2013-10-16 TravelTech News Review

Travel Industry Publications and Analysts are paying a lot of interest to China's booming travel market. My brother and I experienced the vitality of travel in China earlier this year.

Travel industry publications and analysts are paying a lot of interest to China’s booming travel market. My brother John and I observed a dynamic Chinese travel market in our visit earlier this year.

Focus on: China

  1. Skift Country Profiles: Chinese Online Travel Market in 2013
    Informative article on the Chinese Travel Market, with some astounding numbers:

    • “Total revenues of the travel industry in China grew from RMB1.16 trillion (US $190 billion) in 2008 to RMB2.57 trillion (US$419 billion) in 2012, representing a CAGR of 22.0%, according to iResearch. Total revenues of the travel industry in China is expected to reach RMB3.76 trillion in 2016, representing a CAGR of 10.0% from 2012, according to iResearch.”
    • Despite the sheer size of the market, trips and expenditures per capita are low compared to developed markets such as the U.S.
    • “…the online travel market as a percentage of total travel market value in China is still low compared to developed countries such as the United States.”
    • Mobile growth is expected to be strong over the next few years.
  2. Disney Looks to Chinese Box Office for Cues on Building Brand Awareness – Skift
    “Hong Kong Disneyland is adding an Iron Man-themed area in the hopes that the Marvel superhero’s success at the Chinese box office will help draw more visitors to the underachieving resort.”
  3. Chinese traveller profiles – viewed through the lens of social media
    • “China’s tourism revenue has increased by 120% over the past five years and international and domestic tourism revenue is expected to hit around $490 billion in 2013.”
    • This article summarizes a study that focused five Chinese travel segments: business, package, self-driving, backpackers, and luxury shopping travelers.
    • The details of the study may be useful to travel companies formulating strategies to appeal to the identified segments.
  4. Five tips for marketers to tap into the Chinese travel industry
    For the most part, the tips are self-evident. The advice on how to implement them is more useful.

    • Understand your customers (by traveling to China and getting to know them).
    • Recruit some locals to help you.
    • Localize your product and content (duh).
    • Localize customer service.
    • Receive money through local payment systems (and in the local currency).
    • There’s an un-enumerated but useful 6th tip at the end of the article to promote your brands on the local social channels: Weibo, Renren and Kaixin.
  5. Tourism Boards Outside the Big City Travel To China To Woo Visitors – Skift

Online Travel Industry

  1. Orbitz President: Expedia-Travelocity Deal Removes Clutter in the Marketplace – Skift
    • “I think it is an opportunity. We want to highlight the fact that we have unique inventory. We have properties that nobody else has. We’ve got properties with unique values that nobody else has. Actually, I think in a way, it kicks some of the clutter out of the marketplace. It’s going to be pretty clear there’s only a few sources of supply out there. We have one of them.”
    • Another notable comment from the interview is that Orbitz is still sorting out its relationship with metasearch following Priceline’s Kayak acquisition and Expedia’s Trivago acquisition. It sounds like Orbitz has no strategy for dealing with the new metasearch landscape.
  2. Shutdown 2013: Expedia Boss Says Government Action ‘Isn’t Helping’ – Skift
    Dara to the denizens of DC: “The US government isn’t helping.”
  3. Why Wall Street Heaps Love on Priceline and Disses Expedia – Skift
    • “…investors consider Priceline faster-growing, more consistently executing, and more focused than its online travel agency rival, Expedia.”
    • …”one reason Priceline can increase its hotel room nights faster than Expedia does is that Priceline has a very simple agency/commission model that it uses with hotels while Expedia has a more complex mix and match of merchant and agency models.”
    • The Priceline group has just five businesses. Expedia has more than a dozen.
    • The reporter’s parting line may offer some comfort to Expedia:
      • “…in due time, bubbles like Priceline’s have a tendency to burst.”
  4. Does Expedia Have TripAdvisor Spinoff Remorse? – Skift
    As far as the shareholders are concerned, the Expedia-TripAdvisor spinoff has been a resounding success. Yet this article makes the case that Expedia is experiencing some competitive disadvantages as a result of the split and may even want to consider reestablishing some ties.
  5. TripAdvisor shows who is the boss, top source for direct hotel bookings – Tnooz
    “TripAdvisor, friends and family, and OTAs (in that order) take the top three spots for referrals that lead to direct hotel bookings.”
  6. TripAdvisor Becomes Latest Digital Platform to Host Special Deals for American Express Customers
    By working with credit card companies, TripAdvisor can finally verify that reviews were posted by people who paid to stay at a property, an assurance previously limited to sites like Expedia and Priceline. American Express cardholders can link their card accounts to their TripAdvisor profiles and in exchange receive exclusive travel deals and content.
  7. TripAdvisor’s New Smartphone App Is All About Metasearch – Skift
    Not surprisingly, TripAdvisor’s new app is half booking tool and half travel guide.
  8. What travelers want from Google Hotel Finder
    This is a report on a study of Google Hotel Finder

    • “Google has at least one advantage on the competition in capturing non-branded hotel searches; most users start their research there even if they are only using search as navigation. Due to this, Google doesn’t have to build an incredibly compelling user experience to build a successful Hotel Finder product.”
    • Users wanted transparent pricing information, including total price, but this is not shown in Google Hotel Finder and rarely in other hotel metasearch systems.
    • Users had a hard time finding hotels near attractions and Points of Interest.
    • Users wanted better review quantity and quality. Google reviews are currently sparse. For example, TripAdvisor had 10 times as many Dallas hotel reviews as Google Hotel Finder.
    • Despite Google Hotel Finders’ shortcomings, Google is iterating quickly to improve it.
  9. The Four New Features in Google Maps That Make Travel Easier – Skift
    The features are:

    • Directions for multiple destinations.
    • Multiple destinations for city attractions.
    • In-Map display of flights, hotels, and restaurants for which the user has booked reservations.
    • Search for upcoming events at venues of interest.
  10. Sequoia Capital Invests Big in Skyscanner and Values It At $800 Million – Skift
    Although it offers hotels and cars, Skyscanner has primarily been a flight metasearch site. Its recent acquisition of Spanish hotel metasearch site Fogg may signal a greater emphasis on hotels in order to compete better with Kayak.
  11. Skyscanner gets backing from Sequoia Capital, valuation pegged at $800M
    “[Skyscanner] plans to double the number of its staff to 500 over the course of the next 12 months, having already performed a similar ratchet up in employees since the middle of 2012.”
  12. Skyscanner Got a Marquee New Shareholder But No New Money – Skift
    It turns out that Sequoia’s transaction was a purchase of shares from an existing shareholder rather than a new investment.
  13. Kayak, Powered By Priceline, To Launch In 8 Additional Countries – Skift
    Kayak is or soon will be available in Australia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Belgium. Once those sites are online, Kayak will have local sites in 27 countries. Bookings in the Netherlands and presumably some of the other new sites are being handled by Booking.com. Australian reservations and customer service are initially being carried out by Hotels.com.
    Kayak ploughs ahead with expansion as travel search gets hot

    “Kayak’s European launches to date have not been as successful as some might have expected, especially in the UK and a question remains over how the company plans to make these new territories work.”
  14. Why Travel Booking Sites Are Still Pushing Pop-Under Ads – Skift
    Travel metasearch sites profit from both metasearch referrals and cost-per-click (CPC) advertising referrals. The amount a site earns from a referral is correlated with how far through the conversion funnel it occurs. A single search can generate multiple referrals, earning more money for the site, but if a site generates too many referrals per search, the CPC will drop.
  15. Travel Itinerary and Miles Tracker Traxo Raises $4.2 Million in Series A Round – Skift
  16. Pinterest Files Trademark Infringement Suit Against Travel Planning Startup Pintrips
    Even though Pintrips has travel functionality that Pinterest lacks, Pintrips chose a confusingly similar name.
  17. Why Pinterest Is Likely the Web’s Most Popular Trip-Planning Site – Skift
    With 660 million travel-related pins, Pinterest has more travel pins than TripAdvisor has reviews. In addition to consumer users, travel supplier and travel media companies are heavy Pinterest promoters.
  18. Booking Site On the Beach Sold For $117 Million – Skift
    This was a private equity sale of a UK OTA specializing in flights, cars and hotels for European and African beach destinations.
  19. The evolving role of the transactional DMO – Tnooz
    DMO stands for Destination Marketing Organization, aka, Convention and Visitors Bureau. This article presents a brief history of DMOs, noting that many added booking functionality in response to demands from local hotels. Many of these homegrown booking sites were costly and performed poorly. In response DMOs have partnered with OTAs, with Booking.com signing notable agreements with New York City and San Francisco recently. Expedia and Travelocity have also powered DMOs, the volume and profitability of such sites has not historically been high.
  20. New York State Attorney General Subpoenas Airbnb User Records – Skift
    Now New York state has joined the legal assault on Airbnb.
  21. Airbnb Files Petition to Block NY Subpoena, Cites Burden to Compile Data – Skift
    • “The New York Attorney General’s subpoena requests all records — including detailed breakdowns about hosts, rates and methods of payment — of all Airbnb rentals in the state dating from January 2010 to the present, except those where the host stayed at the property during the rental, in which case the rental is consistent with state law.”
    • “‘Airbnb has no reliable method of determining whether a Host is present during the Guest’s stay,’ the company stated.”
  22. Airbnb Petition Asks Users To Help Block New York Subpoena
    The New York State Attorney General has subpoenaed tax information and home addresses of the 15,000 Airbnb hosts who rent out their apartments in New York City. In response Airbnb is asking supporters to sign on online petition to help stop the lawsuit. 16,000 people have signed up so far.
  23. What HomeAway [and others] Can Teach Airbnb About Getting Along With Cities – Skift
    • “New York officials have complained about how [Airbnb] deals with them. Officials say conversations with them consist of Airbnb telling them to change the law to make their business model legal. Airbnb has refused to provide hosts with any destination-specific information about local laws or limit how many properties a user can list on the site, or limit what type of unit a user can list.”
    • “The ease with which…hosts can list their apartment or house and renters can book and pay for one has allowed Airbnb to grow with a speed that it could not if it researched the laws in the markets where it operates.”
  24. Odigeo joins the big boys in travel search, buys Liligo from SNCF
    • Europe-based Odiego, which already owns four online travel brands, acquired OTA Liligo from SNCF.
    • “Liligo has a sizeable presence in Europe. It has a string of local language sites across the continent and at the time of the SNCF deal was claiming around Euro 100 million turnover each year on the back of approximately two million monthly unique visitors.”
    • Liligo.co.uk is the only flight booking site I’ve ever seen that lets you buy offsets to mitigate the carbon emissions generated by your trip. Perhaps this mindset explains the bright green background of the site.
  25. Electronic payment trends for travel companies worldwide: A study – Tnooz
    Tnooz calls out some key highlights from a new PhoCusWright study:

    • Despite growth in the agency model for hotel distribution, the merchant model remains popular and merchant volume is expected to grow faster than agency volume.
    • “In 2012, airlines spent nearly as much on electronic payment fees [almost $7 billion] as they earned in [net] profit [$7.4 billion]”
    • Alternative forms of payment are on the rise.
      • It’s not clear to me what these are. I would guess it might include services like PayPal.
    • “Businesses that gross more than $100 million a year in bookings say that card fraud is their top concern with payments. OTAs have the highest average rate at 1.2%, followed by airlines and lodging suppliers, which each reported fraud for 1.1% for their website bookings…”

Online Travel Startups

Impressions and reviews of new travel sites and apps

  1. miniTime takes the sting out of family travel with age-appropriate recommendations, tips and bookings
    Think “TripAdvisor for families,” with social, trip planning and metasearch booking functionality. The site offers an attractive, usable interface but is noticeably lacking in user-generated content when it comes to overseas and lower-than-top-ten U.S. destinations. For example, it was of little use in planning a family trip to Sydney Australia or Denver Colorado. Until the site attracts a larger audience and acquires more user-generated content, it will only be useful for the most popular U.S. destinations.
  2. Flying app’s unconventional path includes refunds, 3D-printed maps – Tnooz
    Seeking to differentiate itself in a crowded field of competitors like TripIt, itinerary management app “Flying” features hip aesthetics and a rather strange option to place an order to receive a 3D-printed representation of your itinerary.

Hotels

  1. Verified user reviews, enhanced mobile apps, and travel planning hallmarks of digital geniuses
    Best Western and Holiday Inn are lauded for the quality of their digital initiatives by L2, a think tank for digital innovation.
  2. What Best Western and Holiday Inn Can Teach Other Hotel Brands About Digital – Skift
    • Travelers without loyalty to certain brands turn to HotelTonight for same-day discounted bookings, read TripAdvisor reviews that click through to Expedia, and look to book hotels based on neighborhood. These are all features they’re not likely to find on the booking websites of U.S. hotels in the economy to upscale sector.”
      • Other articles have reported on the digital acumen of Best Western and Holiday Inn, but as the quote says, loyalty is a key component. I stayed in a Holiday Inn on a recent trip and the experience was decidedly mediocre. Regardless of the quality and features of their website, they’re going to have a hard time being competitive if the property I stayed at is at all representative of the entire chain. My advice to hotels would be to, above all, ensure that the quality of their product is top-notch. Hotels may need expert distribution management to succeed today, but online reviews have made quality so transparent that quality needs to come first.
  3. Majority of Vegas Casinos Have No Hallway or Elevator Surveillance – Skift
    Despite the abundance of surveillance cameras in Las Vegas casinos, “the Associated Press found that 23 of the 27 major Strip casinos have no surveillance in hotel hallways or elevator landings.” The article’s lead describes how a hotel maid was chased down an unmonitored hallway by a nearly naked man.
  4. Hotel Chain Extended Stay America Looks to Raise $500 Million in U.S. IPO – Skift
    Blackstone is set to enjoy a payday from yet another of its hotel investments.
  5. Blackstone Maneuvers its La Quinta, Extended Stay and Hilton Chess Pieces – Skift
    An overview of Blackstone’s recent moves to extract profits from its array of hotel holdings.

Air Travel

  1. In blow to Boeing, Japan Airlines makes 1st buy from Airbus
    For the first time, a major Japanese airline is going with Airbus instead of Boeing. JAL’s decision to buy 31 A350s was likely driven by Boeing’s hesitation in committing to a new version of the 777, prolonged teething problems with the 787 and a possible below-cost offer from an Airbus eager to crack the Japanese market.
  2. Why the New Distribution Capability debate in travel needs to move on
    Reporting on a panel discussion at the Global Business Travel Association Europe conference the author notes:

    • For all the glossy videos from the IATA end of the discussion and continued poking at the project from the likes of the Business Travel Coalition, there is actually very little progress being made in terms of outlining how the wider “future of distribution” will evolve.
  3. The Most Valuable Airline Brands of 2013 – Skift
    This is not a share market valuation. The title is precisely correct; the article reports on “brand value” as determined by the company Brand Finance. The results do seem aligned with other promotional, financial and anecdotal indicators of brand strength. The top 5 airlines are Emirates, Lufthansa, Delta, Singapore Airlines, United and China Southern.
  4. United Unveils New ‘Slim’ Seats for Coach Class – Skift
    One of the commenters to this article remarked that the new seats are uncomfortable, echoing a comment I heard from a Seattle aviation reporter when the seats were first unveiled. Anyone had the chance to try one?
  5. JetBlue Enables Points-Sharing For Families of All Shapes – Skift
    Finally, an airline loyalty program that allows families to pool their miles. When all our kids were still at home, we would frequently spend more on airfares in a year than many individual frequent flyers but we never enjoyed the rewards that individuals earned.
  6. JetBlue to let families pool loyalty points – NBC News.com
    • “Under the new TrueBlue Family Pooling Program, each family, which can consist of two adults and up to five children under age 21, designates a head of household, who can redeem points from the family account for any family member’s travel.
    • In a modern twist, families can include same-sex partners, or even two unrelated friends.
    • There are no blackout dates or restrictions on seats eligible for redemption.”
  7. U.S. Likely to Deny American and US Air Access to Documents on Past Mergers – Skift
    The airlines are not likely to get documents on past mergers because the records are privileged.
  8. New UK Border Rules Could Turn Flight Attendants Into Immigration Officers – Skift
    Regardless of what government ministers think, it’s probably not a good idea for UK airline staff “…to take on some of the powers of an immigration officer so they can carry out passport inspections at the departure gate.”
  9. Disruptions: How the F.A.A., Finally, Caught Up to an Always-On Society – NYTimes.com
    A brief back story on the FAA’s move to relax in-flight rules for electronic devices.
  10. Shutdown 2013: FAA Furloughs Delay Work on Easing Mobile Device Restrictions – Skift
  11. Ryanair’s Smartphone App Is Now Free and It’s Worth Every Penny – Skift
    “It was just released this week, but the landing screen for Ryanair’s app will take you back to 2009 iOS design.”
  12. Ryanair’s New Sensitivity Training, According to Irish Comedians – Skift
    Not sure sure if this is comedy or actual footage from Ryanair training 😉
  13. Air New Zealand Outdoes Itself With a New Betty White Safety Video – Skift
    Air New Zealand offers up another humorous safety video. Starring Betty White, it is set in a Florida retirement community. Unfortunately some of the humor is based on age-related disabilities and upon consideration, may be exploitative.

Cars

  1. Avis Budget Wants an Even Younger Fleet at Zipcar – Skift
    Avis is rotating out Zipcars at 40,000 miles instead of the previous 50,000 and testing fleet-sharing between the Avis and Zipcar brands. Cars are used by Avis on weekdays and Zipcar on weekends.

Cruises 

  1. Dutch Marine Salvage Company Royal Boskalis Westminster Wins $30 Million Bid to Scrap the Costa Concordia – Skift

General Travel News

  1. Report from the Seattle Travel & Technology Conference
    • Big Data:
    • “Jami Timmons from nSight repeatedly mentioned her mantra: collect and save it all. With storage costs plummeting, it’s more affordable than ever to store every piece of data from a particular workflow, and therefore businesses should just track and keep whatever they can.”
    • “The ability to understand data also becomes more complicated when considering structured versus unstructured data.”
    • Disruption:
      1. “Effectively technology has disrupted the social tenet of privacy, which has significant implications for the travel industry”
    • Distribution:
      1. OTAs are dead, long live OTAs
      2. “With barriers to entry basically non-existent, the availability of many competing apps means that anyone can really come in and force their own opportunity: HotelTonight being a prime example…”
  2. The Blurring of Personal and Professional Lives of Travelers – Skift
    The article is chiefly concerned with how mobile devices blur the personal and professional lives of business travelers, but there is another dimension to this personal/professional crossover. I would suggest that the number of people who combine professional and personal travel is growing. Why not take a few vacation days and see the local sites and people if your business travel takes you to a great destination? As long as employees pay for the extra days out of their own pockets and controls are in place to help ensure that trips are not being booked without business justification, there should be little downside and lots of upside: businesses end up with happier, more globally aware employees.
  3. Cost of U.S. Shutdown: Hundreds of Millions in Lost Tourism Revenues – Skift
    The closure of U.S. national parks is causing hundreds of millions of dollars of tourism revenue for surrounding communities. This is why fiscally strong states like Utah reopened their parks with state money.

Food and Beverages

  1. Skift Q&A: The Man Who Feeds More Than 300,000 Disney Guests a Day – Skift
    The most interesting part of the interview is when Disney Resorts Executive Chef Lenny DeGeorge tells how much more sophisticated Disney guests’ palates have become over the years.

    • “When I was at Cinderella’s Castle 15 years ago, people would ask me what balsamic vinegar was. Today, they will ask me, ‘Is it truly from Modena? How many years has it been aged, and what type of wood was it aged in?’”
  2. Upgrading in-flight dining with a la carte proves lucrative differentiator, revenue stream [REPORT]
    Report suggests that airlines could increase ancillary revenue by offering a range of a la carte dining options with multiple opportunities and locations for purchasing them.
  3. The Healthy In-Flight Snack Boxes That Help Flyers Forget About First-Class – Skift

Travel Media & Marketing

  1. What do travel companies look for when hiring travel bloggers?
    There are hundreds if not thousands of travel bloggers who dream of getting travel companies to finance their activities. This competently-done survey of South African tourism companies reveals some factors those companies consider important in travel bloggers for hire:

    • The ability to meet deadlines
    • A good understanding of the travel brand’s objectives
    • A portfolio of work
    • Good grammar and spelling
    • The ability to respond well to critique
    • Punctual with emails and correspondence
    • Have a unique voice when writing
    • First-hand destination experience for places writing about.
  2. Who Is Spending Money on Travel Advertising This Fall – Skift
    This piece refers to print advertising. My guess is that the total spend of any one company featured here would be a rounding error in the amounts Expedia and Priceline spend on Google ads.
  3. Indian Booking Site Yatra Shows Internet Brands How to Advertise Offline – Skift
    The ads communicate that users can travel on a shoestring by showing models of famous European landmarks, made out of shoestrings!

Social Media

  1. Three types of Tweets for travel marketers
    The “Twitter Rule of Thirds.” Allocate 1/3 of your tweets to each of the following three buckets:

    1. Promotion of your own created content: links to your own articles and posts.
    2. Sharing of curated content: links to articles and content relevant created by others and relevant to your audience.
    3. Conversation: tweeting to others, asking and answering questions, thanking others for sharing your content.
  2. Optimal Timing for Posting to Twitter, Facebook and other Digital Media
    Interesting analysis on timing social media posts for optimal engagement.
  3. Mastering social media is effective for some, a loss for others, and very expensive for all [REPORT]
    “One of the most compelling statistics to emerge from the report… identifies travel as the industry that benefits most from increased brand affinity due to social media. This makes perfect sense, as social allows for trip planning and sharing, and heaps of organic inspirational content that drives tribe creation and community engagement.”

Destinations and Experiences

  1. Hawaii Just Broke Its Monthly Record for Hotel Revenue – Skift
    “Hotels in Hawaii set another all-time single-month record in August, bringing in $339 million in revenue to cap off the best summer ever for the state’s tourism industry.”
  2. New Zealand forgot to name its main islands | World news | theguardian.com
    No one realized until recently that the main New Zealand islands had never been officially and legally named.
  3. Hit TV Show ‘Walking Dead’ Brings New Business to Georgia Ghost Towns – Skift
    Interestingly, no visitors came after movies were shot in one Georgia town, but thousands came to see the town after an episode of “The Walking Dead” was filmed there.

Denise’s Picks:

Denise Jones’ travel-savvy, often quirky links…

  1. Worst fare-dodging excuses revealed by Translink:’ I had to use ticket for toilet paper’ – AOL Travel UK
    I was once arrested in Milan for turnstile jumping. I managed to talk/bribe my way out of it, but these folks have far more creative excuses than I did.
  2. 9 Successful People Who Prove You Should Use Your Vacation Time
    Listen to Marissa Mayer and Michelle Obama- go on vacation!
  3. ‘World’s Most Traveled’ Man, Mike Spencer Bown, Heads Home After 23-Year Journey
    This guy traveled nonstop for 23 years. To every single country on earth. It’s pretty amazing.
  4. What Travelling to 66 Countries Has Taught Me | Oneika Raymond
    This article sums it up for me (though I’m 16 countries short of 66). I especially recommend #13…I arrived at SeaTac last year enroute to Sydney via LAX, and managed to miss the crucial information that I needed a visa. I applied for one online in the concourse, was pulled off the plane at LAX and interrogated, talked my way back on, and was interrogated again in Sydney. Lesson: Check visa status!!!
  5. Asian giant hornet and other terrifying creatures – CNN.com
    Giant hornets menace the earth! Bugs are scary! This article is a bit over-the-top, but I will attest to sand flies being evil, evil, evil (and apparently I’m very tasty to them).
  6. Best food markets around the world
    I’m all about the food when I travel. I love food markets- you can experience so much of the local color and flavor. I’ve been to 8 of these, with Copenhagen’s on our must-do list for next month.
  7. The World’s Most Bizarre Tourist Attractions
    I also really, really love weirdness when I travel. But this article revealed…Seattle is apparently not the only place with a nasty gum wall!
  8. 15 Hilarious Road Signs That Will Make You Giggle (PHOTOS)
    …and I’m a sucker for funny, misspelled road signs. I have my own collection, but this one is pretty good.
  9. 9-year old boy sneaks onto plane, flies to Las Vegas
    I think we’ve all heard this story by now, but I included it anyway if for no other reason than to highlight the TSA’s ridiculousness. Apparently this boy sneaks into theme parks and steals cars, too.
  10. Just Back From: East Africa’s Great Migration | Fodor’s
    Another amazing trip I took was to Kenya and Tanzania to see the wildebeest migration (note: it can be done cheap!). It’s so worth it- here’s a good trip report.
  11. Cures for the Chronic Overpacker | SmarterTravel
    I’m a huge proponent of never, ever checking luggage. It’s tricky at first- here are some tips to cure the overpacking urges.
  12. Weird items found at Oktoberfest – Telegraph
    So, Munich’s crazy Oktoberfest is over. Here’s what drunken visitors left behind. Anyone seen that missing $67K?
  13. All The Places Listed In ‘Kokomo’ In Order Of Appearance
    And finally, I shall leave you with a song in your head. A really annoying song. Cheers!

Design

  1. Visuals Are the New Language of Content Marketing in Travel – Skift
    • In a 2012 survey, respondents identified interactive maps as the most used helpful content in travel applications.
    • “Travel is uniquely suited to visual media, and the industry has extensive experience in its production.”
  2. Addressing the Fundamentals of VUI Design | Do Silly Things
    Important considerations for researchers pursuing voice user interface design:

    • “…do we even know for certain that the user wants to interact with technology by voice as if it were a human? Do we know if that is within the user’s comfort zone? Do we know at all what the user actually wants when it comes to voice? Perhaps users will never be comfortable with an overly familiar, overly human-esque machine.”

Mobile

  1. Mobile payments in travel – what you can hear is the sound of no trend happening
    PhoCusWright Research VP Douglas Quinby:

    • “Speaking at a conference earlier this year with some 200 mostly global airlines and hotels in attendance, I did a simple audience poll…
    • I asked: ‘Do any of your organizations, anywhere in the world, support any mobile-only payment capabilities, such as NFC, a card-swipe service or an account-to-account funds transfer service such as M-Pesa?’
    • Not a single attendee raised their hand.”
  2. Foursquare Rolls Out Real-Time Local Recommendations to iOS Users – Skift
    If users run Foursquare’s new iOS app in the background, it will display tips when users walk into a business. Someone walking into a restaurant, for example, may receive tips on the best items on the menu.
  3. It’s about time: Google Play to provide distinction between phone and tablet apps — Tech News and Analysis
    It’s hard to believe it’s taken Google so long to make this move.
  4. Microsoft’s new iOS and Android apps bring the Windows desktop to phones and tablets | CITEworld
    Microsoft has released Remote Desktop Clients for popular mobile platforms.
  5. Apple Inc looks to poach BlackBerry Ltd workers in Waterloo | Financial Post
    “Just days after BlackBerry Ltd. revealed plans to lay off 40% of its global workforce amid disastrous financial results, representatives from smartphone rival Apple Inc. hosted a recruitment drive roughly 20 kilometres away from the embattled technology company’s Waterloo, Ont. home base.”
  6. Key Designers of BlackBerry 10 Left the Company in January – John Paczkowski – Mobile – AllThingsD
  7. Apple Reportedly Cutting iPhone 5c Production as Chinese Gray Market Prices Drop – Mac Rumors
  8. Apps on iPhone 5s Crashing Twice the Much as on Other iPhone 5 Models – Ina Fried – Mobile – AllThingsD
    This is not really surprising given the concurrent releases of the radically updated iOS 7 and a new 64 bit phone platform. I wouldn’t panic much; the kinks will eventually be worked out.
  9. iPhone 5S users report ‘Blue Screen Of Death’ reboots | The Verge
  10. The iPhone 5S Motion Sensors Are Totally Screwed Up
    This fault in the new phone may be more serious and difficult to correct as it may be hardware-related.

Privacy, Security and Fraud

  1. How the Bible and YouTube are fueling the next frontier of password cracking | Ars Technica
    Password crackers are training their systems to crack relatively long pass-phrases by text-mining online books, online comments and similar sources that contain large numbers of natural language phrases.
  2. Microsoft to start showing people’s social and career info in Bing results
    Microsoft is using the Klout online reputation service to get the information.
  3. Judge: Google’s Tracking Not Harmful – Digits – WSJ
    “U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson wrote that [Google and other] companies had circumvented the [users’ cookie-blocking browser settings], allowing users’ personal information to be sold to ad companies. But the judge said that the plaintiffs couldn’t show that they suffered because the companies collected and sold their information..”
  4. Microsoft, Google working on super cookies to track your activity on every device | ExtremeTech
    “It has served us well for almost 20 years, but now the humble browser cookie is on its deathbed, faced with forced obsolescence by a new brand of super cookies. Developed by the likes of Microsoft and Google, super cookies will track you wherever you go, and whatever you do, whether it’s on your smartphone, PC, game console, or even TV.”
  5. Microsoft Cookie Replacement to Span Desktop, Mobile, Xbox | Digital – Advertising Age
  6. Google Sets Plan to Sell Users’ Endorsements – NYTimes.com
    “Many users…have strong and skeptical feelings about their endorsements being used in ads without their explicit permission.”
  7. How To Opt Out Of Google’s Plan To Sell Your Endorsements To Advertisers – Forbes
  8. New York Comic Con using attendee Twitter accounts to send promo tweets (update) | Polygon
    It’s amazing that anyone would think it is okay to hijack attendees’ Twitter accounts for promotional purposes.

Surveys, Studies, Reports and Infographics

  1. Skift Asks: Do You Mind Being Asked to Turn off Your Electronics In-Flight? – Skift
    The majority of respondents to this latest Skift survey said they do not mind being asked to turn off their electronic devices on takeoff and landing. As with a previous Skift survey that I criticized, their findings are only representative of internet computer users who were not using a mobile device and not using the Safari browser at the time they were selected for the survey.
  2. Hyatt Turns to Twitter to Hear What Guests Want During Their Stay – Skift
    • In an interesting mix of social media outreach and qualitative research, Hyatt engaged travel bloggers and influencers to host 4 Twitter chats on traveler needs and wants. The initiative generated almost 9,000 tweets and loads of qualitative information about what hotel services and features travelers value. Hyatt could use the results to identify emergent themes and hypotheses that could be explored in a follow-up study with a proper random sample of current and potential guests. Such a study would properly inform business strategy and operational decisions.
    • Hyatt created an infographic summarizing the Twitter results. The information in the infographic is interesting but because it was drawn from a convenience sample of Twitter users, it is in no way representative of Hyatt’s customer base and is more or less useless for reliable managerial decision making.

Data, Algorithms, Analytics & Search

  1. Myth-busting Big Data in travel
    Insightful article. I particularly agree with the first two “myths:”

    1. Myth: “Big Data is a new phenomenon.” Most of the analytics covered by the Big Data label have been around for at least a couple of decades. It’s just that new technologies have made them available to a larger number of organizations and a new label has popularized it.
    2. Myth 2: “You need tons of money.” You can do some powerful analyses on a modest budget by taking advantage of technologies such as the latest open source systems. However, I agree with the author’s assertion that you need “damn good people.” A small, good in-house team is likely to be much more valuable than expensive external consultants, products and services. The trick is to build a great team and that requires lots of patience and some expertise to do the hiring.
    3. Let me add my own myth: “Gurus with proprietary algorithms can give us an edge on the competition.” I’ve observed people who seek out consultants and big data gurus, acting on the belief that there are “lone geniuses” out there with “secret sauce” algorithms that will enable us to beat the competition. Outside of really big companies like Google, Microsoft and IBM, most techniques and algorithms needed for competitive big data-style analytics can be found in academic and industry literature. If you follow the advice in the previous bullet and build a core in-house team of PhD and equivalent level scientists and analysts, you can very likely replicate and exceed the offerings of the gurus and do it for less money than paying consulting or licensing fees.
  2. Disney’s New ‘MyMagic’ Wristbands to Turn Big Data Into Big Profits – Skift
    Disney has spent around $1 billion for a system to collect comprehensive data on every guest’s activities. The company’s intent is to use analytics and personalization to sell more products, services and visits. The new system raises obvious privacy concerns, but guests will be able to opt out.

    1. “There are the obvious, short-range chip readers that guests wave their bands in front of — to pay for a souvenir, for instance, or open a hotel-room door — but there are also hidden, long-range readers that read the bands without the guest doing anything at all.”
    2. “Visitors could choose to forgo MagicBands entirely, in favor of RFID-equipped cards that do not interact with the long-range readers.”
  3. Google search starts listing TV episodes and air dates in results
    Another useful incremental improvement from the search giant.
  4. Google gains EU thumbs up to latest search proposals – Tnooz
    Google’s initial proposals to comply with European antitrust directives earned a lot of negative feedback. Its follow-on efforts have gained a better reception. Search result links to rival specialist search providers (such as travel companies) are said to be significantly more visible.

Tech

  1. The core Internet institutions abandon the US Government | IGP Blog
    “In Montevideo, Uruguay this week, the Directors of all the major Internet organizations – ICANN, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Internet Society, all five of the regional Internet address registries – turned their back on the US government. With striking unanimity, the organizations that actually develop and administer Internet standards and resources initiated a break with 3 decades of U.S. dominance of Internet governance.”
  2. ICANN, W3C Call For End Of US Internet Ascendancy Following NSA Revelations | TechCrunch
    More details from TechCrunch.
  3. Sheryl Sandberg: The real story – Oct. 10, 2013
    This in-depth profile of the Facebook COO leaves little doubt that she is a remarkable tech business leader.
  4. All Is Fair in Love and Twitter – NYTimes.com
    This long article, adapted from the Nick Bilton’s forthcoming book, details the conflicts, “betrayals,” personalities and San Francisco/Silicon Valley culture that gave rise to Twitter. Current Twitter chair Jack Dorsey denies Bilton’s story that Dorsey gave the then-leaders of the firm that birthed Twitter an ultimatum to fire Twitter co-inventor Noah Glass.
  5. HP Requiring Most Employees to Work at the Office – Arik Hesseldahl – News – AllThingsD
  6. Fox, Sinclair and Local TV file suit against Aereo in Utah – latimes.com
    Broadcasters lost a lawsuit against Barry Diller’s Aereo in New York, but that didn’t stop them for suing Aereo again in its newly launched Utah service area.
  7. Nest Gives the Lowly Smoke Detector a Brain — And a Voice | Wired.com
    Nest has proved that you can be cool and innovative without targeting trendy product markets.

    • “Nest isn’t only about beautifying the thermostat or adding features to the lowly smoke detector. ‘We’re about creating the conscious home,’ [CEO Tony] Fadell says…”
    • “Left unsaid is a grander vision, with even bigger implications: many devices sensing the environment, talking to one another, and doing our bidding unprompted.”
  8. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review (2013) | The Verge
    • “Amazon won the ebook reader war. Like the iPod, the Swiffer, or Jell-O, the Kindle is just what you buy when you want what it does.”
    • The new version of the Paperwhite is with little doubt the best e-reader ever brought to market.
  9. Can Silicon Valley boot camps get you a $120K job? – Fortune Tech
    Can a 10-12 week crash course really turn students with little or no previous computer science knowledge into Silicon Valley-worthy coders? I’m sure many of them who complete the courses will be able to hack together simple applications but you wouldn’t want to bet the long-term success of your business on an entire crew of shallowly educated coders.
  10. Former Ancestry.com execs to launch new genealogy startup YouWho (exclusive) | VentureBeat
    “Imagine an old prom photo from the 1950s. Dozens of people are likely descendants of the girl in that photo, with her bouffant hair and dress, and would kill to own it. These relatives might not even be aware of the photo’s existence. YouWho is hoping to be a marketplace of sorts for people to purchase artifacts like these.”
  11. Disney invents touchscreen that lets you feel textures
    “…the basic premise is that small, electronic pulses can trick your fingers into perceiving bumps and texture, even if the surface is actually flat.”
  12. The Daily Dot – The battle to destroy Wikipedia’s biggest sockpuppet army
    Interesting piece on how Wikipedia battles unscrupulous promoters who break its community rules.
  13. Xbox Fitness: how Microsoft plans to use big names and big data to whip you into shape | The Verge
    The new higher resolution Xbox One Kinect sensor is enabling fitness programs so sophisticated they can analyze your movements, spot problems barely noticeable to human observers and teach you correct forms.
  14. A first look inside Google’s futuristic quantum lab | The Verge
    Google has released a video that briefly covers its research in quantum computing.

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