- People taking fewer and shorter trips while spending less
- Strong growth in VFR at the expense of holidays
- Some domestic leakage to outbound travel for holidays
- Domestic travel spend slipping as a budget priority
Darwin InternationalAirport. NEW! Flights to commence 19th Dec 2005
Chiang Mai International Airport
Hat Yai International Airport
Phuket International Airport
Noi Bai InternationalAirport
Ho Chi Minh City
Tan Son Nhat International Airport
Mingangkabau International Airport
Diosdado Macapagal InternationalAirport
Three-Letter Code: TGW
- Four Airbus A320 aircraft, all powered by International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500 engines, a modern jet engine with proven track record of reliability and efficiency
- Tiger Airways uses a single aircraft type for operational efficiencies which lowers cost
- Tiger Airways A320 aircraft have a single-class configuration of 180 seats
- Tiger Airways aims to have one of the newest fleets among the low cost carriers
- Tiger Airways purchased 8 new A320 aircraft from Airbus and will take delivery of 2 aircraft in March 2006, 3 more aircraft in Winter 06 and 3 more aircraft in Summer 07.
- Tiger Airways has committed S$110 million for a 5-year maintenance contract with SIA Engineering
- 24 hour Fleet Technical Management and provision of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services by SIA Engineering
- Our aircraft maintenance program satisfies the safety standards required by Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)
- Our pilots are trained inline with industry standards and aviation regulations to ensure the highest safety standards are met
- Our cabin crew are all trained and qualified on evacuation procedures and drills, fire fighting, security, survival training, first aid, use of emergency equipment in preparation to handle any situation
- Bullet-proof cockpit doors installed across its fleet
- Security cameras installed in passenger cabin for customer and crew safety
- Savings available as a result of intelligent travel policy
- Controlled usage of one-way fares
- General level of internet bookings for leisure travel continue to increase, resulting in easy adoption of corporate booking engines
- Further savings available as a result of automating the booking and fulfilment process
- There’s no point booking direct with a hotel because I’ll always get it cheaper online through a third-party site. Once again, the saving can be in excess of A$100 for a single night, let alone a whole booking.
- Ergo, price parity – the practice of offering the same price across all channels – is generally just a smart-sounding term that means nothing for many hotels and groups when selling online. Four times out of five they will undercut themselves through other channels.
- You’ll generally get a better deal at an independent hotel, which are increasingly (and indiscriminately) using the online channel to dump capacity at cheap rates. You can get a room in a top non-aligned four-star in Singapore for around A$100 including taxes, breakfast and free broadband connection.
- Free broadband is important because some of the bigger groups are starting to charge like there’s no tomorrow – for example, S$28 for 24 hour access. In fact, it appears groups are looking to replace the revenue “stolen” by mobile phones with that generated by broadband.
- The Asian Low Cost Carriers are damn cheap – and so are most of their websites. The booking engines are generally clunky and below par, although you can’t argue with the tiny airfares on offer throughout the region.
- Apart from Zuji, there are no major regional online retail brands – and none really on the horizon (although there’s plenty of action in China). But that will all change as the market matures – and the best deals shift online.
By Yoeh Siew Hoon
Let me tell you about my Singapore.
My Singapore is a bit like everyone’s. Clean, green, safe – the three most common adjectives used to describe it by residents, visitors and those who haven’t visited but have heard about it.
But to just describe it as clean, green and safe would be like saying it’s just a sterilized, well-washed vegetable (safe, healthy but rather unexciting) and that would be doing it a big disservice.
Truth is, my Singapore is a bit like a woman on the verge of turning 40. Which she is, by the way. This August 9, the nation celebrates its 40th year of independence.
Like a woman on the threshold of turning 40, Singapore is filled with all the fears and insecurities of ageing – will people still love me when I am all wrinkly and old – yet full of promise and possibilities – look at how far I have come and I have so much further to go.
And so you find Singapore today, caught between paranoia and promise.
At 40 years old, Singapore has built up a wonderful legacy.
Its infrastructure is world class. Its airport is talked about, admired and envied by everyone. Its hotels are second to none except in average rates where they are definitely down the table – which is good news for travellers.
Its mix of cultures – Indian, Malay and Chinese – has had time to simmer and stew into a seamless brew of scents and spices that is, forgive the pun, Uniquely Singapore.
And even though some travellers may complain about the price of beer here, this is one brew they love and travel miles for.
Over the last few years, like a more confident and matured woman, Singapore has also been lifting up its skirt a little. It’s cut loose on nightlife, entertainment and the arts scene.
The bar and club scene is vibrant, dynamic and fun, even non-stop. Now Singapore parties all night while cities like Bangkok go to sleep early.
Why, it even dared to strip down to bra and panties to dance on bar tops.
It tried a few daring moves. Hip, funky hotels (Scarlet), theme bars (Eski) and beach parties appeared. It skydived, reverse bungy-jumped and raced its way into the media spotlight.
But like all women, it can be fickle, maybe a little unsure about how far she should go before she is judged by a jury of her peers. A gay party, the Nation Party, was refused a licence and thus it moved its merry way to Phuket.
But one cancellation does not a nation make. And Singapore forges ahead. She knows she’s got 40 good years behind her, and a lot more years ahead.
But she should also know that heck, at 40, a woman had better stop flirting and teasing with change and instead, embrace it firmly and desperately, and go where no woman has dared to tread.
For the official guide to Singapore, visit www.visitsingapore.com
By Martin Kelly
Man cannot live on bread alone – nor can the most modern of travel businesses survive and thrive using a single sales channel such as the Internet – even when it is delivering more than 90 per cent of business.
Virgin Blue, which generates between A$6 and A$9 million in online revenue every day, has just taken another major step in its distribution diversification program, launching its Application Protocol Interface (API).
Launch customers are online retailers travel.com.au and lastminute.com.au, powered by Arnold Travel technology, while links will be provided to Zuji and Carlson Wagonlit.
The API provides these companies with a “doorway” into Virgin Blue’s new and more flexible Navataire Skylights7 booking platform – giving them live access to most inventory.
The integration costs are significant, and borne by the agents, but Virgin Blue claimed the upside is enormous, and that long-term benefits can be found on a number of levels – notably access, speed and better customer service.
It also gives online retailers a “hands free” approach to increasing productivity and commissions through the carrier, which can reach eight per cent if sales targets are reached or exceeded.
Manager e-Commerce at Virgin Blue, Steven Greenway, said the days of Low Cost Carriers enjoying explosive growth solely through the online Business to Consumer sales channel have largely disappeared as the sector matures.
“All Low Cost carriers will use a multi-channel strategy as they grow into new more, complex markets and customer segments in order to drive revenue – the trick is to avoid overhead costs,” he said after speaking at TRAVELtech in Sydney.
“Relying on the web alone for sales growth produces a restricted framework – growth can be achieved but only in increments.”
Consequently, Virgin Blue is also expanding its GDS coverage – adding Amadeus to its existing relationships with Galileo and Sabre.
“The GDS are very efficient in terms of aggregating content and providing agents with a tool to book airfares,” Mr Greenway said.
“At the end of the day, the GDS, as much as we say we hate them, provide a service. Pricing, however, generally outstrips value.”
To overcome this, Virgin charges a A$15 premium for the GDS fares, which are usually premium rates available to corporate or government clients, or international markets it does not have access to, such as the Pacific Islands.
Therefore Virgin Blue is able to keep key corporate and agency customers happy by giving them better GDS coverage (ie: service) a necessary move if the company is to continue growing beyond its low cost base.
Other distribution options are also emerging in the Australian market. Virgin has had discussions with Bezurk, a travel search engine set to launch soon, but has not yet signed with them.
Greenway said while travel search engines can deliver online sales leads on a “cost per click” basis, the technology they use to screen scrape deals “pounds” the member websites, affecting usability for (commission free) customers going direct.
However, he said, the likes of Sidestep and Kayak are going well in the and that usually adopts American trends so the odds are that travel search engines will probably work in this market.
On the product side, Greenway said Virgin will ramp up its wholesale offering and improve Dynamic Packaging technology to better integrate a “limited number of simple products”.
So, Virgin Blue is in the process of becoming a hybrid carrier as it gets squeezed at both ends of the market by Qantas (top) and Jetsar ((bottom).
“But we are staying true to our low cost base and still believe in user pays,” said Greenway. It’s just that the times – and market – is changing.
By Martin Kelly
HOTELS have clearly emerged as the growth engine for online retail travel companies and Asia Pacific is set to play an increasing role with the likes of Expedia, which started trading as a stand-alone company last week, boosting its regional presence.
Travelocity is also experiencing extraordinary growth, reporting a 41% increase in hotel room nights during the June quarter when compared with 2004, while packaging revenue grew 81% and now comprises 30% of total revenue. By comparison, air transaction revenue grew 9%.
Over the same period, Expedia’s major accommodation brand – Hotels.com – recorded more than more than $US500 million in quarterly gross bookings for the first time in its history.
Expedia’s Regional Director of Hotels and Destination Services, Cameron Jones, said the company is experiencing double digit hotel booking growth in most Asia Pacific markets.
“Hong Kong in particular has experienced exceptional growth,” Jones said.
Jones said Expedia has added new staff in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney to service and grow the existing customer base.
In other developments, Jones said the integration of the Expedia and Hotels.com technology platforms would be complete by the end of September, allowing hoteliers to manage inventory on both sites through a single extranet.
He added there has been strong regional adoption of Direct Connect, which allows Expedia to sell live inventory straight from a hotel’s Property Management System.
Meanwhile, Expedia reported that international gross bookings increased 73% during the June quarter.
“Revenue grew 14%, primarily driven by the international merchant hotel business, acquisitions and the air business,” the company said in a statement.
“Merchant hotel revenues increased 9% for the second quarter, (however) revenue per room night was flat, resulting from a 5% increase in the average daily room rates, offset by a decrease in merchant hotel raw margins.
“Air revenues increased 7% during the quarter, primarily from a 21% increase in air tickets sold, partially offset by an 11% decline in revenue per air ticket.
“Expedia, Inc.’s domestic air and merchant hotel businesses operate in a challenging competitive environment, due primarily to increased competition from third party distributors, increased promotion by suppliers of their own websites and higher overall occupancy rates and load factors.
“This environment is generally expected to continue.”
SOME of the world’s leading airlines are pushing publicly and aggressively for GDS distribution alternatives through the Bangkok-based Star Alliance.
At a press conference in Japan last week, the Star Alliance told media that it would actively support new entrants to the distribution marketplace -provided the price is right.
And in a further backhander to the incumbents, Star Alliance Chief Executive Officer Jaan Albecht says the “new entrants” – known as GNEs – may provide better service for less money.
“Our 16 member carriers currently pay a combined total of around US$2 billion in annual GDS fees and we see a definite potential to reduce these,” says Mr Albrecht.
“The GNEs will not only allow the member airlines to cut distribution costs, but also permit the carriers to explore new functionalities which the current GDS do not provide.”
He says Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines and United are at the forefront of this initiative on behalf of all Star Alliance members.
The aim is to draw up a single strategy for selecting GNE partners.
“It is our aim to finalise the GNE selection by the end of the year,” says Albrecht.
Star Alliance was established in 1997and claims its members represent almost 29% of world airline revenue.
Members are Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, bmi, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Spanair, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, United, US Airways and VARIG Brazilian Airlines.
South African Airways will be integrated over the next 12 months.
CONSUMER traffic to Australian travel websites is at an all-time high, according to Nielsen//NetRatings and Hitwise.
Not surprisingly, given the launch of Jetstar, the sharpest growth has occurred within the airline sites over the past two years.
However, hotels and travel agencies are not far behind.
According to Hitwise:
Commercial Airlines >> Increased 69% between December 2003 and January 2005
Travel Agencies >> Increased 40% between December 2003 and January 2005
Destinations & Accommodation >> Increased 46% between December 2003 and January 2005
Meanwhile Nielsen//NetRatings reports a similar pattern.
Senior Analyst Andrew Eckford said the trend has been particularly evident during the first three months of 2005.
“Over the past few weeks we have seen consistently more than 630,000 unique browsers a week to audited travel sites.
“This is significantly higher than seen for any week since we launched the Market Intelligence measurement for the travel industry.”
Tables Below From Nielsen//NetRatings and Hitwise:
Nielsen//NetRatings Market Intelligence, Domestic Traffic to Travel Sites by Category for February 2005
Category Unique Browsers Page Impressions
Travel Portals 1,272,537 10,659,606
Destinations 488,256 5,065,915
Hotels 203,342 1,640,914
Rental Cars 133,497 1,576,388
Hitwise – Travel – Agencies ” February 2005 ” Ranks by ‘Visits’
Name Domain Market Share
1 Flight Centre www.flightcentre.com 11.50%
2 Webjet www.webjet.com.au 6.31%
3 lastminute.com.au www.au.lastminute.com 5.96%
4 Expedia.com www.expedia.com 4.47%
5 ZUJI Australia www.zuji.com 3.91%
6 Best Flights www.bestflights.com.au 3.44%
7 Travel.com.au www.travel.com.au 3.18%
8 Octopus Travel www.octopustravel.com/au 2.50%
9 ITN.net www.itn.net 1.92%
10 ninemsn Travel www.ninemsn.com.au 1.90%
Hitwise – Travel – Destinations and Accommodation ” February 2005 ” Ranks by ‘Visits’
Name Domain Market Share
1 Wotif.com www.wotif.com 6.71%
2 HotelClub.net www.hotelclub.net 5.70%
3 RatesToGo.com www.ratestogo.com 2.93%
4 Need It Now www.needitnow.com.au 1.96%
5 TravelMate www.travelmate.com.au 1.91%
6 Trip Advisor www.tripadvisor.com 1.60%
7 Totaltravel.com www.totaltravel.com 1.37%
8 Visit Victoria www.visitvictoria.com.au 1.36%
9 Lonely Planet www.lonelyplanet.com 1.35%
10 AAA Tourism www.aaatourism.com.au 1.30%
Nielsen//NetRatings Market Intelligence, Top Destination Sites for February 2005
Unique Browsers Page Impressions
1 visitvictoria.com 161,372 1,353,450
2 ourbrisbane.com 154,053 1,235,204
3 visitnsw.com.au 60,383 559,331
4 discovertasmania.com 48,739 813,611
5 westernaustralia.com 39,281 337,420
6 southaustralia.com 21,653 319,092
Ends/ 22 March, 2005
By Martin Kelly
ONLINE travel in Australia has reached a milestone of sorts with the stockmarket capitalisation of Webjet (WEB) surging past traditional retailers – including significant share holder Harvey World Travel (HWT).
Webjet, valued at just four cents 12 months ago, raced to an all-time high of 34 cents on the Australian Stock Exchange following recent strong growth and a maiden net profit A$1.44 million.
Its price seems to have settled above 30 cents, giving it a market value north of A$75 million, compared with Harvey World’s recent average capitalization of around $65 million.
Yet HWT – which has more than 500 franchised agencies throughout Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – made more money, recording a A$2.52 million net profit for 2004/05.
This traditional and well-run travel company also pays investors a healthy annual dividend of more than five per cent.
So what gives – why are investors ascribing a greater value to Webjet than HWT?
Basically, they are betting that Webjet has much better growth prospects than traditional franchise retailers like HWT or Jetset.
And there’s definitely something to that.
The online travel market is still relatively immature and companies in this space – provided they have the technology – can operate much more effectively in a low commission environment.
It is also easier for them to expand because they are starting from a lower base and – like the Low Cost Carriers – have a fresh business model.
Of course, the stock market gets it wrong all the time and there are currently faint echoes of the dot bomb era in some valutaions.
However, the difference now is that many online companies such as Webjet are real businesses making real money.
Not that HWT Managing Director Barry Mayo would care about the differing valuations – his company’s 19 per cent Webjet holding, which cost just A$1.9 million, is now worth A$13 million.
HWT also has the option to take its Webjet stake to 35 per cent.
The Webjet share price rises come on the back of consistently strong business performance. In July and August, Webjet’s turnover exceeded A$23 million, more than three times last year’s figures.
“The increase strongly validates our business model,” said Managing Director David Clarke.
However, the Webjet results failed to detail the comany’s revenue mix and growth prospects.
ABACUS International has forecast solid growth in Asia-Pacific travel bookings for the rest of 2005.
The Singapore-based GDS reports that bookings for the first four months of this year are already up 21% over the same period in 2004, which was the best for a decade.
Vietnam was the standout performer during April with a 25% increase in bookings over March.
The established North Asian markets of South Korea (22%) and Hong Kong (16%) also grew strongly, while FIT bookings in Indochina and Central Asia increased 14%.
Four out of five bookings (78%) made in Asia-Pacific during April were for travel within the region.
Abacus President and CEO, Don Birch, says: “We are seeing signs of solid growth which, barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect to continue for the rest of the year.”
He says total bookings on the Abacus system during April increased by 7% month on month to 2.9 million, up 10% over the previous year.
A black spot has been the slow recovery of passenger traffic to the tsunami hit markets such as Krabi and Phuket where “we are seeing a 60% to 70% drop in bookings” over last year.
Abacus now distributes through 11,000 travel agency locations in 22 markets throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
New management at perennial under-achiever Travel.com.au Limited (TVL) has launched Dynamic Packaging on both its sites – travel.com.au and lastminute.com.au.
TVL has also ended its dual supplier approach to GDS, concluding a long-standing relationship with Sabre Pacific and fully committing to Amadeus, which has a stake in the company.
These moves come after disappointing results for the six months to December 31, a period in which TVL lost A$745,000 compared with a net profit of A$9000 for the corresponding period in 2003.
Encouraging sales growth of 9% was completely overshadowed by a 20% blowout in expenses largely due to the relaunch of the main site with a new design and booking engine.
Sales were driven solely by lastminute.com.au, which grew 35%, while Travel.com.au continued to disappoint with a 1% fall in sales. The bulk of its bookings are still handled offline.
Acting CEO Adam Johnson, who replaced incumbent Bill Gair in mid-February, said the focus at TVL – which employs 80 staff – is on growing automated sales.
He said this approach has been given strong impetus through the acquisition of Arnold Travel Technology (which Johnson used to run) via a share issue late last year.
As a result, interests associated with Arnold now control around 25% of the company. These include Johnson and new Chairman Roger Sharp.
Johnson claimed the early results from its Dynamic Packaging flight/hotel offering were encouraging, adding that automated booking numbers had increased on both sites as customers became familiar with the new booking engine.
“We’re already ahead of budget and are going to be promoting it more over the next couple of months,” he said.
Its Dynamic Packaging product is branded as ‘TripSaver’ which allows clients to “book flights and hotels together and save”.
Chairman Roger Sharp described Travel.com.au in the six month results as a company which has “traditionally operated as an offline travel agency with a website offering limited online functionality”.
It is a situation he aims to change.
Sharp said the aim now was to slow the cash burn – at December 31, TVL had reserves of A$2.5 million compared with A$4.4 million six months earlier – while growing sales.
But how? “Just having the Arnold booking engine in there means we can reduce costs, so as we grow we’ll need fewer people to handle a larger number of bookings,” said Sharp.
“The trick is to get growth in online transactions, and get it past our offline business.”
Ends/ 22 March, 2005
By Martin Kelly
Online car hire is taking off online faster than a BMW down the Frankfurt Autobahn.
Everywhere you look on the web there are new outfits with catchy names such as www.drivenow.com.au, www.webcarhire.com.au, www.standbycars.com.au, www.rentnewcars.com.au and www.bargainwheels.com.au – to name just a few.
They have come from nowhere and are providing a dynamic new distribution channel for suppliers such as Hertz, Avis and Europcar, who inadvertently find themselves in a win-win situation.
Not only are they getting extra business without doing much, but they also have a great chance of keeping it.
That’s because many of the new Australian sites simply display rates from all the leading car hire companies on a matrix that takes them back to the chosen suppliers booking engine, allowing the big boys to own that customer.
Others have a direct XML feed in to the supplier databases, offering real-time availability and dynamic pricing. Improvements in supplier technology over the past 12 months have played a large role in making this possible.
“I think the car companies are astounded – like ‘where are these bookings coming from’,” said one website owner.
The key thing it’s all happened so quickly. For example, when the progressive www.drivenow.com.au started in September, 2003, competitors were few and far between – now you can’t Google “car hire” without getting deluged with options.
Meanwhile, established players such as DriveAway Holidays, Holiday Autos and Global Cars are reinventing themselves and going online in a very big way – utilizing the web for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales.
These outfits are also investing heavily in the back end, with technology creating enormous booking and financial efficiencies.
The recent merger between Holiday Autos and World Cars to create Holiday Autos Australia is an excellent case in point.
Managing Director of Holiday Autos Australia, Chris Hamill, said technology played a major role in the deal.
“The Holiday Autos system is very good,” Mr Hamill said. Not surprising when you consider the might of this global giant, which does more than one million ‘hires’ each year.
Mr Hamill said affiliate marketing has been very successful with some travel agents using a standard ‘white label’ booking engine setup, while others are opting for the full XML feed. Either way they are making money.
“The online agents we have signed up are doing very well,” Mr Hamill said.
DriveAway Holidays is also moving into the affiliate marketing space, announcing a new white label booking engine for agency sites after successfully testing with YHA Travel.
National Sales Manager at DriveAway, Doug McFarlane, said the company is having a big year and that much of its incremental growth is coming from online sales through agents.
Global Cars is another vehicle-based wholesaler in the midst of ramping up its capabilities and expects to roll out a new integrated system, based on Microsoft .NET, within the next couple of months.
It will have all the bells and whistles, allowing for direct inventory access, affiliate marketing and the rest, but for Managing Director Andrew Morgan it’s all about creating efficiencies.
“I wanted to do all this six years ago and I couldn’t but now I can,” he said.
Sabre has offered to buy Lastminute.com Plc for 577 million pounds to add to its Travelocity brand and create Europe’s biggest online travel retailer.
It is offering 165 pence a share in cash for Lastminute.
Analysts believe the offer is fairly priced but say there is still a chance rival U.S. groups such as IAC/InterActiveCorp or Cendant Corp may counter bid.
Lastminute Chairman Brian Collie endorsed the Sabre approach, telling reporters: “This is the only offer we’ve ever had, and it’s a very good one.”
Sabre says buying Lastminute will strengthen its negotiating position with global airline and hotel companies, allowing it to offer better deals to customers.
May 13, 2005
A new distribution deal between JTB Corp, Japan’s biggest travel company, and Sydney-based Viator is already yielding strong sales, according to Viator CEO Rod Cuthbert.
Cuthbert said Viator has now added JTB’s huge Japanese destination product range to its database, which is marketed through through Viator.com and 500 affiliate sites such as Hotwire, Travelocity, Zuji and Priceline.com.
Products include sightseeing and destination activities like the famous Shinansen Bullet Train tours.
“We’ve been surprised and pleased at the booking levels so far,” Cuthbert said.
“Clearly, given the perceived language challenges a destination like Japan presents, people like to get themselves organized before they go.”
Cuthbert said the initial product focus is on Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and Kyoto, while the primary target market is inbound English-speaking travellers to Japan.
Cuthbert said Viator has partnered with the Sunrise Tours division of JTB.
“It’s a clear leader in English-language tours to Japan,” he said.
“There’s a bias towards educating visitors about the culture and history of Japan, and that’s exactly what our customers are looking for.”
Viator claims to be the world’s leading online aggregator and seller of destination product. Purchases are typically made by travellers prior to departure.
JTB Corp. is Japan’s largest travel company. Founded in 1912, it has offices worldwide and annual revenues in excess of US$13 billion.
More than seven million overseas travellers are expected to visit Japan during 2005, according to JTB estimates.
Ends / March 22, 2005
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
I have to confess. I have succumbed. I got a Blackberry. Despite declaring I wouldn’t, despite my sincerest desire to be free of it, I have caved in. Let me tell you what did it. Paranoia.
I was about to leave for a 19-day vacation in France and two days before I was due to catch the flight, I got an email from a friend saying there may not be Internet access where we would be going.
I panicked. So many things to do. Deadlines to meet. Loose ends that had to be tied.
Plus, a friend’s voice kept whispering in my ear. “Get a Blackberry. It’s perfect for someone like you,” she said.
Two other friends I spoke to had told me differently. One said he gave it up after a week because he found it too intrusive and another, a hotelier, said he regretted ever insisting his company gave every manager one.
“Now that we have it, we have no excuse not to respond to emails.”
To which my tech geek friend – notice it’s always a woman who has an answer to everything – rebutted, “If it’s a company mandate, then yes, I can see how it would be intrusive. But you? You are a free agent. It will free you even more. You can decide when to switch it on or off.”
Well, when you put it like that …
The day I was due to catch my flight, I got a call from another friend (male) who said, “Babe, I hope you’re leaving all your gadgets behind.”
“No. And I’m bringing my Blackberry,” I said proudly.
“Babe, you are insane,” he declared.
So, now I am paranoid about whether this latest device will ruin my holiday. Already half my baggage is made up of gadgets and all the paraphernalia that come with them.
Here’s what I am carrying. An iBook G4, which has just been upgraded to the Tiger platform (grrr) and 1GB RAM, a hard disk drive containing stuff from my PowerBook G4 which I leave behind when I travel, my Sony digital camera, iPOD, iPOD Shuffle, Altec Lansing speakers, my mobile phone, radio and, of course, the BB.
Sometimes, I wonder why we even bother to go on holidays. Before we leave, we have so much stuff to clear. While we are away, we worry about stuff left behind. When we return, we have to deal with a backlog of stuff.
Here’s the other thing. When I told my friends I was going away for 19 days, everyone went, “Wow, so long.” No one said, “How wonderful.”
It seems to me that we live in a guilt-laden world. Few of us take long breaks anymore. Most of us can’t afford to be away for an extended period of time.
Or perhaps it’s because we don’t know how to be idle anymore.
Someone is late for an appointment and what do we do? We take out our phones and start SMS-ing. We go on holidays and what do we do? We check our emails.
When Tom Hodgkinson, author of “How To Be Idle”, was asked on practical tipson how to be idle, he said, “Part of this individualism is you feel this pressure that you alone have to conquer the world, and if you don’t work all the hours God gives then you start feeling really guilty.
“If you can stop feeling guilty, then I think it’s easier to start doing what you want to do.
“The way to stop feeling guilty is to read stuff - I’m not saying my book, but works by Bertrand Russell or Oscar Wilde, people who weren’t losers but who didn’t believe in the work ethic, and argued this thing about guilt or wrote philosophy about idleness.”
A friend drove me to the airport. “Is this all you have?” he said, referring to my one small suitcase.
“Yes,” I said proudly. I pride myself in travelling light. “Half of it are books and my high-tech toys.”
“For 19 days? Are you sure you will have enough clothes? Or were you just planning to wear your underwear throughout?” he asked.
So, now I am worried that I will be a semi-naked albeit fully wired traveller.
Actually, I am most worried about whether I will even have time to be idle during my break and whether my Blackberry will make a fruitcake out of me.
Crown Towers Hotel and Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne have been jointly named Asia-Pacific E-Marketer of the Year in the annual TravelCLICK and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) awards.
The Melbourne properties scored the award, restricted to TravelCLICK customers, for significantly increasing business through electronic distribution channels.
During 2004, Crown Towers, a 482-room luxury hotel, used search engine marketing to increase its website visitors by approximately 41%.
Over the same period room nights 40%, while 2004 revenue rose 50% over the previous year.
Sister hotel, the Crown Promenade, a 465-contemporary property, targeted travel agents and became one of the top 15 hotels in Melbourne, based on revenue booked through the GDS, within one year of opening.
Hyatt International was selected as the Overall E-Marketer of the Year winner based on its strong performance in electronic channels and effective use of both targeted electronic media and competitive knowledge.
Other E-Marketer Award winners are:
North America E-Marketer of the Year – Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group
Latin America E-Marketer of the Year – Country Club Lima Hotel
Europe/Middle East/Africa E-Marketer of the Year – Radisson Edwardian International Plaza Hotel Heathrow
E-Marketer Lifetime Achievement – Tom Civitano, Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing, The Plaza Hotel, New York
TravelCLICK is a US-based company that provides electronic marketing and price benchmarking services to the hotel industry. It has more than 8000 customers across 140 countries.
Decipher.biz – billed as the world’s largest tourism data portal – today announced it has signed three of Australia’s largest travel companies and all state tourism bodies as foundation members.
CEO Mark Phillips said Decipher, which aggregates tourism data from more than 200 sources and features a range of business planning tools, wants to further boost sales of its resources through industry resellers.
“We’re looking for distributors and want to establish a network of resellers,” Mr Phillips said. Decipher packages start at A$550 for small companies, up to A$33,000 for large corporations.
Mr Phillips said Decipher had been buoyed by strong industry support with hotel group Best Western, hire car companies Avis and Budget signing on as foundation members.
“They view it as a valuable business planning tool – it allows them to access the latest data from around the country and build that information into their business strategies,” Mr Phillips said.
Other partners include AAA Tourism, Australian Tourism Export Council, Tourism Queensland, Tourism Tasmania, South Australia Tourism Commission, Northern Territory Tourism Commission, Australian Capital Tourism, Tourism Australia, Tourism Victoria and Tourism NSW.
He said www.decipher.biz has attracted more than 7000 unique visitors since its launch last month by the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey, with the average visit lasting 20 minutes.
“I think this shows we have really hit the mark,” Mr Phillips said.
Managing Director of Decipher Technologies, Peter O’Clery, said Decipher aggregates the latest statistics from disparate sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Tourism Research Australia, State and Regional tourism organisations and private companies like Roy Morgan.
“It is designed to help tourism operators of all sizes, as well as local governments, regional tourism authorities, destination marketers and industry organisations.”
Decipher has been in development for many years and is the result of a working alliance involving the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, Amadeus and international consultants Ernst & Young.
Much of the funding has come from the Federal Government, which identified poor access to as a major industry issue in the late-2003 Tourism White Paper.
Decipher Technologies is administered as a business unit of the CRC for Sustainable Tourism Pty Ltd, which is responsible for developing and managing the commercial operating system.
Tourism contributes nearly 6 per cent of Australia’s employment and earns about A$17 billion in exports.
Ends / 22 March, 2005
FLEDGLING Asian travel search engine, Bezurk, has landed its first major client – the InterContintental Hotels Group (IHG) ahead of its launch later this year.
It is the latest in a slew of Asian travel search engine announcements.
Airline search engine Fare.net, based in Singapore, has already taken off and is offering comparative pricing on airfares across Asia.
Pascal Bordat, CEO and Co-Founder of Fare.Net said: “We see a huge opportunity in Asia for a service such as Fare.Net.
“In the US, several such comparison shopping portals are already successful and growing rapidly.
“We are equally confident of the success of Fare.Net in Asia Pacific.
“After Singapore, we plan to successively launch in Malaysia, Thailand and Australia in the next six months, with other key markets like Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and China soon thereafter. ”
Beijing-based Qunar.com has launched into the Chinese market with a Mandarin language search site, while Oodles 100% Travel Search is planning to go live within a couple of months.
Qunar, which means “where are you going” in Mandarin, offers price comparison search capabilities across air, hotels, car rental and tour packages.
The company plans to complete beta-testing of its English, Japanese and Korean versions by the end of September.
Things are also moving quickly at Bezurk.
Chairman James Vaile said the company will offer accommodation search ”by September or October” before expanding into other areas.
”We think that is a good stepping stone,” he said.
Mr Vaile said he has no doubts the Asian market is ready for specialist search engines, which operate on similar principles to the majors such as Google and Yahoo!
The major difference is that instead of evaluating all travel deals, specialist search engines typically only monitor the sites of its member companies.
These companies then reimburse the search engines on a ‘pay per click’ basis for sending traffic to their sites.
“The reaction has been phenomenal since we launched a couple of weeks ago, particularly from the Internet portals, which recognise what a perfect fit this is for the region,” Mr Vaile said.
Regional Director of E-Commerce at IHG, Craig Hewett, said travel search engines had really worked for the group in the US.
“We want to be apart of the action,” he said.
Mr Hewett said an advantage of travel search engines for suppliers is that they facilitate direct booking.
“By sending customers direct to our branded websites – including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn – it enables us to forge direct relationships between travellers and our brands.”
Meanwhile, in Australia Oodles.com.au is also preparing to start.
But instead of accommodation, it will be launching with car hire and Director Steve Sherlock said agreements had been signed with all major suppliers.
He added that its technology development – outsourced to India – is progressing well.
Mr Sherlock said Oodles had decided to start with car hire because just a handful of companies dominate the global marketplace.
Oodles expects to launch within a couple of months and is currently seeking additional capital.
SEARCH Engines are going gangbusters. Advertisers – travel companies prominent among them – are lining up to get on board. Just look at the first quarter results for the two biggest brands, Google and Yahoo!.
Google’s first quarter profit quadrupled to US$369.2 million. Revenue – almost entirely from online advertising – increased 93% to US$1.3 billion. The news pushed Google shares, which listed last August at US$85, beyond US$220.
Meanwhile, Yahoo!, the most popular US website, posted net income of US$205 million for the first three months of 2005, more than double its US$101 million profit for the same period last year.
Big money, massive profit growth rates, something is very real happening here. In simple terms, the Search Engines are getting mobbed by businesses large and small which want to advertise with them.
And this is just the beginning. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – the art of highlighting websites, brands or products in response to consumer “keyword” queries – is still in the first flush of youth.
Google, which has entered the lexicon and seems to have been around forever, is just 10 years old. Yahoo! was started in a Stanford University trailer in 1994, and listed a year later.
Here in Australia, the SEM story is equally positive. Why? Because SEM is cost-effective (for now at least) and it works. In fact, Australian internet advertising in general is on the rise with SEM the current star performer.
According to a survey by emitch and Roy Morgan Research, prominent advertisers estimate that 9% of their total advertising budget (or around A$800,000) will be allocated to the internet in 2005.
These experts are increasingly shifting their spend to SEM and believe the major strengths of the internet as an advertising medium are (1) targeting capabilities; (2) customer reach; and (3) cost effectiveness.
They also saw “immediacy” and “accessibility” as major strengths.
And with travel one of the most searched for categories on the Internet, there are clearly major opportunities for travel businesses to market online, with very real benefits for those who get in early.
The buzz among travel industry early adopters is very strong. At the recent Search Engine Room conference in Sydney, around 25% of the 250 attendees came from travel, with many actively using SEM to great effect.
Importantly, it’s not just airlines, hotel and destination sites who are getting on board. Corporate travel, car hire and destination sites are all using a mix of organic and paid search to generate sales leads.
Organic search results are the links which appear on the main panel in response to a keyword searches such as “cheap airfares” or “Gold Coast hotels” – while paid search is generally the boxed listings to the side.
Most experts like to have a mix of the two to balance risk and return.
Paid search advertisements are priced – and ranked – according to demand. Researcher Frost & Sullivan estimates that the average cost of a keyword is around A$1, although prices can range from 10 cents to $50.
Organic results are much less predictable with high rankings determined by a number of factors, in particular relevance of text, number of site links and popularity.
In Australia, the clear search engine market leader is Google with around 50% of eyeballs, followed by ninemsn and Yahoo! (which also offers organic and paid search to numerous partner sites, including ninemsn, through Overture).
Combined, these sites are just about the most popular segment on the Internet, and Nielsen//NetRatings reckons search engines have a “reach” of 71% among the 13+ million Australians with Internet access.
That’s a lot of potential customers. Can they find you?
May 13, 2005
Can you survive a week without your mobile and Blackberry? Yeoh Siew Hoon goes cold turkey in the golden land of temples – Myanmar
I’ve just been reading a report about what it takes to keep the 21st century business traveller happy.
Apparently, the four top requirements are a direct flight, a flat bed, a Blackberry and being met at the airport – so said 1000 business travellers who were surveyed at the recent Business Travel Show in London.
According to the survey:
62% said a direct flight would make their journey more enjoyable
48% craved to see a chauffeur hold up a card with their name on at their destination airport
46% said they wouldn’t be parted from their Blackberry for the world
43% longed for the undeniable luxury of a flat bed on their long-haul flights
So there we have it – the 21st century business traveler is a spoilt and insecure species.
Spoilt because he or she craves luxuries and comforts and insecure because he or she can’t do without their communication devices – some psychiatrists believe our fear of being without our mobiles or Blackberries stems more from insecurity than conscientiousness about our work.
In other words, we all need to be needed and we all want to feel indispensable in our jobs. Imagine if everything ran smoothly while we were away and were out of touch …
Anyway, the survey got me thinking that if they were ever to do similar research on what it takes to keep a 21st century leisure traveler happy, I am quite sure that top on the list would be no mobile phones and no Blackberries.
I say this because I have just spent a week in Myanmar, mobile-less and email-less.
And I am glad to say I survived. In fact, more than survived. I felt a sense of freedom and liberation that I had not felt in years. It was like walking on winged feet through a golden land of temples.
At first, it felt strange. In the first few hours of arrival, my mind kept wandering to my phone and laptop, wondering what messages I was missing and if I had missed any deadlines. My fingers actually started to itch.
Switching off my mind was infinitely harder than switching off my electronic gadgets.
It’s hard when you are an SMS addict, like I am, to suddenly go cold turkey. But let’s face it, if you have to go cold turkey, Myanmar is the best possible rehabilitation clinic on earth for us urban, email, mobile phone junkies.
This is a land that is timeless. It’s a place steeped in time. People have time. They take time to do things. They do not rush. They sit. They talk. They pray. They smile a lot. They do not have much but they have a lot.
It teaches you not to hurry because why worry? There is time.
By the time I went to bed at the Pansea that first night, I was in step with Myanmar.
I dreamt of white clouds, not Blackberries.
During the course of the week, there were temptations thrown my way. Perish the idea but some hotels now actually have business centres with Internet facilities.
The temptation was strongest on “The Road to Mandalay” cruise from Mandalay to Bagan where I had to spend three nights on the ship in really close proximity to an Internet connection.
It was tough but whenever I felt the old habit creeping up on me, I immediately ordered a gin tonic, recited Rudyard Kipling and counted flying fishes.
I therefore recommend Myanmar to any 21st century business traveler who wants to learn to do without his or her Blackberry.
Truth is, it’s amazing how easy it is to do without when you are forced to do without.
Ends / 21 March, 2005
Speakers and sponsors have been announced for Wired 2005: Asia Travel Matrix, which is happening at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel in Singapore on October 20 & 21.
It’s set to be the best travel technology, marketing and distribution conference staged in the region.
- Sponsors: Singapore Tourism Board, Amadeus, Abacus International, Millennium and Copthorne International, TravelCLICK, Pegasus and WORLDHOTELS.
- Industry partners: Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association, MarketShare and the MacroVision Network.
- Media: Yahoo! South-East Asia is the online media partner, while e-Hotelier, 4 Hoteliers and Travel Trade Report are also supporting
A dedicated site will be launched in mid-July and tickets for the two-day conference will start at just US$395.
Meanwhile, check out the speakers below who have already confimed, and click here to register for updates – stay tuned for more big names.
Ram Badrinathan, Analyst, Asia-Pacific, PhoCusWright
Nicole Bernthaler, Chief Marketing Officer, World Hotels
Scott Blume, Chief Executive, Zuji
Oliver Bonke, Vice President – Marketing, Starwood Hotels and Resorts
Symon Bridle, hief Operating Officer, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
Maria Cary, GM Pricing and Distribution, Accor Asia-Pacific
Rick Clements, Managing Director, Rick Clements and Associates
Tony Davis, Chief Executive, Tiger Airways
Bernadette Dennis, Vice President Asia-Pacific, Marriott International
Olivier Dombey, Vice President Sales and Account Management - Asia Pacific
Sue Graham, Regional Manager – Hotel Business Asia Pacific, Travelocity
Peter Harbison, Managing Director, Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation
Deep Kalra, Founder, Makemytrip.com
Ken Low, Assistant Chief Executive – Branding and Communications, Singapore Tourism Board
Grant McCarthy, Head of Search, Yahoo! South-East Asia
Ken Mandel, Chief Executive/Regional Director, XM Asia Pacific
Toby March, Vice President – Hotels & Cars, Abacus
Gerry Oh, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Millennium and Copthorne Hotels International
Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, Managing Partner, T2 Impact
Lucas Peng, Founder and Managing Director, MacroVision Network
Chananya Phataraprasit, Chairman, East West Siam
Mark Renshaw, Managing Director – Singapore, Arc
Mark Rizzuto, Managing Director – Asia, Cendant TDS
Karthik Siva, Founding Chairman of the Global Brand Forum; Group Strategy Director of Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore
Peter Smith, Vice President – E-Commerce, Amadeus Asia-Pacific
Stuart Spiteri, Director Asia-Pacific, Akamai
Martin Symes, Executive Director – Commercial, Zuji
Aileen Tan, Vice President – Centres for Excellence, Abacus International
Jan Tissera, President – International, TravelCLICK
James Vaile, Chairman, Bezurk
Anthony Venus, Executive Director, MarketShare