Thursday, 22 September 2016

Brexit Blues or Brexit Beater? Why the UK Travel Industry Could Be One of the Strongest Economic Sectors

The dust has now cleared on Britain's vote to leave the EU but plenty of uncertainty and heated debate remains ongoing. Not least of which is the lack of clarity from Westminster. It is frankly absurd that we are none the wiser as to precisely when the UK will trigger the leaving mechanisms nor as to what any deal will look like three months on. However, we can at least begin to make some conclusions and it seems that one of the beneficiaries of the referendum will be the UK travel industry.

Firstly and most critically, the pound's fall is precipitous and, in general, bad for the overall UK economic health. As a net importer with a pretty parlous balance of payments, it is going to be more expensive for the UK to buy goods and services and therefore add to inflation. However, for inbound travel to the UK, it is a big boon, with travel becoming nearly 10% cheaper overnight for the Americans. Indeed for euro holders, they can buy nearly 19% more pounds at the time of writing than they could at a high point in November last year. It is unlikely that the pound is going to recoup many of these losses due to the economic environment and the Bank of England's potential to cut interest rates rather than raise them. A Bloomberg survey reckons that the pound will finish up this year at $1.28. With a competitive accommodation market and an increasing number of air connections, particularly across the pond to North America, the UK is looking good from a pricing perspective for international travellers.


This also plays well for the UK domestic tourism scene. Naturally, travel abroad is now significantly more expensive for UK tourists. Indeed, such have been the fluctuations that some UK holidaymakers were required to pay a surcharge after the referendum to cover the extra cost incurred by the travel provider. This is going to push UK tourists to consider holidaying at home this year and next.

Furthermore, the UK's economic environment is widely anticipated to worsen in 2017 due to Brexit, although if the UK government puts off triggering Article 50 past even that year, it might perform better. Consensus forecasts estimate that the UK will struggle past stagnation but struggle to grow by more than 1%. Given inflation and uncertainty wage growth is expected to be worse, as will the hiring environment. Well if that all seems bad, take heart as during the Financial Crisis and subsequent weak periods for the UK economy, domestic trips performed well just as international journeys fell.

Britain's aren't keen to give up their holidays, with research showing they take up all of their allotted holiday on average, and so largely substitute more expensive foreign travel for shorter breaks within the country. Companies such as Center Parcs performed well in the previous downturn and EyeforTravel's consumer survey - conducted just before the referendum - showed that 61% of consumers already planned some sort of vacation in the UK.

For both UK and international travel consumers there is also the perception of a terrorist threat in several mainland European tourist destinations. I feel that I should point out to everyone that is reading this at their desk that you are far more likely to die at your workplace than in a terrorist attack but nonetheless these actions do affect people's travel choices. Last year's Paris attacks negatively affected the city's tourism market and we have seen Spain and Portugal's bookings over the last 18 months benefit massively from instability in other Mediterranean destinations. The UK has many of the cultural attractions of France and Germany but has not seen a successful major attack inside the country for nearly a decade, meaning it will seem a more attractive destination in the medium term from this perspective barring a successfully prosecuted and substantial attack.

As any good analytics or data professional will tell you, the past is by no means a guaranteed predictor of the future. However, given all of the above I think we can be fairly confident of a strong domestic performance in the UK, especially as the Eurozone is cautiously growing, as is the US. Great British businesses have every right to be concerned right now but perhaps those in travel can look forward with more optimism than most.

To find out more about current and future trends in UK travel download our UK Consumer Report now. You can also get the pulse of the European travel industry face-to-face at EyeforTravel Europe 2017, our largest event on the continent.

Alex Hadwick
Head of Research, EyeforTravel


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Last chance to showcase your start-up or innovation at EyeforTravel N. America 2016

The entry deadline for the Awards, which Terry Jones, Executive Chairman Wayblazer and Founding Chairman Kayak.com, has recently joined as a judge, is this Friday September 9th.

The travel industry’s hottest start-ups and innovators will have the chance to pitch to top industry investors at EyeforTravel’s Start-Up & Innovation in Travel Awards (October 6-7). Taking place as part of EyeforTravel North America 2016 at the Palms Las Vegas, successful applications stand the chance to receive much needed advice, funding and exposure against a backdrop of a new wave of innovation in mobile, data and technology.

Attracting capital and generating a buzz around a product are among the major challenges facing start-ups today and all successful firms will have the opportunity to pitch in front of the panel of judges and investors, which includes Terry Jones, Executive Chairman Wayblazer and Founding Chairman Kayak.com, Saad Siddiqui, Investor, Edgewood Management LLC,George R. Arabian, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Steelhead Ventures, LLC and Tim Henstchel, CEO, HotelPlanner

"EyeforTravel runs the Start-up & Innovation Awards each year as we have seen first-hand what an unbeatable way it is for brands that are innovating and improving the travel experience to promote their product to investors, experts and the industry" says EyeforTravel’s Managing Director Tim Gunstone.

The lucky top two selected by the judging panel will have the opportunity to impress over 450+ senior executives from leading travel brands, including Priceline, American Airlines, Hyatt Hotels, TripAdvisor, Skyscanner and Southwest Airlines, during the keynote session on Day 2 of the event. Live voting by the conference attendees will decide the company to be crowned winner.

Not only have previous entries received funding as a result of the Awards, they have also had the opportunity to meet and do business with travel industry peers.

To enter costs $1295 and includes subsidized access to both days of the TDS N. America conference, as well as the networking opportunities.  More information and details on how to enter can be found here - http://events.eyefortravel.com/travel-distribution-summit-north-america/awards.php

All entries must be received by September 9th 2016.

The Last Chance discounted rates for attendees not entering the Awards also expire this Friday, register today to avoid paying the full price – http://events.eyefortravel.com/travel-distribution-summit-north-america/registration.php

For all event enquiries contact:
Julia Heighton
Global Conference Director
EyeforTravel 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Turn Global Uncertainty on It's Head

This blog post was written by Julia Heighton, the organizer of EyeforTravel’s flagship event TDS N. America 2016, taking place in Las Vegas on October 6-7.



In times of global turmoil, the travel industry is often the first to be adversely affected. With Brexit, talks of another recession and unrest on a global level, there is plenty for travel brands to fear.

Fortunately, with uncertainty comes profound opportunities. Innovation in the industry is booming and consumers in the US are more likely to travel now than they were 10 years ago. Now is the time to ensure your brand is positioned to effectively win these customers and take valuable market share from your competitors, before they take it from you.

Here are 6 key areas travel brands should be focusing on to stay ahead of the competition:

·        Customer experience – Gone are the days when the quality of your product was the key differentiator between you and your competitors. Now you are judged on the interaction your customer has with your brand at every touchpoint. It’s absolutely crucial to take advantage of the fast growing innovation in the industry and ensure you are providing a consistent, seamless, user friendly experience at every stage of the customer journey. True customer centricity starts with thinking what will make your customer’s life easier, not your own.

·         Online reputation – Word of mouth is now the most influential form of marketing. Online reviews, social media posts and user-generated content are fast growing and a huge opportunity for travel brands to use what their customers are saying about them to further increase sales. Remember, even bad reviews are a chance to engage with customers, show the human side of your brand and hopefully turn a negative experience into a positive one which will result in a loyal, repeat customer.

·         Partnerships - The changing world of ground transportation, corporate travel, group travel and property management companies means the travel ecosystem is becoming increasingly interconnected. Forming partnerships with other travel brands is now crucial to exceed customer expectations and cater to their needs throughout all stages of their trip.

·         Distribution – The cost of acquisition is rising and the increasing amount of channels available is making your product’s route to market extremely complex. Now is the time to develop a distribution strategy which looks at the true value each channel brings to your business so you can optimize the most profitable ones and cut those that aren’t delivering.

·         Revenue Management – The role of Revenue Managers is rapidly changing and the long-awaited innovation in RM systems means this function is now a central force in aligning departments and achieving the ultimate goal of increasing profits and driving growth. Ensure these teams are equipped with the systems and talent to really drive change and innovation throughout your organization and you will reap the rewards.

·         Personalization – Treating your customers like individuals and catering to their personal preferences is a huge opportunity to increase engagement and drive loyalty. Investing in technology which will allow you to easily interpret your data and turn it into actionable strategies is crucial to deliver true personalization.

These might sound like good ideas and in an ideal world you would execute them all tomorrow but what is actually a good starting point when budgets and time are precious? At EyeforTravel we believe there is no better way to stay ahead of industry trends and learn how to implement innovative strategies than by meeting and benchmarking against your peers, which is why we launched TDS N. America almost 20 years ago.

The only industry event where you won’t just hear from strategy setting CEOs but executives who are doing the same job as you and share your challenges and interests. With 60+ expert speakers sharing real-life case studies and insights relating to the areas of opportunity we’ve outlined above, TDS N. America 2016 is your platform to turn global uncertainty on its head and deliver growth across your organization.

Download the event brochure now to find out how you can be a part the most informative and useful industry conference taking place this year - http://1.eyefortravel.com/LP=8156

Thursday, 21 July 2016

We’re changing!



Way back in 1997, EyeforTravel pioneered the Travel Distribution Summit, an event aimed at bringing together the breadth of the travel industry to discuss the impact of the internet on sales, marketing and distribution. A lot has changed in the past 20 years, from the early days of dial-up right through to the 4G smartphone era we all live in today.

The legacy of our ’97 Travel Distribution Summit has been a staple of the EyeforTravel calendar, but with our 20-year anniversary approaching, we are looking to evolve with the industry. As times have changed, so have we, so from now on our flagship European summit will be called EyeforTravel Europe.

EyeforTravel Europe will be our largest event outside of North America, and we will be aiming to be the one true EU meeting point for the travel industry. We also want to make sure that attendees can make the most of their time outside of the office. 

With all of our lives getting busier and busier, especially our work day, taking the time to research the plethora of events out there is never straight forward. This is the basis for building EyeforTravel Europe into the flagship that it is now, to make sure that if you can only make it to one event, it can give you the key insight for the entire year.

We always aim to bring the high-level strategic leadership of the C-suite, mixed in with the in-depth knowledge of department heads from key brands to make the event truly inspiring and insightful. So, in 2017 we’ll be back with our most in-depth content yet and more senior execs taking to the stage in our brand new (and much larger) venue in central London on 3-4th May 2017.

To see what has changed, register for updates on the summit by following this link: www.EyeforTravel.com/Europe2017

Looking forward to seeing you at EyeforTravel Europe!


Gav

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Evolution of Hotel Metasearch


This is a guest post written by Prasanna Veeraswami, VP of Products at HotelQuickly

A decade and a half ago, when the first set of OTA’s(Online Travel Aggregators/Agents) were born, travel planners were all of a sudden empowered with tools that enabled them to do all kinds of Hotel/Flight bookings without going to a traditional travel agent, while still being able to secure the best deal via comparison shopping. However in a few years, this gave birth to a unique problem of having to search in multiple OTA’s to find the best offer since a deal you found in one aggregator might not necessarily show up in all others. So it was a big headache –esp. to deal-hunters – when it came to finding the best deal available.

Thanks to the constant craving for disruption in the tech world, the Metasearch was born. The metasearch platforms (like Kayak,SkyScanner, Trivago etc) started providing a consolidated view of search results that compared travel products across OTAs and hotel brand owners, giving a fast and comprehensive view of product choice and almost instantaneous purchasing option. That is wonderful right? All problems solved!

Unfortunately not. The advent of Metasearch did help the users by providing a one stop shopping portal, but soon they also started breeding like rabbits! Shortly, where were so many clones executing on a similar functionality, but with strong disparities in the prices they fetched. So, a user now had to look up multiple metasearches to pick the best offer! So, eventually they didn’t completely resolve the laboriousness of online travel booking, but rather made it more tedious – especially around the hotel/accommodation space.

Also, both the OTA’s and metasearch platforms that target cater to Hotel booking bewilder the users with an overwhelming list of choices. Adding to that pain is the fact that it’s not easy for users to carefully select and book an accommodation based on the overall experience the property offers but rather primarily restricted to comparison based on low rates or latest offers. So, in my opinion it is time for the Metasearch industry to grow up. Below are some of the areas of innovation I can think of that will lead to the next stage in the evolution:

Going Beyond Price Comparison
  • Not everyone wants to book a hotel based on the best deal or the lowest rates. So add more focus on the comparison of the overall Product rather than Price alone
  • Highlight the differences in the actual product in a better way – Not just as Filters!
  • What this means in the hotel sector is start comparing the various aspects of the hotel( like suitability for business travelers, romantic travelers etc.) or their individual attributes like
  • Compare attributes of the Property

Going beyond plain User reviews & ratings
  • Evolve the Meta-reviews even further.
  • Instead of just showing Raw reviews start comparing and ranking accommodations based on their meta-review aspects like Location, Amenities(Trust You already provides such ratings)

Adding more Personalization
  • Understand the consumer behavior to boost hotel bookings.
  • Present to the user only a targeted shortlist through which they can then systematically filter through to find a hotel that suits their specific taste. Replacing the completely impersonalized – and largely unorganized - list with highly relevant & recommended set would help in relieving the users from the typical decision making fatigue they go through.

Tap into the power of Machine Learning
  • Understanding Natural language queries
  • Example: when someone types in a request for a ”boutique hotel in Barcelona that’s great for families, close to the best tourist attractions and has in-room Wi-Fi”, the system should offer a perfect match that meets these preferences.

Integrate Personalization & Machine Learning

Rating the provider/supplier
  • Instead of just showing all the deals offered by various suppliers start informing the user on the rating of each supplier based on the overall experience they provided to the user for a booking
  • Some Metasearches actually rank the offers based on the Supplier’s performance, but this is quite opaque at this point and more tied to the benefit of the Metasearch(like commission rate, liquidation prospect etc.,) than focusing on the user delight and experience. In any case there needs to be an indicator about how good a supplier is (like how AMAZON.COM does for their marketplace vendors, so that the users can order only from a trusted vendor though there might be cheaper deals offered by an unreliable vendor.

Don't miss out on important industry analysis, sign up for the newsletter here: http://1.eyefortravel.com/LP=3387

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Partnerships in Travel Are Key to Growth


Disruption in the travel industry is the new normal. A rapid pace of innovation and consolidation is forever changing the travel landscape and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon. Now more than ever you need to understand key market trends to determine how you will be hit and how you can grow.


Travel brands need good relationships with all their partners but it’s not always the obvious players that will sell the product. Distribution execs need to work harder than ever to identify the owners of profitable niche communities and understand that whilst pricing is a key driver in our consolidated and competitive industry, innovative distribution strategies will make you profitable.

You need to provide your customer with an experience which genuinely enhances your product offering. You need to take advantage of innovations in technology that will enable you to partner quickly with new players, experiment safely and still provide a seamless and consistent experience at every touchpoint. You need to cut the rising cost of acquisition and understand the true value each distribution partner.

 “It’s understanding which distribution partnerships work in our mobile age and then bringing together a heady manipulation of consumer insight, clever analytics and valuable products. This will make you useful and trusted and therefore profitable,” Says Tim Gunstone, Managing Director, EyeforTravel.

Recent research in preparation for EyeforTravel’s flagship event TDS N. America 2016 (Las Vegas, October 6-7) has revealed just how much travel brands are fighting to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change which is impacting the industry and which areas need to be addressed in order to drive growth.

50+ speakers will cover the biggest trends and challenges relating to distribution, revenue management, marketing, mobile and analytics. In addition, as customer experience has come up as a dominant theme in this year’s research there is a track dedicated solely to strategies which will engage and delight your customers.  To ensure no stone is left unturned the new for 2016 Spotlight On track explores key innovations in ground transportation, corporate travel, property management companies, group travel and how travel suppliers can forge better partnerships with these vital areas of the industry.

Speakers include Dan Christian, Chief Digital Officer, The Travel Corporation, Bill Keen, VP Mobile & Guest Experience, IHG, Sangita  Woerner, VP Marketing, Alaska Airlines and Todd Henrich, SVP Corporate Development, Priceline.

For more information about the event, check out the event website or get in touch with me at julia@eyefortravel.com

Julia Heighton
Global Conference Director, EyeforTravel
julia@eyefortravel.com

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Consumer confidence or consumer caution? The changing face of travel spending patterns

Three weeks ago I opened our European Summit in London. On the downside this turned out to be quite nerve-wracking and stressful. On the upside, it got me thinking about the state of the travel industry and led me to some interesting conclusions. Essentially, I wanted to ask whether we should be hiding under our beds, fearful of the future, or rubbing our hands with glee?

Well, firstly, we travel professionals are almost inevitably industrious, intelligent and devilishly good-looking, so no worries there. However, on a macroeconomic level things seem a bit more worrying. Slowing global growth, weaker developing economies, market instability, plunging commodity prices, high public and corporate indebtedness, the fragility of the European Union – these are all causes for concern and I could go on. It is certainly a materially weaker outlook than in 2015. Several central banks have thrown everything in their arsenal at trying to stimulate growth and inflation, encountering mixed results at best.

Within this context, it may seem all doom and gloom but there is a subtext that is critical to travel i.e. consumer spending and the way it is changing. Although median incomes have remained relatively static since the recession, consumers are spending more and critically, they are apportioning more of this spending to tourism and travel. Indeed, consumer spending is driving much of the remaining growth in developed economies.

So, on to the data that demonstrates these trends. In both graphs I have plotted wider spending against travel spending. The top graph is for the US where spending on durable goods and the value of goods imported (measures of spending physical items) have increased – albeit at fairly pedestrian rates since 2011 – whereas tourism spending growth has accelerated each year to a high of just under 16% last year. Similarly in Europe, as shown in the bottom graph, total spending has risen 7.9% since 2011 but the combined travel and tourism spend has risen 13.2%. Some of the individual components for this are displayed here as well, with transport services (passenger transport by all means) performing particularly well. 

Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Eurostat

I note the lack of rising incomes in particular because this should indicate a depressed outlook for the travel industry. Realistically, travel is a luxury good - or in economic terms an elastic good - to be put on the back burner in hard times. Therefore this potential trend is even more exciting because it is happening in spite of conventional wisdom.

It’s early days but this trend appears to be continuing into 2016. As I noted above, the growth outlook is weaker than in 2015 and consumer confidence is down, plus UK and US consumers are saving more of their income. However, travel spend remains robust.


So, hopefully this has given you a little bit of hope to ward off the negative sentiment bursting out of most news providers. Of course, we remain vulnerable to a recession but if this trend does continue to be supported by the data then we can expect tourism and leisure to be one of the strongest performing sectors over the next decade.

Alex Hadwick

Head of Research, EyeforTravel