Wednesday 26 October 2011

7 Key Mobile Take-Aways from EyeforTravel Amsterdam

Mobile featured prominently at EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing & Social Media Strategies for Travel conference earlier this month in Amsterdam.

Here are my 7 key take-aways from the mobile sessions featured –

1)      Get a mobile friendly website – it’s predicted that by 2015 there will be more searches via mobile than via PCs.  In the last quarter a 59% of travel brands said they did not allocate any budget to mobile.  That’s a pretty worrying statistic!   It’s not that hard to make a website mobile friendly yet not enough travel brands are doing so.  Let’s hope it’s an essential part of all travel company’s e-commerce plans for 2012!

2)      Don’t jump on the mobile app bandwagon without careful thought - it’s essential to understand what you want to achieve from having a mobile app before developing one.   Apps can be a money pit, needing constant updates and consumer engagement tactics to keep customers using it.  They also need strong marketing strategies to make them work. Developing an app should therefore be seen as a long term commitment.  Christelle Chan from said they see it as a way for them to retain valuable customers.  Apps also serve a different purpose to a mobile website (read on for more details)

3)      Consider where your customers are engaging via mobile – found that those browsing their mobile website tended be in more of a rush (they were often on a trip or, for example, stranded in the ash cloud) than those browsing through their apps (who were often on the train or at using the app at their leisure)

4)      Invest in marketing your mobile products – all of the speakers at the event emphasized that it’s of paramount importance of marketing your mobile products effectively.  Budget needs to set aside for effective mobile marketing.  Adam Goldstein from Hipmunk highlighted the value of the free PR gained through launching their apps but not all companies can achieve this.   According to David Gelabert from Melia Hotels, 80% of branded apps fail to achieve 1,000 downloads.  Indeed, found nothing happened until they started marketing their app.   App store ratings count and awareness and downloads must be encouraged on a country by country basis.
5)      Mobile redefines the search space – The no.1 place for consumers to search online in Europe is through Google.  In the mobile space this is different.  App stores for example act like search engines.   The number of downloads of your app matters.  Marketing efforts must also be tailored to the target countries.  App reviews should be encouraged.

6)      Don’t underestimate the value of the tablet –Laptops and desktops are likely, in some cases, to be replaced in the home by tablets.  Media consumption is therefore inevitably set to increase via the tablet.  This provides an ideal opportunity for travel brands to reach customers at the inspirational stage.  Tablet users have more disposable income and a higher propensity to travel (but of course they are not everyone’s target audience!).

7)      Consider the multi-platform user experience – customers are increasingly likely to experience your brand across different platforms.   Simple things like ensuring that customer accounts are synchronised across multiple platforms can help to improve the customer experience of your brand

Don’t forget that you can stay up-to-date with mobile – follow @eyefortravel on Twitter for updates from across the industry!

By Gina Baillie

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Mumbai Rocks… but the world does not know it

I am just back from one of my favourite cities, Mumbai. I spent last week running our information packed (and ever so slightly stressful) Indian conference and expo. The show examines how the huge Indian travel market is adopting to web, mobile and social media. As ever in Mumbai, last minute surprises abounded but the debates were incredibly informative. The potential facing the company that can tap this market is huge.

Several comments from Azran Osman Rani the CEO of AirAsia X did grab my attention.

First, alliances are doomed due to inherent costs and the proliferation of on-line tools that by pass the goods. In addition Building brand equity for your airline customers is vital. As alliances cut out brands, alliances will die. He also mentioned that what LCCS save on distribution costs they spend on brand.

Second, and in relation to the Indian market he can sell flights to Indians going back and forth but has a huge problem creating India as a destination. An “Overwhelming percentage of passenger mix are people from India. Normally when we fly to Japan, Australia or Europe we start with 60 -70% passenger mix from Malaysia and Asia.” Day 1 for Air Asia our customers were from Delhi and Mumbai. To demonstrate the problem Mr Osman recalled how they had “5000 free seats from Delhi and Mumbai for Malaysians and only sold 3800.” Normally for any other destination such an offer would sell out in 2 hours.

As yet there seems little demand for visitors from Mr Osman’s Asian hub. Now KL is hardly the top of most travellers wish lists but as Mr Osman pointed out it’s the exciting islands and pulsating cities all around it that make it special.

Having spent just one week in Mumbai I know the rest of Asia is missing out but how the Indian travel companies and tourist board can counter this will be a major challenge. One thing I know for sure is that the battle for the Asian traveller will be won and lost on-line and I am sure we will hear more at our next Indian summit in July again in Mumbai. Please note we have brought it forward by a few months!

By Tim Gunstone

Friday 14 October 2011

5 Key Social Media Take Aways From EyeforTravel Amsterdam

I’ve just returned from EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing & Social Media in Travel Summit in Amsterdam.   Here’s a quick summary of my key 5 social media take-aways.

1)    Effective engagement is everything

Engagement was definitely the word of the event.  Learn to understand what your customers are interested in and then engage with them in a way that is more likely to prompt a response.   Natasja Fortuin from the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions found that simply changing the way they spoke to their Facebook fans lead to far higher engagement.   

For example –

Instead of an ‘announcement style’ -
‘The official opening of Keukenhof 2011 is in exactly one month from tomorrow!’

They tried asking questions –
‘The official opening of Keukenhof 2011 is starting with the dedication of the Vincent Van Gogh tulip.  If you could dedicate a tulip to anyone, who would it be?’

The second post received a much greater response.  

2)   Make it as easy as possible for your customers to share with their peers that they like your brand
     Shashank from SimpliFlying shared an interesting case study of a Uruguayan airline called Pluna who adds a tweet option to the step between entering their booking details and receiving full confirmation details.  At this stage, whilst waiting for their confirmation, the customer is asked if they would like to tweet the fact they have booked their trip.  The pre-populated tweet contains the fact they are flying Pluna to a certain destination.  People love to brag about their travel plans.  Simple – but effective.

3)   Measuring the ROI of social media is possible

Barbara Pezzi from Fairmont Raffle hotels shared detailed tips on how to measure social media ROI.  Many brands fail at the first hurdle.  They dabble with social media with no idea what they are trying to achieve.  Setting KPIs is possible.  For example, is it important for your brand to increase bookings from loyalty members?  Do you want to service the customer?  Do you want to gain PR?

Stay clear of using formulas to measure the precise monetary value of a Facebook fan or Twitter follower - it’s meaningless.

Use as many free measurement tools as possible.  Google analytics is vital.  Other useful free tools include,,,,, and many more!
4) Video is big

YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine.  Video lends itself to travel products and services and can be a great way to highlight the best things about your product at a low cost.  Danny Barrasso from Hilton shared a number of ‘homemade’ style affordable videos including this one from the staff at their property near the site of ground zero in NYC -

KLM also saw nearly 1.5 million page views from this video which was made at Schiphol airport which serves to emphasize the marketing message that KLM they have more leg room on flights -

5)    User reviews are here to stay

The number of review sites continues to grow and user reviews will continue to remain a deciding factor in the consumers purchasing decision process.  Making it as easy as possible for customers to see reviews which are as relevant to them as possible is important.  Brands such as TrustYou aggregate together the reviews from different review sites into your own travel site allowing consumers to read them without leaving the your website.

Can’t wait until the next EyeforTravel Social Media event which will be in San Francisco!

By Gina Baillie

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Google Tightens the Screw on OTA’s: How Can They Fight back?

By Marco Saio, Global Director Of Research, EyeforTravel

Google’s recent spate of new product launches and acquisitions has undoubtedly raised many an eyebrow and pulse amongst travel’s old guard intermediaries this summer. Most concerning is the incredible functionality, transparency and ease-of-use of Google’s Hotel Finder and Flight Search which enable users to refine, sort and compare travel searches like never before.

Google’s intentions toward the online travel vertical were made plain after its $700 Million acquisition of ITA Software, giving Google unprecedented access to flight data and advanced search technology which was swiftly put to use.

A recent Experian Hitwise travel search study revealed that neither of Google’s search products have broken into the top 50 highest traffic travel websites in the U.S since launching this summer. The top 10 paints a very rosy picture for OTA’s and meta-search engines, but how long before we see a significant re-shuffle?

Percentage of Visits
Previous Position
Yahoo! Travel
Bing Travel

 Google Flight Search came in at # 391.

 At a recent EyeforTravel summit Google’s head of Travel claimed that no OTA’s were deliberately ignored, but it’s easy to see how both search products stand to create a lucrative OTA advertising platform for Google in which the highest  bidder will likely secure the consumer.

 So what can OTA’s do to hold their ground and protect market share?

1.       Pump more money into their marketing campaigns, entrench their brand and services with customers to cement loyalty and increase switching costs. See Expedia’s current multi-million $ TV advertising campaign across Europe.
2.       Invest more in technology to drive greater speed of search, price transparency and enhanced user experience use to attract, delight and retain loyal customers. See Hipmunk’s inspired  flight search by ‘agony/ecstasy’ or Hotel Tonight for its beautifully simple booking system.
3.        Focus more on great value package deals and loyalty reward schemes to satisfy today’s time starved, budget conscious and hyper-savvy traveller – Areas where both Google’s products cannot compete… Yet.
4.       Forge strategic partnerships and alliances with suppliers à la Air Asia – Expedia tie-up .Co-opting in this manner enables rivals to join forces and competencies to create a long-term competitive advantage.
5.       Enter the social/flash buying melée to give existing customers greater value and ‘win’ (read bribe) new customers. Prime examples of this are the Expedia-Groupon Getaways and Priceline’s recent Tonight-Only Deals . However with both Google Offers and Facebook deals in Beta, the race for mindshare and adoption is on.

Interestingly, following on from Google’s acquisition on Zagat, Kayak today announced a partnership with Frommer’s and Budget Travel in which user reviews and comments are aggregated and displayed alongside search results.

All these parries and counters clearly demonstrate how high Google has raised the stakes in the travel search game, and how seriously intermediaries are taking the threat to their long uncontested business models. Who will win out in the battle for mind and market share?

Thursday 6 October 2011

Fighter Jets at The Ready: An Industry Overview on Google Flights

It would be wrong to let another week go by without a blog post on the Google Flights search shenanigans. I’ve been busy researching for next year’s TDS Europe Summit in London, and there’s no doubt that this is the number one topic on everyone’s lips.

We’ve been curious since the ITA acquisition that Google would be experimenting with meta-search and here is the product (along with Google Hotels too, which only differs because it doesn’t just promote the direct channel, also OTAs). Both have only launched in the US and haven’t been widely advertised, but regardless it is certainly one of 2011’s most interesting developments.

The Flights function may encourage the consumer to book direct through the supplier, which begs the question, should the intermediaries (and also the meta-search sites of course) be prepared for Google travel domination? Intermediaries seem relatively un-nervous (from my conversations so far) but of course watchful eyes are upon the “elephant in the room.” Perhaps this is because Google Flights (and subsequently Google Hotels) won’t be offering a full range of products or services in the same way, and also Google has openly spoken about their pledge to never sell travel directly.

Google has (and still is) distributing and advertising for meta-search sites, but will they be pushing Google Flights from now on above all else? What will happen to paid keywords and paid advertising space via Google? A lot of my industry contacts have been asking these questions with genuine concern. Skyscanner has a particularly good grip on the European market with a large, solid fan base for consumers and business partners alike. So, what is Google Flights offering that Skyscanner doesn’t? Certainly nothing superior (in my humble opinion) other than time. What do I mean? Well- with the majority of people globally now using Google as their designated homepage (although Facebook is on the up and up too), Google Flights has the lazy factor. Type in that you need a flight from Los Angeles to New York, and there you go, it’s all listed after just one click. But- is that enough?

We’ll all wait with anticipation for more developments! It would be fantastic to hear any thoughts on this topic. Drop them to me via email- or tweet me at @rosieakenhead

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Win a Free Ticket to EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing & Social Media in Travel Summit Next Week!

EyeforTravel is giving away one free pass for one lucky person to attend EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing & Social Media in Travel Summit next week (10-11 October) in Amsterdam.

The 2 day conference sees top online marketing, mobile and social media gurus from across Europe convene for an info-packed programme of learning and networking.    Highlights include –
  • Balance Key New Marketing Trends With Limited Time & Resources – Hear from Hilton, Sabre Hospitality Solutions
  • Flash Sales – Debate the Value of Publishing, Last Minute Sell and Group Buying Sites – Hear from Groupon, LivingSocial, Travel Exclusive, Jetsetter
  • Mobile: Understand What Key Issues You Need to Master to Start Profiting From Mobile – Hear from Hipmunk, Sixt Rent-a-Car, Melia Hotels
  • Connecting the Dots – How to Ensure a Consistent Marketing Message Across All Consumer Touch PointsHear from IHG, Design Hotels, Wyndham, Expedia Media Solutions
  • Get One Step Closer to That Elusive ROI – Step Up Your Social Media Tracking & Analytics & Determine What Success Means For Your Business – Hear from Fairmont Raffles Hotels, Valencia Tourism Board
  • Search: Understand A Changed Online Travel Search Landscape – Hear from Octopus Travel, Low Cost Travel Group, Responsible Travel
  • You can read the full event programme here
Want to be at the show?  To enter the competition (which is only open for the next 48 hours), simply tweet in 140 characters why you want to be at the event.  You must include the event hashtag #smtravel11 in order to be considered. 

Is there a particular session you just can’t face missing out on?  Is it the fantastic networking opportunities at the event?   Is it the chance to be at the final of the Social Media Awards for Excellence?

Take a look at the ‘Useful Information’ section of the event website – you’ll see that there are lots of reasons why so many top travel gurus will be there!

Entries must be made between 12pm GMT Tuesday 4th October and 12pm GMT Thursday 6th October.  The winner will be drawn from the list of those who have entered the competition and announced via this blog on Thursday afternoon.

*If you would like to be guaranteed a place at the conference then please note that there are now only limited places available at the summit.   To be guaranteed a space then it is recommended that you sign up through registering online or emailing   Should you be drawn as the winner of the competition, your pass will then be given to you free of charge (the same applies to those who have already registered for the event).

Good luck!