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

Sydney In Line For Yotel – New ‘Pod’ Hotel

Sydney has been nominated as a potential target city for Yotel – a new accommodation brand featuring pod-like rooms of just 10sqm.

Developed in the UK, the first Yotel is due to open in May in the South Terminal of London’s Gatwick Airport.

Entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe is behind the concept.

Woodroffe is Chairman and Founder of YO! Everything, a quirky conglomerate leveraging on the success of the successful YO! Sushi chain he founded in 1997.

Woodroffe claims: “Yotel’s innovative design with 10sqm rooms/cabins and internal rather than external windows allows it to go boldly where other hotels can’t – tricky central city locations, airports, even underground.

“Reduced land costs add to Yotel’s ability to provide affordable prices.”

Designed by Priestman Goode, which has worked with Airbus, the cabins come in two classes – Premium and Standard – and include features such as:

Techno wall with universal port for i-pod or MP3 player, workstation, flat screen LCD TV, free internet access, double beds, luxury bedding and bathroom fittings including rain shower, automated check-in, internal window and storage.

“We believe it is one of the world’s most radical hotel concepts and will offer a solution to expensive and boring hotels around the globe,” Woodroffe says.

Pricing appears reasonable by London standards, although it does not look like such a bargain once the pound has been converted into Aussie dollars.

Standard will cost from A$128 (£55) while Premium Cabins start at A$194 (£80) overnight.

Cabins can also be booked in four hour blocks.

International expansion is on the cards but is not likely until at least 2008.

Cities the company has nominated are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bucharest, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Singapore, Madrid, Paris, Rome and Sydney.

21 March, 2007

Travel Wired: Get The Real Deal From Tiger – Just Make Sure You Read The Fine Print

By Martin Kelly, Editor, TravelTrends.biz

The slogan of Tiger Airways – which wants to take on Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Blue in the Australian domestic market – is “Get The Real Deal Now”.

But does Tiger offer “The Real Deal”? I’m not so sure.

Let me explain. The airline is famous for its advertising and marketing which revolves around stunts like offering S$1 fares to new destinations to and from Singapore.

Even as I write this, Tiger is offering one-way fares as low as S$12.60 from Singapore to Bangkok, advertised as 88% off the discounted fare.

Not surprisingly, there’s a sting in the tail – as there always is with Tiger’s advertised fares … none of them ever includes fees, taxes and charges.

You’ll find them buried in the fine print.

For example, the real cost of the S$12.60 fare is actually S$63.85 when the extras are added.

Tiger boss Tony Davis said at Wired Travel Asia he has no qualms about advertising a S$1 or S$5.40 fare in Asia when the real cost is many times that and that this approach does no harm to the Tiger brand.

But will this strategy wash in Australia?

I have doubts, and so do the incumbents.

For the past couple of years, all Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Qantas have included fees and charges in all their airfare advertising in both the domestic and trans-Tasman market.

They took the decision to do so in 2005 after public outcry which prompted the Government to say it would change the Trade Practices Act (TPA) to ensure all charges were included in advertised airfares.

That never happened, another failed Government promise, but the airlines took the hint.

This means that certain specials such as the recent A$22 one-way national seat sale from Jetstar are actually less than fees and charges in some markets.

At this stage Tiger does not seem have changed its stripes, with its PR spreading the word to publications such as The Age that fares could fall to A$10 plus fees and charges if it gains regulatory approval to fly in Australia.

Ironically, that would be significantly more than the pre-emptive promotion from Jetstar.

The all-inclusive approach from the major Aussie carriers also extends to their booking engines – the first fare you see on the booking matrix is the one you’ll get.

Not the case with Tiger, fees and charges are shown later in the booking process.

I know what I prefer, and I reckon the majority of Australians feel the same way.

The fact is Tiger must get fair dinkum about offering “The Real Deal” in Australia or its credibility will suffer in market where this battle has already been fought – and won – by the consumer.

20 March, 2007

Website Review: Statravel193.com

STA Travel, a global company founded in Australia, has just launched an interesting site in the United States called statravel193.com – as in “193 countries, so little time”. Not to mention money, especially if you are a student, the STA target market. The thing is, the site is so deliberately cool that I didn’t really know how to use it, jumping on after quickly skimming an article about its launch.

Then it slowly became obvious the site is a front for a US-centric competition the company is running – World Traveller Sweepstakes – although STA says the longer-term plan is for statravel193.com to morph into a travel community site with all the social networking Web 2.0 bell and whistles. No doubt that competition database will come in very handy for this initiative further down the track.

Right now all its travel services link back to the US parent site, which occasionally greets visitors from Down Under with an annoying video on why they should visit Australia. I’m undecided as to whether this site is any good or not but would say that it is interesting, so check it out and make up your own mind – www.statravel193.com. Review By Martin Kelly, Editor, TRAVELtech 

9 February 2007

Meltdown For Jetstar Booking Engine

JETSTAR’S online booking engine went into "meltdown" yesterday afternoon following the release of a $22 fare which quadrupled its normal mid-afternoon traffic. Spokesperson Simone Pregellio told the Sydney Morning Herald that a "22,000 Seats for $22" online sale was announced to the airline’s 300,000 email subscribers at 2pm and that they all tried to book at once.

"The site’s not down, but the booking engine’s having a meltdown at the moment because we’re getting so many hits," she told the SMH. "You can get into the homepage, bit it’s quite slow with the booking engine. We’re speaking about getting extra capacity." It is believed the issue is directly related to the number of customers using the booking engine, rather than actual website performance – (Feb 9, 2007).

Never Say Never Again At Lonely Planet

By Martin Kelly, Editor, TRAVELtech

PUBLISHER Lonely Planet has finally applied its globally famous brand to a bookable travel product with the launch of Haystack, its own accommodation database.

The Haystack booking engine has even made it onto the front page of the Lonely Planet site – something the company once said would never happen.

“Travel services is a value add and there’s no chance of us putting a booking engine on the front page of the site – we’ll keep that for content,” a senior Lonely Planet executive told TRAVELtech less than two years ago.

“At the end of the day our core business is content and guide books, a business that’s been 30 years in the making.

“It’s not about making a buck – it’s about providing services our customers are interested in.”

But clearly the company is now looking for alternative revenue sources with insider talk suggesting its core guide book business is flagging as travelers turn to the internet, where the expectation is that content should be free of charge.

As a result, Lonely Planet makes little revenue from its website, despite attracting five million visitors a month, although it is now offering advertising to outsiders.

Another is issue is credibility, which Lonely Planet no longer “owns” with the rise of countless travel user review sites, many of which also offer booking tools.

Hence the need for Lonely Planet to change tack and behave more like a travel business than a publisher above commercial concerns.

Yet Lonely Planet has had a toe in the water, employing a hands-off approach to distribution for the past couple of years.

It has acted as a platform for numerous product aggregators selling everything from flights to tours through its “travel services” division.

Providers include Kayak, Global Travel market, bezurk, hostelworld.com, trainticket.com.au, activitybreaks.com, worldnomads.com, viator.com, godo.com, ekit.com and altrek.com.

Lonely Planet receives separately negotiated commissions for bookings and purchases through these sites.

But now the company has decided to get its hands dirty and moved to develop its own branded product with Haystack, for which it receives a 10% commission on every reservation.

The bookings system features web 2.0 features (users can also add their own reviews) has been developed by UK company Softwire.

Haystack started just before Christmas with 390 properties – it now has more than 1000.

The sales pitch is: “All Haystack properties are handpicked by Lonely Planet authors then reviewed and recommended to join Haystack.

“Once a property joins, they provide us with great rates and live availability so you can be sure that what you are seeing is the best available price on that day.”

These words certainly provide a contrast to the hard-hitting content of the publisher’s famous guide book.

It will be interesting to see how the publisher handles potential conflicts of interest over time.

For now, this is how Lonely Planet answers the question: “Are Lonely Planet reviews still independent?”

“It’s simple; our authors are independent, dedicated travelers.

“Our authors do not accept kickbacks, payment or favours in return for positive reviews.

“Authors select and review properties for our website independently, then we approach those properties to become bookable on Haystack – not the other way around!”

Funny, because approaching suppliers is something all major accommodation sites do.

They have a "sales team" that pushes the benefits of distributing through their database.

What makes Lonely Planet different? Time will tell.

February 8, 2007

One Trick Ponies Entertaining For Now

By Martin Kelly, Editor, TRAVELtech

He’s a one trick pony
One trick is all that horse can do
He does one trick only
It’s the principal source of his revenue

Funny, Paul Simon could be singing about the Australian online travel industry circa 2007, where the most successful companies are one trick ponies, selling either hotels, airfares, cars or insurance.

It makes sense: a simple business plan aligned with decent technology, a driven leader, aggressive single-premise marketing, and a young, accepting marketplace with very few opponents.

But times are changing , competition is intensifying across all sectors, and maybe now is a good time for the one-trick ponies to loook at expanding their repertoire.

Companies that once had a particular field to themselves are now confronting a maturing marketplace.

And, while even the biggest companies such as Wotif.com – which has declared it will stick with selling hotels in Australia and NZ, are still growing bookings at more than 40%, there is evidence that the strongest online travel growth has already occurred.

Indeed, this period could well mark the start of a gradual moderation in Australian online booking rates.

In the more mature US market, the most recent results for Priceline show organic year-on-year annual growth of 13% for domestic sales, while domestic bookings for Expedia grew a measly 2%.

Interestingly, Priceline’s European sales went through the roof (albeit from a much lower base) while Expedia’s international gross bookings grew 23%.

Slower growth rates are OK if you are a privately owned company answerable only to a couple of shareholders.

However it’s a different story if you are on the stock exchange. Expedia, for example, has been hammered.

In Australia, online travel shares have had a good run but recent results have have been quietly received.

Webjet shares still cost around the same as they did a year ago despite the company recording profit growth of 50% in the six months to December 31.  

It seems professional investors also think online growth has peaked and are sitting on their hands while things pan out.

So how are the one trick ponies of the online travel industry reacting to the shifting dynamics?

Sticking to their knitting is the answer – and it doesn’t look as if they are going to try needlepoint any time soon.

Leaders who once took a chance have become conservative using the same strategies that have served them well in the past.

They are focussing on a single brand and revenue stream. 

Yet surely now, while no-one is looking, is the perfect time to take a risk, learn a few more tricks and diversify.

That way these companies will still have some entertainment value when the audience tires of the present routine.

4 February 2007

Lyrics to One Trick Pony: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/paul+simon/onetrick+pony_20105901.html


Service Fees Drive Webjet Results

SERVICE fees now comprise 66% of Webjet’s revenue, while commissions earned by the online retailer have slumped dramatically in the six months to December 31.

According to Webjet’s half-year report, service fees generated $4.8 million revenue compared with $2.2 million for the same period in 2005.

Commission revenue was down 30% from $2.3 million to $1.6 million. At this rate interest income (which increased 670% to $773,000) on the $25 million Webjet has in the bank will overtake commission revenue sooner rather than later.

The company recorded an after tax profit of $1.489 million on revenue of $7.357 million, against  $991,000 from $4.68 million in the previous comparable timeframe.

Its marketing expenditure rose to $2.6 million from $974,000, while other costs remained steady.

Copyright TRAVELtech Asia Pacific

30 January, 2007


Accor’s Online Growth Moderates

Online reservation growth at Accor Asia Pacific – the region’s largest hotel group – is slowing slightly with a 30% increase forecast for this year.

GM Pricing and Distribution, Maria Taylor, said this compares with 50% growth for 2006 over 2005 – from 7.9% to 12% of total bookings.

By the end of this year, Taylor believes online bookings will comprise 16% of all Accor Asia Pacific reservations.

She said online booking levels vary widely across the network.

The strongest results are being recorded by budget properties, some of which are doing up to 40% of their business online.

“At the top end Sofitel is getting huge visitations but not the same level of conversion, although we believe people are researching then booking in other ways.”

Meanwhile, Taylor said traffic on the Accor Asia Pacific parent website – hosted in Hong Kong – was severely disrupted by the Taiwan undersea earthquake on December 26 which damaged numerous communication cables.

Taylor said operations are slowly getting back to normal but some of its sites are still a little slow.

Copyright TRAVELtech
February 7, 2007

Shoulda Been There - Back in 2019

You should have been there. The first sold-out edition of Travel IQ was a fantastic day.

Make sure you don't miss out in 2019 - register your interest here to get the latest updates.

Travel IQ is a one-day conference that celebrates the business of travel.

It's designed for entrepreneurs, key executives, business owners, directors, analysts, investors and managers across all verticals.

The aim is to get people thinking – and also inspired - with case studies from some of Australia’s most renowned travel entrepreneurs and innovators.

This unique format resonated with the attendees at the first event, which was staged at the Langham, Sydney, on October 24.

As one high-profile speaker commented: "I met with many great people and the overwhelming comment was how much they got out of Travel IQ.

"Personally, I also enjoyed the event very much.

"It is always great getting the heads of companies in the same room, inspiring. So well done!"

Another said: "Excellent first up business event - great base to build on."

Travel IQ 2018 featured an outstanding program packed with industry leaders including:

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

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

- Anthony Moulder, Head of Transport & Infrastructure 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)

- Jeff Lewis, Vice President Technology & Strategic Initiatives, TripAdvisor

- Josh Oakes, Director, The Sunshine Tribe

- Kathryn Valk, Director of Marketing, Royal Carribean Cruises Ltd

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

- Nigel Benton, Publisher, Australian Leisure Media

Quirin Schwaighofer, co-Founder and COO, MadeComfy

- 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 will be back in 2019, date and venue to be advised.

Travel IQ is produced by Martin Kelly, publisher of TravelTrends.biz and creator of several respected industry events.

More information on Travel IQ

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- 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