Category Archives: Travel Industry

10th Anniversary of E-Tourism Summit To Be Held in…

New York, New York

E-Tourism Summit 2009 - New York

…New York, by a slim margin.

First, thanks to everyone who voted in our impromptu poll on the location of the 2009 E-Tourism Summit. While everyone is entitled to an opinion about where the tourism marketing conference should be held, the democratic, but unscientific, voting process helped us decide on a location.

As the polls closed last night at 5pm PST, NYC was ahead by a nose (51% to 49%) over San Francisco to be next year’s host for the E-Tourism Summit.

That got us thinking and considering the possibility of holding both an East Coast and West Coast edition of the conference. No final decisions have been made on dual shows, but consider this a “Save the Date” announcement that the 10th Anniversary of E-Tourism Summit 2009 will be held in New York City, tentatively at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, October 12-13th.

E-Tourism Summit 2009
October 12-13th
Marriott Marquis Hotel
New York City

Again, this is tentative and we will be providing additional details in the future. But for now, mark your calendars and add the conference in your travel budget…E-Tourism Summit 2009 will begin to take shape.

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Visitors to OTA’s plunge 14% in October, a Historic Low

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Leading OTA down over 20%.

Not only are Americans flying less as the economy tanks, they’re spending less time scouting the Internet for travel deals, creating an unprecedented drop in traffic for online travel agencies like Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia.   As consumer confidence reached historic lows in October, the volume of visitors to Web travel portals declined 14 percent, year over year, to 38.2 million, according to ComScore Inc. Web traffic fell for nearly every major airline site.

Hardest hit were the three online powerhouses that have dominated bookings for much of this decade. Web traffic at Expedia Inc. sites plunged 25 percent, to 18.2 million visitors, while Travelocity.com LP and Orbitz saw 16 percent and 23 percent drops, respectively.

The falloff in traffic was unparalleled for the three online agencies, which grew by leaps and bounds during the economic slowdown that followed the Sept. 11 attacks as many consumers for the first time turned to the Internet to unearth bargains.

Anticipating tougher times ahead, Orbitz last month announced plans to reduce its U.S. workforce by 10 percent by the end of the year. After dodging the effects of sky-high fuel prices during the first half of the year, airlines, hotels, rental car companies and tour operators are struggling with a steep and sudden drop-off in demand from both corporate and leisure travelers.

“What’s happening in 2008 is a universal buckling down,” said Sara Stevens, a vice president and head of the travel and retail practices for Virginia-based ComScore, a market research firm that tracks Internet traffic.

Read the complete story.

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Filed under Forecasts, Travel Industry, Travel Statistics

Ensuring your Search Strategy gets the Attention it Deserves During an Economic Downturn

With a countless number of conferences and articles are discussing the pros and cons of joining the social media race, one could be forgiven for getting caught up in the euphoria of starting a social campaign.  However, during this era of social media, podcasting, life-streaming, tagging, uploading, etc, etc. it is crucial to maintain focus on a few of the ‘older’ pieces of your online marketing plan, in this case, search.  Additionally, as so many DMOs and CVBs face budget reductions or at minimum, a careful use of funds, they find themselves reviewing interactive expenditures.  What better time to evaluate your SEO and SEM programs.

First, some new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project on the adoption of search by internet users.
etourismsummit_pewinternetc1
As shown by the chart above, search has become one of the most utilized online tools in a typical day, second only to email.

An excerpt from the memo:

With this increase, the number of those using a search engine on a typical day is pulling ever closer to the 60% of internet users who use email, arguably the internet’s all-time killer app, on a typical day.1 Underscoring the dramatic increase over time, the percentage of internet users who search on a typical day grew 69% from January 2002, when the Pew Internet & American Life Project first tracked this activity, to May 2008, when the current data were collected. During the same six-year time period, the use of email on a typical day rose from 52% to 60%, for a growth rate of just 15%.

Not only do these statistics highlight the clear importance of search in online marketing plan, they also show how quickly search has become a central and ubiquitous part of the internet.  Users have learned and adapted to the search process.  As the report later states, advancements in search and search results have increased the user’s trust in the search tool.  Plus, having Google as one of the largest and most publicized corporations on the planet certainly does not detract from the public’s knowledge of search.

Additionally, the report highlights the demographics of the search user:

Those who are using search engines on an average day are more likely to be socially upscale, with at least some college education and incomes over $50,000 per year. They are more likely to be internet users with at least six years of online experience and to have their homes wired for fast internet connections. Younger internet users are more likely than older users to search on a typical day. Men are more likely than women to search on a typical day.

For DMOs and CVBs looking for that upscale consumer with the disposable income to continue traveling, even in times of economic hardship, these statistics should make a strong case for a SEO or SEM campaign.

Before we move on, let’s look at the numbers in depth:

Education:
College graduate+ 66%
Some college 49%
High school graduate or less 32%

Income:
$75,000 + 62%
$50,000 – 74,999 56%
$30,000 – 49,999 34%
<$30,000 36%

Age:
18 – 29 years 55%
30 – 49 years 54%
50 – 64 years 40%
65 years and older 27%

So, how do you begin a SEO or SEM campaign?  And which one should you focus on?  SEO or SEM?

While most experts agree that using an SEO and SEM campaign in tandem will provide the best results, the value of a long-term SEO campaign should NOT be overlooked.  The short-term gain of a quick SEM campaign can produce solid results, particularly for a specific time period…such as a winter promo / sweeps…however you are, in fact, simply ‘renting’ those returns.  Once you stop spending, you stop receiving that ROI.  On the other hand, a SEO campaign should be looked at as a long-term investment in your search strategy.

For most small tourism organizations, having an external company manage a SEO / SEM campaign could prove to be a budgetary challenge.  Having your advertising agency could be another option, but for most, managing a SEO / SEM campaign either in-house or via an online vendor is the likely solution.

In the most basic terms, an SEO campaign would require less day-to-day management than a modest size SEM campaign.  Which furthers the argument to focus on natural search prior to a PPC campaign.

Easy said than done, to be sure.

Where to start?  To say there are a lot of factors that go into a SEO strategy is a massive understatement and certainly more than we can cover in a reasonable blog post.  Luckily, Google provides a complete help section on how to start, manage and optimize a SEO (and SEM) campaign.  Everything from creating a XML site map to keyword stuffing your pages (not a good thing).

http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/

Think of the site this way, here is the search company that owns 60%(ish) of the market and they are telling you how to optimize your site for their product.  Worth a quick look for you or your webmaster.

Additionally, be sure to look at Google’s Webmaster blog (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/) and the Google Webmaster discussion group (http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help?pli=1), both excellent sources of information and help on setting up, starting and managing a SEO / SEM campaign.

So, prior to setting up your Facebook Fan page for your destination, take a moment and review your search engine strategy.  In this time of increasing competition and decreasing budgets, a solid SEO / SEM plan is a must for every CVB and DMO.

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Filed under DMOs, Google, SEM, SEO, Travel Industry, Travel Statistics

What are the World’s Top 10 Country Brands?

Everyone loves Australia.

Everyone loves Australia.

What are the World’s Top 10 Country Brands?

Australia has emerged as the world’s top country brand for the third consecutive year, according to the 2008 Country Brand Index (CBI), being officially released in London on November 11. Rising from its sixth place ranking last year, Canada is recognized second and the United States rounds out the top three country brands in the 2008 study.

Read the complete story.

Travel industry feeling the squeeze.

As Americans evaluate and pare back their discretionary spending for the remainder of this year, the travel and leisure industries are feeling the squeeze.

Companies throughout the sector — including hotel, cruise ship, theme park and gambling concerns — have all warned in recent weeks that their businesses have slowed or that things could get worse next year.

“The deteriorating outlook for the economy is impacting travel habits and spending, and hotels are expected to experience reduced occupancy levels, and to a lesser degree, some room rate erosion through 2009,” said Scott Berman, principal at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For hotels, the picture looks particularly grim.

PwC expects that a key measure of the hotel industry’s health, revenue per available room (RevPAR), to fall 5.8 percent next year, following this year’s estimated 0.8 percent decline. That would be the industry’s first back-to-back decline in the widely watched measure since 2001-2002.

Read the complete story.

US Inbound travel up 9% through August.

The United States experienced a 9 percent increase in international visitors during the first eight months of the year when compared to the same period in 2007. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that 34.9 million international visitors traveled to the country from January to August, and spent $96.3 billion during the period. The 5.6 million visitors in August alone was an increase of 6 percent when compared to August of 2007, and they spent a record $12.7 billion— an increase of 20 percent.

Read the complete story.

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Filed under Branding, Countries, DMOs, Travel Industry, Travel Statistics

U.S. travel market projected to increase 4% in 2008 and 2% in 2009.

With the economic situation deteriorating throughout fall 2008, most U.S. travel companies are now grappling with declining demand and uncertainty for the future. The latest market forecasts in the new PhoCusWright’s U.S. Online Travel Overview Eighth Edition reflect these lower expectations for travel companies’ performance.

If unemployment continues to rise and retirement accounts dwindle, travel companies must prepare for a downward trend: fewer people taking trips, just like in 2002. The strategy to hold or even raise prices has shifted as travel sellers look to salvage what they can of 2008 while holding steady in 2009.

PhoCusWright projects the overall U.S. travel market is expected to increase by 4% and 2% in 2008 and 2009, respectively. These are the slowest growth rates since 2003, when the market declined by 8% following the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. All segments, except rail, will be impacted. But the travel industry is no stranger to crisis, and improved results are expected in 2010.

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Five Factors that will Positively Affect Travel to and within the U.S. for 2009

With all the dismal news lately we must remember that there are counterbalancing influences that may actually increase tourism to many U.S. destinations.

  1. The continued weakness of the U.S. dollar. Financial experts expect the dollar to remain weak due the continued reduction in interest rates by the Federal Reserve and our growing debt.
  2. Fuel costs are coming down. In just the past three weeks they’ve plummeted by nearly 50%, allowing some airlines to lock in rates by purchasing futures contracts. This will eliminate, or at least reduce, some of the fuel surcharges while the drive market will benefit from lower prices at the pump.
  3. Visa Waiver program expansion approved. Seven new countries have now been admitted to the visa waiver program and TIA estimates this may increase arrivals by 1 million passengers.
  4. Hotel rates have been reduced in the short term. Many hotels who have depended on business meetings and corporate travel are slashing their rates, some as much as 25% a month, to entice new business.
  5. The prohibitively high cost of traveling to Euro-denominated countries has resulted in domestic tour operators re-balancing their brochures for 2009 with more U.S. products than European offerings.

While it’s possible for these influences to be offset by a meltdown of the economy following a dismal Christmas retail season, it doesn’t seem likely that central bankers in the major developing countries would allow that to occur without additional intervention.

While we choose to remain upbeat we could certainly be dining on crow come next Spring if things head South.

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Filed under Hotels, Travel Industry, Travel Statistics, Visa Waiver

Google holds Ad Travel Think Tank in NYC.

Google talks travel...

Google talks travel...

Google Travel Holds Travel Advertising Think Tank in NYC last week.

Last  Wednesday in New York, Google convened more than a hundred travel marketing executives at TravelThink 2008 to offer strategies for boosting business during the what is shaping up to be a travel crisis.

In survey findings presented by JupiterResearch, 94% of travel executives said online advertising would provide the strongest return on investment compared to other media in the next 12 months. Some 20% of travel advertisers will spend more than $10 million on online marketing.

Read the complete story.

Four Communications Strategies with the consumer during an economic downturn.

In light of the recent turmoil in the global financial markets, marketers must step back and assess all of their communications to ensure they are in sync with their customers’ current situation. In this weak economy, marketers must modify their message to respond to customers’ changing perspective.

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Filed under Google, Travel Industry

How Will You Market Travel in An Economic Crisis?

In times of spasmodic financial markets an atmosphere of extreme uncertainty may cause a steep dip in travel and we wanted to explore ways in which travel marketers might use their website as the centerpiece around which to build a Plan B.

We contacted Ralph Thompson, President of EBrains, a notable marketing company that has worked with over 100 destination travel clients and a sponsor of 9th E-Tourism Summit in San Francisco, for his advise on the topic.

Which of the tools in the online marketers’ arsenal would be most effective during an economic slowdown where you need to work various segments.

That depends on what business you’re in. We have to first determine who the customer is and whether they are prone to visit websites as a matter of regularity.   If customers are under 25 and/or domiciled in other countries (especially Europe and Asia), I would say mobile communications and applications should be added as a consideration. If they are over 65, I would say use gatekeepers (children and grandchildren) to connect because the phone is measurable but very expensive and print is not as measurable therefore I don’t know what my ROI is.

If you are a marketer of tangible products and/or services, your website becomes your number one cost effective marketing communications connection. The site gives the marketer an ability to connect both with push (aggressive outreach to reinforce the relationship) or pull ( content that causes a more of a connective dependability).

The intangible benefit here is your brand. The website gives you the opportunity to raise intangible value if you can make the consumer include your website in their daily communication routine.

What are the most cost effective tools to market travel products online?

In my opinion, the most cost effective tools are a well maintained website with outreach driving relationships through search marketing (both organic and pay-per-click where it’s proven cost effective). Search marketing offers the second highest online return on investment to marketers based on multiple studies and surveys of marketers. The highest return on investment online is the continued email marketing to a database that has good hygiene and is continually built and segmented. The reason for this is that it’s trackable and you are able to calculate lifetime value. And, now, more than any time in an economic cycle, you need to stick with measurable investments.  Unmeasured home runs are risky during a time when you need to stick to the fundamentals.

The website should have the capability to interact with consumers. The 2.0 environment is one where brand value is achieved through consumer interaction and advocacy. Consumers need and want easy ways to provide user generated content which causes brand stickiness. The downside is you need to be prepared to deal with the “brand damagers” who have had a bad experience or just want to slam your brand. This means more of your attention on what’s being said about your brand both on your site and throughout the social communities, blogs and news groups online. While you may not be able measure this form of “earned” media to the bottom line, I do know the opinion of marketers in recent surveys is that earned media is the third highest return on investment. And social marketing is no more than online earned media.

What tips would you have for travel marketers in the short term?

The biggest tip is to pay attention to your target audience. This is not about you. It’s about them. Ask them and they will tell you what their preferences are.  Additionally, they will tell you their preference through their behavior (clicks to further actions down the marketing funnel) on your website.

My second biggest tip is to stay focused on what gets measurable results during this time and don’t let all the flashy fun stuff in online and interactive drain your most valuable resource. This is about you! And, your time is even more valuable in today’s economic.  It’s easy to get sidetracked. Now, I’m not advocating that you stop testing and evolving. After all, we’re all about marketing evolution. But, for now, you might consider letting someone else evolve, observe their evolution and follow it. With today’s technology one can adapt quickly. Just look at how fast search marketing became a $12 billion dollar business.

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Filed under eTourism Summit San Francisco, Travel Industry