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 affection this disruption.


CPA vs CPC

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 Mura is Director of Sales- Americas at eRevMax.  He can be reached at janm@erevmax.com

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 Hotels.com®, 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 christinet@erevmax.com


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.

Amzon Destination Booking Window

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 Mura is Director of Sales- Americas at eRevMax.  He can be reached at janm@erevmax.com

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.

Skyscanner

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

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

NuStay

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

TripAdvisor.com

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.

LastMinute.Com


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 Google.com/hotels, 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.

See more at: Tnooz

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

5 Online Travel Agents shaping the travel industry in the Middle East - Part II

In the first part of article (See Here) I mentioned two top performing online travel sales channels in the Middle East. In this part I've discussed three other channels that come in top five list and shaping the travel industry in the Middle East.

Agoda.com
Increase number of smartphone adoption, growing middle class and millenials getting online- these factors are creating more opportunities for travel agents to adapt new strategy to reach out new age customers. Agoda, a Priceline company is one of the most popular online travel agency in the Middle East.  According to a recent report by Skift, Agoda receives total 30.7 million unique visitors per month to its website of which majority of traffic comes from APAC and ME. The channel is gaining preference as a leading site among Middle-East bookers by adding inventory, enhancing mobile functionality and localizing content. Agoda has listed 1,211 properties in its website out of which 846 for Dubai only.

Agoda home page screen



Cleartrip.com
India based Cleartrip launched in the Middle East in 2011 with a $10 million investment and has become a key channel since its inception. Here travelers are more comfortable with the idea of booking online. Due to increase of smartphones and more online travel brands coming into the market, educated travelers comfortable with modern technology are visiting OTAs for travel arrangements rather going to traditional travel agents. Cleartrip which is new in this region has impressively acquired a large customer base, especially millennial travelers. Over 113,000 hotels worldwide are currently connected to Cleartrip and receives over 6 million unique visitors per month, while growing at 30% year-on-year. Quarterly Mobile Insight for Q4’ 2014 of Cleartrip shows over 53% of the total traffic emanates from the mobile channels overshadowing the desktop channel and over 70% customers use mobile as their only channel for transactions.  The more interesting fact is 15% of Cleartrip’s bookings in the Middle East and 25% of searches come from mobile as customers seem more confident of booking on mobile than on the website.

Asiaroom.com
Online commerce in the Middle East is still in the early stages of development, but the region's travel industry is growing fast, both online and offline. Online travel sales in Middle East in 2013 were US$ 2.3 billion which grew at whooping 17% last year. AsiaRoom is largely focus on the APAC and Middle East and provide destinations in the premium location Singapore, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dubai for quick booking. AsiaRooms operates in approximately 180 countries, serving more than 30 million customers in over 20 source markets.

Middle East travel region is one of the fastest growing travel markets in the world- this gives a bigger scope to the online travel agents to reach out to the large consumer base. Although, new online booking channels are heavily investing in the region still a large number of travelers rely on the 6,000 existing traditional travel agents. As the Middle East is a diverse and complex market with unique online benefits and challenges hoteliers need to manage their rates and availability on regular basis with sophisticated channel manager like RateTiger. Contact us today if you want to connect with these channels or want a platform to manage these channels smartly.



Hisham Diab is Sales Manager, MEA/ Africa/ Turkey at eRevMax. He can be reached at hishamd@erevmax.com

Thursday, July 2, 2015

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

Close to 12 million travelers will visit Dubai this year, making it the fifth most popular city in the world for international visit. In spite of the political volatility in the Middle East, the outlook for the hospitality industry in the United Arab Emirates remains strong. The growing importance of Dubai International Airport, which has become the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic, has contributed immensely to the growth of the hotel industry in Dubai.



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.


A high spend market, OTA sales in the Middle East have reached USD$3 billion in 2014, representing about 17% of total sales. With 94% of the populating owing a mobile device, there is a clear shift in booking patterns toward mobile and tablet booking devices. Traditionally a last-minute market, the surge of mobile connectivity has also reduced the booking window considerably. Compared to the word average of 23 days, the average hotel reservation lead time for UAE is now a mere 13, one of the lowest. Online travel bookings, which represent 25% of all bookings in the Middle East, are forecast to grow in 2015 and 2016 to reach 36% by the end of 2017 when online revenue is expected to reach $35 billion.
In this article we list out five online travel agents who are playing vital role in shaping the online travel industry in the region.

Booking.com

With over 1000 listed properties, Booking.com is the most popular travel agency in UAE. The Priceline owned OTA major has expanded its listings in the region by about 25 percent over the past year, comprising 200 new properties. Dubai ranks sixth in terms of global inbound travel bookings for Booking.com, and the channel controls over 50% on OTA market in the region. With 166 million unique visitors per month to its website Booking.com still rules the online travel by a large margin over its competitors Expedia and TripAdvisor. The online travel major is not only holds number one position in terms of unique page visits but also in total room nights booking. Every day over 850,000 room nights are reserved onBooking.com through its website and mobile apps attracting travelers from both the leisure and business sectors across the globe. Though travelers in this region search their favorite destination, preferred hotel online, but when it comes to bookings, they prefer to traditional travel agents to make a purchase.

Expedia.com


In the last couple of years OTAs in the Middle East has grown rapidly at compound average growth rate of 18% with Expedia.com—the first OTA and one of the key players in the region. In 2012 online travel sales in the Middle East estimated 2.3 billion or 13% of total travel sales. To reach out growing customer base with high disposable income, familiar with advanced technology and excited about living a modern lifestyle online travel agent like Expedia is coming up with new offerings that suit their customer portfolio. With 59.3 Million monthly uniquevisitors Expedia.com is the third largest online travel agents right behind Booking.com and TripAdvisor. The company has around 800 properties listed in its website and is the second most sought after online travel agents in Middle-East.

In the later part of my article I'll discuss three more top performing online travel sales channels are shaping the travel industry in the Middle East.

Image Credit: Freepik PublicDomainPictures


Hisham Diab is Sales Manager, MEA/ Africa/ Turkey at eRevMax. He can be reached at hishamd@erevmax.com