Tag Archive for travel

Qantas destroy’s tourism by grounding all flights

Qantas Grounds all FlightsFollowing on from the recent fights with unions Alan Joyce has made the decision that has killed the Qantas brand in Australia and possibly destroy the Australian travel industry at the same time.  The fight has been dragging on for month’s but this extreme move has taken Qantas from one of Australia’s strongest brands into the gutter with a single statement that they are grounding all Qantas flights effective immediately.

Qantas has advised passengers not to go to the airport until further notice!

The cards Alan Joyce is now playing involves shutting down and killing off Qantas “part by part” and the staff lockout and grounding their entire fleet has be the only insane and stupid response that the CEO of Qantas could have done. This move is a direct strike at the Australian traveller and just adds them to the pile of the 70,000 passengers already disrupted by the ongoing union disputes. The CEO of Qantas has said he will ensure this grounding of the carriers entire fleet of 108 aircraft goes on for as long as needs to prove it’s point, even with it’s $20,000,000/day price tag.

So who is effected by this tantrum?

Atleast 10,000 passengers per day within Australia will be affected immediately plus thousands of travellers, across the world who are travelling to or from Australia on Qantas or it’s One World partner members. The impact on the Australian tourism industry cannot be underestimated based on the number of travellers that Qantas brings to Australia. The Australia tourism body has called for help from the Government as it’s going to directly affect it’s $94 billion tourism industry and the 500,000 people that are directly employed by tourism operators. As a precaution Qantas has grounded their fleet immediately and this has also impacted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that is due to finish in Perth this weekend.

What about One World members?

It seems likely that all travellers passing through Australia on international flights or relying on Qantas will have their plans disrupted.  This announcement will appear to impact any travellers flying on the following One World airlines via a code share agreement with Qantas:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Mexicana
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • LAN
  • Malev
What are they doing about it?
Qantas has started off by saying that it is offering refunds and possible ticket transfers to passengers who find their flights are cancelled due to the grounding, which shows that this action will last for a longer period of time that most travellers want.  Qantas has said they will offer hotel accommodation and alternative flights to those travellers who are mid-trip and can’t get home due to the Qantas grounding.  The issue is that due to the sheer size of this impact there will not be enough accommodation or alternative flights available to deal with all the passengers that are going to be left stranded.
Are you covered?

Qantas have said refunds can be requested anytime until 31/1/12. They are advising customers not to call them on 13 13 13 if possible, and just check here for more info: http://bit.ly/QFdisrupts

How are people responding?
Across social media there has a massive spike in discussions both humours and angry around the Qantas grounding announcement, with the number of tweets featuring Qantas doubling every 30-40 minutes.
Qantas Tweets

Qantas Tweets

Virgin Australia respond
In a great PR move Virgin has started working on a Special “Stranded Passenger” recovery fares for those with a QF ticket and away from home will be offered…. available here.

Concur buys TripIt

Concur LogoConcur has announced today that it has acquired privately held TripIt which was one of the leading mobile and web 2.0 trip management platforms.  Concur is one of the world’s leading providers of integrated travel and expense management solutions for business.  While currently Tripit has both a free and premium paid TripIt Pro it is the first open itinerary platform which makes it ideal for Concur but also good for TripIt who know have access to 15 million people and 10,000 businesses.

TripIt is unique platforms is that it is fairly progressive in sign-in features it offers as you can sign-in via Google Apps, Facebook or Google Accounts.  Unlike a number of other platforms TripIt early on in the process allowed you to just email your itinerary to them once you had received a confirmation and it would automatically import all the relevant details and with a single click you could have this information showing on your web calendar via iCal.  TripIt offers Facebook Connect so you can share your trips with friends and family within Facebook but it also allows the platform to advertise on your Facebook wall attracting more users to its platform without having to spend a cent on customer acquisitions.

TripIt Revenue Model

As part of a growing number of businesses TripIt uses a hybrid model of Google DoubleClick Ads on their website but also via affiliate income using LinkShare for a large number of their listed travel applications that work with it’s data. The other part to their revenue model is the additional benefits offered via TripIT Pro so with 3 growing income streams it makes sense why Concur acquired them for upto $120 million in cash and stock with performance bonuses payable over the next 30 months.

OpenSocial Application within Linkedin

TripIt also uses Open Social to link enable users to link their TripIt information via an application to their Linkedin profile to facilitate networking within your professional network when you might be in the same city.  It does prove very useful when attending conferences, seminars and training courses as your contacts who are not connection on your TripIt network can organise to meetup.

TripIt Features

  • Add your trip to your calendar via iCal Feed
  • Start Auto Import your Trips from Gmail
  • Join your Company Travel Group
  • Travel Apps & tools – build your itinerary, stay organised, share your plans

TripIt Mobile Itineraries

  • TripIT for iPhone
  • TripIT for Android
  • TripIT for Blackberry
  • Mobile site via M.TripIt.com
  • But no TripIt for WindowsPhone7…

TripIt for Business

As part of the interest from Concur would have peaked when TripIt provided the ability for others to plan your travel from the office.  Offering any business the ability to cut costs by organising the whole trip starting at creation of itineraries, organising multiple travellers in one platform and keeping your travellers on the road with less questions about where they should be and at what time.

Point Tracker

One of the cool features of TripIt Pro is that you can see all your frequent flyer, car rental & hotel points in a single dashboard including bonus information such as when your points expire and how many miles/dollars you need before you reach the next status level.

TripIt Pro

  • Travel with privileges
  • Get flight refunds if eligible
  • Find alternative flights
  • Track all your reward points
  • Know about flight delays, cancellations and gate changes
  • Automatically share your travel plans

Concur was smart

So overall it’s a very smart move by Concur to let TripIt build up to be a decent platform before purchasing it to improve it’s travel & expense platform which targets small, medium and corporate business.  You can see a quick overview of how TripIt can benefit Concur as it helps fill the gap prior to this chart where people are possibly still planning a trip so Concur can better understand the booking life-cycle of their clients travel patterns.

One integrated solution that saves you time and moneyI use TripIt currently and do find it’s a great application but I know I don’t use it to half of it’s potential but that might change in 2011 if more travel is required and schedules are going to be tighter.

Facebook Travel

Facebook LogoAt the recent Facebook Developer Group in New York, one of the their most interesting products was touched on “Facebook Places” which enabled Facebook to engage more with their users. It also seemed interesting that not much has been done since Facebook’s purchase of travel startup Next Stop in July 2010 which was official closed last month.

Facebook said that it’s Facebook Places product was one of the final pieces of the puzzle so they can understand the following about your social networks:

  • Who you know (Friends)
  • What you are doing (Status updates)
  • When you did it (Status updates)
  • Why  you went there (Places)
  • How?

So its logical that Facebook can start to understand why you checked in to a particular location or with certain friends but it’s still not yet linking the data in public that you all checked into that location because it was a friend’s birthday.

Blacktop LogoThe how you got there and the why you went there combines the next evolution of Facebook in its travel platform. Platforms like Blacktop are a suitable acquisition target for Facebook if they are serious about moving towards filling that travel gap.

Blacktop allows group checkins (Foursquare/Places) so you can create a complete record of the trips to share with friends and family. Blacktop can better link with Facebook photos which allow for comments (status updates) and tagging photos as you go. Combined with a mobile version of Facebook recognition software you can auto-tag friends on the trip and geo tag all your photos for later.

Blacktop Share with Facebook

Facebook photos are already the largest photo site in the world, and a number of them are taken while on trips/holidays so it’s a very smart move for Facebook to look at a more structured and easy way for its members to share.

Blacktop solves the issue of Twitter and FourSquare flooding your friends News feeds with multiple posts. Blacktop also allows for integration with Facebook Places & FourSquare which could make Facebook more of a travel platform than just an add on feature. Blacktop is still very early in the concept and makes sense for Facebook to buy them now before they grow any larger, you can get the Blacktop preview from iTunes

Faceook & Foursquare Checkins

Facebook recently announced a partnership with Amazon which allows Amazon.com to benefit from the social recommendations engine and its very easy to see how that can be expanded to cover verticals such as a travel network.  The smart thing would be for Facebook Travel to link in with Bing Travel that should allow more traffic and visitors for Bing and friendly partner for Facebook.

Facebook has a new product announcement tomorrow and my guess that its going to be either a Facebook travel product or improve an existing product that will set the ground work for Facebook Travel to be launched later.  It seems to be only a matter of time before its launched and it will further strengthen the Facebook mobile platform as most people carry their mobiles when they travel.

Related Images:

Do Hotel sites get PPC?

While doing some research on a current project I finally got annoyed at the constant poorly placed and targeted Google AdWords campaigns running by some of the largest travel booking websites in the world. The only sites that appear to be successfully buying AdWords traffic is Tablet Hotels & Tripadvisor.  The companies that appeared to be having the most problems with AdWords traffic was Qantas, Travelocity & Expedia who just seemed to have missed the market in delivering a great first impression for AdWords visitors.  Even the leader Priceline.com didn’t fair that much better with a PPC campaign obviously setup by a monkey at a keyboard who has shares in Google and wants lower quality scores and higher CPC rates.

Test 1# Hotel Alexander, New York – The first test was to pick a random New York hotel from the Upper Westside of Manhattan and see what were the relevance of the ads showing. You can see that there is a 2 ads which are well off the mark with a hotel chain in Israel and the second is stretching it a bit thin as they are the Hotel Alexander Amsterdam in Europe.  While I didn’t add any geographic markers such as “New York” to my query, you have to consider the chances that your consumers will refine your traffic for you is not as likely and the search was done on Google.com with a NYC based IP address.  Its fairly obvious that these advertisers are not making use of AdWords many geographic filters and possibly even broad keyword match types.  Knowing that what the AdWord Ad is showing does not always match the landing page results, lets look at the other more suitable results shown to confirm there is a lack of understanding of PPC.

Hotel Alexander New York

HotelReservation.com advises that it is a hotel reservation system for smart savers, but you can see the landing page showing 91 possible hotels found for “Alexander” does not provide a smart  or time-saving result for this search query.  The landing page doesn’t even narrow down the selection by my country location (USA) or by state (New York) or by city (New York), instead it presents me with another search panel.  All the geographic information is fairly easily accessible and it would save me time and if it offered my result in a single click I might have reserved my hotel instead I leave and head back to the Google search results.

Hotel Reservations Alexander Hotel

The next site HotelReservations.com actually does an even worse job for a landing page by offering me a hotel listing for the Alexander Hotel in Germany, this doesn’t present the visitor with much confidence that the booking site even understands what New York hotel they were looking for.

Hotel Reservations Alexander Hotel

To show how far off the mark, the Okeanos Hotels are, you can see they don’t even have a hotel named Alexander but there are several hotels named Alexander in Israel they were likely targeting but its not a great campaign plan.  It’s clear they don’t understand PPC as the quality score for their campaign would be very low and their cost-per-click rates for bidding on those keywords would be far higher than they should be, meaning they are spending lots more money than they need to!

Okeanos Hotels, Israel

Hotels.com also seemed to miss the mark completely with the AdWords campaign taking me through to a Hotel Alexander in Italy, not the best or most relevant for such as high-profile site.  But when they do get the hotel location right they do a good job of promoting other hotels in the surround area that you should consider booking with.

Hotels.com Alexander Hotel

Test 2# Library Hotel, New York - While Hotel Alexander was not one of the highest ranking hotels in New York according to TripAdvisor, I wanted to see how that Travel PPC campaigns might improve by picking the #1 rated Hotel in New York which you would assume is a fairly high-profile search query they would be focusing on?

Library Hotel New York

Priceline.com fails to understand how to use PPC to drive sales by just dropping all the visitors at their homepage, this method offers advertisers a lower quality score but is much easier and less time-consuming for staff or agencies running their PPC campaigns.  Typically the conversion rates for a websites homepage is one of the lowest so its likely buying traffic for the sake of buying traffic is not a sustainable or effective way to grow your company.

Priceline Hotels

Expedia is the world’s largest travel site but it also makes the same mistake as Qantas does below by presenting the visitor who clicked on the AdWords result with an error page.  The advice to choose another hotel option was not given in the first place and advising someone looking to book a hotel to try again later will lead to losing the visitors business to a competitor. Expedia has the most to lose because of the sheer volume of money that is being spent every hour on their AdWords budget by their digital agency…. but really what does conversion rates matter in the travel industry with such thin profit margins….

Expedia Fails

Qantas Hotels Search – The test was for search on Google.com.au but when one of the hotels advertised was picked I was presented with an error page.  The problem is that I didn’t select a date for when I wanted to stay at the hotel, Qantas fails fairly badly as I clicked their AdWords Ad and was presented with this screen, the only upside they at least have kept some details from my search query such as the hotel was in New York, USA so I won’t have to re-enter that information if I choose to search again.  Qantas can easily have followed Hotels.com which offers a list of hotels in the surrounding area which I could book.

Qantas Hotel Booking

Travelocity also presents the same failure message, so I could assume they are using a similar bid management platform or trying to be more advanced than their CMS will allow which is causing the range of errors.  But Travelocity does win back points for having 3 different places you can find a contact number and they clearly advise they are open 24/7 which would likely catch more lost sales due to these types of error pages being the first thing an AdWords visitor sees.

Travelocity Hotel Error

Who is doing PPC right? It appears that Tablet is actually the poster child on how to do a travel PPC campaign right, they have a hotel specific landing page with clear photos, address details, reviews and a clear call to action with a simple booking widget.  They constantly are performing well for one or two other New York hotels such as the Soho Grand Hotel and should be commended for their smarter approach for travel PPC campaigns.

Table Hotels Soho Grand Hotel

The agencies that are looking after Qantas and Expedia should take a leaf out of Tablet’s book or read my book Google Advertising Tools 2nd Edition, as they are costing their clients a lot of lost sales by a poorly run PPC campaign, and yes I think that Travel sites really don’t get PPC but that’s lucky for their affiliates who can make it work, its not like they have a good history in Hotel SEO

European Vacations – When is the cheapest time to travel?

Sidestep Logo

With all the hype about promo-codes and last minute online deals out there, it can be hard to know exactly when to take that much needed vacation. Just a brief trek online will overwhelm even the most seasoned web person. So, if you don’t have a travel agent, and you’re unable to spend hours and days on the computer to find that super, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime deal, here’s a bit of basic information that will at least help set your vacation schedule with your boss.

All travel research sites have their limitations, and most are swayed by the various destinations they are “analyzing,” but there are a few whose searches and data are a bit broader. The newest is Bing Travel, which is excellent for domestic travel, but unfortunately it is gravely limited determining the best time to travel abroad in advance. The best site for broadly comparing and analyzing travel choices is still Sidestep, which now includes Kayak.

The Experiment: What could an average American find online?
Through Sidestep, three European destinations were compared: London, Paris and Rome, from three American cities: New York, Houston and Los Angeles. Peak season was determined to be the month of August, and low season was set from November to March. Flights and hotels were assessed. Twenty-five airlines were evaluated along with Airfare.com, Expedia.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com and Vayama.com. From time to time, a rare deal presented itself, but this was only timing and luck, so these results were not included in the outcomes.

European Web Search for Vacations

US Web Search Interest: european vacations

Peak Season
Although Bloomberg stated early this year that airlines were only going to increase their rates by 13% during peak season, our experiment showed that airfare could be anywhere from 15-60% higher in peak season, clear above Bloomberg predictions. The biggest percentage increases in peak season were tickets leaving from Houston to Paris and London.

The most expensive tickets to Europe in high season were all out of Los Angeles, considering the distance traveled, and fuel costs, this is only logical. The cheapest flights in peak season were out of New York City to London and Paris.

Smaller, independent hotel prices in London rises around 85% in peak season compared to 90% in Rome and 40%. In the higher priced hotels, prices could be three to five times greater, particularly in London and Rome. (Note: only three-star and four-star hotels were considered.)

Peak Flights from NYC

Peak Season Flight Deals

Low Season
During low season, flights were significantly lower. The highest prices for flights were out of Los Angeles, again due to fuel and distance, and cheapest out of NYC. Airfare from Los Angeles to all three cities ranged from $795 to $1216; out of Houston, $$628 to $973; out of New York, $584 to $867.

Hotel stay was also significantly lower. Remarkably the greatest range in hotel prices was in Paris. Prices in all three cities ranged from $37 to $1023 a night, although most were topping out at about $500 a night. London had the least expensive hotel stays compared to Paris and Rome.

Flights from NYC

Spring Flight Deals

No Matter the Season
Whether you are booking travel in low or high season, there are a few final thoughts to consider in order to save money. Booking rooms in independent hotels, over hotels within a chain were much cheaper across the board, and can be found just as easily online. Higher priced chains varied per city. In Rome, hotels within the Preferred Hotel Group were the most expensive. In London, Hyatt Hotels were significantly elevated, and in Paris, the Starwood and Sol Melia Hotels topped in prices.

Best Travel Deal Found
The cheapest flight and hotel combinations were found in the month of March in Paris using SideStep.

Traveling during the off season does not mean that you will always find the same touristic amenities you would find in high season, but if you are willing to be a traveler and not a tourist, blending into a local community and allowing yourself to truly getaway and be lost in another place in another country, the off season in Europe is truly worth a thought. And, if your boss wants you to choose your vacation time way in advance, tell him or her: March. Whether you are in London, Paris or Rome, you are sure to find a cozy spot for a pint, a cognac or a caffé.

Elise McMullen a.k.a. The Galavant Girl

NRMA limits online insurance quotes

NRMA is one of the largest insurance companies in Australia, so you could assume that they would be proactive and flexible with their online quotes.  While looking at Travel Insurance for a recent conference trip, NRMA was one of the many companies I considered contacting to get a travel insurance quote. The screenshot below shows the reasons that I did not contact NRMA, my agency is based in the state of Queensland so I did not proceed with the quote process because Queensland was not an option or was most of Australia.

The screenshot also shows that the online quote is limited to Australian residents living NSW/ACT but if there is only two options why not just have a check box?

NRMA has fairly proactive in search optimisation campaigns, ranking #6 for the highly competitive search term “travel insurance” so why be so aggressive if they are going to limit their insurance quote platform to only 1 state and 1 territory?

The note that is partly covered by the drop down menu advises that the product is also not available to residents of Victoria, but it would be more useful to advise that the policy is only available to residents of ACT & NSW.  When you move the mouse over the text it appears to be a link but does not redirect you to page that explains what residents of Victoria should do, this would likely reduce the number of potential leads lost.

NRMA is not a small company and should have the resources to examine a better way to display the information or use geobased IP redirects to the relevant websites that deal with visitors who are not from NSW, ACT or Tasmania.  It is interesting that the footer of the webpage advises that they provide insurance in states including Tasmania but its not option in the insurance quote form.  So this would point to a failure in business process and a lack of understanding about online marketing and where their visitors come from.

If you read the fine print at the bottom of the website you can see the 3 links which advise visitors of the correct website to visit if they are not from ACT/NSW.  The information provides direct links for visitors from other states and territories such as Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, but interestingly leaves out any mention of Victoria and the Northern Territory.  For any Australian company to be so vague and general in details about our states and territories does not demonstrate an understanding that a market exists outside of NSW.

Compared to a number of their competitors, the online quote form is not intuitive or easy to use and it is likely they are losing a number of leads because visitors leave and try and different website for a quote.  The important elements to understand is that you cannot limit what geographic regions visitors your website by choosing to only show in organic results for one city or state, if you want to do this look at Google AdWords Campaigns or Facebook Ads.  Organic results as a result of a successful link building campaign will drive traffic from a whole number of regions and there are ways to monetise that traffic that you cannot convert such as Victorian residents.

Travel can fail online without an Agent’s licence

This is just a small post following on from our recent booking of part of our trip online, its not a major post just more of a note of interest to those who book online. We found it is interesting to note that because you are not using a company that has a travel agent’s licence in Australia you do miss out on a few small items such as Travel Compensation.
On the Travel Compensation Fund’s website they describe the service as:
“The Travel Compensation Fund is Australia’s primary means of providing compensation to eligible travellers who suffer loss as a result of the financial collapse of a participating travel agency business.
The TCF helps guard against the failure of participating travel agency businesses through financial monitoring of agency accounts.”
So is this another area where online business can fail online travelers, we discovered that is a clear yes! As if you take time to read the bottom of many travel websites just below the fold, kinda out of sight out of mind….
“……… is operated by ……… while, ….. is not currently eligible for a travel agent’s licence in Australia or to participate in the Travel Compensation Fund…..”
While this is not usually an issue it does follow on from our recent post on how the travel agent websites don’t focus on cheap flights within Europe and leave this market open for affiliates and resellers to dominate. The problem is that if anything happens such as the recent leading UK travel site Flyglobespan.com went bust you will not be covered and many of the smaller online operators aren’t even travel businesses. They are often a collection of affiliate marketers and resellers who deal in bookings and travel leads.
We are not saying that these websites are not to be trusted, but just a point to make sure you always have travel insurance so you don’t have to depend on the chance that you qualify for the travel compensation fund.