Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Social media is either overhyped, underhyped, or somewhere in the middle

Across two conferences two sets of travel executives have highlighted the challenges in figuring out how much to invest in social media for online travel companies. At last year's PhoCusWright Steve Hafner of Kayak called social media "overhyped". A session or two later former Expedia CEO Rich Barton called it "underhyped". At this year's No Vacancy Glenn Fogel of Priceline called social media experts "charlatans" while Toga Hospitality CEO Rachel Argaman said the future of the internet was pages inside Facebook. Meanwhile Wotif provided the perfect case study to test this debate by launching $11 rooms for 11 minutes via social media.

In my latest Tnooz post I discuss this debate and look in depth at the Wotif promotion. Check out the story here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No Vacancy tomorrow - follow #novac11 for updates

The BOOT will be at the No Vacancy conference tomorrow in Sydney. Come find me at the event or follow all the live tweeting live from @hughestim and #novac11.

PS = #novac is the tracking for Novac Djokovic.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jetsetter reports 176,000 room nights since launch

We know that the flash and private sale models are working well and growing fast. But how well and how fast? In an article from SF Gate Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson spills some interesting performance metrics on the company (and by implication the sector). Highlights from the interview include:
  • Member number: 2 million members. Two thirds from parent company Gilt group. One third acquired independently;
  • Turnover: 176,000 room nights since launch "via 800 partners in over 70 countries". That's the quote from the interview. Let's try a bit of back of the envelope maths and see what this means for the overall size of the business. Jetsetter launched in Sept 2009 so that is 176000 room nights in eighteen months of operation. Let's guess an average daily rate well above industry average of $250. That is $44 million in gross bookings for Jetsetter over 18 months. If you guess that the second year is 100% bigger than the first then that puts year 1 gross booking at $22mm and year 2 on track for $40-50 million in gross bookings.
  • Customer care: they have a team of 12 in-house to answer customer and supplier emails. Is committed to answering all emails in 2 hours (something Patterson says he learnt from working at Kayak)
  • International expansion: Currently 10% of customers outside the US
Read the full story here

Thanks to JPhilipson via flickr for the great flash kid photo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CustomerUnderground is mad as hell and low cost carriers are to blame

Over at the CustomerUnderground I posted a 5,500 word rant about my living, loving and hating Dell. CustomerUnderground co-founder "Higherthanexpectedcallvolumes" has posted a piece that might interest you. He has put up an old school customer I've-had-enough-a-thon about the low cost carrier business. The trigger the story of a nurse who tried to help another passenger on a Jetstar flight. As a result she missed her return journey and Jetstar tried to charge her to rebook her flight.

Check out the rant here - it is called "Why do Low Cost Airlines Hate their Passengers (and What Do We Do About it)?"

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

BOOT will be at No Vacancy in Sydney March 23

The BOOT will be joining hundreds at the No Vacancy Conference in Sydney on March 23 (Dockside, Darling Harbour).

Speakers I am looking forward to include:
UPDATE - note after the Fairfax and Occupancy deal, Justin and Kirsty will be replaced David Anderson (MD Transaction Division of Fairfax Division)

Full list of speakers here.

Tickets still available here. 200 have already signed up to join (list of attendees as at March 7 here). Let me know if you are going to be there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fairfax buys - owns online vacation rental market in Australia

News out this morning that vacation rental and short let group has been bought by media company Fairfax. Occupancy will now be combined with to form the clear and unambiguous number one in the vacation rental/short let online market in Australia. According to the SMH the sale was for $29.1mm. The Australian says this is made up of $17.9mm in cash and $11.2mm in shares in the combined entity. The shareholders of Occupancy will retain 10% of the shares in the combined group. Does this mean the combined entity is valued at $112mm??? (will need to investigate).

Sites in the combined group will include Stayz, Rentahome and Takeabreak. Early news is that it will be combined with the NZ businesses for Fairfax and Not sure what it means for Travelbug.

This is a big move.The Combined Stayz and Occupancy likely have 60-66% of the market for online vacation rental and short lets in Australia. With Yahoo7's TotalTravel second and Realholidays (subsidiary of Real a very distant third.

I will do more analysis later - hopefully including an interview with someone at Occupancy. For background:
Still to find out:
  • Who will do what in the new company? Note Kirsty Shaw used to be the GM of Stayz. Now her Linkedin profile says Director Strategy and operations - Transactions Division at Fairfax Digital (though the linkedin dates say this change has been in place for more than a year);
  • What will happen to each of the three brands?;
  • Where does this fit with other travel assets like Travelbug in Nz; and
  • Will the 10% ownership by founders of Occupany and the restructure at Fairfax itself mean anything in terms of the massive cross promotion that Stayz gets from Fairfax sites?

Monday, March 07, 2011

An insurance salesman selling hope while entertaining via TEDx

WorldNomads General Manager Chris Noble is one of my favourite conference beer buddies. I have enjoyed many a post conference beer talking about social media, online travel and building a customer proposition. Great presenter and interesting bloke.

While Chris' day job is as a boss of an insurance company, at night he and his WorldNomad's fellow founders set up I first blogged about Footprints here. It is a micro donations system that can be built into a purchase path so that small amounts of money can be collected from a large customer base as part of an unrelated consumer transaction. To date they have raised more than $1mm for 65 projects from 411,000 donations. If you are interested in hearing more check out the below video of Chris presenting at the recent TEDx Phnom Penh conference.