TravelTech Patent Stupidity • More Google Antitrust • Booking.com Reselling Canceled Rooms • WantMeGetMe • THack Singapore • Travel Agents Selling Air Again • Ancillary Fees • Mobile Travel Transformation • Toblerone and Guest Satisfaction • 22 Travel Briefs • 3 Travel Aspirations
TravelTech Patent Litigation Stupidity
Plug the following string into Bing or Google and you’ll get back a long list of articles about questionable patent lawsuits:
“Marshall Texas patent lawsuits.”
Marshall Texas juries have been very friendly to patent trolls, with the result that patent litigation has become a veritable local industry. In the latest such action, Digital River and Wold Travel Holdings were ordered to pay DDR Holdings $750,000 each for online-store related patents. The crazy aspect to this was that Digital River was running online stores at least two years before the patent dates. On the positive side, the relatively low award amount ensures that DDR will barely break even, if at all, after paying its lawyers. Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity elected to settle with DDR before trial.
More Google Antitrust Rumors, in the U.S. this Time
In my last post, I reported on a European antitrust investigation of Google. Now it seems that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission may also be considering action against Google for unfairly giving low rankings to competitors of Google verticals like Travel.
Booking.com Feature Resells Canceled Rooms without Hotel Participation
Booking.com has implemented a feature to return canceled rooms to its own inventory rather than informing Hotels of the cancelation. Hotels can choose to opt-out of the feature and they may want to since it has certain downsides for them (but upsides too). On the one hand, by offering the room for resale, Booking.com may be able to fill a room that may have gone empty. On the other hand, if demand has increased since the hotel listed the inventory on Booking.com, the hotel may want to sell it through its in-house channel, save on commission and possibly charge more.
Tnooz reports on a new hotel booking site called WantMeGetMe. Unlike other hotel bookers, WMGM is differentiating itself by not competing on price. Instead, it focuses on providing VIP experiences (e.g., Champagne Upon Arrival) at boutique and luxury accommodations. WMGM has created its own distribution channel and claims to charge a lower commission to hotels than OTAs. Bookings are initially available in a few select markets.
THack Singapore Winners
It’s always interesting to read about Tnooz THack events, in which developers work against an 8 day deadline to deliver an innovative new app using travel APIs. THack Singapore winners were:
Skyscanner. Given an event place and date/time, Skyscanner suggests travel and lodging arrangements for attendees. Skyscanner used services from Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN) as well as several other APIs.
The other winner, Friendly Planet Trips, shows Facebook friends’ pictures on places they have visited on a world map. Users can message their friends for travel advice on places of interest.
Agents Profiting from Air. Agent Sales Produce Better Returns for Airlines
According to this Travel Weekly article, and in spite of popular industry wisdom, travel agents are again profiting from booking air travel. Also of interest, the article reports that McKinsey & Co. has found that agent sales can produce a greater return on investment for airlines than airlines’ own direct sales.
If Movie Theaters Adopted Airline Style Ancillary Fees…
Sabre is pushing for regulations to require airlines to disclose all ancillary fee information “transparently.” By this, Sabre presumably means in a standard format that can be accessed by GDSs and OTAs. As part of its campaign, Sabre has created a video showing what a night out would be like if consumers had to deal with airline-like ancillary fees at the movies. It’s pure propaganda, but it makes their point effectively.
Mobile is the next Great Transformation in the Travel Industry
Amadeus UK and Ireland Managing Director Diane Bouizebiba explains how mobile technology is changing the face of travel:
- Travelers and book and change their itineraries wherever and whenever they want
- Augmented reality
- Baggage tracking from your mobile device
- Social/Gamification (e.g., Foursquare-type checkins).
- Travel firms can interact with and support their customers no matter where they are and provide additional value such as destination experience information
Missing Toblerone is the Smoking Gun with respect to Low Guest Satisfaction
In an interesting article, Travel Weekly writer Arnie Weissmann reckons that missing Toblerone candy bars help explain why hotel guest satisfaction is at a 7 year low. Weissmann attended a yearly conference at a luxury resort for several years and he always enjoyed the complementary Tobelrone bar provided in his room. In 2009, when times got tough, the Tobelrone was replaced by a Snickers. However, this year, with the economy slowly improving, there was no candy bar at all and Wessmann was left to lament “Where’s my Toblerone?”
In talking to industry experts Weissmann found an explanation for the missing candy. It turns out that over the past 14 years or so the ownership structure of hotels has changed from dedicated hotel companies to private equity investors whose main concern is the bottom line. In touch economic times, the traditional hotelier, knowing the drivers of guests’ happiness, would be inclined to maintain certain amenities to help retain long-term guest loyalty. Private investors probably do not take such considerations into account.
Travel Briefs: Recent Articles of Significance
- With the pending release of part 1 of “The Hobbit,” New Zealand prepares for another round of Tolkien-inspired tourism. The Guardian
- 10 Travel sites worth bookmarking. New York Times Frugal Traveler Blog
- New travel guide site Travora aims to be “the CNET of Travel.” AllThingsD
- Tomb of Mayan Queen found: Gadling Travel Blog
- Best times of year for cheap off-peak travel. Condé Nast Traveler
- The 7 most popular tourist scams and how to beat them. Skift
- The folks at EuroCheapo, whose professional reviewers have visited hundreds of budget European hotels, share 10 of their favorites. SmarterTravel
- Interesting article on pop-up hotels, which range from temporary accommodations for events to converting existing buildings into seasonal hotels. HotelNewsNow
- Hilton introduces new casual dining options, some of which resemble corporate cafeterias more than restaurants. Skift
- Hotels, rental car firms and cruiselines are increasingly adopting airlines’ practice of increasing revenue through ancillary fees. USA TODAY
- Speaking to a hotel operators’ group TripAdvisor said its process to vet reviews is good and it has no plans to require authentication because the volume of reviews is so large and authentication would discourage reviewers. HotelNewsNow
- World’s best hotel pools. The Huffington Post
- Virgin to roll out personalized in-flight entertainment system next year with ground-based customer service and social networking functionality. TERMINAL U
- Beautiful Branding: A restructured and relaunched Fiji Airways will have some of the best looking planes in the sky. A must-see: Skift
- Fired TSA agent claims theft by TSA employees is commonplace. RT
- In a move that couldn’t possibly be related to the preceding item, the TSA’s Office of Professional Responsibility is creating a database to track disciplinary actions throughout the agency. Federal Times
- Tnooz has a broad-ranging article on loyalty programs from the standpoint of the supplier. Loyalty programs should increase incremental profit, retain the best customers and motivate more consumption from valuable segments. Tnooz
- Priceline CEO to also assume Chairman role. Travel Weekly
- Tnooz’s daily feature “The Scan,” notes that Booking.com’s iPhone app now syncs with Apple’s Passbook and that Priceline has updated its iPhone app to fit the iPhone 5’s new screen. Tnooz
- Big Data firm Qubit says that travel sites spend enormous amounts of money getting visitors to their landing pages but 92% of visitors won’t convert and 60% never return. Travel firms who wish to compete in the future will need to use Big-Data-based personalization to improve conversion and loyalty. Travolution
- Travel agents are using manual workarounds to sell ancillary air products that are normally limited to consumers booking directly on airline sites. Travel Weekly
- Congratulations to Felix Baumgartner for the highest ever parachute jump and breaking the sound barrier and oh by the way, great marketing on Red Bull’s part. Tnooz
- Classic travel writing brought into the 21st century: An excerpt from Michael Palin’s new book Brazil. Skift
- Hidden Gems of Europe. New York Times Travel
- Follow James Bond. This slide show illustrates some of his best destinations including Istanbul, Key West, The Bahamas, Paris, Switzerland, Austria and Mount Asgard Canada. CNN
Because the James Bond Mount Asgard base jump was such a memorable moment in film, I’ve included a clip of it here as well as a really cool clip of more recent BASE-jumping off Mount Asgard.
The Spy Who Loved Me Mount Asgard BASE-Jump Sequence
Unlike the ski chase sequences, the actual jump was done by a stuntman and did not use special effects.