Booking Engine for National Tourism Organizations?

February 19, 2007

As many national tourism organizations all over the world hurry to provide hotel, air, car, and package reservation capabilities on their websites, either by building their own booking engine or by partnering by one of the major OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), it poses the question of the role of National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) or even state, provincial, regional, and teritorial Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs). By talking to different NTOs and DMOs over the past year, I learned the following: It really depends on the mandate and structure of the organization, as well as the situation of the destination itself. For some NTOs and DMOs it may make sense in going with a booking engine, but certainly not always. Not to go into too much detail, the NTO or DMO should ask itself the key questions: Do we create value to the travel industry we are serving as well as the consumer by becoming another intermediary? Can we operate a booking engine in different languages, as well as providing adequate customer service? Will we be more effective in this very competitive global environment, and can these revenue streams be leveraged to execute better marketing programs and drive traffic to the websites? Are we alianating our partners (hotels, airlines, tour operators, etc.) by potentially competing with them, or are we actually facilitating a better online service by providing booking capabilities directly on the destination’s website? Are there other ways to create a better online experience for consumers and make it easy to connect potential travelers to the right tourism supplier?

I found the EnglandNet (powered by TravelFusion on VisitBritain) debate in the UK interesting however. Even though, the Travelmole article is from July 2006, it touches this issue directly. Especially have a look at some of the User Comments below…

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Marketers need to understand the Website Experience

February 18, 2007

In a past CMO Magazine article, Hurwitz & Associates claimed that Marketers need insight into the online experience in order to build the brand and offer better customer service and more customized products – and I very much agree with the thoughts made in their great article.


 

IT managers or Webmasters typically have various ways to monitor the performance of a company website which may include real-time performance and availability alarms and dashboards. Sometimes these monitoring methods provide excellent technical information, but may fall short of describing the problem from the end user’s point of

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view. The effectiveness of these methods is increased if managers have a way to experience the site exactly as a customer would and implement technology which allows them to capture the entire user session and archive it in such a way that someone analyzing the customer experience can see the exact steps that a user went through to the point of failure. This can allow Web administrators to get to the root of the problem quickly before it impacts the business. Tealeaf is one of the companies that offer such technology solutions. Understanding what a customer is actually experiencing can go a long way to enhance that experience and build a better brand image.

· Brand – The value of brand cannot be underestimated. A site with a lot of ongoing problems will lose its reputation quickly, resulting in fewer sales.

· Increasing conversion – If users can’t complete a transaction, or are frustrated with navigating through a site because they have come to a page with an error on it they aren’t likely to become a buyer.

· Customer retention – If an established customer is having consistent problems with the site then there is a good chance of losing that customer.

· Decreasing cost – Finding problems with a site can take a long time, especially if someone cannot reproduce the sequence of events that led up to the problem. Between calls to customer support, and work done by engineering and QA, this can be a costly proposition.

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PairUp.com – New Business Travel Start-up

February 17, 2007

Pairup is a new company that wants to assist you in connection people when you travel — For now, anyone

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You can pull in your Outlook contacts. Then, if you tell Pairup that you’re headed to say, Chicago, Pairup pulls out the names of people in Chicago you may want to contact. It also lets you share your travel plans with others. Here’s how it works.
PairUp is about empowering the business traveler to reinvent his/her business trip by introducing the concept of connected travel, allowing businesspeople for the first time to easily

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share travel plans and instantly search for potential business connections at their next trip destination or industry event – across companies and across booking engines.

Esteban Sardera, the CEO and founder of the San Francisco start-up, is a one-man show. He used outsourced development (Russia), graphic designers he’d never met in person and Skype to communicate with these folks. No VC funding. Right now, clearly more

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New Hospitality and Tourism Marketing Textbook

February 15, 2007

A new Marketing Textbook for Hotel and Tourism Colleges has been published by Stowe Showemaker from the Conrad Hilton College at the University of Houston, Robert Lewis from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Peter Yesawich, Chairman at Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell. I just received a copy and have to say it is an outstanding book, and having talked to the authors, I know what an enormous undertaking this has been. So congratulations to the authors!

What makes the book unique are interviews with industry executives such as Michael Leven (former CEO of US Franchise Systems), Christian Hempell (Inter-Continental Hotels), Gary Leopold (ISM), Bruce Himelstein (Ritz Carlton), Tom Storey (Fairmont Hotels & Resorts), Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace (Caribbean Tourism Organization), Hirohide Abe (Hyatt), David Norton (Harah’s Entertainment), Peter Warren, Spencer Rascoff (Zillow.com, formerly Expedia), Terry Jicinsky

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(Las Vegas CVB) – and yours truly (Chapter 18: Ditribution Systems). Below is the author’s description of the book:

How do you gain a sustainable competitive advantage in today’s global hospitality industry? Are there ways to attract and keep

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a customer over the course of a lifetime? Marketing Leadership in Hospitality and Tourism, Fourth Edition addresses the marketing strategies and tactics known to be effective in the industry such as strategic pricing and revenue management, customer loyalty programs, proven communication mixes, and more! Each chapter explores how to market services and the hospitality experience from both an academic and industry point of view. Over sixty Case Studies, on CD-ROM included with each textbook, bring the material to life in real-world situations based on actual events. International examples, web exercises and intriguing interviews help students learn

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Guide to Understand Online Legal Issues for Hotel Marketers

February 14, 2007

We all recognize that the Internet is becoming the ideal medium to reach consumers with branding messages,

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and travel promotions. Growing interest in interactive marketing resulted in the formation of the Hotel Internet Marketing Committee by e-commerce executives in the hotel industry in 2003, which developed becoming the Travel Internet Marketing Organization.

The actual catalyst for the creation of the HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Committee were the legal issues faced by online marketers in the hospitality and travel industry. The first HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Strategy Conference in December of 2003 was the first forum in the hotel industry that ever addressed the issue of online trademark protection, spawning, mouse-trapping, phishing, spoofing, cyber-squatting, domain name fraud, as well as spyware. It became very clear that loss of control of a company’s trademark (for example when a third party bids on a trademarked term on search engines), not only may lead to loss in revenues, but also brand confusion by the consumer.

Having been on the editorial board of this book, I would like to congratulate the authors for putting together this invaluable guide

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to “Demystifying Legal Issues in the Online Landscape for Hotel Marketers“. This reference, developed by TIG, HSMAI and Cyvellance and authored by Sue Heilbronner and Cindy Estis Green is long overdue.

Online Community for Hotel and Travel E-Marketers

February 13, 2007

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) has launched virtual communities for its special interest groups, including its Travel Internet Marketing Organization (TIMO). As member of HSMAI’s Board of Directors and founding chair of TIMO, I am especially proud and excited that we now have such a powerful tool at our fingertips to communicate and share ideas. In addition to forums, the community includes resource links, papers and articles, and the ability to easily connect with other online travel marketers. HSMAI has launched also a similar community for its Revenue Management Special Interest Group. If you are an HSMAI member, I encourage you to log-in and to partake in the discussions by visiting www.TravelInternetMarketing.org.

The mission of the Travel Internet Marketing Organization is to:

– To help travel supplier brands leverage the

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Internet to maximize profitability, while protecting brand integrity.

– Increase awareness of issues, opportunities and trends as it relates to Internet marketing and distribution in the travel and hospitality industry.

– Develop and recommend standards and ethical guidelines for the Internet as a marketing medium in the travel and hospitality industry.


Please read today’s official HSMAI press release below.

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The Great (Fire)wall of China

February 6, 2007

As is well known, there are some subjects – such as Taiwan, Falun Gong – that the Chinese Government doesn’t think its people should know about. So about 30,000 Internet censorship officials have been deployed to man what is called the “Great Firewall of China”, which blocks access to these and countless other subjects.

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Search Siblings

February 5, 2007

According to a recent Wall Street Journal Article,

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the major search engines – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and IAC have launched sites to test and solicit feedback about new features and functionalities.