Thursday, October 28, 2010

Video of the BOOT at WebInTravel - talking search, inspiration and the future of online travel

Channelling The Customer: Bridging The Chasm Between Inspiration & Transaction from WebInTravel on Vimeo.

Siew Hoon and WebInTravel team are posting over here a series of full length videos from the WebInTravel. If you want to see me and a panel talking about search, inspiration, the customer and the future of online travel then press play above or follow this link

WebInTravel: 10 things I overheard from about trends (Tnooz)

Yesterday I posted via Tnooz 10 things I overheard from companies at WebInTravel. Today part 2 of that post is live. It covers ten industry trends and market inteligence pieces I overheard. Post is called "Part Two of Two: The Asian online travel zeitgeist". Topics covered include China, Digital Marketing, Japan, Indonesia, Airlines, mobile, social media and search. Full post here

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Qunar mulling IPO in second half 2011

Quick one - check out the news report from the 26th from the Nasdaq news pages, Qunar CEO Fritz Demopoulos is contemplating an IPO for the 5 year old Chinese meta-search company. According to Crunchbase they have raised $25mm to date. News story is here

Thanks to Brett Henry for alerting me to this.

WebInTravel: 10 things I overheard from companies (Tnooz)

Over at Tnooz I have written two posts following the WebInTravel conference in Singapore last week. Part 1 is 10 things I overheard from companies. Check out the post called "Part One of Two: The Asian online travel zeitgeist". Companies covered include Wotif, Cleartrip, TripAdvisor, DaoDao (TA in China), Mobilizy, Kaha, eLong, AirAsia, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Abacus and Accor. Part 2 tomorrow is on industry trends.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Business Traveller Tip – 10 tips for surviving economy class flying

They call it Business Class for a reason. To ensure that everyone travelling on business feels a pang, a dip and a sense of hopelessness when not travelling in the class with your name on it. But often we must turn right on entry to the plane and keep on walking to seats numbered in the 30s or lower. Here is the next chapter in the BOOT's Business Traveller Tips 10 tips for surviving flying economy class on business
  1. Aim for day flights - travelling up the back is much easier if you don't have to sleep. Check and re-check schedules to see if you can take a day flight rather than overnight. I would prefer to fly during the day on a usually un-preferred carrier than overnight on my favourite carrier;
  2. Check in online 23 hours and 59 mins before your flight - Most modern carriers allow online check-on 24 hours before take off. Do what you can to be on their website at as close to the 24 hour mark as you can. Assuming you are a relatively high grade flyer you will get the better choice of seats. There are two schools of seat choice depending on your view. My choice is aisle up the front. Up the front for as fast as possible exit. The aisle to add a little bit more leg room and eliminate the need to climb over any one to get anywhere. If you take this option then look for the latch under the aisle armrest that unlocks it and allows the arm rest to be lifted up to be in-line with the seat. Not all economy class seats allow for an uplifted arm rest but many do. The ones that do need a little cajoling before they lift – but when they do lift they open up and free the right/left hand leg, thigh, buttock, shoulder and much more. Just watch out for the speeding food trolley. The other view is the privacy and extra lean value of the window seat. The aisle brings more room with a lifted arm rest, aisle leg room and an easy exit. The window brings a big resting place but requires a lot of dexterity and balletic skills to exit and reach the bathroom. Either way, avoid the hell of the middle. In fact better to have one off the aisle in the middle set of four than the middle of the left or right window set of three. Goes without saying that either way exit row is the best. Be careful with exit rows. Choose middle or aisle as sometimes the window exit row seat has the leg room blocked by the emergency slide compartment attached to the door;
  3. Dress loose – in a perfect world you would dress in good clothes as you board and change into shorts and a t-shirt during the flight (see tip "What to wear on-board"). But in cattle it is often hard to change clothes. To get the best rest you can, you need to be in loose clothing. In a perfect world you would come on board in pyjamas. As that is not possible I suggest loose cotton pants and a t-shirt or long sleeve polo. Take off your belt and shoes, keep them overhead. The belt will tighten and constrict as the trip continues. Your feet will swell making them uncomfortable in shoes;
  4. Eat before you board - The food on economy class is cut rate at best. They are doing everything they can to cut a buck or two. Give yourself 20 mins at the airport to eat before you get on board. The food at the airport will be much better than on board. If you have lounge access this is easy. Taking a meal in a CX, SQ, QF, BA, VS, etc lounge before boarding will leave you happily full. If you don’t have lounge status I recommended eating at an airport restaurant and charging it back to your company as a work meal. Eating before you board not only gives a better meal, it also gives a more comfortable seat. When the meal service is on the tray table is down. When the table is down, you are forced upright with your knees up. You are boxed in even more than usual. The less you need to eat on board the less you are boxed in by the table;
  5. If you have to check – check it all - Chances are if you are up the back you will have to check luggage as the chances of bringing 2-3 bags of 20 plus kgs will be pretty slim. Therefore if you have to check bags, you might as well check as much as you can. Leave yourself with as little as necessary to take on board. If you have to check something, check everything. [see more in tip 6];
  6. Board sooner rather than late - Business class has little to no space limitations for cabin baggage. I know as I have often trudged on board with a suit carrier, roly bag and laptop bag. All told 30 kilos and a whole over head bin of space. In cattle class the overhead bins fill up fast. If you have carry on, you will do well to get on board sooner rather than later to claim the limited space availability over heard. If you miss out over head the only place will be under the seat in front and you want to keep that space for your legs;
  7. Bring Ear Plugs and a mask – planes are noisy. Particular ones with 10 people in a row rather than 7. The pointy end provides not only less people to reduce the noise but technical implements to help keep it so. The back of the plane is noisier and absent in technical implements. Therefore bring your own. While the seat may be upright, a mask and ear plugs will make a world of difference. Somewhere in an old amenity pack you will have a mask and plugs. If you don’t, spend the 10 bucks to get one before boarding for the back for the bus;
  8. Bring Drugs – I have a separate post on the best (legal) drugs that every business traveller should take with them on any trip. Within the list of seven pharmacological necessities are two critical sleep aids – Unisom and Melatonin . These are not knock out drugs. I eschew the true knock outs like Ambien and Stilnox as I do not enjoy the wake up afterwards. Unisom wont knock you out but they will help you drowse – especially in an upright seat;
  9. You can hide an iPod – if you try - For sleeping you drown out the cattle noise with the ear plugs (see tip 7). You will want to use your iPod to drown out the waking hours noise. This is easy during the flight but hard on the ground and during take off. For some reason the aviation industry has convinced itself that a $200+ million plane can be brought down during take off by a $300 mp3 player. Cabin crew will obsessively walk up and down the cabin looking for downed tray tables, lent back seats and plugged in ear pads. If you try to listen to an iPod in the usual way (white earphones in both ears) I give you a 15% chance of not being spotted and enjoying music from 0 metres to 10,000 meters above sea level. But if you follow my tips, the chances of listening to music from door close, through wheels up and onto seat beats off increase to 77% (or thereabouts). Step one – get black earphones. White pads stick out like dancing silhouettes against a purple background. The cabin crew are less likely to spot black cords and pads. Step two – hide the iPod/Phone under a book or blanket. Don’t give them anything to look for. Step three- only listen in one ear. Do not put pads in both ears. Put a pad in the ear opposite to the aisle. Left ear in seats A, B, C, F and G. Right for D,E, H, J, K (in a typical 3-4-3 seat layout). This is the ear that the cabin crew can’t see. Then run the black ear cord down the arm away from the aisle in such a way that it cannot be seen from the aisle. A black cord down your arm from an ear that can’t be seen for the aisle connected to an obscured music box will work more often that it doesn’t in keeping you wired for sound before and during take off; and
  10. Bring spray or moisturiser – 30,000ft is dehydrating. Just being there will dry you out. They seem like silly touches but the Biz Class perks of hot face towels every four hours and moisturiser in the bathroom make an important difference to keeping you dry and hydrated. Up the back I recommend replicating those experiences with spray on water (like the Evian stuff) and one of the bottles of hotel creams that are sitting in your draw at home.
Over to you dear readers. Any other tips for flying coach?

Thanks to clstal via flickr for this fantastic photo of a Ugandan cattle ranch

Introducing the Twelevator Pitch - an elevator pitch in the age of Twitter

I helped out at the WebInTravel Innovation Bootcamp as a start-up mentor. In this I was advising a start up on their 5 min pitch to investors. Four companies pitched, then broke with their mentors for a 1 hour workshop, then pitched again. Three of the four will get to hit the WIT Mainstage. More details here

I won't mention the name of the company that I helped out because their pitch was in real trouble from the beginning. After their initial 5 minute pitch I had no clear idea what their product was. This was not a question of complexity or being too deep in technology. Rather their pitch had so many different angles, commentary and ideas in it that the product could be anything from a dating site, social network, trip planning site, content site, niche online agent, community site and more.

The first job we had as mentors was to get the company to describe their product in a quick and clean format. I set them a challenge. Break for 5 minutes and come back to the mentor group with a tweet like 140 character description of the product - what a laughingly called later on a twelevator pitch. Our reasoning for this is that a start up has to be focused. To be focused you need a simple goal and product aim. If your product/business can't be described in a 140 characters then chances are different parts of the start up team have different ideas as to what the company is working on and will pull the company in different directions.

I knew the start up was in trouble when 15 mins later the team had still not returned with a product description tweet. In those 15 mins they were debating as a group what it is they wanted to do and constructed a long and involved idea. Eventually they did return but with closer to 280 characters of pitch.

We put together a new pitch for the rest of the period but the lack of focus in the start up was telling.

There are a lot of elements that a start-up needs to include in a venture pitch but before you do anything make sure you can describe your product in a short sharp twelevator pitch.

Thanks to splorp for this great photo via flickr

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tweeting from WebInTravel in Singapore Oct 19

Follow me my tweets tomorrow at WebInTravel either directly vi @hughestim or hashtag #webintravel.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

BOOT off to Japan on Qantas Premium Economy...maybe

Am off to Tokyo this week care of Qantas Premium Economy....I think.... Rumour has it that the refitted plane including Premium Economy and the updated business class is not yet ready.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The BOOT in the Guardian

The BOOT has been mentioned in The Guardian/The Observer newspaper. In an article from Sunday called "Are guidebooks facing extinction?" journo Benji Lanyado discusses the rise of location based services and online content and the fall of the guidebook. Towards the end of the piece he references me and my discussions around the rise of the open ended question online.

Read the full piece here.

thanks to DaveWilson via flickr for the photo

Sunday, October 03, 2010

BOOT's guide to researching the world

I have been asked many times how and where to collect data about countries for research and planning. Top line data such as population and economic numbers as well as travel industry specific numbers. Here is my recommended list of four sites for collecting data about a country:

Wikipedia: a obvious choice. Positives about wikipedia is that every country is covered and has a detailed entry. The downside is that the dept of the writing and attention paid varies greatly between each article. The number one wikipedia challenge is that it's greatest strength - a near limitless supply of writers - is also it's greatest weakness as it can result in inconsistent layouts between different countries and different source materials for each each country. Therefore while wikipedia is useful for discovering information, it is less useful in comparing data between countries.

CIA world factbook: is everything that wikipedia wants to be from a data point of view. Since 1943 the predecessors of the CIA (and now the CIA) have been collecting country information and collating it into a central place - that is now freely available online. While it is is not updated as often as wikipedia, there is a consistency of measures and tracking that allows for a clearer and cleaner comparison between countries on topline metrics such as GDP, population, unemployment rates, languages and government structures. There are also useful numbers that are less obvious but just as helpful in planning such as size of the labour force, percentage below the poverty line, number of mobile phones and number of internet hosts. Very useful site for comparing a series of countries with data from the same source.

Wolfram Alpha: Wolfram Alpha is the Internet's way of saying "there are bigger geeks in the world than anyone at Google". The founders of Wolfram Alpha are the geeks of geeks, nerds of nerds. These guys are living maths and algorithm gods. They have tried to build a search engine focused on fact based questions and collecting data. Type in a country name and an easy to read list of useful stats appear. The uber geek part of this is the ability to generate charts and dive deeper into certain facts. For example look at the demographic section of a search result on Wolfram Alpha and you can diver into the details such as the distribution between male, female, children, adult and elderly.

World Travel & Tourism Council: The WTTC Travel Research Centre is the only place I know for consistently calculated data on travel demand. The good is that it covers every country and splits between business spend and leisure spend. Each country can be compared based on the same calculation method for the same travel categories. The bad is that in calculating the key categories such as "personal travel & tourism" and "business travel", the WTTC takes a very expansive collection methodology. Make sure you review the definitions before using this data. For example personal travel & tourism is calculated to include "all personal spending by residents on Travel & Tourism services (accommodation, transportation, entertainment, meals, etc) and goods (both durable and non-durable) used for Travel & Tourism activities. Spending may occur before, during or after a trip. Spending covers all Travel & Tourism, both domestic and international". In other words it includes everything spent before, during and after a trip. From luggage bought before the trip to the taxi home from the airport. It is a very expansive number. The WTTC research is great for comparing different scale between countries but be careful if you rely too much on the absolute (rather than relative) levels of spend.

Any other sites you use?