How do Yelp filter out the bad reviews? [video]

You may remember I recently posted an interview with a friend who is working for Yelp, and we discussed their review product and how hoteliers can manage their online reputation.  This got me thinking – it’s a big claim when any review site tells you that their reviews are genuine.  But how do companies filter out the bad or potentially fake ones?

The team at Yelp pointed me in the direction of this video, which explains what their own technology does to keep their reviews as honest as possible.  Yelp uses sophisticated software to sift through the more than 42 million reviews contributed to date to find the most reliable and helpful ones.  They also go as far as identifying those reviews that they believe are being added by businesses themselves and automatically filter them out.

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Think Travel with Google – video conference clips [video]

I stumbled upon these two videos uploaded to YouTube over the last few days from a travel/internet conference in South America “Think Travel with Google”.  The first has a speaker, Lothaire Ruellan from Google discussing analytics and data for travel, the second on where Google fits into travel by the CEO of The Futures Agency.  Really interesting viewpoints and information.

1. Lothaire Ruellan discussing Google analytics with a slant on RailEurope

2. Gerd Leonhard discussing where travel fits into the Google world

The world of distribution…. through the eyes of Pegasus [video]

As you probably noticed, I haven’t been uploading many blog posts this year, but I still receive many emails from hoteliers who are confused by how they can distribute their hotel in an ever growing and complex network of travel channels.  In fact, over the last two weeks, I counted 26 individual questions posed to me via Twitter and email on this very topic.  What each query had in common, started as a very simple question, with an often complex answer.  How does distribution work, and how can I get my hotel into as many channels as possible, yet still control my rates and reputation.  

It’s a good question and there are many distribution companies and services out there to help you.  But to deal with the first question, you need to understand the various channels and possibilities.  For instance, for a hotelier it is not just a case of building a great brand.com website and sitting back for the bookings to flood in.  Sure, you want to get as much business direct and if things are going well, this channel will make up a high proportion of your bookings.  But hoteliers more and more need to have their property seen on online travel agency websites, metasearch sites such as Kayak, and through the travel agency channel reached via the GDS companies.

I saw a press release this morning from one such distribution expert, Pegasus Solutions, who were launching their brand new website.  I happened to stumble across a new video they have posted, which explains distribution channels and what they offer hotels.  I do not promote companies via my blog, so apologies for the rather ‘Pegasus is amazing’ style video, but I wanted to share with you in any case, as it will help visually explain distribution channels and what a company like Pegasus could do to help you.

I hope you find it useful.

Mercure: 40 years, 40 days of surprises

logo-mercureNice idea this (although maybe a little lost amongst the fantastic social marketing campaign all over the internet today from British Airways – see #racetheplane) – to celebrate the brand’s 40th anniversary, Mercure hotels have planned 40 days of festive, exclusive, unexpected and locally inspired celebratory events that will “enchant their guests, both young and old alike”.

All the countries where Mercure operates in are getting ready to celebrate, from Rio to Moscow, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle East.  In the UK, the leading midscale hotel brand is reviving classic retro dishes with a modern twist for guests to enjoy. The limited edition £19.73 set menu and ’40 Minute Happy Hour’ drinks which include 1970s-inspired cocktails will launch on 24th September and is available in select hotels across the Mercure UK network.

The trip down gastronomic memory lane includes Prawn Cocktail, parma ham with melon and mushroom vol-au-vents are followed tournedos rossini of filet mignon, brioche crouon, served with pan-fried foie gras, truffle and madeira reduction, or duck a l’orange, and finished off with tempting desserts including Black Forest Gateau served with cherries jubilee and popping candy and the classic Arctic Roll served with a jelly macaroon and lemon sherbert are just some of the quintessential dishes appearing on the limited edition menu. The 1973-inspired menu and happy 40-minute cocktail offer are available at participating hotels for up to 40 days from 16th September until 25th October.

Surprises will be different in each country.  For example, at the Mercure Abu Dhabi, a special anniversary menu will be on offer so guests can sample a local specialty, Camel Blanquette. In Brazil, all the Mercure hotels will be offering an exclusive 40% discount during the celebratory period.  A guidebook presenting the 40 best locations in Latin America will also be published and given to customers on the occasion, encouraging them to discover the region and its treasures. In Germany, hotels will serve a special menu comprising traditional German beer and a huge open-top sandwich for €4,40. In China, over 40 days, the Mercure Chengdu will offer all guests born in 1973 a free dinner.

Let me know if you sample any of the surprises!

Inside Yelp – how should hoteliers manage their online reputation? [interview]

Yelp LogoA few weeks ago I learnt that someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing over the last few years through EyeForTravel, has moved roles and joined a company that’s always intrigued me – Yelp.  Rosie Akenhead had a key role in organising many of the EyeForTravel events, including the fantastic Travel Distribution Summit, from which so many stories have been derived for my blog.  I was keen to talk to Rosie about her new role and get an insiders view of Yelp to see what I could learn from the experts about how hoteliers should be working with Yelp and managing their online reputation.

I’m sure you have already heard of, or even use, Yelp.  But by way of background, Yelp is one of the biggest consumer review and recommendation sites on the internet, with an average of 108 Million unique monthly visitors and a total of 42 million local reviews contributed as of the end of Q2 2013.  Founded in 2004 in San Francisco to help people find great local businesses, Yelp provides a platform on which to share what’s, good, great and not-so great about local businesses – from hotels, restaurants, shops and local services to spas, mechanics, pet groomers and health professionals. The following transcript is an interview with Rosie Akenhead, Manager of Local Business Outreach, UK,  who shares with us some key tips for hoteliers looking to navigate the online world of reviews

Q: Tell us more about Yelp

A: Yelp, in a nutshell, is a site and mobile application that connects people with great local businesses – anything from hotels, restaurants, bars and spas to dog groomers, mechanics, even dentists!

The Yelp community is made up of engaged locals who connect online and off, to share their opinions about local businesses, and have written more than 42 million rich, local reviews to date. With an average of 108 million monthly unique visitors in Q2 2013, Yelp is the leading local guide for word-of-mouth recommendations.

This video from the owners of Avo Hotel in Dalston, London, helps explain how businesses fit into the mix at Yelp:

Q: Tell us about your new role, and what your objectives are as you begin working for the company.

A: I’m the Manager of Local Business Outreach for Yelp here in the UK and Ireland.  In plain English, that means I help educate local businesses, including hotels, about how to use the free suite of tools Yelp provides business owners, and how to manage their reputation online.

Yelp ImageQ:Did you use Yelp before you started your role, if so, what were your primary uses?

A: I did indeed.  Before Yelp, I was working for a travel trade publication, so I was always using it as a resource for good local businesses to test out when I was in a place I didn’t know so well. What’s different now? I use it all the time to wow friends and family with my great choice of cool hangouts and suggestions of places to check out right in my backyard!  It hasn’t let me down yet.

Even before I took the job at Yelp, I mainly posted reviews where I had an ‘average’ to ‘great’ experience and wanted to share it with others. I think that feeling must resonate with other reviewers, since nearly 80% of our reviews are three stars or above on a five star scale (a fact which certainly surprises most hoteliers).

Q: How strong and how widely used is Yelp in the UK?  Strongest markets?

A: Yelp was born and bred in San Francisco, USA.  We now have people working for Yelp in over 100 cities in 22 countries across the world.  We have Community Managers in 7 cities in the UK and Ireland (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin) whose role it is to interact with Yelp users and business owners in that city, and provide opportunities to connect them to each other.

With the acquisition of our European competitor, Qype, last year, Yelp’s presence on this side of the pond is going from strength to strength as we move forward with integrating the two companies to create a single platform under the Yelp brand. We’re seeing consistent growth in all our European communities.

Q: Hotels are forever being told they have to manage online reputation – how does this fit with Yelp?

A: Having worked in travel and hospitality for four years prior to my time at Yelp, I know for certain that hoteliers already know that that they need to manage their online reputation. That’s obvious. Most have made efforts to better monitor their presence online in one way or another. Yelp is a key place for hoteliers to have a presence, and this can be done relatively quickly and free of charge.

The guidelines that we set out for businesses are to a) make sure you claim your listing, b) fill out your profile and c) make sure you take the time to respond to reviews either privately or publicly.

Managing your reputation online starts with ensuring consumers can find the right information about you, wherever they look. The conversations you then have with those consumers helps build their trust and awareness of your hotel. Consumers are already looking for local businesses on Yelp, and research has shown that the information they find drives them to a purchase decision, so hoteliers need to make sure they are a viable option when they are searching in their hotel’s area by claiming their page and making sure the information is up to date, correct and complete.

I’d say one of the best steps for hoteliers to make is to respond to reviews (which you can do privately or publicly on Yelp) and start conversations with customers past, present and future.

Q: What steps should a hotelier take to have visibility of their content on Yelp, and how should they go about managing their reputation?  Are there costs?

A: As mentioned previously, the first step really should be claiming their business page on Yelp. It only takes a few minutes to claim the page and set up an account and is completely free (honestly, it is, no catches).

I always say to people, you need to claim your Yelp listing! All it means is you are optimising a channel whereby a different set of educated, affluent customers can find you and do business with you directly. Having a listing with photos, full contact information including your website and telephone number, is an easy way to improve the number of people doing business with you.

Yelp Image 2Q: Is a hotel automatically included in search results of Yelp, or does the hotel need to add themselves to your service?

A: Most hotels are already listed on Yelp, and if a hotel is not listed, it is a very simple and quick process to add the business from the Yelp mobile app or the website. To check, simply type in your business name and location at www.yelp.co.uk. Once created, the place to claim and set-up your business account is here: www.biz.yelp.co.uk

Most people are quite surprised to find that their business is already listed, has reviews and that people are viewing that page every day.

Q: Can you give us some stats please?

A: On top of the 108 Million unique visitors to Yelp every month and the 42 Million reviews submitted to date, it is also worth noting that our mobile app is used on 10.4 million unique mobile devices every month, and every second a consumer generates directions to or calls a local business from the Yelp app.

Also, 59% of all searches on Yelp came from mobile web or our mobile app combined, highlighting further just how many people are searching for information whilst on the move. What does this mean for hoteliers? People are looking for instant information, instant resources and a place to stay and spend money.  if they can’t find it, they’ll turn somewhere else.

Q: Will Yelp look at becoming a hotel booking application in the future?

A: I think it’s important to initially state that Yelp is, first and foremost, always about the customer’’s experience.  We seek to show them authentic, honestly reviewed local businesses which they can trust, and that remains core to Yelp’s DNA.

We do have an API facility available for hoteliers.  This can be implemented in a number of ways from within your own website or mobile app to help highlight the great local businesses in the vicinity of your hotel, whether that be restaurants, shopping districts, services or the nearest theatre box office.

We’re always looking to improve the consumer experience and make Yelp as helpful as possible, so keep an eye out for future updates!

Many thanks to Rosie for sharing with us just how hoteliers can manage their online reputation with Yelp and some great stats.

If you have any questions or comments, please do leave them at the end of this post.

IHG announce interim financial results 2013

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC Chief Financial Officer, Tom Singer, reviews the company’s half year results for 2013

Accor UK hotels get free Wi-Fi [victory for the traveller!]

accor-sa-logoJust the kind of news I like to see hitting my inbox, after all, you know how much I hate paying for Wi-Fi in hotels.  Accor, the name behind brands such as Ibis, Mercure and Novotel, have announced that they are to offer free Wi-Fi across 194 properties in the UK.

Accor will be officially rolling out free Wi-Fi in all Ibis budget, Ibis, Ibis Styles, Novotel, Mercure, Pullman and MGallery hotels in the UK, most importantly incorporating all bedrooms and public areas.  When I saw the announcement I did wonder if it would include bedrooms (as so many chains have led with similar PR exercises, but only provided coverage in reception) so this is good to see.

The service will provide visitors at Accor hotels, including 59 Ibis hotels, 76 Mercure hotels and 31 Novotel branded hotels, with access to free, high quality Wi-Fi throughout their stay, with many hotels offering the fibre optic Wi-Fi to guarantee the best possible service.  Guests will be able to access free Wi-Fi in bedrooms, meeting rooms and all public areas of the hotel.

Accor go on to say that this initiative is in-line with their wider commitment to emphasising guest satisfaction for both business and leisure customers and follows industry research from the BDRC highlighting the significance of free Wi-Fi for hotel guests (they could have just asked me).  Recent figures revealed that free Wi-Fi throughout hotels is the most important factor for business travellers when choosing where to stay. Demand for high quality, free Wi-Fi has been boosted in recent years by the increased use of connected devices such as tablets.

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director of Accor UK & Ireland explains, “Free Wi-Fi has become the norm at many coffee houses or bars but in the past with hotel groups it can vary from property to property, and differ between the public areas to bedrooms. We recognise that guests expect to have free Wi-Fi wherever they are in the hotel and for it to be a quick, high quality connection.

This is why we invested across all our brands in the UK in super, fibre-optic Wi-Fi so that guests can use smartphones, tablets, laptops – whatever technology device – at ease, anywhere in the hotel and for no charge.”

Now the small print (but in line with what you’d expect) – the hotels will offer free Wi-Fi to 512k, which allows guest to browse the Internet and check emails at an efficient speed.  Premium high speed Wi-Fi is available to buy in many properties using fibre optic Internet, ideal for data streaming.

Will the other global chains now follow suit?

Room 77 grabs $30M investment from Expedia

room77_logo_rgbHotel metasearch engine Room 77 announced last night that it has closed $30.3 million in Series C financing with participation from a brand new investor Expedia.  The company’s existing investors also participated, including Sutter Hill Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Concur Technologies, Felicis Ventures as well as Expedia’s founder Rich Barton, former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford and Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow.  This brings Room 77’s total capital raised to $43.8 million.

As most readers will know, I love the great work that the team behind Room 77 are doing – they are fundamentally challenging the way consumers search and shop for hotels and instantly search hundreds of travel sites at once to find the best hotel at the best price.  The company combine this with some great technology to enable a unique shopping experience (see previous posts here).  Since launching its hotel metasearch platform a year ago, Room 77 bookings and revenue have accelerated dramatically.  In the past nine months alone, the company has driven hundreds of thousands of room nights through its marketplace, recording significant month-over-month growth.

By combining fast and comprehensive search technology with unprecedented service, Room 77 claim they are proving it helps users save time and money whilst getting them a great room.  Based on internal analysis of more than five million hotel searches, Room 77 uncovered at least one lower price for travellers in two out of three searches, averaging $72 per stay.  The real asset to me is Room 77’s “Room Concierge” service, which leverages the company’s proprietary room data, such as blueprints and simulated RoomViewSM technology, to help travellers get in a great room when they book through Room 77.

Mobile Room 77

“We believe metasearch is an increasingly important model and complementary to our travel transaction businesses,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer. “The level of innovation and depth of content at Room 77 excites us about its future role in this important customer acquisition channel.”

COO of  Room 77 Kevin Fliess commented: “Room 77 is obsessed with helping travellers uncover the best hotel deal anywhere in one fast and easy search.  Our investors recognize the inherent value of metasearch and the importance of rapid innovation in this category, and we’re delighted to welcome Expedia, Inc. to this esteemed group. As recent events in this category demonstrate, hotel metasearch represents a massive market and huge global opportunity. This round will only help Room 77 grow our marketplace to help travellers around the world find great hotel deals which, in turn, drive incremental business and revenue to our hotel and travel agency partners.”

Room 77 expects to use the additional capital to grow its team with top talent; expand into new markets; increase investment in product; engineering and room-level content; and step up its marketing efforts to build a world-class brand.

When I first heard the news I immediately thought that Expedia were on the way to buying the company, or more to the point, buying the technology that Room 77 have built their business on, after all  their search is far superior.  But I was somewhat pleased to read that Expedia do not hold a majority stake in Room 77 and the company is retained by founder Brad Gerstner.  Congratulations Room 77 – we look forward to seeing what 2013 brings!

Let the online travel fun really begin – Expedia pays $632 million for majority stake in Trivago

ExpediaTrivagoExpedia gave the online travel world some exciting news before Christmas, announcing their entry into a definitive agreement to acquire a 61.6% equity position in Trivago for total consideration of €477 million (approximately US$632 million) including €434 million in cash as well as €43 million in Expedia, Inc. common stock. Expedia, Inc. expects the deal to be accretive to adjusted earnings per share in 2013.  Trivago are a leading metasearch company headquartered in Dusseldorf, Germany and this move clearly is a fight back to the other big news Q4 2012 which saw Priceline buy Kayak.  Queue the online travel fight!

Commenting on the acquisition,  Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia President and Cheif Executive Officer said: “The Trivago team built one of the largest, fastest growing and most well known travel sites in Europe conducting more than 100 million hotel searches annually through a culture focused on developing great products, building a strong brand and promoting partners’ businesses. These attributes closely align with our Expedia, Inc. strategy and values and we are thrilled to have them join our portfolio.” 

Founded seven years ago, Trivago quickly grew into a consumer champion for hotel accommodation featuring comprehensive search results from over 600,000 hotels across over 140 booking sites in over 30 countries in 23 languages.  Through its primarily cost-per-click revenue model, Trivago profitably doubled revenue each year since 2008 and currently expects to deliver approximately €100 million in net revenue for 2012.

“We are very excited to join the Expedia, Inc. portfolio and eager to learn from their experience, having built-up some of the world’s most trusted travel brands,” said Rolf Schromgens, Trivago co-founder and Managing Director. “Our passion and focus will remain on independently evolving our comprehensive and individualized hotel search. We will stay committed to our mission: To empower consumers to find their ideal hotel at the lowest possible rates.”

The deal is anticipated to close during the first half of 2013 pending approval from relevant competition authorities.  Post close, the Trivago co-founders and management team will continue to operate independently based out of Trivago’s headquarters in Dusseldorf, Germany – very much as was announced in the Kayak/Priceline deal.

Expedia already house big travel brands such as Hotels.com, Hotwire, Egencia, Venere and Classic Vacations, adding Trivago adds even more power to the hotel side of their business and makes for an interested landscape in giant OTA’s.  On the news, Priceline’s shares were down a fraction and Expedia flat in late trading during that Monday’s trading session.

HEDNA annonce 2013 Board of Directors and Executive Team

ImageProxy.mvcHEDNA (the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) announced its 2013 Board of Directors at their Winter Conference held December 3-5, 2012, at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.  HEDNA are an important association to our industry, especially to those of us involved directly in distribution and is made up of representatives from all over the hotel world, from technology companies and GDS; distribution companies and hotel chains.  So here are some names to watch.  There are three newly elected members of the board:

  • Craig Barnby, Director, Hospitality Solutions Architect, Orbitz Worldwide
  • Mike Carlo, Global Market Leader for Travel, GlobalCollect
  • John Owens, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Pegasus Solutions

Additional Members at Large for 2013 are:

  • Tom Bruno, Director, eDistribution Development and Operations, Marriott International
  • David Cabreza, Director, International Distribution Services, Hilton Worldwide
  • Doug Carr, Executive Director Distribution, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International
  • Cynthia Castillo, Head of Hotel Program & Customer Relationship Travel Services Business Group, Amadeus IT Group S.A.
  • Kevin Furlong, Director of Data Services, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts
  • Linda Kent, SVP, Electronic Distribution, Wyndham Hotel Group
  • Edward Perry, Global Senior Director of Social Media, OTA Partnerships and Innovation Projects, Worldhotels
  • David Revelle, Director of Business Development, DerbySoft
  • Dee Thomas, Vice President – Product Management, Supplier Solutions, Lanyon
  • Rajesh Vohra, Sales and Marketing Director, Sarova Hotels

Retiring from the board are: Louise Meyer, Vice President, Hotels, VFM Leonardo; Sarah Fowler, formerly Strategic Account Director, Pegasus Solutions; and Melanie Ryan Owens, Senior Vice President, Sales, Bankrate, Inc. and formerly with Orbitz Worldwide, who leaves the association after eight years on the board, the past four as President.

HEDNA also announced the Executive Committee for 2013: Rajesh Vohra takes the reins as President of HEDNA’s Board of Directors; Doug Carr was elected Vice President; Edward Perry retains his position as Secretary; and Tom Bruno retains his role as Treasurer.

HEDNA saw a record number of new members in 2012, in addition to enjoying record attendance at the Winter Meeting in Las Vegas. “The strong support of our members has allowed HEDNA to increase its educational offerings, expand outreach, deliver additional networking opportunities, and further strengthen the organization’s strategic vision to be the leading global forum to advance hospitality distribution,” Owens said in her opening remarks.

As she announced the new board and passed the torch to Vohra at the close of the conference, Owens expressed sincere thanks to the HEDNA membership, Board of Directors and the association’s world class staff. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve as President of HEDNA these past four years,” she said. “I am truly thankful for your support and your faith in me to lead this inspiring association.”

As he begins his two-year term as President, Vohra pointed to his previous role as a board member as sound training for the job ahead. “After a very enjoyable and fruitful two years on the HEDNA Board I am delighted and excited to have been elected to lead such an august group of industry leaders.   Melanie has been a wonderful President and will be a truly hard act to follow. The future for HEDNA is very bright, and I look forward to helping shape that future over the next 2 years.”

The future of big data [infographic]

Here follows a very interesting infographic, produced by Online Business Degree all about big data.

The Future of Big Data

Accor continue to grow UK presence with fresh investment [news]

AccorLot’s of news coming out of Accor Hospitality recently, and today we hear that they have entered into agreements to acquire new properties which will become the sites for four new Accor hotels in the UK.  One of the new hotels will be located in London and the others in Edinburgh.

The London hotel, which will be located at Canary Wharf will be owned and managed by Accor as a Novotel, comprising 310 rooms and is due to open by mid 2015.

In Edinburgh an Accor owned and managed hotel will open on St Andrews Square in the second half of 2013.  It will operate as an Ibis Styles and will have 103 rooms with the other two hotels in Edinburgh, which are leased properties, being located at Edinburgh Park and SoCo Edinburgh, a new development in the heart of the old town.  They will also operate under the Ibis brand and will open in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director, Accor UK & Ireland said: “Our investment in these four new hotels, two of which we will own and manage, is another step in our strategy to build on our leadership position and further grow Accor’s presence in the UK. It is also part of our flexible active asset management plan. While we are focused on reducing our portfolio’s capital intensity, we have the financial strength to invest in owned assets, for key locations and flagship hotels for our brands.”
Accor currently operates 188 hotels in the UK and is on target to operate 300 by 2015

Travelodge launch “cosmic night sky panorama” hotel rooms

header_logoI just read the news announced last week by Travelodge that in what they claim to be a UK first, the budget hotel brand has launched a hotel room which features a cosmic ceiling night sky panorama, with the aim to help their customers get a good night’s sleep.

The bespoke night sky room has been created by artistically transforming a standard white ceiling into a cosmic sky which features shooting stars, milky ways and constellations of twinkling stars via a unique paint – which absorbs and retains natural daylight.  During the day the ceiling looks like any standard white room ceiling but as darkness falls the ceiling magically transforms into a cosmic night sky – which cleverly lasts until dawn.  This idea has been created as a direct response from the company’s latest sleep study in which the chain surveyed some 2,000 adults in order to investigate the nation’s most desirable sleeping locations.  Delving a little deeper into the nation’s fascination with stars the study also found that over a half of Britons (52%) think there is something very magical about a starry night (although if quite the same can be said for experiencing this inside a budget hotel room can be achieved, I’ll let you decide).

Shakila Ahmed from Travelodge commented: “As part of our commitment in helping to ensure our customers attain a good night’s sleep, we are constantly looking at innovative sleep aids. Therefore in response to our latest sleep study, which highlighted Britons most desirable place to nod off is under a blanket of stars, we took the challenge and created the ultimate outdoor sleeping experience indoors. Now our customers can gaze into a cosmic night sky of shooting stars, milky ways and constellations of twinkling stars from the comfort of their warm cosy bed.”

Chris Idzikowski, Director of Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said: “This new innovation can help towards attaining a good night’s sleep. The way it works supports our natural sleep / wake cycle. In darkness our brain’s (pineal gland) releases melatonin, the hormone of darkness which supports sleep.  Whilst dawn light is very important for keeping the biological clock ticking to the right time.  The Travelodge night sky room replicates the natural environment which our ancestors would have experienced in the savannah grasslands during the evolution of human sleep patterns.”

Further findings from the sleep study revealed that 28% of British adults would love to sleep under the stars every night because it would help them to nod off easily.  Whilst one in ten Britons would love to transform their bedroom ceiling to a starry night sky so that they can achieve a good night’s sleep.

The Travelodge cosmic night sky panorama hotel room is available at the following hotels:

  • Birmingham Bull Ring Travelodge
  • Blackpool South Shore Travelodge
  • Bournemouth Seafront Travelodge
  • Bristol Central Mitchell Lane Travelodge
  • Cardiff Atlantic Wharf Travelodge
  • Edinburgh Central Waterloo Travelodge
  • Liverpool Strand Travelodge
  • London City Road Travelodge
  • Manchester Central Arena Travelodge
  • Newcastle Central Travelodge
  • Newquay Travelodge
  • Torquay Travelodge

What I find strange is that I have been unable to find or book one of these rooms via the Travelodge website.  I have search for several of the hotels offering these rooms and can find no description of this offering in the general hotel information of in the rooms and rates tabs.  This leads me to wonder if these rooms are avaialble at an extra supplement, and if so, how much.

Please let me know if you experience one of these new rooms, we’d love to hear what you think and how well you slept.  Please leave your feedback in the comments section of this post.

Accor announce new brand organisation structure and reorganises operational teams

logoAccor have today announced a new brand-based organisation of its operations in Europe with the aim of anticipating trends in the hotel sector and strengthening its brands.

Accor pinpoint the reason for these changes as a hotel market that is facing major challenges today with greater segmentation and increasingly specific customer expectations which call for strongly positioned brands – with Accor defining these organisational changes as an opportunity to “reinvent the business model of its brands”.

This new organisation structure concerns Accor’s activities in 15 countries in Western and Central Europe across eight brands: Pullman, MGallery, Mercure, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget, representing some 210,000 rooms and nearly 2,000 hotels.  At the head of each brand or group of brands is a Chief Operating Officer Europe, assisted by a support team reporting to him, dedicated to the brand and comprising expertise in key areas such as marketing, human resources, management control and technical standards. The geographical scope of this organisation structure is divided into four main regions: Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Central Europe and France, with a Brand SVP for each region.

“This organisation structure will enable us to develop first-rate specialists in each market segment and rely on teams that are entirely focused on their brands and have perfect knowledge of both their customers and their competitors”, explains Yann Caillère, President and Chief Operating Officer. “It is also essential to strengthen our relations with our partners and at the same time it will offer new development opportunities to our employees.”

Accor hope that the new organisation structure will deepen relationships exchanges between the nearly 400 franchised owners operating hotels in this region allowing them to be able to have dialogue with the dedicated teams, giving them easier access to the brand manager, and there will be greater opportunities for exchange of best practices between European franchisees.

In the framework of this new brand-based organisation of operations in Europe, the following appointments have been made:

  • Christophe Alaux, Chief Operating Officer, Mercure & MGallery Europe

Christophe Alaux is a graduate of the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris and holds an advanced degree in Management. He began his career in 1990 at PSA Peugeot Citroën as labour relations manager in a production center. From 1994 to 1999, he carried out various missions for Accenture in the field of organization and performance improvement. He then joined Promodès, where he served as Vice President Organization and Human Resources for Continent before joining Carrefour France’s Executive Committee as Vice President Organization, Systems and Supply Chain. After a period as an operating executive at a Carrefour hypermarket, Christophe Alaux was appointed Regional Operating Officer of Carrefour in Shanghai and Zhejiang province in 2005. In 2007, he became Chief Operating Officer and member of the Executive Committee of Carrefour Taiwan. In 2008, Christophe Alaux joined Accor as Chief Operating Officer, Hotels France. He will keep this responsibility within the new organization.

  • Jean-Paul Philippon, Chief Operating Officer, Novotel & Suite Novotel Europe

Jean-Paul Philippon is a graduate of the Clermont Ferrand Hotel School and has a technical diploma in hotel management from the Tarbes Chamber of Commerce. He joined Accor in 1979 as General Manager Novotel Marseille Est before becoming Deputy Director Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Marseille region in 1983. He subsequently served as Regional Director Sofitel and later as Chief Operating Officer Sofitel Europe between 1987 and 1997. In 1998 he was appointed Regional Director, Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure and Northern Latin America and in 2002 became Managing Director of Ibis France. He has served as Chief Operating Officer, Hotels Southern Europe since 2007.

  • Christophe Vanswieten, Chief Operating Officer, Pullman Europe

Christophe Vanswieten is a graduate of the COOVI Hotel Management School in Brussels. He began his career in the Novotel Brussels Airport as F&B manager. He then managed various Novotel hotels in Belgium before being appointed Chief Operating Officer Accor Belgium. He became Chief Operating Officer BeNeLux in 2006. In July 2009, he became Chief Operating Officer, Accor Hotels Benelux, Switzerland and Scandinavia and Director of the All Seasons brand. In 2012, he was Chief Operating Officer BeNelux, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Ireland.

  • Peter Verhoeven, Chief Operating Officer, Ibis brands Europe

Peter Verhoeven holds an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelor’s Degree from the Hotelschool The Hague. He began his career in operations with Golden Tulip International in Ghana and Gran Dorado in the Netherlands. After 10 years with Disneyland Paris in senior leadership roles in Operations, Marketing and Sales, he joined Avis in the United Kingdom as Director of Sales for Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia. In 2007, Peter Verhoeven joined Accor as Managing Director, The Netherlands. He has served as Chief Operating Officer for Accor in Germany since 2009.

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts to open 10 new hotels in Africa over next 3 years

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide have announced they are planning to strengthen their position as a leading international hotel operator in Africa by increasing its portfolio by nearly 30% with 10 new hotels set to open over the next three years, adding more than 4,200 guest rooms to  the continent and creating thousands of local employment opportunities.  Starwood already have 38 hotels, representing more than 10,000 rooms open in Africa and see the latest plans of development as a way to emphasize the importance of the region as one of the world’s  fastest-growing hotel and travel markets.

“Home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, there could not be a better time to expand our footprint in Africa,” said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “From a vastly improving infrastructure, major investments from China, rapid economic growth, rising personal incomes and a growing middle class – we are seeing exciting changes that are driving the African future and we intend to be a part of it.”   

Starwood Expands Africa Footprint

With more than 70% of the world’s economic growth coming from fast-growing markets over the next few years, Starwood is focused on expansion in developing and established African countries such as Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa.  The company is also looking to enter key emerging countries including Angola, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.   As part of this strategy, Starwood is investing in development, sales and the expansion of its Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program in Africa and by the end of this year, Starwood will double its dedicated development team focused on growth in Africa.

By 2015, Starwood plans to have nearly 50 hotels in Africa with new hotels confirmed to open in Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Senegal and Mauritius.  Key highlights include:

  • The debut of Starwood’s ultra-luxury St. Regis Hotels & Resorts brand in the Africa/Indian Ocean region with the opening of The St. Regis Mauritius Resort & Spa,which opened earlier this month. This will be followed by the debut of the St. Regis brand in Egypt with The St. Regis Cairo, scheduled to open in 2014.
  • A new hotel under The Luxury Collection brand in Lagos, marking the introduction of the brand into Nigeria. Starwood currently operates five hotels in the country with three additional hotels slated to open by 2015, making Nigeria Starwood’s largest growth market on the African continent.
  • Further expansion of the company’s well-established Sheraton portfolio in Africa with the opening of three new Sheraton hotels in Dakar (Senegal), Annaba (Algeria) and Tripoli (Libya).
  • Three new Four Points by Sheraton including two in Nigeria and one hotel in Oran, Algeria.
  • A new Le Méridien hotel in Cairo. The acquisition of Le Méridien in 2005 significantly expanded Starwood’s presence in Africa.

In addition to the new hotels in the pipeline, Starwood will re-open three of its African hotels in the next 12 months:  The Grand Mauritian, which will re-open next year after a major renovation; the Sheraton Cairo following a major renovation as part of Sheraton’s global brand enhancement strategy; and the Four Points by Sheraton Tripoli, which closed last year due to political conflict in Libya.

Starwood Supports UNICEF with Pre-School Education Projects in Africa

As part of the Starwood’s global citizenship initiative, they have comitted their on-going guest fundraising efforts for UNICEF through the Check-Out-for-Children program, which launched in 1995.  Last year, the Check Out for Children program celebrated a remarkable milestone with US$25 million raised through guest donations for children since the launch of the program.

In 2011, Starwood and UNICEF joined forces to put a focus on education through UNICEF’s “Schools for Africa” program, supporting quality primary education for more than eight million vulnerable children across 11 Sub-Saharan African countries (Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zimbabwe).

“We believe that every child has the right to go to school. That is why, together with UNICEF, we have chosen to focus on providing children in need with access to education. We are convinced that for these children education is the door that opens opportunities and will enable them to become fully independent members of society,” commented Roeland Vos, President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts for Europe, Africa & Middle East.

Underscoring the importance of the region as one of Starwood’s fastest-growing hotel and travel markets, van Paasschen and seven members of Starwood’s senior executive team are visiting Africa this week.  On the trip, Starwood executives will meet with hotel owners, customers, government officials and investors in Nigeria, Gabon and Angola with the goal to further understand, appreciate and ultimately leverage different cultural perspectives and approaches to business. In Angola, they will visit a UNICEF education project to see first-hand how the funds raised through Starwood’s Check-Out-For-Children program are helping UNICEF to provide these children with a brighter future in life.

InterContinental Park Lane publish the Insider Guide to London

I really love it when I see hotels thinking of great ways to engage with customers and to help them experience what’s right on their doorstep during their stay.  A hotel is always best placed to know all of the unique things to do in and around the properties location, but sometimes spreading this message is the tricky part.  As a hotel, when you do undertake this activity it’s also important to consider your clientèle – recommending a night at the local Bingo when your running a five star boutique hotel is not going to help anyone.  So when I discovered a lovely “Insiders Guide” that’s produced by the team at the InterContinental Park Lane I was really impressed to see just how well they’ve managed to capture London life and produce a quality publication full of ideas reflective of the strong InterContinental brand.  I received the latest publication this week, and it’s a really excellent example of marketing activity.
The Insider Guide to London is the winter edition of this well produced magazine and captures the hotels target market perfectly.  Now in its fourth edition, the Insider offers valuable insight into how readers and guests alike can Live an InterContinental Life here in the capital,  highlighting some of the best activities in town as well as looking forward to 2013.
This Insider includes a special shopping guide to the East End curated by city experts Urban Gentry and a round-up of the most sought after gifts from Ed Burstell, Managing Director of Liberty.  Top UK Food Futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye predicts trends for 2013 while our resident experts share current cocktail ideas, top seasonal recipes and the best of what’s on in London a local perspective.  The edition also features a trip to Bank Farm in Kent, to see where much of our produce is sourced and enjoy a tour of London’s top microbreweries.  Importantly, the publication also adds a personal touch, introducing members of the Park Lane team, giving their own insights into London life.
To promote the publication, the InterContinental Park Lane  has also created additional collateral, such as an insert which is given to guests when they receive their bill in one of our outlets, with key dates, pricing and information on our offerings which also works as a mini Insider guide.  Of course, this may be a very traditional publication in physical print, but the hotel recognise that guests will want to read this in their own time and in their own way, so they have also supported the launch of the Insider through dedicated social media campaigns on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.
Ed Prunell, Area Director of Marketing for London commented “A key priority of InterContinental London Park Lane is to enrich our guests’ experience and help international visitors, and those closer to home, see a new side of London. The Insider is an extension of our expert Concierge team and reflects our location at No.1 Park Lane, which place us perfectly to share our expertise of the city”.
I really love this publication and am really impressed with the high quality production and features, perfect for InterContinental guests.  To take a look for yourself, you can access the Facebook edition by clicking below.

IHG becomes 1st global hotel company to launch Windows 8 app

InterContinental Hotels Group have announced that its Holiday Inn brand has become the first major hotel brand in the world to launch a travel app for Windows 8 – the newest version of the Windows operating platform for PCs and tablets.  We’ve previously explored how important mobile and consumer technology has become in IHG’s growth strategy and picking Holiday Inn, the world’s largest upper midscale hotel brand, seems a sensible brand to kick-off this latest venture.  The new app allows guests to find and book rooms at any Holiday Inn hotel, as well as at the more than 4,500 IHG hotels worldwide, including the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites brands.  Through the app’s tile on the Start screen, guests can directly search for hotels, see property photo galleries and descriptions as well as view existing reservations.  Priority Club® Rewards members also can view their status and check their points balance through the application.

“Holiday Inn has transformed the hospitality industry with its innovative and modern approach to guest services, and has a rich heritage of firsts in the industry, so it was a natural fit for our first app for Windows 8 to be rolled out with this industry-leading brand.  “Developing an easy-to-use e-commerce app furthers our commitment to identifying and leveraging emerging technology to drive satisfaction for our guests, while optimizing revenue delivery for our hotels”  said Michael Menis, vice president, Web and Interactive Marketing, IHG.

The Holiday Inn app can be downloaded free of charge from the Windows Store and builds upon IHG’s existing developments and consumer-facing technology that facilitates guests’ access to e-commerce tools for hotel stays.

Microsoft app developers have always provided rich functionality and value for our shared customers, and Windows 8 gives them the platform to deliver.” said John Richards, senior director of Windows App Marketing for Microsoft Corp “The re-imagining of Windows keeps our app developers ahead of the competition and gives our shared customers flexibility and choice.”

 

The Socialnomics Social Media Video 2013

For regular readers of my blog, you will know that each year I tend to post the latest Social Media Video produced by Socialnomics.  In my opinion, this annually produced video is one of the most powerful ways to explain the influence, reach and usage of social channels with some incredible and hard-hitting facts.  Socialnomics was founded by Erik Qualman with the intent of providing short social stories, statistics, studies and surprises.  I refer to these videos regularly and often share them with people asking me questions about why their hotel should be taking social media seriously.

So, with my thanks as always to Socialnomics, here’s the 2013 video. Enjoy.

Discovering London through a child’s eyes, with the help of The Athenaeum [Hotel Insight Review]

A couple of weeks ago I did something quite special.  I managed to experience London through the eyes of a toddler.  Yes, that’s right, you read correctly.  I will stop being cryptic now and explain what I mean.  My young daughter had never been to London, come to that, had never been on a train, so it was time to introduce her to my favourite city in the world and I was lucky enough to stay at one of my favourite hotels, The Athenaeum.

I stay in a lot of hotels for business, but this short trip was to be special for two reasons.  Firstly, and clearly most importantly, it was my first time taking my daughter to London and I was eager to show her the wonders of what the city had to offer (namely Hamley’s and lots of big red buses).   Secondly, we were staying at The Athenaeum.  Why was I so excited about the later?  Sure, it was a five star hotel on Park Lane, but my excitement came from the incredible reputation this property has for how they look after their young guests, and it was this aspect of the hotel I was so keen to experience for myself.

Sold strongly on the tagline “your home from home”, The Athenaeum is a wonderful 5 star property made up of hotel accommodation and apartments, located on Park Lane.  The hotel offers a huge choice of rooms, luxury suites and townhouse apartments, all with stunning view across to Green Park or Mayfair.  It’s an enviable location within easy reach of top attractions such as Buckingham Palace, Theatreland and of course all of the incredible restaurants and shopping that London has to offer.  I particularly like the map on the hotels website…

I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels with my daughter over the last few years, but have never felt that she was valued as a guest.  Sure, they all provide the necessary items – the cots, the high-chairs  maybe even some colouring if we were lucky.  But I have never felt like she has experienced true hospitality and been made to feel special.  This was a key reason why I was so excited to check-in with The Athenaeum.  I’d heard so much about their child friendly approach that it left me eager to see exactly what they had to offer, especially given that this was a five star, Park Lane hotel.  Being child friendly with that billing isn’t something that is put together and actually works in practise all that often.

So where to start…. well unusually, not at check-in.  Not even at the front door.  Two weeks before my stay, I received an email from the hotel concierge.  Attached was a special questionnaire with lots of questions about the little guest the hotel were about to host.  Questions ranged from favourite television program, most loved characters and favourite food and drinks.  This kind of pre-arrival questionnaire, aimed solely at children’s needs is something I’ve never experienced before and already filled me with confidence about my stay.  Looking at this from a marketing viewpoint rather than service, what better way to create a five star impression before your guests has even checked-in the hotel.

On arrival at the hotel and after a warm and friendly greeting from the doorman (who, if you had to draw a picture of everything a London doorman should be, you’d find right here) we arrived in the hotel lobby.  My daughter,  already excited about our arrival, took it all in, looking expectantly at her new surroundings (maybe she get’s that from her Dad?).  For such a young guest, what really helps is that the hotel is not over imposing.  By this, I mean that a lot of city centre luxury hotels have grand lobby’s, full of polished marble and people busily running around.  Although a sizeable hotel the Athenaeum retains much warmth and friendliness from its design.  Whilst on the topic of design, The Athenaeum is really is a creative space and, well, English.  So many city hotels manage to lose their identity through wild and creative design, but London truly runs through the blood of this property.  Club chairs are upholstered in gentlemen’s tweed and rich velvets… shimmering pearl buttons allude to Cockney Pearly Kings and Queens… with numerous visual elements combine to express the hotel’s unique personality.

Back to our arrival, and our room was ready early.  I’d already hinted that we’d arrive earlier than the 2pm check-in time on my questionnaire and our suite was already prepared.  We were shown to our room, via a wonderfully old and Brasso smelling lift to the third floor.  Our room was lovely.  Spacious without feeling lost, luxurious without worrying about whether little hands could break decorations at any second.  Warm, comfortable and welcoming.  Two plasma televisions, glass framed four poster bed and luxury bathroom complete with a shower a football team could have shared.  All of the rooms are very different, so I’ve included three different designs below for you to see.

But the winning thing here was the attention to detail for the children.  My daughter was presented with her very own “Arthur” teddy bear to keep (an instant hit) and the coffee table was full with activities and things to do.  From Athenaeum branded bird seed, perfect for the park across the road, to sticker books and colours, all with a London theme, my daughter was instantly immersed and feeling at home.

I was also very impressed to hear that the hotel had its very  own toy cupboard, where you were welcome to borrow a bike or scooter so you could make use of the park on the hotels doorstep – what a lovely idea for a city centre hotel.  Unfortunately, rain put paid to that idea, but it was a great service to offer.

Every aspect of hotel life was catered to my daughter.  On returning from dinner in town, our room had been turned down, including my daughters little bed, and a jug of milk and shortbread biscuit, shaped into the logo of the hotel were left on the table. Small eyes lit up immediately  but only to be outdone with the tiny dressing-gown and slippers that had also been left out for her.  We spent the rest of the evening sitting at the floor to ceiling window spotting red London buses and waving to people onboard, drinking our milk.

Sometimes with young children, the eating environment in a hotel can be scary…. will they make a mess or be too noisy?  Will other guests stare at us and tut under their breath?  The restaurant area of the hotel is quite, calm and sophisticated and very upmarket.  This would put dread in some parents!  But because of the shaped seating (I hope you can see from the photo below) you are actually pretty enclosed on your table and this made for a stress free breakfast setting whilst retaining the hotels elegance and design feel.

Whether you travel with children or not, or whether you are reading this as a hotelier as I know many of you will be, the point is simple.  The Athenaeum have provided a high level of attention to detail.  Here, they are focussing on their younger guests, but taking this much time and consideration directly impacts the parents (and the paying guests) too.  The Athenaeum have worked hard to differentiate themselves from the crowded London hotel scene over the last few years through a number of excellent concepts and services.  This could be something like their living wall on the outside of the hotel, or through their Pudding Parlour concept that I blogged about some time ago.  The famous whiskey bar could be another jewel in the crown, or even their latest credit, winning the best afternoon tea awards – a well deserved credit.  All of these actions lead to one thing – extremely happy guests.  It also leads to increased business.  These hotels have positioned their unique brand so well that they are becoming synonymous with luxury and families.  They have clearly targeted a market segment and ensured their product offering is perfect.  They’ve done this excellently in this case and for any parents out there, I can thoroughly recommend The Athenaeum as the perfect London home from home.

As Google Hotel Finder ramps up, what do consumers think functionally?

Google Hotel Finder has been on most of our lips over the last twelve months, as we eagerly (and in some cases, nervously) await to see just how adoption of Google’s latest foray into travel goes.  This week brings about Google’s next phase of the project, opening Google Hotel Finder up to other markets outside of the US.  You can now visit your Google homepage and append /hotels to be taken right into the tool and start searching for hotels all over the world.  Exciting move.

But how will we as an industry measure the success of Google?  Of course, we will look at volumes of unique visits, searches and booking conversions, but what about pure usability?  What do end consumers think of the search process and is it what they have been looking for to rival the service provided by online travel agencies?  Let’s take a look at the tool in more detail.

So first up, we have the welcome page.  A nice idea from Google, and not something you’ll find in traditional online travel websites or chain brand.com websites.  Of course, it’s less needed in the later, but Google choose to start with a welcome and explanation of the tool because it’s new and because they are potentially collating a lot of results – the emphasis is on the power of their search and trying to understand travellers current search pain points.

There are four boxes on the left hand side detailing how you could use the tool.  Firstly, and probably the best part of the tool, is the ability to interact with the search results, displayed on a Google Map to be very specific about your hotel location draw any shaped area to automatically filter results.  Secondly, there is a location search designed so you can look at common tourist areas.  Thirdly, users are able to create a short-list of hotels, particularly useful as Google Hotel Finder will aim to return vast numbers of results and lastly, highlighting that you are able to compare hotel results to get the best value for money.

Then come the results….

For the purposes of this post, I’ve based my search on London.  Interestingly, when I start out with Google Hotel Finder, I’m not asked for any search criteria, only my destination.  This is really unusual in the online search world, but it actually works very well.  Google then take me to their map display, showing pinpoints of all the hotels in the given city, with more detailed hotel descriptions and options listed in a scrollable side panel to the left.  This is working on a principle that we will show the user every possibility, then given them to the chance to strip back the results to exactly what they want.  First of all, you are automatically prompted to enter a date and duration on the calendar.

Each time you apply a search criteria / filter, the results map and hotel listing dynamically update, and we begin to see a customised display.

Next comes the clever bit, and my favourite feature of Google Hotel Finder.  Here is the chance to set a search radius.  The user is no longer governed to search in or around a or attraction, but can actually draw an area over the map results to specifically ask Google to only recommend hotels in that geographic area. You are also not restricted to use a box of circle, you can draw any shape at all to cover any area of the city you wish to view, as shown below.

I really think this a great feature of the tool, especially for large cities that have numerous hotels.  No longer does a traveller have to be price or brand lead.  Sure, many OTA’s and even brand websites utilise map displays, but all tend to rely on a very generic “I want to be in New York” logic rather than being able to specify your very own, unique location demands.

Next, you are able to really start homing in on your perfect hotel by applying a range of filters and criteria, from filtering results by price, star rating (both ascending and descending  user rating, amenities and ‘price compared to usual’.

At any point in the process, you can browse for hotels via the detailed list on the left hand side.  Clicking on  a given hotel will replace your map display with a detailed view of the chosen hotel where you can start to look at photos, general information about the hotel and look at Google’s user-generated content.  You can also start adding hotels to a favourites list so you can flick between properties you are trying to choose between.

In all of my searches, when I try to book, I have no alternative to facilitate my booking with Booking.com and certainly outside the US, I’ve struggled to find over OTA’s where I’m directed to make the booking.  Most hotels also have their brand.com website listed, but a lot of the independent hotels out there are missing this information, so here’s out first action point for the smaller hotels out there.

In fact, a lot of people complain about multinational hotel websites (TripAdvisor springs to mind) saying they can’t get access to their own hotels content or update details.  Google Hotel Finder actually make it very clear how you can do this and ways to improve and add your content – for any hoteliers reading this post, I’d really urge you to take a look at this early and make sure your details are up to date.

This tool really was made for complex city searches… when I tried to plan a trip to New York, I entered the same search on Google Hotel Finder, Booking.com and Expedia – guess which was best to use?

So, functionally as a search tool, I think Google Hotel Finder ticks a lot of the boxes. I’ve been very impressed with the content and usability of the website, especially the map shopping, and for this reason I think it will be a success.  Quite how quickly, I’m not sure as there are lots of ‘quirks’ that need to be ironed out, but this will come in time. One thing’s for sure – Google want to succeed in travel and have invested heavily to do so.  This is one piece of the jigsaw, and we, the hotel community would be naive to close out eyes to it.  Whether we are hoteliers, working in distribution or we are online sellers of hotels, a brand new, free tool like this will have implications for us all.  I include in this statement the word ‘sellers’.  What’s to say that Travel Management Companies don’t start sourcing best available rates with Google Hotel Finder?  Or high street travel agencies and hotel booking agencies?  In fact, at a recent HBAA Technology conference, this notion was being explored.   This tool really does have a proof point for all sectors.  As such, I’ll be writing more posts on Google Hotel Finder shortly, looking at the commercial aspects of the tool and seeing how hotel chains, independents and third-party companies can, and are working with Google in this intriguing new platform.

I’d love to hear what you think of the tool, the project and how you think it will impact the hospitality industry.  Please do leave a comment.  Thanks for listening.

TravelClick wins over 60 awards for hotel web design

I was impressed to learn that representation and distribution solutions company TravelClick have won an incredible total of 63 awards for website design in hotel and lodging categories from the IMA AwardsWebAwards,W3 Awards and Adrian Awards in 2012 – more than any other website development company specializing in the hotel industry.  This seems a very impressive number and something I wanted to share with you for when you’re looking for inspiration or ideas on who to talk to when contemplating how to optimise your hotels website.

TravelClick are one of the leading provider of revenue generating solutions for hoteliers and offer hotels reservation solutions, business intelligence products and media and marketing solutions to help hotels grow their business and are currently helping around 30,000 hotel clients in over 140 countries.

“A hotel’s website is an extension of the property, and a key source of bookings,” said Jason Ewell, senior vice president, e-Commerce for TravelClick, “TravelClick continues to be a leader in developing best-in-breed web properties for hotels, helping them to increase bookings and revenue. This year, TravelClick was recognized over 60 times in the nation’s top website competitions for our superior design and performance.”

I’ve listed the full award winning websites below – there are some great examples and I hope you find this a useful reference point to check out some inspiration and different ways of designing your hotel website.

IMA Awards
Websites Designed by TravelClick That Received Best in Class Awards:

•  Edison Hotel (http://www.edisonhotelcp.com/)

•  Le Blanc (http://www.leblancsparesort.com/)

•  The Rendezvous Hospitality Group (http://www.rendezvoushotels.com/)

•  Sentosa (http://www.thesentosa.com/)

•  Opus (http://vancouver.opushotel.com/)

•  Umstead (http://www.theumstead.com/)

Websites Designed by TravelClick That Received Outstanding Achievement Awards:

•  Makena Beach & Gold Resort (http://www.makenaresortmaui.com/)

•  Turnberry Isle Miami (http://www.turnberryislemiami.com/)

•  Paradise Island Harbour Resort (http://www.paradiseislandbahama.com/)

•  Chandler Inn Hotel (http://www.chandlerinn.com/)

•  Sivory Punta Cana (http://www.sivorypuntacana.com/)

•  Don Hall’s Guesthouse Hotel (http://www.donhallsguesthouse.com/)

•  Sun Palace (http://www.palaceresorts.com/sunpalace/)

•  Hotel Windsor (http://www.thehotelwindsor.com.au/)

•  Puente Romano (http://www.puenteromano.com/)

•  Castello del Nero (http://www.castellodelnero.com/)

•  Titanic Hotels (http://www.titanic.com.tr/)

•  Pacifica Host (http://corporate.pacificahost.com/default-en.html)

•  Blue Doors (http://www.bluedoorshotels.com.co/)

•  Palace Resorts (http://www.palaceresorts.com/)

•  Royal Group (http://www.royalgroup.it/)


Web Awards:
Websites Designed by TravelClick That Received Outstanding Website Awards:

•  The Sentosa (http://www.thesentosa.com)

•  Castello del Nero (http://www.castellodelnero.com/)

•  Amrath Hotels (http://www.amrathhotels.nl/)

•  Umstead Hotel & Spa (http://www.theumstead.com/)

•  Blue Doors Hotel Website (http://www.bluedoorshotels.com.co/)

•  Turnberry Isle Miami (http://www.turnberryislemiami.com/)

Websites Designed by TravelClick That Received Standard of Excellence Awards:

•  Titanic Hotels (http://www.titanic.com.tr/)

•  Royal Group (http://www.royalgroup.it/)

•  Rendezvous Hotels (http://www.rendezvoushotels.com/)

•  Hotel Windsor (http://thehotelwindsor.com.au/)

•  Westbury Hotel (http://www.westburymayfair.com/)

•  Sun Palace (http://www.palaceresorts.com/sunpalace/) 

•  OPUS Hotel Vancouver (http://vancouver.opushotel.com)

•  Le Blanc Spa & Resort (http://www.leblancsparesort.com/)

•  Edison Hotel Website (http://www.edisonhotelcp.com/)

•  SivOry Punta Cana (http://www.sivorypuntacana.com/)

•  Chandler Inn Hotel ( http://www.chandlerinn.com/)

•  Paradise Island Harbour Resort (http://www.paradiseislandbahama.com/)

•  Makena Beach & Golf Resort (http://makenaresortmaui.com)


W3 Awards:
Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Gold Awards:

•  Amrath (http://www.amrathhotels.nl/)

•  Sivory Punta Cana (http://www.sivorypuntacana.com/)

•  Umstead (http://www.theumstead.com/)

Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Silver Awards:

•  Blue Doors (http://www.bluedoorshotels.com.co/)

•  Chandler Inn Hotel (http://www.chandlerinn.com/)

•  Don Hall’s Guesthouse Hotel (http://www.donhallsguesthouse.com/)

•  Edison Hotel (http://www.edisonhotelcp.com/)

•  Le Blanc (http://www.leblancsparesort.com/)

•  Makena Beach & Gold Resort (http://www.makenaresortmaui.com/) 

•  Paradise Island Harbour Resort (http://www.paradiseislandbahama.com/)

•  Puente Romano (http://www.puenteromano.com/)

•  Royal Group (http://www.royalgroup.it/)

•  Sun Palace (http://www.palaceresorts.com/sunpalace/)

•  The Westbury (http://www.westburymayfair.com/)

•  Turnberry Isle Miami (http://www.turnberryislemiami.com/)


ADRIAN Awards
Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Silver Awards:

•  Royal Group (http://www.royalgroup.it/)

•  Kenzi Group (http://www.kenzi-hotels.com/)

•  Crown Hotels (http://www.crownhotels.com.au/)

•  The Westin Leipzig (http://www.westin-leipzig.com/)

Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Bronze Awards:

•  AThe Strand Hotel (http://www.thestrandnyc.com/)

•  Umstead (http://www.theumstead.com/)

Another week, another Accor opening: Mercure opens renovated Landmark hotel in Greenwich

That’s right, my inbox seems to be awash with news from Accor opening new properties, particularly in London.  This one’s certainly worth a mention and consists of a converted RIBA Bronze awarded former police building having been been modelled and opened as the Mercure London Greenwich Hotel, described by the brand as ‘contemporary design’ and ’boutique’.

The hotel joins the rapidly expanding portfolio of Mercure hotels in the UK which now stands at 75 hotels and is an example of Mercure’s ambition to further develop in key cities and London.  Recently renovated, the 145 room hotel has transformed the 1930’s ‘Police House’ with an additional two storey extension at roof level with ‘floor to ceiling’ glass rooms that provide far-reaching views over the city.  The stunning penthouse suite occupies the 9th floor of the extension, offering elegant and spacious accommodation in addition to the vista of the London skyline.  The hotel is situated within a conservation area in Greenwich, providing the perfect location for enjoying its bustling market and shops.  A stone’s throw from world famous tourist attractions, including the Cutty Sark, O2 Arena and Skyline, the hotel is ideally positioned for those looking to escape on weekend breaks.  The bar and restaurant, hosted in the former shooting range of the police building, provide a stylish retreat to recline in after a busy day’s sightseeing.  Equally, the hotel’s proximity to the business hub of Canary Wharf and close transport links to London City Airport make it a convenient choice for business guests, with private meeting room, a fully equipped gym and free WiFi available to all guests plus a world of team building activities within walking distance.

Michael Rebeiro, General Manager at Mercure London Greenwich Hotel commented “Having the opportunity to renovate a previously redundant building – especially one with such history and character – has made this opening really exciting.  Our  hotel is perfect for leisure and business guests with its ideal location and design led renovation.”

Jonathan Sheard, Managing Director for MGallery and Mercure UK & Ireland, added “ This is a fantastic hotel. The way that the building has been designed with so much light and glass really opens up the hotel for guests to experience the local area – a very important aspect of a Mercure hotel. We are very proud of our growth for the Mercure portfolio this year and we will continue to increase it in 2013.”