Friday, August 29, 2008

BOOT is on the Road: In London Sept 1-5

Posts will be light next week as am on the road/in the air. Spending the week in London for work. Might be a chance for a meet up on Wednesday Sept 3. Any interest out there? Am travelling CX business class. Enjoyed the last time and looking forward to it again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TRAVELtech: Travelzoo announce 1 million subscribers in Asia Pacific, 100,000 in Australia

Brad Gurrie - Managing Director for Travelzoo Australia announced today at TRAVELtech that Travelzoo in Asia Pacific have hit the 1 million subscriber mark with 100,000 of those in Australia. Offices now in Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.

TRAVELtech: Global Review proves what we all knew - Consumers are almost impossible to predict

At TRAVELtech we heard from Karen Grinter of Global Reviews - a company that undertakes usability surveys. She conducted a survey with 98 users on their web searching actions to search tests:

1. Find the cheapest flight from Melbourne to Perth from Tullamarine, arriving before midnight and with check-in

2. Find the cheapest hotel in Brisbane, 5 mins from Botanic Gardens, with a pool and for less than $400 for two nights.

Here is a quick summary of the results of the survey:

47% started with a search engine
  • 32% used the search engine via an installed search bar;
  • 37% entered in a brand name, a large proportion searched a full URL in Google. In effect treating it the means for using a browser;
  • Of these 18% clicked on a paid advertisement - the rest clicked on organic listings; and
  • 0% (yes ZERO percent) looked at the second page.
Aggregaters: 44% went to an aggregater. In a specific Wotif Example Grinter noted that despite there being two places in the Wotif search results for the consumer to view a map. Not a single clicked on that link. Instead they left the site and looked to Google Maps or Whereis and sometimes (but not always) returned to Wotif to book. Consumers simply did not see the map links despite what industry people would view and very prominent links.

Suppliers: 6% went direct to a supplier (in the first instance) but 45% of aggregater visitors (in the case of the air ticket) indicated they would normally go from the aggregater to the supplier to book to avoid paying booking fees and because they trusted the results more.

  • All about the first page in SEO
  • Air aggregaters and buying traffic and losing sales to suppliers
  • Consumers continue to miss buttons and tabs that we think are clear and obvious

TRAVELtech: World Nomads and Footprints - building a brand by giving money away

The story of World Nomads launching Footprints is an amazing one. World Nomads CEO Simon Monk shared the story at TRAVELtech.

World Nomads is an online insurance company that decided to add an optional $2 charitable donation into the purchase path. More of the story here but quick version is that not only have they generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity, they also opened up a marketing channel. The donations spawned a video documentary which spawned an in-flight video series and eventually a distribution deal with National Geographic. Money raised for poor communities and global branding and marketing paid for by travel media companies and airlines.

The latest iteration of this story is that now Footprints is a stand alone charity business with an API. Means that any company that does a deal with Footprints can have access to functionality to charge a $2 charity donating and join the program. They are targeting a very ambitious $1billion. Amazing stuff. Love it.

TRAVELtech: Stayz doing more than $100mm a year. Now valued at $36mm according to Fairfax

James Cassidy - the General Manager of Australian vacation rental listing site Stayz - put a rhetorical question to the Audience. Was it worth it for Fairfax Digital to buy

Fairfax Digital Media bought Stayz back in 2005 for $12.7 million. Cassidy claims that if the same multiple at the time of acquisition were applied to current revenues then Stayz would now be worth $36mm. Here are some of the statistics he shared with us about the business:
  • 2007 Transaction Value - $107mm (value off bookings generated for owner/listers);
  • Grown from 9.000 properties to 23,000 properties; and
  • site re-launch generated conversion improvements of 30-40%.
The other interesting comment was that Fairfax Digital had spent a lot of time building a network of links and cross referral points with other sites in the Fairfax Digital network (like newspaper Sydney Morning Herald and vertical classified sites like He admitted that this is not about traffic generation. In fact the traffic generation of from these links is very minimal. Instead the value was in the SEO consequences. The network of links from high traffic sites performing different but at least contextual activities is crtical to the SEO activities of Stayz. Cassidy is claiming 80% of the Stayz traffic comes from free/organic search. Supported dramatically by the link network effect of Fairfax Digital.

Assuming this is right it is an amazing story behind media group network effects. That internal banners and buttons and not what the network is about. Instead it is the html code driving links and search traffic. Sounds very close to some of the grey/blackish hat activities I have seen online from travel affiliate companies.

TRAVELtech: Webjet CEO Noon calls the AU market sales of Expedia, Zuji and more

Final speaker of the first session was Webjet CEO Richard Noon. Had a great slide that I was able to quickly copy down to share with you. He showed his estimation of the annual Gross Bookings of major full service OTAs in Australia. Here is that graph as I copied it.

If you are interested in the Australian turnover of Webjet, Expedia, Bestflights, Zuji,, and online for flight centre check it out.

He prepared a formula using comparative page views and PhoCusWright estimates of the Australia online travel market. He took the page views of each of the players locally and then apportioned gross bookings from the PhoCusWright estimates of total Australian OTA sales.

Later during the panel session these numbers were put to each of the bosses of Zuji and Expedia.

Expedia AU MD Arthur Hoffman dismissed the $80mm estimate for Expedia saying that this was a very pessimistic view. That actual number was "far north of that".

Zuji CEO Scott Blume - "took the fifth" when asked about the $30mm estimate. Saying that they do not break out their bookings.

TRAVELtech: TripAdvisor China "on its way"

Arthur Hoffman MD Expedia AU/NZ took time to talk through a lot of the non-retail activities of Expedia in Asia Pacific.

The stories have already broken around the launch of localised TripAdvisor products in India and Japan. Hoffman when on to say that TripAdvisor "on its way to build a more local model in China". Will call that a pre-announcement.

He is convinced you need to incorporate content and retail. Not in a community fashion but in a targeted fashion - personalised for the individual consumer. Gave an example of the integration of the SeatGuru airline seat information into the booking path of Egencia (new name for Expedia's corporate travel agency).

TRAVELtech: Zuji firing in Asia on "most" cylinders

Next up at TRAVELtech - Scott Blume the CEO Zuji (Travelocity's operations in Asia Pacific).

Zuji ha been prolific in launching across Asia Pacific. Has spread the business through organic, acquisition and multi-brand approach. Organic in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong through the Zuji brand, Organic under the Travelocity brand in India and New Zealand (though NZ used to be a relationship with an offline player) and acquisitions in Taiwan and Korea (Nextour brand). Blume said that he like this diversity in markets because
"When one country is firing, others aren't. Would love to have all 7 countries firing at once. Has not happened in in my tenure [as CEO]."
His biggest concern and view on the biggest challenges being faced by the industry are the dramatic increases in search costs.

TRAVELtech: Kicking off with stats from the Airport Economist

Fist in my series of live blogging from the TRAVELtech Year of Living Dangerously conference.
Opening session led by Tim Harcout from Austrade. Also known as the Airport Economist basd on this book of the same name. He is opening up the conference by giving us a view of the Australian economy and whether or not local travel companies should be fearing for the worst given the view from the US and Europe over economic concerns.

As Harcout described it, the world economy has "...gone from the sub-prime to the ridiculous". But Tim tried to reassure all that the Australia economy is almost unstoppable with the longest expansion in history with very low unemployment and very strong terms of trade.

The part I found most interesting from his entertaining presnetation was the statics that shows that departures out of Australia numbered more than arrivals in 2007 and so far in 2008 for the first time since trackings started. In simple terms more Australians are leaving the country to holiday/travel overseas that visitors entering the country. Does not mean a complete disaster for inbound players are there is still growth for inbound but for the first time the outbound providers have the upper hand in Australia.

Friday, August 22, 2008

TripAdvisor into Vacation rental through purchase of FlipKey

Another play by TripAdvisor. This time they have acquired vacation rental player FlipKey. has the press release here. Even though FlipKey is an accommodation provider don't confuse them with an intermediary like the Expedia owned If I understand the FlipKey model correctly they are a listing service. They charge either or both of a listing fee and per email referral fee. In other words it is an online version of a yellow pages or pay for listing directly. I don't mean that to be a negative or derogatory, rather to highlight that it is an advertising business (like the rest of the TripAdvisor Media Network) not a retail business (like the Expedia business).

I am continuing my updated list of their acquisitions.
I always close these stories with the reminder that Expedia owns TripAdvisor as you'd be surprised how much search traffic I get asking the question "who owns TripAdvisor"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Update: Sprice launch and better Sydney search results

Did a post last week on Euro and Asian meta-search company and their site re-launch in Singapore and the number of hotel results appearing for Sydney.

It has been pointed out and confirmed that the search results were for Sydney Nova Scotia not Sydney Australia. In my trial search I simply types in the word "Sydney" and pressed return. Nothing on the page indicates that it is the "wrong" Sydney (apologies to any offended Canadians). Have redone the search (see shot below) and produced 4 pages of results. Apologies to Sprice for not picking this up in the post. I would still argue for Sprice improving the destination resolution so that it is much clearer which destination is being searched (again see shot below) but this is a much better position to be in. A Sprice contact mentioned on email to me that they will be working on this.

Still is a strange bit of AdSense in that the shot contains a Wego advertisement (and a Bezurk one too). I suggest Sprice add this to the list of things to update as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Qantas story and ad mishap in Age newspaper

Australian Broadcasting Corporation media industry show Media Watch picked up a great "why did we put that ad on that page of the website" story involving Qantas and the online version of Melbourne's Age newspaper. Check it out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

601 not out

Every hundred posts I do a quick summary of what has been dominating the blog. A regular "not out series" to keep readers up to date. Started first with 101 not out and continued with 201, 301, 401 and 501 not out.

A number of different industry themes came out in the last few months

And on the fun/quirky/ranting side
And the BOOT got his butt kicked with a genuine, take not prisoners, hopefully never to be seen again Royal Flush.

I am still writing, hope you are still reading.

TRAVELtech next week - see you there

TRAVELtech is next week, August 26 at Cockle Bay in Sydney. See you there. Martin has put together a great list of speakers. He has been kind enough to offer me a media ticket so will be live blogging at the end. Find me and say hi if you are attending.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meta-search Sprice announces revamped Singapore site - celebrates by showing only 2 hotels in Sydney

UPDATE - please see update (previously called has been on my radar for a while because they raised some $10mm last year. However the first time I looked at their search results I did not like what I saw. There were plenty of hotels but the UI has hard to navigate and made comparison of hotel rates cumbersome and difficult. I was therefore interested to read a story on TravelMole announcing that they had revamped the Singaporean website. The functionality looks a lot better, is easier to navigate and has that clean & crisp travel2.0 light tones buzz about it. But (and this is a big but) on my random search for Sydney hotels check in 28 Aug returned only 2 hotels. As you can also see from the screenshot below the Google AdAense bar contains a strange collection of ads for US, UK and French destinations. Sprice have the UI issues fixed but need to go back to the connection and monetisation side of the business and do a lot more work.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Skytrax vs the BOOT - who do you agree with as the World's Best Airline

This year at the Skytrax 2008 World's Best Airline awards was Singapore Airlines' year (once again). Let's see how the Skytrax top 5 compared to the BOOT.

The Skytrax top 5 Airlines:
1. Singapore Airlines
2. Cathay Pacific
3. Qantas
4. Thai Airways
5. Asiana

The BOOT top 5 Airlines
1. Singapore Airlines
2. Virgin Atlantic
3. British Airways
4. Cathay Pacific
5. Qantas

Amazed to see that neither BA nor VS made the top ten in the Skytrax list. As hard a time as I give Qantas - I agree that they deserve the award for the Best First Class Lounge. The Sydney lounge is in a class beyond any other I have visited. It is with some interest that I note that Qantas is nowhere to be found on the list of best inflight entertainment. It seems a minimum criteria for the award is that the inflight entertainment system works

Thinking about online travel and mobile technology

It is often a press release on a company activity that brings me to think about a market trend. In this case a press release from Australian owned hotel chain Rydges turned by thoughts towards mobile. In this release Rydges announced the launch of a WAP site for booking and searching at

Mobile has been a constant form of chatter and speculation since 2000. I was in the UK at the time and BT must have spent millions of pounds telling British consumers about how WAP would change their lives. They invested even more in launching new brands such as Genie (now defunkt and part of O2) to promote WAP and mobile services. Not to be left out of the "dotmobile" boom, Vodafone and Vivendi launched Vizzavi with an offline marketing campaign that would make even's poor old shareholders shake their heads with despair (Vivendi eventually sold out to Vodafone). rushed out a mobile booking and voice activated services - again with no result.

There was a sense of panic in the air - if you don't get into mobile the whole business will collapse. Now remember this was 2000 - mobile penetration was less than half what it is now and there was not even a hint of standards or platforms/operating system stability in mobile. Lots of money - near zero results.

Every year since we have had another round of buzz around mobile. PDAs hit the market, Blackberries spread like weeds, Nokia dropped the word "phone" form internal memos and language in favour of the word "device", Windows Mobile finally because somewhat usable and the iPhone became the number one product launch in living memory (in terms of buzz vs sales). At each stage mobile was hot again. Thankfully now the response is a little more measured. Now we know we have to develop mobile plans and products but it is not a panic.

Response to this buzz has to be managed because it is really difficult to build a mobile product. With a website there is a lot of platform standardisation a company can relay on. So long as you code your site to be viewed by IE and Firefox (and maybe Safari) then you enough of the market covered. However with mobile there is no platform standards. Palm, Blackberry, Nokia, Apple, Windows all have different ways to displaying/accessing web pages. In the case of WAP almost every second device requires a different layout mechanism. There is also the debate about whether or not you take a browser or downloaded application approach.

This brings us back to the Rydges announcement. They have gone for a non- application based WAP approach. The hook for consumers is that bookings through the site qualify for a priority rate (worth 10% off BAR). According to their eCommerce Manager Stefan Drury by 2010 they are aiming to do "at least the same number of room nights through mobile as the primary website". I like the intention but think the real work should be done outside of WAP and targeted at the browser/application approach.

I am going to treat this post as an intro/part 1 post. In later posts I will take a look at some of the online mobile companies that have come across my radar taking different approaches to mobile booking on travel. What do you think about mobile. Is now the right time to panic and build and launch as much mobile as you can?

thanks to Gaetan Lee on Flickr for the photo

Tips for how to demo a startup for investors

Product demonstrations is the biggest test a start-up goes through in raising cash. If you are with a start up planning a series of presentations for capital raising, then TechCrunch is carrying the text from a recent Calacanis email on the tips for giving a start up demonstration. I receive a lot of requests by email on tips and tricks for raising angle/VC funding. I like Calacanis' list so recommend you take a look if you are looking to raise capital. There is a peculiar back story on Valleywag going on around this list of tips where a competitor of Calacanis in the conference world is claiming that Calacanis plagiarised the text for these tips but is also refusing to provide evidence. Strange back story but good tips.

thanks to airnos on flickr for the auto slicer product demo photo. Love that coleslaw

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ryanair hates Kayak - promises to cancel tickets booked through meta-search

eyefortravel are quoting Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary as saying that he will cancel all bookings made on Ryanair flights through meta-search. As he puts it
"We want to cause as much chaos for the screen scrapers as possible"
This news comes a week or so after the coverage of a looming issue between AirAsiaX (long haul offshoot of Asian low cost carrier AirAsia) and Webjet (Australian based OTA that uses an aggregation engine to combine non-GDS available fares) over Webjet's reported intentions to screen scrape for access to AirAsia X fares.

I understand the argument of the carriers here that meta-search or aggregated search based engines end up pounding the websites (or rez systems) of the carrier, especially where the connection is based on a robot/screen scrape rather than a direct connect. But on the other hand when an airline opens itself to the internet and search engines and enjoys all the benefits of being indexed and discoverable by consumers, they cant then complain when people build mechanisms for more effective forms of search.

In the case of Ryanair, I am sure they are down on their knees and grateful to the SEO leprechauns that they are the number one for organic search result for "cheap flights london dublin" (see shot below)

To then turn around and complain about other search players wanting to build indexes as well is a bit like trying to have your un-fetted search cake and control it at the same time. This is especially true if you are a low cost airline. If as an airline you believe that your prices are the best and are the definition of your product then you should embrace aggregated/meta-search as it will prove your case every time. Seems like O'Leary now likes Expedia but hates Kayak.

BTW - what is Etihad doing bidding on for the keywords "cheap flights london dublin". I know the UAE airlines seem to have unlimited marketing budgets and an insatiable desire for growth but surely the clicks from this are a complete waste of money. Whoever their SEM agency is needs to be roused from the marketing conference bar room and put back to work.

Update - if you want to hear a different view check out Timothy O'Neil-Dunne's post on the same subject "Ryanair clams down on Screen Scrapers - Agents too?"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Struggling to track EXPE, PCLN and OWW? Thankfully Seeking Alpha has a summary

Three big earning releases last week in the online travel industry. Made for a lot of material to listen to, read and digest. Thanks to Sramana Mitra at Seeking Alpha you don't have to fret. She has put together a one page summary of the highs and lows of the releases from each of Expedia (EXPE), Priceline (PCLN) and Orbitz Worldwide (OWW). Is this week's BOOT recommended read.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Aerolíneas Argentinas to be nationalised. Am convinced US and Euro airlines will also be seeking help soon

Wharton has some very interesting analysis in this article over the nationalisation of Aerolíneas Argentinas. We have to all prepare ourselves for a series of bad news stories from Airlines. Cathay Pacific just announced their first loss in 5 years (bloomberg article). Nationalisation is usually a very emerging economy solution to a problem with problems at important national assets. However with the UK government bail out of Northern Rock and US government coming to the rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac I am predicting that we will see US and European airlines receiving some help (or lots of help) in the form of government hand outs by this time next year. Especially if their BS scare campaign blaming oil speculators is successful.

thanks to jmiguel.rodriguez for the photo from flickr

Dear Readers - what should I do with this comment?

Dear Readers. I need your advice. A commentator under the tag "Conny Vige" has tracked down almost every post I have written about or including Expedia and posted this
"Hi. You have created an interesting and informative blog. I have heard and read about Expedia a lot. It is a great travel experience. You can easily plan your vacation sitting at home or at the office. You can never be sure 100% that everything will go right. I browsed this great site and found the customers’ feedbacks on the company. Interested?"
I can't decide whether or not to delete them or let them stay. The argument for keeping them is that they are not offensive and are contextual (ie are in Expedia posts). The argument for ditching is that they are repetitive and might be link hunting for "pissed consumer". The ultimate test of course is whether or not they are spam. I have committed to keep all comments on the site that are not defamatory, spam, nonsensical or full of vitriol/personal insult. So - what do you think. Keep or ditch?

UPDATE - the BOOT readership has spoken. Will be deleted the comments (and any further) but will keep this post up to highlight the comment once.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Emirates to ditch in-flight magazine - changing of on-plane advertising market

Emirates have announced they are scrapping their in-flight magazine (Open Skies). Brand Republic is reporting that the magazine adds a tonne of weight to each A380 flight. They are touting this as both a green and cost cutting initiative. I refute the green part as this is an airline that has just announced showers in the A380 first class area. That is going to add a wasteful half a tonne of weight to the plane in extra water (according to Airwise news).

This tells me an interesting story about the economics of in-flight advertising. Airlines traditionally make a lot of money from in-flight magazine advertising as they have a great travelling demographic and a near certainty of circulation and readership (especially on long haul). The scraping of this magazine is probably more to do with the changing on-plane media habits of consumers. With Emirates carrying 600 channels of entertainment (that WORK my dear Qantas flying readers) they have provided the audience (passengers) with less reason to read the magazine at the advertisers with a more enhance media to utilise. My guess this is not a fuel or green decision, it is a marketing and advertising sales decision. What do you think?

Hat tip to Darren at Travel Rants where I first saw the story

thanks to erdanziehungskraft for the photo from flickr

Bejing Olympics: Translate Server Error restaurant

If you have not seen it yet pop over to to see the shot of the Beijing restaurant that clearly relied on a website to translate the cafe's name from simplified Chinese into English. The result - the cafe is now called "Translate server error".

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hotel Sales Report - you can't give them away

Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels has issued a report that in H1 2008 $13.9 billion worth of hotels were bought and sold. That might be a big sounding number but it is down 76% on the same period in 2007. The declines are most pronounced in the Americas - which saw an 81% decline. has the whole story and some graphs.

Another interesting stat from the report - 84% of the transactions were for hotels of value less than$100mm and only one at greater than $1billion. It may be that this trend is unrelated to travel market decline and more related to the credit crunch and resulting inability of institutions to raise the debt that is needed to finance large hotel acquisitions. I hope that is the answer and not that this story along with the RevPAR story are indicating that the market is going south.

thanks to the Chris & Sandra Marshall on flickr for the photo

TRAVELtech is coming: Year of Living Dangerously

Next up on the conference agenda is Martin Kelly's ever popular TRAVELtech. Martin has been kind enough to offer me a media pass. I look forward to real time blogging from the back of the room. Managed to pick up some very interesting stories last year. Conference is at the end of the month in Sydney - Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at Dockside, Cockle Bay, Sydney.

Start Up competition at WIT Web In Travel 2008

The preparation for Siew Hoon Yeoh's Web In Travel conference 2008 is in full swing (October 21 & 22 in Singapore). She has put an interesting little twist on the preparations for the event this year. In addition to the usual road of speaker and panel session, Siew Hoon is organising a "Start-up Pitch" competition. Along the lines of a mini, travel industry focused Demo or Techcrunch50, she is inviting online travel start ups to submit their ideas to the competition. Top 3 will then have a chance to present at the conference. Winner gets a "a Professional Development Program (PDP) voucher from the Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management (CNI) worth US$2,500 (valid for 2009) as well as the opportunity to take their winning idea to the next level with the investor judges." If you are an online travel start-up and interested then more, then here are the details.

General information on the Web In Travel conference is here. I am speaking at it - see you there.

Blogger (Google) to the BOOT: You're spam and you're out of here

It has been a very trying weekend for your BOOT blogger. On Friday I received an email from Blogger (with a capital "B" and owned by Google) telling me that
"Your blog at: has been identified as a potential spam blog."
I was given 20 days to lodged an appeal and have the blog re-instated. In the meantime I could not post any new items.

Blogger was full of apologies this morning. They returned by access to the blog, blaming this on a bug that caused problems for a large number of blogs. Here is what they said
"We want to offer our sincerest apologies to affected bloggers and their readers. We’ve tracked down the problem to a bug in our data processing code that locked blogs even when our algorithms concluded they were not spam. We are adding additional monitoring and process checks to ensure that bugs of this magnitude are caught before they can affect your data."
For those interested here is a screen shot of what it means to be locked out of Blogger

thanks to allspice1 over at flickr for the photo