Tuesday 28 October 2008


Travel Distribution at a Crossroads

59% of online travel shoppers stop at online agents, like Travelocity, first, presumably to comparison shop. The average consumer makes 12 searches and visits 22 sites before they book (Uptake, June, 2008). To be found, you need to be seen on “appropriate” sites, even if you don’t get bookings from them. 95% of visitors to these sites do not buy on the site. In 2006, it was estimated that 70% of visitors to sites, like Expedia, ended up buying Direct from the supplier. This is why Expedia has moved into advertising, realizing that they do influence buying decisions at a growing rate. The GDS imposed minimum monthly billings as a way of charging for exposure.

In a fragmented global market, distributors emerged as the place to shop, and hotels have fully supported this channel. But distributors set their own rules and resell price. Prices in distribution are often much lower that the hotel-published rates. As competing distributors try to match rates, the pressure on hotel profitability is intense. Often, a hotel that could not meet a requested price would be dropped. In this aggressive distribution-driven market, the hotel Brand was eroded and rates fragmented.

The large hotel chains moved effectively to take back control with Best Rate Guarantees and by offering consumers the service (technology) they demanded (online costing, bookings, packaging).

Many travelers prefer to deal direct (i) and the technology is helping to drive more business direct to suppliers. Field Management Systems and small travel application developers and travel integrators, such as AXSES, play a large part in driving direct to supplier business.

Consider Intimate Hotels of Barbados. The Intimate portal is powered by AXSES arcRes Portal-keeper.com and arcRes-CRS (Central Reservations Systems). These solutions can be fully integrated with GDS, with the hotel bookings and Property Management System.

In this scenario, the small hotels manage rates and inventory on their own arcRes web booking engine, the Intimate Hotels Barbados Portal and 10 arcRes-powered channels, like BoookingsBarbados.com, BarbadosVacationSpecials.com, etc.

Global Distribution Systems (GDS) are an important part of the market mix and are now affordable for small hotels. GDS is the largest travel distribution network in the world. Over 600,000 international travel agents use them. In addition, many Internet Distribution Systems (IDS), such as Travelocity, have traditionally pulled content from the GDS to offer booking for resorts not signed with them.

The GDS have acted, to some extent, as a channel management tool for thousands of IDS sites. This, too, is changing, as IDS favour direct contracts with resorts and always put their own direct contracts on top of the list. We expect that IDS will drop GDS content when they have a critical mass of direct-contract suppliers.

The issue, then, is how many systems will you, as supplier, be required to manage.

Distribution is here to stay. It offers services, like comparison-shopping, that cannot be feasibly offered by a resort website. Travelers will continue to comparison-shop there to assess which supplier sites to visit.

The role of marketing is becoming very much the role of controlling content, rates, availability and visibility on the Internet (Channel Management).

Channel Management is a top priority of just about everyone in the travel marketing business. The technology is becoming affordable and easier to use. GDS suppliers are now rolling out integrated solutions to let hotels manage rates on other channels. Companies, like Rate Tiger, are reaching a critical mass and lowering their rates.

The new order is taking shape. New technology is driving direct business and making it easier to control and manage distribution. Technology is more accessible and affordable and Suppliers who use it are taking control.

1. PhoCusWright: "In fact, more than twice as many online travelers (36%) believe that the supplier-direct channel provides the best customer service, compared to 15% who choose the online travel agency channel. Even offline agencies, which are coveted for their personal touch in a technology-driven world, did not fare as well, with 33% claiming they provide the best customer service ...."

Friday 24 October 2008

Destination Marketing

Destination Marketing at a Crossroads

Not so very long ago a traveler had few options and the world of travel was pretty straightforward and perhaps a little too expensive।

Travelers went to their neigbourhood agent and pored over brochures, got advice and booked with the agent. Agents got to know the traveler well and could recommend vacations that suited. Travelers were well served, although the service was not necessarily timely or convenient.

Today the traveler is overwhelmed with armchair choices. Travelers who still go to agents often will first research on-line, and more and more of them are booking on-line. Arm-chair booking a holiday can be a tedious and time-consuming process. Travelers will look at several sites, consult friends and agents, read reviews on social sites, check airlines and look for the best value. Back and forth, they go looking at maybe a dozen sites.

Most people begin their holiday research by searching for destination guides (typically through Google). Often, they end up on Destination sites such as Tourism Authority sites, where the information is general, helpful but often limited in its ability to offer real in-depth comparison, shopping and planning services. The destination sites are often great for finding official resort websites, but the resort websites don’t present information in a consistent form and they are hard to compare.

Travelers move on to shopping sites like Expedia to compare resorts, to Trip Advisor to read reviews and to other sites to get more information and find deals. In the process they have a confusing and muddled array of information. The sites that help them most stick. The sites that don’t stick fall off the radar.

In the end the traveler will narrow down options to the few sites that help them most, the ones that give the best information and the best deals. They will narrow down the options to a few preferred resorts (unless it is an opaque site) and many will want to review the resort website, if they can find it. The traveler soon learns that it is impossible to get back to the actual resort because the shopping sites like Expedia, are a closed loop. All too often a search for a particular resort links them back to a shopping site. The big online portals have the budget and the knowhow to get listed on the Internet search engines (SEO); small hotels often don’t.

Destination sites are often the best place to find links to the official website of selected resorts, so the “clicked out traveler” may come back to the destination sites in the last stages of the decision making process. Many travelers prefer to book direct and most like to see the resort website. Convenience, value, service and after sales support drive the decision of where to buy, but all to often the hotel website is not convenient, does not offer the best value and can be difficult to find.

This buy cycle is not well documented, but it is intuitively understood. Its implications for travel websites are important.

The buying cycle and its implication for the destination supplier website

The Destination site is a pivotal point, Shoppers often use it first and may return to link to the resort that they have subsequently selected. The questions we ask are; how can the destination site hold onto that traffic or how do they get people to come back. It is unrealistic to expect the destination site to be the only place travelers go. So the real question therefore is, how do they get them back.

Building a compelling reason to return!

1. Provide online shopping

The challenge is in balancing integrity of information with on-line shopping, channel conflict and channel competition. The cost of a good destination site is rising. So operators are moving towards a business model that stresses income generation in an effort to make the site self-sustaining. But this comes at a price of muddling the roles and creating conflict with destination trade partners. Destinations can involve trade partners with affiliate marketing, but it is not always equitable and the question is who are the affiliates and where do tour operators fit. Destinations are reluctant to cut out the tour operator and agent and they don’t for the most part want to be either a travel agent or a tour operator।

2. Offer the tools travelers need.

Destinations can help travelers research by providing expert intelligent systems that learn who the traveler is and configure the experience based on unique requirement. These tools will necessary include offering comparison-shopping. Ideally the result will be to give the traveler the option to choose the channel, including dealing direct with the supplier. Word of mouth reviews and a traveler forum will also help keep them on the site and give the site top-of-mind recall. It is not appropriate for a destination site to link to Trip Advisor and such, as these are shopping channels that will not keep them coming back. Cost conscious travelers are always looking for a deal and the destination needs to offer a list of specials and deals and the ability to sign up for newsletters on specials and deals।

3. Award & create loyalty
Destinations have a great opportunity to reward repeat travelers and cooperate with airlines point systems to encourage them to book a destination hotel

4. Offer travelers their own website itinerary and own planning tools
There are huge opportunities for destinations to lead this charge by providing destination specific planning and a place to return to manage and share a holiday itinerary and the memories। Travelers should be able to build a personal website brochure by adding any page they look at to it. The traveler website should also be a comprehensive personal information resources and planning tool. Travelers may read and add reviews here, see a calendar of activities and events taking place during their holiday, and link to other social media sites and others like Tripit and Traveldk. It may include personalized maps showing the options they are interested, ranking them according to preferred and final selection etc.

Ultimately the Destination site is the key portal to support direct marketing for the destination suppliers. It must move beyond being a information site to becoming a system to help shoppers plan, compare and book, in harmony with its trade partners.

Links: http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/web-credibility/travel-booking.shtml

Monday 30 June 2008


Marketing at a Crossroads

No longer are the 4 P’s; Place, Price, Promotion and Product the main tenants of marketing. Marketing on the Internet is more about Relationships and Process.

Process is about technology, platform and intelligent, expert systems. Marshall McLuhan said a long time ago that the medium is the message. The Internet is a very sophisticated medium capable of delivering messages target to a single client, tuned to their precise interest at every point of purchase. It is automatic, re-engineering and personalizing the message for multiple users all in the same instance of time.

Your travel product, a travel experience, is as multidimensional as your clients. For example, you may cater to weddings and romance as well as lazy beach living, active holidays, gold vacations and gourmet dining. You can’t say it all at one time to one traveler. Information about your product must be engineered and differentiated; it must be made personal to each traveler.

Information must be malleable, configurable, searchable, accessible and delivered tailored to suite।

For example you may choose to advertise a golf holiday, you deliver content and images that are tailored to what you offer the golfer. You direct golfers to a special page dealing with that experience. You do this on your website, and on every channel you market on. – you cannot organize and deliver it manually. The process and platform configures and deliver the message dynamically. For this your information must be engineered with systems that are very smart, learning what motivates the clients and delivering the experience they are looking for. The difference is that the online message is a "Pull" message prompting an action, offline it is typically a "Push" message to gain awareness. With that the entire focus of marketing has changed. For more on this, see United Airlines Case Study by Double Click.

People are not talking to people at this stage, it’s a process, and the process understands people, gathering and analyzing information about them every step of the way. The smart systems (the Platform) tracks clients interaction, recognizing patterns, responding appropriately, managing and analyzing data in the process of building the digital relationship. See digital-relationships

But Process and Platform are not enough. In a complex integrated world, Partners are essential. Microsoft has said this clearly, telling its Value Added Resellers (VARS) to Partner or die!. Simply put you can do it all yourself, so you must rely on people with skills and passion that complements your own. The mechanics of Internet is very complex, we must cooperate to succeed; outsourcing is essential!

Finally, the Internet is driven by Passion. Thousands of ordinary people, professionals, workers, teachers and student donate time and resources freely, building content, services and applications that they feel passionate about. People are building relationships, offering comments, writing blogs, helping others, for free. This community has spawned the social network, which interacts and influences everything on the Internet.

Jason McNamara, CMO of Atlerian says that the new marketing is driven by passion, we need to be passionate about marketing and today, more that ever before, that means being passionate about understanding and measuring the digital footprint. ”Being able to apply sophisticated marketing analytics to every piece of information you collect about your customers is like bringing the customers themselves in-house to tell you not just what's working and what isn't, but why. You can use this passion to your advantage, helping generate ideas, proving their relevance, and justifying the money you spend” See Jason McNanara’s article on the new 5 P’s of marketing: People, Process, Platform, Passion and Partners (http://www.alterian.com/solutions/marketing.aspx)

###### Over 50% of leisure bookings are online in 2012. An estimated 89% of planners are researching event locations on the web.

Related Posts (at a crossroads series):

New Order of Commerce: 
Destination Marketing 

Distribution http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2008/10/distribution.html
Travel Marketing http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2009/05/travelmarketing.html
The Supplier http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2008/06/thesupplier.html
Marketing http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2008/06/marketing.html
Advertising http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2008/06/advertising.html
Search at a Crossroads http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2008/04/have-now-lost-their-opportunity-to-be.html
Publishing at a Crossroads http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2009/03/atacrossroads.html

Friday 20 June 2008


Who is the supplier of travel

It worries me that many of our small hotel customers, do not perceive themselves as suppliers. They often see themselves as a “product” “supplied” to the market by middlemen. Nothing is further from the truth. The hotel owner is the supplier of rooms and of an experience. Together these make up the core product of a holiday. The hotel owner should choose to be inventive and create total packages that fulfill the travelers dream”.

Ultimately travel marketing is about selling a dream, and each hotel is distinct, offering a unique experience. All of the tools the hotel needs to package an experience, even including airfare is available for direct bookings.

Believing that middlemen are suppliers erodes the hotel brand and places market leadership in the wrong hands. When consumers go to online channels to book reservations, they are influenced as much by the channel used to book the reservation as they are to the actual hotel they selected

It is time to take control.

Control of the channel is not about getting more sales out of middlemen – it is about offering a service that competes with middlemen, marketing your own brand and engaging customers directly; getting high margin sales at lowest costs, being in control of your market and your brand.

Max Starkov, Chief eBusiness Strategist, Hospitality eBusiness Strategies writes “The Internet is all about transparency, efficient distribution of information, and inexpensive e-commerce transactions. It is simply the best direct-to-consumer distribution channel ever created and it definitely favors supplier-buyer relationships”.

The trend is clear, the Internet is revolutionizing marketing with more and more travelers choosing to go to the suppliers website and book direct rather than with a middleman. Travelers say they feel they have more control working with the supplier directly, but they expect rates and services to be comparable.

There are now new tools and services for travel suppliers to help them provide the full set of interactive and social networking solutions expected। AXSES has been a pioneer, providing 'supplier centered tools' to manage and distribute travel products. These can be installed directly on the suppliers own website. They include:

  • Airfare ‘search and book’ that can be put right on the hotel website
  • Dynamic packaging that for hotel suppliers that adds activities that match travelers profiles
  • RSS feeds, blogs, travelers’ comments and travelers ratings
  • Website booking engine
  • Rates management and
  • A range of travel components that hotels can put on their sites

All of these may be integrated with:
  • Hotel Property Management Systems
  • Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and
  • The Internet Distribution Companies like Expedia.

What the middlemen do well is offer comparison shopping and search capabilities. AXSES bookings and reservation portals like http://bookingsBarbados.com, http://BookingsStlucia.com and http://CaribRes.com provides this also, but with this twist - requests and bookings are made directly with the hotel. (see axses arcRes supplier travel suites).

Unlike middlemen systems the hotel is not hidden and travelers can go direct to the hotel website at any time. There are popups and standard views of the information which travelers like as supplier websites follow no standard and it is confusing to compare several. All information on the direct channel (including websites content, amenities and features) is under the control of the Hotel.

These new tools are different to middlemen solutions for suppliers and destinations। The supplier-centered tools are designed from the ground up for suppliers, ie hotels, apartments, villas, activities and all tourism operators. They are configured to any set of rules and rate options. The tools are a powerful set of integrated suites to help tourism suppliers compete with all middlemen, for more high profit DIRECT business.

But be wary, not all who claim to be direct are!. Some marketers are jumping on the bandwagon, without credentials. A direct channel will not hide your brand, infact direct is about marketing your brand. A direct channel will allow users to go to your website and will not require guest to prepay the booking, deposit it in their bank, and pay you the balance less commissions. A direct channel gives you control on payment options, terms, content, rules, branding, and customers.

In 2008* 60% of online travelers chose to BUY Direct from the supplier, bypassing the middleman. The trend to direct is expected to continue. Merrill lynch forecasts that it will exceed 65% in the next 2 years. Current the large chains receive over 80% of online business direct (see trends by Merrill lynch HeBs).

We need to gear-up now for this market and take control

* Merill Lynch report is dated 2007, the table says 2008 but it probable is 2007. This is to be verified!

Thursday 19 June 2008


Advertising at a Crossroads

Free reports, Tips and Guises:

2015 Update - MediaPost call it an irrelevant argument -
See how Advertising Gets #Unbundled

Why The Biggest Debate In Advertising Is Irrelevant at MediaPost
Brands the say  ""We now care little about the record label and less about the singer or band"
I add add "and less about the brand, none of these are ny any means less vital, In fact consumption is up and all sectors gain, it just gets #UNBUNDLED (see link at end of article)

2013 update...
Its been a while since we forecast these changes and more.. So its rewarding to see this slideshow of the history of advertising. We were right on track in 2008 and today we are seeing search moving more into integrated marketing pushing search drops small hotels off of search results.

 At AXSES, we have been musing about the internet advertising business, wonder how it will evolve. With Google loosing ground to other choices, such as social networking, meta search, bookings and interactive services, it will not be long before they morph their business to give travelers what they want. Google decided not go the bookings route, and did not offer to buy Expedia. It has opted to move more into social networking see Google Travel Plans. MSN in contrast is moving to interactive shopping, with its purchase of Farecast.

In our view the days of static ads and list that link to websites are limited. We expect to see this change even on the search engines. Travelers need to be able to compare options and get fully costed holiday at a click.

Hitwise, the Internet statistics company recently noted a significant shift in searchers favouring Branded searches. “I looked at the top 300 search terms sending visits to Travel websites and found that more than three-quarters - 77% - of visits from these queries were from branded search terms such as “Hilton hotels” or “Expedia” in the four weeks ending April 26, 2008”, Heather Hopkins, VP Research, Hitwise UK.

Simple put, the Hitwise findings, mean searchers are now looking more for names they know and not relying as much on generic terms. If the trend continues, it will mean that we can’t rely on the search engines to help people discover our hotels for the first time. We can’t rely on a middleman to market us!. Marketing ourselves is something we can’t avoid.

In light of the trends to buy direct, it is interesting that Expedia is a top of mind search term. Yet Expedia reports, unofficially, that 70% of visitors to the their site use their list to find resort matching a budget, and then go directly to the resort website to make a contact and book. 95% of Expedia visitors do not buy from Expedia. Aware of this trend Expedia introduced a Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising option, similar to Google. Interesting indeed! Has Expedia seen the writing on the wall?. Perhaps they got the idea that they were the new search engine for travel. So now instead of paying 25-30% in commission advertisers are paying 30-40% and don’t have any control on their brand.

The Cost Per Click (CPC), is the cost to deliver a single customer to a website as a result of a paid listing or advertisement on a medium such as Google or Barbados.org.

In a recent study of advertising costs, AXSES revealed that the Cost Per Click on Barbados.org is now less than 1/5 of costs on sites such as Google.

But they are all static ads that link travelers to the advertisers website. In addition we do free listing for every resort in the destination.
All of them, not just advertisers.

Our next release will make these ads interactive and link directly to dynamic quotation, reserve and book options. Of course all direct to the advertisers. What this means is that Barbados.org advertisers will have interactive advertisements that allow travelers to get an immediate quote and to reserve or book a holiday package, including air, online, on almost every advertisement and listing on Barbados.org. Travelers will now be able to click a button on the advertisement itself and make a booking directly with the hotel right there and then,. and this is right across all media, even on Google maps. Pretty powerful when u consider that Barbados.org maps are on the Google website ((http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=http:%2F%2Fwww.barbadosbymap.com%2Fgeorss.php) )as well as on Barbados.org map pages (and http://barbadosbymap.com)

Couple low CPC advertising with bookable ads and the supplier centered technologies now in place with  axses travel platform and other supplier solution, and you get a powerful direct marketing solution: Enhancing suppliers brand and delivering commission free business directly to the tourism operator. Giving control back to the supplier. For AXSES Power Marketing Free Resources and Marketing Tips go to http://powerconsultants.axses.net/free-marketing-resources/

We look forward to hearing from. Do you agree, do you have a point of view?. Please let us know what you know!

Oh - Do read the MediaPost Article its very on target on how advertising is unbundled

Sunday 6 April 2008


Have search engines lost their opportunity to be a major player in the future of travel. What will happen if Google acquires Expedia. Will Search engines offer bookings!

Its clear that Global Distribution Systems, Social Networking, local knowledge, vertical search are a threat to the traditional search options.

Meta search travel sites like Kayak, offer better search for travel. Social networks and consumer sites like Tripadvisor, are improving the travel experience by offering relevant unbiased advise. Much favored over paid search results.

Social networking sites like TripAdvisor (acquired by Expedia), IgoUGo (acquired by Travelocity) are taking searches away from traditional search engines.
Kayak now receives more than 6 million unique visitors a month. Expedia has caught Googles attention but for now seems not to be a takeover target!. They are moving instead to create more social media and community content. Already, about 50% of travelers use some sort of online social media site to research their plans, says Rob Torres, Google’s managing director for Travel

The erosion of search in favour of these sites is with good reason. The travel technology platform has developed far beyond the capabilities of generic search.

Travelers need to know details on costs and features that are specific to their own unique requirements.

Travel Search engines like Kayak, sidestep (acquired by Kayak) do this. Underlying is a travel platform, including bookings and quotation systems like; http://arcres.com, and integrated solutions like http://BookingsFranchise.com

Traditional search engines, just don’t deliver these precise results. Try looking for a hotel near Bridgetown in Barbados in the price range of $250 to $500. Google will give you a lot of results, mostly links to booking sites. You need to go to a booking or quotation site like http://BookingsBarbados.com for this. Try searching for Barbados 5 star hotels, chances are that Sandy Lane voted one of the Top ten Hotels in the world will not be in the top lists. As the search engines move further down the road to paid clicks, search results become even more eroded, less relevant and still imprecise.

In addition to these trends, their is a growing list of specialty local sites like AXSES' own BookingsStlucia.com, Barbados Bookings and reservations center and Realholidays.com trip planning. These sites put users in contact with Hotels directly. More and more travelers want to contact their host. They feel they have better communications with a hotel as apposed to a meta site dealing with thousands of properties and thousands more travelers. The smaller regional sites also provide better on the location information, giving local knowledge and advise. Sites like http://realholidays.com, help travelers put together their own, made to measure itinerary, with options that may not be found anywhere else. Like star gazing with Leo, bring your own wine, he supplies the telescope and the story of the stars. You will not find that on Expedia or Kayak

"Seeking information and looking for perspective--like-minded experience and judgments--are currently trumping the straightforward hunt for the best price", says Douglas Quinby, senior director of research at PhoCusWright.

What we need is more consolidation through advanced information engineering. The future web will be about bringing services and technology together in a powerful information delivery system.



Latest Book Published in 2016 - Marketing Hotels and tourism Online #WEBSITE


Connecting You With Your Intimate Bot (semantic web3.0)

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