December 20, 2007

Activity Pre-booking? Who Does It?

Have you found that booking an activity or tour is the last step in a tourists' travel plan? Quite often, independent tourists will wait till they arrive at a destination before they consider what activities and tours they want to take.

Is this changing? Are people now pre-booking their tours and activities before they depart to a destination?

There are large online travel agencies (OTA) sites like and now gives tour suppliers the opportunity to add their tours and activities to the websites. While this will definitely help the tour company with distribution, it will also lower their margins. I posted some research in August that really put this in perspective.

While it may be difficult for companies to sell directly to consumers, there is a growing trend towards direct booking with a co branded online reservation engine. (Predicted to be 62% of all bookings by 2008) Small tour companies have to realize that the money payed in commissions to online travel agencies could go to driving traffic to their own websites, this would lower margins and give the tour provider greater control of their inventory and advertising message.

What distribution channels have you found to be the most useful? Are you selling your tours through Expedia or Travelocity?

December 17, 2007

Travel Technology Review Podcast

The Travel Technology Weekly Review is, as you can imagine, a weekly review of the latest happenings in the Tourism Technology industry. We examine the latest trends, research, sites and happenings in the the Tourism Tech world.

Put my show and this player on your website or your social network.

Stephen first talks about, it gives travelers the ability to bookmark their own sites to make a travel guide.

He then talks about and how have partnered to allow site users to book hotels while browsing user generated content

Stephen finishes his commentary with a study conducted by the Kelsy group and how user generated reviews effect customers spending habits. Thanks to Joe Buhler for brining this to our attention.

In my segment of the Podcast I talk about research my friend Claude Benard found from Fabernovel regarding Facebook applications.

I then discuss a new Beta travel guide site, Nile Guide. This site has the potential to revolutionize the travel guide industry, you should check it out.

Lastly I cover some observations from the ever wise Vicky Brock regarding the influence of social media on online reservations.

December 11, 2007

Interviews from PhoCusWright

Last month PhoCusWright (PCW) hosted their annual conference in Florida. These conferences bring the biggest names in the travel technology industry together in one place to talk shop, talk trends, and make great contacts within the industry. This year PCW held the first Travel Industry Bloggers Summit at their conference. This included a blogging workshop, several bloggers meet ups, a release of our book, The Tips From the T-List, and extensive press coverage for a select group of travel industry bloggers. had the privilege of attending this conference as hosts of the workshop and the blogger meet up, and as blogging press. We were able to gain great content from the conference and here are some video Interviews that we conducted at the workshop:

Tom Botts from Hudson Crossing, LLC

Kevin May, Editor at

Eric Bjorndahl, CEO

We were able to conduct more interviews, and they will be featured in future blogs.

If you attended, what were your take aways from the conference? Did you find that most presenters stuck with the "Braving the Long Tail" theme?

Google + Travel = Troogle?

Tim Armstrong just finished his talk on Google and Travel at the PhoCusWright conference in Orlando. His talk was an overview of the industry and gave some great insights on how Google was working towards optimizing the user experience.

He gave a background into Google's “The wisdom of crowds” philosophy; letting the brainpower of the world make your product better. He stated "If you don't have the wisdom of the crowds in your business, then you are missing a major piece of business."

Google strives to use the wisdom of the crowds to connect the right consumer, at the right place at the right time with the right process and right product. The product he was focusing on is Travel.

Google values the travel market and handles 22% of all Travel all inquiries. That is quite huge, of the billions of the travel postings out there, 22% of them originate with Google.

Tim broke peoples searches down to the their life patterns, in that people get different types of information at differing times in the day. For example:

6am Morning Info - browse blogs and news items

7am Drive time commute - Radio and Blackberry

Google is trying to connect with the consumers with their mechanical day and several of their products (reader, gmail, blogsearch, news) help facilitate that.

Tim was then faced by an industry panel consisting of:
  1. Rob Torres, Managing Director, Travel, Google Inc.
  2. Jim Kovarik, GM of AOL Travel
  3. Jasper Malcolmson, Vice President and General Manager, Yahoo! Travel and Shopping
Jasper Malcolmson asked the question that was on my mind, "Troogle? When are you getting into the travel business?"

Tim -

"I don't think there will be a Troogle. There are some spaces that are clear, and they anticipate that. Google would have a hard time doing super specific business. We would love to get travel info to the customer faster, but they are not planning on tackling the market specifically."

Do you buy it, will we see Google selling travel anytime soon?

December 6, 2007

The 5 Essentials for Online Video Tutorials

I have been creating tutorial videos for Rezgo recently and have viewed several others on the internet, here are some essentials for making effective and interesting tutorial videos:

  1. Smile when you talk - You can really tell the difference in your voice if you are smiling or if you have a straight face. No one wants to listen to 10 minutes of droning.
  2. Zoom in - Don't have a full screen perspective for your entire video, show some movement and move the video frame to where the action is.
  3. Highlight your pointer - It is difficult to follow a small pointer in a small video screen, add some highlight to help the viewer follow your mouse.
  4. Add music - A little background music helps to fill in those pauses in the voice, it shouldn't be too distracting, but should still be upbeat.
  5. Keep it short - Break up you tutorials into small digestible chunks. Don't assume that people have an hour to setup a system or account, break it up. There is a sense of accomplishment in completing small steps along the way, your viewers will appreciate it.
Here is what I have done thus far, you can see the progression of my own work as the first tutorials don't use all of my suggestions, but they get better with experience. What do you think?

December 3, 2007

wCities and the Mobile Guide

Recently at PhoCusWright 2007, I was introduced to a company that is leveraging the power of mobile devices with travel guides, this company is wCities. This San Fransisco based company is making inroads in the convergence of traditional media with technology.

Gone are the days of the cumbersome destination guide, now all the information you need on attractions, events, hotels, movies and nightlife for a growing number of cities all around the world can be loaded into your iPod, mobile phone, or Blackberry.

In addition to their text based city guides, wCities also offers a variety of map based programs that can be loaded to a mobile phone. Their Wayfinder Navigator combines the power of a GPS receiver with local attractions and activities. This is were I can see a great value for traveling consumers. Get notified of attractions, restaurants and other highlights of the area that you are currently in. What is also great is that the Wayfinder software will voice guide you to the location of your choice.

Here is a review of the iPod travel guide for San Francisco:

Do you think that mobile guides are the future?

Do you think will own this market?

November 28, 2007

Trust the Masses?

Joe Buhler found a study from Marketing Vox that analyzed over 1300 online product reviewer's motivations. The results look good for those that are embracing this new wave of consumer involvement. They found that:

Fully 90 percent of respondents say they write reviews to help others make better buying decisions, and more than 70 percent want to help companies improve the products they build and carry.

The study also found that 79 percent write reviews in order to reward a company, and 87 percent of the reviews are generally positive in tone.

These findings should quiet the critics for user generated reviews. Do you embrace UGC in your reviews? What have you found?

November 14, 2007

Stephen Kaufer - Tripadvisor

Get the truth and go. Sounds simple enough. Stephen Kaufer, President and CEO of seems to think so. But in order to have truth, you need to also have trust.

At the PhoCusWright conference in Orlando, Stephen said "Trust online is gold dust."

You need:
1. Honest brokers - People that can give you truth
2. Social networks - A group that you can trust

When travelers ideas are varying then the knowledge of the mass prevails and averages the results.

TripAdvisor has made headway in the social aspect of their online reviews. They allow you to get your friends on your own traveler's network by connecting with friends with an interactive map. When you are browsing the site, your traveler's network automatically populates their recommendations. This will give great trust based reviews with depth unmatchable by traditional travel agents.

Have you used Tripadvisor, or has your property been effected by a review? Do you trust the reviews?

Orbitz - Steve Barnhart

Steve Barnhart just finished his talk on both the long tale and the long tail of Orbitz.

There are more demands for the long tail of travel then traditional customer products, like Amazon or iTunes.

Steve was really inspired by Chris Anderson's book on the long Tail of Distribution, and noted that the economics of the long tail of tourism require three unique criteria:

  1. Proliferation of stuff or democritization of production.

  2. Access or the democritization of distribution

  3. Niche Marketing or the Connection of S&D

1. The proliferation of stuff does not come out the the same in travel. It goes far beyond inventory access and focuses on customer risk aversion.

The big challenge of the long tail inventory is getting the consumer to access that inventory. Consumers try to avoid financial risk especially when there is a 'veto issue'. The 'veto issue' is when there needs to be something for everyone in the ravel group, this would allow a vacation package have a activities or services that would make all of the travel group to have a better vacation. He recommends making an offering that is applicable with more demographics.

More inventory won't move consumers along the tail.

2. Easy access - every step or touchpoint along the way. Orbitz is trying to ease the access of bookings with relevant information along the way and smoothly integrate all of the travel systems. Make search and transactions easier to use. They are making a multi-currency multi-lingual platform. Going beyond simple, but making relevant.

3. Niche markets - Experiences are infinite, but locations are finite. You must know that things in the long tail are in the fat tail for others. Travel has always had access to more then the best selling locations and activities, the fact that people want to go to key locations will not change. The biggest focus of any company should not be to convince customers to go to obscure product, but to make the long tail come to the fat tail. In other words, tell new people about old things.

The question period had one great question that related to Rezgo ; "How do long tail products fit into Orbitz?"

The answer was music to my ears "There is a wealth of opportunity, but not many suppliers, no desks for service counters, and lack of computer systems. There is more value there then anyone in the chain. We are looking into filling that niche"

Basically integrate with Rezgo.

November 12, 2007

Canada-e-Connect, Are You Connected?

Canada's first Travel and Tourism Technology conference has come to an end, and what a success it was. Canada-e-Connect was hosted by the Canadian Tourism Commission, and brought together a number of the brightest minds in tourism technology including Anthony Williams (Wikinomics), Hunter Madsen ( ), Eric Basha ( ), Joseph Buhler ( htp:// ), Jim Brody ( ), Steve Wright (RadarDDB), Sean Sutherland ( ), and everyone's favorite trend finder Jeremy Gutsche ( ) amongst many other talented individuals.

The conference had dialog, debates, innovative speeches, and motivational speakers. Hearing all of these innovators share their insights and ideas made everyone buzz new innovative ideas. To share this experience with the public, I will be blogging some of the insights over the next few days. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the speeches I will be covering:

  1. Evolution Of Distribution
    • Amazon's model
    • 3 imperatives
    • Book by experience
  2. Evolution of Advertising/Marketing
    • Integration
    • Behavioral targeting
  3. The world of Tourism Goes 'e' and Green
    • Examples
    • Authenticity
  4. Talks with the DMOs
    • Federal
    • Provincial
    • City
  5. Mobile Marketing
    • Big innovators
    • Trends
  6. Web Conversion
    • Motivation vs Usability
  7. Unlocking Cool
    • Great insights and inspirations
    • How to go above the norm and make some impact
  8. Stats and Trends
    • Data
    • Research
  9. Traditional Media vs. the Future
I will be updating this blog to share some of the insight from the conference. Tune in and help contribute.

October 29, 2007

Facebook Consumerism?

Microsoft's recent $240 million investment into has resulted in a valuation of over 15 billion dollars for everyone's favorite social networking app. Why so much? Do we honestly believe that the company has a business / revenue model that would warrant such a price?

Many people have speculated that Facebook's advertising announcement on November 6th will pave the way to revenues for this darling social community, but what are they thinking? Are they planning on leveraging all of the profile and demographic information to allow advertisers to send targeted advertising messages? If they are, so what? Are people really open to advertising messages when their primary goal on the site is to communicate and "SuperPoke" their friends? Look was happened / is happening to, once the site became saturated and cluttered with advertising, it started to loose its key influencer user base and their growth stagnated.
What about add on apps, or widgets? There has been a lot of corporate buzz about buying your own widget, and companies such as Tripadvisor, eBay, Zoho, Jobster, and Blue Nile have all created or purchased existing apps. These widgets are used to complement the user experience on Facebook and to have banner ads or links back to the corporate site. But this whole process still needs to have a long tail marketing approach, users are there to communicate, if you don't facilitate that, then your app will not survive.

How does this relate to the travel industry? Can a connection be made between travel experiences and face book? Would users be willing to share their experiences in a non-travel related site? How can a travel company effectively advertise or promote using this media?

There are 197 applications that attempt to bridge the gap between travel and the general online community. The sad thing for travel industry companies is that the most popular apps have the least functionality. The most active widget is one that allows you to have an image of a car on your page, and your car gets better with more points. This is followed by a number of apps that show a dot on a map or a flag from the countries that you have visited. You may speculate that this is a result of Facebook apps being in their infancy, and that greater functionality will follow, but that is not the case, there are some apps that are not popular that have a great list of features, one app Travel Map can:

"Plot your travels with this quick and easy tool and show the world how well-travelled you are. Brought to you by Travellerspoint, where you can also upload photos, start a blog and get all the travel help you need."

This sounds mightily impressive until you realize that there are only 388 daily users.

What is the point?

If you are thinking about creating a widget for Facebook, keep it simple, complement the communication process, and give friends something to chat about. Have a soft ad, and link to your site through the widget. You may want to finish your development before November 6th, as there are going to be some BIG changes.

October 16, 2007

Loss of Online Bookers? Really?

Recently David Wilkening at Travelmole wrote a review of a recent Forrester Research article titled "Are Online Travelers Saying "Buh-Bye" To The Web?". David's review gives little introspection into the true state of online travel, it focuses rather on the decline in the number of people booking online.

There is a noted 9% decrease in the number of American leisure travelers that have made online bookings from 2005 to 2007. One can assume that they compared the years up until October, as the winter travel season has yet to begin. What he neglects to mention is that in the same article Forrester Research states
"online leisure travel spending has increased 41% in three years."

While David does attempt to peg the blame for the declining number of travelers booking online on the customer booking experience, he does not give any source or research into this diagnosis. Of course giving all consumers the most efficient booking experience will increase sales, but are we really loosing bookers due to less then efficient booking engines? I found this article from way back in 2002, it states that "66% of American users believe that eTourism web sites provide better services than travel agents!". If you can remember the state of booking websites in 2002, then you will realize that we are way more advanced now then ever before and that David's diagnosis is off base. I still have doubts about the price competitiveness between a travel agent and a travel website, are we really seeing a discount? Are travel whole sellers really giving the public rates that are comparable to those given to travel agents?

One of the reasons hypothisized by the original Forrester artical is humanizing the digital experience. This holds promise, adding direct connect to a live agent on a booking site will give the babyboomer+ market the warm personal connection that they are accustomed to when booking travel. This trend will continue for a matter of time, but it is a certainty that future generations will become much more tech savvy, and comfortable with booking online then their money holding predecessors, and thus the concept of having an online booking source will change from a "want" into a "must".

Moving forward, lets bridge the gap between the agent and the website, give consumers a personal touch (blog, chat, live link ect.), and use technology to make the travel industry more standardized and efficient for all.

What have you found for your booking site? Are you finding that your user numbers are decreasing? What have you done?

October 15, 2007

Environmental Technology - What is an 'Offset'

What is a Carbon Offset?

Carbon offsetting is really the act of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. This is done by persons, organizations, and companies that take a voluntary action to neutralize their greenhouse footprint.

The idea for Carbon offsetting grew from the concept behind emissions trading. Emissions trading is often the realm of legislation governments, while carbon offsetting is the domain of voluntary action and the individual.

Carbon Offsetting takes many different forms including tree planting, renewable energy offsets, energy conservation, and the purchase of emissions allowances from governments and eliminating them. There is some controversy regarding the merits and value of each type of offset, yet all offsets are a step in the right direction of a carbon neutral society.

How can you use carbon offsets for your company?

Creating awareness for the need for greenhouse gas accountability is the first step in how you can help. Post an article on your blog, have a link on your website, and talk to a friend about what they are doing. The company I work for, Sentias Software Corp., has implemented a sustainability policy into the daily happenings of our company, it was based off of a great local company's policy, The Mountain Equipment Co-Op. I recommend that you consider adapting one at your work place.

As far a implementing new technology, consider joining a society that supports carbon offsets. I have seen carbon calculators, and offset meters. Some DMOs like Tourism Vancouver offset all of their corporate flights, now that is taking responsibility! Sentias is a member of Sustainable Travel International, and we are implementing a carbon offset option into every booking that is made with the Rezgo Online Booking System.

Think of creative ways to adapt and implement change, it will give everyone else a little more breathing room.

September 21, 2007

Tips From The T-List - Online Colaboration Meets Print

Submit your greatest tourism blogs to print!

Be a part of the first published book from a blogging community the Tips From The T-List This is a collection of the best blog entries from T-List members. The book will be distributed at the first Canada e-Connect Conference in November as well the Wired In Travel Conference in Singapore, and it will also be available to delegates at the Travolution Conference in London. This is a phenomenal opportunity to share your blog with some of the most influential travel and tourism executives in the World!


Press Pickup:

Book Details:

ISBN 978-0-9784651-0-0

To submit your posts for consideration, go to

The deadline for submission is September 30th, 2007

September 11, 2007

Latest T-Listing

The T-List stands for Travel-related blogs, and was created back in March 2007 by Matthieu at the Radar Blog. This following was taken off of Jens' Tourism Internet Marketing Blog.

Here is the most recent list from Jens' site:

General Travel Blogs

Travel Industry Blogs

Foreign Language Travel Blogs

French Travel Blogs

Italian Travel Blogs

Dutch Travel Blogs

German Travel Blogs

Spanish Travel Blogs

Here is what you need to do if you are a Travel-related Blogger:

1. Go to Facebook, and sign-up or sign-in.
2. Search for "T-List Community" (note: if that fails, paste this URL in the browser address bar while signed in:
3. Join this Group (top right hand side)
3. If your blog is on the current T-List (please see below), or should be on the T-List, please enter your information on the Facebook WALL below.

August 30, 2007

Amazing Online Reservation Statistics

Recently I found an article that combined a number of interesting statistics relating to online reservations and sales through the Internet for the travel industry. These are really worth looking at:

Forrester Research:

  • In 2007, nearly 40 million U.S. households will book travel online, spending $86 billion Web travelers now make up 79% of the U.S. travel population and 55% of them buy leisure travel online.
  • High-income travelers, households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more a year, account for just 16% of the U.S. online leisure travel population – a market that represents 10.9 million households and spends $60 billion on leisure travel.
  • In November 2005, reports that 79 million American adults are now using the Internet to plan their trips. Also growing rapidly is a propensity to book online, with nearly 65 million U.S. adults now booking this way.
Webtrends: Passport To Success
  • Online sales of leisure and unmanaged travel in the U.S. are estimated to be $122 billion in 2009 – up from $65 billion in 2005.
  • Half of U.S. interactive marketers questioned by Forrester Research in April 2006 said that they either used or planned to use blogs.
  • The average rate for room nights booked through travel agents was 33.3 percent higher than the average rate for room nights booked via the Internet.
  • In 2007, nearly one-third of all reservations in hospitality in North America will be generated from the Internet (29% in 2005).
  • By 2010, more than 45% of all travel reservations in the U.S. will be done via the Internet (Merrill Lynch, HeBS).
  • By 2010, the Internet will contribute over 45% of all travel-related bookings in North America.
  • The ratio between the direct and indirect online channel continues to improve in favor of the direct channel: from 52:48 in 2002 to 56:44 in 2006; it is projected to be 62:38 by 2008. Some major brands already enjoy a very healthy 80:20 direct vs. indirect online channel ratios.
  • It is much more expensive to book through a third party:
  • Customers were more satisfied with the Internet travel service provider they last purchased from than they were with Internet travel services in general.
TravelDaily News
  • According to a new report from PhoCusWright, Inc., next year, for the first time, transactions on the Internet will account for over half (54 percent) of all U.S. travel bookings.
What does it all mean?

There are defiantly trends that emerge from all of this information, but it is safe to say that online sales for the travel industry are becoming the norm. There are many vendors and resellers that will help distribute products for tourism companies, but the wise company will always give the customer the ability to accept bookings through their own website.

Accepting bookings on a companies home page will save company from paying high commissions and booking charges for each of the products that are sold. This passes on savings to the consumer and the company with the inventory, and eliminates the unnecessary middle man.

Check out if you are interested in a powerful booking solution for your tour inventory. We created Rezgo with the latest trends in mind.

August 29, 2007

Blogger Adds Video - Vloging has begun

My First Vlog

The Next Wave of blogging is now available for the casual blogger - Vloging. You may remember in my last post on Google Universal Search, that Google now has a high weight on all content, including pictures and video. I encouraged everyone to start adding video content to sites like, well now adding content is even easier then ever!

This video was made in two minutes using Windows Movie Maker and a digital camera. Future video releases will have better content!

As you can see, you can now easily implement video content right into your blogs! This is a great way to add rich media content and show your clients your tourism products first hand.

To add video to your blogs simply create a new post and click on the video reel button as seen in this image:

You can choose from most of the popular video formats and Blogger will convert it for you.

Let me know if you have been able to use this feature effectively.

August 24, 2007

The Google Universal Search Engine

I recently came across a press release from Google that was talking about the next direction that Google is going with their search engine. Currently Google separates its searches into various verticals like organic search, video search, blog search, and pictures. Well they are planning on mixing it all together.

Google is doing this to give its users (everyone, well maybe not Bill Gates) a richer experience.

What does that mean for your website?

Never before has the need to add a variety of media to your site been so important. Now, you need to tag your photos, add yourself to Google maps, add videos, and you must must must have a company blog.

On top of all of that you need to social bookmark ( your site and submit it to peer review sites to gain additional exposure.

August 23, 2007

Web Surf is up for the Big Island Blog Network

You may recall in my Drive Traffic To Your Site article that we spoke about link exchanges and how web search engines use link to your site as a way to determine its popularity. Well the Big Island Blog Network of Hawaii has taken this practice one step further.

They identify themselves as a "community of business owners and writers working together to promote their Big Island business with an intention of creating value and doing good.” This community is setup to maximize the SEO effects through linking member sites together, what they couldn't do alone they are able to do as a community. They include some really cool features:

  • Complete content management system
  • Audio Podcasting
  • Video uploads and video blogging
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Flickr photo integration
  • Google Maps integration
  • Visitors can upload files
If only they helped their users with a sales solution they would be the complete package!

You should check it out, they are doing some new and interesting things for the blogging and tourism community.

August 17, 2007

What do you want to do?

What do you want to do?

A simple question and a great concept for a blogging site. I recently came across this useful blog by Philb that covers a full range of internet related topics that are oh so useful to have. This is especially great for those aspiring web marketers that are looking for ways to utilize new technologies. Give it a look:

He covers topics like:

· Collaboration

· Communication

· Discovery resources

· Email

· Multimedia


· Searching the internet

· Shopping

· Storage online

· Time management

· Training/Teaching

· Webpages

· Websites

· Wikis

· Web 2.0 Directories and Reviews

A truly helpful site!

August 16, 2007

Sustainability and Tourism

Sentias Software is considering a membership with Sustainable Travel International. To do this we really needed to focus on what our Sustainability Policy covered. I noticed that there really wasn't many sites that focused on the individual businesses, but rather most resources focused on industry / governmental wide issues.

What are best sustainability practices that the small business can utilize?

What does Corporate Social Responsibility look like?

These are questions that more and more people are starting to think about.

Here are some great resources that may help you and your business get a little greener:

What have you found, or what do you do to encourage a sustainable working environment?

August 9, 2007

Registering your site - The new way to say hello

As we talked about in the last blog entry, the more link connections you make with other sites, the more search engines will prioritize your site.

A great way to get more links to your travel site is to have it up for review. Submit or tag your site with companies like:

This will give you an opportunity to get feedback on your site and increase the links directing people to your webpage.

I also found this great travel resource at

These guys allow you to help other travelers, post information and gain more exposure for your travel company. They have a thriving community full of veteran travelers, I recommend signing up and seeing if you can help some of the community, and as everyone knows, as you do, karma will do likewise.

August 7, 2007

Drive Traffic To Your Site

Get the traffic flow to your site.

So you have a new Tourism Web site, a great product, and the ability to sell your product online. What, the sales aren't coming in? Well, how much site traffic are you receiving?

This blog will give you some cheap ways to increase your site traffic.

The most important step is to submit your site to the search engines. Websubmit Pro, has a free service to submit your site to a multitude of search engines. Don't forget the big guy, submit your site with Google, it may take some time for your site to be indexed, but it is well worth the wait.

The way that most search engines rank your sites can be summarized by page rankings; that is how many popular sites link to your website. Check out this article for more clarification from Google.

What does that mean for you? Well you want to set up strategic partnerships with your associates to have a link exchange, this will add visibility to both of the non-competing webpages.

Another great way to gain visibility to your website is to submit it to industry listing websites. For tourism companies, check out this site for a free listing.

Have you found some other great ways to gain traffic for your website?

July 24, 2007

PhoCusWright's Predictions on the Long Tail of Tourism

Long Tails
For those of you that are not familiar with the long tail of tourism, the Long Tail includes the more diverse, less popular travel and tourism products. The breadth of these companies makes it attractive for all of the niche markets that are growing. This is where the market is predicted to experience the largest growth.

New technology is benefiting the consumer to enable greater access these smaller companies, thus helping the industry as a whole.

PhoCusWright offers five predictions about the future of the Long Tail in travel:

Prediction 1: The Long Tail era will drive a new economy.
Prediction 2: The Long Tail facilitators – content providers, software suppliers and ASPs – are in pivotal positions.
Prediction 3: Technology and standards will evolve.
Prediction 4: The democratization of supply will open up new marketing and packaging opportunities.
Prediction 5: The success of the Long Tail in travel is directly proportional to the quality of search - making metasearch, geographically-oriented search and vertical search key enablers.

The potential for tour operators and software developers to great greater access to the end consumer is growing every day, you can only imagine what types if niches will be catered to. (Space Travel Anyone?)

CTC has UGC (And more initialisms)

It is becoming the most trusted source of information on the internet, and it is coming from a complete stranger. User generated content (UGC) is now the most trusted source of travel information on the internet (90% trust it, TripAdvisor).

This UGC was most often reserved for big travel sites like and, well now Destination Management Organizations (DMO) are getting on board. The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has just recently partnered with Real Travel to allow users to generate their real, travel stories about Canada. How the CTC will leverage this content in their marketing mix is yet to be fully seen, but I am glad to see the big guys jumping on this trend.

July 12, 2007

CRM the 'Must Have' for all Tourism Companies

Way back in 2002 the Canadian Government released some findings on how the Retail Travel and Service Industry (RTSI) was undergoing drastic changes. They were picking up on the fact that, yes, customers are price sensitive, but retaining customers is a much more effective way to grow your revenue stream. The Canadian Government noted that the tour and travel industry is composed of some early stage adapters they still mention that one of the most critical challenges facing the RTSI is the adoption of the new e-commerce economy.

Some interesting findings that can be taken from the report are:
  • It is six times more costly to service a customer through a call center than via the Internet, a tool that the RTSI is adopting rapidly.
  • It is up to 10 times more costly to generate revenue from a new customer than from an existing customer.
  • A 5% increase in retention rate can increase company profits by 60-100%.
  • Referred customers generally stay longer, use more products and become profitable customers faster, a consumer pattern familiar to most stakeholders of the RTSI.

It is becoming very clear that to excel in this modern e-commerce economy, one must set up a great CRM program, focus on relationship building and hold on to those customers for the long haul. The report states that an effective CRM plan "...translates into faster service, higher customer satisfaction, customer retention, customer acquisition, repeat purchases, lower cost and profitability."

Fred Reichheld spoke to the advantages of the "The Loyalty Effect":
  • Customer Retention: CRM enables a company to retain loyal and profitable customers and channel members. According to the International Data Corporation, it costs online merchants from $0.90 to $2.67 to get a visitor to their website for the first time. These companies must find a way to achieve repeat business in order to justify their initial acquisition expenditures. CRM through its extensive data warehousing solutions could help companies attract and retain customers.
  • Customer Acquisition: Based on known or learned client characteristics, CRM may assist companies in acquiring the right customer through effective targeting and segmentation.
  • Lower Cost: The automation process minimizes paper work and manual labour.
  • Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction: One of the prominent features of CRM is its ability to create the opportunity of mass customization. Increasingly, today's traveler wants customized products. When the service is personalized and tailored to meet the preference and choice of the customer, client satisfaction can be expected to increase. Customer satisfaction, over time, builds allegiance.
  • Profitability: All of the factors listed above translate into profitability. Annual customer profits increase over time as the client - agency relationship expands. CRM can offer additional items to the companies that provide new profitability curves.

It just makes sense to take care of those that you are already servicing, and advocate for your product is worth 10 times the amount spent on attracting your initial customer. There are many practical (and inexpensive) ways to ensure you have an effective CRM plan, here are a few small tips that come to mind:

· Invite dialouge: Have a blog, a forum or a public rant wiki on your website, people need to feel that you are listening, and do listen!! Take what is said seriously, and respond to every posting.

· Keep them up to date: Have a newsletter that is more then a sales message, help and educate them with articles and personal experiences, this gives your business a warmer relationship with your clients. Update your website!! Keep your clients interested in what you are doing by staying fresh and continuously updating.

· Personalize all information: It is so easy to have an auto-filler that will help you customize all of your contact messages. It ads a personal touch, very worthwhile.

· Check up on your stars: Routinely, proactivly contact the greatest 20% of your client list, don’t wait for something to go wrong before you say ‘hi’.

July 11, 2007

Unlock Your Payment Gateway

Payment gateways are the doorway to e-commerce. You must have a payment gateway in order to accept bookings, reservations, and any e-commerce transaction. There have been a number of companies offering their services to facilitate online transactions, here is just a sample from wikipedia:

With the large number of companies offering online payment gateways one would assume that it is easy to acquire an account that accepts all of the credit cards that your customers utilize. Unfortunately even larger companies with an established financial history will often have to use multiple accounts to accept just Visa and Mastercard for both Canada and the US.

Due to the nature of the travel industry; its dependency on environmental conditions, troubles with airlines, travel plans changing, it is no surprise internet processing companies are hesitant to enroll smaller independent tourism companies.

Things are changing for the better. Companies like PPI are granting accounts with no deposit, not extensive systems analysis, only 3 months of financial history and there are no transaction fees. This is paving the way to accommodate the travel industry, and tap into a new market niche.

Another alternative is using PayPal, this will allow a company to accept online payments without having to apply for an account. The draw back to this is that both the customer and the merchant will need to have a PayPal account, this will add another step in the booking process, and potentially could turn some customers off.

July 6, 2007

Unique Travel is the Perfect Online Niche

National Geographic Adventure publisher Francis X. Farrell recently had an interview with the Adventure Travel Trade Association and spoke about the emerging trends with adventure travel. The interview really is beneficial for those that are looking for new ways to market and package their unique and adventurous tours. He really is trying to shift the old marketing focus away from demographics and focus on consumers spirituality. This paradigm shift towards sustainable authentic experience is driving the new wave of the tourism industry.

Sites like and have realised this and are taking full advantage of this new wave.

So what does this mean for the unique and independent tour provider? Two words, GET ONLINE!! There is a thirst for unique and different tours that are not found through traditional travel channels like travel agents. They shy away from large "corporate" sites and are scouring the new for new ideas.

Your site must have an informative and attractive layout in order to establish trust with the clients, and then it must also have booking capabilities. This will ensure the growth of your business.

We have started to showcase great and unique tours that we have found.

July 4, 2007

Lure, Sample, Buy: The New Destination Marketing Mix

Nova Scotia is leading the way in destination advertising. They recently released this article
that covers their new strategy to attract web friendly tourists. The three tenets that they use in their marketing efforts are lure, sample, buy.

They lure guests with traditional media like news paper, and TV spots. These ads direct them to the website. The website has Google Earth tags that relay information on some of the major destinations in the province. These tags coordinate with video vignettes on the web site. This allows potential tourists to get a taste of the culture before they arrive.

Guests of the site will then have the option to find flight information and start the process of buying their next vacation.

This process really reminds me of the Prosumer video that was hosted on the Travel and Marketing 2.0 blog. Travel is all about experience, and the more that consumers can taste the experience before they commit, the more likely they are to buy.

June 21, 2007

LinkBaiting For Tourism Companies

There has been a huge focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in recent years. People hire companies to optimize their website and streamline the page results. It has now been realized that small companies can increase their SEO presence through more creative and innovative means. The way that sites like and index their sites makes it very beneficial for companies to have links to their sites from other websites. This is termed linkbaiting, or agreeing to host another non-competitive website's link on your site in exchange for a similar service. The Canadian Tourism Commission recently released 5 suggestions to maximize your web presence with minimal cost. These recommendations are focused on small independent tourism companies:

  • Top 10: Creating a ‘top 10’ type list closely related to your industry usually gets quality results. It is therefore important to define which subjects truly interest your target market and to evaluate what is already available on the internet.
  • Resource site: Listing the blogs, forums, directories and so on that are of interest relative to your domain can attract numerous links. In fact, the creators of these sites will probably be interested to create a link to a resource site, especially if it is in a neutral field.
  • Humour/Controversy: According to your industry or positioning, humour or controversy could be a good link generator. If you’re lacking imagination, you can check Flickr or YouTube and find an amusing video or image with a link to your products or services.
  • Useful functionality: Developing a tool that can be used by your potential clients has as much of an effect on links to your site as your renown for being forward‑thinking in your area of expertise!
  • Link a study or report: A report with different content and exclusive data will be sure to attract quality links.
Linkbaiting or link exchanges have been a very effective driver to our site, Recently when looking at our google analytics we have noticed that 65% of our site traffic has been directed by companies that we provide booking server CMS solutions for. People are finding our link on accomodation and tour provider's websites and following the link to our site. These click-throughs have a low bounce % and spend an average of 5.5 minutes on our site. These are people you want looking at your site.

What have you found with Linkbaiting?

Has it worked for you?

June 15, 2007

Booking Travel Products Online

In the last quarter of '06, Forrester Research released findings on why there is still a resistance for consumers to book their tour and travel plans through the Web. Over 5,000 North American tourists were polled to reveal the top 3 reasons why they put down the mouse and pick up a phone to book their travel plans. The top of the list is an obvious choice, people are affraid to put their personal information over the Net. With the rampent credit card fraud and identity theft in the news, people don't know what they can trust. In 2006 32 percent of those polled said that the reason they use traditional travel-reservation methods is fear of identity theft.If you are an online retailor you better make it clear that your site is secure from the beggining of any transaction in order to appease any of these fears.

The second largest turn-off of those polled was the lack of customizable options for their selection. Whether it was a type of model, room configuration, dietary requirements, the people want to be heard. Give the options when customers are booking, you never know this could lead to an upsale!

The last reason people preferred not to book on line was that there were user interface problems. If a common tourist can not figure out how to book and what the result will be, they are not going to follow through with the reservation. Give the consumer some scope, let them know how many steps are required to complete the booking. Tell them what the outcome will be, will they receive an email? Will they get further confirmation once the tour has been validated? Give them a sense of control of the situation and you will guarantee more reservations streaming in through your website.