Thursday, 19 March 2015

Advances in data, analytics and technology are creating exciting opportunities for growth in APAC’s travel industry

Asia is a complex and fragmented market with vastly different types of consumer behaviour, languages and cultures. With rapidly changing technological development, the increase of low cost carriers in the region and the capability of the middle class to travel further, the possibilities of travel in Asia are becoming limitless.

 But the question remains, how can travel brands tackle such a diverse market? 

The revolution in data and analytics is changing what brands know about their customers. At the same time the growth of mobile use by travel consumers’ means that travel brands can service and sell more and for longer. According to a study by LeNovo, about 59 per cent of the respondents in Asia said they searched for travel accommodation online via mobile devices – 13 per cent above global average.  

 However, as Tim Gunstone, MD, EyeforTravel highlights, “In the battle to win the travel customer, if you don’t use both mobile and data to send contextualised communications then you risk losing customers to the travel companies that do”. In a recent interview with Tarandeep Singh, IHG’s Director of Revenue Analytics for the Asia Middle East and Africa (AMEA) region he said “data analytics have been able to rewrite our consumer segmentation and break it up by every brand to ensure we are talking to the right audience at all times,” This enables the group to target far more accurately with much higher conversion rates than a few years ago. 

 All this change means that established business models are showing signs of failing and huge opportunities are in place for the brave and insightful. New business models from start-ups such as TravelMob, HotelQuickly, Stayzilla, GrabTaxi and many others could potentially grow into billion dollar industries.  

 EyeforTravel’s 17th Travel Distribution Summit Asia couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Taking place in Singapore, 20-21st May, it will aim to bring together some of the leading APAC experts. 

The changes in the industry mean that the travel professional needs to fundamentally re-visit and discuss how they can work together effectively and profitably.  If they don’t, they risk facing commoditisation of their product and missing the huge opportunity to use data and analytics to increase ancillary product sales. 

For years, EyeforTravel’s TDS Asia event has been the educational meeting place for the innovators in the travel industry.  This year is no different, but we also have added into that mix some of the biggest brands in travel to brainstorm on the future of APAC’s travel.

 Marketing, innovation, technology, analytics, RM and mobile experts from all branches of travel use this event as an annual meet up to predict the future of  travel in the region and to network in view of profitable partnerships.

By Mariah Assuncao, Global Conference Director, EyeforTravel
Mariah@eyefortravel.com

Friday, 13 March 2015

Meet the finalists for EyeforTravel's Startup Awards

Proving that the online travel industry is a hotbed of innovation, dozens of entrants chased  the chance to pitch to the audience of judges, senior online travel entrepreneurs, investors, and travel brands at EyeforTravel's upcoming Startup Awards 2015.

The finalists, who will present their products during EyeforTravel’s Startup Awards Final at EyeforTravel's inaugural Startup Village in San Francisco, March 23rd  have been announced as: -

·         Bellhop

Bellhop is a mobile app that acts as a personal concierge for travelers globally, making all service requests a button click.  They implement this by building a global community of hotels in which they act as the primary service providers.

·         Tripnary

Tripnary is a free iPhone app that lets you check places off your bucket list. The app lets you create your travel bucket list and compare airfares to every destination on the list in one tap! Think of it as Pinterest meets Kayak.

·         Spacebase

Spacebase are a global booking platform for event locations and meeting spaces. We give renters access to unique locations for their next event and enable space providers to advertise their space to a ready-to-book user base.

·         Africa Bookings Ltd.

Africa Bookings  offers: -
- a B2C channel for online bookings for accommodation across Africa for Consumers to get best choice and best rates. This is almost unheard of in many parts of Africa so we are pioneering here what is commonplace elsewhere in the world.

- a B2B channel for agents across Africa and worldwide to access our accommodation, make bookings and earn commissions.
Their product offering falls into two categories: a sharing platform and a discovery engine.


·         Tripstr

Tripstr 2.0 is Instagram meets TripAdvisor, answering the question ‘How was your trip?’ through photos, videos and the actual places you visited. Tripstr is unique in its ability to let you tell your travel story quickly and beautifully, and in the process turns those photos into actionable itinerary items that your friends can save for future trips.

·         HelloShift

HelloShift is an exciting new category of communication software being pioneered by companies like Slack (and Trello, Yammer etc.) that is not built for use by the shift-based workforce hotels usually employ. We have packaged the relevant features from these tools into a simplified interface optimized for the way shift-based businesses work, and accounting for the various skill levels of the workers.

·         Tripcipe

Tripcipe aims to be the recipe for the perfect trip. Most travelers today consult at least 5 different websites to figure out what to see, eat, or do on their vacation. Instead of copying and pasting into Excel and Google Maps, you can use the Tripcipe plug-in to easily save information from any webpage

·         Goconnekt

Goconnekt is a short-term WiFi hotspot rental service for travelers that combines convenience, quality and affordability.  Goconnekt helps international travelers that want access to on-the-go 4G internet, but would rather not pay the expensive international data rates.

·         PalPrices.com

PalPrices is a fun and unique website with focus on intelligent tourist budget calculation and planning based on personal preferences, providing help with choosing your vacation destination. E.g., what is the cost of a weekend in New York City including nightlife and museums, but saving money on accommodation?

·         Proxce

Proxce helps travelers skip the front desk for check-in at hotels, Proxce’s Proximity Identity Manager system uses BLE/iBeacons and geo fence to provide auto check-in and keyless entry to guest rooms for hospitality industry

·         ITeXplorer, Inc.

ITeXplorer Inc offers a real-time worldwide marketplace of travel services for travel professionals and consumers. We enable customers to research, book, price and alter multi-destination itineraries from any device at any time before and after departure. We see our target audience as: Travel professionals, consumers, corporate travelers.

·         FLYR

FLYR, Inc. is a data science company first conceived to relieve a universal pain point among travelers — the guessing game of booking airfares. By aggregating and analyzing billions of data points, FLYR has created Foresight, a proprietary prediction engine, allowing for ultra - relevant fare forecasts and providing immediate benefits to travelers

·         Wellobox

Travelers are currently overloaded with data and recommendations on the "best" places to eat, see, and explore. Welloboxes offer a solution to this problem by allowing the traveler to purchase a locally curated box that is waiting for them upon arrival, freeing them to immediately start exploring.

The final will take place as part of EyeforTravel’s Startup Village which sees top online travel entrepreneurs, mentors and investors share key insight into what it takes to succeed in the cut throat online travel industry during morning bootcamp sessions and the Startup final take place in the afternoon.  The day will be interspersed with plenty of time for networking.

Book your place to attend the final at EyeforTravel’s Startup Village here

For event enquiries contact:

Gina Baillie
GM
EyeforTravel Ltd.
International: +44 (0)207 375 7197
US.Toll Free: 1.800 814 3459 ext. 7197
gina@eyefortravel.com 



Thursday, 12 March 2015

Why Travel Suppliers need to share data to protect the value of their products

The fastest growing and most profitable travel companies are those with a tonne of data and incredible grasp on how to engage with the mobile consumer, along with being staffed by intelligent employees. They don’t own the travel product.

Certain intermediaries are dominating the fast growing mobile channel so effectively they are stripping more valuable direct bookings away from the suppliers at a terrifying rate. These data savvy intermediaries are using their expertise to grow the product range they sell. (At our recent Conference “How mobile, data, and innovation will dictate which travel companies grow” Airbnb’s Mike Curtis made it clear that Airbnb will soon be expanding the product range it helps distribute. Booking.com’s purchase of Open Table indicates the same desire there.)

The combination of data driven customer insight and the growth of the consumer using their mobile device means our industry can service the consumer for longer. As long as you have the trust of the consumer and the insight to know what they want you are going to be very profitable.

Right now the travel suppliers are losing the battle for this direct connection with the traveler and the related commercial benefits. One reason is they don’t have the insight. At the same event Ryanair’s CTO John Hurley told us that knowing what the airport knows would really help Ryanair provide a better service and be more profitable. Straight after his talk Chris Annetts, Heathrow’s Director of customer services said how he could benefit from the access to the customer knowledge the airlines holds.

Our Chairman, Sameer Poonja, Head of Digital for Emirates Airline asked why they could not share and the answers were system problems, legal issues but more fundamentally each travel supplier wanted to own the customer.

Surely travel suppliers are fighting the wrong battle. They need to work out the IT systems and legal issues that are stopping them sharing the data and work out a commercial arrangement that means they can best service the consumer. If they don’t the asset poor but data rich organisations such as booking.com, Airbnb, Skyskanner, and Google are going to make them the suppliers of small margin travel commodities.

The bottom line is travel is a people serviced business. TUI and Ryanair both told us how they are supplying their front line people with mobile devices to better service the consumer. How much better (and profitable) would that service be if they could start to share information with companies supplying the service along the travel chain.

By Tim Gunstone, MD, EyeforTravel
Tim@eyeforTravel.com 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Booking.com, Hotwire, Ritz-Carlton join the finalists for EyeforTravel’s Mobile Innovation in Travel Awards

8 lucky finalists have battled it out to reach the final for EyeforTravel’s Mobile Innovation in Travel awards taking place in San Francisco, March 23rd

Reflecting the ever growing importance of mobile to travel brands, it’s been a really tough contest this year with nominations from hundreds of travel brands from all over the world.
Following the nomination stage, stage 2 of the awards process saw the entries being whittled down by the expert judges to approximately 10 per category.  The travel industry was then invited to cast their vote. 

We received over 15,000 votes for the awards which was a phenomenal response!

The finalists are invited to present a 5 minute pitch in front of the conference audience at EyeforTravel’s upcoming Mobile Strategies for Travel conference.   The judges will then mark each finalist against strict judging criteria and the winner per category will be announced during the networking drinks reception on March 23rd.

The lucky finalists are –

Best Mobile Travel User Experience
·         Booking.com
·         Hotwire

Best Mobile Travel App
·         Tripcase
·         TripIt

Best Mobile Travel Strategy
·         Silvercar
·         Ritz-Carlton

Best Mobile Travel Solution
·         Carlson Wagonlit Travel
·         mTrip

Places to attend the Mobile Innovation in Travel Awards final are available as part of the 2 day conference pass to EyeforTravel’s Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel conference, March 23-24.  For pricing information please see this link or contact gina@eyefortravel.com


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Google’s to Blame for Impatient Travellers

As I was on the underground tube in London this morning, I had an epiphany – Easter was coming up and I was going to take advantage of the longest (Public Holiday) weekend in the year!  So I Googled Airbnb.
  
I was suddenly horrified to discover my wifi wasn’t working underground.  How inconvenient?!  What’s wrong with my phone?  I am assuming everyone else is busy researching destinations, replying to emails, and I am now frustrated that I am getting left behind!

When exactly did ‘no wifi’ become unacceptable?

Since instant-search has become an almost habitual part of our day-to-day life, travel consumers are now accustomed to getting whatever it is they want, 24/7, and become instantly impatient when their expectations are not met, or demands are not delivered.  Product availability as well as range, and provider, has increased tenfold and as the line between meta-search and OTAs blurs further, the term ‘spoilt for choice’ has never been more apt.

So when will these impatient travellers (like myself) be satisfied?  Here’s a look in to some of the current ‘buzz words’ and what travel brands really need to be paying attention to in order to satisfy this new & dominating breed of consumer:

  • Personalization:
We are hearing this everywhere, and it’s all about your data.  Lay the right foundations and you too will build your Empire State Building. Retargeting is also becoming increasingly more effective. Marketers in travel are re-engaging the customer with personalized retargeting.  This, coupled with dynamic content personalization (presenting the right content, to the right demographic) means that consumers are taking personalized and relevant advertising for granted.

  • Guest experience:
Craig Reid, CEO Auberge Resorts was recently reported to explain the importance of the service experience, “there’s a higher degree of expectation that the service should be tailored to the individual. There’s less adherence to time and protocols and guests really require the service entity to organize the experience around them rather than the guest organize himself around the experience.”  As brands recognize this, it’s not just websites which are becoming mobile optimized, brands are delighting consumers on-trip by communicating with them through the device, 24/7.

  • Video and Social Media Sharing
For brands to convey the experience of their product, video + social media + sharing is a must.  A good brand story connects and engages the consumer emotionally, heightening their likeliness to purchase your product above other brands they are less engaged with. 

We can all learn by sharing our lessons learned, when it’s our own ‘blooper’ however, it’s sometimes not such a comfortable experience!  Perhaps one of the most recent & notable experiences for video & social media sharing -  is Thailand Tourism’s video, criticised for 'romanticising stalking'.  An example of how video + social media + sharing can sometimes have an undesired affect.  YouTube it now – we’d love to hear your comments below!  


If you’d like to learn more about how you as a travel brand can instantly engage and convert the new connected travel consumer, join us in Miami this June 2-3.  Check out the line-up here!

And if you’re on the move and want to find out more it right now... Google it! ;)


This post was written by Emily Assender, Global Conference Director, EyeforTravel Ltd.

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