Saturday, 31 October 2009

OTAs

The debate on Direct VS. Distribution took center tage this week with the release of PhoCusWright stats on OTAs, a survey that finds hotel not competitive with OTAs and the decision by Choice to quit Expedia. There are many discussions on the net.

Direct sales have been gaining market shares over the last several years. But that seems to be changing, or might change. OTAs are holding their own and gaining shares in these troubled times, when all markets count more that ever before.

The OTAs have taken the lead in travelers' minds as the best place to shop for deals. Hotels are not competing - USATODAY.com: Travel Deals Compared.

So what, if OTAs are bringing in business, does it matter? There are hotel managers who think OTA distribution is great. In many parts of Europe, hotels have almost opted out of the reservation business, allocating the majority of rooms to tour operators. There are hotel managers who do not like distribution and have done much to get out of that channel. Some have been burned, some just find the terms are getting more and more difficult, some say it is blackmail!

The issues are complex. For a very good analysis, see Robert Coles' article - Expedia and Freedom of Choice

We have also prepared a detailed analysis about brands in the channels. Watch http://tourismplatform.com/ for the latest news. Our first issue explains branding from a new perspective. It outlines AXSES' approach to the Next Generation Tourism Platform, which integrated all media and attempts to strikes a balance with direct and distribution marketing. http://axses.com/destinationmarketing/1-shopping.html

LINKS

What happened when Georgia lost its OTA listing
OTAs Rev up at hotels' expense
OTAs' market share breakdown
Get out of the OTA Trap

LESSONS
What is the Brand definition: Johnson & Johnson Customer Business Analyst, Hannah Chi, says, "Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, I feel like they all give you the same options, with results from multiple airlines, kind of giving you a slew of what fits that criteria.” “Each doesn’t give me anything that another travel engine wouldn’t give me!”

Consumers will go where they find the best deal. This is good for Hotel Websites, if they are competive!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

SEO2

SEO 2 - Themes marketing


Following the success of page ranking for st lucia apartment rentals for Poinsettia apartments, Stlucia. We added a new page for St Lucia catamaran sailing trips to the pitons, Soufriere volcano, the diamond waterfalls and the botanical garden in St lucia. Poinsettia apartment resort can arrange day sailing adventures to several destination; including a tour of a St. Lucia Coco plantation and heritage sites.

The page proved powerful and was soon listed on Google for searches such as "st lucia sailing pitons" and "st lucia catamaran sailing to volcano"

Sailing to the St lucia pitons from Poinsettia Apartments

This is also promoted on BookingsStlucia.com

see Bookings St. lucia sailing charters and trips


This concept of themes marketing is very important to destination and tourism marketing.


also see http://holidaythememarketing.com

Monday, 3 August 2009

SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media for Tourism Operators!


I got the idea of social media aiding in promoting our technology blogs but I had a hard time translating that into marketing for hotels and tourism operators. Necessity became the mother of invention when one of our most loyal clients got a call from a SEO operator saying that their resort was not on Google for important keywords.

We had missed something important - Poinsettia Apartments, was not listed on Google page 1 for Apartment Rental St. Lucia. A year ago we discovered that the traffic for apartments was not all that great - using "Google suggests" and a few other tools we decided to re-brand them as villa apartments, villa being a much bigger tourism work than apartments.

SEO is a very precise art. Its a little like cooking. You can make a great pea soup, but add rice, ginger and carrots and its no longer a pea soup. Google understands pea soup, but pea soup with rice, ginger and carrots, well that is another matter. You cant get your ginger, rice and carrot pea soup on top of a Google listing for pea soup, forget it, its just not focused enough for Google. So it was with Villa Apartments, We got on top for villa apartments even Caribbean resort villa apartments - but apartment rentals St. Lucia got lost in the mix.

Normally it takes months to get a site linked on Google page 1, but we did not have a month. We had to fix the problem now. trying to make the accommodation page work for Apartment rentals would have been self defeating as we had made a pea soup of it, and it was working OK for several keywords - But not St. lucia apartment rentals.

So we created a new page- optimised it for apartment rentals St. Lucia etc and launched it with links from http://www.poinsettiaapartments.com/accommodation.htm.

Now to get backward links. Ie links from other, not related sites, which would give it a higher Page Ranking (PR) and get it on top of Google search results.

I did a search for St. lucia long term rentals etc, looking for social sites that would accept my comments. Up came zimbio.com A popular celebrity site with excellent PR. There was a social comment about Amy Winehouse moving to St. Lucia: I signed up and wrote "St Lucia is a great place to relocate to. You dont have to be a star to love it, its simply beautiful, and a great place for a star and the sort of place where you are like to just bump into a star at your favourite beach or bar.  St. Lucia is mountains, waterfalls, rain forests and beaches fit for the stars. If you are coming to check out opportunities, the perfect place to stay is in a townhouse close to all the action yet away from the crowd. see http://poinsettiaapartments.com/apartment-rentals-stlucia.htm. Poinsettia does long term rentals so its is very affordable and of course beautiful, up on a hill overlooking Vigie Beach and Bay - You might even spot Amy!".

Simple! I did a few more - added links from our http://Travelwatchnews.com and blog and two days later we were on page 1 of Google.

So it works folks! it takes time and know-how, but once you create a well optimised page the rest is really common sense and a bit of the gift of the gab. Try it and let me know.

By the way we did OK for Poinsettia with many links established and Page One on Google For sevaeral search words and phrases.

stlucia romantic apartment holidays 1.1
long term apartment rentals st lucia 1.1
caribbean resort villa apartments 1.2
st lucia villa apartments 1.3
stlucia romantic apartments 1.3
stlucia caribbean apartments 1.3
apartment rentals st lucia 1.8
stlucia apartments rentals 1.9
stlucia holidays apartments 1.9
caribbean villa apartments 1.6
caribbean resort villa apartments 1.2
st lucia resort villas 2.2


To find where you are use Googles Browser "CROME" and enter link:yourwebsiteurl


For More on SEO for Tourism see our website on Search Engine Optimisation For Travel and Tourism Marketing

Contact AXSES sales@axses.net for a tourism and travel marketing

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Rates Managemnet

Rates Management at a Crossroads

There is nothing like a good depression to change something that needs to be fixed. The time is right - in fact, it is past due - to change the way hotels manage and maintain rate parity.

With more and more hotels striving to increase Direct bookings, the practice of only having Rack Rates on the hotel website is past. It's more than past; it's downright nonsensical.

The major chains work it well and have steady decreased their dependency on distribution partners. Many chains now get over 80% of their Internet bookings directly from their website.

The driving force in getting direct sales is simple:

Be Visible and Be Valuable.


Offering value is not about putting your highest Rate on your website. Travelers compare; they look at 6 or more sites before making a decision. They will compare costs and value given in each channel. Travelers do like to visit the Hotels' own website and they like to buy direct - but not at a premium.
See Travel Rants and Raves

This is why AXSES has developed a powerful and easy-to-use Specials Management and Marketing System. With it, our clients are able to create short-term specials for low booking periods and offer great Value. The Specials are distributed on AXSES channels and available for publising on thousands of websites, like Google Base and Facebook, with AXSES arcRes distribution tools and RSS publishing systems.
See Our Travel and Tourism Marketing dialogue Rates, Revenue Management and Specials Tourism Marketing

There are several articles that are well worth reading

See
http://tr.im/rateintegrety - This provides a very helpful strategic approach to Revenue Management

http://tr.im/goodbyeRateParity - Dennis Schall is well worth following. Here, he talks about getaroom.com technology that helps hotels avoid contract limitations regarding rates.


For marketing-related articles, see our "At a Crossroads" Blog:


Destination Marketing
Travel Marketing
The Supplier
Marketing

Other links


How top Hotels Brands are using Twitter

More on using Social Media: see AXSES Social Marketing for Travel - A Primer

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Computing Crossroads

In our last Blog, we speculated that Google Wave may do more than replace email. http://axses-ianclayton.blogspot.com/2009/06/googlecrossroads.html


"Google Wave (and the Wave Protocol), already indicates the end of the email era Wave to replace email. But it is more! Have we finally reached the point where the entire premise of the computer business, the operating systems, is at a crossroads? Well, Goggle would like to think so and Microsoft would prefer not to". Today, I read that Google is working on a new Operating System built on Google Crome.

Google says over 30 million people use Google Crome regularly. It was designed for people who live on the web. "However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we're announcing a new project that's a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be".

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html

Interesting, Indeed. We will be watching this. Google is changing our universe; Watch It!

Bill Gates says GoogleOS is nothing more than a browser! http://tr.im/googleOSbyMS - Could Bill be nothing more that sour grapes?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Google Crossroads

Google at a Crossroads with Wave Technology

We stared writing these blogs on technology as a journey into the crossroads of marketing and communications. For some time, we have seen that the world is at a breakthrough point in transformation. Technology and its application are leaping forward almost at the speed of thought. We wrote about the crossroads for search, advertising, marketing, destination marketing, travel distribution and the Internet.

In our blog newweb, we noted that there was a critical mass of technology and, more importantly a critical mass of knowledge about technology and how to build on it. It’s the critical mass of knowledge that is exciting. Knowledge is what will drive the success of Google Wave. It is interesting to see that Google recognises this. By demonstrating Google Wave to application developers and inviting them to be creative, Google is hoping to accelerate the evolution of Google Wave technology.


Many believe Google Wave (and the Wave Protocol), already indicates the end of the email era wave2replaceemail. But is it more! Have we finally reached the point where the entire premise of the computer business, the operating systems, is at a crossroads? Well, Goggle would like to think so and Microsoft would prefer not to.

What is certain is that the Internet is becoming a full platform for computing in a way that the PC was. The next step forward is collaborative working and networking computers. The possibilities can hardly be imagined. Google Wave is an advanced set of protocols, robot web services and applications for networking. But its success as a platform will depend on the applications and our knowledge of how to use it effectively.


Google Wave resources
Easy link to this blog http://tr.im/waveblog
AXSES short definition - http://tr.im/wavedefined
A more technical definition http://tr.im/wavetechnology
Google Wave Demo in small chucks - http://tr.im/bytesizewave
- or you can view an 80-min. video http://wave.google.com
Questions and Answers http://tr.im/waveFAQ
How the Wave works – very technical - http://tr.im/howdoeswavework
Will Wave replace email? - http://tr.im/wave2replaceemail


Related ideas on technology
The Next web - linked data: by Tim Berners

Email and Google Friends Connect
Social Media For Tourism & Travel Marketing

Keep up with Technology for Travel and Tourism: http://axses.com/travelwatchnews.cfm

Saturday, 6 June 2009

HouseHolidays

We have been running travel portals for over 12 years now. In some of our channels I find that very best value is often overlooked. Travelers have pretty fixed ideas about what to look for. For instance they will insist on being on the beach - but across the road we often have far better hotels; offering better value and sometimes a far more comfortable and elegant setting.

House rentals is another area that tends to get passed over. There is a passionate following for villas but I am still trying to figure what a villa really is. We have villas that are really apartments or condos, and that to me is wrong. To me, a villa has to have a private front door - not an hallway and elevator. So really a villa is some sort of house. In Roman days it was a upper class country house and through the middle ages it was associated with luxury. wikipedia.org suggest that today a villa refers to a specific type of detached suburban dwelling. I don't think that holds. Settlers Beach Villa complex in Barbados is not detached but it is clearly a Villa Resort of the highest standard and on a perfect beach.

Now I know that holidays are a chance to get away and one likes to go to a hotel where everything is catered for - But golly gee, the Villa-Home complex across the road has better prices, full maid service, a cook you can hire, a pool, a fantastic view and its private - spacious - spotlessly clean with a helpful and friendly family management and staff. Its a whole house with washer, dryer, stove, microwave, a full stand up fridge, iron and board, 3 rooms - kitchen, patio and a garden with fruit trees you are invited to pick from! Why are so many people ignoring houses and settling for a Room. A house is so much more that a room - why settle for less!

I think the holiday home resort vacation is undervalued. If you don't want to cook - there are many restaurants that offer more variety. But part of a real holidays is exploring - shopping - going to the market and buying your fresh fish and local vegetables - experimenting and sampling another culture. Lets hear it for Island house rentals and holiday home living!

An example I like is http://poinsettiaapartments.com. Its a family run complex of 7 villa style homes/apartments, tastefully furnished, fully equipped and on a hill overlooking a lovely bay with a working marina. Its not on the beach and you need a car to get around, but if you have a car its a perfect spot for the more discerning traveler who prefers not to be one of a crowd and have their own space. For the business traveler a Townhouse is the perfect choice; see Town houses and Apartment Rentals - St. Lucia. Poinsettia Villa-Apartment and townhouses can also be rented long term.

Check out the latest webpage dedicated to Island House Holidays in St. Lucia - http://island-houses-for-rent.com - a http://bookingsstlucia.com initiative. Soon to be a Caribbean wide service - if you would like to participate please contact us.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

facebook

How to use Facebook for tourism and travel marketing

A frank discussion of how Facebook
operates and what its terms and condition imply. The article illustrates how Facebook is positioned relative to search engines and what may be in store!. It illustrates how to use FaceBook to boost your position on the search engines and drive more travelers to your website. How to use Facebook pages, discussions, groups and events for tourism and travel marketing. There are strategic Tips on how Facebook can help you reach out to new social groups and market your hotel, activity or tourism destination.

Links to the best social media marketing resources and technology on the net.

http://arcres.com/facebook-travel-marketing.cfm







Wednesday, 13 May 2009

SocialMedia4TravelMarketing

How to market travel on social media

Who is using which social media - how is the traveler using social media, which social media site is best for travel marketing.

This blog/web page offers a simple explanation with easy to understand detail. Social media clients have been analyzed in depth. Patricia Brusha of hospitality.net talks about 5 types of social media users - what they like and what social sites they might frequent - she adds marketing implications and lots of good advice for the travel marketer.

The blog/page summaries this dialogue with a simple table chart. In addition it offers a table of the leading social media channels for travel - with a layman's explanation of what they are and how they can apply. The page is full of examples and links to useful tool and resources for hotels, tourism operators and destination marketers.

The page is a social media resource of AXSES.

AXSES is a travel marketing and applications developer; building tools for travel suppliers (hotels and tourism operators) to market and manage their travel business. AXSES recently launched a Bookings engine and tourism marketing & e-commerce application for Facebook.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Travel Marketing

Travel Marketing Tools for Travel Suppliers
(hotels & tourism operators)


Marketing tools for travel marketing and management range from a simple booking engine to managing content on multinational sites and on numerous Internet travel portals and marketing channels. They also include property management systems relating to managing inventory and reservations.

To optimize an Internet marketing campaign, hotels and tourism operators need to deploy multiple strategies such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, Brand advertising (Impression), Direct e-mail marketing (such as iContact) and a spectrum of e-commerce and rates management across channels such as Global Distribution Systems(GDS), Internet Distribution Systems (IDS), Social Media Channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), Affiliate Programs, Travel Agents and Tour Operators.

Managing allocation in all channels has become a major problem for travel suppliers (hotels and tourism operators). It is so complex that many hotels and tourism operators opt out and prefer to contract their entire inventory with prime wholesalers and distributors.

The opt-out strategy is a quick fix, but it is not sustainable in the new order. All too often, these dependencies result in huge loss of market when things go wrong. A hotel I know lost its entire distribution when its sole contractor asked for conditions it could not meet. They took their business elsewhere and bookings of 100 rooms per night were gone. It is imperative that hotels and tourism operators build a balanced strategy and take more control of their own brand and marketing.
A wide array of tools, technology and marketing options exists for tourism operators. Channel management systems such as EZYield, rates management with RateGain, Global Distribution via many GDS integration companies and hundreds of Internet Distribution Systems (IDS) like Travelocity, as well a thousand Destination Travel Portals and Travel Guides.

At AXSES, we have developed a marketing suite for small and mid-sized hotels and tourism operators. This was built on our travel booking engine, arcRes Bookings-Expert.com. The Booking Engine has been vastly expanded to do much more, and it is now a Travel Marketing Suite; an e-commerce platform that works for Social Media and conventional travel channels. See http://www.arcres.com/ecommerce-and-travel-marketing suites

Many hotels have opted to jump on the GDS bandwagon and mistakenly concluded that they are now well represented on thousands of IDS channels, such as Travelocity. Wishful thinking! It was true, at one time, but IDS are opting for direct contracts with hotels – Expedia has signed up nearly 100,000 hotels to its Expedia Special Rates (ESP) program and GDS content is far down the line in priority. That is unfortunate for the hotels, as they must now manage Expedia, Travelocity and all the major distribution contracts that they choose.

Optimising distribution channels requires diligence. To be on the top of the IDS ‘by price’ list, you have to offer the best rate. But it is not always desirable to be at the very top! You need to be high on the list for hotels in your own class and offer a value added service rather that the best price. That way, your ROI and Brand is protected. There are e-commerce companies and consultants that specialize in running IDS campaigns. They arrange the contracts and manage them for you.

The travel industry is working to integrate the marketing channels and you can purchase channel management software. Generally, this software is not easy to use and is too expensive for a small hotel. An industry standard that would ease the management of channels is not imminent.

The GDS representative companies who have built Central Reservation Systems (CRS) that interface hotels to the GDS systems ( Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport and Pegasus) >, are also building systems to help hotels manage many IDS channels (Expedia, etc.) from the same CRS. For example, Genares has integrated their CRS with Expedia/TravelWeb (Expedia Quick Connect). This allows hotels to manage Expedia and TravelWeb rates and allocation using the Genares CRS and saves having to learn another online system. The cost is $4 US per booking. For Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and others the fee is $4 plus the GDS fees. The IDS will generally require a minimum of 25% discount from your rack rate. Using the GDS as a channel manager thus will cost anywhere from $4 to $10 per booking in addition to the channel cost (25% minimum). It’s not a lot, if you consider the time it takes to learn all the different systems.

arcRes Travel Bookings for Facebook (arcResBookings) is the first-of-its-kind travel bookings application. It allows any hotel to load rates, property information, room descriptions, photos and rates directly from arcRes into Facebook and manage it from arcRes. It is a huge time saver and makes managing Facebook very easy. Both the booking engine and quotation system are embedded in Facebook, so that guests can easily book directly with the property or tourism operator, or get an immediate quote. See Facebook Travel Bookings (Live example)

ArcResBooking.com for Facebook is a part of the arcRes Marketing Suites, a comprehensive e-commerce platform for travel. It is currently the easiest GDS setup in the industry. Contracts are signed online, and the hotel's information, rates and seasons are all loaded directly from information already in arcRes.

As more and better tools for travel marketing become available, the role of the hotel marketer is becoming more technology-driven. Hotels need to invest in hiring the right people and training staff to understand and be comfortable with technology. It cannot be avoided! It is essential to success in the long term.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

New Order

The New Order of the Web

The web is becoming a platform for participation, rather than a medium for delivery. It is a paradigm shift in thinking, communications, connection, engagement and expression. It seems to have a life of its own as it morphs into a new order, changing how we work, engage and communicate.

The first generation of the Internet was about delivering information. In that arena, a cohesive focus became how to organize and search for information. Search became the driving force of the Internet. Soon, web applications expanded to include information processing, with applications like e-commerce and travel bookings. Later came expert systems, where smart processes analysed behavior and delivered tailored results (see htp://RealHolidays.com). Information became packaged with process to create knowledge services.

I wrote some time ago about ‘search at a crossroads’. That crossroads is here now. Searching is no longer just about finding content. It is about information, its source and its relationship to your own personal network. It is about knowledge.

The new crossroads is the evolution of the Internet. Unlike the previous incarnations, it is not here by grand design, but by evolution itself. The web has morphed into a huge ‘small world network’, connecting services, applications, people, places, ideas and knowledge in unforeseen ways. Adam Smith once spoke about “the invisible hand that guides the market.” The Internet’s invisible hand is evolution, not the balance of demand and supply.

Peter Hershberg, Managing Partner of Reprise Media, points out that YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all started out with simple objectives and have evolved to something much more:

YouTube started as a service that allowed people to post videos, but has since become the de facto place people turn to when they want to find video content on any subject imaginable. Twitter started as a way to issue personal status updates to your friends, but is morphing into a search engine that allows you to tap into the ‘now’ - what's going on now? What's the groundswell of sentiment around a topic? Facebook began as a way to see more information about people you were going to school with. Now, it's become a way for friends to share interests by becoming Fans of brands and lifestyles and posting articles, opinions and information”.

This evolution has created a network, never conceived and still not defined. It is a work in progress. But it is clear that form, function, process and context have changed and all parts are merging almost at the speed of thought.

Web design and marketing, once about ensuring that people could find your website, is now also about your website finding people. It’s about reaching out to people where they already are, i.e., participating in a personal social network. It’s about adding value by interacting with these networks of people in a meaningful way.

There are over 400,000 independent developers building Facebook applications to harness this. One is Oodle, who helped Facebook with their marketplace classified ads application. I used it recently to list my house for rent and within a week I could have rented it twice.

In another example – I used a knowledge service, to find the professional help we needed. It was a database of Internet professionals classified by skills and experience. There are users’ reviews and ratings of services and skills to help you select the right person or team. But I wanted to know more about the person behind the professional. The system did not help me with that, so I turned to Facebook and LinkedIn to see who their friends were and what they liked. I don’t think Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, ever thought of that use originally. We still don’t know how it might be used in the future.

At AXSES, we have built our arcRes.com Travel Platform into a Facebook application. It allows arcRes users to publish specials as well as rates and web content to Facebook. All this information on Facebook, as well as the ability to get holiday quotes and to book, is managed from the arcRes admin system, which also manages information on the user’s website and a network of other marketing channels. Facebook is a different type of channel – one where meaningful participation and shared knowledge is the driving force.

Knowledge is an evolutionary force. It evolves personally and socially at community, global and spiritual levels. When Ford built the first car in America, German engineers were separately developing a similar invention. The world of knowledge evolves as we do. Along with it, the knowledge highway, media, publishing, communications and marketing are changing.

See the man who developed the web (Sir Tim Berners-Lee) talk about this http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/484

Our resources of who uses what and how on Social Media: see
http://arcres.com/Social-media-travel-marketing.cfm

Jeff Besos (Amazon), a really fun and very useful analogy of the internet.


Monday, 2 March 2009

At a Crossroads

We wrote about Advertising at a Crossroads nearly a year ago, today we read about Expedia's new PassportAds, the first program of its kind in travel advertising.

We wrote about Search At a Crossroads, and now TripAdvisor (actually another Expedia company) launches Integrated Search.

It's to be expected - the whole way we do business is shifting fundamentally. Like Philip C. Wolf, President and CEO, PhoCusWright Inc., says, it's a perfect storm:

“Each element in the search-shop-buy triumvirate is undergoing a period of intense innovation, making each increasingly significant, yet interdependent. In fact, searching, shopping and buying – once distinct terms describing different behaviors – are blurring at a furious pace”.

Our Bookable-Ads.com was launched late in 2008; it's almost old hat now and we wonder why it took so long. But the change is just beginning.

The most pervasive change is happening now and it's going to change the entire web and all that we do. Wolf was only half right; it's not about advertising and searching and buying only; equally important is the merging of publishing and communication with what we call the Social Web.

Social Web is just a new word for communications and networking. It started with teenagers, got noted by adults and is moving full steam into the mainstream.

Wolf should have added that publishing and conversation are merging, and that is going to throw the monkey wrench into the media!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Social Net

A Social Net Primer - how to use Facebook in your travel business

Obama has 5 million support Friends on Facebook - it helps him get his message out and stay in contact. Spurred on by his successful use of social media, more and more businesses are using, or wondering how to use Facebook and similar social sites.

In December 2008, AXSES began a project to use and evaluate the technology and the network. In the first week of this exercise, Kathy-Lynn Ward became a fan of Jennifer Figge, who is attempting to be the first woman to swim the Atlantic, from Africa to Barbados. Jennifer's manager contacted us through Facebook and AXSES put him in contact with the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA). The BTA launched a similar Facebook project shortly after.

So we have to say it has value from a business perspective for tourism. It's hard to get to grips on just how to optimize it in a positive and socially acceptable way.
But we are beginning to see that the network and the technology can be a significant resource. The key is to shift thinking from a marketing perspective to one of helping and sharing. It's a good shift, and one that many companies are practicing without being on the Social Net.

Here is how it works: You sign up and then go about inviting Friends, who invite Friends, who invite more Friends to become your Friend. The Friends can become advocates and clients. Start using it, but be warned, it is addictive!

The first thing to learn is that if you want to be successful, don't choose your friends - just accept all that apply, that way it will grow. I don't do that well - I like my privacy, so I am careful who I approve.

Next, learn to create pages to describe, in pictures and words, your company and/or some of your products. Post it to your profile so it is visible to all that check to see who you are.

At AXSES, we created pages for the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia (BTE) (http://Barbados.org),
http://BookingsBarbados.com, http://BookingsStLucia.com and http://BarbadosBoardwalk.com as a photo gallery, to name a few.

I say we did this, meaning that our people did. Facebook is personal, so a real person, not a company, is expected to create a Facebook account. They may then add pages, photo galleries, groups and make comments which can be sent to others. Facebook pages can be about companies and products. In fact, we made the mistake of setting up a profile for the BTE page and, in fact, there are advantages (more detailes to follow). It seems many companies also made this mistake! But for visibility on access, a page is superior; a profile is private and will not be picked up by SEO, whereas pages may.

Facebook groups may be formed to discuss topics of interest and share news and happenings. They are a good way to network and keep up to date and in contact. It's similar in a way to the thing they call a Wall, where all can post messages to be read by others who look at your Wall. Sort of like graffiti. Groups are more focused and you can create multiple topics. In the St. Lucia group, there are discussions going on about Amy Winehoue, as well as the new St. Lucia Marketing strategy. Unlike Pages groups, they are not open to the public; they are only accessible to Facebook people and you have to belong to the group to participate.

Margaux Daher, an AXSES Associate from St. Lucia, has taken the lead in creating links and sharing insights on the St. Lucia page and the St. Lucia group we created. Her friends have joined the group and now others are joining. It's not generating business but it is away to communicate and share.

Kathy-Lynn, always thinking of our hotel and travel clients, established RSS feeds which grab Holiday Specials off our bookings services and display them on the respective Facebook pages. Anyone who looks at the page can see a Special on offer.

Facebook's pages, photos, videos, events, invitations, discussion boards, Walls and messaging, as well as Flash and numerous applications, give us a very rich platform for a travel dialogue and e-commerce. It has potential for hotels and tourism operators.

We have already deployed arcRes Booking Engine on Facebook. Our next step is to integrate clients information on Facebook, to link in our travel network with special applications built on our travel platform.

4 million people use http://Barbados.org each year. If they choose to become a Friend or Fan of our Facebook page for Barbados, they will see all the Barbados.org posts, news and specials, all in one place. It will give us a useful way to communicate with travelers in a social way, on their terms, and with not in-your-face advertising.

Our next step will be to investigate how best to help hotels use social networks (more later).

According to eMarketer research, Social network users made up 41.2% of the US Internet population in 2008. 60% of Internet users are consumers of all user-generated content.



eMarketer estimates that 115 million people use the social media.
By 2013, the total number is expected to be over 154 million.
It's growing because its easy to use, appears to be more credible and it's free!




(Credit: Compete.com)



Resources:

see Jason Falls on FacebookBrand Page Best Practices/

Facebook Population

The Rush to Social Networks

Thursday, 29 January 2009

BookDirect

Travel rants has a good article on the trade offs on using different channels to book travel. see Direct Bookings

Travelers have moved dramatically to direct bookings over that last few years. The split is now slightly in favour of direct bookings and seems to be stabilising there.

see a full discussion on this at hostipality biusiness (merrill lynch survey)

The main reasons:

They deal with the owners and host of the place they will stay.
They get to know them and
more importantly they get to be known.

Dealing direct means they have better control of the itinerary, its easier to change dates and get upgrades etc. Its easier to correspond - to ask questions about the destination, activities and things to be wary of, and it from the horses mouth - so to speak.

it sued to be that middlemen had the edge on package holidays - but no so now. With hotel tools, travelers can actually create a vacation package on sites like http://realholidays.com and still deal direct with the hotel. These same tools are being used on hotel website to allow users to add activities and air to their package.

Travel tools used by destinations and tourism sites such as; hotels and activities are making it easier for us travelers to get what we want and how we want it.