If you look at corporate travel, what is really important for corporations is to be able to define their travel policy, implement the travel policy online or on their portal, and then to give full transparency to anything that may happen in the market. If you buy smartly using a portal you can generate significant savings. So what innovations can we expect from Expedia in ? We are watching for innovation and there are some products coming in. We are quite far ahead it terms of what we can bring to corporations concerning travel policy and generating cost savings.
I think we really want to firm-up new features for the travellers, they are mobile people, they have PDAs and they use mobile devices. So will travellers soon be communicating with Expedia more via their PDAs? Yes, you will be able to do more things on your PDA. We are looking at this very seriously because we have created a need for information, a need for transparency, and our customers think -- it is great, we are not on the website now, what do I do when I am in Frankfurt in the airport? Why is content so important?
We really want to be connecting the market place. For example when you are in the UK, you want to find trainline. What sort of limitations are you facing in terms of access to content? I think that there are no real technology limits. What really takes time is to make sure we find the right partners. We want strong partnerships and relationships with people. Air travel in particular is an unpleasant experience for many, and a competitive one for Expedia, especially with such rivals as Travelocity, Orbitz and AMEX competing for market-share.
What are the latest Starwood developments in North America?
Over the last 12 to 18 months we have been looking to unlock the substantial potential of our world- class brands, looking to increase our lifestyle experiences. We have now become a very powerful hospitality company with awesome lifestyle brands. What areas are you focusing on? Guests would agree that we have some terrific innovations, which began with the Westin Heavenly Bed and the Westin Hotels and that revolutionised the hotel industry. But now we are taking it even further.
It is not just about the product in the hotel, it is about the experience that people will enjoy. We would like our guests to feel renewed, to feel better than when they arrived, to go out and enjoy their day, to be more successful at work. How do you go from selling the experiences to offering specific points of difference? It is really about what people are going to touch and feel - what they are actually going to experience in the hotels. Now we are even selling the scent, it is White Tea, so you can take the scent home and live the whole experience as an actual extension outside of our brands as well.
Is your online presence part of the whole experiential travel aspect? The same time that we spend on our brands, we also spend re- developing our websites, so they do help convey what the actual experience is going to be like in our properties. You can also post some information up and make comments about your past trip to a hotel. You can tell a story and we feel that it is all about connecting with people. So yes, we are focused on our websites being a brand extension to our hotels and the experience you have at the hotels. How are you coping with guests that post comments about negative experiences?
If anybody posts inappropriate information, we will remove that, but we will certainly respond to any questions that anybody would ask or negative feedback. With this kind of growth, the U. Colorado's Leading Ski Resort St. Thomas The Westin St. Andrews The Gleneagles Hotel St. Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.
The Jefferson Washington D. Regis Hotel Washington, D. Mandarin Oriental Washington D. Texas' Leading Hotel The St. Most people preferred to stick to the old-fashioned way, trusting no one but a familiar face at their local travel agency, or rather their own telephones and fax machines. The likes of Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.
This ground- breaking system is called vlmDirect. Booking direct is a trend that has gripped the industry over the last few years. The airlines were first to stop paying commissions to travel agents, changing their focus to online offerings which allowed clients to book direct. Easyjet was one of the first to pioneer direct booking, resulting in cheaper fares for the customer. Now most airlines have followed suit, proving that this formula works and in turn increases profitability.
VLM, a brainchild of the World Travel Group, was conceived after a number of well-travelled directors became disenchanted with trying to book online with the major travel portals. When director David Falcon was travelling to Stuttgart at late notice, he was told by travel portals that there were no rooms available at a particular hotel. He thought this rather odd as he was travelling out of season, and decided to contact the hotel directly.
They told him there were plenty of rooms available. The problem occurs with third-party travel websites that buy blocks of rooms at special merchant prices. These rates are lower to the portals, but may not necessarily be to the consumer. When some portal runs out of inventory for a particular hotel, they tell travellers there are no rooms left. They then try and steer people to a nearby hotel where merchant-rate rooms are available. This activity is more profitable for the websites, but may not be giving consumers the rooms they want in the area they want.
This has led the company to see online bookings increase on its websites, and now other major hotel chains are following suit with direct booking systems. The problem with search engine technology today is that the travel portals dominate in any search for accommodation online. It is especially hard to find those smaller, independent hotels that offer good rates and good service. VLM is the perfect tool for the traveller who still prefers to make a booking over the phone but want to be able to view their options by browsing online first.
Not just the main hotel chains are being included, but all independent hotels as well, many of which are preferred by individual travellers. New destinations are also constantly being researched and added to the listings. The VLM model is different from its competitors in that it is not involved in any transaction at the point of booking a room.
Travellers pay fees directly to the property and make their own personal arrangements. In other words, VLM does not take commission from the hotel or the consumer. The business model involves charging properties who want to put more than just their basic details on the website, such as rich media including streaming video, IPIX visuals and photos. The team at World Travel Group is now in the promotion phase of vlmDirect. The desire to be the first site to appear when travellers search for accommodation online, achieving high rankings on search engines is a core goal. A comprehensive travel directory, launching initially with hotels but with ambitions to include other travel products down the line, the VLM site is looking to be the encyclopaedia of accommodation on the Internet, - the Craig's List or the Yellow Pages for the travel and hotel industry worldwide.
It will empower people and give them the choice to book whatever they want whenever they want to - whether it's an Italian traveller looking for a hotel in Indonesia or a Chinese person booking in Cuba. The message is plain and simple: To discuss advertising opportunities contact the VLM team on sales vlmdirect. Having established a truly global presence, which regions will be a priority for Amadeus in the coming months?
In the case of Central and Eastern Europe, 64 percent of travel agency air bookings are made through Amadeus. Of course we aim to grow this, but also hotel and rail bookings represent huge opportunities for growth in this diverse and interesting region. Where do you see new revenue opportunities? We provide technology consultancy services to travel agents and we are developing a Hotel Distribution Platform which will revolutionise hotel technology.
Our e- commerce services power the websites of over 60 airlines and online travel agents around the world. The travel industry is changing so rapidly that the single sure strategy for Amadeus is to develop an ever- wider range of advanced technology to cover all possible outcomes. Do the internet and the GDS go hand in hand?
In the case of online travel agencies, most definitely yes. But as a technology provider, Amadeus also provides technology to support provider websites, meta- search sites and a whole host of other Internet travel applications. We welcome competition into the marketplace as a competitive market is a key driver for creativity and the generation of new and better solutions. However, so far we have not seen a significant impact from GDS alternatives.
What alternative modes of distribution pose the greatest threat to the GDS?
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The shift to direct distribution -- especially through provider websites -- is a clear trend. However, it is worth putting into context. Travel management companies and corporations see clear value in being able to access the content they need from one single source. The more content is separated into distinct channels, the more fragmented it becomes, the higher the cost to those buying travel, especially corporate travel. Therefore there is even greater need for an intermediary which can aggregate the content into one place where it can be compared and booked.
Technology should simplify the lives of travel agents and travel managers -- not make it more complex. It is not our place to dictate which channel, or channels should prevail -- that is for the market to decide. How is the GDS evolving and what impact will this have on the travel landscape? The growth of the Internet has an interesting implication for travel businesses.
Whereas ten years ago, most travel was booked by a highly-trained travel agent, nowadays an increasing amount of travel is booked by consumers. Consumers are much less efficient bookers of travel. The challenge for travel businesses is that all this activity on their website, as well as reservations systems, generates a cost. In Amadeus processed approximately 25 transactions for each booking. Currently, we are processing transactions for each booking. Breaking Travel News caught up with Michael Blunt, Vice-President Corporate Communications, oneworld to discuss new member additions planned for and the benefits that the rapidly expanding network will bring to passengers.
You are admitting three new members, what will this mean for oneworld? The addition of these three airlines will substantially expand oneworld's network offering. With the other airlines joining the alliance in as affiliates - Dragonair, LAN Argentina and LAN Ecuador -- they will add almost new destinations to our network, giving us around overall, and increase our daily departures by more than a 1,, giving well over 9, a day.
All three new members offer excellent networks in parts of the world where demand for travel - particularly business travel - are strong. Their addition will not change one crucial point about oneworld, however. As an alliance, we are fiercely proud of the quality of our members - and these three recruits all offer customer service quality to match what our existing members offer. What are some of the biggest challenges in linking in the three new carriers? Bringing any airline on board any alliance is a complicated project. For oneworld we believe it is more demanding than for some of our competitors, because we insist that any new recruit must be able to offer the alliance's full range of services and benefits from the minute it joins.
That means linking up scores of IT systems, training thousands of employees, changing dozens of processes and procedures and so on. What will they bring to the oneworld picture? Dragonair will enable oneworld to continue to lead in China. In Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific we are the only alliance to have had a Chinese member since the day we launched. The two additional LAN affiliates will strengthen oneworld's position still further as the only alliance with a member airline from the Americas south of Mexico.
How do you maintain standards across the alliance? Each of our member airlines compete predominantly in different market places and offer what they consider to be competitive services and products in their own market. Apart from anything else, it would not make sense to have exactly the same product and service offerings across all of our member airlines in all markets.
For instance, there's no call for long- haul First Class flat beds on Finnish domestic flights! We believe that our members offer the best in each of those markets - and that tends to be reflected in the various industry award schemes. You are the only alliance with a South American airline. Does that make you significantly stronger? There are other regions where we would like to strengthen our presence, including India. Sites are reportedly fed up with being bombarded with false reviews that offer unreliable opinions. According to Priceline's Jeff Boyd, individuals are paid a fee to post false reviews that makes a certain property look good or bad accordingly.
The company's board of directors has approved the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter. Trump plans billion dollar Dom. The 30,acre project, located adjacent to the Punta Cana International Airport, will offer more than 5, residential units and four luxury hotels, three Jack Nicklaus- designed golf courses and a marina. The first phase will be developed over a span of 12 years. New Orleans tourism soars for Mardi Gras Mardi Gras celebrations, the second since Hurricane Katrina, are booming according to research by Travelocity.
The travel portal reported a 75 percent increase in air travel to New Orleans for the week's carnival festivities, compared to the same period A total of 90 percent of the hotel rooms are now operational in the U. The airline's board has yet to make a decision about who will replace him. The acquisition of these aircraft will help Delta meet its network and operational needs, allowing us to provide services to the places where customers most want to travel. You have been cutting domestic capacity while expanding international capacity, why have you been pursuing this strategy?
Increasing the size and scope of our international network is a vital part of our plan to return to profitability. The strategic redeployment of our existing fleet of aircraft has enabled us to strengthen our position as the leading global carrier across the Atlantic without the purchase of a single aircraft. In we added more than 50 new international routes. In on the transatlantic we will be adding new services from the U. The industry is seeing double-digit growth rates in the regions of the world where we are expanding. Why did you decide not to combine with US Airways?
We believed that a Delta-US Airways merger was not the right move forward and we have always supported a plan to emerge as a standalone company. Is there the potential for Delta to combine with another airline once it exits bankruptcy protection? We will continue to keep an eye on our competitors, including the possibilities of consolidation within our industry. Delta remains on course to emerge as a strong, competitive, independent airline. What does it mean to you winning a number of World Travel Awards?
The recognition we are receiving from our customers and peers is such a positive endorsement of all the changes that Delta has been making over the past year. The World Travel Awards celebrate what is best within the industry and we were extremely pleased to have been nominated and then to have won awards in so many of these categories.
Jamaica secured new calls from Queen Mary 2, Norwegian Jewel, Costa Magica and Freedom of the Seas in and all indicators point to the cruise lines sustaining their level of interest in the island. A second terminal building and extensive retail and entertainment facilities are also part of the expansion. Presently, cruise ships longer than feet dock in Montego Bay with the support of a breasting dolphin which was constructed to meet the ship call demands until the expansion is complete. Jamaica welcomed 1,, cruise passengers last year, representing a More casinos are scheduled to open this year.
Macao attracted 22 million visitors last year, an increase of 17 percent from , led by about 12 million visitors from mainland China. The resort is also providing a discount on greens fees at the championship hole Barbados Golf Club. Rocketseed has one solution, where all e-mail from a company can carry corporate branding at the top and disclaimers at the bottom. It embeds interactive links that can connect recipients to special offers, information, or video clips. E-mail can also contain a link to a customer satisfaction survey. Its solutions are already being used by the travel industry as a means to cross- sell, up-sell, survey and gain behavioural insights into an existing client.
Breaking Travel News caught up with Philip Williams, managing director of Rocketseed to find out how we can make our emails smarter: What kind of opportunities are you offering travel businesses? We are a new business in the UK. We offer an e-mail marketing solution that uses everyday e-mails sent by people.
It is a very new technology area and is being used by customers in this sector in South Africa and elsewhere. How does the product work? We provide a marketing technology that allows businesses to combine everyday e-mails with business components. I always say it is a bit like turning a black and white TV into a high definition colour TV.
What that means is that we have things such as a business card at the bottom of the e-mail. We will add a disclaimer statement, which is very important legally. We can add images, which can contain clickable links. These can be very subtle, but fundamentally you allow people to click through on these links so they can interact with the message you are presenting them and offer feedback. We have about customers globally including Avis, Cape Grace and Q hotels.
Take Q Hotels as an example. They have a lot of hotels and Rocketseed enabled e-mail to generate business traffic to their website. They have been very successful with click-through rates of between five and 20 percent, and have driven a lot of traffic to their website which has enabled them to promote new hotels. How does the monitoring function work? Rocketseed can track automatically who has sent that e-mail, who received that e-mail and which link they click through on. That information is delivered within seconds to the user, through a web enabled interface. Who manages it within a company?
We also work very closely with IT to make sure that the IT business is on board as well.
And it has now become the dominant method of e-marketing. A total of 16 percent of European businesses now spend at least 20 percent of their marketing budgets on electronic activities, according to Rocketseed, who specialise in intelligent business e-mail. Its nine themed villas are individually decorated and inspired by themes such as 'Cleopatra' and ' Nights', each villa features a Jacuzzi, garden and swimming pool, and overlooks the Red Sea.
What new developments are planned for Sharm El Sheikh? In terms of hotel inventory, 20, hotel rooms will be added, and a number of new shopping centres, such as the Mercato complex that will feature name brands. A number of restaurants and bars, including a Bar Latino, are also going to be built over the next two years. How are you promoting these new developments? We are trying to push the new branding for Sharm El Sheikh by analysing all the problems we have had in the past and looking for a solution for them.
We are aiming to create a new brand that is one of the top five destinations worldwide for holiday-makers. What kind of visitors are you looking to attract with the new brand? Our main guests are currently the Russians and the British. Now the Germans are starting to come back to Sharm El Sheikh.
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The Italians are still visiting, although not as much as before, but that will increase in the summer because they like the heat. We have a lot of Belgian, Dutch and Spanish visitors too. What benefits have the new villa developments bought to the Savoy? The villas are tremendous, they really are. I am very proud of them and everybody who sees them say they have not seen anything like it -- they cater for all tastes.
What was the thinking behind the S-Class package? The S-Class package is an all- inclusive luxury holiday package that we are making available to our guests so they do not have to put their hands in their pockets throughout their entire stay.
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It includes everything from eating in five-star restaurants, drinking in a choice of six bars, laundry services, diving facilities, water sports, or spa treatments. It has proven very successful and we have had excellent feedback so far. What will be on your agenda for ? We need to keep up with the development of the Savoy website as we are looking to improve our online bookings - we believe this is the future.
We are developing a new online booking facility and looking to double our online bookings in the next year or two. And the award- winning five-star resort looks set for another bumper year. Ask The World combines this cutting-edge technology with sound experience to establish the so-called TravelBots in the travel industry. TravelBots, now cover a number of destinations around the world -- each one specifically designed to give detailed information on accommodation, flights, entertainment and tourist information.
The TravelBot answers questions in natural language, giving customers the information they seek, for a fraction of the cost of human interaction. TravelBots provide the right answers to questions or directs you to online sources from which information can be gathered. Using a sophisticated pattern recognition system, TravelBots are able to process natural language, making your online information more accessible to a wider audience. Destination information is organised in the same way that a human deals with language -- keeping vast vocabularies organised and cross- referenced with words and phrases that mean similar things.
This allows the TravelBot to answer a multitude of question, whichever way they are phrased, without the need to write specific answers for every single question that may ever be asked. The TravelBot gives the sensation of communicating with a 'real' person who understands the context of your questions. You can even hold entire conversations -- a feature that makes this concept unique.
It can also be integrated into websites with animation and voice recognition, as well as text-to-speech. And it costs less than ten US cents for each question asked, compared to at least five dollars for a call centre enquiry. Currently operating in Europe, Asia and the United States, the TravelBot allows an unlimited number of concurrent conversations to take place -- the largest clients are having over 25, conversations per day in 13 languages.
Developed over nine years, Creative Virtual retain the position as a leading provider of Virtual Interactive Assistant solutions. To find out more about how Ask The World TravelBots can improve your customer service while helping you to cut down costs, visit www. Feedback If you need help or have a question for Customer Service, contact us. Would you like to report poor quality or formatting in this book?
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