2013-11-21 TravelTech News Review

Important Announcement from Denise

Denise gets to go first this time because she has a Very Important Announcement:

Win an Expedia Yellow Suitcase and support Passports With Purpose 2013!!


I’m auctioning off a genuine Expedia Yellow Suitcase!!! How to get in on the bidding? Passports with Purpose is the annual Expedia-sponsored online auction to benefit a charity abroad. This year it’s buildOn.org, which builds schools for girls in Mali, Africa. Travel bloggers like myself procure items to auction off, and the whole shebang happens on PassportsWithPurpose.org. Please help support this awesome charity… AND GET AN EXPEDIA SUITCASE! 

When: November 25th- December 9th.

Denise’s Picks:
Denise Jones’ travel savvy, often quirky links…

  1. Iceland: How much things cost & how to visit on a low budget « Price of Travel
    There’s a lot of chat on the Expedia Travel Discussion list about going to Iceland (IcelandAir flies nonstop from Seattle to Reykjavik daily). Here’s a good article to answer some basic questions on visiting on a budget.
  2. Top ten places to see the Northern Lights – AOL Travel UK
    …and one of the reasons to go Iceland is to see the Northern Lights. But there are other good places to see them, too!
  3. Ice Hotels to Hit this Winter
    …and if you’re traveling to icy Nordic outposts, you should go all in and stay at an ice hotel.
  4. The Best Places To Go In 2014, According To Lonely Planet
    Lonely Planet released its Best Places to Go In 2014 list. Seychelles and Latvia are on my to-do list!
  5. Dirty Hotels: 6 Germ Hotspots To Worry About
    I am a germophobe when I travel, because nothing ruins a trip like getting sick. Here’s more to worry about (note: I never EVER touch that remote control!!!)
  6. The Top 10 Marvels of the Modern World | minube
    A Top 10 list to stimulate your travel dreams. *sigh* I’ve only been to three…
  7. World’s Funniest Airport Names: rudest, weirdest and strangest | Skyscanner
    I do luvs me some travel-funny. These airport names are awesome. Note they don’t mention one of my favorites, Italy’s Malpensa Airport. Which means “bad thoughts” in Italian. And trust me, that hellish airport is aptly named.
  8. A Global Look at Drinking Trends | Leora Kalikow
    Want to drink like a local? When in Rome…
  9. Language Facts Around The World
    I love random travel factoids, and this chart is fascinating.
  10. The World’s Best And Worst Airports To Sleep In
    You can snicker at this, or think it’s weird, until you find yourself forced to sleep in an airport. I spent a lovely evening in Vancouver International Airport once when my flight dropped me there at midnight, and my next flight wasn’t until 4am. It wasn’t so bad, with this site’s help.
  11. Travel Agency Wants To Take Your Stuffed Animals On Vacation
    Of course they do. Because really, why AREN’T you spending more of your hard-earned money to take a cotton-based item assembled in China on its own holiday?
  12. Are Groupon Getaways good hotel deals? Here’s what we found « Price of Travel
    Ever bought a Groupon Getaway? Ever wondered if you were REALLY getting a good deal?
  13. Middle Finger Sculpture Floats on Prague River – Vagabondish
    Ahh, public art. Love it.
  14. And the First Aircraft of 2013 with a ‘Movember’ Mustache is… || Jaunted
    Airplanes go Movember-style.
  15. Rjukan, Small Town In Norway, Sees Winter Sun For First Time Thanks To Massive Mountain Mirror (PHOTOS)
    This is awesome. Can you imagine living in a place that has never, ever seen sunlight in winter??
  16. Alligator captured in Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal 3
    And today’s “That’s the strangest travel story I’ve read this week” installment….

Online Travel Industry

  1. Expedia plots travel graph, thinks like stock market not supermarket
    • Some tidbits from an Interview with EMEA marketing head Andrew Warner:
      • “What we are moving towards is the kind of questions OTAs have not been used to answering and anticipating what the consumer wants and delivering recommendations.”
      • “LinkedIn structures the way it captures data to deliver you more relevant results that have greater value, the more you use it the better it gets. At Expedia we have a similar mentality, thinking about how we can use the information to deliver greater relevancy.”
      • Tnooz: “What the company is starting to do is build a ‘travel graph’ which boils down to drawing elements out of the vast range of data it gathers, not in a ‘Big Brother’ way, to feed into an engine which delivers relevant information out the other end.”
      • “Warner touched on the itinerary becoming ‘live’ with more information being fed in as travellers go through the journey whether it be alerts or location-based offers, etc.”
        • Warner: “Now, consumers are able to access Expedia through many devices but we want to deliver the results based on who you are, what you want and when you need it.”
  2. Expedia’s Uphill Climb Must Meet Booking.com’s Structural Advantages – Skift
    • The article reports at length on ostensible structural advantages, detailed in a report from research firm Evercore, that allow Booking.com to prosper where others struggle. The Evercore analysis smacks of Monday morning quarterbacking to me as it finds reason after reason that others cannot surpass Booking’s success. For example, it is undeniable that Booking.com has executed Search Engine Marketing (SEM) better than anyone else, but I am highly skeptical that Booking’s use of the Perl scripting language confers a significant SEM advantage. I believe that others can match or surpass Booking’s success if they have the discipline to focus on results, eliminate legacy weaknesses and execute well.
  3. Top 25 Online Booking Sites in Travel This Month – Skift
    • “…the biggest thing you notice is Booking.com is the king of online travel, in all possible ways, and still has a large runway to grow in the United States. “
  4. Focus on Priceline
  5. China Travel Service Qunar Sees Shares Soar 89% in IPO – Skift
  6. Gogo Inflight Teams Up With Glympse for Check-ins in the Sky – Skift
    • As if people in my social networks really care that I’m over Montana… South Dakota… Iowa…
  7. Concur Sees Smaller Losses in Fourth Quarter This Year – Skift
    • Our neighbors down the street from Expedia HQ are improving their financial results.
  8. Critics blast Google’s European antitrust offer | Business & Technology | The Seattle Times
    • [Editorial: it’s exasperating to see Google getting such light treatment when previous accused antitrust violators got the hammer.]
  9. Ctrip goes Mobile, Grows Strong
  10. HomeAway Takes a Controlling Stake in its 21st Vacation Rental Company – Skift
    • HomeAway has made over 20 acquisitions since its founding in 2004.
  11. Orbitz Worldwide’s Future Relies on Leaving its Airline Past Behind – Skift
    • Orbitz’s Q3 room night growth was 22% and half of its trailing 12 month revenue came from hotels and travel packages.
  12. Internet Association Says Subpoena of Airbnb Could Set a ‘Dangerous Precedent’ – Skift
    • Airbnb is a member of the Internet Association along with Expedia, TripAdvisor, Amazon, eBay, LinkedIn, and Google among others.
  13. Google wades into personal trip planning with Tour Builder
    • Google Tour Builder allows users to tag locations on a Google Earth map, add descriptions, pictures and video and then share the resulting media-rich itinerary with others if desired.
  14. The 10 Tech Innovations That Influenced Travel This Year – Skift
    • Using individual-level data to deliver targeted services
    • Social media: airlines and hotels get it but travel agents don’t
    • Customer service efficiency gains through channels such as social media
    • Cross platform websites, mobile websites and mobile apps
    • Cloud technology
    • Intermediaries like travel agents providing personal relevant information through digital and social media
    • Big data
    • Predictive analysis
    • Short range communications applications such as electronic luggage tags, NFC and the new Disney MagicBand
    • Improvements in distribution and distribution channels

Online Travel Reviews & Impressions

  1. Finding nearby events: A peek backstage at Eventseeker
    Eventseeker Windows Phone 8 App

    Eventseeker Windows Phone 8 App

    • This short but informative article gives some good background about needed product features in the online events marketplace and includes an interview with Eventseeker product manager Daniel Lysaught.
    • Eventseeker is available at Eventseeker.com and via iOS7 and Windows Phone 8 Apps. An Android app is forthcoming. I tried out  Eventseeker.com and the Eventseeker Windows Phone App and found them both attractive and easy to use, albeit with some quirks such as photos that are unrelated with the events they are displayed with.
    • Eventseeker and its competitors often suffer from a lack of personalized recommendations. Eventseeker makes it easy to find destination events and attractions, but even for medium size cities, Eventseeker displays so many choices that it can take some time for a user to choose.
    • Eventseeker has made a good start at solving the destination events challenge, but it would benefit from more ways to filter and sort events.
    • Eventseeker parent company wcities.com offers a real time API for venues, events and movies content. It would be very compelling for travel suppliers, planners and agents to integrate wcities content with sites and apps that consumers are already using to book lodging and transportation.
  2. Gogobot goes niche, offering users contextual search aligned to specific interests called Tribes
    Gogobot Tribes

    Gogobot Tribes

    • Gogobot, a social travel planning service, has rolled out a new user experience. Users choose named segments (“Tribes” in Gogobot parlance) that match their personal affinities and Gogobot personalizes search results correspondingly. For example, when searching for hotels in a specific destination, you can sort by Tribes such as Art & Design Lovers, Family Travelers, Foodies, Luxury Travelers, Trendsters, etc. It’s an interesting idea; I would be curious to know if it results in increased engagement and conversion.
    • I spent a few minutes with Gogobot and can confirm that choosing a Tribe/segment significantly affects search results. The segmented results were in line with my expectations. It placed the Sydney Australia suburb of Newtown high in the ranking for foodies. I spent many pleasant lunch hours there exploring its wide variety of interesting restaurants. Overall, I found Gogobot’s “Tribes” an effective contextual filtering mechanism that travel planners may find helpful in creating personalized itineraries.
  3. Open sourced trip planning application offers alternative to other services
    • This free tool has the advantage of simplicity but it doesn’t actually offer suggestions or do route or itinerary planning. It’s more like a Pinterest board with links to more information and travel directions.


  1. Skift Asks: Which Hotel Features Do You Most Look Forward To? – Skift
    • Ranked highest to lowest: Free breakfast, Free WiFi, Free Parking, Room Upgrades and Fitness Center.
  2. Hyatt Enters the All-Inclusive Sector with Two New Brands in Mexico – Skift
    • “Ziva” and “Zilara?” I like Hyatt well enough, but they should send their branders back to the brainstorming room.
  3. Wifi is now the communications hub of the hotel – Tnooz
    • “…a recent American Express survey found that 83% of holidaymakers expect to stay digitally connected during their break.”
    • “…more and more hoteliers are waking up to the fact that having subpar wifi not only disappoints guests, but also results in a loss of bookings.”
    • “Gradually hoteliers are using [WiFi] for additional services like building management systems, tablets for housekeepers, restaurant ordering systems, TV content and more.”
  4. Quick, create some urgency to improve online conversion
    • Aimed at hoteliers, the article notes that Booking.com, Expedia.com and Hotels.com do a good job of communicating urgency (“This hotel is likely to sell out soon!”) as users browse through their inventory. In contrast, most hotel sites the writer viewed did not include urgency messages.

Air Travel

  1. Budget Airlines Now Generate More Unit Revenues Than Legacy Airlines in U.S. – Skift
  2. Spirit Airlines CEO Thinks There’s Plenty of Room in Ultra Low Cost Carrier Club – Skift
    • Spirit only has 1.4% of the U.S. market
    • CEO Ben Baldanza says there are 500 routes with opportunity for the ultra low cost model.
  3. Southwest Airlines Poised to Join TSA PreCheck Program – Skift
  4. Largest U.S. Airlines Now Allow Electronic Devices Gate-to-Gate, Except Southwest – Skift
  5. Delta’s New Customs Kiosks at JFK Cut Wait Times in Half – Skift
    • It’s interesting that  a private company felt it necessary to pay for automated customs kiosks when it and its passengers already pay taxes that are supposed to fund Customs and Border Control.
  6. Delta Air Lines Needs More Government Handouts to Operate Call Center – Skift
    • Minnesotans, take note: Delta is subsidizing the U.S. federal government but getting your state to pay for renovating a Delta call center.
  7. FAA Issues New Pilot Training Rule to Fix Colgan Air Deficiencies – Skift
    • Airlines must track remedial training for pilots who fail to meet certain milestones.
    • Pilot training must be enhanced for stall recognition and recovery, dealing with crosswinds and runway procedures.
  8. Press Release: New DOT Rules Make Flying Easier for Passengers with Disabilities
    • The US Department of Transportation is requiring airline websites and automated airport kiosks to be accessible to passengers with disabilities. Airlines have two years to make core travel information accessible and three years to make their entire site accessible.
  9. EU Eases Ban On Liquids On Flights But TSA Isn’t Ready To Do Likewise – Skift
  10. Etihad Has Re-Invented the Airline Industry in Just 10 Short Years – Skift
    • Etihad has come out of nowhere since its launch 10 years ago. Its goal now is to become the world’s best airline, and by many accounts, it is well on its way.
    • Not mentioned in the article is that the recent success of some middle east-based airlines has been bolstered by supportive finance, tax and regulatory environment in their home countries. The combination of structural advantages and excellent management has made world-class carriers out of the top airlines from the region.

Cars & Buses

  1. Greyhound and Megabus Competition Tightens on Long-Distance Bus Travel – Skift
    • This is an engaging first-person account of trying out the new low-cost but classy intercity bus services that have sprung up in the U.S. over the past few years. Written in classic road-trip narrative style.
  2. Customers Prefer National Car Rental in J.D. Power Survey – Skift


  1. Why Travel Agents and Telephones Still Rule Cruise Booking – Skift
    • This article reports that cruises trail other travel products in going online because the large number of cruise product and service options results in a high level of complexity. Although many startups have tried and failed to prosper in the space, I question whether the inherent complexity is insurmountable. Recent advances in software and systems architectures have made solutions to many previously intractable problems possible.
  2. Shakeup at Carnival Continues as the Old Guard Steps Aside – Skift

General Travel News

  1. How and Why the BBC Messed Up its Acquisition of Lonely Planet – Skift
    • A case study in how not to do an acquisition. If heads didn’t roll at the Beeb, they should have.
  2. Asia Pacific Surpasses Europe to Become World’s Largest Regional Travel Market | Travel Research – Industry Events – PhoCusWright Conference
  3. Big travel companies look to muscle in on peer-to-peer marketplaces
    • Because with players like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, the sector is growing…
  4. Frenchman with hormone imbalance repeatedly denied passage
    • Kevin Chenais came to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota 18 months ago for treatment of a hormone imbalance. Kevin, who weighs 226 kg (490 lbs), was denied return passage to London on British Airways on safety grounds. His parents tried to book him passage on Cunard Cruise Lines but they also turned him down. Virgin Airways eventually flew him to London but that was not the end of his troubles. Eurostar refused to transport him home to France through the Channel Tunnel, citing a safety policy that requires that passengers be able to be evacuated in an emergency.Happily, ferry company P&O came to the rescue and got him back to France.

Media & Marketing

  1. Conde Nast Traveler Rethinks ‘Truth in Travel’ Under New Leadership – Skift
    • Until now, Conde Nast Traveler had a Consumer Reports-like policy that writers shouldn’t accept free or discounted products and services and other special considerations from travel suppliers. Under new editor Pilar Guzman, the policy has changed to allow such special considerations. A commenter to the story noted that given the rates CNTraveler pays to freelancers, the old policy meant that writers and photographers would lose money on many stories unless they were receiving other payments.
  2. Google Is Bigger Than Magazines And Newspapers – Business Insider

Social Media

  1. Selfish Tweeting – Forbes
    • Prolific tweeting professor Bill Fischer explains that he uses the service for his own selfish benefit: “…if you are in ‘the ideas business’, then Twitter is too powerful to pass-up. He says it’s efficient, effective, connective, discipline-instilling and serves as a virtual memory.
    • I concur that Twitter is useful. If you want to realize the benefits Professor Fischer espouses, you’ll have to invest some time in learning how to use the service effectively. For Fischer’s use cases it definitely has a higher learning curve than other social networks. However, the payoff will make the investment worthwhile. You can follow Fischer at @bill_fischer. [Shameless self-promotion: and you can follow me at @TravelTekker]
  2. Factoid overload – 60 things you should know about travel social media
    • Some of the factoids are actually quite interesting: “people engage with brands 40 times more on Instagram than Twitter and 20 times more than Facebook.”
    • And other factoids in the article are of little value: “A good way of searching Instagram is by hashtag #?” A large number of Instagram users will figure that out the first time they use it.

Destinations & Experiences

  1. Huayna Picchu, Peru – National Geographic Travel Daily Photo
  2. 16 American cities foreign governments warn their citizens about
    • Many experienced travelers are familiar with the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warnings. Fewer travelers are aware that foreign countries (okay: mostly France) warn their citizens about risky areas and activities in certain U.S. cities including Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Richmond, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles and El Paso.
    • The German government issues advice of a different stripe: “Nude bathing and changing clothes at the beach stirs up public agitation and can lead to unpleasantness.”
  3. Rethink Haiti: The Best Tourism Video You’ll See All Year – Skift
    • Absolutely gorgeous cinematography.


  1. Minting Cash: how Square designed a product with no design at all | The Verge
    • The headline isn’t really correct, there is a design, it just maximizes reuse of existing resources in an attempt to not get in between the user and the desired functionality.


  1. Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won | Technology | theguardian.com
    • Despite all the bad publicity that accompanied Apple Maps’ debut and first anniversary, Google has lost 23 million iPhone users since Apple Maps’ debut.

Privacy, Security & Fraud

  1. Finally, innovation on the security screening front
    • For a change, this article covers a couple of pleasant news items on the security front:
      • The TSA is partnering with Marriott’s Springhill Suites to test a significantly more pleasant screening environment at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport.
      • Qylur Security Systems has released an engaging self-service security portal that features playful colors and shapes.
  2. Cyber crime in travel – while the cat’s away the devils will play
    • This is scary. Among other threats, the writer points out that by sending itineraries in unencrypted emails, travel companies are exposing their customers to an increased risk for burglary back home while they are traveling. He details  step-by-step how easy it would be for criminals to harvest large lists of people who are away from home.

Data, Algorithms, Analytics & Search

  1. The Death of (Free) Keywords, Not SEO
    • Google has removed keywords from search referrers but the reasons may be less about privacy, as Google claims, and more about monetization.


  1. Inside Coin’s techie vision for the all-in-one credit card | Mobile – CNET News
    • Coin has attracted a lot of attention, including from payments experts inside Expedia. This article goes a little deeper into the tech behind the Coin card.
  2. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/11/tpp-leak-confirms-worst-us-negotiators-still-trying-trade-away-internet-freedoms is not available
    • Trade negotiators may end up curtailing internet users’ rights in ways that lawmakers tried and failed to with their unsuccessful attempts to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and similar legislation.
    • “From locking in excessive copyright term limits to further entrenching failed policies that give legal teeth to Digital Rights Management (DRM) tools, the TPP text we’ve seen today reflects a terrible but unsurprising truth: an agreement negotiated in near-total secrecy, including corporations but excluding the public, comes out as an anti-user wish list of industry-friendly policies.”
  3. Freelancing is the new normal: oDesk and the future of the workforce marketplace
    • Many people people have heard of using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service for hiring freelance workers, but savvy organizations know that oDesk is the place to go to engage highly-skilled workers with good reputations.
  4. Judge Says ‘All Society Benefits’ From Google Books – Businessweek
    • It can take time, but sanity often eventually prevails and the law catches up with technology.
  5. New FCC chairman tells wireless carriers to unlock cell phones | Ars Technica
    • And the passage of time sometimes brings sanity to the regulatory environment too.
  6. MIT researchers develop InForm, a shape-shifting display surface (Wired UK)
    • Watching the video, I can’t help but feel that I am seeing an analog to the early Pong game that might evolve into something far more spectacular in a couple of decades.


Your comments are welcome. Off-topic comments will not be published. If you have a question unrelated to this post, click the "Contact" item in the navigation menu and submit it via email.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s