Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More power to Ctrip as Expedia exits China

With over 1 million transactions everyday makes Ctrip the largest OTA in China and a serious player in the online travel sector.  But with the latest news of Expedia selling its stake in eLong, China’s second largest OTA, shows that even a global giant is no match for the mighty regional online player. 

Last week, Expedia announced that it is selling off its entire stake in Chinese online travel company eLong to rival Ctrip.com International Ltd and other interested parties.  With Expedia’s share in eLong being 64%, this acquisition means Ctrip will have over 37.6% stake in eLong, making it the majority shareholder in the second largest OTA in China after CTrip.



In picture Fan Man (left), Co-founder, Vice Chairman and President of Ctrip; in a discussion with Vincent Lo, Chairman, Shui On Group at Fortune Global Forum 2013

To put things in perspective, Ctrip has a market share more than 6 times the size of eLong. After the acquisition, Ctrip with eLong will control over 60% of the Chinese online travel market, which according to PhoCusWrightestimates is pegged to be over USD 30 billion in 2015 excluding call center bookings. With online travel expected to grow in double digits, and accounting for only a quarter of total travel bookings, the scope of growth, needless to say, is enormous.

With Priceline’s$500m investment into Ctrip, the focus for Ctrip now shifts to newer and fast-growing rivals such as Qunar, Tuniu, and Alitrip, the travel arm of China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba. Meta-search engines continue to be the greatest lead generator for Chinese OTAs and this causes concern even for Ctrip. Qunar - owned by China’s largest online search engine Baidu Inc – is considered the market leader in meta-search and the fastest growing travel channel and in 2014, Ctrip ended its strategic relationship with Qunar and prompting a price war between them.



For Ctrip, a strategic partnership with both Expedia and Priceline means access to broader inventories, which will help the channel to meet its objective of having wider product coverage. Already Ctrip has seen over 200 million downloads of its mobile application so far. Ctrip’s aim at the broader market has been quite visible for a while now. Earlier this year they entered into an agreement with Amadeus, whereby the GDS will provide content to Ctrip in international markets outside of China. With Chinese outbound travel growing at 20-30% buoyed by an increase in disposable income by the Chinese traveller and more flight routes and hotel inventory in new destinations will all help Ctrip capture the majority of these outbound bookings.

Over 100 million cash rich Chinese travelers are set to travel aboard this year in 2015. As more Chinese travelers travel beyond Asia, with strong branding and being a well-established online and offline channel make Ctrip best poised to benefit from the growing travel demand in China.  For the hotel industry trying to capture a piece this high growth Chinese market makes working with Ctrip a must.

Image Courtesy: FortuneLive Media, Ctrip



John Seaton is VP Sales, EMEA & APAC at eRevMax.  He can be reached at johns@erevmax.com





Friday, May 22, 2015

Scandinavian hotel group Your Hotels Worldwide endorses eRevMax as the Preferred Channel Manager Partner

Your Hotels™ Worldwide, a leading hotel chain of independently-managed properties in Scandinavia, has strengthened relationship with eRevMax by implementing its 2-way XML connectivity solution for seamless data transfer between its property management system and online sales channels.  All 65 properties under the group are using RateTiger Channel Manager to update rates and availabilities across their distribution mix in real-time. RateTiger is a fully integrated e-distribution platform with 2-way XML channel connectivity, market intelligence and revenue management capabilities.
Your Hotel™ Worldwide is an established hotel chain consisting of around 65 privately owned hotels across Sweden, Norway, UK, Germany and Austria. Head Quartered in Stockholm, the group offers 2500 rooms across the portfolio. All hotels under the group are getting benefits of real-time rates and inventory update and receive reservations directly into their PMSs ensuring online sales optimization and eliminating chance of overbookings.  They can monitor booking trends across all channels on a single reporting dashboard to react instantly with a more effective distribution strategy.



“We have been using RateTiger solutions since 2010, and know from experience that they have a great product portfolio in a stable technology platform. By upgrading to 2-way XML connection, our member hotels would be able to use their PMS to process updates, which will streamline their distribution, save time and improve revenue opportunities. Their transition from a traditional channel manager to web based business intelligence and connectivity solution provider has helped our hotels greatly. For us eRevMax is the ideal technology partner which meets demands of our hotels,” said Percy Henriksson, Managing Director, Your Hotel™ Worldwide.


Our long-term relation with Your Hotel™ Worldwide reinforces the value eRevMax's innovative technologies and services bring to the hotel industry to improve distribution processes. eRevMax solutions help the revenue management team of these properties to increase online revenue by ensuring real-time room availability across all distribution points through automatic adjustment from a pooled inventory,” said Cristina Blaj, Sales Director - Europe at eRevMax.

eRevMax’s flexible, multi-platform solution to manage online sales and exposure, has  been used by over 20,000 hotels globally. eRevMax’s Channel Ecosystem (CES) offers two-way XML connections with leading global and regional sales channels for seamless connectivity.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Google’s Mobilegeddon: How it will impact hospitality industry?

It's been two weeks since Google has launched "Mobilegeddon" their recent algorithm, and since then it has been one of the most discussed topic among the digital marketers. At a time when in every 4 in 5 searches are being done through mobile, the latest update from Google decisively tilts the advantage to mobile friendly websites, predicts the search engine experts.



To make it simple, this means if a guest is searching through his smartphone, sites which are mobile optimized, will get better placement in Google search results. The results on desktop and tablets will still remain unaffected. However, given that over 27% of US travel bookings are being made on smartphones now, this has a huge impact on hotel industry, especially the small and independent ones.


Mobile has changed the way we search, connect to brands and make travel arrangements. By the end of this year global smartphone users expected to reach 2.5 billion and if your brand is not visible to this large audience then you need to rethink the way you target and engage with your potential customers.

Today’s tech-savvy travelers use the internet to find their favorite brand while on the go. In our recent article- The Rise and Rise of Mobility: how it is Changing WorldTravel we discussed how mobile is changing the world travel and online travel is shifting from PC to mobile phone. The recent update from Google shows that the search engine giant is only responding to consumer preferences by asking businesses to give them better experience while searching on the devices they most use. It is now hoteliers turn to take right mobile strategy to avoid getting buried in the 60 trillion web pages.

Are your Website Mobile-Friendly?

Before you start thinking to optimize your website, know how the change is going to impact your daily business. With 50% of its search coming through mobile devices, Google has updated its algorithms to ensure users discover more relevant and mobile-friendly results. Our web consists of 60 trillion individual web pages, finding a relevant result in a fraction of a second is not easy.



Google has begun including mobile friendly web pages as a factor in its mobile search engine rankings. Your hotel website would fare better in search rankings if the pages are legible and usable on mobile devices  Though a mobile-friendly website does not always guarantee online bookings but it could lead more direct traffic and individual page views to your hotel website increasing your brand presence in the online world.
                   
If you don’t have mobile optimized websites, no worry, there is still time for you. Find out if your website is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test and if you don’t qualify the test then it’s time to revamp your website with responsive design, as many travellers may only visit mobile version of your hotel’s website.





Right Content for Mobile travelers

Today the first point of contact (POC) for a guest on travel search is your website; they search your brand name on Google, reads relevant content which depicts about your product and services. As use of mobile phone increasing exponentially you need to rethink the way you reach out to your travel consumers and last minute travellers. If you think only optimising mobile friendly website is going to boost your ranking in Google then probably you are on the wrong track. Ensure your website has rich content with engaging imagery for your visitor to spend more time on your brand.com site and eventually make it to the booking window.


As the shopping journey is changing constantly you have to stay one step ahead of recent trends to feed your guests with the services they are looking for. Today’s hyper-connected travelers wait for the right time to get their preferable accommodation at reasonable price. Leveraging mobile friendly websites means you are not only providing better guest experience but creating an opportunity to make relationship your potential guests.

Swapan Kumar Manna is the Sr. Executive - Marketing at eRevMax. He can be reached at swapanm@erevmax.com.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Booking.com fires away strict rate parity: What it means for hoteliers - Part II

In the first part of my article (see here) I've focused on Booking.com's new rate parity agreement and how hotels now have regained control over their pricing. Here is the next part of the article.

Loosening rate parity with a caveat

The commitment comes with a caveat: the hotels had to maintain same rates and booking conditions on Booking.com as they do through their own direct website. Term this as a narrow ‘Most Favored Nation’ agreement, the OTAs require a minimum allocation, or some availability, from hotels. Predictably, hotels are not happy.



They fear that the big OTAs, with their marketing budget would be able to manipulate the search results, which they claim would continue to affect their business adversely. In a strongly worded statement, the British Bed and Breakfast Association calls Booking.com a “bully” and says, “that this new settlement, thrashed out behind closed doors in Europe, is wrong and anti competitive, and against the interests of consumers.” The powerful British Hospitality Association has shown similar disappointment, and terms the commitment as falling short of progress and not benefit customers or hospitality businesses in a meaningful way.


Paris based Accor, Europe’s biggest hotel chain has taken a cautious approach and expressed satisfaction. However, InterContinental Hotel is not impressed. In a market, where close to 70% reservations come through OTA with Booking.com alone contributing over 43%, no one can afford to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

For now, they have the option of promoting discounted rates to their closed groups for more direct bookings. But then again, Booking.com with its excellent loyalty program, which accounts for close to 50% of their overall reservation will give then a tough run. In fact, industry watchers believe that the next war will be fought over loyalty programs between the OTAs and major hotel brands. Elimination of rate parity might trigger ‘price cannibalism’ between OTAs and brand sites that could (at least potentially) lead to a worse-case scenario for the industry as a whole.

Make the most of the opportunity

As travellers spend more time on research, hotels need to be present at every touch point to their target audience. This is why, hotels need to evaluate each channels for the opportunities they present, and create tailor-made pricing strategies - all while staying within rate parity constraints – for optimizing rate and revenue.

To start with, hotels need to look at analyzing margins from each channel and allocate rate and inventories with margin as base-line. Select channels that bring key value to their properties – ones that support not just when the circus is in town but on a rainy day. With access to reservation reports to identify the customer demographics, hotel can develop intuitive packages to help customers actually find what they are looking for. The basic of every pricing strategy is to know the value of the product and the elasticity up to which consumers would be ready to pay.



Which leads to the importance of evaluating different distribution platforms. Without a foundation of platform based pricing it will be extremely difficult to manage pricing to the players sitting on the various levels of distribution, such as  traditional OTAs, Same-day booking sites, GDS, Tour Operators, Own Website, social media, mobile applications, fenced groups, loyalty programs, specific credit cards, and so on. By introducing a platform based pricing methodology, hotels can optimize their rate matrix while staying within their contractual obligations.


Mature distribution markets are moving from daily rate changes to real-time changes from a revenue management perspective which has a positive impact on profit optimization.  Remember, price is only one of the four P´s of marketing. Give equal importance to other 3, namely product, place and promotion. Parity is not so evil after all, only misunderstood.



Cristina Blaj is Sales Director at eRevMax.  She can be reached at cristinab@erevmax.com