Weekly Roundup #24: Travel, Tech, and Social Media
Once again, it’s time for a new Weekly Roundup on our blog and we’ve got all it takes for a quick recap. Interesting things have been happening this week in travel and hospitality, so make sure to take your weekly dose of information. Also, don’t forget to follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Until the next one, have a wonderful weekend!
Our trusted client Best Western is a big believer in boutique hotels. The chain is requiring franchisees that want to do renovations to reopen as Sadie or Aiden properties, boutique brands that launched last year. The allure of boutique offerings is two-fold, according to CEO David Kong: They appeal to larger groups of people, thereby increasing nightly occupancy. Boutiques also have no pricing benchmark in the hotel industry, meaning owners can charge what they like. “Customers like to gauge whether a rate is fair rate or not. So there’s always a rate ceiling for brands,” he said. “But if you have a boutique brand, then people don’t know how to think about it. They don’t know if it’s like the Best Western Plus or a Best Western Premiere.”
A study from Yieldify, a specialist in customer journey optimization, reveals that almost 42% of consumers are taking longer to book travel than five years ago. The ‘How We Book Now’ report says there are two main drivers for the increase, with almost half of consumers carrying “multiple purchase journeys” for each trip as almost half are booking each element separately. And, the increased volume of online travel sites has led to “analysis paralysis” with half of consumers saying they now visit more or many more sites than five years ago. The findings are similar to research carried out by Google and Phocuswright in 2017 with 55% of travelers saying they have to seek out too many sources of travel information before deciding. The Yieldify study shows that almost 80% of consumers say they visit multiple sites to just decide where they want to go. When it comes to making the booking, 46% of consumers say they are influenced by previous experience, 41% say reviews and 39% say price.
Online travel booking site Nustay A/S has filed a complaint to the European Union's antitrust regulator, claiming Expedia Group Inc. and Booking Holdings Inc. are trying to "kill off" the startup for offering lower prices and punishing hotels that appear on its site. The Danish company said the online travel giants were in breach of competition rules by trying to maintain "artificially high price levels" for hotel rooms -- thereby potentially trying to keep their commissions high -- by preventing Nustay from offering lower prices. Nustay said Expedia and Booking.com downgraded hotels in their search rankings if a hotel's prices were lower on a competing website, harming the hotels' ability to land bookings. Hotels, in turn, are pressuring Nustay to raise prices so they wouldn't lose more business on Booking and Expedia, it added.
Trends and Insights
There has been a lot of buzz over the last few months regarding Google’s entrance into online reputation for the hotel sector. Google is estimated to receive more reviews than any other individual source and 63% of consumers actively read these reviews. It’s becoming obvious that Google has slowly but surely become one of the most reliable and popular review sources. So how exactly does all of this impact your hotel business? Without a third party solution, like TrustYou, reviews can only be responded to through your Google My Business account. From experience, we know that there is often the issue that the owner of this account is not the same person/team/department who responds to reviews. This seemingly small detail has plagued many hoteliers who hesitate to share permissions, as well as adding an extra step to the review response strategy. As of right now, this is no longer the case. The TrustYou feedback solution, in coordination with Google, has recently integrated a direct response API that enables users to reply to Google reviews without leaving the feedback platform. Read our latest blog post to find out more about this exciting new feature.
Independent Hotel Show and Avvio have collaborated by speaking to hundreds of hoteliers about how the industry feels about the rise of OTAs (Online Travel Agencies). 150 hoteliers participated in the research, together accounting for millions of online bookings each year. In general, the OTAs are considered an important part of the marketing mix, however, the frustration regarding high commissions means the vast majority of hotels take the stimulation of direct bookings very seriously. 69% of hotels are totally or very committed to a book direct strategy. 94% of hotels receive/accept online bookings from OTAs. Check out the extended article for all the survey findings and the top 10 frustrations.
Asia Pacific (APAC) is the world's largest regional travel market. With rapid infrastructure development across airports, seaports, railroads, hotels, and highways, and disposable incomes on the rise, travel opportunity continues to expand regionwide. Aggregated total gross bookings for the 13 markets covered in Phocuswright's recent travel research report, Asia Pacific Online Travel Overview 2019, reached US$418.1 billion* in 2018, up 7% year over year. Burgeoning domestic travel demand, especially in China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, supported this growth, placing the region well ahead of both the U.S. and Europe.
It’s widely reported that Expedia dropped this currency as a payment option about a year ago, but others have persevered it. CheapAir, among the earliest platforms to accept Bitcoin for flights in 2013 following a request from a customer, believes it might remain the only online travel retailer in the United States to offer the payment option. The company, which also now accepts Bitcoin for hotels, says the currency is still a small part of revenue. However, according to Jeff Klee, CheapAir’s CEO, its crypto customers are very loyal and “even evangelize for us on social media.” He adds that Bitcoin customers tend to be younger, more often male and more international than those using more standard payment methods.
Two international hotel chains in mainland China have started using hi-tech innovations such as check-in facial recognition sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) room service features to improve the comfort and convenience of guests. The equipment being introduced by Marriott International and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts have been devised in collaboration with the nation’s leading technology companies. The hotel group said the check-in process could normally take at least three minutes, but even longer during peak times. However, the use of its facial recognition technology meant the check-in process could now be completed in less than a minute.