Archive for July, 2010

“Did you know?…”

Priceline adds last minute car rentals to mobile app
(USA Today)
Priceline’s popular iPhone app, which features name-your-own-price hotel deals aimed at last-minute bookers, now offers car rentals as well. Read more…

Business seat battle dominates Down Under

(MSNBC.com)
A battle over business class seats has broken out between Australia’s two domestic airlines who are pulling out all the stops with new technology and perks to lure executives into the front of their planes. Read more…

“Did you know?…”

Introducing WannaJet: Offering Private Jets at a Business Class Price
DuPont Registry Press Blog
The first private jet service offering seats on private flights at a fixed price, comparable to Business Class fares. Read more


Top Five Tips for Business Traveling

Business Travel Tips Blog

…There are some little-known tips and tricks that may come in handy when you travel for business, whether you’re traveling domestically or abroad. Here are five of the best little-known travel tips for business traveling. Read more

“Did you know?…”

Airline recovery spells good news for business travelers
USA Today – Travel
For the first time in a long while, a climate of “cautious optimism” pervades the airline industry as the economy rebounds and business travelers take to the road again.  Read more…
And the next airline to charge for carry-on bags is …
Consumer Traveler
A new mobile poll by Predicto says 72 percent of users think another airline will follow Spirit Airlines’ lead this year.  Read more…

A word about online airline complaints
Online Travel Review
Yes, people can respond online.  But as I mentioned a week ago, airline (and hotel) bashing has become so ubiquitous that I would argue it has absolutely no value at all.  Read more…

One-on-One with Victor Owens, Vice President, North American Marketing, Hotels.com

Each month, ExpertFlyer sits down with an executive in the travel industry to provide insight to changes in the industry and how it affects the way you do business.  It’s another way ExpertFlyer is providing additional information to empower the business traveler.

This month ExpertFlyer sat down with Victor Owens, Vice President, North American Marketing at Hotels.com, a leading online hotel review and booking site. Hotels.com offers information on more than 70,000 properties worldwide from hotels to bed-and-breakfasts to condos to all-inclusive resorts.

One of the trends we are noticing in the online travel arena is the extent to which social media and search are complementing the online travel website experience.  This is leading to an evolution of how travel is planned and booked, where travelers get more relevant advice about their future trips, as well as better offers from companies to fulfill those needs.”

– Victor Owens, vice president, North American Marketing, Hotels.com

What does Hotels.com do that other online travel industry aggregators do not?

Hotels.com is the smarter way to book. We have more than 20 years of experience selling lodging in over 60 countries worldwide. We also pioneered the annual Hotel Price Index (HPI) ™ that reports on actual hotel prices paid around the world.

 

Who is your typical customer and why do they use your services over other options?

Our customers come from all walks of life, because we offer something for everyone. For the cost conscious, infrequent traveler, we offer seasonal and last minute deals. For business travelers, they can get more value out of their travel dollars by using our site and earning WelcomeRewards nights. And for families, we have more than 60,000 hotels to choose from. Plus, our guest reviews and ratings help you know before you go.

 

What changes are you seeing in the online hotel booking arena that are either interesting or surprising?

One of the interesting things to me is the rising level of comfort that consumers have with booking more traditional “complicated” travel, e.g., international trips, online.  The overall percentage of travel being booked online is growing and these types of trips are growing faster and faster on a percentage basis.  Another interesting development is the speed at which mobile travel applications are taking off.  While it certainly has been expected that these types of services would grow as smartphone adoption soared, the amount of research and planning taking place over mobile devices has surpassed most initial expectations.  It is no longer enough to think that mobile is the future, it is happening now and if you don’t have a strategy and approach to this audience (often incremental to your typical online audience) you will be left behind.

 

In general, what’s happening in the Hotel industry at large and what do you see as up and coming trends?

I think the general consensus is that the Hotel industry reached its low point in 2009 and has been working on a recovery, albeit slowly, in 2010.   From an overall industry perspective, transient business has held up relatively strong in 2010 and group business is working on its own upturn as well which should bode well going into 2011.  Of course, this is greatly dependent upon our ability to continue to reemerge out of the recession in an orderly fashion.

 

One of the trends we are noticing in the online travel arena is the extent to which social media (like Facebook and Twitter) and search (especially mobile search) are complementing the online travel website experience.  This is leading to an evolution of how travel plans are planned and booked, where travelers get more relevant advice about their future trips as well as better offers from companies to fulfill those needs.

 

How are these trends shaping Hotels.com’s offerings and operations?

Recently we launched VirtualVacation from Hotels.com – a 3-D augmented reality experience. Through the microsite www.virtualvacay.com  you can research your trip, send postcards and explore popular travel destinations, all from your computer.  Through the site, users interact via webcam motion detection and microphone connectivity in a fun and entertaining way.

 

Tell us about Hotels.com WelcomeRewards program?  Are there any plans for new offerings or changes to the program this year?

WelcomeRewards® is simple and smart. Book and stay 10 nights and get the 11th night free. It’s the fastest way to a free night versus any site out there. Thus far, we’ve given away more than 100,000 free nights and the program is growing.   We are very excited about this industry-leading program and we are exploring ways to make it more accessible and valuable to small business customers in the future.

 

Are there any specific offerings or programs designed to benefit business travelers and frequent flyers, i.e. relationships with airlines, collaborative programs?

In addition to WelcomeRewards, we also are planning a high-touch, white-glove customer service offering for our valued road warriors and frequent bookers on Hotels.com.   This service has been in testing for a few quarters now and our results are very encouraging in terms of the customer satisfaction scores the effort is yielding.   Be on the lookout for the launch of this program in the next few months.

 

In what areas do you see the next uptick? (High end, budget, leisure, business, etc.?)

Research about travel is one of the top activities completed online and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  While I think an economic recovery bodes well for the entirety of the hotel and lodging industry – high end, leisure, business, and groups – I think the next big uptick will occur with those marketers that distinguish the experience they offer consumers.    The success of Google is evidence of what happens when someone provides an experience that consumers want – in their case, it’s about relevant, simple and fast search.  In our industry, the research and booking process can be fairly nondescript across the various players, so finding ways to stand out in the crowd as providing pertinent and eye-pleasing information about hotels and destinations at great prices in the smallest amount of time as possible becomes the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

How do you see Hotels.com’s business helped or hurt by Google now showing hotel price listings on Google Map results?

Hotels.com exists in a competitive marketplace; there are many options available to consumers today. We have a strong affiliate program and work with various online sites to increase opportunities for people to book through Hotels.com.

 

Can you tell us which airlines you work with to create special offers or co-promotions?

We partner with most of the major airlines – including Airtran, American, Delta, Continental, US Airways, Midwest and United — to provide our customers great flight options to go along with their hotel bookings.

 

Is Hotels.com offering any special programs or promotions for the summer?

Hotels.com is giving away a lifetime of vacations. “I Need A Vacation” with the Win a Vacation for Life prize is the biggest promotion Hotels.com has ever done. Contestants can log-on to www.hotels.com/ineedavacation to register to enter the Hotels.com summer sweepstakes. Entries are voted upon after users upload the funniest, most creative and compelling photo of themselves, which shows why they deserve a vacation. The contest continues throughout the summer with a winner announced in early September. You can win daily prizes based on votes or if you’re camera-shy, you can win just for voting.

“Did you know?…”

Google reserves ITA for itself
The Economist | Business Travel – Gulliver Blog

Google has just snapped up ITA Software in a deal worth some $700m. The search behemoth says it is getting its hands on ITA, which gathers and processes flight information such as seat pricing and availability, to make it easier for people to find quickly the flights they want at the very best prices.  Read more…

Virgin America CEO David Cush opens up
San Francisco Chronicle | City Brights

Check out what Virgin America CEO, David Cush, has to say about flights to Chicago, Virgin’s appeal to business travelers, his vision for SFO’s Terminal 2, Virgin’s improving financial performance, and how its SFO market compares to its LAX market.  Read more…