2014-02-04 TravelTech News Review: Seahawks Edition!

Employees celebrated the Seattle Seahawks' Superbowl journey with a 9 story image on the side of Expedia HQ. (Click on photo to load a 38 megapixel printable poster.)

Employees celebrated the Seattle Seahawks’ Superbowl journey with a 9 story image on the side of Expedia HQ.
(Click on photo to load a 38 megapixel printable poster.)

Expedia Celebrates the Seattle Seahawks:

We have a lot of Seattle Seahawks fans at Expedia and as you can imagine, there was a lot of excitement at Expedia HQ in the days before and after the Hawks’ historic Superbowl victory. We made the local and national news when a group of employees stayed after work a few days before the Superbowl and created a 9-story-high image of Seahawk Richard Sherman’s “immaculate deflection” in the NFC championship game against the San Francisco.

  1. Video on Expedia employees’ creation of the 9 story high image of on the side of Expedia HQ

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

  1. “3D” global destination mapping shines at center of KLM’s first iPad app
    • The KLM iPad app, with its animated map globe, is attractive and engaging. It has one feature I’ve never seen on a travel app before: a filter for destination temperatures. The app also features Facebook integration; you can tap friends’ map markers to check flight availability to their locations.
  2. New Travel Startups – Skift
    • The interesting one of this lot is CarryOn
      • CarryOn is a social travel planning site that lowers airfares and hotel rates as the number of users following the deal increases.”

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

  1. 10 Off The Beaten Path Cities You Should Absolutely Visit
    • This is a cool list of sort-of overlooked destinations. I agree with the London-Edinburgh item; Edinburgh to me was a tiny gem of a city.
  2. The Worst Sunburn Destinations In The Entire World
    • This article made me laugh. In 2011 I was the idiot in Quito, Ecuador, who assumed that a cloudy day on the equator wouldn’t scorch my fair skin. I was wrong.
  3. Northern Lights tops bucket list – Telegraph
    • Of all the “bucket list” trips, the Northern Lights are the most-wanted.
  4. Best places to see the Northern Lights – CNN.com
    • And since it’s Northern Lights viewing time of the year, maybe you’ll have better luck than I. My one attempt in 2010 to view them in Iceland was a bust due to warmer-than-average weather.
  5. Postcards vs. the Future: ‘Endangered’ travel items – CNN.com
    • This is interesting- travel items we’ve taken for granted for centuries are effectively dead. Only my in-laws send postcards anymore…
  6. 23 reasons it’s great to be a tourist – CNN.com
    • Being a tourist rocks. For me, #1 (Eating like a feudal lord, yet still losing weight from all the walking) is one of the greatest reasons.
  7. Weird Christmas Traditions Around the World | The HostelBookers Blog
    • As a former Disneyland cast member at Christmastime, I miss Hunky Santa. ‘Nuff said.
  8. Christmas Markets That Renew Your Love For The Holidays
    • More holiday cheer! I just returned from Denmark, and their Christmas Markets were lovely. Here’s some of the best around the world.
  9. 6 Real Tips to Conquer Jet Lag – Vagabondish
    • This is one of the best articles on preventing jet lag that I’ve seen. For me, the best jetlag killer is only sleeping when the sun sets. This list is only missing “Avoid caffeine and alcohol.”
  10. How to Avoid Getting Sick on a Plane – ABC News
    • …and a good article on avoiding the flu and germies on the plane.
  11. Here are the 10 Most Frequently-Posed Questions About Travel, And Our (Often-Painfully-Obvious) Answers to Them- Frommer’s
    • Arthur Frommer is a travel legend, and something of a grumpy old man these days. Here is his list of his most frequently asked, yet “most painfully obvious to answer” travel questions.
  12. Festivals To Attend Before You Die | Fodor’s
    • Ever wanted to travel just for a festival? I highly recommend- we hit Rio for Carnival a few years ago, and Munich’s Oktoberfest is on my to-do list….
  13. This Is An Actual Design For A Bridge In China
    • Cool international bridge design!
  14. Passenger locked on plane after falling asleep – Telegraph
    • …and in today’s ”New things to worry about when you travel” department…
  15. …and My Copenhagen Trip Report !
    • I just returned from 10 days in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden. We stayed at a local’s apartment in Copenhagen through AirBnB.com, and at the flashy new Generator Hostel Copenhagen. I highly recommend both. If you’d like to read my trip blog, click the link.

Online Travel Industry

  1. Tnooz Predictions 2014 – The biggest and best list in travel technology – Tnooz
    • Some predictions from Tnooz contributors [summarized and limited to the predictions I think are most likely]
      • Hotels will increase direct sales
      • There will be some consolidation in the online tours and activities sector
      • TripAdvisor will increase its leadership in the online travel industry by improving its content and metasearch
      • China outbound tourism will continue to grow
      • The southeast Asia low cost air carrier trend will spread to northeast Asia
      • Travel industry electronic data exchange will shift to more lightweight protocols including REST and JSON
      • Travel companies will become more innovative and effective in their use of social media
      • Travel companies will make better use of Big Data
      • Mobile devices will enable new personalized services using protocols such as Apple’s iBeacon (more than one contributor mentioned iBeacon, but given that the iPhone’s worldwide market share fell to17.6% in Q4, firms will want to be ensure that their implementations work well with other mobile OSes including Android).
      • Multi-modal search will gain currency in 2014
      • More players will enter the travel package market and packages will expand beyond transport and lodging to include tours and activities
  2. Blurred lines, meta, mobile and international growth: Expedia brands on the state of the business
    • News from Expedia Inc’s annual partner event:
      • “The travel business is clocking an impressive $1 trillion globally, and Expedia has gradually been biting off more of this market – on track to book $34 billion [in 2013], up over the past 4 years from $17 billion in 2009.”
      • “Expedia outgrew the wider travel market by a factor of three.”
      • “By using the available data – such as usage patterns from visitors across sites – the company can deliver more targeted, context-rich inventory to travel searches.”
      • “Another area that the company considers vital is the ‘test and learn’ culture that delivers over 800 A/B tests each year. This constant iteration is how the company claims machine learning and continuous improvement makes their product better with each and every search.”
      • Mobile and a seamless experience across devices were highlighted.
      • “The reality is that the lines are being blurred across devices, across travel cycles, across types of consumers. Change is the only constant, and therefore successful travel companies are the ones that can address these blurred lines head on.”
      • Expedia’s world-wide hotel inventory is being made available through eLong, offering hoteliers across the world access to the fast growing outbound China travel market.
  3. Expedia Introduces Three New Features, Powered by Big Data, to Streamline Air Travel – Yahoo Finance
    • Congratulations to Team Expedia on rolling out these great features. I was fortunate to observe the development of a couple of these starting with their conceptual phase. It’s great to see them launch.
      • “Flight Recommendations  analyzes more than three billion flight searches performed on Expedia.com and applies insights to real-time customer search queries suggesting alternative airports, dates or time of travel.”
      • “Scratchpad… neatly stores and organizes a customer’s search queries for easy retrieval.”
      • “Itinerary Sharing allows users to share their live itineraries with their co-workers, friends and/or family.”
  4. Engaging post-cookie: Expedia releases new innovations geared toward the continued evolution of the Web
    • Expedia’s ScratchPad feature holds user history and other information and makes it accessible across multiple devices. For users to take advantage of the feature, they will have to log in on each device. Some of the commenters to the article doubt that large numbers of users will log in. Indeed, that will be one of Expedia’s challenges in gaining adoption. Expedia will need to sell users on the value of logging in. I’m not as pessimistic as the commenters; I would bet a large number of Amazon sessions are logged in.
    • “Scratchpad also ties into a new supplier-facing product, Expedia Partner Central, which encourages partners to offer special promotions targeted to different demographics. The idea being that a bit of opacity is always preferred by suppliers who want to target specific demographics with specific deals.”
    • The value of Big Data and machine learning:
      • “…if the company begins to aggregate available user behavior patterns to prioritize and personalize search results, thus resulting in higher conversions and more revenue for partners, the data becomes an essential component of the product being sold to suppliers. This is an essential development, as OTAs have two customers – the traveler and the supplier”
      • This is a key competitive strength for Expedia since it has far more data than most suppliers and can provide a value-add that suppliers cannot replicate through direct channels.
  5. Expedia’s New Feature Makes Searches More Flexibile – Skift
    • Skift’s Dennis Schaal says “Expedia’s Flight Recommendations feature is a valuable tool for flyers planning their itineraries. Finally, a Big Data feature that transcends the usual hype.”
  6. Europe’s OTA Market Ripe for Consolidation as Booking, Expedia Battle for Share | Travel Research – PhoCusWright Conference
    • “Pan European brands, led by Priceline’s Booking.com and Expedia, increased their share of the region’s OTA market to 64% in 2012, up from 60% the previous year. By contrast, just four brands controlled 95% of the more mature U.S. OTA market in 2012, a possible harbinger of things to come.”
  7. Qunar reports record high for flight bookings via mobile
    • “Qunar, the Chinese metasearch service, has achieved a single-day record of 60,000 flight bookings via its mobile channel.”
  8. TripAdvisor Joins 5 Other Travel Companies on Nasdaq-100 Index – Skift
    • “TripAdvisor announced that it will be added to the Nasdaq-100 Index on December 23, which means that just two years after Expedia Inc. spun off TripAdvisor, the hotel review site is among the largest companies in the world.”
  9. Smartphones and Tablets Force Travelzoo to Rethink Its Business – Skift
    • “Travelzoo said … that in the fourth quarter of 2013 it expects to report a 25% decline in search revenue compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.”
      “The key reason Travelzoo’s search revenue is plummeting is ‘users migrating to search via mobile,’ the company said.”
  10. How Booking Sites Performed on Stock Markets in 2013 – Skift
    • Top gains in share price were realized by (in order) Orbitz, Ctrip, TripAdvisor, Priceline, MakeMyTrip, eLong and Expedia.
  11. Apple vs Android — which owners spend more on travel online? – Tnooz
    • “Analysis of mobile and tablet traffic on a leading European travel website has found Apple users are more likely to book expensive and log haul trips.”
  12. Startup pitch: TripScope brings dynamic itineraries to the travel agent/traveler workflow
    • “TripScope is a new travel app dedicated to helping travel agents retail more effectively via dynamic itinerary sharing with customers.”
    • “TripScope allows clients to be… informed, and connected throughout the entire duration of their travel experience; putting the agent at the front and center of the travel experience.”
  13. Reckon you know about dynamic pricing in travel? Think again – Tnooz
    • “If you believe that airline products are truly dynamic at present, I have to disavow you all of that notion. They are currently largely not.”
    • “Dynamic pricing doesn’t really lend itself to things like cached availability.”
    • As with many Tnooz articles, it’s worth reading the comments on this one to see reader opinions like this one:
      • “Each fare in general must be filed a process that can days. This process results in the need for multiple fares to be published for the same journey. This in turn creates (in my view) unnecessary complexity. The airline industry loves complexity because it means that obfuscation can rule thus hiding the true cost of the product. It does however come at a cost which is customer confusion. The difference between dynamic pricing “offers” in B2C sites and the actual price of the sold ticket is significant. I estimate that approx 20+% of all offers exposed are just wrong. Caching has significantly contributed to this problem.”
        • –Timothy O’Neil-Dunne
  14. Google Still Abusing Its Position to Hurt Rivals Says European Regulator – Skift
    • In response to EU competition concerns, Google proposed to offer competitors the chance to bid for second-place positioning in search results, below Google services. Google’s competitors say that’s not good enough and EU regulators agree.
  15. Eye-tracking study shows that Google search result page layouts favor Google’s content over competitors’
  16. Google susses out your travel intent with update to Maps for mobile
    • Google mines your Gmail account for information such as travel reservations and shows the relevant information on Maps for mobile when pertinent.
  17. A day in the life of mobile travel data [INFOGRAPHIC]
    • Some interesting factoids on mobile travel data. Last year, mobile internet data was 12 times the size of the entire internet in 2000.
  18. 10 lessons I learned from building a travel startup – Tnooz
    • This article contains some spot-on observations on the nature of the online travel industry and the environment that startups face:
      • There is no money to be had in “travel inspiration.”
      • “The ‘backend of the travel industry’ is full of [crap]: complex and inefficient legacy software built (and patched over and over) during the ‘80s and ‘90s when the GDSs and the OTAs were built. Horrible UX/UIs still live in the desktop computers of too many hotels, travel agencies, airlines and other travel companies.”
      • “There is a lot of value to be created in unsexy areas in the next decade enabled by trends like cloud computing, mobile, big data, personalization, artificial intelligence and more.”
      • Build something truly new or 10X better: “marginal improvements are not enough to build a scalable company. The good news is that there are many voids still to be filled, and many services that can (and should) be improved on a 10X fold.”
      • “…find ways of segmenting your market and focus your efforts in a small concentrated group before going for the whole market. Forget about trying to get millions of downloads or other vanity metrics and instead focus first on understanding and delighting a small group of core customers.”
      • “Entrepreneur turned investor Boris Wertz wrote an essential post for entrepreneurs: ‘The only 2 ways to build a $100 million business’. In a nutshell, he says:”
        • ‘Either your business has a high viral coefficient (or network effect) that lets you amass users cheaply without worrying too much about the monetization per user or spending money on paid acquisition’, OR ‘your business has a high LifeTime Value (LTV) per user, giving you the freedom to spend a significant amount of money in customer acquisition’
      • The travel industry is really a small world at the global level. By putting some effort into networking, you can build strategic relationships with important players across the industry.


  1. Social media, meta and monitoring – hotel distribution in 2014
    • Summary and infographic on hotel distribution strategies. Unlike some hospitality-directed advice, this one calls for partnering with OTAs. Too many hospitality sector advisors do not acknowledge or understand that properly used, OTAs can increase overall revenue by providing incremental bookings that cannot economically be realized through other channels.
  2. The empathy of hospitality marketing
    • Why it’s important to offer hospitality to customers:
      • “True hospitality triggers an emotional response that’s hard to forget. People remember how you made them feel far more than what you did or said. If you want to get scientific with it, dopamine is released in the striatum while emotion is being processed.”
  3. Florida Supreme Court Sets Date to Hear Online Hotel Booking Tax Case – Skift
    • “The tax controversy, which pits companies such as Expedia Inc. and Priceline.com Inc. against local governments, has been burning for a decade… The dispute revolves around whether taxes should be paid based on the wholesale rates online-travel companies negotiate with hotels, which is how the industry currently does it, or on the higher price the companies charge travelers, which is how counties say it should be done.”
  4. Starwood and Expedia Ask Federal Judge to Dismiss Price-Fixing Lawsuit – Skift
    • This is similar to legal actions OTAs and hotels have faced in a number of venues. The wheels of justice turn slowly: this story was reported in mid-December and I could find no new reports as of early February.
  5. Tightening the screw – why hotel distribution is about direct sales – Tnooz
    • Hotel revenue management expert Patrick Landman dispenses advice to hoteliers on how to manage
      • their brands
      • distribution in the age of metasearch
      • reputation and online reviews
      • online presence on multiple devices and form factors
      • international sales
      • niche marketing
    • Clearly, hotel distribution, marketing and management is a complex business. Hoteliers need to field great management execution and expertise in these areas if they want to enjoy good revenue. This will be achieved by learning, consulting with experts and building great staffs, not by engaging in blame games against “revenue stealing” online travel agencies.
  6. Marriott International Aims to Draw a Younger Crowd – NYTimes.com
    • “Marriott expects [millennials–generation Y]…to account for a third of business-room nights in the United States by 2020.”
    • “We have to be as strong with the X’s and Y’s as we are with the boomers,” [Marriott CEO] Sorenson said in November. “I don’t think any of the big brands in the hotel space have really won them over.”
    • “To move Marriott’s image from “a sea of sameness to a world of difference,” as some company executives summarize it, Mr. Sorenson is relying on new brands [such as] Moxy, announced in March in partnership with Ikea. [Moxy] is planned as a stylish, economy, 500-hotel chain centered in Europe.”
  7. Hospitality and P2P: Airbnb and Housetrip build a global network of hoteliers
    • Airbnb has recognized that it needs to move beyond enabling a peer-to-peer marketplace to managing the hospitality afforded to guests. Airbnb created a “Head of Hospitality” position and hired experienced hotelier Chip Conley to fill it. In this interview, Conley explains how Airbnb will work to ensure hospitality.
    • The second part of the article features an interview with Housetrip’s Arnaud Bertrand on the same subject of hosptility:
      • “We not only distribute accommodation but are also in charge of making sure that those accommodations meet specific standards, that hosts are guest friendly, etc. To tighten the metaphor, we’re both an OTA like Expedia and a direct supplier like Hilton.com.”
  8. Best Western hotels will spend millions to get on Google Streetview – Tnooz
    • “Best Western announced in December last year that a “partnership” with Google would see every single hotel in its portfolio in North America available on Streetview. Some 2,200 hotels will be photographed for Google Business Photos by the end of 2014, the chain says.”
  9. Hotels team up with Google to give virtual tours
    • Google is offering hotels the chance (for a fee) to use its Street View technology to create virtual tours of their premises.
  10. Google Invests in Digital Innovations for the Hotel Industry – Skift
    • Besides Street View photos of properties, Google is offering payments through Google Wallet to hotels.
  11. Abu Dhabi to include hotel online reviews to classify hotel star ratings
    • I understand why Abu Dhabi is doing this but I don’t agree that they should. Less experienced users may mistakenly believe that star ratings indicate a hotel’s quality, but the industry convention is that they reflect the quantity and richness of amenities. Most websites and apps indicate quality of service and infrastructure through review scores. Star ratings and reviews are two different scales; combining them reduces the amount of information available to users. If I can only afford a 2 star hotel, I want to be able to easily find the cleanest, best-serviced 2 star hotel available. Using two scales makes that exercise easier.
  12. Chinese write the most positive travel reviews (and use least number of words!)
    • The article gives some figures from reviews management company ReviewPro:
      • % of positive reviews by language
      • Length of reviews by language: Russian speakers are the most verbose at 879, followed by English at 528.

Air (and Space) Travel

  1. Success! SpaceShipTwo hits new heights during rocket test – NBC News.com
    • We are now only a few test flights away from the initiation of regular commercial space flights for paying passengers…
  2. Aviation Industry Celebrates the Centennial of Commercial Flight in 2014 – Skift
    • “On January 1, 1914, a team of four visionaries combined efforts in the first scheduled commercial airline flight. Percival Fansler organised the funding for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line which provided the first scheduled air service across Tampa Bay, Florida. Thomas Benoist’s airboat conducted the first flight, piloted by Tony Jannus. Abram Pheil, then mayor of St. Petersburg, paid $400 at auction for the 23-minute flight.”
  3. Airlines Embark On the Largest Jet-Buying Spree In Aviation History – Skift
    • The newest aircraft designs are significantly more efficient than their predecessors. Since fuel is the airlines’ greatest cost, the increased efficiency plus opportunities for ancillary revenue offered by the new airframes are driving record purchases of new aircraft.
  4. On Jammed Jets, Sardines Turn on One Another – NYTimes.com
    • We all know that flying economy class has its drawbacks, especially when the person in front of you throws their seat back as fast and hard as they can. In economy, I would actually prefer the non-reclining seats that a few airlines are now offering.
  5. American Airlines Employees To Get Free Flights To Everywhere, Yes Free – Skift
    • The new American airlines is making an amazing offer to its employees and families: free coach class flights–and they don’t have to fly standby.
  6. American Airlines and US Airways Begin to Share Lounges and Miles – Skift
  7. Delta Introduces $2 In-Flight Wi-Fi Passes for Smartphones – Skift
    • Prices start as low as $1.95 for flights under two hours. At that price point, a lot more people will be willing to try out in-flight Wi-Fi.
  8. JetBlue’s bold storm strategy strands passengers
    • Nobody but JetBlue seems to think the airline did the right thing by suspending operations In Boston and New York for 17 hours from January 6th to 7th.The airline may have been more sensitive than its competitors  after enduring extensive criticism over long delays during bad weather in February of 2007.
  9. JetBlue Customers Vent on the Airline’s Blog and Facebook – Skift
  10. Do You Know the Most Dangerous Airports in the US?
    • “…in the majority of all plane crashes, pilot error is the most probable cause. But a major contributing cause is the airports themselves. From short runways to nearby homes to common weather conditions and airport protocol to geography, some airports face several inhibiting factors for take-offs and landings.”
  11. Gogo’s in-flight WiFi network now live in Canada | MobileSyrup.com
  12. Airline Pilots To Get More Rest But New Rules Will Mean More Delays – Skift
    • “Under the new FAA rules on pilot rest that went into effect in the last few days, pilots can be on duty for a maximum of 9 to 14 hours (reduced from 16) and fly the aircraft for 8 or 9 hours, depending on the time of day…”
    • “In addition, pilots are required to have 30 hours of rest without interruption in a seven-day period, and 10 hours off duty before flying again (up from the previous 8 hours off in the prior 24-hour period).”
  13.  Airline CEOs Predict the Future of Flights – Skift
    • The CEOs gaze into their 5, 25 and 100 year crystal balls and offer a mix of logical, fanciful and downright silly predictions.
  14. Amazing! TSA agent catches falling baby
    • A father sets his baby down on a table while retrieving his belongings from security. While Dad is momentarily distracted, the baby topples off. Watch as a TSA agent makes a diving catch worthy of a pro football receiver like Golden Tate.
  15. United Blocks Unaccompanied Minors From All But Non-Stop Flights – Skift
    • Airlines charge an extra fee for unaccompanied minors, but it’s likely that United doesn’t think the revenue offsets the risk, now matter how remote, that it might mishandle another child’s itinerary like it did in 2012.
  16. Latin America low cost carrier freakonomics is a distribution headache
    • I lived in Chile many years ago and would love to make a return visit. However, in checking airfares over the years, I’ve always found the air fare to be a bit higher than I’m willing to pay for a casual trip. For example, checking prices four weeks out from the time I’m writing this, the lowest fare I see from Seattle to Santiago is $1341. The lowest fare I see to Hong Kong, which is almost exactly the same distance from Seattle, is $758. This article lays out some reasons that there are so few low cost air carriers in Latin America. One of the reasons is the formidable presence of LAN, one of the biggest carriers in the region. I like LAN, but its market strength makes it hard for low cost carriers to gain traction. Another issue is that there is a lack of secondary airports and terminals in the region.
  17. Pilots in Crash Were Confused About Control Systems, Experts Say – NYTimes.com
    • “The pilots of the Asiana jumbo jet that crashed in San Francisco on July 6 were deeply confused about the plane’s automated control systems, and that is a common problem among airline pilots, according to experts who testified Wednesday in a National Transportation Safety Board hearing on the crash.”
  18. Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson Partners With Alaska Airlines – Skift
    • Brilliant PR move on the part of Alaska.

Cars, Trains, Buses & Bikes

  1. Hertz Stock Soars After Investor Carl Icahn Reportedly Buys Up to 40 Million Shares – Skift
  2. 4 Lessons for Old-School Transport Companies from the Sharing Economy – Skift
    • Offer a wide variety of vehicles, from economy to luxury, that people would drive by choice.
    • Cars should be conveniently available close by for pick up.
    • Price needs to be low.
    • People are more open to sharing rides with others when all are members of a common group, such as students at the same university.
  3. London’s Plan to Put Bicycle Lanes in the Sky – Skift
    • SkyCycle would be a 136-mile (219 km) systems of elevated bicycle lanes, built above existing rail lines and taking 20 years to complete.


  1. Life at a Cruise Call Center When High Season Begins – Skift
    • “With the holidays over, many people all over North America are gazing out their windows at the icy weather beyond with one thought in mind: Get me out of here.
      At Royal Caribbean‘s Wichita contact center, the frequency of calls shifts into high gear…becoming more or less nonstop. While the callers are looking to get away, there will be no scheduled vacations for the staff until April.”
  2. Travel Agents Say Cruising is Cool for Young People – Skift
    • The travel agents say so. No word in this article on whether many young people agree.

General Travel News

  1. The 15 Biggest Travel Stories of 2013 – Skift
    • This is pretty good selection of 2013’s top travel stories, including the acquisitions of Kayak and Trivago, American Airlines merger, The FAA’s new pilot rules and Travelocity outsourcing to Expedia.
  2. The 17 Most Influential People in Travel of 2013 – Skift
    • I’m not sure this really includes the 17 most influential people in travel, but the people on the list are certainly interesting in the context of the industry.
  3. 13 from 2013 – what were the most popular articles on Tnooz? – Tnooz
    • The number 1 story was the unexpected drop in the age of hotel guests.
      • “4 out of 10 hotel guests are between the ages of 18 and 36.”
    • Others include:
      • TripAdvisor’s metasearch
      • The state of travel startups
      • Google’s grip on the future of the travel industry
      • Dark days for online travel industries

Consumer Travel News, Advice & Deals

  1. Is frequent flyer status everything it used to be? | Fox News
    • Empty first class seats used to go to elite status frequent flyers. Now airines are increasingly selling them to the highest bidder instead. A passenger with no status at all can sometimes find a first class bargain.
  2. U.S. Airlines Made $4.7 Billion on Baggage and Change Fees in First 9 Months of 2013 – Skift
    • Change fees are up $195 million year-over-year; not surprising since airlines substantially increased them in 2013, with the most common fee being $200
    • Revenue from bag fees was actually down $95 million from 2012–perhaps more passengers have opted to fly with carry-on baggage only.
  3. 6 Airlines Making the Most Money Out of You
    • “Airlines made $27 billion in ancillary revenue in 2012, according to Ideaworks‘ Yearbook of Ancillary Revenue. Airline fees are growing at a shocking rate. Since 2009, ancillary revenue has increased more than 100 percent. Airlines are charging and, in some cases, raising fees for checked bags, Wi-Fi use, seat selection and even elements of frequent-flier programs. Of the 116 global airlines analyzed in the study, 53 are earning revenue from ancillary fees. And four of the six worst offenders are US-based airlines.”
  4. Crankshaft on Airline Ancillary Revenue
    • The popular comic strip Crankshaft skewers airlines for their overzealousness in monetizing everything.

Travel Media & Marketing

  1. Marriott Jumps Into the Content Marketing Game – Skift
    • Content marketing” is one of the hottest promotional trends today. Organizations engage in content marketing by creating original content or actively participating in content curation, editorial and/or production. Content market is hot due to the growth of DVRs, the decline of print news and trends like time shifting that reduce the efficacy of traditional advertising. Examples of content marketing include Red Bull’s space jump video and any number of YouTube sponsored video channels. Companies can build brand awareness and equity by associating their products and brands with compelling content.
    • Travel companies are among those turning to content marketing. Marriott is partnering with Fast Company, Mashable, and Wired as part of its content marketing effort.
  2. Why consumers may not like your hotel images – Tnooz
    • Some good points here:
      • “No one likes seeing a 300×300 image on a 2880×1800 computer screen.”
      • “Many hotels don’t allow their images to be expanded into a full-screen view. I know for me, such results are frustrating when I want to see an image up-close and can’t.”
      • Colors need to be true-to-life or customers will think images have been manipulated.
      • Images need to be mobile-friendly.
      • Hotels should provide lots of images–TripAdvisor says that properties with more than 20 photos get 150% more engagement.
  3. The 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World – Skift
    • Make sure to click through the slideshow at the top of the page to see the sites. Keep in mind that “best designed” is fairly subjective. Just to take one example, I find GoHawaii.com to be as well designed as some of the sites chosen by Skift report Samantha Shankman.

Social Media

  1. Reporter’s Notebook: Cracking Mark Zuckerberg’s Code – Digits – WSJ
    • Mark Zuckerberg went up a couple of notches in my estimation after reading this article:
      • “Zuckerberg has made mistakes — lots of them. But because he’s so data-driven versus emotional in his approach to business decisions, he is more willing to let go of his assumptions and course correct. According to many employees, you can win almost any argument with Zuckerberg if your data is good enough.”
      • You might say that Zuckerberg is an anti-HiPPO.
  2. Airlines rankings in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube | SkiftIQ
    • Informative chart–you can resort by column to see a stack rank of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram followers.
  3. Social media is not a zero-sum game and Facebook isn’t going anywhere so get used to it – Quartz
    • There is a popular meme that young people are abandoning Facebook as it becomes popular with their parents and other “old” people. This article suggests that this is untrue.
    • “People young and old are indeed signing up to networks that are not called Facebook. But they are not leaving Facebook.”
  4. Selling social media clicks becomes big business – Yahoo News
    • “Celebrities, businesses and even the U.S. State Department have bought bogus Facebook “likes,” Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from offshore ‘click farms,’ where workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs up button, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers.”
  5. The Agony of Instagram – NYTimes.com
    • Some Instagram users are experiencing “Instagram Envy” when they view images of beautiful destinations and elegant exotic meals appearing in their feeds.
    • “Instagram…is about unadulterated voyeurism. It is almost entirely a photo site, with a built-in ability…to idealize every moment, encouraging users to create art-directed magazine layouts of their lives.”
    • [You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/TravelTekker. I promise you won’t experience much if any envy.]
  6. 14 Best Travel Instagrammers to Follow in 2014 – Johnny Jet
  7. Dubai royalty kicks off social media initiative to showcase city’s best
    • Search on hashtag #MyDubai to see what’s happening in the constantly transforming  emirate.
  8. Lessons in social media via great writers from history – Tnooz
    • Good writing contributes to success in media regardless of the era in which it was created.
  9. The 10 Most Photographed Global Cities on Instagram in 2013 – Skift
    • It will surprise no one that New York is number 1.

Destinations & Experiences

  1. The Travel List Challenge’s 100 Places to Visit Before You Die – How many have you been to?
    • Click all the places you’ve been to to see your score.
  2. 52 Places to Go in 2014 – NYTimes.com
    • The New York Times’ annual “Places to Go” is one of the most influential destination features published each year. This year’s edition includes some short video sequences à la Vine and has some very compelling destinations.
    • How do they decide what destinations to include? Skift interviewed Dan Saltzstein, the New York Times editor responsible for “Places to Go” to find out: How the New York Times Travel Section Makes its ‘Places to Go’ List.
  3. Top 10 Countries : The Rough Guide to 2014
    • There are some beautiful pictures in Rough Guides’ top 10 countries for 2014. Some notable picks include Ethiopia, Madagascar, Bulgaria and the Philippines.
  4. National Geographic’s Best Travel Photos 2013 – in pictures | Travel | theguardian.com
    • Some beautiful destination photos here, worthy of the National Geographic moniker.
  5. The Tale of the World’s First Travel Blog, Born 20 Years Ago | Wired.com
    • If you accept today’s commonly understood meaning for “travel blog” Jeff Greenwald has a good claim to have written the first one. In 1994, he traveled 30,000 miles through 27 countries and uploaded 19 posts using a glacially slow dial-up modem.
  6. Snow sculptures stand 450 feet tall – NBCNews.com
    • Amazing video from the 26th Suan Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in northeast China
      • Note: You will need to view this immediately after clicking the link. NBC’s video player moves on to another video as soon as the first video is complete.
  7. 12 incredible ski experiences you can only have in Utah | Matador Network
    • Utah offers some experiences no other ski destination can match, like getting from the airport to a good number of world-class resorts in under an hour. And there are some real bargains for skiers on a budget.
  8. Grand Canyon tourism changes creating challenge
    • “The surge of people going to less-visited parts of the Canyon and using the trails and Colorado River in new ways has the National Park Service rewriting its backcountry-management plan. Due out next spring, the revised plan could create a day-hiking registry to keep trails from being overrun by large groups, park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said. It could restrict how far backpackers can travel the Colorado on inflatable backpacking rafts and set guidelines for limiting slot-canyon access if too many canyoneers ply the same routes.”
  9. NBC News: ‘Float’ above Europe’s highest point inside glass box
    • Don’t watch this if you get vertigo!
      • Note: You will need to view this immediately after clicking the link. NBC’s video player moves on to another video as soon as the first video is complete.
  10. Best travel videos of 2013 on Vimeo – Tnooz
    • My picks for the best of this lot:
      • Travel Love
      • New York Squared
      • People in Sunny Russia (One week in St. Petersburg and Moscow)
      • A Spanish Road Trip
      • Peru & Bolivia: a stop motion journey. I don’t know what to think of this one. Beautiful scenery, and all the stop motion was obviously an incredible amount of work, but it both detracts from and enhances the video.
      • Somewhere USA. An impressionistic montage of road trip clips.
      • Georgia — Hyper Travel

Privacy, Security & Fraud

  1. Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower – NYTimes.com
    • “When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.”
      –New York Times Editorial Board
  2. Reading Your Palm for Security’s Sake – NYTimes.com
    • Biometric security is becoming more popular but it is not a panacea. As security expert Bruce Schneier famously said: “If someone steals your password, you can change it, but if someone steals your thumbprint, you can’t get a new thumb.”

Data, Algorithms, Analytics & Search

  1. Deep learning: Who’s doing it, and why it matters — Gigaom
    • “[Deep Learning is] about teaching machines to think more hierarchically or more contextually — to see a picture of a mole, for example, and work down from recognizing the features that comprise an animal to recognizing the specific features that make it a mole. With text, the process might be teaching machines to recognize how words are related to one another and how they fit together to form phrases or express ideas.”
  2. Facebook hires NYU deep learning expert to run its new AI lab — Gigaom
    • “…there’s a battle brewing among companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo to bring in the best researchers. The better they can teach machines to understand what’s in the images users are uploading and the sentences they’re typing, the more intuitive and sticky they can make their services.”
  3. Human Behavior Trove Lures Economists to U.S. Tech Titans – Bloomberg
    • Graduate students in economics are increasingly foregoing academic, government or consulting gigs to join online companies. Economists find tech firms’ fast pace and large, rich behavioral data sets extremely attractive.
  4. The evolution of memes on Facebook
    • The Facebook Data Science team reports on “a number of remarkable parallels between how information evolves in a social network and how genes evolve.”
  5. IBM forms Watson Business Group: Will commercialization follow? | ZDNet
    • “IBM [has] outlined plans to form the Watson Business Group, a division aimed making its Jeopardy winning cognitive computing application more of a commercial success.”
  6. Images of the social and economic world
    • A series of informative maps distort country sizes to help viewers visualize population, GDP, healthcare spending, energy consumption and more.


  1. Microsoft Names Satya Nadella as New CEO; Gates Becomes Adviser – NYTimes.com
    • This New York Times Article gives as good an overview of the leadership changes at Microsoft as any I have read. Personally, I think Nadella is probably the best choice they could have made from the list of rumored candidates. During my time at Microsoft, he was usually seen as a respected, if somewhat quiet, leader. Having Bill Gates shift from Chairman to becoming a technical adviser to Nadella should ease the transition.
  2. In Tech Buying, U.S. Still Stuck in Last Century – NYTimes.com
    • “Four years after President Obama vowed to ‘dramatically reform the way we do business on contracts,’ the spectacular failure of the HealthCare.gov website has renewed calls for changes in how the government hires and manages private technology companies.”
  3. The Most In-Demand Tech Skills: Why Java And The Classics Ruled 2013 – ReadWrite
    • Java was by a long stretch the most frequent skill employers searched for in 2013. If you’re a programmer looking to maximize your employability, Java skills can be very helpful.
  4. Red Hat incorporates ‘free’ Red Hat clone CentOS | ZDNet
    • This is good news for companies like Expedia that use CentOS Linux to host production applications and services. It provides greater assurance that CentOS will be supported in the long term and provides a clearer path for technical support should users need it.
  5. Oculus Primed: Meet the Geniuses Who Finally Mastered Virtual Reality | Game|Life | Wired.com
    • Startup Oculus, founded by a teenage genius, has set the tech cognoscenti buzzing with the advances it has made in virtual reality gear. The biggest breakthrough Oculus has made is to reduce latency to the point that humans cannot discern it. This is a key advance because latency can induce a sort of motion sickness in many users.
  6. The Oculus Rift ‘Crystal Cove’ prototype is 2014’s Best of CES winner
    • Oculus’ prototype was the winner of the official “Best of CES Award at the Consumer Electronics Show.
  7. Virtual reality check: why controllers haven’t caught up to the Oculus Rift | The Verge
    • “When you put on the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset, it feels like you’re in another world. You can turn your head in any direction and see things that don’t exist as if they were right in front of you. But the moment is short-lived. As soon as you try to move your hands, feet, or body, the illusion begins to crumble. The Rift’s immersion only extends to your head.”
  8. The top 10 tech gadgets of 2013 [Photos] – latimes.com
    • Many such lists appear at the end of the year. Of all the ones I saw at the end of 2013, I think this one came closest to representing the best of the year.
  9. Overstock makes $124K from 780 Bitcoin orders a day after giving the cypto-currency a thumbs up
    • Overstock.com is the largest and most prominent retailer to begin accepting Bitcoin. Overstock is accepting Bitcoin through a partnership with Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallet. Bitcoin has garnered a lot of attention recently. The article offers a good overview of Bitcoin and it’s risks and promise.
  10. If you track the relative positions of Earth and Venus over an 8 year period, this is the resulting pattern…

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