at your hotel in comparison to your top 3 competitors for the major travel review sites with a convenient dashboard.

Analyze - What trends are you seeing in customer reviews? Track both positive and negative comments. The great benefit of many services like this is that they can easily aggregate the data for you and usually provide a search function to look for specific phrases, like "housekeeping cleanliness".

- If you are not participating in the discussion, you are in trouble. Web 2.0 is all about the consumer taking control and suppliers participating in the discussion. Their report makes it easy for hoteliers to easily post a response to TripAdvisor (currently the only company that allows for this).

Once I get a chance to use the product, I will post a review about it.
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Friday, May 2, 2008

So, You Want To Know How To Respond - Management Response 101

I love it!

Someone finally boiled it all down in one place. Read this post on Marketing Pilgrim for a quick down and dirty "how to" for responding to guest reviews of your hotel online. It covers responding to both positive and negative comments online.

What? You say you aren't paying attention to guest reviews. And you're not about to respond. Before you say that consider that over 60% of people who purchase travel online refer to other consumer reviews prior to purchasing travel. Now, read this article and get over to TripAdvisor - in that order.
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Reputation Management is More Than. . .

When you think of online reputation management, you may think of what consumers are saying about your hotel or how your competition is using your hotel name or content to trick guests in ppc advertisements. While those are two good examples of what is important in online reputation management, there are many more. This post from Marketing Pilgrim outlines the 10 different areas of your hotel reputation that you should be paying attention to online.

They break the items down into categories:
  • Critical - Hotel Name
  • Important - Legacy Hotel Names, Restaurants, Hotel Management
  • Valuable - Concierge, Niche Travel Writers, Disgruntled Employees
  • Optional - Resort Area, Parent Chain, Competition
Several of these categories, I hadn't even thought of before. It can be difficult to keep up with just tracking what is being said about your hotel, let alone all of these other areas. Here are some tools I would suggest to assist in monitoring your online reputation:
  • Google Alerts - If you haven't already sign up for a Google account and have them send you daily alerts about the keywords related to the topics above. This can be very insightful and is FREE, a word every hotelier likes to hear.
  • Use Yahoo! to look at who is linking into your site. In the search box, type "link://http://web address". This will show you who Yahoo! shows is linking into your site. Again another free tool.
  • While we have tested a couple of different reporting services, we like TravelCLICK's SearchView product. Their review tracking portion of the report is very good. However, I would be remiss to say this report is right for everyone. You should find what works best for you. Here are some other report you should look into: Avalon Report, TIG Global's Hotel Protect, Lodging Interactive's Chatter Guard are several to look at.
Regardless of which methods you use, please don't think that this is going away. Web 2.0 is all about consumers taking control. You can either join the conversation and flourish, or ignore it at your own peril.
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

TIA Travelcom Innovator of the Year - New Company

The top 3 nominees were:

- Virgin Charter

And the winner is: Congratulations to them. I love this tool. It makes research so easy.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Trip Advisor Hits Milestone

The Trip Advisor CEO announced that they hit a major milestone today. They now have over 15 million reviews on their site.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

HSMAI Travel Internet Marketing Conference - 1st Presentation

Bobby Bowers, Smith Travel Research, was the first presenter. He talked about the current trends in demand and supply and what to think about in the near future. Here are the key points from his presentation:

1) Supply growth is accelerating, but they expect pipeline attrition due to the current financial markets.

2) The slowing economy is a precursor to slowing demand growth.

3) The top 25 markets are expected to out perform the US overall.

4)The weak dollar makes the US a good target for international travel.

5) The greatest demand slow down factor is coming from leisure travel.

6) It is important to maintain revenue management discipline.
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Friday, April 4, 2008

Are Travel Suppliers Ready for gTravel?


Regardless of what you would call the result of Google buying up Expedia, you have to admit that the idea of this happening is potentially game changing.  This could be as big as the growth of online travel agencies in the post 9/11 dip.  But shouldn't come as a surprise as many people have speculated that Google would jump into the travel world eventually.

What are your thoughts?
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Channel of Influence - Yahoo! Answers

Add this to your social media to do list - start participating in the conversations on Yahoo! Answers. The team over at Tourism Internet Marketing 2.0 posted this article about using Yahoo! Answers to become a Knowledge Partner. At the time of this post, Travelocity was the first travel company to gain this status.

According to Yahoo! the program is still in beta and requires an invitation to participate.

It makes sense that the program could work. As the current evolution of the web is all about finding trusted sources of information and carrying on a conversation with them. Does anyone know of any other programs like this?
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Corporate Blogging - Is Bill Marriott's Blog a Success


Alicia over at Idea Hatching posted this entry last week regarding the questionable success of Bill Marriott's Blog.

I think that she ended up coming to the right conclusion after some coaxing from Scott Allison.  Here's why:

- He has his own voice on the blog.  He speaks genuinely and passionately about issues and ideas that are important to him.

- He posts regularly, every week on Wednesday.

- He, though certainly not him directly, responds to issues or questions that come up in the comments on his blog.

- The blog is not an overt sales pitch for Marriott branded hotels.  It is his way to share the company's values, showcase exceptional employees and just stay in touch.

- Mr. Marriott is a natural in this area, perhaps more than any other hotel company CEO.  Why?  Because of the consistent family history and values that Marriott has.

Alicia, cheers to you and here's to hoping that Bill Marriott continues his blogging career.

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Do We Really Need Paid Search?

This is a question I am asked frequently.  Logically to most hoteliers, when they are listed in the organic rankings on search engines and they can add content to their site for events and attractions they are targeting they don't need to pay for advertising.

This is not entirely true.  While you will generally show up high in the rankings for your brand or generic hotel terms, it is much more difficult to optimize for events and attractions.  Why because the amount of content on your site isn't going to be enough most of the time.  Additionally, you are competing against other sites which focus on local events.

Alex Vlasto on iMedia Connection gives a great explanation about why there needs to be a mix between paid and organic search.
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Is Your Hotel Backed Into a Corner?

It may be if you do not have an active distribution strategy. This article from Travolution confirms the latest trends on just how important search is to people trying to locate hotels for their travel.  3 in 5 people in the UK use search to determine which hotel they are going to stay at.

Besides having a prominent hotel site, it is important that you have search engine marketing campaigns as well as distribution on online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, etc.  And don't forget the travel metasearch engines like Kayak and Mobissimo.  If you don't you may be left out of the purchase decision altogether.
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

How Do You Capture Channel Jumpers?

No I am not talking about the frustration you may feel about your significant other channel surfing because they can't stand commercials on the tv.

I am talking about those people who book their travel online. Eye For Travel posted an excerpt from a presentation at their recent Travel Distribution Conference in Asia where the conversation was about this topic. Basically, it boils down to the trip being the major influence of the travel decisions being made, not the traveler.


Because we make decisions based on the purpose of the trip.

We may book through Priceline for a quick personal trip, but book through a travel agent for a more complex family vacation. Really I think it comes down to the importance of being in front of the consumer as early and as often as we can in the purchasing funnel. Whether that be the purchase of more generic hotel key words for pay per click marketing campaigns on the search engines to guide the research or purchasing long tail words for events and attractions. It may involve participating in online travel agencies, like Expedia and Orbitz, or purchasing display advertising on web sites that potential customers may visit.

Recent research shows that people visit more than 20 sites before finally making a decision. It is vitally important that hotels are participating in a variety of online channels to be found.

  • People will visit review sites like TripAdvisor and IGoUgo for recommendations from fellow travelers.

  • They will visit online travel agencies, like Expedia, or meta search engines, like Kayak, to compare prices.

  • They may visit CVB or local information sites to find out what there is to do.

  • All of this before ultimately booking, which you hope comes back to your booking engine.

Being satisfied by what your brand is doing for you or just what is being added by local sites, isn't enough. You must have a complete strategy for how you are going to get in front of your potential guests.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Google's Guy Talks About Promoting Hotels Online


When Matt Cutts from Google talks everyone stops to listen, especially if you care about where your hotel is positioned for organic search. Hotel Online just published a portion of an interview done by Benu Aggarwal from Milestone Internet Marketing. Benu caught up with Matt at the SMX West Conference.

For the full videocast interview check out the Milestone blog.
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