Opportunities in the industry’s Asia expansion

The development of China as a cruise market means new ships are going there instead of to North America, which is a mild source of anxiety for travel agents in the U.S. and Canada.

But it also serves to put the spotlight on Asia and encourage travelers to explore that part of the world.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, trips to Asia were up 10% in 2013, up 37% last year and up 95% so far in 2015, said Matthew Eichhorst, president of the Vancouver-based franchise.

“That’s sending people on itineraries to Asian ports,” Eichhorst said. “It’s not all China; there might be a little bit of Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan.”

Two types of customers are likely prospects. The first is experienced cruisers who have seen other places — the Caribbean, Europe — and want to expand their horizons. North Americans of Asian heritage who are curious about their ancestral homes, or have relatives in Asia, are another active segment, Eichhorst said, adding that Vancouver in particular has a large population of Asian ancestry to draw on.

River cruises in Asia have been around for a while but are benefitting from the overall rise in river cruise interest, Eichhorst said.

Because of the long flight times involved in travel to Asia, cruise customers are often looking for pre- or post-cruise activities and lodging there, adding to the attractiveness of the sale for agents.

Asian cruise sales are up, in part, because at every age travelers are more adventurous than they were 20 years ago, Eichhorst said. But travelers want to feel secure about their provider.

“They are looking for a trusted brand when they go there,” he said. “There’s definitely a few operators that are in the Asia market that aren’t what you’d call North American brands.”

Eichhorst encourages his agents to think big and initiate the conversation with clients.

“Speak to all the places they can go, and people will put it on their bucket list and maybe they’ll do Caribbean four more times before they go there, but really tell the stories about amazing places you can go,” he said. “You sort of plant that seed as to the opportunity, because it’s probably an 18-months-out buy.”

Phocuswright: Mobile is key battleground, but it’s not all about apps

By Travolution

By Travolution
Image: Phocuswright’s Marcello Gasdia

Mobile is now firmly established as the key battleground as the world’s biggest online travel firms fight for dominance.

At last week’s Phocuswright conference in Los Angeles, global giants Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Kayak all highlighted mobile as vital to success.

Central to this for online agents and metasearch sites is how they use the mass of data available to personalise the mobile experience to tailor results for customers.

In emerging markets such as China and India the channel is essential as consumers are getting online through mobile first rather than via desktop.

Sam Shank, founder of HotelTonight, the mobile-only last minute hotel booking app, said the OTA role was evolving so that they were becoming more like personal travel assistants.

And Darren Huston, chief executive of Booking.com, the commercial engine of the world’s most valuable online travel firm Priceline, said: “Mobile is critical as a new platform to drive transaction but, more importantly, it’s offered everyone a computer in their pocket.

“People now book the first thing they need in a destination and then wander around with a phone.

“Mobile’s transforming the ability to create really cool end-to-end experiences for our customers.”

Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Expedia, said the OTA was benefiting from a growing travel industry and, in particular, the fast-expanding mobile sector.

Kayak founder Steve Hafner said the Priceline-owned metasearch site’s focus was on improving its app and a “very different experience” would emerge in the next six months.

Facebook global head of travel strategy, Lee McCabe, said travel was trailing other online sectors in terms of the app experience.

“The most important thing is convenience: do not make me work too hard; if it’s a transaction app, let me transact quickly and easily.”

A major open question for travel firms remains whether to favour apps or the mobile web, and Phocuswright produced research among US users suggesting the jury remains out.

Marcello Gasdia, Phocuswright senior analyst, said high level of use of mobile apps suggests they are dominant, but firms should not be too quick to discount the mobile web.

Gasdia said most app use involved three activities: checking emails, social media and gaming, with the amount of time spent in Facebook accounting for half an hour a day on average.

“Travellers are doing very few things in apps, creating the illusion they are taking over the mobile web,” said Gasdia.

Travel app usage, whether it involves a metasearch site, an OTA or a hotel or accommodation review or airline site, accounted for just 1% of daily app use.

TripAdvisor was found to be used by 30% of smartphone owners. Of these, 30% used the app and 18% the mobile website. Only 38% of visitors were app-only.

For OTAs, the research found there were nearly twice as many mobile web users as app users, the former averaging seven page visits per session while apps saw five sessions a month on average.

“App users were not opening these OTA apps every single day. Reach was not as high as we anticipated,” said Gasdia.

The Phocuswright research found even among people known to be actively planning a trip in June, OTA app engagement was low at just one in 10.

More than four in 10 did use an airline app, suggesting a “sweet spot” that was driving app adoption for airlines, said Gasdia.

– See more at: http://www.travolution.com/articles/2014/11/19/9043/phocuswright-mobile-is-key-battleground-but-it%e2%80%99s-not-all-about-apps.html#sthash.KT4ElfON.dpuf

Expedia adds Media Lounge offering free travel apps

Martin Ferguson

Martin Ferguson

The online travel company has unveiled a new feature called Media Lounge where Andy Washington, managing director of Expedia UK, said users would find premium apps and content to complement their travel experiences.

The company said the development marked a shift from driving transactions and only engaging with travelling consumers to offering a richer content-based service.

Until now Expedia’s app pushed out practical trip information, such as flight alerts.

Now it will, on the first Wednesday of every month, offer users a paid-for app free of charge.

The first app available in the Media Lounge is Over, a photo-editing app that enables travellers to personalise photos by adding text and artwork.

Outside of this offer it would cost £1.49.

In addition to the free apps, Expedia said it would recommend other apps, such as flight trackers and Wi-Fi finders.

“It is a way of making a trip easier, more relevant and enjoyable,” said Washington. “We’re in a digital age, and engaging with mobile and tablets users is so important.”

Washington said the marketplace was heavily defaulted towards Apple products. He acknowledged Android was growing in popularity but could not put a timeline on when the Expedia app would be available on this operating system.

– See more at: http://www.travolution.com/articles/2014/04/04/7704/expedia-adds-media-lounge-offering-free-travel-apps.html#sthash.aQlQe5SL.dpuf