Twitter is blocked in China – what does it mean to Travel and Tourism Marketing?

June 3, 2009

twitter-blocked.jpgFirst some background:As reported by Reuters, and experienced by myself yesterday in sunny Beijing, the GFW (Great Fire Wall) strikes again. The Chinese Government censors blocked access to Twitter and other popular online services on Tuesday (June 2) afternoon at approximately 5pm, two days before the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. The photo-sharing site Flickr, email service Hotmail and other services were also unavailable this evening. was blocked last month and YouTube has been inaccessible from the mainland since March. Read more

Design Hotels – a new Website for a new Focus

March 10, 2009



img_5034.JPGFor years, I have respected Claus Sendlinger – the Founder and CEO of Design Hotels. One for his vision and fun personality, and second because he is German and created a very cool concept. Design Hotels is for cool stylish hotels what Leading Hotels of the World is for the luxury hotels. Read more

Growth of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in Asia

October 13, 2007

Fairmont Raffles SingaporeI was recently in Singapore for the Global Board of Directors meeting of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and to speak on a panel

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at the HSMAI Asia Connect Conference. I then had a day before flying back to Vancouver to spend with some old friends, inlcuding Ian Wilson. Ian is the new General Manager of the Raffles The Plaza Hotel in Singapore and the Regional Vice President Asia for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. So I packed my little Flip Video Camera (just a wonderful little toy…a video camera for just $100), and decided to ask Ian a few questions about how he personally has been enjoying his first few days in Asia (since he is still living in the hotel), how he sees Fairmont’s growth in Asia, as well as the integration of Fairmont-Raffles-and Swissotel.

As a background, Ian and I became friends when we used to work together quite closely together when I headed Internet Strategy for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and him overseeing Global Distribution, Revenue Management, and Reservations. Originally from Banff, Alberta in Canada, Ian started his hotel career at the Fairmont Banff Springs and also attended Cornell University for his undergraduate

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the General Manager at Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, now together with Raffles Hotels & Resorts and Swissotel, has ambitious plans for Asia. Some of the first projects that have been announced include the famous Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
and the new Fairmont hotels in Yangcheng Lake Hotel, Kunshan in
China, Macao (also a Raffles), as well as Beijing (have a look at the interesting design).

Enjoy our litle video clip, which is taken in various locations, including

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the pool of the Raffles The Plaza Hotel, in one of the gardens at the famous Raffles Hotel, the entrance of the Raffles The Plaza Hotel, as well as from Ian’s hotel room (during a quick but heavy rain shower).

Thanks for your time Ian, and all the best of luck in Asia!

ReviewAnalyst launches service to provide Hotels simple monitoring of Online Reviews

October 10, 2007

review_analyst2.jpgI was talking to my old buddy Mike Wylie, former VP of E-Commerce at Wyndham Hotels (during my Fairmont days), and now CEO of his own Internet Marketing Agency Standing Dog. Mike and I created the HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Committee back in 2003. Over the past two years, he has been enjoying his time on his own, and got quite creative in helping his clients. He received requests from his clients to help with monitoring of blogs and review sites, such as Tripadvisor, so he
built an application to do it.

He is calling it ReviewAnalyst. For sure, there are other services out there, like Chatter Guard at steep $175/month (compared to the $99/month that Review Analyst is charging), or Google Alerts or Technorati Watchlist – but they don’t provide the analysis behind the information. I think, it is a great service as far I can tell, but the most important point is still that the hotel should work very hard to nurture happy customers and avoid negative postings; and react immediately if a negative review comes up.

I spoke to Mike a few weeks ago. Here is an excerpt of our discussion:


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MIKE WYLIE: Review Analyst monitors consumer
generated content for hotels on hotel review sites, blogs, video sites and
image sites and brings it all into a simple dashboard where they can track and
analyze the chatter and respond where possible.


TIM: Why did you develop this

MW: We understand the impact that
consumer generated hotel reviews and content can have on a hotel’s
revenue – both negative and positive. It’s something we were
actively managing for our clients and encouraging them to take notice of it and
react to it. So we built an application to make it easier to manage and
ultimately decided to roll out for any hotel.


TIM: Where does the
‘Analyst’ part come in?

MW: First we show an average rating
of the reviews over the last 30 days to show if the reviews are trending up or

Second, we perform an analysis
on the reviews to find recurring keywords to determine if the hotel might have
some challenges or opportunities. For example, ‘service’ is
the top keyword for one of the hotels we monitor. After filtering it further
based on the star rating of the review,

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the hotel identified that service was a
reoccurring theme in its negative reviews.

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By clicking on the keyword in
the dashboard, they can see all of the reviews mentioning ‘services’
and get more details.

Third, since TripAdvisor allows
management responses, we provide a guideline for how to respond and examples
which sample.


TIM: What is the cost?

MW: It’s simply $99 a month
per hotel with discounts for a group of 5 or more hotels.

TIM: What are your future plans for

MW: We will continue to refine it
and the algorithms in place. And competitor tracking will be added over
the next 2 weeks. Additionally, we are adding a fun feature to the
application to gauge a hotel’s ‘TripAdvisor Bookability
Score’. This will be based on roughly six or seven different
factors to determine how likely it is that a consumer would book that hotel
after seeing it TripAdvisor. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

TIM: Thanks Mike, and all the best! Hope to see in Vancouver for Canada-e-Connect.

Hilton hotels Promoting Kindness

July 26, 2007


Hilton Hotels has been promoting a very interesting, clever, and interactive campaign (Be Hospitable) with a positive-messaged idea in print magazines such as Newsweek as well as on US Cable TV.

The site allows people to record hospitable deeds and outstanding acts of human kindness that occur around the globe. According to Hitlon Hotels, this is the philosphy upon which the Hilton experience was founded.

Be hospitable is both a tag line and a philosophy of which consumers are invited to share stories. Stories are linked to dots on a map of the United States which is a bit awkward to navigate. The value of this is effort is to reinforce the quality of hospitality with the Hilton brands. It

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doesn’t take the place though of the basics of figuring out how to build the individual brands (e.g. Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree) while still associating them with the parent Hilton brand and of ensuring that the most

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important features of the hotels are present every time – for example, the bed must be comfortable!

Associating the Hilton brand with hospitality and acts of kindness will ultimately mean nothing if the experience of staying in a Hilton brand hotel isn’t enjoyable and doesn’t meet the traveler’s needs.

But linking the brand essence to a well executed social media viral marketing campaign – I have to say that I am very impressed. Another great use of social media to connect people in travel has been done by KLM Airlines.

Joie de Vivre Hospitality re-launches interactive website

July 20, 2007

Recently I wrote about Shangri-La’s new website launch at a pize tag of only $2 Million, which disappointed me a little bit.

This time, I found a new hotel website launch that made me smile. Joie de Vivre Hospitality, based in San Francisco and California’s largest independent boutique hotel company launched a new website to, as they say “celebrate 20 years of creating dreams”. The site is designed to enrich California travel experiences, which include a list of local contacts with like-mineded interests (ever heard of the concept of residents inviting travellers? well, here is a nice attempt…something you would hope to see from a tourism marketing organization). The site is more about booking rooms, but more with connecting with the community – well done! I have only stayed in a JDV Hotel in San Francisco once, and the experience was ok (not great), but the marketing innovation deserve recognition.

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Some of thee new website enhancements include:

– California Connect – A new Joie de Vivre Hotels online community infuses a web 2.0 element into the site, enabling travelers to blog, meet fellow travelers and exchange recommendations, write reviews, join group discussions, upload photos and more.

– Your California – A California destination web portal with travel planning tools and information, such as:
1. Things to Do: Close to 400 regional attractions that include more than the usual tourist stops … local treasures, hidden gems and great finds ‘off the beaten path.
2. Experience Planner: Users select specific items from the recommended “Things to Do” section and create a custom itinerary that can be printed, or forwarded to travel partners.
3. Videos: Users can watch quirky video shorts of specific San Francisco neighborhoods, filmed by locals, for a real-time perspective of the destination.
4. Joy of Life Guides: More in-depth and ‘polished’ recommendations with details that go beyond the Experience Planner. These guides, authored by locals, can be found for subjects from ‘I

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Need My Java’ to ‘Mommy, I’m Bored.’
5. Locals Talk: Joie de Vivre staff and friends share their local favorites;

– Hotel Matchmaker – Building on an idea Joie de Vivre Hospitality introduced in 2003, the Hotel Matchmaker offers advanced search capability that enables guests to find the perfect hotel, with surprising accuracy, through personality-based questions that result in three hotels, potential activities and two like-minded individuals.

Have a look at the article from our friends at HOTELS Magazine, written by Karyn Strauss that explores other hotel companies’ foray in the wonderful world of Web 2.0 – and last January, I showcased my personal favorites of 2006 hotel website launches.

A New Hotel Brand in Canada soon to be Launched

May 5, 2007

Groupe Germain out of Montreal is planning to launch ALT HOTELS later on in 2007, with its first location in Montreal. Some of the core elements are design, atmosphere and chic interiors with the best possible price *and* with serious efforts to minimize impact on the planet.

The Montreal hotel will incorporate geothermal technology (use the earth’s constant temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (at a depth of about three meters) to help heat and cool the hotel as needed), which is an industry first in Canada – and eco-friendliness becomes a focus. Other energy-saving measures include efficient lighting throughout the building, and heat recovery from water used in commercial washers. To save costs without skimping on style, ALT Hotels is using a new construction concept: pre-fabricated rooms.

The sleek, modular rooms are built off-site by a furniture manufacturer, making it possible to assemble rooms while the hotel itself is still being built.
In addition, once in operation, every day, one happy customer that booked online will only be billed $1. A very interesting concept from the creators of Germain Boutique Hotels – congratulations to Co-President Christiane Germain,

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who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Have a look at the press release here.

Top 3 Hotel Website Designs of 2006

January 5, 2007

Here are the Top 3 Hotel Website Designs of 2006. This my own personal opinion – so no voting, or judging panel that is respnsible for this Top 3 Hotel Website Desgin List of 2006.

My three winners have all something very unique about their design that I believe stands out from all the other hotel websites that I have come across in 2006. I focused my results on the

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level of high impact or value the initial homepage experience was able to create. I believe in the power of first impressions, and if users are not wowed right from the start, many times they are not compelled to explore the site any deeper. If you think of other outstanding sites that should have been included, and are potential worthy “Top 3 Hotel Website Designs”, please add them below.

Number 1: Best use of “User-Generated Content Design Integration”:

Even if I think that some parts of the strategy should be modified and that there are some usability issues to fix, Sheraton, with its all new Web approach ( giving a place to customers to describe their experiences in the Sheraton hotels, understood that the Web is now ready to let visitors create and publish contents. Sheraton decided to give a big place to their customers in their new Web strategy. I applaud this bold iniative.

Number 2: Best use of “Multi-Media Experience Creation”:

MGM Grand, Las Vegas, launched their new website ( in 2006. In terms of Search Engine Optimization and usability, it is not perfect… but WOW what a nice intro video! Take a look a this nice job done by some creative guys from Montreal. Also, MGM Grand (the hotel company) is one of the first that has made RSS feeds available for all their properties.

Number 3: Best use of “Navigation Design”:

One & Only Resorts ( has come up with an innovative approach to navigating the site by using navigation clouds that are generated customized for each individual property. One&Only has also understood that users don’t read on the web, but get inspired by high impact imagery and multi-media – while staying consistent with the brand. Granted, usability is not perfect, and there are some search engine optimization issues, however I appreciate the refreshing approach to navigating the site and getting inspired.

Hilton Journeys

December 6, 2006

I came across a very interesting and neat hotel microsite – Hilton Journeys. Always nice to see online innovation in the hotel space. You can even virtually

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