Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Launching a site

A few moments ago I cut the ribbon (ok asked someone to press a button) and launch the Getaway Lounge website. We are now live and selling discount travel deals. Has been an amazing three days working on the final tech, marketing and deal elements. More fun and challenging that I imagined.

Would welcome your thoughts and feedback on the site. Check out Getaway Lounge. Enter "boot" (no quotes) when prompted for a Getaway Lounge Password. Please send feedback by email.

Unfortunately we can only (at present) charge Australian credit cards. Will let you know when international cards are ready.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Job - CEO Getaway Lounge

Today marked my first day in a new job as CEO of travel start up Getaway Lounge. We are days away from launching a travel deal site focused on the Australian market

Getaway Lounge is a travel only private sale site offering great discount travel deals launched as an independent company funded by Nine Entertainment Co (NEC).

Two reasons (other than me) that Getaway Lounge is different to a regular travel deal a day launch. First NEC gives us access unrivaled online and offline marketing in Australia. Second, the brand Getaway Lounge will be associated with the Getaway TV show – Australia’s number one travel TV show. Ninesmsn (one of Australia’s largest websites and a company part owned by NEC) will help with online marketing

As you know PhoCusWright in their recent APAC report put the online travel market in Australia at $11.3 billion in 2010 (35% of the total market). You may not have heard that IBISworld say that group buying in Australia has gone from near zero to a $377mm dollar a year business with travel and accommodation accounting for $110.4mm or 1% of the online travel market.

Wish me luck and more on the launch soon

If you feel like helping me out, please like Getaway Lounge on Facebook and follow Getaway Lounge on twitter.

I will still be blogging regularly here at the BOOT and on Tnooz

Monday, May 16, 2011

Revinate Sessions - talking social media monitoring with Revinates Michelle Wohl

In my annual predictions I called 2011 as the year in which social goes from an internet media platform to a core part of retail decision making through becoming part of the revolution in search and discovery.

I have published a series of posts around this theme. I published 5 tips for suppliers looking for an online social media strategy (via Tnooz), the role that social and other factors will play in the future of the Google search algorithm (also via Tnooz) and a PhoCusWright Innovation Summit piece on competition between start-ups Revinate and Trustyou to help companies search and monitor social media.

That post led me to virtual meeting with Michele Wohl (photo top left), Revinate’s VP of marketing. Michelle gave me a demonstration of the Revinate social media monitoring tool for hotels and we discussed social media, semantic reasoning, klout and more. Here is what we discussed

The Revinate Product

At first Wohl and I discussed the product. I like it. It needs a few more elements to be the complete package (see below) but I saw a very useful product for a hotel to understand what is going on in social media and user generated content around the hotel brand.

The product allows a hotel to track, monitor and respond to user generated content on site and social media platforms. Wohl spent 30 minutes taking me through what a typical hotel client (pty level or chain) can do with the tool. Basic tasks in the tool include:
  • Monitoring and responding to reviews;
  • Tracking commentary/updates through twitter; and
  • Track consumer sentiment about a property and competing properties.
That is – an aggregation, tracking and social media monitoring tool.

It was some of the higher end features that impressed me including:
  • “Add a ticket” and respond feature: A workflow management process that allows hotel to operationalise the information/review by assigning it to someone within the hotel and track the response. For example if the review or comment is about the restaurant it can be “ticketed” to the F&B manager to address. Very useful at bringing all elements of the property into the social media environment without over burdening staff;
  • Filter and compare: The ability to filter commentary/reviews by various categories and themes. For example to see how often the “pool” at a particular property is mentioned compared to the pool at a competitor property. Allows the hotel to be able to see how they rate against a competitor at a feature and facility level, not just overall;
  • Scorecard systems: Allowing data and trends to be compiled overtime and compared to competitors. Different time periods can be mapped against different competitors and different social media point. Creating the ability to set targets for staff members against measurable goals;
  • Chains can roll up and deep dive: Chains can see whole of chain level and then rankings between individual properties helping to drive internal competition and improvements; and
  • Pricing: The price of the product is based around the number of rooms and hotel ADR. It ranges from 1-3 times ADR per month. I like how Revinate have targeted the price of the product to be clearly measurable against a potential gain.
General Social media tips

Wohl and I also discussed some general tips and concepts around social media. Here were her tips:
  1. Monitor before you create: much like the recommendations from my 5 tips for a hotel building a social media strategy Wohl says “First thing to do is the monitoring – find out what people are saying about you. Only then do let people know you are listening. Don’t sign up for Facebook or Twitter if there is no one there at the property to look after it”;
  2. Respond to all reviews as long as the responses can be unique: On the question of responding to reviews, Wohl said it was critical that hotels reply to all reviews with unique responses. Even those from clearly contradictory (read mad but incoherent) consumers. She said “you are not responding to the person writing the review but the people reading it. Future bookers are making decisions to book based on management’s response to reviews and including that in their own post booking reviews.”; and
  3. It is not all about TripAdvisor…but: Wohl was able to show me a series of real time client examples. In none of them was TripAdvisor responsible for more than 45% of the reviews out there on that property. Some as low as 23%. Put another way more than half of the reviews about those properties were on a site other than TripAdvisor.
More to do

As I say I like the product and it is useable right now against the volumes of UGC being created. However there is more that needs to be built to match the future quantity and iterations of content.
  1. Authority/Klout measurement: There is nothing in the tool at present that prioritises one review/comment above another based on the authority/popularity/reach/klout of the creator. Wohl is aware of this and says this is one the product roadmap (update - Wohl has since told me that "Klout integration should be released in the next couple of weeks");
  2. Sentiment analysis: Expanding the search, tagging and monitoring to determine whether or not the use of a word is in a positive or negative. For example is someone wrote “this hotel is the least romantic place” then being able to tell that this mention of the word “romantic” is a negative not a positive. Wohl says that volumes are manageable at present without semantic analysis ““Clients are not yet asking us for sentiment analysis as so far the review volume is manageable that they are focused on reading and responding to every review”. Clearly this volume management will not last for ever; and
  3. Foreign languages: At the time we spoke the tool was tracking only English language reviews. Since we spoke - hotels can now request to have language reviews in their native (non-English) language fed into the system. The next step is the ability to combine information from foreign language and native language reviews. For example taking a foreign review that mentions the swimming pool and combining it with native language reviews in the aggregation tool. Wohl says this is "on the roadmap".
Wrap up

With social media there has to be a balance. Each dollar spent on social media is a dollar not spent on paid search. Each person hour spent on replying to a TripAdvisor review is an hour not spent on CRM analysis, on property client management, on managing an existing sales channel and other critical sale and customer retention activities. Now is the time for social media focus and work. But it is not the time for sacrificing online marketing and client management in favour of chasing every tweet down the endless social media rabbit hole. I like what I have seen in Revinate as a means for helping find that balance.

Any hoteliers out there with experience using Revinate or a competing product with any comments?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Business traveller tip - arriving at and leaving from new airports

The professional road warrior is a champion of routine. As highlighted in the great montage of Clooney's character's obsessions in Up in the Air, the routines of a business traveller are designed and honed around saving time. Every minute saved on every step of a trip adds up to hours of time at home rather than stuck behind a family of four, in front of a humourless immigration agent or in an intimate embrace with a TSA agent who did not even have the decency to buy you a drink first.

But the routines can get shattered by change. Especially when a new destination is added to the mix. For example I have been doing 200,000 miles a year for the last 10 years yet guaranteed that once a year I go to a place I've never been to before. This year it was Manila. Last year Taipei. Year before Seoul. The road warrior routine is shattered by the ins and outs of arriving and departing from and unknown airport. Hence this next in my series of BOOT business traveller tips - rules for arriving to and departing from a strange (read new) airport.


  1. Hotel name in local language: Bring with you the name, address and phone number of the hotel (in local language). Immigration forms often want to know where you are staying. For taxi drivers it helps to have the full name and address (see tip below for more). If you use a travel itinerary aggregation service (I recommend TripIt) make sure you have the details stored locally (ie in an app that does not need a network connection to work) or have a hard copy;
  2. Choose your driver: if you are getting a taxi to your hotel take a moment to confirm with the driver that he knows where he is going. This can be a challenge if you do not have a common language but it is worthwhile making an assessment of the likelihood of the taxi driver getting you to your hotel. If you are not convinced then get your hotel on the phone before the trips starts and get them talking to the driver. Or - pick another taxi. Much better to do the work before you leave the airport rather than on the side of free-way in a country with no speed limits or seat belts (I speak from experience). Bonus points - if a hot country check the air con works in the taxi before getting in;
  3. Don’t go with spruikers: In lots of airports around the world "helpful" guides with come up to you with promises of limousine rides and cheap taxis. Ignore them all. Not worth it
  4. Steer clear of shared shuttles: As I mentioned in a previous traveller tip on surviving economy class flying "Last thing you need after 14 + hours in a plane is the impromptu 2 hour tour of whatever town it is that you are staying in that will result from using a Super Shuttle or equivalent. A share bus/van arrangement like a Super Shuttle is a definite money saver but you pay for it with a long and winding trip to the hotel";
  5. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but: Don’t mess around with immigration and customs forms. If you are on business don’t tick the "holiday/leisure box". If they ask for a hotel then put in the place you are staying. The consequences of half truths and lies on a custom/immigration form are not worth the risk; and
  6. Know the airport to hotel commute time and plan for it: airport to downtown trips vary in length across the world. Seoul Incheon and Narita are examples of trips that can take longer than an hour. Do the quick bit of research needed to get an estimate of how long your post flight trip will take. If it is a long trip then I have two tips for preparing for it. Firstly go to the bathroom on the plane before they hit the fasten seatbelt sign and begin to the descent. That way you will be "all clear" to get through customs/immigration, get bags and commute to the hotel. Second, take a bottle of water with you off the plane so you have something to drink during the commute.
  1. Find out if you need cash: There are still places (Manilla for example) where all travellers need to pay a departure tax/airport fee in cash before departing. In the case of Manilla, the only cash machine is outside the airport and the min amount to withdraw is more than you need to pay the tax. If you do not know this in advance it means a second trip through airport security to get to the ATM and a pocket for of pesos that need to be spent on chocolate once you have paid the tax. Before you go, research if you need to pay a tax and whether or not it needs to be paid in cash. Then prepare accordingly;
  2. Know your terminal: Simple but critical tip with some twists. The basic tip is to know which terminal your flight is leaving from. Travel between terminals can be tricky and cumbersome. There are two twists on this tip. Do not let the taxi driver leave until you have taken a second to confirm that you are at the right terminal. I do this by getting out of the cab first without my bag and taking (literally) 1 second to look around and see that I am at that right terminal. I am not saving leaving the bag in the car and walking off. Rather stand there with the door open pausing to check the surrounds before letting the taxi driver go. Then I grab my bag(s) and move on. By leaving the bag(s) in the taxi, the driver cannot drive off and leave me stranded if I'm in the wrong place. The second part of the tip is know (research if you have to) whether or not you are on a code share flight. Sometimes with code shares the terminal for the operating carrier is different to the terminal of marketing carrier. If you are on a code share flight make sure you know who the actual carrier is and confirm which terminal they go from;
  3. Scope out your lounge options: If you are in biz class or above and are a top tier frequent flyer you may have more than one option as to which lounge to go to. For example at Tokyo's Narita a top tier Qantas customer flying Qantas can go to the Qantas Business Class lounge or the JAL first class lounge. The JAL first class lounge is clearly the better choice but I have come across many QF customers that assumed they had to go to the Qantas lounge. Same too in Hong Kong between the Qantas and Cathay Lounges. Take a moment when looking for a lounge to see what options you may have; and
  4. Check out the train: When planning your trip back to the airport check out if there are options to go by train. Especially if you have a flight leaving with a peak hour departure time. A taxi/car service is easy to hail/catch from a hotel but in some cities you can be committing to a longer ride - especially at peak hour - than the express train. Take a moment to discuss fast train options with the concierge.
Any other tips?

For more business traveller tips check out this post.

Thanks to Myrrien on Flickr for the photo of a cart from Edinburgh airport found some 60 miles away from the airport