Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Mobile – the ultimate weapon in the battle to go direct?

Everyone’s investing in mobile.  Some hotels are spending millions of dollars.  But is it really paying off?  If the results posted by hotel giant IHG this week are anything to go by, mobile can make a difference to your bottom line.  But where does the real value in a hotel’s mobile strategy lie?

Back in 2012 when most travel brands were just finding their feet in mobile, IHG reported mobile revenues of $330 million – up from $3 million in 2009.  With 9 brands to manage and 710,000 hotel rooms worldwide, maintaining a personalised customer approach was a top priority.

It certainly seems that the big brand, generic hotel experience just won’t cut it anymore.  What’s interesting is that the role that mobile plays as a key differentiator in the battle to win the ever-demanding travel consumer.

The slick mobile experiences offered by brands such as HotelTonight, Uber and Airbnb are difficult for large travel and hospitality brands, often tied to legacy systems, to emulate.  What’s more, mobile has turned the search process on its head, arguably giving the OTAs the upper hand.   After all, there is a limit to how many travel apps you can have on your phone.

But if hoteliers wish to compete with the OTAs as well as the new wave of digital-first travel brands, then significant mobile investment is a must.

In my view, for a number of years, hoteliers have placed too much emphasis on implementing a mobile strategy to deliver transactions.  Overall, mobile transactional values have remained low and so mobile wasn’t seen as a top priority (arguably until now).  

Whilst consumers searching for hotels via OTA mobile sites and apps gain from a wide variety of choice, hotels can really add value to consumers by using mobile to transform the guest experience and increase loyalty.

This strategy can be used to win direct business and help avert an over-reliance on OTAs.

For example, leading American hotel group Starwood, has a new program that allows guests to use their smartphone as a key if they book their stay through one of its hotel websites or its reward program.

Mobile is at the heart of global giant Accor’s five year, $280 million digital transformation strategy. Like IHG, using mobile to enhance the guest experience in the form of mobile check-in and check-out is a key feature of Accor’s new strategy.   Every service available offline in the hotel will be available via their mobile app. 

If hoteliers wish to really see their mobile investments pay off, they need to think smartly about how they can use mobile to ensure they are really adding value and winning direct business from travellers.

Not many brands have $280 million to spend but if mobile can be used successfully to win back more direct business and save costly OTA commissions, then for many hoteliers mobile will be the ultimate tool in the battle to go direct and well worth the investment.

This post was written by Gina Baillie, GM, EyeforTravel Ltd.

Join top travel brands as they debate what the future holds for mobile at EyeforTravel’s Mobile & Innovation in Travel conference, March 23-24, San Francisco.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Eye-watering travel tech leads the way to the future and beyond

Technological advances have and always will be at the forefront of people’s interest. From the Internet, to the smartphone, 3D Printers and Drones. One seamless trend continues to create the need for innovation and development, helping to push the boundaries of our technological ability. Exciting isn't it? But do we have a new technology that’s on the brink of being the next big innovation? This is visual reality.  

Have you seen the growing number of new videos, adverts and recent films all shot in the angle of a humans perspective? Take a look at this music video  below if not.


Aside from being quite a catchy song and brilliantly shot, I would like you to understand the underlying concept of putting on some goggles and becoming transported into a different world. It really paints a picture of what holographic visual headwear one day could be like. Sounds overly futuristic, right? 

If that sounds overly futuristic, I am delighted to say its not far from this becoming reality. Take a look at this video demonstration to see the potential. 

Players in the market
Google seemed to be the first on the market with Google glass. Unsurprisingly, that drove great awareness but unfortunately they  seemed to fail to reach a coolness factor, perhaps the staggering $1,500 price tag? Google's announcement last week proved that with the discontinuation for consumers, however they are looking to re-work the project and steer in a different direction.

But don’t despair, there are several other entrants in the space from some of the biggest players in the market including, Microsoft, Samsung and Oculus. Oculus  arguably the most well-known within this space, especially with their $2 billion purchase by Facebook giving it as much packing power as the multi-nationals. 

I see Microsoft’s HoloLens is also receiving some much deserved enthusiasm. The video above demonstrates how they plan to use everyday surroundings to enable and use the device - it’s really cool. So the ‘uncool’ brand could actually be on the verge of gaining credit and I believe it’s the perfect timing. Market research firm Forrester predicts that 3.6 million people will likely buy HoloLens products by the end of 2016, ambitious but I would like to see it happen. Two other big players at the forefront of this market are Oculus Rift and Samsung's Gear VR. 

Samsung just released an introductory video to show off their own tech, again some great features and in particular, the street demos give the Gear VR a real practical look. With a very reasonable price tag of $199 it makes it surprisingly affordable, enabling easy take-up and a foreseeable future in the technology market. 

Oculus Rift has been in the market a few years now, however primarily focusing on the gaming aspect helping to specialise in virtual reality travel. There are some great videos online of people trying them out if you have some time. So far, they’ve had some fantastic positive feedback giving a great indication of what’s to come. With a little further development of games, within the technology this market could become explosive. I really can see great potential. Having the most development time behind them as well as a solid financial backing I feel they are leading the way in innovation for visual reality, and with time can they make it a practical reality. 

So what does or can this mean for Travel? 

Experiences are everything from the places you go, people you see, they all bound into memories of travel. This technology can really enable people to picture, feel and truly represent experiences like the real thing. Within the travel space, there are some really exciting opportunities. One I feel is the use of VR to truly see and experience a holiday before you have left your home, a ‘try before you buy’ reality for example, in my opinion this could revolutionise the whole industry. Could hotels and resorts have video footage that consumers can view to walk around the hotel, see the pool and throw a stone onto the beach? An opportunity for a travel agent to help a consumer get exactly what they want, subsequently creating a happy customer for the agent. Say goodbye to those misleading pictures? I think so. 

This almost gives the entire power to the consumer, giving them full control of getting the best possible holiday for themselves. As well as this, who wouldn't want to have a ‘try before you buy’ holiday? I found an article where Skyscanner has similar views in their report on future travel. This could almost be a travel agent’s USP - ‘Come see your holiday before you buy.’ Could we, in fact, be one step ahead and be sat on your sofa simply browsing holidays with a visual headpiece on? Now wouldn't that be cool? 

Let’s steer it away from the travel agency now, these VR goggles are also creating holograms that users can interact with, using only the environment surrounding them. Microsoft’s HoloLense demonstrated this well in their video showing some great practical ideas, especially with everyday living within your home. Screens on the wall, wherever you are travelling or necessarily wherever needed, this is a real draw. There is of course a massive gaming aspect, and I think that’s where oculus have focused, whereas Microsoft may have focused into more of the social practicality. 

The number of experiences you could possibly have with this technology is never ending. It may not be in the next year or two but before 2020 I see this technology being widely accepted and especially have a high take-up within the travel space and wider society on a day to day basis. Extensive research and development as well as investment is backing this industry, for example; Apple recently acquired several patent’s in this area so I can only see it go from strength to strength in growth. I see this market is expanding into a worldwide focus, exciting investment can only add heat to the fire. This really leaves me with a bubbling excitement for what’s around the corner, in particular the number of possibilities this tech could be used for. I’ll leave you to imagine a few of the possibilities Visual Reality could offer…

Have your own thoughts and ideas? Post below:

Written by: Jamie Goulding

To get in Contact: jamie@eyefortravel.com