Websites with a Cause

January 6, 2008

Back in June of 2007, I wrote about

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the extraordinary concept of Kiva.org. Now I came across an interview with Bill Clinton that explains the mission very accurately…as well as this film by PBS.

Another great site is GiveMeaning.com by Vancouver-based Tom Williams.
Tom started his career in Product Marketing at Apple Computer when he was just 14 years old. In his own words:

My dream for GiveMeaning is that we inspire people to take action. I believe that most every
person cares deeply about something, but I’m equally

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sure that many of us find ourselves doing
little for the causes that matter most to us — not because of a lack of desire, but a lack
of confidence. My plan is for GiveMeaning to change all this by being able to take any cause or issue and
identify a small, but tangible, piece of the problem to fix. I once heard a story where the moral
was: “if you want to move mountains, buy a shovel.” Giving Groups are like online shovels that
make small steps towards addressing big issues. This is my hope for GiveMeaning; people connecting with friends, and strangers, united by a desire to achieve a common
goal.

New Travel Search Engine Kango.com goes into Private Beta

December 19, 2007

Kango

A little while ago, my friend Yen Lee, Kango’s President and former General Manager of Yahoo Travel, gave me the opportunity to be one of the first bloggers to get a sneak preview and play around with Kango.com a few months ago. I was very impressed, and decided to interview Yen to get an insight view and share it on the Tourism Internet Marketing Blog. Now, Yen informed me that he is pleased to finally open up Kango for the private beta release. Feel free to have a look at the interview, and apply to be one of the few to be a previate-beta tester. Yen noted that it helps to mention that you are a reader of the Tourism Internet Marketing Blog…

So what is Kango.com, and why should you care – with all the new online travel sites out there…well, in short: Kango aims to save travelers time, so they have more time to travel. And isn’t it all about creating value to travellers? But let’s go a little bit more indepth…

Kango has received some serious funding from a well-established investor and is creating a new travel solution that is doing a couple things that are very new and interesting.

The first thing is something that will save you a lot of time. The problem I have run across in booking hotels is that one travel site will say a hotel is 3 stars, another 4 stars and if I check a third source the hotel is rated 1 star. I now, discouraged more on to looking at another hotel, not wanting to pay a 3 star price for a hotel that could end up having a 1 star experience.

Kango is doing all that work of hunting down the truth on a hotel and presenting the information on a single page

For example if I were going for a vacation in San Francisco I might decide to stay at the Omni Hotel San Francisco because

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there seems to be a broad consensus from 6 different travel sites with 250+ reviews and ratings of four-out-of-five-or-better; I may be less inclined to choose the Hotel Bijou which appears to be in a similar price range because the ratings were less consistent.

The other thing that Kango is doing is aggregating what to do when you are there, beyond just booking the hotel, which most of the major travel sites don’t really talk about, presumably because it’s to hard to make money from listings of beaches 😉 just looking at the first page of Kango ideas about things to do in San Francisco and I see a few I probably would never thought to do that look fun; sure the popular Alcatraz is listed, but what if I wanted to take the kids somewhere? The Exploratorium looks like a good bet, or perhaps the Junipero Serra Playground.

Finally, Kango should help you find better choices that lead to better trips.

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After playing around with the site, which Kango is adamant, is a pre-beta at this point, I already see a lot of usefulness, which gets me a bit excited, for what else they might be working on that could save me time, make it easier to travel, and lead to

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Interview with the Founder of TripAdvisor Stephen Kaufer

December 16, 2007

TripadvisorAt the recent PhocusWright

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Conference in Orlando, Florida, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Stephen Kaufer, Founder, President & CEO of Travel User Generated Content leader and pioneer TripAdvisor.com. Read more

Singapore Airlines leveraged eBay for Inauguaral Flight of new A380

October 23, 2007

Only 2 days left to the inaugural flight of the new super-plane Airbus 380 from Singapore to Sydney by Singapore Airlines. The new double decker Airbus A380 is due to make aviation history with
it’s first commercial flight on October 25. The flight will
be between a return flight between Singapore to Sydney.

Creating buzz, giving back, being the first, and leveraging the Internet were the recipes for Innovation for Singapore Airlines. So many companies talk about innovation, but this has been a flawless execution with taking a bit

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Due to the demand from aviation enthusiasts to be first to fly on the revolutionary plane Singapore Airplines
have come up with a novel way

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to distribute the tickets fairly –
auction them on eBay to be paid with PayPal! All the proceeds from the
sale of tickets on the first flight will be donated to charity. eBay and PayPal will subsidise the fees and ExxonMobil Aviation are
donating the fuel for the flight to ensure the charities

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get the
maximum benefit possible. The money will be split equally between, Singapore’s Community Chest, The Children’s Hospital (Randwick and Westmead), and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The auction on eBay ran for two weeks from August 27th to September 10th, attracted over 26 million hits from over 160 countries, and generated over US$ 1.9 million for charity.
The
auction was one of the largest charity auctions, and among the most
complex, ever held on eBay, and the largest it has operated across the
Asia-Pacific. Some 366 auction items have been listed over the last 2
weeks, including seats in all three classes, in singles, pairs and
blocks.
The eBay pages hosting details of the Singapore Airlines
A380 First Flight Charity Auction recorded over 26 million hits during
the auction, with Australia, Germany, the US then Canada making up the
most visitors to the sites. Data suggests internet users from over 160
countries visited the auction pages at some point during the auction.
Throughout the two weeks of the auction – conducted on eBay, the
world’s largest online marketplace – around 2,000 bidders pre-qualified
by paying a security deposit, while several thousand others registered,
so far buying 638 seats on both legs of the flight. A record was

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achieved for the sale of the first Singapore Airlines
Suites package on the Singapore-Sydney flight, which sold for
US$100,380 (S$153,000). The bargain of the auction was a single
Economy seat from Sydney to Singapore, which sold for US$560 (S$853). The Suite Packages include a 1:100 (2 by 2 meter) model of the
A380, a flights
paid trip to Singapore Airlines headquarters in Toulouse, France to
witness the delivery of the first Airbus A380, VIP transport to and
from your flight on the A380 including first class tickets from
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transfers between
flights.
One
Singaporean purchased three Singapore Airlines Suites, two Business
Class seats and an Economy Class seat on the Singapore-Sydney sector,
paying US$56,000 (S$85,280) for the six seats.
Australians
made up the largest nationality of successful bidders (15%), followed
by Singaporeans (11%), Britons (6%), Americans (4%) and Germans (3%).
The other 60% come from all over the world. Successful
bidders ranged in age, from a San Francisco man who will turn 22 on the
day of the flight, to a 76 year old from Vancouver, Canada.

Here I am with my friend Michael Stellwag, eCommerce Director for Singapore Airlines (North America) at the iMedia Summit (toggether with Andrew Brooks from Value Click) discussing this online auction.

Have a look at this video where Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choon Seng takes the CEOs of Airbus and Rolls Royce on a tour of its first Airbus A380.

Preview of New Travel Search Engine Kango.com

October 15, 2007

And new start-ups in the travel category are continuing to roll-out, which is great, and keeps it interesting. I was especially intrigued when my friend Yen Lee (originally from Vancouver – my current hometown), former head of Yahoo! Travel and former EVP at Worldres introduced me to his new venture a few months ago…and now he is ready for beta launch very soon. So we got on the phone, and I asked Yen a few questions about his new venture, Kango.

Tourism Internet Marketing Blog (TIM): Yen, what is Kango and what is the value proposition to the consumer?

We started Kango to help you make better decisions about your personal travel. Kango complements today’s travel booking sites (e.g. Expedia, aircanada.ca, deltahotels.com) by enabling you to find travel choices based on your desired experience and lifestyle (e.g. where to go for a warm weather beach vacation or what to do on a family trip to Calgary), then move directly to your preferred travel booking site.

A personalized travel search engine, Kango collects travel options and traveler opinions from all over the web and returns the most relevant recommendations on where to go, what to do and where to stay based on your preferences. For example, we return one set of hotel and activity recommendations when you are traveling to Vancouver on a romantic getaway and a different set when you are going to Vancouver with the family. Like web search engines (e.g. Google), Kango’s recommendations to you are not influenced by advertising.

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:

TOURISM INTERNET MARKETING BLOG: What is

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ReviewAnalyst?

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
application?

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
down.

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
ReviewAnalyst?

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.

Don’t be a Tourist, Connect with the Locals…

September 20, 2007

Jeff Goldsmith, a friend of mine from San Francisco yesterday launched his new company VIAMIGO. Jeff talked to me about his new ideas many months back, and what really excited me about it is the concept of travellers connecting with locals. Leveraging technology to create an amzing travel experience where residents invite travellers and show their hospitality. We all know that the best travel experiences are the ones when we are emerged in the destination, and when we get away from the the traditional tourist spots to getting to explore the hidden secrets beyond the beaten path. Well, in the age of convergence, VIAmigo is attempting to exactly do that. The site helps global travelers find authentic, local experiences and insider adventures – by connecting them with personal tour guides from everywhere by going beyond the guidebook. Pre-launch, VIAmigo signed up 1500 tour guides from every corner of the planet – with a great many more expected soon. Professional tourist guides to diving instructors to archeologist to connoisseurs of every sort, you name the adventure. Private Guides is

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another site that offers private tour guides all over the world, but not necessarily on a budget.

According to Jeff, “Usually, unless you know someone who lives in the city or find a helpful native in a tiny village, you would be unlikely to find some of the

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fantastic local haunts and beautiful natural spots which are off the tourist trail. The thinking behind VIAmigo is that we allow you to easily connect with professional guides and local cognoscenti. Everyone wants to go beyond the guidebook and package tour on their next trip, and now you can, whether you’re a business traveler with an extra day or an adventurer with a month to explore,”

Why got me excited about VIAmigo when Jeff first told me about his idea? Well, I think Destination Marketing Organizations need to go beyond brochureware and find a way to leverage technology to allow travellers to connect with locals. That is relationship management. I would love to have such a “one-to-one destination marketing platform” – we are working on it with our community platform, which will go well beyond our current Blogging platform on Canada.travel (which is still one one of the few national and regional tourism organizations that allows for user-generated content).

TripIt launches

September 18, 2007

New online travel start-up TripIt has received quite some buzz over the past few weeks, and officially launched at the TechCrunch40 event in San Francisco (40 invited start-ups present their ventures).

How does it work? Well, TripIt is an intelligent travel organizer that helps do-it-yourself travelers manage their travel plans so that their trips go more smoothly. Travelers simply forward their purchase confirmation emails to TripIt and TripIt automatically creates master itineraries with travel plans and other critical information like weather, maps and driving directions, and destination information.
TripIt makes it easy for travelers to print or access their trip plans from anywhere including online, in print and on their web-enabled mobile devices. They can also share itineraries and travel calendars and collaborate on planning trips with friends in their TripIt network. Have a look at a sample itinerary or view the demo.

Tim O’Reilly wrote on his blog:
“There’s a kind of magic to forwarding on a travel confirmation from an airline or a hotel reservation and having them aggregated into an itinerary, along with automagically-added maps of the destination, local weather, and other useful information. I’ll often put together a packet like this for a trip I’m taking, but that’s

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a manual process.”

Some great backing, and a distinguished management team with the co-founder of Hotwire. I received beta testing access some time back, and of course played around with

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it. I think it is a great platform and neat technology execution…but then I ask myself: Is this it? Is this enough to create a sustainable B2C business model? Maybe I am missing something, but I see this as a great plug-in for other travel sites, or even travel suppliers (hotels, airlines, car rental), or even corporate travel planners. Maybe that is their plan, but I couldn’t find any evidence. So when I was contacted by TripIt to write about the launch (like so many other bloggers probably as well), I thought, why not ask the question: “Is this it?”

Here is what came back:

Sure, there’s lots more to it than itineraries… it automatically gives weather, directions, destination information, maps… and we also say it has a “social twist” in that it allows you to share your trips with friends and let them see your calendar, or have them collaborate on trips with you.”

You judge for yourself if this

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model can exist as a stand-alone business. Maybe it can, but I think the true opportunity is partnering with other organizations. Maybe call the guys at Kayak or Tripadvisor…

But definately a cool technology. Some of the key capabilities include its Calendar Integration. If you use Google Calendar, Outlook 2007 or any calendar that supports the iCalendar standard, you can now automatically sync your personal calendar with your TripIt travel plans.

Feel free to read the entire press release below.

Ground-breaking new book in online travel and tourism…

September 9, 2007

In the world of mass collaboration, the best of travel and tourism related blogs will be available for print for marketers in the travel, tourism, and hotel industry…

What is the T-List? The T-List is a list of travel and tourism related blogs, which was first established by Mathieu at the Radar Blog (based in Quebec, Canada), and then I (based in Vancouver, Canada) put the T-List on Facebook. So the T-List was born and nurtured in Canda, and embraced by travel-relatede bloggers world-wide. Lots of T-List bloggers have signed up on Facebook, and the T-List has become an inofficial community. Even though there has been some controversy about the T-List as a concept, the power of sharing thoughts and connecting with fellow Travel and Tourism bloggers is undenieable. Now, we are looking to consolidate the best posts from these T-List blogs to share with the travel and tourism industry worldwide in a new book, titled “Tips from the T-List”. Since the T-List was born in Canada, it is only natural that the new book “Tips from the T-List” would launch at the fist Canadian e-Tourism Strategy Conference, Canada-e-Connect. The knowledge and expertise of these bloggers is amazing and covers many different areas of focus. We hope that this new book will become a little nuggget for travel, tourism, and hospitality marketers. In the world of mass collaboration, and since the keynote speaker at the Canada’s first e-Tourism

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Strategy Conference is Anthony Willaims, the author of the bestseller “Wikinomics”, we had the idea to put his thoughts into action and lead with a good example and have all T-List bloggers collaborate to create this guide of current oneline marketing trends in travel and tourism via the various blogs.

Stephen Joyce (who had the idea of the book) as publisher, as well as Mathieu Ouellet and I as editors are spearheading the initiative to publish this book for the Canada-e-Connect Conference on November 7-9 in Vancouver. The book will be a collection of 100 (or so) of the best posts from T-List bloggers who are the actual authors of the book. The audience for the book is executives, marketers, and decision makers from the travel and tourism industry. Topics will include customer trends, emerging technologies, e-marketing tips, social media, new and ground breaking webiste reviews, etc. The book is a promotional piece and will not be sold, but attendees at the Canada-e-Connect Conference in Vancouver will get an exclusive print copy as part of their attendance. Additional copies will be made available at the contributing T-List bloggers website as an e-book download.

This is very exciting initiative as the book will bring together the power of collective thought and collaboration, which is intensified when it is condensed into an

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