Friday, July 30, 2010

BOOT in Hong Kong on Virgin Atlantic (Aug 2-6)

I am on the road next week in Hong Kong. Flying Virgin Altantic. Am on a very useful ticket with the day flight sector in premium economy and night return in Upper Class. New seat review coming soon. Let me know if there are any readers in Hong Kong interested in meeting up.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Follow #APAOS for updates from Asia Pacific Aviation Outlook Summit. BOOT on stage at 2.35pm

I will be speaking and tweeting today (Thursday) from the Australia Pacific Aviation Outlook Summit 2010 at the Four Seasons hotel in Sydney (Travel Technology & Distribution day). I am on stage at 235 pm on The role of airlines and distributors in the “inspiration funnel” and will be back at 440pm on a panel for Leveraging social media to create customer interaction and brand awareness

If you want tweet coverage of the conference then track the hashtag #APAOS. I also recommend following @winglets747 and @sam_lindner for their coverage

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Liz Savage (EGM Commercial) of Virgin Blue on the difference between Euro and AU Air markets

For part of today I was at the Australia Pacific Aviation Outlook Summit 2010. Highlight speaker of the seasons I listened to was Liz Savage the (relatively) new Chief Commercial Officer (now Executive General Manager Commercial) of Virgin Blue. Ninemsn is carrying the traditional news part of her speech around DJ's determination to carve a space in between the hard core low cost of Tiger yet steal premium customer share from Qantas. She announced a desire to double DJ's share of the corporate sector from 10% to 20%.

Savage's background (linkedin profile here) was with easyjet and Monarch. She took some time in her speech to share three key differences between the Low Cost/New World Carrier market in Europe and Australia. They are:
  1. Number of competitors and low cost carriers: Compared to her time in Europe, Savage was intrigued to discover how concentrated market share was in Australia. This lack of competition was particularly acute for Savage when it came to LCCs. Europe is filled with point to point low cost carriers. Savage mentioned that her previous employer - Monarch - was a medium sized carrier (some 30 aircraft and 100 routes) but was also a profitable airline and of size enough to compete. In Australia, no matter how you measure the market, there a very limited number of competitors - on an absolute scale and relative to Europe;
  2. Number of secondary airports: Savage reminded us that the success of Ryanair was in no small part due to the use of secondary airports. In Australia there are virtually no secondary airports, forcing low cost and new world carriers to sit with the same airport cost base as the full service/premium carrier(s); and
  3. Need for an international network: European LCCs can survive and prosper on the back of point to point short haul. But given Australia's distance and market, a carrier must says Savage have an international network (either directly or a virtual one via alliances).
Great to get a new view on the Australian market. Any other major differences between the Euro and Australian air markets?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The BOOT at Asia Pacific Aviation Outlook Summit 27-30 July - Sydney

I will be speaking this week at the Australia Pacific Aviation Outlook Summit 2010 at the Four Seasons hotel in Sydney. The conference runs July 27-30. Day three of the conference (July 29) is the "Travel Technology & Distribution day".

Also speaking on the Tech and Distribution day are:
  • Richard Noon (CEO Webjet);
  • Claire Hatton (Head of Travel, Government and Local for Google);
  • Steve Sherlock (MD Oodles);
  • Shashank Nigam (SimplyFlying) and
  • Martin Symes (CEO Wego)
I am in two sessions

Solo at 235 pm on

The role of airlines and distributors in the “inspiration funnel”

* What are the four phases of online travel?
* How consumers get from an idea to going away and making a booking
* The role of airlines, tourism authorities and OTAs in the inspiration funnel

and on a panel at 440 on

Leveraging social media to create customer interaction and brand awareness

* Making better use of existing channels vs investing resources in newer distribution avenues
* How well do suppliers understand the value proposition of social media?
* Brand management through social media
* Integrating User Generated Content into the booking path

Hat tip in advance to Martin Collings of the Shearwater blog who first introduced me to the role of airlines in the bow tie/inspiration funnel.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

With hotel rooms from $999,999 thank goodness breakfast is included

Screenshot of web version of newsletter. Says "Don’t miss out – Top destination vacations from 999999". Thank goodness you get breakfast included at that price.

Tnooz: Consolidation and M&A activity in Asia

Post live a Tnooz titled "Keep an eye on Asia for next wave of major online travel consolidation". In it I discuss how the three powerhouses of Asia - Rakuten, Wotif and Ctrip - have spent the last three years acquiring companies in Asia, Europe and America as they try to develop growth outside their respective home markets of Japan, Australia and China. I end with a prediction that
"there is more [M&A activity] to come; that we should expect to see more deals by these companies in the next three years. I would also not be surprised to see one of these companies make a major play through a big ticket acquisition in either Europe or America."
Full post here

Thursday, July 15, 2010

TripAdvisor - what did they buy and when

Here at BOOT central we are trying to keep track of the acquisitions and subsidiaries of Expedia’s Tripadvisor. In earlier posts on this we tracked simply by way of a list of acquisitions in reverse date order. With what looks like two deals a year to monitor I have decided to expand the list with some more details. Here is an extensive list of all of the acquisitions made by Tripadvisor since joining the Expedia family.

Company Sector Date of Acquisition Description
HolidayLettings Holiday rentals 24-Jun-10 UK based holiday rental company (is not HolidayRentals owned by HomeAway)
Kuxun Meta-search 30-Oct-09 China based meta-search. Kuxun means Cool Information or Smart Information
Flipkey Holiday rentals July 15 2009 Boston based holiday rental company Deal Search 1-Jul-08 At time of acquisition claimed 5 mm uniques and 30mm page views. One estimate puts deal at $85mm. Onetime do not like being called a metasearch company
Virtual Tourist Social network (same deal / company) Deal Search 2-Apr-08 Site that monitors airline deals especially in low cost carrier sector
HolidayWatchdog Review Site 1-Feb-08 Hotel and holiday reviews with some deal searching – UK based. Travolution rumour that price GBP9-10mm Review Site 25-May-07 Cruse ship reviews and deal search Destination Content (same deal / company) Destinations content and information. Includes brand Family Vacation Critic Destination Content 9-May-07 Destinations content and information Destination Content (one deal buying Smarter Travel Media) Also includes brand Frequent Meta-search Booking search Blog Platform
Social Network
Platform for travel reviews and blogs as well as networking Review Site Reviews individual seats on aircraft to help with picking seat assignments Trip planning 3-Feb-11 Trip planning service focused on mobile platforms

Have I missed any? Official Expedia Inc listing is here. Yes – Expedia owns Tripadvisor (you wont believe how much traffic I get for the question “who owns Tripadvisor”).

Friday, July 09, 2010

Business Traveller Tip: Seven Tips for Travelling in China

Have just returned from a 13 day business trip covering greater China (China itself, Hong Kong and Taiwan). For the latest in my series of business traveller tips I present to you “seven tips for business travelling in China”:
  1. Present your business card properly: The western way to hand over a card is with the card in the left hand and shake with the right. The polite Chinese way to hand over a card is with the card presented name forward held by the thumb and forefinger of both the right and left hands. By holding the card in two hands you present the card in a courteous way and give the receiver a clear chance to review and confirm your name and title. You should similarly receive presented cards by accepting the card with two hands;
  2. Don’t discount the local 5 star properties: China is full of western five star hotels from Starwood, Accor, IHG etc. The temptation when on the company dollar is to stay at one of these safe (and beautiful) properties. However there are also some excellent local 5 star properties and chains. On this trip I stayed at the Taipei Park hotel in Tapei and the Taiwanese owned Les Suites Orient in Shanghai. Both fantastic properties. I also visited scores of local properties and came a cross a number of gems. Research the local 5s before picking a place to stay;
  3. Lean a few words of Mandarin. Get an app or download a podcast (try the one minute Mandarin series) and learn a few phrases like hello, thank you and my name is… Easy to do and easy to impress with;
  4. Leave room in your bag for shopping. The shopping is incredible – especially the range and price for toys for children and the cost of tailored shirts. Keep some space in your bag because you will be tempted to buy something. If a regular traveller then forge a relationship with a tailor (I recommend Jantzen. If you go there tell them I sent you);
  5. If you leave the hotel, get “the card”: The concierge will have a card with the name of the hotel and directions designed for taxi drivers. Take it with you whenever you leave the hotel;
  6. You will need a VPN to be social: General Chinese mainland internet connectivity blocks Twitter, Facebook, Blogger and other social networking and UGC sites. Not all the time but most of the time. Connecting to the Internet through your corporate VPN will probably get you around the Great Wall filter and allow you to be as online social as you like; and
  7. Be adventurous with food: The Chinese food of China is different to the Chinese food of western Chinese restaurants. There is a greater range of food and regional variation. Be adventurous. Try different things – you will be surprised. This trip I tried and enjoyed baked fish head (two regional versions), chilled jelly fish, glutinous rice stuffed dates, fried oyster omelette, sweet cabbage soup and braised sea cucumber (think long jelly fish). As well as enjoying the less adventurous but delicious roast duck (three different regional variations) and stir fired eggplant (again three variations). I enjoyed all of it except the sea cucumber. But am glad I tried it (see the photo above of me eating). If you are interested in how much Chinese food has changed in getting to the West check out the site the Fortune Cookie Chronicles
Do you have any other tips for making the most out of of a biz trip to China?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Google and ITA: deal confirmed, BOOT was right, read what the pundits think

While I was minding my business on a work trip in Taiwan, teams of Google lawyers were dotting i's, crossing t's, cutting cheques and making rich people of out of the founders of flight search software company ITA. Overnight Tnooz carried the story that the deal was done for $700mm. This makes it Google's fourth largest acquisition (behind Admob, Youtube and DoubleClick). At risks of self indulgence, the BOOT first broke the rumour that Google was planning a push into travel meta-search.

With the deal done it is time for the pundits to pontificate analyse. Kevin May at Tnooz central has quickly collected the thoughts and analysis of five (and counting) Tnooz nodes/pundits including me. You can catch all of our thoughts and feelings on this deal over here.

Here is what I had to say at Tnooz

In my view the Google/ITA deal is a response to two challenges Google is facing in search generally and travel search in particular

  1. Search is no longer the number one activity online. Social networking is. Part of this is the rise of networking but part of it is that search continues to operate in an environment where one site has the answer. Where you type in a search term and Google points you to the one site with the answer. Search queries are becoming more complex and more open ended. The answer to an open ended search query is unlikely to be found on one site. Google knows this is especially true for travel. It knows that it risks losing travel open ended travel search queries to social networks and meta-search. China is a great example of this trend with social networking planning a greater and greater role in travel search and discovery activity. Google knows they need a means for showing multi-site answers to search queries; and
  2. Meta-search is building loyalty. In the early days of meta-search, the business model was almost pure traffic arbitrage (I discussed this back in 2007). Meta companies bought traffic off Google for one price and sold it to suppliers and OTAs for another. Meta-search profitability was determined by their ability to buy clicks from Google cheaper than they could be sold back to OTAs and suppliers. But in the last year or so meta-search has started to built loyalty and alternative marketing channels. To generate direct brand traffic and affiliate partner referrals in particular. I have heard reports from a number of meta's of dramatic increases in customer loyalty and direct traffic. Kayak themselves spoke of this phenomenon to me as early as 2008 just after the sidestep deal. To combat meta's growing loyalty Google clearly felt the pressure to bring pricing and the details of offers one step closer in search results

While the deal may help Google solve these two challenges - in presents Google with two new challenges

  1. Competing with customers: Meta and other travel search companies spend a lot of money with Google. So too the suppliers and OTAs. There will be a fear and concern here from all of these Google cheque writers the Google might be planning to go direct and cut out more and more of the intermediary market; and
  2. Execution and retention: Travel search technology is very very complicated. This is proved by Google's decision to buy rather than build. But each time a company makes a buy vs build decision they open themselves to the challenge of retention and execution within the acquired company. Once you have made very rich people at the core of the asset that you have bought - you need to work very hard to either keep them engaged or train up your old organisation to know everything there is to know about the new one.
More analysis and commentary over at Tnooz.

[reminder my views are mine alone and not the views of Orbitz or HotelClub]