Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Mobile – the ultimate weapon in the battle to go direct?

Everyone’s investing in mobile.  Some hotels are spending millions of dollars.  But is it really paying off?  If the results posted by hotel giant IHG this week are anything to go by, mobile can make a difference to your bottom line.  But where does the real value in a hotel’s mobile strategy lie?

Back in 2012 when most travel brands were just finding their feet in mobile, IHG reported mobile revenues of $330 million – up from $3 million in 2009.  With 9 brands to manage and 710,000 hotel rooms worldwide, maintaining a personalised customer approach was a top priority.

It certainly seems that the big brand, generic hotel experience just won’t cut it anymore.  What’s interesting is that the role that mobile plays as a key differentiator in the battle to win the ever-demanding travel consumer.

The slick mobile experiences offered by brands such as HotelTonight, Uber and Airbnb are difficult for large travel and hospitality brands, often tied to legacy systems, to emulate.  What’s more, mobile has turned the search process on its head, arguably giving the OTAs the upper hand.   After all, there is a limit to how many travel apps you can have on your phone.

But if hoteliers wish to compete with the OTAs as well as the new wave of digital-first travel brands, then significant mobile investment is a must.

In my view, for a number of years, hoteliers have placed too much emphasis on implementing a mobile strategy to deliver transactions.  Overall, mobile transactional values have remained low and so mobile wasn’t seen as a top priority (arguably until now).  

Whilst consumers searching for hotels via OTA mobile sites and apps gain from a wide variety of choice, hotels can really add value to consumers by using mobile to transform the guest experience and increase loyalty.

This strategy can be used to win direct business and help avert an over-reliance on OTAs.

For example, leading American hotel group Starwood, has a new program that allows guests to use their smartphone as a key if they book their stay through one of its hotel websites or its reward program.

Mobile is at the heart of global giant Accor’s five year, $280 million digital transformation strategy. Like IHG, using mobile to enhance the guest experience in the form of mobile check-in and check-out is a key feature of Accor’s new strategy.   Every service available offline in the hotel will be available via their mobile app. 

If hoteliers wish to really see their mobile investments pay off, they need to think smartly about how they can use mobile to ensure they are really adding value and winning direct business from travellers.

Not many brands have $280 million to spend but if mobile can be used successfully to win back more direct business and save costly OTA commissions, then for many hoteliers mobile will be the ultimate tool in the battle to go direct and well worth the investment.

This post was written by Gina Baillie, GM, EyeforTravel Ltd.

Join top travel brands as they debate what the future holds for mobile at EyeforTravel’s Mobile & Innovation in Travel conference, March 23-24, San Francisco.


 


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Eye-watering travel tech leads the way to the future and beyond

Technological advances have and always will be at the forefront of people’s interest. From the Internet, to the smartphone, 3D Printers and Drones. One seamless trend continues to create the need for innovation and development, helping to push the boundaries of our technological ability. Exciting isn't it? But do we have a new technology that’s on the brink of being the next big innovation? This is visual reality.  

Have you seen the growing number of new videos, adverts and recent films all shot in the angle of a humans perspective? Take a look at this music video  below if not.

 

Aside from being quite a catchy song and brilliantly shot, I would like you to understand the underlying concept of putting on some goggles and becoming transported into a different world. It really paints a picture of what holographic visual headwear one day could be like. Sounds overly futuristic, right? 

If that sounds overly futuristic, I am delighted to say its not far from this becoming reality. Take a look at this video demonstration to see the potential. 


Players in the market
Google seemed to be the first on the market with Google glass. Unsurprisingly, that drove great awareness but unfortunately they  seemed to fail to reach a coolness factor, perhaps the staggering $1,500 price tag? Google's announcement last week proved that with the discontinuation for consumers, however they are looking to re-work the project and steer in a different direction.

But don’t despair, there are several other entrants in the space from some of the biggest players in the market including, Microsoft, Samsung and Oculus. Oculus  arguably the most well-known within this space, especially with their $2 billion purchase by Facebook giving it as much packing power as the multi-nationals. 

I see Microsoft’s HoloLens is also receiving some much deserved enthusiasm. The video above demonstrates how they plan to use everyday surroundings to enable and use the device - it’s really cool. So the ‘uncool’ brand could actually be on the verge of gaining credit and I believe it’s the perfect timing. Market research firm Forrester predicts that 3.6 million people will likely buy HoloLens products by the end of 2016, ambitious but I would like to see it happen. Two other big players at the forefront of this market are Oculus Rift and Samsung's Gear VR. 

Samsung just released an introductory video to show off their own tech, again some great features and in particular, the street demos give the Gear VR a real practical look. With a very reasonable price tag of $199 it makes it surprisingly affordable, enabling easy take-up and a foreseeable future in the technology market. 

Oculus Rift has been in the market a few years now, however primarily focusing on the gaming aspect helping to specialise in virtual reality travel. There are some great videos online of people trying them out if you have some time. So far, they’ve had some fantastic positive feedback giving a great indication of what’s to come. With a little further development of games, within the technology this market could become explosive. I really can see great potential. Having the most development time behind them as well as a solid financial backing I feel they are leading the way in innovation for visual reality, and with time can they make it a practical reality. 

So what does or can this mean for Travel? 

Experiences are everything from the places you go, people you see, they all bound into memories of travel. This technology can really enable people to picture, feel and truly represent experiences like the real thing. Within the travel space, there are some really exciting opportunities. One I feel is the use of VR to truly see and experience a holiday before you have left your home, a ‘try before you buy’ reality for example, in my opinion this could revolutionise the whole industry. Could hotels and resorts have video footage that consumers can view to walk around the hotel, see the pool and throw a stone onto the beach? An opportunity for a travel agent to help a consumer get exactly what they want, subsequently creating a happy customer for the agent. Say goodbye to those misleading pictures? I think so. 

This almost gives the entire power to the consumer, giving them full control of getting the best possible holiday for themselves. As well as this, who wouldn't want to have a ‘try before you buy’ holiday? I found an article where Skyscanner has similar views in their report on future travel. This could almost be a travel agent’s USP - ‘Come see your holiday before you buy.’ Could we, in fact, be one step ahead and be sat on your sofa simply browsing holidays with a visual headpiece on? Now wouldn't that be cool? 

Let’s steer it away from the travel agency now, these VR goggles are also creating holograms that users can interact with, using only the environment surrounding them. Microsoft’s HoloLense demonstrated this well in their video showing some great practical ideas, especially with everyday living within your home. Screens on the wall, wherever you are travelling or necessarily wherever needed, this is a real draw. There is of course a massive gaming aspect, and I think that’s where oculus have focused, whereas Microsoft may have focused into more of the social practicality. 

The number of experiences you could possibly have with this technology is never ending. It may not be in the next year or two but before 2020 I see this technology being widely accepted and especially have a high take-up within the travel space and wider society on a day to day basis. Extensive research and development as well as investment is backing this industry, for example; Apple recently acquired several patent’s in this area so I can only see it go from strength to strength in growth. I see this market is expanding into a worldwide focus, exciting investment can only add heat to the fire. This really leaves me with a bubbling excitement for what’s around the corner, in particular the number of possibilities this tech could be used for. I’ll leave you to imagine a few of the possibilities Visual Reality could offer…

Have your own thoughts and ideas? Post below:

Written by: Jamie Goulding

To get in Contact: jamie@eyefortravel.com

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Coffee beans & Jet Fuel: Why plummeting oil prices does not equate to cheaper airfares

It's a turbulent relationship to say the least.  From towing planes to the runway and tweaking wing designs to curbing passengers' oversized baggage. For years, airline executives have been trying to find ways to save every drop of fuel.

But with oil currently trading at about $48 per barrel, isn't it about time the travel consumer started to reap the rewards of these plummeting prices?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly thinks so, tweeting last week, "Oil price was $53 pbl last night - lowest in 5yrs. Vital this is passed on to families at petrol pumps, through utility bills and air fares"

Hugo Burge, CEO, Momondo Group predicts 2015 will see consumers benefiting from lower prices, stating, "We expect/ hope that airlines will pass on some of this in reduction of fares to help encourage demand (whilst also being significantly more profitable and able to invest in better services for the future too). Air Passenger Duty reductions will also help consumers to go further. In short, we predict a happy year for consumers on the price front”.


So, here's the good news, Hugo is right - the flying public is likely to benefit from lower air fares... 
but the fall is by nowhere near as much as the oil drop might imply.  On top of this, you'll be waiting some time before you start to see the benefits of lower jet fuel costs.

Here's why:

1.       Fuel surcharges - Leading airline groups including IAG, Delta and United continue to impose fuel surcharges. The European and US carriers are holding their ground, arguing, airlines
1.have yet to recover fuel costs for the last decade. But as their Asian peers (Japan Airlines, Qantas, AirAsia) have moved to reduce or phase out fuel surcharges in light of sliding oil prices, the legacy carriers are coming under increasing pressure to cut surcharges.

2.       Hedging Jet Fuel - While jet fuel prices roughly track crude historically, they have not dropped quite as rapidly. Coupled with this is the fact that many airlines have hedged fuel well into 2015 and later in some cases. Ryanair, for example, will pay approximately $93 per barrel for 90% of its fuel in 2015-16 and estimates that it will cut just 4% of its fuel costs.

Meanwhile, Flybe shares were hit hard in recent weeks with a drop of 23% and have no show no sign of letting-up, having contracted to pay $128 per barrel until March 2015. Heavily hedged airlines are at the mercy of the oil suppliers and will have to wait until 2016 before experiencing the benefits of lower jet fuel prices.

But it's not just hedges and surcharges that keep air fares in check. As air travel demand continues to grow, why would any savvy revenue manager opt to substantially reduce air fares? Or, as one industry body put it, "Airlines should be treated like any other business - when the price of coffee beans falls, no one asks Starbucks why his or her latte does not cost less ".


But with good looking load factors, growing global demand and a favourable oil price, there's no denying airlines have an opportunity to improve margins over the next two years. The jury is still out as to whether these gains will be transferred to the travel consumer.

Written by John Gallagher. John is organising the annual EyeforTravel's TDS Europe 2015, the meeting place for Europe's senior travel executives. You can get in touch with him on John@eyefortravel.com

Friday, 23 January 2015

The President of Sabre Hospitality or the CTO of Airbnb or the COO of Citizen M hotels?

All three are meeting to look at how mobile is impacting accommodation sales. Who has the best plan to grow?

If any travel sector is reeling from the impact of mobile it’s the accommodation sector. The dominance of OTA hotel booking apps has led to our researchers hearing about huge drops in brand led direct bookings. But the hotels occupancy levels are still high. How will the owners react? 

One way that the brands are defending their position is by investing in incredibly useful apps that their guests will want to use. We are seeing huge ROI on the brand apps that extend the services the big brands can offer and the products they can sell. 

And we heard this week that Barclays financial analysts finally recognise that Airbnb (and its 50% per annum growth) is having an impact on the hotel industry. Accor is singled out by Barclays for attention with “9% of its rooms under threat”

This debate is part of the event I am running at Mobile World Congress this March 2. Who do you feel is going to have the best future strategy?

Come along and participate in the debate live or subscribe to gain access to the recording.

Tim Gunstone
Managing Director
+44 (0)207 375 7557
Mobile +44 (0) 7815814314

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Why Mobile needs data

Our research shows that Mobile spend by the travel sector is up again. Interestingly it seems that the travel industry understands how critical data analytics and mobile are to send contextual messages that sell more, reduce costs and serve their customers better.
  • According to EyeforTravel’s latest research 68.8% of travel executives said they would spend more on mobile in 2014 
  • 80% OTA (online travel agent) and metasearch executives who believe mobile is business critical and will be investing more in the next three months
Revenues from the distribution of non-core travel products have been behind the success of top travel companies for decades. As the number of travel consumer’s that book and communicate via mobile sky rockets the ability to display these products has shrunk due to need to simplify the research and booking process.  Today Travel companies are experimenting with the analysis of social, transactional and location data to show more targeted products on the small screen. Significantly this has enabled the different parties that make up a travel experience to sell more products and provide more services throughout the traveller’s journey.

I believe the days of the billboard travel website are over. If you want to sell to and service your consumers you need to apply data to your mobile strategy in order to provide a contextualized mobile experience.

Pre booking, pre trip, on trip and post trip, all the companies that make the trip possible now have the ability to serve the consumer for longer. A new battle for the customers trust has begun and the correct use of data and mobile is mission critical.

As an indication how critical this goal is 16 senior C level executives from the world’s biggest airlines, airports, hotels, rail providers, tour operators and intermediaries are meeting the Monday before ITB at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to debate, collaborate and discover the new opportunities that data analysis and mobile can provide.

To find out more about EyeforTravel@Mobile World Congress 2015, visit http://events.eyefortravel.com/mobile-world-congress/

Monday, 27 October 2014

Does your travel company have what it takes to succeed in mobile?

Mobile technology is no longer a nice to have – it’s a must.  But research shows travel brands shouldn’t expect praise from their customers for it.  Increasingly travel consumers expect brands to offer an up-to-the-minute seamless mobile experience.   The reward?   Chances are that tech savvy brands will win customers and avoid losing market share to other savvier travel brands.

As many travel brands will attest, getting the right mobile strategy in place is not easy.   It requires a considerable investment of time, money and resources as well as a willingness to experiment and make continual improvements.  Indeed, the job of a mobile executive is never done.

EyeforTravel’s Mobile Innovation in Travel Awards seek to recognize the travel brands who are making significant progress in mobile – trailblazing the way for others to follow.

Taking place in San Francisco, March 23rd as part of EyeforTravel’s Mobile & Innovation in Travel conference, the awards will feature 4 categories –

·         Best Mobile Travel User Experience
·         Best Mobile Travel App
·         Best Mobile Travel Strategy
·         Best Mobile Travel Solution
Past winners and finalists of the awards include KLM, TripAdvisor, Marriott,  Best Western, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Worldmate, Checkmate, BookAssist, Hotels.com and more!
To find out more about how to enter your brand visit - http://events.eyefortravel.com/mobile/awards.php
For all awards enquires contact:-
Gina Baillie
GM
EyeforTravel
London, UK: +44 (0)207 375 7197
US Toll Free: 1 800 814 3459 ext. 7197




Wednesday, 17 September 2014

EyeforTravel Berlin giveaway: How you can win one free pass (and more)

Taking place in Berlin, EyeforTravel's annual online marketing, mobile and social media conference is only 2 weeks away and we couldn't be more excited.

This year, EyeforTravel Berlin features more CMOs and senior level speakers than ever before with speakers from Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Low Cost Holiday Group, Accor, Malaysia Airlines, Disney, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Kempinski and more.

Want to know more about the free entry to the event? 

We're pleased to offer you a chance to win one free* gold pass to EyeforTravel's Online Marketing, Mobile & Social Media conference.

Fill out the form below, including the question and you stand to win an all access conference gold pass if you're lucky. We also have runner-up prizes that give you access to the recorded sessions from the conference .

Deadline for entries is 12pm BST on Tuesday 23rd September.

Good Luck!

*Access to the conference is free of cost. Please note that you will have to arrange your own travel and accommodation.