Entrepreneurial Mr Smith Goes Online

By Martin Kelly

Breakfree founder and serial entrepreneur Tony Smith has set his sights on online accommodation distribution and marketing with a new company called Roamfree.com that has bought ResOnline and owns equity in hundreds of small destination websites.

Smith turned a $70,000 investment into a $200 million windfall when he sold publicly-listed Breakfree Limited – which had 3400 holiday rooms under management – to MFS for shares in early 2005, which have since almost tripled in value.

He sees big opportunities in building a major online accommodation booking and distribution business by focusing on small operators that fall through the cracks while building a portfolio of cross-linking destination websites.

“We’re growing quite dramatically,” he says.

“ResOnline had five staff when we bought it. Now we’ve got 19 coders working and 34 staff … by next February we should have 50.”

Booking technology is central to the Roamfree stategy, commercially connecting the company with a potentially massive network of small accommodation providers.

ResOnline allows accommodation managers to provide an online booking service through which they manage the inventory and take the bookings. It costs A$99 a month or 5% of bookings.

Meanwhile, the company is set to launch a new tech product called Last Minute Manager that manages inventory through third-party sites.

“We also own heaps of destination specific websites – we’ve got 200 at the moment but we might go to 2000,” he says.

These sites – such as byron-bay.com – are generally well established and have comprehensive linking networks, ensuring crucial high-profile search visibility.

“Some of these sites have been around 10 years,” Smith says.

Joining Smith in the new venture is former Breakfree General Manager Mark Frawley, and his brother Bryan Frawley.

All three were instrumental is growing Breakfree and are watching the latest moves by MFS – which include the proposed acquisition of travel giant S8 – with intense interest due to past experience and significant shareholdings in the company.

“There have been some people sitting there and scratching their heads, thinking can they execute?” Smith says.

“I just know from personal experience that these guys have a very big capacity for hard work and making things happen.”

Smith adds: “When I started as a travel agent in Bondi Junction everyone said to me ‘travel agents are stuffed, you will go broke’.”

Yet by focusing on niche opportunities, initially with Sports Break Travel, then Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast, and finally holiday apartment management rights through Breakfree, Smith became wildly successful despite the doubters.

“Right to its dying day Breakfree was a travel agent but everyone thought it was a resort company,” Smith says.

“I think there is massive potential for MFS-S8 and that it will be very big.”


Travel Wired: Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You

By Martin Kelly

Excuse me, but I didn’t realize how glamorous speaking on a mobile phone while flying could actually be. That is, until I visited the OnAir website and saw images such as the one used for this column.

Gee, these people are having fun. Maybe they’ve just met and he’s showing her photos of his happy family stored on the phone for moments like these. Or perhaps his wedding ring is about to come off and he’s screening the infamous Paris Hilton video (now available for mobile download).

One thing is for certain, they are not calling anyone.

That because you can’t do that inflight – yet.

But it’s coming fast so you’d better enjoy those moments of high-flying silence, assuming you don’t have a burning urge move to from business or economy class to what The Economist has termed the “chattering class”.

OnAir has just done a deal with Ryanair to equip its entire fleet of 250 Boeing 737s with small base stations, called picocells, that allow mobile phones to be used inflight without causing interference with ground based networks.

The first inflight conversation should be happening on Ryanair by the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, Qantas has teamed up with AeroMobile, Panasonic Avionics Corporation and Telstra to develop a new inflight mobile phone and “electronic device” service it will be trialling on domestic routes in the first quarter of 2007.

You may have guessed that this doesn’t turn me on.

I like flying just the way it is – apart from the odd crying kid or incontinent row mate – because no-one can get to me and the normal rules don’t apply.

At 35,000 feet, I can order a Bloody Mary at 9am without feeling like a loser; look forward to crappy food; read a whole book in a single sitting; watch three movies in a row without interruption; and not talk with anyone for 12 hours.

But that’s me – what do other people think?

The answer may be not that differently.

According to an OnAir survey, most leisure travellers (59%) would not even turn their phone on while flying, although a slim majority (54%) of business travellers would, desperadoes that they are.

Can you imagine – three drinks in, and halfway through the latest King Fu epic from Hong Kong – the phone rings and it’s Rajid from India (“How Are You Today”) asking if you have a mobile phone (?) and want to switch service providers.

Believe me, that’s what will happen … it’ll never be that deal-making conversation, just the everyday junk that I get on planes to leave behind.

Yet what I and other consumers think doesn’t really matter. For the airlines it’s another revenue opportunity, and one that they are not going to pass up.

So order that Bloody Mary while flying toward a flaming sunrise and reflect on our smaller world.


Travel Experiments With Click To Call

Several travel companies have teamed up with Google to trial its new Click To Call advertising scheme, which the company launched in Australia last week.

Australia is one of the first test markets for Click To Call and Google has major hopes for the product, which is particularly suited to small businesses with no real web presence.

For example a travel agent without a website could run a Click To Call campaign to drum up business. It can also work for larger companies using call centres to support specific campaigns.

Product Specialist Jeremy Wood said a big advantage of Click To Call is that it puts prospects in contact with businesses “much further along the buying cycle”.

Wood said Click To Call is follows the Google auction system, where rankings are based on the bid amount aligned with keyword relevance, while anyone can sign up for the Beta trial.

He explained at a travel industry briefing in Sydney last week that the Click to Call ads appear in the sponsored links section and are defined by a telephone icon.

Prospects who click on the ad can enter their phone number and are called back within two seconds.

“When they pick up the phone it is already dialing the advertiser,” Wood said.

“Google picks up all the phone charges and the advertiser never gets the user’s phone number.”

Google would not say which travel companies have embraced the scheme.


New Site, New Platform Just In Time for Lastminute.com.au

By Martin Kelly

Lastminute.com.au is finally breaking free of its dated UK-based technology platform and developing one of its own.

The popular site will also revamp its look and feel, while retaining the ‘love it or hate it’ pink branding, in a bid to improve its poor sales conversion rate which TRAVELtech estimates trails industry leaders by around 10 to one.

Managing Director Adam Johnson said the new site and back end will be ready for launch in early 2007, adding that consumer research is now under way to assist with project scoping.

“It will be a brand new Australian-built site featuring the latest Web 2.0 and Travel 2.0 tools,” he said.

“We want to build a site focused around usability.”

Johnson said Lastminute.com.au – a 75: 25 joint venture between Travel.com.au (TVL) and Travelocity which lost A$250,697 during 05/06 – is using clunky and costly 2003-era technology hosted in the UK.

“Lastminute.com.au has suffered from systemic administrative problems resulting from its reliance of remote systems … TVL is now repatriating management systems and processes to eliminate this problem,” the TVL annual report said.

The project is being overseen by General Manager – Commercial, Chris Meehan.

In another big change, the site will also embrace new positioning based around the tagline “Live Every Lastminute”.

It’s part of a move away “from being a $2 shop online” into higher-yielding territory, Johnson said.

“Price is clearly not the most important factor for customers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lastminute’s profile will get a serious lift this financial year with parent company TVL boosting total marketing budget for its two main brands by 70% to A$2.6 million.

The majority will be spent promoting Lastminute.com.au, now clearly more important to TVL than online travel battler travel.com.au.

During 05/06, Total Transaction Value at Travel.com.au slumped 34.8%, while revenue fell 7%. Overall it lost A$23,000 for the year.

Lastminute.com.au, on the other hand, had a reasonable 05/06 (even though it lost more money thanks to incurring A$607,000 in impairment charges) on a number of measures, including a 51% increase in revenue to A$4.7 million.

Most of Lastminute’s income comes from selling hotel rooms on commission although it also offers flight, car hire and gifts.

Johnson says the brand has great recognition, while visitations are high with 244,000 average monthly unique visitors, according to Nielsen NetView figures quoted by the company.

But it has an awful conversion rate.

TRAVELtech estimates that, based on site visits and assuming a similar room rate, Lastminute.com.au converts 90% less of its visitors than Wotif.com.

People are looking in large numbers, but they are not buying.

Why? That’s what Lastminute.com.au is now trying to find out.

Johnson said a recent change to the site’s hotel availability display has improved conversion over the past couple of months, while being able to source 228 day inventory through Travelocity has helped.

“We are seeing encouraging signs – it’s made a difference but there is no one silver bullet.”

He believes the fact Lastminute.com.au offer rooms, air and car will give it a competitive advantage over single offers sites as the local market matures.

“It’s quite clear the market here is18 months to two years behind the UK and US and those markets are now beginning to be dominated by one-stop shops.”

Only time will tell.


TotalTravel Expands Into NZ and UK

By Martin Kelly

Fast-growing destination website company TotalTravel.com has made its first international move by launching TotalTravel sites in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Marketing Director Paul Fisher said other offshore sites will follow.

“There’ll certainly be others,” he said.

“We’re looking at markets that make sense – English-speaking destinations where people can fly fairly cheaply on Low Cost Carriers.”

Fisher said the NZ and UK sites are still very much in soft launch mode.

“We’re initially rolling the product out for free and then further down the track when traffic builds we’ll offer additional (paid) products,” he said.

TotalTravel offers a destination directory featuring travel guides supplemented by paid links to suppliers.

The company, based in Byron Bay, has grown rapidly in recent times.

Staff numbers have increased from 12 to 40 in just 12 months, while Hitwise now rates TotalTravel.com as the second most popular “Destination and Accommodation’ website in Australia.

Fisher said it received a record 1.4 million unique site visits during August.

Advertisers are also catching on, particularly as search engine marketing costs increase.

The Australian site now hosts 6500 advertisers – most of them small accommodation business – who generally pay annual subscriptions starting at A$295.

“We’re starting to get a lot of the big guys coming on board now because paid search costs in the travel sector is so expensive,” Fisher said.

“As I said at TRAVELtech, the travel industry has a very ‘long tail’ (meaning that it is mostly small businesses).

“We started at the tail and are now working on the body.”


Slower Growth At Wotif.com

By Martin Kelly

The spectacular year-on-year sales growth at Wotif.com will be cut in half from October to a more than respectable 24% through 2007, the company has predicted.

This compares with an August sales increase of 50% when compared with last year.

October is the 12 month anniversary of Wotif.com expanding its sales window from 14 to 28 days.

Chief Operating Officer Robbie Cooke estimates that single move last year increased company sales by around 15%.

“That’s my gut feel,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wotif.com sold 2,740,000 room nights during the 05/06 financial year – an increase of 40% of the previous 12 months.

Australian room nights were up 37%, New Zealand room nights 42%, Asian room nights 96%, UK and Europe 44%, North America 78%.

The average value of rooms sold on the site has grown 3.5% from A$128.15 to A$132.57.

Wotif.com made a A$16.5 million net profit on revenues of $45.5 million in the 12 months to June 30.

CEO Graeme Wood said Woitif.com will remain focused on its core Australian and New Zealand markets, participating “in the expected organic growth as customers migrate from traditional sales channels to the online environment.”

Targetted international growth is also on the agenda, Wood said.

“In particular, markets that display characteristics such as high internet penetration, consumer trust in transacting online, relatively high accommodation supplier fragmentation and the absence of a dominant online player.”

Wood said while present growth is in line with the trends outlined above, “it is uncertain whether (that) will continue once the October period is reached given the strong growth experienced post-October 2005 following the booking window extension.”


Internet Leaves QF Holidays Behind

By Martin Kelly

Australia’s largest travel wholesaler, Qantas Holidays, has been hammered by consumers for failing to anticipate and meet their online needs.

Its profit before tax slumped to A$45 million – a fall of A$19 million or 29.1% – in the year to June 30.

“This result was driven by lower air travel customers, particularly in the domestic market, where the continued unbundling of product offerings accrued through the increased use of online booking,” the company said in a statement.

Or to put it in plain English, customers who once booked air and land through Qantas Holidays are now trawling travel websites for the cheapest deal and booking components separately.

Clearly, Qantas Holidays has long-term issues.

Parent company the Qantas Group remains in fair shape despite posting a net profit of A$480 million that was 30% less than the previous financial year.

No surprises that this was largely to surging fuel prices – in fact, fuel now accounts for 30% of net operating costs, up from 17% two years ago.

Investors thought it was a decent result and sent the Qantas share price up by around 5% in heavy trade.

Chairman Margaret Jackson said: “We have strong revenues and operating cashflows, improved gearing, the right aircraft and a new airline in Jetstar that has delivered strong earnings growth and industry benchmark cost containment.”

Jetstar’s profit before tax was way down, however … A$11 million compared with A$36 million … thanks around to around A$14 million in international startup costs plus higher fuel and leasing costs. Its yield also slumped by 4.8%.

Profit before tax on ‘Qantas Mainline’ operations fell 27% to A$542 million.


Google: Trust Us – We’ll Tell You What You Need To Know

By Martin Kelly

Google CEO and Chairman, Eric Schmidt last week declared that the famously secretive company is trying hard to become more transparent.

But don’t expect this to happen overnight.

Schmidt made it clear at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose that Google takes competitive advantage very seriously and will not do anything that remotely compromises its position.

As for advertisers, “we’re trying to find ways we can give (more) information to advertisers that is truthful and accurate.”

This will take time, he said.

Meanwhile, Schmidt admitted that click fraud – where companies repeatedly click on the ads of their competition in a bid to send them broke – is “a very serious problem” but one “I believe we have under control”.

His comments come on the heels of a report by Google in which it says the amount of click fraud has been over estimated by sections of the industry.

In a 45 minute interview, he also said that Google – for all its reach, ambition, new deals and innovations – will not stray far from its core mission.

“Our fundamental goal is to provide the most accurate search result,” Schmidt said.

At present the number of quality links a website has is major factor in determining page ranking and Mr Schmidt said Google is investigating additional methodology.

“We are investigating various ways of improving search beyond links but I can’t discuss that – it is highly proprietary information.”

In terms of product innovation: “The test we apply is not whether we think the product is great but whether it improves people’s online experience.”

He said competitors are only “one click away so we are trying to keep our customers happy by giving them choices and empowerment.”


Travel Wired: Online Gets Bigger While Passengers Get Smaller

By Martin Kelly

Getting out of the United States late last week felt like leaving a war zone.

Security was tighter than a travel agent’s profit margin with a slew of news crews prowling LAX for horror stories.

But the only tear jerker I had was one they wouldn’t be interested in – the Qantas starvation rations on the way over – perfect for those on a diet and a nightmare for everyone else.

It’s pretty obvious that this is an airline looking to cut costs any way they can. The food is basic and sparse.

I used to think that Singapore Airlines had no right to fly between Sydney and Los Angeles; now I’m not so sure.

What I am certain about is that online travel is already big and getting much bigger in the United States.

It has a far greater media presence than traditional travel operators, especially if you count airlines telling customers to book direct.

The marketing is anything but sophisticated – cheap and fast are the major messages.

Both Orbitz and Priceline are running TV campaigns offering savings of up to $US200 on holidays when flights and hotels are combined (ie dynamically packaged).

Accommodation website Hotels.com has taken a different tack in a promotion it is running on AmericanAirlines boarding card wallets.

Hotels.com is offering “Great Deals Direct From The Experts” complete with a photo of a few call centre staff looking like Blues Brothers extras, wearing dark shades and stony expressions.

The twist, of course, is that they are promoting people over machines with the tagline: “Call our certified experts 24/7 or go online today”.

Interesting – perhaps they have discovered people close a deal better than any computer and are worth the extra money (hotel sales were up during the June quarter for parent company Expedia).

AmericanAirlines, meanwhile, flush with its first profitable quarter in eons, is continually pushing the message that “we guarantee you’ll get our lowest fares at AA.com”.

Travellers who find a cheaper fare elsewhere will get a US$50 ticket voucher.

The good news is that is enough to get yourself a decent meal before boarding your next long haul flight.

Believe me, you’ll need it.


Join The Conversation – Or Else!

By Martin Kelly in San Jose

“Join the conversation” – that’s the advice from leading online reputation management experts on the best approach to handling bloggers with a negative fix on their company or industry.

As Nan Dawkins, Partner at RedBoots Consulting, says: “It’s not a conversation if you’re not responding to criticism.”

Blogging is the tip of the social search iceberg, and a big topic at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose.

Online ‘communities’ have been a constant reference point for speakers across all tracks.

Websites continually referred to include del.icio.us (URL, link tagging), flickr.com (image sharing), digg.com (links/stories/tools) and technorati.com (blog search engine and resource).

In travel terms, TripAdvisor, Travelocity, Expedia and Travel Planner from Yahoo have also been referenced, though not always in glowing terms (more on that later).

Yet for all the hot new sites, blogging remains front of mind for a couple of reasons:

1) Many of the speakers have their own blogs (ergo blogging must be important)

2) Blogs can have a major impact, positive or negative, on brand reputation if picked up by one of the ‘communities’ listed above

According to statistics cited by Dawkins, blogs account for 26% of search engine rankings on Fortune 500 companies.

Meanwhile, 62% of consumers regard bloggers as the most trusted source of information.

She says Techorati claims that one new blog is being created every second and that there are currently around 53 million blogs in existence.

So what can you do if a blogger takes a dislike to your company or product and those negative thoughts are ranking high on search engines?

CEO of Converseon, Rob Key, agrees that joining the conversation is the best initial strategy – send an email, correct any factual errors, don’t be heavy-handed.

He advises the creation of social media sites by companies under attack to push negative blogs down the rankings and off the vital front page.

“Create social media relevant to your industry,” he says.

Travel reviews on sites such as Travelocity, Expedia and TripAdvisor, came under he spotlight when a hotelier in the audience complained that her property was getting bad reviews (surely it wasn’t for any good reason?).

Her issue is that because the reviews on these sites are anonymous, there is no way to contact reviewers to address their issues.

Likewise, there is no guarantee the reviews are real because in most instances reviewers are not required to prove that they stayed at the property in question.

In other words, reviews could be posted by competitors or consumers with a grudge.

“Also it means we could be posting stuff about our own property, but that’s not really the point,” she says.

Ironically, the advice she received was to do exactly that, post her own comments, and also encourage (presumably) satisfied guests to post their own comments and hopefully drown out the negativity.

In other words, join the conversation.


Money Buys Results Online

 By Martin Kelly

TRAVEL has an incredibly high 50% click-through rate on paid search advertisements, delegates at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose were told this week. In other words, one of every two site visits generated by a search engine request comes from a paid link. Senior VP at ComScore Networks, James Lamberti, said travel is way ahead of other industries when it comes to getting consumers to hit their sponsored links. He said the click-through rate across all industries is just 13% (up from around 12% on a year ago) on paid ads. 

Lamberti, whose research applies to the massive United States market, attributed the high hit rate on travel being “a highly developed category” with savvy marketers serving heavy demand. The conference also heard from Nielsen//NetRatings that travel buys far more online advertising – across both search and display – than any other industry. Other big spenders include electronics, media and telecommunications (display); retail and pharmaceuticals (paid).


Case Study: Fishy Business Hooks Thousands Online

On an average day, 10,000 visitors typically pay $20 each to tour the Georgia Aquarium. That alone is a huge win for a tourist destination that only opened last November. But here’s an even bigger deal — 93% of tickets are sold online, directly from the Aquarium’s Web site. Plus prior to opening, sell-out fundraising efforts were conducted online. Whether you’re in ecommerce entertainment, or drive donations, this MarketingSherpa Case Study should prove inspirational:


The Home Depot Co-founder Bernie Marcus understands the power of customer convenience in marketing.

So, way back in 2001 when he and his wife, Billi, decided to become the primary benefactors of a public aquarium for Atlanta, first they registered the domain name GeorgiaAquarium.org.

Over the next five years of committee meetings, fundraising and building, the Web remained at the forefront of marketing plans. Why not, the newly-formed marketing team wondered, see whether convenient ecommerce could be used for everything from individual donations to visitor tickets?

Why make people mail in donation checks, or stand in line at ticket windows later on, when they could just point and click?

But, how do you get loads of traffic for a fundraising Web site of the unbuilt Aquarium? And, how can you train the public, who are used to buying on site tickets at amusement parks and zoos, to go online instead when the Aquarium opened?


As Kristie Cobb, Director of Membership & Annual Programs explains, "Online was brought in a year and a half before we launched." Here’s the four-step plan the team used (plus, see creative samples below):

Step #1. Limited "Teaser Site" with email offer launched October 2004

The Web site’s job was to begin building a relationship with visitors that would lead to donations and ticket purchases down the road. That meant sticky content from the start. In addition, the site needed enough content and inbound links to begin the long haul out of the search engine sandbox into high visibility.

"Coming soon" or "under construction" pages are worst practices in Web design — visitors and search engine spiders leave quickly.

However, Bernie Marcus knew the power of PR — he didn’t want to load the site with every piece of information from the start but rather allow limited tidbits from time to time to build the story. He strictly disallowed the staff from any mention of the biggest news — three Beluga whales — on the Web or in PR until two weeks before opening.

Therefore, the team got creative, digging up scraps of information that Atlanta residents and aquarium fans around the world would find fascinating. Examples — an ever-evolving series of aerial photos of the Aquarium’s construction, as well as stories about each of the lesser fish as they arrived.

Plus, the Web site featured a ‘join the email news list’ call to action to start garnering names for future promotions.

Step #2. Fishscales online donation appeal launches Feb. 14, 2005

Just as other building committees use named bricks for fundraising, the Aquarium decided to build a wall of lit-up glass bricks called ‘fishscales.’ Each scale would contain the name of an individual donor.

"Atlanta’s a big drive-time city. It’s got one of the longest commutes in the US," says Cobb. So, in addition to emailing a fishscales offer to everyone on the site list, the Aquarium also launched a full-out radio campaign. "A lot of the stations did spots with Bernie. They’d have him come on the show."

The team made fishscales’ ecommerce back end as appealing as possible by adding an animated Flash interface where the donor could see how what they typed in would actually appear on the ‘scale.’ (Note: This is something Apple’s ecommerce team also uses to make buying an iPod from them directly online more appealing.)

Last, but not least, the team reviewed Web analytics for the first 24 hours of Fishscales’ selling to determine if and where on the site visitors went to immediately after making the donation. Then they redesigned that ‘thank-you page’ at the end of the ecommerce process to contain links to the most appealing pages.

This way, donors would continue to be educated and involved in the Aquarium’s site rather than being dead-ended.

Step #3. Pre-launch annual passes offered online Oct. 12, 2005

Six weeks prior to opening day, and amid a growing volume of launch PR, the team decided to send out an email campaign offering annual passes to the general public.

This was a bold move given that no one had yet toured the Aquarium. Would the public buy passes online site-unseen?

The pricing was careful — just a little over twice the posted daily ticket cost. Plus, pre-opening pass holders were entitled to visit the Aquarium two days “before” the official launch.

Step #4. All-new Web site launches

In the meantime, the Web team were busy rebuilding the site completely in time for opening day. In fact, they considered the new site as an entirely different site because its goal was so very different from the first site. The new site’s goals were in order: 

– sell "timed" tickets (a benefit ensuring you never stood in
line or fought your way through a too-full Aquarium)
– allow pass holders to reserve timed tickets
– book group events
– gather donations

From initial wirefame to the final site, every aspect of the navigational design was built around these goals. In fact, the ticket purchasing form was built in as an integral part of the left vertical navigation bar appearing on every single page of the site.

Prior to launch, the team invited selected members of the public to a computer lab to use the site as part of a consumer usability study. Then, based on feedback, the designers add more "click here" hotlinks than you find on most sites today.

Plus, any possible bumps in the shopping cart were smoothed out to provide the easiest possible experience and reduce potential abandonment.


Since the Aquarium officially opened Nov. 29, 2005, it’s hosted nearly 2 million visitors, 93% of which purchased their tickets via the Web site. That’s an astonishing accomplishment — and one we’re not sure any other similar amusement destination has matched.

The team had hoped to sell 20,000 Fishscales in 2005. However, their estimates were far off. The program sold 35,000 Fishscales and had to be shut down in a little over four months because the wall the scales were destined for simply couldn’t be made any bigger.

The email announcing the annual pass offer got a 72.3% open rate and a 36.7% clickthrough rate. 8,000 passes were sold via ecommerce and phone in the first eight hours of the offer. Subsequently, these pre-opening passes sold out completely. Faced with unexpected demand, the Aquarium had to pull the offer off the site ahead of schedule.

The new site’s navigational architecture has proven quite successful. Despite the fact that the site is loaded with plenty of educational and newsy information, more than 90% of incoming site traffic funnels quickly into the reservations and ticketing areas.

Georgia Aquarium – http://www.georgiaaquarium.org

Search And You Will Find – Maybe…

In the good old days – you know, like three years ago – according to legend you could get a white label travel site happening supported by a basic Search Engine Marketing campaign and live very nicely off the proceeds.

But, so the story goes, you’ve got no chance of doing it these days with new travel sites facing major difficulties in getting the traffic and links they need to scale the organic listings, while high Pay Per Click costs render an SEM campaign uneconomic.

Search engine marketing expert Frank Grasso, boss of E-Channel, has set out to test that theory with a new accommodation site he has launched using product from Octopus Travel called TuesdayIsland.

Frank intends putting A$80,000 on the line for this little experiment … the site cost A$45,000 to build and A$35,000 will be spent on optimization. In a bid to grow organically, any revenue will be ploughed back into a Google Adwords campaign.

“My feeling is that it’s going to be very, very tight and I’m not sure if we’re going to break even without a separate advertising budget – at least in the beginning … we will have to wait and see,” said Frank.

• Frank will be presenting TuesdayIsland – http://www.tuesdayisland.com as a Search Engine Marketing case study at TRAVELtech in Sydney on August 22. You can register for updates at http://www.tuesdayisland.com/experiment

Profit Up, Excitement Down

WEBJET will record a pre-tax profit of between A$3.2 million to A3.4 million for the year ended June 30, well up on the previous year but not enough to get investors excited. Its share price stayed at around 30 cents – well down on its 12 month high of 50 cents. However, CEO David Clarke pointed out that Webjet’s capitalization has increased over the same period to just under A$100 million due to a massive 72% rise in shares on issue, from 224 million shares to 310 million shares. He said there would be no decision on how to utilize the A$23 million cash it has in reserve until the end of this year. Around 60% of Webjet’s gross profit comes through service fees.

Travel Wired: Opinion – Not Everything Is B&W

By Martin Kelly

POLITICS is complicated and the best exponents generally turn everything into a black and white issue – good guys versus bad guys (no surprise who rescues the damsel in distress).

So you can see what Australian Federation of Travel Agents CEO Mike Hatton is trying to do when, clearly rattled by the growth in online bookings, he identifies the Internet as the travel industry’s ‘bad guy’.

“The message is simple – if you have booked over the Internet and have a problem, who are you going to call – Ghostbusters or some airline’s offshore foreign-manned call centre?,” Hatton told Travel Weekly.

But has AFTA made a mistake? Should the organization be providing online leadership and education to its members rather than criticizing the fastest-growing sales channel in travel?

Comments like these are also incorrect. Most, if not all, of Australia’s leading online travel sites have local call centres and can provide personal assistance if required (and often for a price).

Obviously, that is beside the point – reason has no role to play in a good old fashioned witch hunt.

These anti-Internet sentiments are the reason behind a new campaign AFTA is trying to get off the ground based around the slogan: “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own.”

Hatton, who lifted this idea from the United States, has received top-level support for his stand.

AFTA Chairman and Managing Director of Travelscene American Express, Bob Steel, told Travel Today that the Internet is good for research but “a very dangerous tool for consumers to book on.”

Whatever your thoughts on this statement, Steel, a successful businessman, is no hypocrite – Travelscene American Express has a basic website that does not accept bookings, only email enquiries.

However, a lot of mainstream AFTA members have more sophisticated websites that take online bookings, including two of Australia biggest travel agencies – Flight Centre and Harvey World Travel – not to mention a slew of smaller operators.

Politically, AFTA is clearly in a no-win situation with its present stance, which denigrates a key sales channel and does nothing to represent those travel agents who have chosen to use the internet for their own means.

Surely, the time has come for AFTA to take a positive stance on the Internet and help members adapt to a radically new sales business environment.

Fortunately, at the moment it’s largely trade press rhetoric.

It should not be allowed to go any further because selling travel over the Internet is not a black and white issue, and smart politicians do not paint themselves into a corner, as Hatton and Steel appear to have done.


Heard About User Generated Content? It’s The New Word of Mouth

By Martin Kelly

Word of mouth – always the most powerful of marketing tools – has taken on a whole new meaning with the Internet.

The emergence of travel review sites like Trip Advisor (which claims more than five million “unbiased reviews and opinions you can trust”) and IgoUgo ensures that the latest travel news – both good and bad – travel at warp speed around the globe.

These sites are basically travel search engines couched in user-generated content – beside every review will be PPC links to relevant product.

At present, most of the user comment concerns hotels but is slowly spreading to trip planning and will one day encompass every aspect of travel as people search out opinions from other travelers.

User reviews are also common on leading international retail and hotel websites, although some of Australia’s biggest online brands are yet to take the hint and get moving with this aspect of what has become known as Travel 2.0.

While consumer product reviews appear on Zuji, Expedia, Hotel Club and Rates To Go, at the time of writing Wotif.com doesn’t give its customers a voice; nor does Travel.com.au, Lastminute or Webjet.

Chloe Lim, Marketing Director of Flairview Travel, which owns Hotel Club, Rates To Go and Asia Hotels, says user reviews are one “of those features that is becoming a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘should have’ – people are demanding it.”

The potential of this new environment for the travel industry is enormous, and so are the risks.

The fact is that bad news travels fast, and there are plenty of upset travellers using reviews to lift on the lid on their latest travel disaster …

"…This is the kind of place in which you’d prefer to sleep in a snow suit during the hottest months of summer rather than let your skin touch the bedspread," wrote one TripAdvisor reviewer

“The entire staff seemed devoid of any humour, personality or notion of customer service and the atmosphere was vaguely reminiscent of a shoddy fairground Haunted House ride," wrote another

Suddenly, there is genuine, real-time transparency on the traveling experience – fresh opinions, immediate feedback – not just glossy travel brochures, although some reviews certainly read as if they’ve been written by the marketing department.

“…The staff is absolutely top-notch. The rooms are serene. The spa is literally to die for. This place takes pampering to a new level. "

“… Situated as the resort is on a private peninsula, everywhere you go you are surrounded by a fabulous panorama, the service was attentive and it was heavenly for relaxation."

And therein lies an interesting dilemma – how do you control the information appearing on these forums?

The answer is you really can’t, apart from keeping tabs on key sites and correcting any misinformation. An overly negative spray will be spotted, as will a supercilious blurb.

Arthur Hoffman, Managing Director of Expedia Australia, says it screens reviews to ensure no obscenities slip through the net but beyond that it is largely free speech.

Flairview Travel restricts review opportunities to people who have actually stayed in the relevant property to overcome potential issues.

Lim says Flairview is not going to move into forums and message boards and will still with review, potentially introducing a search capability based on hotel ratings.

Clearly, customers are on the move and travel businesses must surely keep up or otherwise get left behind.


Growth Back On After US$4.5b Sale


Cendant has sold Travelport, formerly known as Cendant Travel Distribution Services, to the Blackstone group for US$4.5 billion cash.

Blackstone, one of the world’s leading private equity groups, has not yet revealed its plans for Travelport, which has annual sales of US$2.5 billion and owns some 20 major travel brands acquired in a buying spree over the past five years.

These include the Galileo GDS, Gullivers Travel Associates, Orbitz and Cheaptickets.

Travelport CEO Jeff Clarke told the New York Times that each of its three divisions is profitable and that Blackstone wants to keep present management in place.

Integration has been a significant issue for the company in recent times but Mr Clarke, who joined the company two months ago, flagged further growth.

"As a private company, Travelport will now have considerably greater financial latitude and firepower to take advantage of burgeoning opportunities in the travel market," Mr Clarke said.

Cendant said the sale proceeds will primarily be used to reduce the debt carried by its Realogy and Wyndham subsidiaries.

The sale is expected to be completed by August.


Asian Branding On Table

WOTIF is considering ramping up its Asian branding effort as regional sales continue growing at more than 100% a year.

CEO Graeme Wood said: “We’re definitely looking at increasing our marketing in the region.

“Obviously we don’t have the same word of mouth in Asia that we do in Australia.

“If we want to grow quickly we have got to get awareness happening.”

Wotif is a well-known brand in Australia, where it claims 36% market share.

Awareness dramatically increased following the spectacular float of the company on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Shares that were pre-sold to institutional investors for A$2 in late May are now trading for around A$3.30, valuing the company at A$681 million, according to CommSec.

Mr Wood said Asian business currently comprised less than 10% of its sales but was its fastest-growing region, albeit off a lower base.

He said the challenge is now to increase the Wotif brand profile across the region and the company is evaluating a range of marketing options.

“We want to grow as quickly as we can without putting too much stress on people and resources,” he said.

“It’s a balancing act to grow both the supply and the demand side.”

China is apriority for the company but Mr Wood declined to highlight any other target markets, while conceding credit card acceptance many Asian companies is a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Wotif employs a small sales team in Singapore “which is being led out of Brisbane right now”.

He added that Asian hoteliers had been receptive to the Wotif pitch.

“We don’t get too many knock backs when we approach properties we want to work with.

“For those new to the internet it’s an educational process but they appreciate the business we can bring, particularly the Australian inbound traveler.


Just Briefly…

• Swiss investment Bank UBS has emerged as significant shareholder in Webjet, revealing a 7.2% stake in the company.

• Early bird bookings are available at A$399 until June 30 for TRAVELtech.

• Bezurk has done a deal with Yahoo! to become its travel search partner Southeast Asia for hotels, air and online agents – – see the beta @ www.yahoo.com.sg.

• Air New Zealand reports that 30% of its Trans-Tasman bookings are now made direct online – while the all-up international web figure is around 16%.

Cendant Sticks With Knitting

HOTELS and accommodation will remain the cornerstone of Cendant’s regional consumer facing operations, according to Mike Nelson, Chief Operating Officer, Consumer Travel – International Markets, Cendant TDS.

Mr Nelson said Cendant’s online accommodation businesses – which claim either #1 or #2 position across major regional markets – currently take priority over the launch of the Orbitz retail brand in the Asia pacific.

“We are evaluating our plans for a full service Online Travel Agent model in Asia Pacific,” Mr Nelson said.

“But we will likely invest greater resources in our Sydney-based businesses – Hotel Club, Rates To Go and Asia Hotels.

“Those businesses have a lot of unrealized potential and are well positioned to capitalize on growth in the region.”

Meanwhile, Cendant is developing an international technology platform that will debut later this year.

“The international platform will first roll out to eBookers in the United Kingdom later this year and Orbitz next year,” Mr Nelson said.

“Remaining eBookers businesses will likely roll onto the new platform in 2007.

“We haven’t determined if or when the Hotel Club, Asia Hotels and Octopus Travel will roll onto the platform.”


New Jetstar Distribution Strategy

LOW Cost carrier Jetstar will pay travel agents A$25 for every passenger segment booked on its new long haul flights via www.jetstar.com or A$20 for bookings made through a GDS.

It will also offer agents nett fares as part of a ‘comprehensive wholesale program … over all Jetstar routes”, introduce an industry standard Billing and Settlement Plan from July 1, and extend its GDS connectivity through a fresh agreement with Abacus.

November launch destinations for Jetstar from Sydney and Melbourne include Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), Japan (Osaka), Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket), Hawaii and Bali.

“Critically these initiatives will be implemented with Jetstar achieving the lowest cost base of any international carrier operating into or from Australia,” said Bruce Buchanan, Jetstar’s General Manager – Commercial.

These latest developments follow the recent launch by Jetstar of package holidays.

“The addition of holidays is crucial for our international business – in some markets customers travelling on package holidays can comprise 70% of the market,” Mr Buchanan said.


Winter Storms + Advertising = Record Web Snow Sales In NZ

HUGE snowfalls across New Zealand and an offline marketing blitz have driven record traffic and bookings for www.skidealsnz.com.

The website is putting on three more staff to cope with demand, with a metre of snow already on the ground in major New Zealand resorts and further falls forecast.

“It’s all going really, really well,” said Chelsea Halliwell from Christchurch International Airport.

She said the site was launched “because we believed there was an untapped market for skiers and snowboarders looking online for New Zealand snow product.”

www.skidealsnz.com offers air, hotels, car, packages, lift tickets, hostels and copious background on the New Zealand’s snow scene.

More than 90% of site visits are coming from Australia – reflecting a comprehensive newspaper, pay television, search engine and digital advertising campaign through autumn.

Hitwise figures show major spikes following the TV activity, with search engines Google referring by far and away referring the most online traffic.

The most popular search terms are ‘ski new zealand’, ‘virgin blue’, ‘ski nz’ and ‘Queenstown’ and ‘New Zealand ski holidays’.

A marketing partnership with ninemsn is also proving fruitful, as are relationships with carriers Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue.

“There’s been a 140% increase in traffic over last year, we’re getting two to three thousand visitors every day,” Ms Halliwell said.

“We’ve gone for a ‘real call to action’ approach and our target market is the 25 to 40 age group.”

This is reflected in initiatives such as co-sponsorship of next week’s Queenstown Winter Festival with Pacific Blue.

Ms Halliwell said the ready availability of cheap fares to Christchurch, where both Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue have bases, has also been a major factor.

She said it allowed www.skidealsnz.com to package special offers such as a ‘Ski Free Deal’ with Pacific Blue.


Case Study: Online Destination Marketing

Looking at a website revamp?

Then check out this great case study from Virginia Beach in the United States, which has just overhauled its website in time for the peak (northern) summer season. The key questions this case study addresses are: How do you simplify while adding content? And how do you make your site appealing for visitors from other cultures? Click on the link below for practical tips plus results.

Courtesy of MarketingSherpa; Image from Hankins Photography.


When you’re a tourist destination advertising via everything from broadcast to print, how do you decide how much budget to give online? "We have a dartboard at the back of my office …" says Ron Kuhlman, Director Tourism Marketing & Sales Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"No, I’m just kidding," he laughs.

"We time it out. We have a pretty good idea of how many talent hours a Web project needs, and from there we back into the numbers. It’s not like we set out to say Web is 5% of the budget. We don’t have a budget specifically for Web that’s stand alone. We have one media budget, and it’s all included in the channel mix from newspapers to Web to rack brochures as appropriate for each campaign."

Initially, Kuhlman admits the site was little more than shovel-ware for the Bureau’s tourism brochure. The brochure was fat (it’s still almost a 16MB PDF), so the site was, too.

But a home page cluttered with colorful graphics, ranging from golfing vacations to convention center booking info, all begging to be clicked, isn’t user friendly.

Kuhlman wanted to put the site on a diet. But, his interrupt research teams (who stop tourists on the sidewalks for a quick chat) told him the site needed more content — not less. Especially for Hispanic and French-Canadian tourists.

Can a site gain weight and slim down at the same time?


First, the team made five key design decisions to make the home page less overwhelming — while keeping all information within 2-3 clicks away:

#1. Boil down home page creative to fit above the fold.

The old home page extended below the fold. The new one was more compact, and felt at a glance, less threatening. Overall, the feeling was more like a postcard and less like a full Web site. (Link below to screenshots of old vs. new home pages.)

#2. Focus horizontal navigation by major demographic.

The site had visitors with four completely different demographics: meeting planners, travel professionals, press, and of course consumers. The old home page had tried to attract each with their own colorful call-outs competing for attention. The result was far too busy.

The new home page focused 100% on the most populous audience — consumers. The only concessions to other demographics were tabs across the very top of the page, where these professionals could quickly click for their own microsites.

#3. Keep all navigation visible (no Flash).

Heavy-content sites often solve the "we have too much content to put all the options on the nav bar" problem by making additional navigation options suddenly visible when a visitor’s mouse hovers over the nav bar. But this solution has three drawbacks:

– Visitors may be annoyed or find this hard to use
– Search engines can’t always crawl it completely
– The nav bar may not work in every type of browser

So, instead of overwhelming home page visitors with choices when they scrolled over navigation bars, the Web design team turned Flash nav into a simple hotlink. If you wanted to know more about a topic, you’d click to the next page where all the options (formerly in the Flash roll-over) were clearly listed… also as simple hotlinks.

#4. Keep five key offers on the home page.

Consumers visiting the site might be planning a vacation months away … or they might need a map for a drive that afternoon. Kuhlman’s team made sure the home page had five calls to action — one for each major type of visitor goal. That way, many visitors found the answers they sought with a single, convenient click:

o Drive today goal — link to map, lodging, dining
o Future planning goal — vacation guide plus links by activity
o Ongoing fan goal — sign up for newsletter
o Promotion-responder goal — click to enter promotion microsite
o International visitor goal — French- and Spanish-language areas

#5. Remove content if it’s not useful that day.

"It’s a very dynamic site," says Kuhlman. "It’s constantly being updated." The biggest part of updating may be taking content away.

Example — when the weather is fabulous, the team may add weather reports to the home page. If it’s the time of year when most people are planning not traveling, weather reports are removed. Who cares if the beach is sunny today when you’re stuck in an office for the next four months?

Next, the team continued to ask international and Hispanic visitors both online and at Virginia Beach itself what they really wanted from the site. This helped them avoid three big mistakes:

Mistake A. Don’t put it up unless it’s updated.

If you can’t keep your foreign-language content as updated as the English-language content, dump the section altogether. Why risk annoying people? Do your site well or not at all.

"Originally we had German, Japanese and Portuguese … quite a few pages with different languages from around the world. But, instead of continually updating those pages for low gain we made the difficult decisions not to do a site section unless we could absolutely prove there was a significant audience for it."

The site wound up with just three sections — English-language content for French Canadians, French-language content for the same, and Spanish-language content for US Hispanics.

Mistake B. Don’t translate your whole site.

Kuhlman’s team didn’t assume international visitors would be wowed by a completely translated site in their own language. Fact is, international visitors have different information needs than Americans do. For example, they may want to know about how the exchange rate benefits them or what U.S. gasoline costs are.

Mistake C. Don’t pick all images to match a demographic.

For the Spanish-language version of the visitor brochure PDF, the creative team deliberately did *not* replace every image with Hispanics. Why?

"You don’t want a link to the Spanish version of your site and then all of the sudden everyone looks like they are from Mexico, South America or Spain. At that point we’re being fake and everyone would be conscious of that. We have to show Virginia Beach as it really is — not some ideal that we want people to think it is."


As an integral part of the Bureau’s branding campaign ‘Life the Life’, the redesigned site at VBFun.com has won 60 marketing tourism awards in all.

Last summer (2005), 80% of surveyed Virginia Beach vacationers said they used the Internet to get some information before their visit. 39.3% said they had purchased tickets or made reservations related to their stay either through the site or elsewhere online.

More than 70% of VBFun.com visitors are returning visitors, coming back for more information. Roughly 10% of unique visitors download an English-language PDF (although this can shoot up to 18% during March, a heavy vacation-planning month). 0.3% of unique visitors download the Spanish-language brochure and 0.8% download the French-language version.

The team’s learned four lessons about offering PDFs:

Lesson #1. Consumers prefer PDFs to printed-and-mailed materials

Currently 350-400% more consumers will download a PDF from the site than fill out a form requesting a printed copy be mailed to them. It seems that instant gratification is very much in fashion.

The team have learned to position the PDF offer above the mail-me-a-brochure form for visitor convenience. The form still exists though, because a sizeable minority wi
ll always prefer the printed version.

Critical — the PDF will never ever be barricaded behind a required form of any kind. Kuhlman knows that a required form would stop roughly 95% of downloads, and it’s far more valuable to him to have thousands of brochures in people’s hands than to collect hundreds of visitor registrations.

Lesson #2. Remind your art department it’s a PDF

If your art department is used to creating gorgeous content for print purposes, they’ll most likely create a file that’s vastly oversized for an easy-to-download PDF. You want to keep your file size to 5MG or smaller if possible. "That was one of those life lessons for us."

Lesson #3. Tell visitors how big the file is

Put the file size of a downloadable file on the click link so visitors understand up front what they are getting themselves in for. This is equally important for small vs big files.

Lesson #4. If it’s big, also offer downloadable chunks

Since this year’s brochure PDF is 15.9MG, the team broke it into nine chunks by topic, ranging from "Shopping" to "Beach Life" (sample to one of them below).

Visitors told the Bureau’s survey team in the field they much prefer pick which info they want to download, and so far site analytics have born this out. "My downloads have increased significantly."
Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples from VBfun.com including Spanish-language PDF brochure:

BCF – the interactive agency Virginia Beach uses to create, update, and track its Web site

WebTrends – the Web analytics software currently used by VBFun.com

Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau


S8 – Visionary Or Stuck In The Past?


By Martin Kelly

Travel is in a crazy mixed up place right now. But isn’t that always the case?

Everyone is out for themselves, partnerships are fracturing and the retail industry has been turned on its head by an outsider no-one knows anything about.

S8, which operates out of an apartment block on the Gold Coast, moves with the reckless speed of a 1980s corporate raider, and appears to have a travel distribution strategy firmly rooted in that era.

It has bought into old-school travel businesses in a massive way.

Harvey World Travel was the first to fall, followed in rapid succession by Transonic Travel, Travelscene American Express and Gullivers Travel Group.

All up, S8 claims it will have more than 2000 traditional travel agents in Australia New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom (though most are franchisees) when the takeovers are finally completed.

Through these acquisitions it’s also obtained corporate travel, wholesaling and GSA companies – just about every part of the travel distribution chain.

Except – and this is the weird thing – an internet business.

In fact, S8 has flat out rejected the online travel world.

The company has now sold every one of the Webjet shares and options it obtained via Harvey World Travel, no doubt using the proceeds to pay off debt incurred by its buying spree.

They’ve made many millions of dollars but the decision to sell seems a little strange, especially when you consider the online momentum generated by the spectacular Wotif float.

Does S8 know something we don’t?

Don’t bet on it.

I certainly wouldn’t, and, on recent evidence, neither would the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, which is paid to echo the views of its members, including several prominent S8-owned businesses.

AFTA wants to run a $1 million campaign promoting the benefits of buying through a real, live travel agent, as opposed to internet retailers.

“The chains previously considered this to be their job but now we’re seeing headlines like ‘Expedia Putting Agents Out of Business’,” Chief Executive Mike Hatton told Travel Today.

“You (also) hear airlines advertising on the radio mentioning everything but the travel agent.”

The unfortunate thing is that AFTA doesn’t have $1 million.

So it’s gone to Plan B – spending $2000 on a logo declaring “Without a travel agent you are on your own”.

Members will be encouraged to use the slogan in their marketing as a weapon in the fight against the internet, which AFTA clearly views as a major threat.

Yet S8 doesn’t.

After all, it’s just sold out of Australia’s biggest and most profitable online retailer, doesn’t own a stake in any other well-known online brand and has effectively put all its eggs in the traditional travel agent basket.

Weird, don’t you think.


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