Friday, September 18, 2015

3 ways to incorporate TripAdvisor Reviews into your Booking Process

We all know TripAdvisor is the Google of Guest Reviews. It’s a dream for every hotelier to have great reviews for their property on TripAdvisor.

But what is the differentiator between highly rated hotels and their poor cousins?  What are the common factors among top performing hotels on TripAdvisor?

Well, research shows that top performing hotels are more engaged with their guests and receive nearly four times more page views on TripAdvisor than hotels that do not participate in the engagement programme. A TripAdvisor study in partnership with Atmosphere Research Group found how engaged hoteliers gain higher market visibility and drive more revenue based on data from 12,000 hotels in top 25 traffic markets on TripAdvisor, including interviews with executives from four global hotel chains.

In a world where everyone is a critic, user generated guest reviews have become commonplace. Today, hotel guests are more likely influenced by online reviews - 81% of travelers find user reviews important and a whopping 49% travellers change their booking decision after reading online reviews! These statistics establish the importance of managing guest feedback effectively to convert lookers into bookers.

TripAdvisor Review

Here are 3 essential tips that you can incorporate to increase your visibility on TripAdvisor and drive more bookings -

More engagement, better performance

As highlighted above, the research study found that highly engaged hotels perform better in terms of page visibility, popularity ranking and driving more business.  Two out of three travellers prefer properties that are termed highly engaged hotels on TripAdvisor.  So what actually does “highly engaged” hotel mean? How can your hotel be labelled as Highly Engaged Hotels on TripAdvisor? As per Atmosphere, if you actively participate on TripAdvisor’s Management Centre page and post at least 10 professional pictures of your property, you qualify to become a level one engaged property. But this is not the end. Your property page on TripAdvisor is your letter-box – you must have hotel contact information listed on your page so guests can contact your property directly. The more your property engages with your guests, the better your Popularity Ranking will be - highly engaged hotels see 30% to 40% more traveller interaction with revenue-driving products like Business Listings.

Don’t forget the “Virtuous Circle” of Guest Engagement

Your guests might be talking about their favourite dish or free Wi-Fi on your TripAdvisor page – do not take these conversations casually. Engage with them on these conversations, identify areas of improvement and leverage the positive comments - though this will need extra care from your guest review management team, but the returns can be pretty high. Once you improve hotel amenities based on your guest reviews, you can increase your property visibility on TripAdvisor. Javier Carazo, Senior Vice President, Operations and Quality, NH Hotel Group interviewed by Atmosphere Research Group pointed out that, “If you focus on getting reviews, you will see the positive results. You need to make it easy for your guests to post reviews.” Take corrective actions based on guest reviews as that would catapult your brand image on these review websites and showcase you care and concern for your guests and their feedback.

Encourage new Guests to write reviews

Getting reviews on TripAdvisor does not follow the “set and forget” rule. You might think that your guest had a fabulous stay at your property and will share his/her experience on TripAdvisor. In reality, this does not happen automatically - hotels should remind their guests to share their experience on TripAdvisor once they leave the hotel. TripAdvisor’s Review Collection Platform (RCP) sends an auto-generated reminder to guests post their stay asking them to write review for the hotel. You can also send an email directly to your guests to add a personal communication touch.

Hotels using TripAdvisor’s RCP system has seen an increase in reviews from 30% to 80% which led to 40% more page views. The challenge for hotels is not only getting multiple reviews but receiving high quality five star reviews. If used properly, TripAdvisor can be a huge channel for direct and assisted booking.

Lastly, most successful hoteliers welcome all guest reviews and use it for their advantage, either to increase their property visibility or improve their service. It is always advisable to ask every guest to write a review, embrace all opinions and your business will benefit at the end.

Image Credit: TripAdvisor

Friday, September 4, 2015

4 things to know about Halal Tourism

Gone are the days when we associate the term ‘Halal’ with food. Halal, meaning lawful or permitted under Islamic Law, today applies to all facets of life – starting from makeup to banking to tourism. The concept of halal tourism, which caters to nearly 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, is the fastest growing sector and excluding Hajj and Umrah, is set to surpass $230 Billion+ by 2020.

According to the Islamic Bank of Asia, Muslim tourists’ expenditure growth rate is expected to be at 4.79% per year through 2012–2020 vs the global rate of 3.8%. There are an estimated 45 million unique trips to the top 50 Muslim destinations annually excluding core religious travel and the Hajj/Umrah travel on its own is expected to be US$14 billion market by 2020.

Predictably Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates led the sector. However, given the size of the market it’s no wonder, countries like Singapore, Russia, China, France, Thailand and Italy have taken the early move to attract this vast population. In this article, we look into the key factors to target this segment.

Growing popularity of Halal Tourism

According to Wikipedia, Halal is any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in under Islamic Sharia. The term covers and designates not only food and drink but also all matters of daily life.

For a religious Muslim tourist, travel preferences include observance of their religious obligations such as daily prayers, modesty in clothing, cross-gender interactions and Halal food. Most halal tourists prefer to travel with family members, stay for a longer period and ultimately spend more money than any other niche. To meet the needs of this high-spending segment, global brands are adapting their services to include announcement of prayer times, gender segregated swimming pools and spa facilities, private holiday villas with high walls and religious programs in destinations frequented by Muslim travellers.

Muslim Travel on rise

The global Muslim population today stands at 1.8 billion currently, with 70% of global population growth over the next 30 years expected to take place in Muslim countries. Last year, Muslims spent an estimated US$126.1 billion on international travel, making up 12.3 percent of all international travel, according to a report on Muslim travel released jointly by consultancy DinarStandard and ratings agency Crescent Rating. By the end of 2020 Muslim international tourism will increase at a faster rate than the average rate for international tourism -- 4.79 percent versus 3.8 percent. If we take into account, the Islamic banking assets which currently stand at around US$2 trillion, it’s not surprising to see the recent attention to Halal tourism by the global travel brands.

Emergence of new market

Malaysia has been the pioneer to identify the opportunity in Halal Holidays, attracting over 6 million Muslim visitors last year. Malaysian Airlines, the national carrier was the first to introduce halal in-flight catering on board. However, Turkey, with its closer proximity to gulf countries has overtaken Malaysia to have emerged as the top destination for Halal holidays. According to the Muslim Travel Index Europe, released by Halal Tourism Conference, for Muslim holidaymakers, France is the most popular destination in the continent, with England and Italy tied close behind. Hotels are offering Arabic-speaking staff, Arabic television channels and rooms facing the direction of Mecca, along with prayer mats and halal food options.

Channels specializing Halal tourism

Cashing on the trend, in recent years online travel agencies specializing on Halal travel haven been steadily increasing in numbers., one of our channel partners, provides full holiday services in accordance with Islamic beliefs and practices.  The website is available in 6 languages, has advanced hotel search and book functionalities, provides 'Total Precise Family Pricing” and “Room Suitability” guarantees, and receives bookings from over 70 countries worldwide.

Other sites like Muslim Tripper, Islamic Travel, Halal Trip and Sun Sea & Halal are also catering to this segment. As travel industry takes note of this opportunity, it would be interesting how hotel operators adapt to claim their share of the pie.

Hisham Diab is Sales Director – Middle East & Africa at eRevMax. He can be reached at

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What’s new in metasearch?

It’s been almost a year since TripAdvisor has launched its instant booking facility. With Google Hotel Finder and Skyscanner following suit with similar booking forms, there is a definite shift in meta-landscape. As the lines between the hotel meta-search channels and online travel agencies get blurred, we look into the factors affecting this disruption.


When Kayak started offering booking on its website a few years back, questions were raised on the viability of the move. Come to year 2015, offering booking facility has become a trend. While Kayak and Hipmunk have partnered with OTAs to allow booking directly without leaving the site, Google and TripAdvisor are doing that in partnership with hotels. For independent and small properties struggling to keep up with mega budget metasearch marketing with bigger brands and OTAs, the direct booking facility allows them a fair chance to compete at a lower price. Since hotels pay only when a booking is made, they pay a commission, effectively making it a cost per acquisition.

From Price Comparison to Product Comparison

Metaseach began with the intention to give traveler a chance to compare prices. Traffic to metasearch sites has been increasing with over 36% of online travellers using these sites to get the best deal.  A PhoCusWright report shows that modern travellers checks close to 22 sites to ensure they get the best price for their accommodation needs. The report also shows that 54% of Chinese, 36% of American and 35% of British travelers use meta-search engines to compare rates. However, with OTAs starting to display competitor pricing, it was imperative for metasearch channels to reinvent. Sites like TripAdvisor and Google now provide results based on customer preference over lower price. For years OTAs and metasearch channels have been trying to make hotels believe that price is the single biggest influencer.  The recent focus brings the spotlight to back to the product. Clearly price has taken a backseat over product with a customized selection to an individual taste, based on their earlier search preferences. And as we all know, travel decision is more often based on some sort of magic mix of destination, timing, and social components (who you’re traveling with or to see).

It’s all about mobile monetization

Google has reported that search for hotels through mobile has grown over 49% between January – June, 2015, making it the most searched item across travel spectrum.  By next year, mobile devices will account for 27% of U.S. online bookings, up from just 10% in 2013, PhoCusWright predicted in a report released last year. The report also forecasted that mobile will account for 20% of online bookings in both Asia-Pacific and Europe next year.

With mobile booking rapidly growing in US, Europe and APAC, this makes sense to metasearch channels to offer booking capabilities, which allows users to book a hotel room while staying on the user-shell, thereby also taking them further down the booking funnel. This will result in encouraging more people to book on (from hotel seekers to hotel bookers), and therefore improve conversion rates and lift smartphone monetization levels.

Jan Murza is Director of Sales- Americas at eRevMax.  He can be reached at

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Top trends in Chinese travel industry

When it comes to travel, the China story never disappoints. Even as the recent fluctuations make business and economists jittery, online travel shows no signs of slowing down. In 2015, the country overtook USA to become the biggest source of international travel spending.

In an infographic released last year, we had identified changing behavioural pattern of Chinese travelers.  The increase in disposable income and rise of middle class has influenced the purchasing behaviour and travel decisions of young, educated and technologically skilled Chinese travelers. The rapidly growing middle class has evolved from value obsessed shopping destinations to  holiday experiences, with cost, safety, culture, vacation length and visa availability the top five factors influencing destination choice. With the economic confidence and matured preferences, there is a clear shift towards long-haul travel, higher-cost accommodations and upscale shopping.

Chinese Travellers

According to a recent report, Chinese travellers made over 67.5 million trips in 2014. With this figure expected to cross 97 million by 2023, there is little doubt why China is being considered as the biggest catalyst of global travel business growth. According to a Bank of America – Merrill Lynch report, 174 million Chinese tourists are estimated to spend $264 billion by 2019 compared to just 10 million tourists in 2000.

In this post, we try to identify key trends shaping the Chinese online travel boom.

Rise of independent travellers

Young, educated, affluent and tech-savvy - the Chinese Millennials, aged between 18-35, have emerged as one of the influencing segments. There are about 300 million of them, who earn more than their elders and their spending power looks set to increase further as their incomes rise over time. Highly aspirational, seeking brand name destinations for their vacations, Chinese Millennial Travellers (CMT) typically take four trips outside their country per year, twice as many as their other Asian peers.

Macau, Hong Kong and South Korea being the most popular destinations, CMTs are likely to spend avg. EUR1200 - more than double the average spend on domestic trips. They are also the most mobile savvy traveller, with 57% using their smartphone four to five times a day.

Travel goes online: Growth of mobile travel

Internet penetration in China is largely mobile driven, with over 89% of 640 million internet users accessing the web through mobile devices, the highest in world. Clearly, digital media and e-commerce have moved into the mainstream of Chinese Internet users’ lives with them spending about 1 billion hours online each day, more than double the daily total in the United States. A whopping 89% of travellers use smartphones to access websites and 45% of business travellers use mobile for travel arrangements. According to the latest Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) 2015 by®, half of all Chinese international travelers now use apps on their smartphones to plan and book trips, up from just 17 percent the year prior.

Chinese Millennial Traveller

Online review it matters

When it comes to booking decisions, Chinese travellers trust online reviews more than friends or families. The volume of reviews posted is growing at a staggering rate, and peer recommendations influence not only where travellers go, but also where they shop for travel products.  60% use online travel information sources compared to 37% who use offline sources. Another study by GfK and ForwardKeys highlights that around 52% travellers visit metasearch and online travel agent websites to get information about their preferred destination and accommodation.  The Internet is the primary source of travel planning with 95% of Chinese travelers beginning their search at Baidu, the 800lbs Gorilla of China Search. Popular Chinese travel blogs and social media sites like QZone, Weibo and WeChat have been playing an influencing role helping travellers seeking more ‘exotic’ holiday experiences.

As millions of Chinese nationals make their first international leisure trip, it is time for hoteliers to overcome the language barrier. A country where 89% people are using mobile devices and 57% bookings are coming from online medium, hotels need to have a clear digital strategy engaging Chinese travellers to drive greater footfall, encourage longer stays, and provide opportunities for unique experiences.

Christine Toh is Director of Sales-APAC at eRevMax.  She can be reached at

Image Credit: Alamy

Thursday, August 13, 2015

All you need to know about Amazon Destinations

As speculated, Amazon has announced its plan to expand its travel site, Amazon Destinations to new markets in North America. It now covers 35 cities in six metropolitan regions – namely the Southeast (Atlanta), Northern California (San Francisco), Texas and the Gulf Coast (Houston) etc. The site’s tagline, which says “Hit the Road, Book local getaways” make its intentions clear to be a place to book short trips.

Amzon Destination Home

I did a quick search on the site for 6 nights in October. Here’s what the result shows:

Amzon Destination Location

Clearly it’s not a last-minute deal site, neither a full-service OTA with flight search.

The new service is still a part of Amazon Local – the daily deal website which offers flash deals and discounts in the region. In fact, Amazon Local has been offering highly discounted deals on hotels for some time now. Skift, which has been extensively covering the development, has noted - what distinguishes the Amazon Destinations from its earlier avatar is that the new version gives hotels an opportunity to sell their published rates on an ongoing basis. When I checked the website of the top listed property, the published rate is in parity with what’s being shown in Amazon Destinations. Customers can also compare prices on different dates through Amazon Calendar to get the best deal.

Amazon destination

In sync with Amazon business model, which owns its user generated content, Amazon Destinations is letting customers post their reviews. Just like the e-commerce model, the hotel does not pay for listing, but shares a part of the payment as commission.
So is this just another channel for hotels to sell their inventories? Amazon has denied any ambition to become a serious player in the travel business. The launch of Amazon Destinations was a low key affair without any media announcement. Compared to Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor and Google, Amazon is a small player. However, given its heavy user traffic and extensive knowledge of customer purchasing behavior and preferences, it has all the advantages it takes to scale up quickly.

The World Travel & Tourism Council reports that Americans spent $458 billion in travel and tourism in 2014. According to a report by TechCrunch, 40% of all U.S. domestic leisure trips are short-term getaways of 1-3 nights, and many of these trips are to nearby, drivable destinations. That’s a sizable market, which Amazon is aiming at. At a time when two of the world’s biggest brands are turning serious with hotel bookings, the travel industry has to take note.

Jan Murza is Director of Sales- Americas at eRevMax.  He can be reached at

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Google adds Instant Booking feature: How it will affect hotel industry?

If 2014 was the year when TripAdvisor moved to direct booking, 2015 is marked to be the year when Google got really serious about hotel bookings. The search engine giant has recently added instant booking feature which allows a user to book a property while staying within its user shell. Typically of Google, the feature is available with Hotel Finder, Map and Google +.

This is how it works. As you search availability for a property in Google, you will be able to see a generic white button showing a person lying on a bed in brown color with the hotel name. There isn’t any special logo suggesting the instant booking functionality.  Instead, when you click on the button, you will be prompted to book within the interface.  Until now, Google has been redirecting user to the advertiser’s website for booking.  If this sounds pretty familiar to TripAdvisor’s instant booking, then you are absolutely on track.

Google Hotel Finder

From its launch in 2011, Google has been trying to become a key player in the travel space with acquisitions like ITA Software whose technology was behind other major flight search channels like Kayak and Orbitz, and Zagat – a restaurant review application. Google Hotel Finder has been showing ratings based on Google Local. However, in spite of the search engine giant’s absolute dominance over the web space, Google’s travel interest has not really taken over the market.

How does it work?

So far Google has been using the CPC model (cost-per-click) much like the AdSense. It’s the same model followed by most meta-search channels, where hotels bid via cost-per-click for the top positions, and pay when users click on that link. With the new functionality, where the user can book on the Google user shell, the hotels will pay a commission. Since Google has completed technology integration with Sabre, for now hotels using Sabre’s SynXis Central Reservation system can take part in the programme. According to a press statement issued by Sabre, hotel customers participating in the new commission-based model only pay a commission on confirmed bookings for their property.

Is Google turning into an OTA?

Not really. Expedia and Priceline contribute to about 4% of Google’s advertising revenue. For Google, turning into a full-fledged online travel agency would mean sacrificing bigger revenue. For the moment, that looks really unlikely. 

It’s not surprising that Google has tested this in mobile first and then on desktop. According to a Google blog post, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. However, monetization from the search is still limited as ad spend continues to trail time spent on smartphones. But as the company pushes more for Google Wallet and Android Pay, direct booking, which allows users to book a hotel room while staying on the Google page will reduce the abandonment rate commonly seen when consumers have to switch sites to complete a transaction. With the worldwide growth of mobile booking, this is Google’s attempt to improve monetization of its mobile platform.

Google Hotel Finder_Old

According to Euromonitor International report, mobile travel booking totaled $96 billion in 2014, and is expected to account for 25% of the total global online travel sales by 2019. Google’s operating system, Android; today has a market share of over 80%. With one smart move, Google has now become an intermediary (money collecting) to a popular travel search site. With the full roll out, I would expect more hotels to come on board, followed by smaller OTAs. It’s an interesting consumer dynamic which gives Google a chance to fulfill its long standing ambition to become the central hub of travel industry. Whether it will succeed or not, only time will tell.

Image Credit: Google Hotel Finder

Friday, July 31, 2015

5 travel sites UK Hotels Can’t Miss - Part II

In the first part of article (see here) we mentioned two top performing online travel sites in UK. In this part we've discussed three other channels that come in top five lists and shaping the travel industry in UK.


Primarily a flight comparison site, Skyscanner has forayed into hotel industry recently, but already making significant moves. The site has been one of the top travel search sites in Europe with 35 million unique visitors, and now with separate mobile app for flight, hotel and car hire the travel major is in a unique position offering complete package to potential travellers. According to Deloitte, Skyscanner, the hotel and flight comparison site has grown by over 42% from last year, a transformational phase which saw non-flight booking contributing to 47% of its revenue.


TravelRepublic is one of the largest and most well-established online travel agents in Europe, with over 2 million holidaymakers booking annually through their websites in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Germany. The OTA major has access to approximately 300,000 hotels, apartments and villas and receives over 1,000,000 visitors a week making it one of the most sought after online travel channels in UK.                                                                                                                                      

Start-up Pitch


Some of you are already aware about NuStay. It is a travel start-up launched in July 2015 with investors from London, Copenhagen, Oslo and Dubai aimed to provide travelers better booking rates and at the same time offering the hotels a way to submit unique offers to each individual guest, either manually or automatically, at a discounted rate. A PhoCusWright report shows that, 70% travellers prefers their suitable rooms at a discounted price and they wait for the right moment to book that accommodation. Accommodation providers consider luxury travel is their major source of revenue - around 77% accommodation providers sell luxury trips, making luxury travel one of the top revenue generating segment in online travel. This trend is the USP of NuStay- the company provides luxury rooms in budgeted price with its unique algorithm that finds best matched luxury hotels for their consumers. An interesting thing about this company is they negotiate discounted rates for its guests with their hotel partners which no other company has done yet.

NuStay Banner

You might have a team of revenue managers continuously updating your inventory on major online travel channels you are connected to but if you don’t keep an eye on these channels then for sure a large number of your rooms will remain vacant for the day- losing handsome revenue. As a major share of all hotel bookings are shifting from desktop to mobile this new types of channels are becoming a key distribution medium for your hotel distribution. Make sure your revenue managers are taking right decision and promotional tactics which is compatible to fulfil increasing demand of your potential guests.

Image Credit: NuStay

Thursday, July 23, 2015

5 travel sites UK Hotels Can’t Miss

The good time is back for the UK hotel industry. With economy firmly on the track after six years of recovery, travel mood in on the positives. However, the past few years of challenging economic condition has altered the mindset of travel consumers. They are more alert and are watching their pounds as they make arrangements for their travel. According to a Deloitte survey, 59% of holidaymakers today compare prices online, maintaining their recessionary behaviour. Historically high spenders, today’s British travellers are more likely to be influenced by peer recommendations than brand loyalty.

TripAdvisor Screen

The emergence of price comparison and review sites has changed the consumer purchase path from linear to multi-channel and fragmented. The digital revolution has empowered consumers with access to easy information, more product choices and a medium to raise their voices. It’s no wonder; TripAdvisor today is UK’s top travel site with 27.1 million monthly visitors. The evolution of travel from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market is now almost complete especially in matured markets. Hotel needs to get out of the cookie-cutter approach and relook at their distribution strategies.

Here are my picks of five channels in the United Kingdom which have set new rules.

SEE ALSO: 5 Online Travel Agents shaping the travel industry in the Middle East

92% UK travellers read TripAdvisor review before choosing an accommodation -making the travel giant the most popular travel site in UK. It took them fifteen years to reach where they are today, but TripAdvisor today has become the single biggest travel influencer. Last year the guest review giant launched it’s much talked about Instant Booking feature, which allows users to research, compare, choose and now book hotels, in other words, complete the buying journey while staying within TripAdvisor user shell. Much though it would like to deny acting as an OTA, fact remains that after the launch of instant booking feature, TripAdvisor now has advantage of being a review site, meta-search and booking engine – all within one platform.


50% travellers in UK take short breaks at the last minute. The country where 6 million people use mobile phones to book getaway breaks on the same day it is no wonder that last minute travel will play a major role for generating revenue to the hoteliers. According to a recent report by PhoCusWright, about the 30% bookings that come from Hotel Mobile booking platforms; 70% of them are for same day bookings. This makes LastMinute.Com, which offers hotel rooms at a heavily discounted rate for the last minute travellers, in an advantageous position. Acquired by Travelocity in 2005 the company currently serves 17 million British travellers who rely on the accommodation provider for their last minute booking decisions.

In the later part of the article we'll discuss about three more top performing online channels in UK which you need to focus on.

Image Credit: TripAdvisor

Friday, July 17, 2015

Stay Connected with latest news: Update from eRevMax- July 17, 2015

5 Online Travel Agents shaping the travel industry in the Middle East

One of the youngest regions of the world with over 50% of the population aged between 18- 34, travel in United Arab Emirates is largely influenced by digital experience. Always connected and eager to research, millennials in the country have become trend setters in the online travel segment. Empowered with easily available information, they are forcing hospitality brands in the region to realign their marketing strategies according to their preferences.

See more at: eRevMax Blog

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Google quietly adds instant booking for hotels, copying TripAdvisor

For the first time, Google users can book a hotel room without ever leaving the search giant’s familiar desktop interface. The addition of assisted booking to, the search giant’s metasearch tool, hasn’t been officially announced. But the Google-faciliated bookings appear to be slowly rolling out across a select handful of listings in U.S. desktop search.

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A cheat sheet to drive direct business

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