IHG Boss Quits After Lies Revealed

ONE of the region’s highest profile hoteliers, Patrick Imbardelli, has quit his job as chief executive of the InterContinental Hotel in Asia Pacific after being found out for lying on his CV.

Times Online reported that  Imbardelli, who joined IHG in 2000, told the company he had three university degrees – a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University in Australia and a Bachelor of Sciences and a Masters from Cornell University in America.

But an internal review by IHG, which wanted to promote Imbardelli to its board, revealed he had none of these qualifications. "While he attended classes at the universities, he did not graduate," an IHG spokesman said.

Tony South, currently the senior vice-president of development and asset management for Asia Pacific at IHG, becomes the acting chief executive with immediate effect.

June 15, 2007

Australia.com Launches in Blaze of Apathy

By Martin Kelly

TOURISM Australia can’t take a trick with its online marketing. First there was the viral component of “Where The Bloody Hell Are You?” which attracted a lot of hits but not enough bookings, according to critics.

However, at least that campaign got a lot of publicity. The long-awaited relaunch of Tourism Australia’s flagship site, Australia.com, received virtually no mainstream coverage following its launch at ATEC last week.

Except in the Gold Coast Bulletin, which editorialised against Tourism Australia for the using an image which showed the sun ‘setting’ over a Gold Coast beach, a physical impossibility.

Tourism Minister Fran Bailey immediately blamed Events Queensland for the blunder, which for some reason is still appearing several days after the issue was first raised.

So, what of the site? It’s different, that’s for sure, but ultimately quite shallow, simply acting as a gateway to the state and territory sites. Even the solitary Web 2.0 feature, Bluelist Australia, is housed on the Lonely Planet site.

The look and feel of the splash page is dominated by a large map of Australia, provided by Google, which quickly directs consumers back to the relevant regional site.

Google is also providing the site search capability and sponsored links limited to operators listed on Tourism Australia’s online network. At present there is very little advertising.

In summary, the new Australia.com is good at redirecting visitors to the state and territory sites, but not much more. Many would have expected greater depth from a website that took more than 12 months to develop.

June 5, 2007

Everybody The Same Ay Hyatt (.com)

Opinion By Martin Kelly

Has Hyatt taken the internet best rate policy too far? That’s the question I’m asking after recent dealings with the global hotel giant.

Without going into a lot of detail, it’s emerged that customers – irrespective of size or revenue potential – are mostly better off buying rooms through Hyatt.com because they won’t find better prices anywhere else.

In this particular case, time Hyatt.com was selling rooms at $144 but the best the hotel could offer was $160 with no inclusions, the same pricing as Wotif.com.

The hotel was also unable to offer a competitive room rate for conference delegates – suggesting a price almost 20 per cent more than Hyatt.com at the time.

According to the reservations department that’s because “the Hyatt.com rate is guaranteed to be our best rate of the day” … yeah, but doesn’t that mean Hyatt won’t be undercut by third-party sites or dodgy wholesalers?

Apparently not … it means every customer gets the same rate, irrespective of spend or revenue potential.

Call me crazy, but it seems like a strange approach – in a sense, almost anti-sales – and flies in the face of accepted practice that your best customers get the best rates (no matter what your business).

Why should customers bringing in thousands of dollars revenue be charged the same rate as someone staying one night at the cheapest rate?

Best ask the boffins in Hyatt yield management, who no doubt came at this policy from every angle before giving it the thumbs up.

I suppose in theory it sounds great.

“You’ll always get the best deal on Hyatt.com.”

Yet in practice it actually discriminates against the most valuable customers and reduces everything to price, when staying in a hotel, especially on a regular basis, should be about much more.

My feeling is that Hyatt would do well to remember that the Internet is not the answer to everything, people and relationships are.

June 5, 2007

Danny Sullivan No Longer A Virgin

Respected blogger and the biggest name in search marketing, Danny Sullivan, has slammed Virgin’s frequent flyer program, pledging allegienace to the British Airways he used to hate so much. Why? Because he found it almost impossible to redeem his Virgin rewards while the reverse is true at BA. 

Sullivan wrote: "I’ve been an unabashed Virgin fan, but the airline has amazingly — unbelievably — now driven me closer to British Airways. The hated BA, which I have to say, looks much better as I measure up the frequent flyer programs.

"Virgin’s Not So Generous Frequent Flyer Program is my post from last year, when I looked at how hard it was for me to use my Virgin miles for anything. I’ve just now tried to book tickets for a family trip in October. I have four companion award tickets to use, plus 350,000 miles. Can I splurge on the big seats to fly over? Nope. Can’t use the companion tickets, and it’s strictly only economy left for a range of dates I checked.

"It’s the school holidays," is the usual Virgin refrain. Duh. Of course it is, but the bigger problem is you don’t release enough seats. Meanwhile, I’ve been flying BA more recently, as they’ve either had exceptionally better prices than Virgin or fly into places Virgin doesn’t go. I’ve built up some miles, enough to see what BA might have to offer on the family trip. Big seats? No problem.

"I really, really enjoy Virgin. I’ve paid more to fly them in the past. But I’m tired of accumulating useless miles. It’s nice to be a gold member, and the Virgin lounge at Heathrow has no match to what I’ve seen elsewhere. But I think I’ll build up my status on BA instead. What a change for someone who has hated them so much in the past. And what a change in particular because of problems with something that’s supposed to keep my loyal, a useless loyalty program."

You can sign up for Sullivan’s personal blog at www.daggle.com

TravelTrends.biz – June 2007

Hazel Joins Webjet, Kohlmayr Gets Bright IDeaS

Gill Hazel has joined Webjet as Business Development Executive. She has more than 20 years experience in travel distribution, travel technology and the internet.

Gill has worked for Cendant, Sabre, Datalex, Jetset and Viator as well as running her own travel consultancy business. 

Klaus Kohlmayr has left the InterContinental Hotels Group to join yield management, pricing and forecasting company, IDeaS, as its Director of Services.

Based in Singapore, his brief is to build IDeaS’ professional services and consulting business. Klaus was most recently Director Revenue Management & Hotel Performance, Asia Pacific, with IHG.

June 5, 2007

No Troogle From Google

By Martin Kelly and Steve Jones, Editor Travel Today

New Google Australia travel boss, Claire Hatton, has emphatically denied speculation that the world’s most powerful Internet company is starting a niche travel search engine known as Troogle.

Why jeopardise the existing travel business? Hatton rhetorically asked at No Vacancy.

Instead, Google will build a team dedicated to the Australian travel industry as companies continue to take their businesses online.

Headed by Hatton, formerly of Galileo, the department will look to better understand travel companies and focus on developing their search and online marketing objectives.

It will also conduct local consumer research to arm itself with detailed knowledge of the market.

Hatton said she was looking to recruit people with online and travel backgrounds.

“Travel is already a major category for us and it’s growing,” Hatton told Travel Today. “This is recognition of that fact. We want to provide more focus and work closer together with the industry.”

She said some travel companies in Australia were already embracing online opportunities while others “had not got to grips” with it.

Figures produced by Google revealed that while online accounts for 25 per cent of all media consumed, it attracts only nine per cent of advertising spend.

Hatton said that a combination of paid for search and natural organics listings were “integral to new world marketing strategies”.

TravelTrends.biz/Travel Today
June 5, 2007

Rydges Gets Social With Media And FInds Customer Is Always RIght

By Martin Kelly

Be open, honest and forthright – that’s the advice from Rydges Hotels on dealing with comment on user review sites such as TripAdvisor.com.

Industry research now indicates that review sites, part of the so-called Web 2.0 movement led by the likes of MySpace, have become the most trusted source of booking information, outranking even family and friends.

“But there are some serious flaws in consumer generated reviews,” said Tessa Court, Chief Marketing Officer at Hitwise. “Not all consumer reviewers review rationally and information is polluted with textual vendettas.”

Which is precisely why Rydges Hotels has developed guidelines for its management team and encouraged them “join the conversation” where appropriate.

Stefan Drury, e-Commerce Manager at the AHL Group, which own Rydges Hotels, said it was important to address concerns raised through the consumer generated sites.

He said responses should be honest and relevant, while taking responsibility for the issues raised.

“Don’t argue with customers, they are always right,” Drury said.

He also said there was little point in staff posing as customers and posting positive reviews about their hotels.

“It would come across as marketing speak and look ridiculous,” he said.

June 5, 2007

Hoteliers Go On The Front Foot Over Commissions

By Martin Kelly

HOTELIERS grappling with the massive impact of the internet on product distribution are increasingly putting pressure on third-party websites to lower commissions while ramping up online direct sales.

The region’s largest hotel group, Accor Asia Pacific, reports that its properties are now “pushing back” against demands from some popular websites for commissions of up to 20 per cent.

Accor’s Vice President of Distribution and IT, Maria Taylor, said surging consumer demand for hotel rooms – occupancies and room rates are up in all significant Australian markets – is a major factor in the change of attitude.

Taylor said hoteliers, which in the years following 9/11 used internet sites as something of a dumping ground for “distressed inventory”, had now become more selective in choosing their online distribution partners.

Market leader Wotif.com, which dominates the sector, charges an average commission of 10 per cent and accommodation providers are finding it difficult to justify paying more – unless they can achieve much higher rates.

Taylor refused to comment on industry reports that Accor has pulled out of a preferred distribution agreement with US travel giant Expedia over commission levels but said hotels are now setting the rules of engagement.
“For the B2C channel we feel that 10 per cent commission is acceptable, however, there are online wholesalers that are asking for 20 per cent, which is just too high,” she said.

“Similar people in similar roles at other hotel companies are getting the same feedback from their properties.

“Even if head office was prepared to pay more there would be strong push back from the hotels.”

“A major reason is that the demand cycle is very strong at the moment.”

Figures from Atrium Hospitality Solutions show that national room rates rose an average of more than eight per cent during 2006 over the previous year – a trend that industry observers say has continued through 2007.

Perth led the way with a 13 per cent increase, while Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide were also strong. 

The average national room occupancy over the same period climbed more than four per cent to 79.2 per cent, according to accommodation advisory Dransfield Hotels and Resorts.

This tension is likely to remain due to a combination of factors, including a strong economy and a lack of supply with high land costs discouraging development.
Jones Lang LaSalle estimates new room supply will increase at just 1.4% a year in major markets to 2010.
Consequently there is a rare window of opportunity for hoteliers to maximise their yield through all distribution channels, including travel agents, where hotel sales are also increasing.

And once again the internet – through which more than 10 per cent of all rooms are now sold – is playing a big role with many chains looking to lift direct online sales.

Virtually all major groups now refuse to be undercut by distributors and offer ‘Best Rate’ guarantees through their own websites.

Meanwhile, groups are building more effective websites supported by deal-based pricing strategies.

Accor has lifted online direct sales by almost 500% since launching a new regional website last September.

Conversion rates have also dramatically increased and are now running between 3.9 per cent and 5.9 per cent depending on which promotions are running at the time.

However, the major challenge for many hoteliers is getting consumers to their sites in the first place.

Research from Hitwise, which monitors internet traffic, shows that the third-party hotel websites dominate the web.

Chief Marketing Officer at Hitwise, Tessa Court, said Wotif.com is by far and away the market leader with 6.72 per cent market share.

This is more than double second-placed TotalTravel.com (3.06 per cent), followed by Hotel Club (2.7 per cent), Trip Advisor (2.12 per cent) and Rates To Go (1.92 per cent).

Court said Australia’s major hotel groups need to address their brand marketing strategies through the search engines.

She estimated that Google alone is driving 35 per cent of all traffic to Australia’s accommodation websites.

Crucially, they are generally high-quality consumers drawn from the upper-income demographics.

They are also young and savvy, the leading edge of a new kind of hotel customer throwing up fresh challenges for the accommodation industry.

TravelTrends.biz, June 5, 2007

What happens In Vegas Ends Up In Thredbo

THERE’S no such thing as a new idea, especially in marketing. Just look at the new tagline for Thredbo – “What goes on in Thredbo, stays in Thredbo” – which has started appearing in the mass media. Sound familiar? That’s probably because the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has been using “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” with a lot of success for the last few years. But then, that itself is a variation on “What happens on tour, stays on tour”. So no-one can complain too loudly. Or claim credit for a brilliantly original idea. Perhaps great minds merely think alike, but then we are talking about the advertising industry…

May 15, 2007


THERE’S just three days until the first No Vacancy industry conference in Sydney on Thursday – book now and you’ll receive a free Hitwise report covering key trends in the online accommodation sector.

No Vacancy will be a great day offering excellent learning and networking opportunities with more than 130 delegates from major companies on the both distribution and supply side already registered.

Please take a moment to check out the great program below, and don’t forget there’s also free admission for all delegates to the Hotel Operations Technology Expo, which is being held in an adjoining room. 

  • Where: Star City Casino, Sydney
  • When: Thursday, May 17
  • Theme: Distribution, Technology, Innovation
  • Bonus: Free admission to the Hotel Operations Technology Expo
  • Bookings: $475 + gst. 


8.15am -9.10am Registration: Tea, coffee.

9.10am – 9.25am No Vacancy: The business of selling hotel rooms has evolved dramatically over the past five years and there’s no sign that the pace of change will falter. But one thing hasn’t changed – everyone’s aim is to have their ‘No Vacancy’ sign on 24/7. Find out how people are doing it here. 

  • Martin Kelly, Director, TravelTrends.biz

9.25am – 10.00am Forward Thinking: A one-on-one interview with industry pioneer Tony Smith, who founded, built and sold Breakfree Hotels and Resorts to MFS. He now has a new company that mines the internet ‘Long Tail’ through an innovative mix of technology, distribution and destination marketing – a strategy that seems right for the times. The interview will be followed by audience Q&A.

  • Tony Smith, Managing Director, Roamfree

10.00am – 10.30am Nothing Is What It Seems Anymore:  City hotels sell better than country ones yet the development money is heading to the wide open spaces. What gives, will this pattern continue and which properties are best positioned for the future? This session will also examine demand, occupancy and projections for Australia’s most significant city and regional markets.

  • Ron de Wit, Director, Atrium Hospitality Solutions

10.30am – 11.00am Morning Tea

11.00am – 11.50am The Distribution Revolution: Some are making hay while the sun shines, others are still waiting for rain. Whichever camp you fall into, and whatever the size of your property, you need to be well-informed.

  • Global Overview: Gregg Hopkins, Vice President, Hotel Information Systems
  • Australia and GDS: Paul Southey, Regional Director Asia Pacific, TravelCLICK
  • Internet: James Borg, Marketing Director, Hitwise 

 11.50am – 12.10pm Case Study – Accor Asia Pacific: Discover the role the Internet plays in the distribution strategy of Accor Asia Pacific. The region’s largest accommodation group recently launched a new multi-country portal and has proved expert at walking the distribution tightrope.

  • Maria Taylor, VP Distribution and Information Systems, Accor Asia Pacific

12.10pm – 12.40pm Panel – Distribution and Technology Strategies, Now and For The Future: This session features accommodation providers, technology suppliers and distributors outlining their thoughts on the distribution landscape and the best strategies going forward. It will examine the benefits of a multi-channel approach, the costs involved, the pros and cons of going direct, and the importance of controlling pricing.

  • Jeffrey Eckerling, Commercial Director, Hotel Club and Rates To Go
  • Anna Guillan, Sales and Marketing Director, Hayman Island/Director of Sales Strategy Mulpha Hotels
  • Chris Koudounaris, Owner, Hotel Prophets

12.30pm – 2.00pm Lunch

2.00pm – 2.20pm Haystack – A Lonely Planet Case Study: Lonely Planet has just launched its own accommodation database, Haystack, after years of resisting the urge to plunge directly into branded product distribution. Why now?

  • Troy Suda, Lonely Planet

2.20pm – 2.40pm Google Accommodation Search Trends: It’s a fair bet that more consumers use Google to access accommodation deals and websites than any other medium. What are the dominant trends and how can you take advantage of them?

  • Claire Hatton, Head of Travel Australia and New Zealand, Google

2.40pm – 3.00pm The Customer Is Always Right: What do consumers want from accommodation websites? Global Reviews regularly benchmarks the major accommodation websites to answer this very question.

  • Sean McConville, Senior Client Advisor and Head of Analytics, Global Reviews

3.00pm – 3.30pm Building A Great Accommodation Website: This session will reveal the latest thinking on what makes a great accommodation website, from search engine visibility through to customer conversion and loyalty. Also find out what turns off potential customers and sends them to other sites.

  • Keith Paulin, General Manager, Hotel Marketing Workshop  

3.30pm – 4.00pm Afternoon Tea

4.00pm – 4.40pm How Do Drive and Remote Destinations Compete In The Age of Low Cost Carriers. Fact – domestic tourism is either flatlining or going backwards in most drive markets as travelers embrace the Low Cost Carrier phenomenon. Challenge – Stimulate demand through destination marketing and product innovation initiatives.

  • Paul Baron, Online Marketing Manager, Tourism Victoria
  • Jackie Douglas, General Manager, Distribution and Revenue Management, Voyages Hotels and Resorts  
  • Grant Clonan, CEO, Station Hotels

4.40pm – 5.15pm Social Media, User Generated Content and What It Means For You: Word of mouth has always been the most powerful form of marketing. Now its power has been magnified tenfold by the Internet. In this session learn about user generated sites such as TripAdvisor, their advantages and pitfalls. It will also cover methods of dealing with adverse comment made by consumers through these sites.

  • Stefan Drury, e-Commerce Manager, AHL Group
  • Arthur Hoffman, Managing Director, Expedia.com.au 

5.15pm – Drinks

Two New Companies and a Monoply for Pegasus

PEGASUS Solutions has gone on a buying spree – picking up GuestClick, a provider of Web-based software and services for the hospitality industry, just two days after acquiring Wizcom, its only rival in ‘GDS Switching’. Thie Wizcom acquisition means Pegasus has a genuine monopoly on the provision of linking between hotels and the GDS booking systems used by travel agents around the world. What will this mean for pricing? One thing is for sure – Pegasus didn’t buy the competition so it could lower rates. GuestClick is a different beast and, according to the company, will allow Pegasus to upgrade its Customer Reservations System with improved scalability and next-generation capabilities.

May 3, 2007

PS: 94% of marketers now using email

At least, that’s according to Forrester Research in the US. The report – E-Mail Marketing Comes of Age – claims 94% of marketers are using email.  It says open rates have remained steady at about 5% and that those who buy email marketed stuff spend 138% more than people who avoid email marketing.

The study shows that three out of five people who forward email messages to friends are women, and that one-third of consumers who maintain a separate email address to receive email promotions are in the 18-34 year old range. 

May 2, 2007

Hotel Website Design – It’s Not All In The Eye of the Beholder

By Keith Paulin

So, you have finally read one too many articles about how 30% plus of your revenues should be arriving via the internet and that a further 30% are influenced by what they discover online about your hotel from your website…and the end of month reports show you are way short of those numbers.

You have taken an objective look at your website and you have decided its time to act…you need a new website for your hotel. You want to get it right this time but where do you start?

For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume, rightly or wrongly, that you have prepared and written an online strategy for your hotel that you will also share with your chosen website designer; you now need to provide them with some design guidelines…a briefing document that is both tactical as well as creative. Our focus here is more on the “look and feel” of your site…I have penned many other articles on hotel website search engine optimisation; Google me for the SEO stuff.

What I am about to share with you has to be taken in context…these recommendations are meant to provide you with a starting point, a foundation upon which to build your online presence… but they are not set in stone. We know that these principals work…and by following these guidelines you will end up with a hotel website that:

• Has a good chance of turning up on the first couple of pages of the Search Engines
• Will be attractive and engage visitors to your hotel website
• Will convert a high percentage of visitors into online revenues

However, once you have prepared a brief, it is important to let your designers…well…design. Don’t restrict their creativity because that is really what you are paying for. You should expect at least two and maybe three alternatives to review, refining these through a series of iterations until you have a design that is both visually appealing as well as Search Engine-friendly.

Layout – work in a grid, usually in thirds (navigation, text, call-to-action buttons or images, usually on the right) or quarters. See that your website designers align the core elements both vertically and horizontally using the grid as a basis for allocating space.

We get our best online results where vertically, one third is navigation (left or right) and two thirds body or text. Horizontally we like to see half of the screen as your header/brand and including a dominant image.

The lower half of the screen should show visitors a headline including the keywords they were searching for, text and the start of the navigation, all without them having to scroll…you can have long pages but visitors shouldn’t have to scroll initially to get the idea of what the page is all about.

Navigation – even experienced web searchers don’t want to learn how to navigate through your site – they need to quickly know how to get to your accommodation, special offers, room rates and web booking engine.

Consequently, we recommend vertical navigation bars…people are used to this, it allows easy drill-down to sub-pages and you can see where you are at any time…none of those pretty but painful horizontal “drop down” menus that keep disappearing and getting you lost and frustrated when they keeping folding up again.

Sub-pages and “landing” pages – many hoteliers do not realise that with a well constructed site, nearly half your visitors will “land” on a sub-page first rather than all arriving via the “home” page. This is why you must include your address and contact details in the footer of every page.

As much attention should be given to the design of lower level pages as the home page so make sure during the initial design stage that you get to see examples of what your sub-pages will look like.

There are two broad design principles we prefer for sub-pages. A single dominant image “floating” in space draws the eye of visitors and captures their interest…it becomes extremely memorable, especially if the image is striking.

Alternatively, use multiple images on a page and keep them the same size, or the same proportion; repetition creates a feeling of consistency and quality.

When it comes to colours, keep it simple…choose one dominant colour and use variations or tones of that base colour as highlights. Unless you have a particularly funky property, stay on the conservative side in your colour selection…blues, greens or beige/parchment can be a great palette to develop a quality theme from.

Don’t be afraid of open or white space…this is ideal for creating an uncluttered combination of imagery and text. Your website needs to capture the hearts and minds of your visitors once they arrive at your site as well as being very Search Engine-friendly and open space is a great way to carry this off.

Even a small image, placed in open space, can work wonders on creating the unique nature of your property. Use “drop shadow” effects to create a three dimensional or embossed look.

You need buttons too…we call them “call to action” buttons to be precise…graphics that prompt visitors to act…”make a reservation”, “check availability” or “make an online enquiry” are just a few examples.

Every page should have at least one button, designed to stand out but not overpower the overall design and that complements the base navigation.

Copy writing – not just the facts…write stories, create experiences, develop an emotional connection with your visitors. Tell them about the romance of your packages, the professional efficiency of your business centre team or those small touches that make your hotel stand out from the crowd.

And remember that online visitors scan rather than read verbatim so use headlines, bold, italics and bullet points to create visual “hooks” for their eyes to pause on. Write enough to keep your visitors interest but not so much that you bore them.

We also like guest testimonials (yes, I know that no one has ever published a poor testimonial on their website)…apart from the visual impact, these are an implied third party endorsement that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Don’t forget that Search Engines can only read text and design code…they can’t see images so you need your design to allow for at least 200 words on each page, within which you can insert the keywords that you are targeting…in the headlines, the main copy and emphasised elements like bolding, as well as in the meta data and title tags.

Fonts should be simple, san serif (no curly bits or heavy styling) and easy on the eye. Use a dark grey or dark tone of your base colour for page font as black can be too “in your face” on screen.

Where appropriate, reversing text in white from a darker background can evoke the feeling of confidence and security…but use this cautiously as it can also be very overpowering.

And as a final hint, use your common sense…you hotel website must be easy to build, easy to maintain or add to and compelling to visitors. If your website designer wants to take three months or more to design the “front end” and build the “back end” for your mid-size property, they are probably over-engineering it…from acceptance of design it should take no longer than a month to complete.

Nowadays, they should be providing you with a website based on a Content Management System which will allow you to edit or add pages in-house quickly and easily…this will also reduce your ongoing costs. Finally, your website should indeed look smart and stylish…simple, fresh and not too busy…enough to capture visitors imagination without trying to do too much.

Use the above guidelines wisely (and remember these are guidelines, not gospel) when you document your hotel website design brief…then let your designers design…and both you, and your website designer, will have a sound foundation upon which to design and build a great website that sells more rooms…after all, that is why you are making this investment, and this time you definitely want to get it right.

Keith Paulin is a leading online marketeer in the hotel industry and is the Group General Manager of Hotel Marketing Workshop, a company that specialises in hotel internet marketing for clients around the world through effective hotel  website design, hotel email services, website content maintenance and hotel website search engine optimisation.

August 28 for TRAVELtech – Two Weeks To No Vacancy

A THEME and date have been selected for TRAVELtech 2007, Australia’s benchmark online travel marketing and distribution event, while the No Vacancy conference in Sydney in just two weeks is shaping up well.

TRAVELtech will be held on August 28, and the theme is ‘Destination Online’.

The program will go way beyond airlines and hotels into the far reaches of the Australian travel web. There’ll be lots of new speakers and plenty of fresh topics – get set for something a little different..

Once again, it will be the best value conference in town with prices starting at $399 + gst. If you’ve got any ideas for the program, would like to speak, are interested in sponsoring or exhibiting, please get in touch. 

Meanwhile, No Vacancy, Australia’s accommodation industry conference, is shaping up to be a great day with an excellent program attracting quality delegates. Please click here for further details on No Vacancy at Star City Casino on May 17.

May 1, 2007 

Email Bankruptcy and CrackBerry Addicts

By Martin Kelly

A NEW trend is emerging – one I endorse but will not follow – called ‘email bankruptcy’, the act of declaring your ‘inbox’ bankrupt and starting over.

That is, all emails received up to the point of ‘email bankruptcy’ being declared void – poof, they no longer exist. 

New York-based venture capitalist Fred Wilson last week blogged: "I am so far behind on email that I am declaring bankruptcy.

"If you’ve sent me an email (and you aren’t my wife, partner, or colleague), you might want to send it again. I am starting over."

Others followed suit – one wrote: "From here on out I am going back to voice communication as my primary mechanism for interacting with people," he said.

Imagine that, using the phone.

In fact, ‘voice deployment’ (a phrase I just made up, maybe it’ll catch on) is one potential strategy to thwart the email army.

Web Worker Daily has advised readers to use the following auto-responder: "Due to a technical issue, there is a possibility I may never see your email. If it is important, please call me at xxx xxx-xxxx. Sorry for any inconvenience."

But for some, that simply isn’t an option.


Because they are email addicts who only realized the extent of their addiction when the BlackBerry* (aka ‘Crackberry’) network went down for around 14 hours in North America recently.

“I push that button like a nervous habit, all day, all night. When you don’t get your email you’re like a drug user cut from your source,” one user told the LA Times.

Another said: "I got a great night’s sleep. I didn’t hear the BlackBerry buzzing all night. I wouldn’t want to see this happening all the time. But, occasionally, it’s a blessing in disguise."

The same guy – a Washington lobbyist by the name of David Thomas – also said he was able to watch TV with his wife without interruption. Isn’t he a load of fun?

The outage was also referred to at a White House press briefing. Spokesman Tony Fratto joked with reporters that "we’ve already started a 12-step group …. 14 hours into no BlackBerry”.

No wonder America is having problems.

May 1, 2007

*For those of you who have been living in a cave, a BlackBerry is a mobile communication device that allows users to receive and send emails, among other things.


Grass Grows Faster Than Aussie Hotel Development

THE growth in Australian hotel room numbers is likely to proceed at a snail’s pace with high land costs locking developers out of the accommodation sector. Jones Lang LaSalle estimates new room supply will increase at just 1.4% per annum in major markets to 2010.

CEO Asia Pacific David Gibson hotel development economics are likely to remain “challenging” unless room rates increase faster than development costs, which appears unlikely in the short-term.

At present, the Gold Coast (300 rooms), Darwin (340 rooms), Sydney (300 rooms) and Melbourne (200 rooms) are the most active markets. Looking ahead, the strongest developer interest is in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, where a total of 2000 rooms are proposed over the next few years.

May 1, 2007

X Marks The Spot For AirAsia – Australia On The Map

Low Cost Carrier AirAsiaX – the latest effort from Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes – could enter the Australian market with promotional fares to Kuala Lumpur from just A$30 return later this year with regular fares around A$300.

Fernades, who started Asian LCC phenomenon AirAsia five years ago, has already put his money where his mouth is, ordering US$2 billion worth of wide-body A330-300 aircraft from Airbus to get the party started.

He has not yet revealed schedules or destinations but said: “We believe, if everything works out, that one of our launch destinations could be in Australia.” AirAsiaX will connect passengers through KL, linking with intra-regional services from AirAsia, which now operates 300 flights a day to 75 destinations.

“Our primary market is … to capture Australian’s who want to go to Southeast Asia – Bali, Kota Kinabalu and Phuket – and for Malaysians and Southeast Asians to get over to Australia.”

Other mooted long-haul destinations for AirAsiaX include China, India, Europe, Britain and the Middle East. Fernades said any city with more than 300,000 people could be viable. Watch out Newcastle!

May 1, 2007

Another Day, Another Distribution Deal

There’s been a flurry of distribution deals announced lately in Australia and Asia all following the same pattern – product aggregator signs with major supplier to distribute non-core product. It’s what’s making the online travel world go round.

Deal One: Singapore Airlines has signed a global partnership with Octopus Travel to sell hotel rooms and transfers through forty SQ websites. In an interesting twist, Octopus Travel committed to providing call centre sales and support – online product wasn’t enough, real people sealed the deal.

Deal Two: Viator is now distributing destination product through the website of Blue Holidays, the holiday packaging arm of Virgin Blue Airlines. Viator, which offers destination activities in 75 countries, now has more than 3500 affiliates.

Deal Three: Travelocity has teamed with Jet Airways to sell Indian hotel product in ‘real time’ through ‘jetairways.com’. It’s the first deal for the Travelocity Partner Network in India and follows the recent launch of ‘travelocity.co.in’.

Get set for more of the same, particularly in Asia, and particularly with hotels.

May 1, 2007


Yean Cheong, Moving Along

Yean Chong – who launched and headed up the marketing of three online travel websites for Zuji – has resigned and moved into the ad industry, joining Che Proximity in Brisbane as Head of Digital and Direct.

Most recently Marketing Manager for the online holiday program of Virgin Blue – blueholidays.com.au – Yean has a strong background in digital and integrated communications both on client and agency side, in Australia and Asia.

This also includes handling the marketing for zuji.com.sg and zuji.com.au.
In her new role, Yean will work across all exiting clients of Che Proximity Brisbane as well as play an active role in driving new businesses. Some clients are Tourism Queensland, Flight Centre, Bank of Queensland, Australia Post, Ergon and Telstra Country Wide.

1 May, 2007

Googling, Troogling – Is Google Canoodling?

By Yeoh Siew Hoon, Transit Cafe  

If you google “Troogle”, you may be forgiven for thinking that the rumours of an impending launch by Google of a vertical travel portal may not be that greatly exaggerated.

The rumours started surfacing last year – that the giant search engine would take what some people say is the logical next step, launch its own travel portal the way it has with Google Finance.

These were denied by Google but it did not stop the rumours which resurfaced earlier this year.

On March 7, an entry on iagblog.com said, “Word is that the clever gnomes at Google are going to drop a not so little surprise on the travel industry called Troogle. The current travel related searches get sent to the traditional OTAs (online travel agents). How long will that go on? Google is the master of paid search and extracting pennies from traffic. Lots of traffic=lots of pennies.”

It goes on, “Throw in Google’s cool maps and Google Earth…take a look at what they can do with they have now here. How long before Google takes a shot at the travel vendors? How much power does Google have to mess with the industry – we think a lot. How much power does it need? Maybe not so much.”

Now whether Troogle will actually materialize is still up in the air but just the thought of it has got some people hot under the collar, in particular, the OTAs (online travel agencies) such as Expedia or Travelocity and the meta-search sites such as SideStep, Kayak, Mobissimo and, in Asia, Sprice or Bezurk.

Already, Google is associated with all things search and it is estimated by some that at least 70% of all travel searches now go through Google. Think about it. You want to search destinations, hotels, air fares, anything, you tend to type in Google first.

The online distribution landscape at the moment is at best a murky one with all players still trying to grab their share and find their place in the universe. The OTAs disintermediated the travel agents – could they be disintermediated themselves; travel vendors want to grab back their inventory from the OTAs; the OTAs do not like the meta-search idea but the vendors do because it directs all bookings to them.

The thing is, most of us as consumers use the third party sites to search the best deals because we don’t trust the vendor sites, especially the airlines’. Air fares still remain one of the most opaque things around and airline sites are one of the biggest irritants to deal with.

Now if someone like Google could come along and strip away the opaqueness, voila …

Thing is, would we really see the emperor without clothes or just the same Emperor with new clothes?

TravelTrends.biz – April 12, 2007

Got A Sore Tooth? Then take A Holiday In Thailand

Here’s a travel trend worth chewing on: Thousands of Australians are heading to Thailand every year to have their teeth filled, capped and whitened. Indeed it looks like a global phenomenon with latest figures showing 1.8 million foreigners visit Thailand each year for medical treatment.

Costs are much less in Thailand with Thai tooth crowns costing up to A$500, compared with A$1500 in Australia. Bangkok Dental Spa chief executive Lily Porncharoen said she treated hundreds of Australians every year. “Australia is a very good market for us (and) I think more Australian’s will come.”

12 April, 2007

Customer Ratings – Kinder Than You Think

There’s been plenty of angst in the accommodation industry about customer rating and comment sites such as TripAdvisor.com, where the public swaps information about where to – or not – stay.

The question is: how to control comment? The answer is: you can’t.

However, the findings from HotelClub consumer rankings where (unlike TripAdvisor) comment is restricted to people who have stayed in the hotels reviewed, shows that it may be best to allow free speech to take its course.

Properties received mostly positive reviews, with an average ranking of 3.86 out of 5. UK and Australian customers, who between them submitted 29,000 reviews, were most positive giving hotels an average rating of 4.04.

Location was the most important factor, followed by cleanliness and pricing.

There are now 3.5 million ratings and reviews on the HotelClub site.

12 April, 2007

Webjet To Pay First Dividend On Record Profit

Galileo has decided to sell its 8.4% stake of cashed up online retailer Webjet, which is lobbying shareholders to approve the deal. The Galileo stake of 27.2 million shares will cost Webjet around A$8 million as the present share price of 32 or 33 cents. Webjet has also decided to buy-back a further 14.8 million of its shares over the next 12 months, a move that may cost around A$4.5 million. After these acquisitions, it will still have more than A$16 million cash. These moves should help underpin its share price, which has been dormant for some time.

12 April, 2007

Stella: Number Two With A Bullet

ACCOR remains the dominant player in Australia’s accommodation industry but the aggressive Stella Hotels and Resorts, which grew an astonishing 136% during 2006, is fast catching up.

The annual Top Operator Survey by Jones Lang LaSalle shows that Accor Asia Pacific (AAP) has almost 17,000 rooms under management – up 5.4% during the year – across 117 properties.

Stella is now clearly the second-biggest operator, controlling 12,422 rooms spread over 113 properties.

Then there is a significant gap to the InterContinental Hotels Group with 8140 rooms, down 4.4% over the previous year.

Other major operators include Toga (5096 rooms), Mirvac (4614), Amalgamated Holdings (4343), Oaks Hotels and Resorts (3933), Quest Apartments (3900), Hilton Hotels (3208) and Starwood (3119).

Apart from Stella, the big movers during 2006 were Mirvac, which grew rooms under management by 66%, and Toga, up 17%.

Meanwhile some of the major international brands trod water or went backwards – for example, Starwood Hotels and Resorts rooms under management fell 3.1%.

Interestingly, local operators now occupy six of the top ten positions in the Jones Lang LaSalle table.

Stella’s acquisitions during 2006 included Outrigger Hotels & Resorts (1500 rooms), S8 Limited (3546 rooms), Pacific International (1817 rooms) and the Saville Hotel Group (1725 rooms).

“Many of these properties will be rebranded to one of Stella’s existing brands – Mantra, Peppers, Breakfree or Bale,” said David Gibson, CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels Asia Pacific.

“With a reported pipeline of 2,220 rooms across 21 properties over the next two to three years, we expect MFS to gain further ground throughout 2007,” Mr Gibson said.

March 20, 2007

Where:  The Langham, Sydney
When: Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Program: Latest Agenda, Speakers
Bookings:  Great value, $360 + gst

Book now and save with the standard rate for Travel IQ, the new one-day conference from the creators of TRAVELtech and No Vacancy.

Travel IQ celebrates the business of travel and features an outstanding program packed with industry leaders including Bob East, Jamie Pherous, Anthony Hayes, Darrin Grafton, Rob Smith, Sue Badyari, Brett Mitchell, Robert Halfpenny, Les Szekely, Simon Lenoir, Rod Cuthbert and many more (see below).

There's also an exclusive interview with Anthea and David Hammon, whose family company has owned Scenic World since 1945 and recently won the commercial climbing rights on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Please note seats are strictly limited with a total capacity of 135 to ensure maximum delegate engagement.

Confirmed speakers include:

Anthea Hammon, Managing Director, Secenic World; Director, Hammons Holdings 

- Anthony Hayes, Chief Operating Officer, Sealink Travel Group (SLK)

- Anthony Moulder, Head of Transport & Infratsructure Research, CLSA Australia

- Bob East, Chairman Tourism Australia/ Chair Experience Co (EXP)

- Brett Mitchell, Regional Director APAC, Intrepid Group

- Darrin Grafton, Co-Founder, Serko (SKO)

David Hammon, CEO & Director Hammons Holdings, (Scenic World/Sydney Harbour Bridge Tourism Experience)

- Dax Eddy, Executive Director, Jamberoo Action Park

- Jamie Pherous, Managing Director, Corporate Travel Management (CTD)

- Josh Oakes, Director, The Sunshine Tribe

- Les Szekely, Managing Director, Grand Prix Capital, early investor in SiteMinder and Rezdy

- Nigel Benton, Publisher, Australian Leisure Media

- Rachel Wiseman, Chief Investment Officer, The NRMA

- Robert Halfpenny, Managing Director, Aurora Expeditions

- Rod Cuthbert, Founder Viator, Former Chairman Rome2rio

- Rob Smith, Divisional Director, Australia/New Zealand, Merlin Entertainments (LON: MERL)

- Sue Badyari, Chief Executive Officer, World Expeditions

- Simon Lenoir, Co-Founder, Rezdy

- Tammy Marshall, CEO, The B Hive

- Vasso Zographou/Michael Simpson, Savills Hotels

Travel IQ is a new one-day conference that celebrates the business of travel with the people who live it every day.

- Entrepreneurs
- Owners
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Travel is a business, and Travel IQ will treat it like one.

You’ll learn how to improve your business, list a company, source finance, scale-up, connect with the right people, capitalise on fresh opportunities.

The program will be packed with industry innovators, creators, accumulators, doers, legends and pioneers.

See the travel industry through their eyes and leave with a better understanding of where you’d like to take your business.

Travel IQ is being held in the small but perfectly formed ballroom at the delightful Langham Hotel in The Rocks, Sydney, on October 24.

Numbers are strictly limited.

There are just 135 seats, ensuring everyone who comes receives maximum value and can properly engage with fellow attendees.

Catering will be of the highest standard with ample networking opportunities in comfortable surroundings.

Please register your interest here and we’ll make sure you get the latest updates.

Travel IQ is being produced by Martin Kelly, who created the TRAVELtech and No Vacancy conferences, now owned by National Media.

More information on Travel IQ

- It's All About The Information - 

TravelTrends founder Martin Kelly has diversified and now also runs Bluewater Press, a communications and thought leadership consultancy with a particular expertise in travel. Services include:

- Strategic Communications
- Media Releases & Distribution
- Crisis Management
- Thought Leadership
- Industry Advocacy
- Positioning, Messaging
- Marketing Plans & Execution
- Engaging Content

Martin is a communications, public relations and media professional with extensive high-level experience across the travel, internet, property and banking industries, both in-house and as a consultant.

For further information please email martin@traveltrends.biz