2014-08-14 TravelTech News Review

Startup detour.com is releasing a new location aware audio tour app.

Websites, Apps and Gear:

  1. 5 New Travel Startups to Watch This Week.
    • I found the first four apps mentioned here to be yawners, but the fifth, Detour, falls into that “What a great idea–how come I haven’t heard of anyone doing this before” category.
      • From the Detour site: “Detour is a mobile app for location-aware audio walks.”
      • Detour publishes audio guides for destinations. Using the detour map, users can follow the audio walks, sync the audio across a group, and pause or skip section of each tour. New guides are created by journalists, radio producers, tour guides, and artists and released each month.”

Online Travel Industry

  1. Travelocity is a Huge Success for Expedia and Orbitz – Skift
    • “Expedia’s Inc.’s hotel room nights sold grew 28% in the second quarter and Travelocity contributed a tad more than 4 percentage points to this growth. And while Expedia Inc.’s air ticket volumes climbed 28% in the second quarter, Travelocity boosted that growth by 18 percentage points, officials stated.”
  2. Expedia (and others) will be affected big-time by Priceline-Ctrip marriage
    • “Expedia, coming off a strong second quarter, will need to act more aggressively if it wants to tap into the world’s largest outbound travel market now that the top players in and out of China have joined forces in a vested way. “
  3. Expedia’s eLong Has Huge Ambitions and An Uphill Climb – Skift
    • “eLong CEO Guangfu Cui said during the company’s second quarter earnings call August 8 that he wouldn’t provide any guidance on profitability in upcoming quarters because the online travel agency, which is majority-controlled by Expedia Inc., needs to aggressively invest in technology, mobile, and sales and marketing in a quest to be the number one lodging company in China.”
  4. eLong Q2 results: almost half of room nights now booked on a mobile
    • eLong’s 2nd quarter revenue was $50.4 million with a profit of $5 million, up from $39.6 million with a loss of $5.69 million in Q1.
    • For its 2nd quarter, 45% of eLong room nights are booked using mobile, making it the company’s largest booking channel.
  5. Three online travel giants and three approaches to the new travel ecosystem
    • This article presents case studies of three business model developments in the online travel industry:
      • Airbnb’s organically grown implementation, using its own inventory and built on the sharing economy.
      • Priceline’s acquisition-driven growth, most lately with the interesting addition of OpenTable to enhance destination services with restaurant reservations.
      • TripAdvisor is moving beyond travel inspiration and metasearch with its acquisition of tours and activities booking service Viator and restaurant booking service LaFourchette.
  6. Priceline to invest $500 million in Ctrip
    • Priceline will acquire up to 10% of Ctrip shares in the coming year and gain a position on Ctrip’s board. Ctrip will have access to Priceline’s extensive inventory.
  7. Priceline Invests $500 Million in Chinese Booking Giant Ctrip – Skift
    • The Skift writer says that “Baidu-affiliated Qunar and Expedia’s eLong [will] get weakened in the process.” Certainly this development represents a challenge but I think it’s pessimistic to characterize the outcome as an inevitable weakening of the competitors.
  8. Priceline earnings: Profit and revenue shine in the first half – Tnooz
    • Priceline’s total revenue for the 1st half of 2014 was $3.76 billion, up 26% from the first half of 2013. Its operating margin was very positive at 35.6%.
    • Earnings per share were $10.89, beating analyst expectations of $10.46 per share.
    • Priceline plans to continue its heavy ad spending, but will also try to increase relationship marketing and repeat business through account signups.
    • 86% of gross booking come from outside the US but its strongest growth segment is in US domestic leisure travelers.
  9. TripAdvisor Completes $200 Million Acquisition of Viator – Skift
    • Commenting on the acquisition, StephenKaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor said:
      • “Along with the acquisition of online restaurant booking site lafourchette earlier this summer, we’re eager to leverage these powerful booking assets to provide the most comprehensive travel-planning experience for our global community of millions of travelers, both online and via mobile.”
  10. TripAdvisor to compete with its ad clients – Travel Weekly
    • TripAdvisor has gone beyond metasearch and integrated the TravelPort Global Distribution System (GDS) with its booking system. With its strong mobile presence, Instant Booking feature and acquisition of restaurant and tours systems, TripAdvisor has positioned itself to compete and succeed in the OTA space.
  11. Paris Officials Begin Raiding Airbnb Rentals for Housing Violations – Skift
    • Once again, incumbant competitors and their government allies valiantly combine forces to vigorously defend the status quo.
  12. Airbnb’s CEO Explains the Sharing Economy to Stephen Colbert – Skift
    • Colbert is mildly funny here. I found this comment by Airbnb CEO BrianChesky the most interesting information from the interview:
      • “We are in every country other than North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba.”
  13. San Francisco’s Airbnb-Friendly Law Closer to Reality, Despite Challenges – Skift
    • it’s always interesting to read articles about the sharing economy and see which groups favor change and innovation and which oppose it.
  14. Hey B&B, hotel, and holiday rental sites: Wix now has a cheap booking widget – Tnooz
    • The Wix booking widget enables smaller properties to easily add booking, reservation, payment and rudimentary inventory management functions to their websites. Clients do not have to pay commissions, but will eventually pay a “nominal” recurring fee, estimated at around $50 per month for a small Bed and Breakfast.
    • The article notes that search engine algorithms increasingly favor a property’s own site over those of intermediaries in local search results.
    • The implication is that services like the Wix booking widget could disrupt established lodging distribution channels, enabling small properties to significantly decrease their distribution costs.
  15. The Biggest Cliche in Travel Companies’ Business Models – Skift
    • The article surveys travel companies’ past claims that their unique attributes enable “virtuous cycles” and “network effects.” Even when there is some truth to such claims, companies can’t afford to be complacent. One of the graphics from the article is an old Expedia infographic that promotes its strengths in Supply and Demand as reasons it is “The Largest Online Travel Company in the World…” but Expedia’s advantages did not prevent Priceline from taking over first place.


  1. Best New Hotel Pools in Six Cities – Washington, D.C. – Businessweek
    • I like the Westin Singapore’s pool the best.

Air Travel

  1. American Airlines Cutting First-Class Meals on Shorter Flights – Skift
    • Of course travelers who pay a thousand dollars or more for a first class seat won’t mind that American is replacing meals with “snacks.” Yeah. Right.
  2. United Ups the Smartphone App Game With Passport Scanning Feature – Skift
    • The new feature will allow international fliers to receive electronic boarding passes without first showing their passports at the airport.
  3. Some surprising factors that go into airline ticket prices | Fox News
    1. Base airfare.
    2. The Carrier-imposed fee is supposedly for fuel. In practice it is at best loosely coupled to fuel prices and is often used to reduce commissions to agents.
    3. TSA fees.
    4. Agriculture fee: for animal and plant health inspection service on overseas flights.
    5. Passenger facility charge, or airport fee
  4. Consumer Traveler – 8 tips for sleeping well on long-distance night flights
  5. Consumer Traveler – TSA to eliminate freebies in Pre-Check lanes
    • The TSA has been randomly selecting certain passengers to try the Pre-check expedited airport security lanes as a way to promote awareness of the program. Now that many more people are aware, the free promotion is ending. My wife and daughters really enjoyed having Pre-check clearance on our recent summer vacation. Of course yours truly was never picked–time to sign up.
  6. How the DOT May Ruin In-Flight Electronics Use – Skift
    • The process of banning cell phone use on flights is not as straightforward as you might think. In one case of hyperbole, the US Department of Transportation is comparing the hazards of cellphone calls to those of second-hand smoke–REALLY?
  7. DOT Firming Up Rules To Ban In-Flight Cellphone Use
    • “Even though the heads of some airlines have said they would not want passengers making voice calls on their planes, the airline industry wants to be able to decide on its own whether to allow the inflight use of phones.”
  8. The Pilot Shortage Is Real and Regional Airlines Are Feeling It – Skift
    • This article discusses the developing pilot shortage in the regional airlines but doesn’t go into the root cause, which is that regionals’ current contracts with the major airlines don’t make it viable for them to pay pilots a living wage. This article in Fortune explains the reasons in detail.
  9. Airbus A350XWB: On board the world’s newest passenger jet
  10. Boeing Is Betting on Tobacco to Make Flying Better – Skift
    • South African farms are growing test tobacco plants to produce renewable aviation biofuel. My question is: Will it smell like second-hand smoke?
  11. Tales of an Aircraft Mechanic – AirlineReporter.com
    • Spare a thought for the guys and gals who keep us in the air.
  12. Around the World: An Interview with Amelia Rose Earhart – AirlineReporter.com
    • Great interview with the woman who just completed the journey her namesake was unable to.

Travel Business

  1. 2014 Consumer Trends – Travel Weekly
    • This article covers differences in travel booked through traditional agents versus other channels.
      • Consumers booking through traditional agents averaged 4.81 trips per year versus 3.93 for other channels
      • Trip lengths were 8.2 nights versus 6 nights
      • Daily spending was $494 versus $238.
    • On the other hand the percentage of trips booked through traditional agent/advisers dropped for the third year in a row

Consumer Travel News, Advice & Deals

  1. The Fastest Public Wi-Fi in the U.S. Comes With a Side of Fries – Skift
    • Hilton was the fastest hotel brand WiFi at 8.477 Mbps
    • If you’re away from your hotel, McDonalds had the fastest in-store public WiFi.
  2. Consumer Traveler – Maybe the travel industry’s one-sided cancellation policies are due for cancellation
    • If consumers’ travel plans change, they often end up losing large amounts of money in change fees and non-refundable reservations. However, if travel suppliers change schedules or availability, they usually pay consumers nothing.
  3. Guests refuse to leave Airbnb host’s house – CNN.com
    • One condo owner found out the hard way that you may want to check your state’s landlord-tenant laws before entering into 30 day+ rentals through Airbnb. The owner has had to initiate costly legal proceedings to evict Airbnb renters who are squatting on her property beyond the agreed upon rental period.
  4. The ultimate global tipping cheat sheet [infographic]

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

  1. Breathtaking Places You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
    • I’ve actually been to Gulfoss, Iceland’s famous waterfalls. But if you like your secret natural wonders, take a look at these incredible places….
  2. The Weirdest Theme Parks Around the World | Off Track Planet
    • I used to work at Disneyland. I can safely say these theme parks are far more odd.
  3. 10 Places to Go While They Are Still Cheap: 2014 Edition | SmarterTravel
    • If you’re looking for a cheap vacation, read this! Nicaragua is on my Top 10 To-Do list….
  4. Are You a Dromomaniac? — The Most Common Manias That Affect Travelers | Rita Anya Nara
    • I will absolutely cop to phagomania when I travel. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. ☺
  5. Real Places That Look Like They’ve Been Taken Out Of Fairy Tales | Bored Daddy
    • I love love love this article. I’ve done 5- I just got back from Angkor Wat- but if you want to knock off an easy one, #26 is a short drive away!!!
  6. Strangest reasons for being deported – Telegraph
    • Today’s travel tip: Don’t steal the queen’s panties.
  7. More German Beer Festivals that Rival Oktoberfest | Departful
    • It’s springtime in Germany, which means beerfests are starting. If you’re heading there, hit these less-crazy versions of Oktoberfest.
  8. 20 Utterly Ridiculous Travel Gadgets You Probably (Definitely) Don’t Need | Vagabondish
    • OMFG, people will buy anything….
  9. Travel Scams: How to avoid 7 of the Most Common Travel Scams | The HostelBookers Blog
    • I will cop to falling victim to scam #2, in Thailand a few months ago. So learn from my experience….
  10. What the Heck is ‘TravPacking’? – Extra Pack of Peanuts
    • How do you travel often, and cheaply, but still have an amazing time? This blogger is a huge source of practical advice on where to cheap, and where to splurge with your travel budget.
  11. Awe-Inspiring Ruins From the World’s Greatest Civilizations | Fodors
    • And finally: If you love history and ruins as much as I, take a look here.

Destinations & Experiences

  1. 30 of the world’s most impressive ancient ruins
    • I love the power of great travel photography to take us to some of the best places on earth.
  2. Why people jump off of this bridge in Bosnia
    • Stirring video of a diving tradition reborn following the reconstruction of a bridge destroyed in the 1993 war. It doesn’t shy away from the costs of conflict.
  3. 20 portraits from the enduring Caribbean – Matador Network
    • Another feature that reinforces why the Matador Network is one of my favorite travel sites.
  4. Universal Orlando’s ‘Hogwarts Express’ is Totally Showing Up Actual Amtrak Trains || Jaunted
    • …in volume of passengers
  5. An optimist’s guide to off-season travel bargains – CNN.com
    • If you’re looking for a travel bargain, it’s always off-season somewhere. For example:
      • With Carnival a distant memory and the World Cup over, crowds and prices in Rio de Janeiro are way down.
      • During the June 1 to November 30 hurricane season, travel bargains abound in the Caribbean. I recently booked late November flights from Seattle to St. Maarten for under $400 per person and as the article says: “Discounts (in the hurricane zone) run across the board, so this is your chance to stay in a luxury hotel for the price of a Super 8.”
  6. Marrakech: 10 amazing attractions – CNN.com
    • Hope I make it to Marrakech soon.
  7. 10Best: Urban campgrounds
    • Just because you’re not in the wilderness doesn’t mean you can’t have a fabulous camping experience.
  8. Machu Picchu’s proposed new opening times could double the visitors per day | News | Wanderlust
    • By staying open until 8:00 PM instead of the current 5:00 PM, the number of visitors to the site could double from 2,500 per day to 5,000.
  9. The Best National Park You’ve Never Heard Of | Have Tips, Will Travel
    • Canada’s Kluane National park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with adjacent parks in Alaska.
  10. The Best Travel Book Dedication Ever | Have Tips, Will Travel
    • Discovered in an 1892 book of scenic photographs.
  11. Easter Island with miles | Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog
    • With recent changes to frequent flier programs It will take a lot of points to get to Easter Island but the author recommends that travelers visit at least once and she lays out how to do it with some of the more popular frequent flier programs.
  12. 20 stunning cliffside beaches – CNN.com
    • Pretty pictures that make you wish you were there.
  13. And the world’s best zoo is … – CNN.com
    • TripAdvisor’s top 5 zoos and top 5 aquariums.
  14. Travel + Leisure names 2014 world’s best cities – CNN.com
    • Spain and Italy each placed two in this list of the world’s best destination cities. Number 1 will likely surprise you.
  15. 5 Mind Blowing Underwater Cities | Earth. We are one.
    • Such cool places!–It’s time to get that diving certification.

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