2013-12-06 TravelTech News Review

@TravelTekker’s Reviews & Impressions
TravelTech pros’ takes on the latest websites, apps and gear

      1. Priceline app function searches by vacation type, not destination – Travel Weekly
          • In the latest version of Priceline’s iPad app, users can try out a new “Explore Destinations” path. Users input a date and city of origin and then choose from one of eight “interest” categories: Beach, Romantic, Family, All Trips, Adventure, Entertainment, Wonders or Surprise Me.
          • After choosing a theme users can zoom into a particular region (i.e., view it from a lower virtual altitude) by circling it with their finger. This does not expose any additional destinations but makes it easier to see existing destination markers since they often overlap at higher altitudes.
          • Priceline is using a TravelPort “inspiration engine” rather than it’s own back-end to power the new user experience.
          • Pricing is real-time.


        I tried out the “Explore Destinations” feature and I was… underwhelmed.

        Priceline iPad App with "Explore Destinations" Beta Feature

        Priceline iPad App with “Explore Destinations” Beta Feature

        • The destinations and content are far too sparse to be of value to a typical traveler. For example I chose the Wonders category, which has an Egyptian pyramid as its icon. I found that the results, ironically, don’t feature any destinations in Egypt. As you can see in the screenshot above, the only two wonders Priceline displays near Egypt are Cappadocia in Turkey and Petra in Jordan.
        • I found no content (beyond a thumbnail image for some destinations) to actually inspire travel to the destinations. Given tablets’ major role as media consumption devices, I expect to see destination travel guides with photos, videos, recommended attractions and tours.
        • The concept is ideal for users looking to buy vacation packages with flights, hotels, car rentals and in-destination products like tours. However, the only travel product you can purchase on the “Explore Destinations” path is flights. To book hotels (the only other product in the app), you have to return to the top level of the app.
        • Priceline has labeled the “Explore Destinations” path “Beta” but it is really a limited proof-of-concept. Releases are traditionally given the “Beta” tag when they are feature complete. This feature cries out for the inclusion of more content and vacation package products.
        • I want to be clear with my criticism: I found nothing buggy in the experience; it is simply too limited to be of significant value with its current scope. My guess is that Priceline wants to make this thin slice of functionality public to see how users respond to it. The idea is to tweak the design based on usage. This Agile approach is how some of the most successful software is developed nowadays. I disagree with Priceline’s apparent definition of the minimum viable product. A minimum viable product for exploring destinations needs to have more destinations and actual destination content. Without these, the initial user response to the feature will not be representative of its potential. I would not have shipped it until more content was integrated.
        • Tnooz has a bit more information on the app.
        • Skift also carried the story
          • “Airlines and other travel providers have tried these sorts of searches before. It’s always a subset of travelers who find them useful, and not the dominant way to search for flights.”
      2. Intention-driven travel shops, airlines and beating the clock – Tnooz
        • [This started out as an article summary but the writer praised Australian flight metasearch site Adioso.com’s natural language search halfway through the article. Naturally I had to try it out and give you my impression–starting at the bold text below]
        • Interesting viewpoint from the CEO of Vayant, which is billed as “The Inspirational Airfare Search Engine.”
          • “…the [airline] industry has changed our world, [but] it struggles to turn a profit: over the last 40 years the sector has achieved a 0.1% net profit margin[!]”
          • “airlines, on average, are dealing with load factors of around 70 to 80%”
          • “Airlines can discount this unsold inventory… But this is essentially a “waiting game”, with a sale depending on someone entering the right [location and date] combination. …all the time the clock is ticking: once the plane pushes away from the gate an unsold flight is worthless.”
          • Natural language “Intention-driven”  search can help sell this inventory:
            • “…the customer can type “Melbourne to somewhere warm in August for a week” and Adioso.com will return the best flight prices for a number of destinations around the world that are warm in August.”
              • I tried out Adioso.com and got the same feeling I get with most semantic travel search engines–I can see the potential, but it needs to understand users’ intentions better before the majority of users will want to adopt it. It misunderstood more of my queries than it got right. To be fair, I work with natural language (NLP) search every day, so I didn’t try the easiest queries–but neither did I try impossible ones. In my mind it should have been able to give me a result for “Cheap flights from Seattle to Hawaii around February,” but it tokenized “around” with Hawaii instead of February and thus failed to nail the destination.
              • Apart from the typical NLP issues, I think the Adioso.com site is executed fairly well. It has a feedback feature to help correct natural language recognition failures, the design is clean and the site is relatively easy to use once you play with it a bit to understand its quirks.
          • The article notes that intention-driven search can provide a feedback loop back to the airlines:
            • “Using the example above, the travel shop will be able to say to the airline: “I have 250 customers who want to fly from a London airport to a warm destination on any dates in January. Can you do them a deal?”
      3. Travel Startups for Pre-Trip Research and Planning – Skift
        • A couple stand out for me:
          • True Currency calculates what products are cheaper to buy abroad…”
          • Bucketlistly …Users create a “bucket list” of achievements to accomplish or adventures they’d like to have, they ask others for advice or ideas, and keep track of which items they’ve checked off.”

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

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

YellowSuitcase

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

      1. Habitat For Humanity Seeking Volunteers Willing to Lend a Hand in India || Jaunted
        Want to do a volunteer vacation? Habitat for Humanity needs volunteers for India projects!
      2. Holidaymaker ends up in Caribbean, not Spain – Telegraph
        Lesson to be learned here: Do 10 seconds’ worth of Google research before setting out on vacation.
      3. German taxi driver mishears drunken passenger and takes him to Belgium – AOL Travel UK
        Lesson to be learned here: If you’re going to be drunk in a taxi, make sure the driver is smarter than you are.
      4. Chinese confuse Sweden with Switzerland – Telegraph
        …and the lesson here is that Americans aren’t the only one with geography issues (we confuse Australia and Austria, for example).

        • [Thomas, attempting humor]: No wonder I never realized my expectation of seeing guys in lederhosen during the eight years I lived in Australia!
      5. Beautiful Bali: How to Enjoy It Despite the Crowds | Lina Eroh
        Bali is one of my most favorite places I’ve ever visited. However, since the “Eat, Pray, Love” phenomenon, it’s been a bit overrun. Here’s how to enjoy it in spite of the crowds.
      6. Are LivingSocial Escapes travel deals worth it? Here’s what we found
        Last edition’s links delved into Groupon travel deals. This week it’s LivingSocial’s turn.
      7. Unlimited Vacation Policies Might Be Too Good To Be True
        A lot of local tech companies give unlimited, untracked vacation time. It’s an interesting idea, but there are some down sides.
      8. Americans Fail To Take More Than Half Billion Available Vacations Days – Skift
        But regardless of vacation policy, Americans just aren’t taking their days. Half a billion days are left unused!
      9. 10 irresistibly charming World Heritage cities
        Two “Must Do” lists: First off, charming World Heritage cities…Luang Prabang is on my itinerary for next year, which have you been to?
      10. 10 Architectural Landmarks You Have To Visit Before You Die
        And awesome architectural landmarks around the world.
      11. What the world eats for breakfast
        Breakfast, according to the rest of the world. My personal fave: chocolate and churros for breakfast in Spain!
      12. 17 Cheap destinations for 2014 with great weather in January
        Want a cheap winter getaway with sunshine? Read on…
      13. 9 Things to do in Paris in Winter | The HostelBookers Blog
        But if you don’t require sunshine, Paris is amazing no matter what season you visit. Here are winter must-dos.
      14. ‘Ultimate bucket list’ plotted out – Telegraph
        Or….maybe you want to fulfill your ENTIRE bucket list in one trip. Here’s an itinerary!!
      15. Cleaners find $1.9M worth of gold bars in plane toilet
        And finally….today’s installment of “Weird stuff found in an airport bathroom.”

Online Travel Industry

      1. PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit Winners
        • I was pleased to see that 2 startups that I had previously cited for innovation, Peek.com and Mygola.com, won Travel Innovation Summit awards at this years PhoCusWright conference.
      2. Questions For Travel Leaders at the PhoCusWright Conference – Skift
        • To:
          • Google: “Shouldn’t Google flights be… further along by now?”
          • TripAdvisor: Wouldn’t it have been easier to buy an existing metasearch player like Hipmunk rather than roll your own?
          • Orbitz: You’ve done a few interesting things, but are you really improving your competitive position.
          • plus a few more in the linked article…
      3. Expedia aims for agility atop shifting market
        • HotelNewsNow editor Jason Freed reports on his visit to Expedia HQ. He met with several Expedia leaders and observed the innovation lab.
          • “Inside the innovation lab on the 11th floor there are a dozen lounge chairs facing a large projected display. It’s standing-room only and everyone—product designers, web developers, researchers—are watching a red dot bounce around the screen.”
          • On the other side of the glass is a Seattle resident in her 20s who responded to a Craigslist ad offering a $75 Visa gift card to participate in an online travel booking study. As she surfs Expedia’s new responsive-design site, the red dot is tracking her eye movement.”
      4. All signs point to accommodation for Expedia
        • Q3 highlights include:
          • “A 20% increase in room nights year-on-year driven by Expedia and Asia’s eLong while revenue increased 17% put down to the room night growth as well as advertising and media revenue. Domestic room nights increased 12% and international were up 28%.”
          • “Revenue per available room night declined 7% and the company is expecting to see a continued decline because of a shift in the mix in certain markets, especially Asia, as well as discounting and other factors.”
          • “Sales and marketing costs saw an increase of 12 percentage points for the period largely because of the Trivago acquisition.”
          • “Top line growth and leverage on fixed costs led to 16% growth on adjusted EBITDA compared to Q3, 2012.”
          • “Mobile application downloads across the brands total 80m including 35m at eLong, 25m at hotels.com and 18m for the Expedia brand.”
      5. Expedia’s Trivago Unit To Follow the TripAdvisor Game Plan – Skift
        • “In its third quarter earnings announcement, Expedia said Trivago contributed 6 percentage points to Expedia Inc.’s year over year revenue growth, and the Germany-based company is on track to being profitable in 2013.”
      6. Expedia CEO Has No Regrets About Spinning Off TripAdvisor – Skift
        • Speaking at the PhoCusWright conference Dara Khosrowshahi made it clear that Expedia Inc’s leaders have no regrets about spinning off TripAdvisor.
        • “Khosrowshahi explained that Expedia and TripAdvisor investors ‘are absolutely ecstatic about the value it [the spinoff] created.’
        • “Expedia Inc. pre-spinoff was a $6.5 billion company, and the market cap of Expedia and TripAdvisor combined today is $21.6 billion, with TripAdvisor ($13.57 billion) being the larger of the two.”
        • “Khosrowshahi said his job is to create shareholder value and ‘not create strategic value.'”
      7. More Than Half of Hotels.com Mobile Bookings Are for Same-Day Stays – Skift
        • “Hotels.com culled its mobile data and found that 60% of its mobile bookings during the first six months of 2013 were made the day of the stay. That percentage is way higher than most other online travel agencies have reported.”
      8. Classic Vacations restricts website bookings to agents only – Travel Weekly
        • Expedia-owned Classic Vacations is seeking to build loyalty among travel agents by requiring all bookings to be made through them.
      9. SafelyStay wins grand prize at PhoCusWright event – Travel WeeklyThe PhoCusWright awards are the Oscars of the the TravelTech world. I was pleased to see that two startups I have cited for innovation, Peek andMygola, were award winners.
      10. Priceline duo speak: Huston on the future and Boyd on the past – Tnooz
        • Outgoing CEO Jeffery Boyd says he is leaving because “the time is right.” Which I take to mean that he feels the company is on the right trajectory to make the transition without significant disruption.
        • Darren Huston will remain as president of Booking.com while taking on the Priceline CEO mantle.
        • Travel industry newcomer Huston, who joined Booking.com from Microsoft, says that “the ‘data is terrible’ in the [travel] industry, with complex systems that sometimes struggle to communicate and possibly hold back growth.”
      11. Dear Mr Huston, some advice as you become new CEO of Priceline – Tnooz
        • William Beckler, who competed against Booking.com while working for Travelocity/Site59 and LastMinute.com, offers incoming Priceline CEO Darren Huston some advice:
          • Huston plans to stay in Booking.com’s home city of Amsterdam and Beckler says he’s right to do so. Huston should focus on ensuring that Booking.com continues its successful growth and not worry that other units of Priceline will feel neglected.
          • Booking.com should continue is successful strategy of leading the market in SEM and continually improving the site through A/B testing. It should not get distracted into trying new strategies such as TV advertising.
          • Huston should resist the urge to merge the eclectic technology stacks of the different Priceline units. Booking.com is doing just fine with Perl thank you.
            • Actually, as a competitor, I hope Booking.com sticks with Perl. It’s a fine language in limited doses but trying to maintain an enterprise scale Perl deployment and recruit top software engineers who are willing to work with it must be a challenge.
          • Becklers last piece of advice is to keep making bold bets to keep ahead of fierce competitors. Not bad advice.
      12. Why Booking.com Is Determined Not To Be Hated Like Expedia – Skift
        • Booking.com president and soon-to-be Priceline CEO Darren Huston says that, “…he spends a lot of time with Booking.com and Agoda employees advising them to “stay humble” with hotel owners, hotel managers, and hotel revenue managers in ‘making sure success doesn’t lead to arrogance.'”
        • The author of the article, Skift editor Dennis Schaal, says that Huston “…would never put it into words like this, but he clearly seeks to avoid the fate of Expedia Inc., which has been deeply resented, sometimes despised, by hoteliers over the years for seeking to squeeze every penny it can out of them with its higher-margin merchant model hotel business.”
        • The tone of this article seems to be colored by reporter Schaal’s recollections of his early experience with Expedia. In the comments section he notes:
          • “I was thinking this morning of my early dealings with Expedia in 2000. When Expedia had a dispute with a supplier, its public relations people would remind one and all that ‘Expedia doesn’t work for free.’ I heard that many times.”
        • Again in the comments section, two of the three comments from readers disagree that Booking is beloved of hoteliers.
      13. Investor and Room 77 Founder on the Travel Startup Dilemma – Skift
        • Room 77 founder Brad Gerstner said that “…it is harder than ever — meaning more expensive than ever — to acquire a customer these days, and “a lot of us under-estimated” the network effects that larger competitors can use to such advantage.”
        • “For some startups, Gerstner said, ‘you will never have the financial scale to break through to the consumer’ when competing against powerful companies such as Booking.com.”
        • Given Expedia and Priceline’s approximate billion-dollar Google ad spends Gerstner is correct. His startup strategy is not to complete head-on with the large established players, but to out-innovate them. Startups cannot complete in SEO and SEM, but mobile and apps are promising areas for innovation.
      14. TripAdvisor says no plans to become an OTA, happy to remain booking facilitator – Tnooz
        • While TripAdvisor is working hard on metasearch, it has no plans to become an online travel agent.
      15. TripAdvisor To Take Direct Hotel Bookings on Mobile Apps In 2014 – Skift
        • TripAdvisor doesn’t plan to become an Online Travel Agent, but in the case of mobile, it needs to make metasearch bookings less painful. In its current mobile experience, users are directed to a supplier or online travel agent mobile site when they enter the booking process. They then have to manually return to the TripAdvisor mobile experience if they want to check out another deal. TripAdvisor’s plan is keep the user in the TripAdvisor experience all the way through the booking process but have the supplier/OTA process the actual booking and be the merchant of record.
      16. Bing comes out fighting, integrates TripAdvisor hotel metasearch tool
        • Bing’s TripAdvisor hotel metasearch is integrated with to include a “business listing” of up to five hotels positioned on top of or within the organic search results. The metasearch feature is activated in response to queries that include a U.S. destination and the term “hotel” or synonyms such as “lodging”, “accommodation” or “places to stay”.
        • Users can view details of many “business listing” properties by hovering over a text/image area at the lower right of each listing that is labeled “$[price] Avg. Rate >”
        • Users can enter dates and click on a “Find Rate” button to see a full-page metasearch results list and map.
        • As was the case with a Google Hotel Finder design that I analyzed last year, Bing, working with TripAdvisor, has found a way to generate increased revenue by often pushing  organic search results down the page and positioning lucrative pay-per-click referrals above the fold. (Google’s newer carousel design doesn’t have such a deleterious effect on organic results.)
      17. TripAdvisor Edges Into Kayak’s Hotel Turf In Deal With Bing – Skift
        • TripAdvisor replaces Kayak, which previously powered Bing hotel search results.
        • “This is TripAdvisor’s first syndication partnership for its relatively new hotel metasearch product.”
      18. 3 Insider Tips for Better TripAdvisor Performance – Skift
        • Straight from TripAdvisor itself: 3 tips on how businesses can improve their TripAdvisor ratings:
      19. Skyscanner Is Making Its First Real Attempt to Crack Metasearch in the U.S. – Skift
        • Skyscanner sees lots of room for growth as it enters the U.S. markert. Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams told Skift, “There is no dominant player in online travel like Amazon in selling books.”
        • Skyscanner opened it’s first American office in Miami recently.
      20. Hipmunk CEO: Competitors Unwilling To Take Risks and Have Subpar Products – Skift
        • Hipmunk CEO Adam Goldstein says his competitors are unwilling to take risks and have subpar products. He implies that they are competitive with Hipmunk only because they “have large audiences of existing users, who are loyal by inertia.”
        • Goldstein see metasearch evolving into a supplier-dominated channel, cutting out OTAs.
      21. Qunar reports massive mobile revenue growth, mobile users triple
        • In Q3, Chinese travel metasearch engine “Qunar reported total revenue of $39.4 million, a 57.5% increase year-on-year.”
        • “Mobile revenue for the third quarter was $5.8 million, an increase of 386% year-on-year and representing almost 15% of total revenue.”
        • “Qunar’s mobile platform accounted for 53% of hotel search queries”
      22. Pinterest Officially Announces Its Foray Into Travel, With Place Pins – Skift
        • From the Pinterest Blog announcement:
          • Place Pins were designed to combine the beautiful imagery of a travel magazine with the utility of a map online so you can share it with friends. You can access them from anywhere on your smartphone, too, which means you can find new places on the go and even get directions!
          • Place Pins also include extra details like the address and phone number right on the Pin so you can easily pull up useful info on a weekend adventure or before a night out.
      23. Groupon to Integrate Tonight-Only Hotel Deals Into Its Mobile Apps – Skift
        • Groupon is leveraging its acquisition of last-minute single-night booking company Blink to provide the new feature.
      24. Concur Rebrands Booking Product Aimed at Rogue Business Travelers – Skift
        • Concur’s TripLink captures bookings that business travelers make outside employer-approved channels. Besides letting employers know when employees use non-standard booking channels, the service can notify suppliers of travelers’ affiliation. Some suppliers have agreed to charge negotiated rates even if the traveler uses an outside channel. The Concur VP that Skift interviewed for the article estimates that:
          • “50% of hotel bookings and 30% of flight bookings take place outside of preferred channels as road warriors seek to wrack up loyalty points or just have allegiances to other suppliers whom their companies may not have negotiated deals with.”
      25. Orbitz CEO: We See Ourselves As An Insurgent – Skift
        • CEO Barney Harford argues that Orbitz can take risks that its larger competitors will have a hard time accepting.
          • In the Orbitz Rewards Program, which was redesigned to shift its booking mix to the more profitable hotel sector,
            • Users earn 5% for mobile device hotel bookings, 3% for hotel bookings through other channels, and 1% on flights and vacation packages.
        • Orbitz uses its CheapTickets brand as a place to run experiments and try out promotional ideas.
        • Orbitz’ stock price has tripled over the last 12 months.
        • Harford dismisses metasearch, saying it is becoming a commodity.
      26. Here’s how the OTAs are outspending hotel brands on paid search
        • OTAs are outbidding hotels and winning significantly more ad auctions that involve keywords based on the hotels’ own brands.
      27. Google Travel Boss Defends Lack of Progress, Deflects Criticism – Skift
        • In some respects, Google’s go-slow approach with its travel products makes sense. Google makes a lot of money selling ads to Priceline, Expedia and other travel companies and it would want to be careful about losing ad revenue too quickly as it grows its own share of the travel market.
      28. 6 Reasons [or theories] Why Google Is Fine With its Irrelevant Flight Search – Skift
        • Google Doesn’t Want To Mess With Its Online Travel Agency Advertising Base
        • [In case you’re wondering, I wrote up the previous item, #27, before reading this story. I’m reassured to see that my analysis aligns with that of Skift’s Dennis Schaal ]
        • Travelers Aren’t Used to Google as a Destination Site in Itself
        • Google Hasn’t Done Much to Promote the Product
        • The Airline-Heavy Business Model Isn’t Attractive to Travelers
        • Perhaps Google Doesn’t Need For Google Flight Search to Be a Commercial Success
        • Google Is in No Hurry and Google Flight Search Isn’t Ready for Prime Time
      29. Travelzoo lunges toward new hotel booking and search models – Tnooz
        • “Travelzoo is attempting to rebalance its mix of revenue streams. This partly requires investing heavily in new services, such as a hotel booking platform set to debut soon — before those new products cover their costs. …in the third quarter… search revenue took a hit, falling 10%. The reason: The company had to cut its digital marketing spending on traffic acquisition to be able to afford its investment in Travelzoo’s new hotel booking platform…”
        • Predictably, Travelzoo’s share price dropped–by one-third–on the reduced revenue.

Hotels

      1. What The Freehand Miami Hostel Portends for the Future of American Hospitality – Skift
        • The Freehand Miami hostel is similar in concept to those in the Europe’s Generator hostels chain.
        • “The burgeoning ‘hip hostel’ concept—offering cool design, great food and a high percentage of single rooms—is a growing hospitality sector worldwide. The private accommodations attract young professionals seeking an affordable room in trendy neighborhoods where existing hotel rates are unapproachable for them.”
        • Following the success of the Miami property, a Freehand Chicago is planned for 2015.
      2. Millennials Make Hotels Rethink How They Do Loyalty Programs – Skift
        • Hotel industry experts have been saying for some time that brand loyalty is low in the sector. This article summarizes a white paper on loyalty programs written by Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Hudson Crossing. I have followed Mr. Hudson’s work for some time and have a lot of respect for his analyses.
          • “‘No guest business should ever be taken for granted, but hotels really don’t own their loyalty program members,’ Harteveldt tells Skift.”
          • “Hoteliers should know that their loyalty program members ‘are also members of their key competitors’ programs,’ Harteveldt says. ‘Even among your elites, they will shop other brands.'”
          • “hotel guests are skewing younger, and that Gen Y-ers, travelers age 24-36, now make up the largest group, accounting for 33% of guests. Guests age 18 to 23 make up about 10% of U.S. hotel guests.”
          • “…younger guests are less loyal in their lodging choices…”
      3. New Hampshire Is the Latest State to Sue Booking Sites Over Hotel Taxes – Skift
        • The state sued Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity.
        • “The president of the Travel Technology Association, which represents online travel industry, called the lawsuit a waste of taxpayer resources and said it is grounded in a lack of understanding of how online travel agents operate.”
          • “We don’t acquire hotel rooms. We don’t rent hotel rooms. We don’t operate hotels. We facilitate the reservation and in some instances collect the payment from the consumer which is then remitted directly to the hotel operator which are responsible for then submitting the tax payment,” said Steve Shur. “Online travel agencies have prevailed in the vast majority of these cases and expect to do so in this matter as well.”
      4. Hotels Contribute More to San Francisco Tax Revenues Than Any Other Sector – Skift
        • “San Francisco’s hotel industry generated $6.6 billion in direct and indirect spending in the region last year, making it the most important business sector in the city, according to economists.”
      5. Loews to enable guests to book through Twitter – Travel Weekly
        • “Customers can send the tweet #BookLoews to @Loews_Hotels, which will prompt a “conversation” through Twitter.”

Air Travel

      1. Asiana Crash Prompts NTSB Probe Into Whether Automated Cockpits Make Pilots Worse – Skift
        1. My brother, who is a pilot/instructor for a major U.S. airline, believes that pilot’s flying skills suffer when automation is overused, especially during takeoffs and landings. Other experienced pilots agree. For example, Captain Jeff Nielson, who hosts the popular AirlinePilotGuy podcast, emphasizes the same point. I agree with their assessment. We can’t expect pilots to recognize and respond to critical situations adequately if they spend most of their flying time watching automated systems fly the plane. Unless and until we trust automated systems to fly planes one hundred percent of the time, we should insist that pilots spend a significant amount of time manually piloting their aircraft in all phases of flight.
      2. FCC Chairman Backtracking On In-Flight Calls, After Backlash – Skift
        1. “…the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman backtracked, saying he personally isn’t in favor of calls on planes.”
        2. There is no safety or technical reason to prohibit the use of mobile devices on planes.
        3. “The decision to allow calls will ultimately rest with the airlines…”
      3. Skift Asks: Do You Want Phone Calls and Texts on Flights? – Skift
        1. 55% of respondents oppose allowing cellphone calls during flights. Probably because they fear scenarios like this.
      4. Miss Manners gives tips on proper flight etiquette | Fox News
        1. The FCC should ask Miss Manners whether to allow cellphone calls during flights. She already has a few rules for making flying a bit less unpleasant.
      5. E.U. to expand use of personal devices in-flight – Travel Weekly
        1. The E.U. is following the U.S. Department of Transportation’s lead to allow the usage of personal electronic devices in all phases of flight.
      6. What the American and US Airways merger means to the traveler | Fox News
        1. The combination of an improving economy and reduced competition on some routes is likely to lead to higher prices for those routes.
        2. Some regional airports will have fewer flights.
        3. Carriers like JetBlue and Southwest will take over some former American and US Airways gates and routes.
      7. All U.S. Carriers Should Be Able to Bid on Gates Opened by Merger, Says Congress – Skift
        1. “The settlement was widely viewed as likely to benefit Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways…”
        2. But “Four key members of Congress say that all airlines — not just low-fare carriers — should be able to bid on gates and landing rights that American Airlines and US Airways will give up after their merger.”
      8. Both sides claim victory with settlement of AA merger suit – Travel Weekly
        1. “[The Department of Justice] said the divestiture of slots, gates and other facilities at key airports around the country would make room for competition, particularly by low-cost airlines, in an era marked by consolidation among the legacy carriers.”
        2. “The merger partners, meanwhile, said the divestitures will have little impact on the success of their union and will not derail the plan to realize $1 billion in annual net synergies in 2015.”
        3. “…the divestitures [are intended to] benefit low-fare carriers such as Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America, Frontier and Spirit.”
      9. American Airlines testing bidding for upgrades | Fox News
        1. “Passengers can submit a bid — along with a credit card number — up to six days before the flight.”
        2. “…passengers will earn frequent-flier miles based on the class of service that they bought with the ticket, not the upgraded class.”
      10. Undecided travelers may save big with airline fare lock | Fox News
        1. Did you know that if see a particularly attractive fare on United Airlines you can lock in an option to purchase the fare for $9.99 for 72 hours or $14.99 for a week? Or that you can hold a price on American for free for 24 hours? (All U.S. carriers are required to allow you to cancel a ticket purchased one week or longer prior to flight within 24 hours of purchase for no penalty.)
        2. I’ve previously featured a new site, OptionsAway.com, that will sell you the option to lock in today’s price for an airfare you may purchase several days in the future. OptionsAway was initially limited to a small number of city pairs, but I see that that it has now added many more. OptionsAway offers a better deal than United for many city pairs and it’s available for several different airlines.
      11. Avianca Brasil Woos Passengers With Free Meals, Better Seats – Skift
        1. Perhaps there is hope for economy air passengers after all. A few airlines are finding they can profit by offering better customer service without monetizing every service feature.
      12. The Five New Luxe Airport Lounges from LAN and TAM – Skift
        1. Travelers outside South America may not be too familiar with LAN. It started in 1929 as the Chilean state airline, was fully privatized by 1994 and was recognized as the best airline in South America in 2013. Features like the five impressive new lounges covered in this article will go a long ways towards keeping it on top.
      13. What toiletries can you take on an airplane? | Fox News
        1. Useful guidance on semi-solid products as well as answers to two other travel questions: “How can I find the best fare to Jackson Hole?” and “What is considered to be a carry on?”
      14. Airline seat design would allow passengers to pay for space, not seats | Fox News
        1. This intriguing concept features movable armrest/dividers that are used to divide a bench seat into three.
      15. Spirit Airlines mocks ObamaCare: ‘Our website actually works!’ | Fox News
        1. “We know one airline company that can expect an audit this coming tax season.”
      16. EasyJet Finds Success With Budget Business Flyers – Skift
        1. “Super budget airline easyJet reported yearly pre-tax profits of £478 million ($770 million), marking a 51% increase from last year. Revenue for the fiscal year came in at £4.3 billion, up 10.5% from last year. The company’s shares are up sharply on the news.”
      17. The Gulf Airlines That Spent $100 Billion in 15 Minutes – Skift
        1. “Gulf airlines dropped $100 billion in 15 minutes on the opening day of the Dubai Airshow, as they ordered hundreds of passenger jets to expand a common ambition to turn the region into a global aviation hub.”
        2. “…the carefully choreographed event also masked bitter competition between the region’s airlines to attract passengers, amid weak margins and high fuel costs.”
        3. “‘The Middle East three (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Air) have successfully expanded their global route networks over the past decade, in part through the economics of securing highly competitive deals for long haul aircraft…” said Peter Morris, chief economist at the London-based consultancy Ascend.”
      18. Emirates on Track to Be World’s Largest Airline by 2020 – Skift
      19. United Will Cut Spending by $2 Billion to Keep Shareholders Happy – Skift
        1. “The carrier didn’t give specific details… on how it would achieve the cost cuts and boost revenue from sources other than fares by $700 million a year.”
      20. Boeing 787 and 747-8 aircraft with GE engines at risk of high-altitude icing. Fix is imminent
        1. A Boeing 747-8 recently lost thrust in one engine while flying through an anvil cloud (anvil clouds form in the upper parts of thunderstorms and are mostly composed of ice particles). Subsequent analyses found that Boeing 787 and 747-8 aircraft equipped with General Electric GEnx engines can experience internal icing when flying through such conditions. Boeing has told airlines not to fly the planes within 50 nautical miles of thunderstorms that may contain ice crystals.
        2. Boeing and GE have identified a software-only fix for the problem and expect to make it available to aircraft operators in the first quarter of 2014.
      21. Boeing’s Iconic 747 Jet Is Too Big and Too Expensive for Modern-Day Aviation – Skift
        1. “…the glamorous double-decker jumbo jet that revolutionized air travel and shrunk the globe could be nearing the end of the line.”
        2. “Boeing has cut its production target twice in six months. Just 18 will be produced in each of the next two years. Counting cancellations, it hasn’t sold a single 747 this year. Some brand-new 747s go into storage as soon as they leave the plant.”
        3. “…most airlines simply don’t want big, four-engine planes anymore. They prefer newer two-engine jets that fly the same distance while burning less fuel.”
        4. “A 747 can seat from 380 to 560 people… A full one is a moneymaker. But an airline that can’t fill all the seats has to spread the cost of 63,000 gallons of jet fuel — roughly $200,000 — among fewer passengers.”
        5. “They’re also too big for most markets. There aren’t enough passengers who want to fly each day between Atlanta and Paris, for example, to justify several jumbo jet flights. And business travelers want more than one flight to choose from. So airlines fly smaller planes several times a day instead.”
      22. Group Including Singapore’s Changi Airport Buys Rio de Janeiro’s Airport – Skift
        1. “Brazil sold the country’s second-busiest airport for almost four times the minimum bid as part of President Dilma Rousseff’s program to modernize infrastructure and shore up investor confidence.”
        2. It’s not clear that it’s wise to sell off national assets, but Brazil couldn’t have found a better buyer; Changi is the most awarded airport in the world.
      23. Why Do American Airports Lag Every Other Region in the World? – Skift
        1. “Unlike emerging countries with plenty of land to build, it is much more expensive to expand. A century of outdated planning means that airports are often very far from the urban core, surrounded by unattractive businesses such as warehouses and undesirable housing.”
        2. “…since the U.S. is so massive and multi-polar, there isn’t a single international hub to act as a welcome mat to the world.”
        3. “…even the most global American [airport] is chiefly domestic.”
      24. AirlineReporter.com is a topflight avgeek blog based in Seattle. I liked so many recent stories that I’m consolidating them under one item.
        1. AirlineReporter.com « Aviation Geek Fest 2014 is Coming — You Ready?
          • The Aviation Geek Fest, to be held February 15th and 16th 2014, is a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the industry in one of its greatest hubs, here in Seattle.
        2. AirlineReporter.com « Airline Pajamas, No Longer Just for First Class
          • “Lie-flat seats, designer amenity kits, and multi-course meals are now as common in business class as they are (or were) in first.  But one small item is slowly making an emergence in business class, one that has always been thought of solely as a first class staple: airline pajamas.
        3. AirlineReporter.com « Cathay Pacific Pajama Review – Old vs New
          • I’m including another article on pajamas in a TravelTech blog. Let’s leave it at that and not say any more.
        4. AirlineReporter.com « In-Flight Review: LOT Polish 787 Elite Club (Business)
          • Sounds like a great way to fly to Europe. For a good part of the article, I wasn’t sure if it was a flight review or a food review; the in-flight meals sound pretty good.
        5. AirlineReporter.com « Flying Hawaiian Airlines from Seattle to Hawaii
          • At this time of year, I’d rather go to Hawaii. Hawaiian’s economy service sounds great.
        6. AirlineReporter.com « Boeing’s Everett Plant: A History Of The World’s Wide-body Mecca (Part One)
          • Fascinating read (especially for those of us who live in the Seattle area) on the site where “a little over 50% of the world’s wide-body aircraft have ever been produced.” As the article mentions, Boeing offers tours of the facility.
        7. AirlineReporter.com « Photo Tour of the Boeing 737 Renton Factory
          • Most of us who live in the Seattle area have driven past this facility more than a few times. Many of us have friends and neighbors who work there.
          • I have to say, the 737 facilities look very small to me. I once worked at Lockheed’s Fort Worth Division. The aircraft assembly line there is a mile long.
        8. AirlineReporter.com « Amazing Videos: 49 Plane Formation Flyover
          • This impressive flyover of a Kansas City Chief’s home game by a private squadron of homebuilt aircraft covered the sky in pink contrails and raised $25,000 for the University of Kansas Hospital’s cancer center. There were certainly some risks to the endeavor. With that many pilots, I doubt they all had the amount of close formation flying experience that is typical of such endeavors. In addition, the spotter pilot who flew underneath the formation remarked that he was flying under the tops of antenna and utility towers in the area. There was other air traffic in the vicinity, including a blimp and helicopters. They were able to make the case that they had mitigated the risks; they were able to secure official permission to carry out the maneuver after it was initially denied.
        9. AirlineReporter.com « Qantas Launches Latest in Series of “Flying Art” Liveries
          • The latest Qantas aircraft to celebrate Australian aboriginal art. The article has some nice photos of the other planes in the series too.

Cruises

      1. Amid Europe river cruise boom, lines say there’s room for more – Travel Weekly
        • There has been lot of buzz about European river cruises in travel blogs and podcasts lately. You get to experience beautiful scenery, interesting attractions, and great food and drink.  And you see a large area of the continent while only unpacking your bags one time.
      2. Too Big to Sail? Cruise Ships Face Scrutiny – NYTimes.com
        • “One of the largest cruise ships in 1985 was the 46,000-ton Carnival Holiday. Ten years ago, the biggest, the Queen Mary 2, was three times as large. Today’s record holders are two 225,000-ton ships whose displacement, a measure of a ship’s weight, is about the same as that of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.”
        • “Today’s biggest ship, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, has 2,706 rooms, 16 decks, 22 restaurants, 20 bars and 10 hot tubs, as well as a shopping mall, a casino, a water park, a half-mile track, a zip line, mini golf and Broadway-style live shows. It can accommodate nearly 6,300 passengers and 2,394 crew members… It measures 1,188 feet long.”
        • Today’s behemoths raise questions of safety. For example, passengers are supposed to be able to evacuate on lifeboats withing 30 minutes of an evacuation alarm, a task that could be complicated by bigger ships.
      3. Cruise Lines Under-Report Overboard Rates to Regulators, Customers – Skift
        • “Carnival Cruise Lines confirms that [a passenger] went overboard and says she was witnessed jumping, but her ordeal is not included in any official listing of cruise ship mishaps. It’s as if it never happened.”
        • “While a federal law mandates that certain major crimes alleged on cruise lines sailing to or from North America be reported to the public, only some man-overboard cases fit the description…”
        • “The number of incidents is still a fraction of 1 percent of the more than 12 million passengers carried by those eight lines each year, but one fact is still undeniable: There is no reliable, official way for the public to find out how many people plunge over ship railings into the water.”

General Travel News

      1. Airlines Could Grow Revenues 40% With Additional Ancillary Sales – Skift
        • Note that this is a “Sponsored Content” article–more or less an advertorial–but it does offer some interesting insights into air travel revenue possibilities.
        • “The average flight is purchased 45 days ahead of date of departure – giving airlines a clear window of opportunity to push relevant ancillary services…”
        • Airlines don’t even need to use much-hyped “Big Data” analytics to identify up-sell opportunities.
        • “By unlocking value from “little data” already at their disposal, airlines can very quickly determine patterns in customer behaviour, and use that intelligence to suggest additional products or services, which they may want to purchase. With an average 45-day window, that could mean everything from renting cars, making dining and hotel reservations to purchasing in-flight meals, tickets to sporting events and duty-free items.”
        • My observation: other travel companies such as OTAs also often have a long lead time between purchase and travel dates and could use similar tactics to increase revenue.
      2. Detained American in North Korea Was on Tour Booked With London Operator – Skift
        • 85 year-old Merrill Newman’s experience offers some lessons for Americans considering traveling to North Korea:
          1. Don’t.
          2. If you must, be very careful what you say. On his last scheduled day in the country Newman apparently made the mistake of mentioning his experiences as a soldier in the Korean conflict. Motivated by paranoia and/or propaganda value, the North Koreans detained him.
          3. Follow Dennis Rodman’s lead and praise Kim Jong-un as a “good guy,” and “good-hearted kid.”
      3. Tourism Australia poised to deliver big bang for the economic development buck
        • “The combination of vibrant cities and world class natural assets is a compelling value proposition. Not only are natural tourism assets among the most important drivers of international travel decisions, Australia’s natural assets are ranked number one by 11 of our most significant tourism markets, including, critically, China.”
        • “China is already our second-biggest source of tourists”
        • Australian tourism brand positioning components, from a Deloitte Australia report:
          1. Proximity to Asia and its burgeoning middle class and the demand for international travel that this is generating (by 2030, two thirds of the world’s middle class will reside in the Asia Pacific region)
          2. Natural assets: Including nearly 60,000 kilometres of mostly unadulterated shoreline, an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, rainforests, beaches, outback and urban areas
          3. Safety and languages: Australia is a politically and environmentally safe destination and offers the convenience of being both English speaking and offering other languages
          4. Vibrant city experiences, including iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House
          5. Cheaper flights: Increased air access, greater levels of competition and low-cost carriers offering more flights into Australia have created many more affordable options for both leisure and business travellers
          6. Education: The calibre of our educational sector encourages foreign students to become ‘education tourists’ who in turn encourage friends and family to visit.
      4. Walt Disney World’s MyMagic+ Smart Bracelets Face Setback – Skift
        • Healthcare.gov is not the only large IT project having teething problems.
        • “Walt Disney World‘s billion-dollar plan to outfit theme-park visitors with wireless rubber bracelets and get them planning more of their trips in advance has fallen behind schedule.”
        • “At a minimum, it will likely be several more months before all of the giant resort’s customers can use MyMagic+”

Consumer Travel News, Advice & Deals

      1. Frequent Flyer Miles at Major U.S. Airlines Will Be Worth Less in 2014 – Skift
        • The sad saga of mileage inflation will continue in 2014 as the airline industry continues to consolidate. You’ll have to do the math for your own situation, but you may be better off using a cash awards credit card rather than chasing devalued airline points.
      2. Low cost carriers pose a challenge for Asia’s online agents – Tnooz
        • “42% of agents acknowledge LCCs’ [Low Cost Carriers] having a major presence in their markets yet 60% were unable to display and sell LCCs’ inventory.”
        • “Only 29% of agents have agreements with budget carriers, the rest excluded them from search results and almost 33% state they ignore LCCs and focus on airlines that can be booked through their online booking engine.”
        • What this means to consumers is that they may be missing out on great deals for Asian flights if they only search through an offline or online travel agency. Consumers will have a better chance of turning up the best deals if they use the airlines’ sites and metasearch.
      3. How to Outsmart the Airlines and Beat the Shrinking Airplane Seat – Skift
        • “A 777 should be nine seats across to give you a reasonable seat.
          An A330/A340 should be eight seats across to give you a reasonable seat.
          An A380 should be ten seats across the lower deck.
          A 787 should only be eight seats across to give you a reasonable seat.”
      4. Spirit Airlines Considers Spiking Bag Fees During Peak Travel Times – Skift
        • “On its third-quarter earnings call, Spirit suggested that it will soon apply the same revenue management rules that lead to holiday fare spikes to ancillary fees.”
        • “Several airlines have already introduced dynamic pricing for roomier seats and priority boarding. For example, the price of United’s Economy Plus seats and Delta’s Economy Comfort seats vary depending on the route or time of purchase.”
      5. Abu Dhabi Officials Publish Behavior Guide for Cruise Visitors – Skift
        • Abu Dhabi’s rules for visitors will strike many people from other cultures as stifling, but it’s helpful for visitors to have a clear guide to locally acceptable behavior. It will help travelers avoid offending locals and getting into legal trouble. A few of the rules include:
          • Please avoid any behaviour in public places which could be considered indecent, such as kissing, cross-dressing, etc
          • Please wear respectful clothing
          • It is prohibited to consume alcoholic drinks in unlicensed places
          • Identification should be carried at all times and produced to security officers upon request
          • Entry to and the photography of restricted areas is strictly prohibited
          • Not eating, drinking or smoking in public places during the fasting hours (daylight) of the Holy month of Ramadan and all religious rituals and occasions should be respected.
      6. Virgin Galactic Will Accept Bitcoin as Payment for Space Flights – Skift
        • Now that U.S. government agencies have recognized the viability and legality of the Bitcoin virtual currency, more high profile firms are  beginning to accept it.
        • “Virgin Galactic is not the only travel company looking to make a name for itself by accepting Bitcoin payments. Today, online travel agency CheapAir.com also announced it is accepting the digital currency.”

Food & Beverages

      1. Restaurants At Gas Stations Could Be Next Big Thing For Foodies and Road-Trippers – Skift
        • “Gas stations have not historically inspired confidence as palate pleasers. Day-old (or longer) doughnuts or hot dogs rolling (and rolling) on a spinner grill come to mind. But across the Washington [DC] region, there are at least a dozen eateries serving delectable, sometimes organic, fare near the pump. There’s Korean bibimbap in Wheaton, authentic Mexican in Jessup, Thai in Leesburg and Latin American in the District.”
        • “Gas station cuisine is partly being driven by popular food truck operators… seeking permanent locations for the evolution of their brands and to meet strict regulatory requirements to have a licensed base of operations.”
        • “A fellow named Colonel Sanders got his start selling fried chicken at his service station in Corbin, Ky. Things turned out well for him.”
        • “Today, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of gas stations across the country serving a variety of food not sold in a vacuum-sealed bag…”
        • “Al Hebert, a medical journalist who blogs at GasStationGourmet.com about his eating adventures, once ate Cornish hen prepared by a classically trained chef in a Chevron station.”

Travel Media & Marketing

      1. How Arthur Frommer Is Trying To Reinvent The Guidebook, Again – Skift
        • 84 year old Arthur Frommer and his daughter Pauline regained the rights to publish travel guidebooks under their own name this year and plan to publish 30 new paperbacks and e-books before Christmas. You gotta love Arthur.
      2. Most U.S. Tourism Websites Are Woefully Underused – Skift
        • Most national, state and city tourist boards in the U.S. probably have a website. Skift dug into U.S. tourism website statistics–and then doublechecked when they found traffic numbers so low as to be unbelievable. Numbers ranged from 570,000 unique monthly visitors for NYCGo.com to 15,000 for ExperienceWA.com, the official site for Washington State.
        • It’s embarrassing that so many of these official sites generate significantly less traffic than many independent travel blogs: for exmaple, dozens of blogs from this list get more traffic than Washington State’s official tourism site. [A few of blogs have some sort of organizational support, but the majority are run by independent bloggers.]
        • Tourism boards need to produce more compelling content and invest in SEO and SEM to increase their traffic.
      3. The Top 28 Consumer Travel Media Sites Around The World – Skift
      4. British Airways’ Adorable New Ads Point Out Planes Passing Overhead – Skift
        • “Digital billboards are placed on the sides of a highway and equipped with surveillance technology to know when a plane is approaching. The display then switches to a small girl that points out the plane passing overhead.”
      5. Time Inc Didn’t Pay Much For Travel+Leisure, In Fact Made $20 Million Gain – Skift

Social Media

      1. Social media road map – Travel Weekly
        • This is good article for anyone who is serious about working with social media. If you’re an expert, you may already know much of what is discussed, but you can still use the article as an audit checklist to see if there are steps you should take to increase your social media effectiveness.
          • “Success with social media marketing is cumulative. Every [post] is a step toward building a loyal community of fans and followers, which in turn has the potential to produce an unlimited number of leads and sales.”
          • The article calls out the pros and cons of various social networks.
          • Random factoid: did you know that YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine? “An active YouTube channel can bump up search engine rankings.”
          • Google Plus 1+’s (i.e. “likes”) “beat out every other metric known to improve search engine rankings!”
          • You need to establish Google-recognized authorship by “linking your Google Plus profile to the content you write.”
      2. How a hotel chain made $2 million using social media
        • Starwood set up a Facebook page to promote deals from its various brands (Sheraton, Westin, W, etc.) and bought Facebook ads to encourage users to “Like” the page. It tracked clickthroughs and conversions from the page and calculated a $2 million net revenue increase over the few months the promotions page has been in place.
      3. Know how your hotel’s social media reputation impacts your pricing
        • IDeaS Revenue Solutions has added a social media reputation pricing feature to its hotel revenue management system. The idea is that hotel managers can compare the online reputation of their rooms to those of their competitors and price their inventory accordingly. If you manage a property with a better reputation than nearby competitors, you should be able to price your rooms higher than the competitions’ without losing too many room nights to them.
        • Just a thought: OTAs have a lot of data on hotel reputations. They could offer services like this to their hotel partners to increase the value of the OTA-Hotel relationship.
      4. The true next generation traveler leaves Facebook, turns to Twitter
        • From Piper Jaffray data:
          • “More than half of teens indicate that social media impacts their purchases with Twitter being the most important, eclipsing Facebook, followed closely by Instagram. But the popularity of Facebook is waning among teens with 23% citing it as the most important, down from 33% six months ago and 42% a year ago.”
      5. KLM Is First Airline to Show Customer Service Wait Times on Twitter – Skift
        • When I read the headline, I thought KLM was tweeting the wait time periodically in its feed, but they’re actually doing something more clever to avoid cluttering the feed. KLM inserts the wait time in its profile photo and updates it every five minutes. Unfortunately, the wait time is cropped out of the frame on the Twitter app on my phone.

Travel Surveys, Studies, Reports & Infographics

      1. Everything you wanted to know about user engagement with travel content in one report – Tnooz
        • Great report from Expedia Media Solutions and comScore on user engagement with travel content during the travel lifecycle. Some findings from the study:
          • Total Travel Minutes are increasing across devices, and mobile device usage is up dramatically.
            • Time on personal computers is up 2% Year over Year (YoY)
            • Mobile device usage time is up 45% YoY
            • 52% of the internet population accesses content via mobile
            • 24% of users access content exclusively on mobile
            • 28% of total travel minutes are spent on mobile
          • Matthew Reichek, Senior Director of Product for Expedia Media Solutions, sees the growth in travel content consumption as a key takeaway of the study:
            • “The thing that surprised me the most was the growth in minutes consumed for travel – 93% growth over a 3-year period. When you think of online travel, you think it’s a mature category…but you’ve got this huge explosion of time spent online in the travel vertical. What it tells me is that a) consumers are hungry for this information and b) there are more ways to access the content.”
          • Half of trip planning starts on an OTA, airline or hotel website.
          • “Word-of–mouth references posted a solid 10% of initial research into a trip, while meta search and travel media posted a very low 4% and 6% respectively. This is a very interesting result, as travel media generally positions itself at the forefront of inspirational trip planning.”
          • The greater part of the travel planning and decision process still occurs on personal computers. PCs account for around 85% of usage during the research, shopping and planning phases of the travel lifecycle. Only during the actual trip does PC use drop to 47%. Smartphone usage, which is under 20% for the first three phases, jumps to 31% during the trip. Tablet usage holds steady around 27 to 28% through all phases of the lifecycle.
          • 43% of travelers post some sort of content after their trip.
        • Referencing the same report, Skift highlights that prospective travelers spend more time researching lodging than any other aspect of trip planning.
        • The full report is available here.
      2. Facebook survey shows influence of travel posts – Travel Weekly
        • “…more than half of survey respondents [listed] holidays as one of the top three posts they see on Facebook.”
        • “…travel marketers could use Custom Audience, a Facebook tool businesses can use to find their customers in their database on Facebook and target them with relevant ads. For example, an airline could use a database of emails of passengers who have flown to Hawaii in the past to reach that same group on Facebook and show them an ad on Facebook for a discounted rate to Hawaii. “
        • 84% of respondents said friends’ and families’ holidays inspire them and 83% liked looking at friends’ and families’ vacation photos.
        • 65% said they were only aware of their families’ vacation destinations through seeing them on Facebook.
        • 47% said they have browsed through Facebook photo to find out more about a destination.
        • 58% said others’ experiences have encourage them to visit a place they hadn’t previously considered.
        • 95% used Facebook during the booking process.
        • 91% said they checked Facebook at least every couple of days while on vacation.
        • 99% post vacation content to Facebook after they return.
      3. Google study on device usage, online trip planning and video impact
        • This is worth digging into if you want to understand more about how today’s travelers do trip planning.
        • Ranked in order of importance, top trip planning factors for leisure travelers include: Price, Interesting Activities, Past Destination Experience, Variety of Activities, Affinity for the Location, and Promotional Offers
        • Trip planning factors for business travelers, by travel product include:
          • Air: Price, Convenient departure/arrival times, Fewer stops/better connections
          • Lodging: Price, Convenient location, Past experience with venue
          • Car Rental: Price, Past Experience, Reward/Travel Points
        • 57% of business travelers plan to extend a business trip to include leisure.
        • The Internet and family and friends are travelers’ top resources for travel planning and inspiration.
        • Leisure travelers spend the most time on search engines, then hotel sites, airline sites and online travel agencies. Business travelers dedicate their online activity to hotel sites, then airline sites, search engines and OTAs.
        • Interestingly, far more mobile device-using travelers book on mobile websites rather than through mobile apps.
        • In 2013, for the first time, more than half of travelers said they viewed online travel videos.
      4. 6 Things You Need to Know About Chinese Travelers’ Social Habits – Skift
        • 91 percent interacted with social media while traveling
        • WeChat and Sino Weibo are their networks of choice
        • They value brands that offer good promotions
        • Half posted status updates while traveling and 36 percent posted hotel room pictures
        • Out of the 11 countries surveyed, Chinese respondents had the highest proportion of business travelers
        • They placed the highest value on “food discoveries” with 59 percent saying that was an important consideration in choosing a hotel.
      5. The Majority of American Travelers Stay Plugged in on Vacation – Skift
        • A TripAdvisor survey reports:
          • “Eighty-five percent of American travelers use a smartphone on vacation”
          • “61 percent of American travelers are using their mobile devices to access and share social media.”
          • Of vacation social media users:
            • 46 percent said they feared missing out on friends’ personal news.
            • 19 percent said they posted “because it wouldn’t be a holiday if their friends didn’t know they were on it.”
          • Mobile device equipped vacationers used them for utilitarian reasons too:
            • 36% use them to find restaurants
            • 27% look for activities
            • 22% search for hotels
      6. Americans Fail To Take More Than Half Billion Available Vacations Days – Skift
        • Skift reports on Expedia’s well known annual vacation study. This year it surveyed “8,535 employed adults across 24 countries and five continents.”
          • “Americans could have taken 14 days of vacation and took 10, leaving 4 days on the table, twice as many as the year prior.”
          • Be sure to check out the informative infographic in the linked article. It includes tidbits such as:
            • Europeans feel the most vacation-deprived even though they receive and take the most vacation days!
              • [Must… resist… the urge to make fun of Europeans…]
        • Travel Weekly also reported on the survey
          • “The Japanese and South Koreans are the world’s most “vacation-deprived” when it comes to taking off days, while the French are the least, Expedia said in its 13th annual Vacation Deprivation Study.”

Privacy, Security & Fraud

      1. Healthcare.gov ’s website helpfully suggests SQL injection attacks in its autocomplete:
        • Security and database folks will get a good laugh out of the pictured autosuggestions, including
          • ;select * from users
          • ;show tables
          • ;grant
        • I tried out the site. Sadly for geek humorists, it seems that the autocomplete feature has been disabled altogether.
        • There is no evidence that the attempted attacks were successful, but there were enough of them to train the autocompletion feature to offer them up as suggestions. The Guardian goes into more detail on theimplications of the attempted attacks.

Mobile

      1. Mobile to Represent Over One Quarter of U.S. Online Travel Market by 2015 – PhoCusWright
        • Mobile booking growth is impressive, increasing from just 2% of total bookings in 2011 to a projected 25% in 2015.

Tech

      1. ‘Let’s try and not have a human do it’: How one Facebook techie can run 20,000 servers | ZDNet
        • A few details on how Facebook operates its data centers. The company invests in a lot of automation.

Destinations & Experiences

    1. New cycle trails for New Zealand in 2014 | News | Wanderlust
      • Great bike trails plus New Zealand scenery? This is going on my bucket list!
    2. Grumpy Cat went to Disneyland and stayed grumpy | Fox News
      • I’ve noticed that several of my Facebook friends are fans of Grumpy Cat. Watch Grumpy Cat out-grumpy Grumpy the Dwarf.
    3. Get out of Orlando and Experience the Space Coast
      • Speaking of grumpy–many of us know from personal experience that an excessive dose of Orlando theme parks can leave a family feeling that way. I totally agree with this writer that Florida’s Space Coast is a good change of pace from Orlando. She reports on several great coastal attractions for your itinerary and they’re not limited to NASA facilities. The Space Coast has great food, wildlife, hiking, surfing, scuba diving, and swimming
    4. Halibut fishing in Homer becomes a yearly sojourn | Fox News
      • I spent a week fishing for halibut earlier this year in the same vicinity as the writer of this article. If you’ve ever dropped a line in piscine pursuits or think you might like to, I highly recommend halibut fishing off Alaska’s Kenai peninsula. The fishing is good and the halibut is tasty. At Seattle market prices, I reckon I brought back enough fish to cover at least half of the cost of the trip.
      • I hate to break it to the writer, but my group caught, on the average, bigger fish. We didn’t even keep any the size of the smaller ones in his photo. Here’s one of my fish pictures. The catch that day was about average size-wise. We fished for six days and caught our limits every day.

        Halibut from the Cook Inlet, off Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

        On Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula with halibut taken from the Cook Inlet

    5. The 11 best adults-only all-inclusives on the beach | Fox News
      • As selected by the professional reviewers at Oyster.com, who are probably losing their jobs following TripAdvisor’s acquisition of the company for its photo library.
    6. ‘Cat Heaven Island’ draws tourists and more cats | Fox News
      • Cats on boats, a cat on a motorscooter, cats with fish…
    7. Disney’s Smart Moves 50 Years Ago Helped it Own Orlando Today – Skift
      • This breathlessly wordy article contains some interesting facts about the events that led to the creation of Disney World.
    8. Africa’s First Underwater Hotel Room Opens in Zanzibar – Skift
      • This is very cool–like having a comfortable bed next to the fish viewing windows at an aquatic theme park. Go to the article and check out the slide show.
    9. France Fights Image of Predictability by Promoting Experiences Outside of Paris – Skift
      • “Of the 3.1 million Americans who visited France last year, 80 percent of them stayed in the capital.”
      • That is sad. Paris is great, but other parts of France offer rich experiences for travelers. I’m glad my experience in France was not limited to Paris.

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