A few weeks ago Cruiseabout.com.au was one of Australia's most popular cruise websites. But on March 20, it virtually disappeared from Google search results. Nothing in the first five pages. Same story at Escapetravel.com.au, another popular website, also owned by Flight Centre, one of the world's biggest travel companies.
The game had changed – they were being punished for borderline SEO practices by perhaps the most important person in the modern travel industry: a tidy, bespectacled middle-aged man with a Masters of Computer Science who wields extraordinary power from an office in Mountain View, California, in the beating heart of Silicon Valley.
His name is Matt Cutts, the 'Distinguished Engineer' in charge of Google's "web search quality regarding spam", which he defines as "adversarial information retrieval".
Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts

A few weeks ago Cruiseabout.com.au was one of Australia's highest-profile cruise websites. But on March 20, it virtually disappeared from Google search results. Nothing in the first five pages. Same story at Escapetravel.com.au, another popular website, also owned by Flight Centre, one of the world's biggest travel companies.

The game had changed – they were being punished for borderline SEO practices by perhaps the most important person in the online travel industry: a tidy, bespectacled middle-aged man with a Masters of Computer Science who wields extraordinary power from an office in Mountain View, California, in the beating heart of Silicon Valley. More …

Priceline Goup, one of the world's biggest online advertisers, has said advertising on social media sites Facebook and Twitter doesn't work. CEO Darren Huston told Bloomberg: "For Facebook and Twitter we have endless amounts of money, but we haven't found anything there." A void and avoid. Priceline has an annual advertising spend of almost USD2 Billion, 90% online, and most of that is spent on Google. See story…

SilverRail has become the latest beneficiary of the travel tech spending binge, picking up a further USD40 million from its latest capital  raising. This means that since late December, when Amadeus bought Newmarket International for USD500 million, investors have splurged at least $3.3 billion on travel technology or internet companies. More …

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Jeremy van de Klundert MD Sabre PacificJeremy van de Klundert has been appointed to the newly-created role of Managing Director for Sabre Pacific. His career history includes five years with Travelport in Europe, three years with Flight Centre and more recently five years in senior positions with International SOS in Asia Pacific. More …

Adventure tourism operator Intrepid Travel now owns 100% of day tour company Urban Adventures after buying out its 50% partner in the business, WHL Group. Intrepid MD James Thornton said Urban Adventures will now be fully integrated in Intrepid's operations. He said the company is forecast to sell 70,000 day trips in 90 cities this year.

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Money continues to flow freely into hotel distribution technology with DerbySoft raising USD9 million in funding from venture capital firm DCM. "The demand for our MetaSearch Manager platform and related services has been almost overwhelming since we launched it late last year," said DerbySoft Co-Founder and CEO Ted Zhang. More …

Bloomberg reports that Google "is licensing hotel-booking software from Room 77 Inc., a startup backed by Expedia Inc. (EXPE), according to a letter sent to Room 77 shareholders." Not only that, "Room 77 co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Calvin Yang and many of its engineers are joining Google, the letter said." Mobile booking technology is said to be central to the deal. See story.

social media explained v2

A crackdown on paid blogging by Google appears to have sunk the online visibility of the Flight Centre business, Cruiseabout.com.au, one of Australia's largest cruise retailers. Searching for any cruise related terms such as "cheap cruising" now doesn't return any direct links for the website until page 6. More …

Despite its  recent issues, and the tendency of every man and his dog to express a negative opinion, Qantas remains Australia's favourite airline by a long way according to a recent survey of 15,000 Australians by Wotif.com: 41% said Qantas was their preferred airline followed by Emirates (15.8%), Virgin Australia (15.7%), Singapore Airlines (13.4%) and Jetstar (5%).

Airline technology provider Amadeus' move into the accommodation industry has gained serious momentum. It's signed a strategic partnership with InterContinental Hotels Group initially "focused on planning and development … scoping out and creating a road map for potential technologies and solutions that will drive innovation in the industry. More …

No Vacancy 14 - panorama

More …

Rob Gurney leaves Helloworld

Rob Gurney

Rob Gurney resigned late Friday as CEO of travel agency group Helloworld and was immediately replaced by CFO Elizabeth Gaines.

Clean break at the 750-store chain.

Chairman Tom Dery said Mr Gurney decided not to complete the Helloworld re-branding and rollout – which he started and would be considered the opportunity of a lifetime – and instead "pursue a new opportunity with an international focus".

Curious decision don't you think?

So believes Mark Lankester from Tune Hotels, one of 20 speakers to take the stage at No Vacancy this week, entertaining, informing and stimulating 230 delegates who packed into Sheraton on the Park in Sydney. More photographs will be posted next week.

So believes Mark Lankester from Tune Hotels, one of 20 speakers to take the stage at No Vacancy this week, entertaining, informing and stimulating 230 delegates packed into Sydney's Sheraton on the Park. More photographs next week.

Flight Center has been fined AUD11 million for price fixing at a penalty hearing at the Federal Court in Brisbane today. The heavy fine followed a case brought against FLT by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in which the travel agency group was found guilty of pressuring Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines and Emirates to not undercut it on airfares. FLT said it will appeal the guilty judgement within a year.

The planned stock exchange listing by accommodation manager Mantra Group was sunk late Wednesday by a disappointing response from institutional investors who baulked at the asking price.  But CEO Bob East said Mantra will have another go later this year. "It will be presented back to the market in some form – we haven't exactly worked out how," Mr East told the Australian. More …

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Expedia.com home page - new

Check out the simple new home page from Expedia.com that is all about about mobile users. “They want to immediately perform the search and get into that content,” Expedia's EVP Global Product, Michael Gulman, told Business Week. It's the most fundamental redesign for Expedia since 2002.

Travelport is on a roll, amazing what fresh product can do, with AirAsia today announcing it will distribute all fares and ancillary services through the US Global Distribution System. More …

British Airways aircraft picA piece of news worth reflecting on: from May 2014 British Airways will be the only European carrier operating services to Australia. This follows Virgin Atlantic's withdrawal of its Hong Kong-Sydney flights. Tourism Australia says that less than 15 years ago, eight European airlines flew to and from Australia. Now they generally code-share with Asian carriers. More …

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