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 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.


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 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 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 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, 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 (

•  Le Blanc (

•  The Rendezvous Hospitality Group (

•  Sentosa (

•  Opus (

•  Umstead (

Websites Designed by TravelClick That Received Outstanding Achievement Awards:

•  Makena Beach & Gold Resort (

•  Turnberry Isle Miami (

•  Paradise Island Harbour Resort (

•  Chandler Inn Hotel (

•  Sivory Punta Cana (

•  Don Hall’s Guesthouse Hotel (

•  Sun Palace (

•  Hotel Windsor (

•  Puente Romano (

•  Castello del Nero (

•  Titanic Hotels (

•  Pacifica Host (

•  Blue Doors (

•  Palace Resorts (

•  Royal Group (

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

•  The Sentosa (

•  Castello del Nero (

•  Amrath Hotels (

•  Umstead Hotel & Spa (

•  Blue Doors Hotel Website (

•  Turnberry Isle Miami (

Websites Designed by TravelClick That Received Standard of Excellence Awards:

•  Titanic Hotels (

•  Royal Group (

•  Rendezvous Hotels (

•  Hotel Windsor (

•  Westbury Hotel (

•  Sun Palace ( 

•  OPUS Hotel Vancouver (

•  Le Blanc Spa & Resort (

•  Edison Hotel Website (

•  SivOry Punta Cana (

•  Chandler Inn Hotel (

•  Paradise Island Harbour Resort (

•  Makena Beach & Golf Resort (

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

•  Amrath (

•  Sivory Punta Cana (

•  Umstead (

Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Silver Awards:

•  Blue Doors (

•  Chandler Inn Hotel (

•  Don Hall’s Guesthouse Hotel (

•  Edison Hotel (

•  Le Blanc (

•  Makena Beach & Gold Resort ( 

•  Paradise Island Harbour Resort (

•  Puente Romano (

•  Royal Group (

•  Sun Palace (

•  The Westbury (

•  Turnberry Isle Miami (

Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Silver Awards:

•  Royal Group (

•  Kenzi Group (

•  Crown Hotels (

•  The Westin Leipzig (

Websites designed by TravelClick That Received Bronze Awards:

•  AThe Strand Hotel (

•  Umstead (

Pegasus evolves Utell into Pegasus Connect

Some hotel distribution news for you – Pegasus Solutions has evolved Utell into Pegasus Connect. The new offering combines Pegasus’ powerful distribution, booking and business intelligence solutions with Utell marketing-related services.

“In the time that I’ve led Pegasus, I’ve had many meetings with hotels and brands around the world,” said David Millili, chief executive officer of Pegasus Solutions. “One consistent theme I’ve heard from independents, groups, and chains alike is that they all need help driving guest room demand and sales. Aligning our impressive range of hospitality solutions as logical tiered packages under Pegasus Connect benefits hotels, allowing them to identify and use only the services they need without being expected to keep track of an encyclopedia of sales solutions.”

Pegasus Connect is being offered at three levels.  Pegasus Connect delivers affordable connectivity to the global distribution systems (GDSs). Pegasus Connect Gold combines this foundational distribution with connection to TravelSky in China and more than a thousand online channels.  It also includes PegasusView Market Performance business intelligence, a new monthly reporting product augmenting global data provided quarterly in The Pegasus View.  At this level, hotels will also tap into the OpenView booking engine, a customised tool to engage guests on the hotel’s website, as well as sales consulting and improved access to and representation with the travel consortia.  Finally, Pegasus Connect Premium builds on Pegasus Connect Gold with the addition of a mobile site developed using Open Hospitality’s OpenFlex with responsive design, along with additional sales support targeting three sources of demand business from corporate buyers or Travel Management Companies (TMCs).

“Pegasus Connect allows hotels to simply make a property available on the GDS and through online channels at an affordable price if that is all that is needed, or to upgrade to another level to create new ways to drive business,” added Millili. “This extends from identifying sales opportunities in the local market and making the brand website work harder, to delivering access to corporate buyers around the world to fill the gaps in the sales channel.”

Pegasus currently provides connectivity to nearly 100,000 hotels globally.

Is Hipmunk one of the cleverest online travel companies in the world?

Yes… I think they could well be.  If they are not, they certainly will be very soon.  What do I mean by clever?  Well I talk a lot and openly criticise a lot of travel brands selling online travel in very boring and unhelpful ways.  Travel should be passionate, that’s what I believe in any case.  Travel shopping should be inspirational, fun and easy.  Choosing the perfect hotel for example should be a pleasurable experience, after all, it’s going to be the place you kick back and relax and enjoy your time.  But more often that not, I find OTA’s all offering the same shopping experience – enter a city, date and duration and pick a hotel from a list of 200 options.  This is not a shopping experience.  This is not helpful.  This is not enjoyable.  Most importantly, this zaps the life out of me when I should be inspired and happy that I’m booking my hotel of trip.

Hipmunk is a remarkable new travel search site that aims to take the agony out of travel planning.  Their website is designed to help people who are overwhelmed with pages of irrelevant search results – something I find myself with every time I use an OTA – flight results are presented in a visual “timeline” that allows people to select the best flight for them at a glance, and hotel results are shown on a map so that people can view where in a destination they will be staying and the landmarks near them.  Hipmunk also have a business travel planning service in beta which could revolutionise the self booking tool approach.  Imagine having your search results embedded over a copy of your Outlook calendar – pretty cool, hu?

“At Hipmunk, we want to make your experience a lot better and put the fun back into travel planning”.

The following video will gives a great overview:

So why am I writing about Hipmunk?  Simply because they are different.  Because they have opened their eyes and not just copied the masses – innovation springs to mind.  They haven’t looked at travel and joined the thousands on online travel agencies and tried to sell flights and hotels as quickly as possible, simply plugging in content and forgetting user experience.  They have looked at people’s existing pain points and decided to make travel shopping fun.  From using price graph searches for air fares (so you can see where a price changes) to the great Google Map based hotel search with fully integrated TripAdvisor review scores and price banding, you will enjoy the shopping experience of using Hipmunk.  Check out the usability of the hotel search results – especially the “heat maps” function – instantly guiding a user to the right area of a city, for example landmarks, restaurants etc.

I really am impressed with the usability and true shopping experience of Hipmunk.  They have got search spot on.  Why do I want to go to an OTA and be overwhelmed with irrelevant search results?  I want to choose the results my self, and Hipmunk let me.  Why do I want to read glossy marketing text the hotels written?  I don’t – and Hipmunk how me the TripAdvisor Reviews instead.  The list goes on. I’m left excited by online travel search for the first time in a long time.  Excited about what they will bring next.  Check it out today.

Taking hotel search to a whole new level – how Room 77 create an online shopping experience all of their own [with Interview]

With so many online travel agencies selling hotel content to the public, along with hotel chains own websites, it always strikes me that very few actually provide a true and enjoyable shopping experience.  To me, I find this very strange.  When you think about all of the travel related products you need to purchase to book your travel arrangements, the hotel part should be the most interesting, and the part the consumer spends the longest choosing (they should also find this a pleasure!).  Personally, I can’t get excited about browsing the web for hundreds of different air fares, car rental deals or insurance.  They are all essential parts of my holiday or business trip, but the hotel is by far the most important.  It’s has to be the place that I want to spend my precious vacation time at, to sleep at, to eat at – to recover in even!  It has to fit all my requirements.  Because of this notion, I find it bewildering that so many OTA’s don’t deliver what I would call a shopping experience to their consumers.

Since the beginning of time (well, when OTA’s started to appear at least), a hotel shopping process has been the same.  Enter a destination, stay dates and then choose from a list of hotels which you want to go to.  Hardly inspiring.  Enter Room 77.

That’s why I am so impressed with a relatively new company called Room 77.  I urge you to pick your destination and give Room 77 a try – this is a true hotel shopping experience.  You’ll see what I mean.  Their focus is on search – to summarise, you don’t just pick a hotel and hope for the best, you can actually get the view from each floor of the property, and even each room number, so you can pick the perfect bedroom for you!  Of course, they also incorporate the more traditional decision making tools – TripAdvisor, Google Maps etc.

Beyond these advances shopping techniques, the key to what’s different about Room 77 is their focus on bringing some transparency back into the market and building a product that best serves the needs of the traveler first (something so many OTA’s and direct chain websites forget completely).  At the very start, they spent the time talking to people about their hotel shopping experience and looked at the market in front of them.  Unsurprisingly, Room 77 kept encountering poor user experiences and a general disregard for doing what was in the traveler’s interest.  This was to be the basis for what followed on their own product.

I was lucky enough to interview Roger Wong, Room 77’s Director of Marketing.  Our conversation is shared below:

Q: How did Room 77 begin and what’s the inspiration behind the concept?

Room 77 began with a simple idea: the room you get matters and the existing hotel sites weren’t doing enough to help travelers get into a great room.  From there, we built a database of exclusive room content (floor plans and room views) which now covers over one million rooms worldwide and collected intel on the best rooms at thousands of top hotels, helping travelers pick quiet rooms and secure rooms with a view.  Next, we built a comprehensive hotel search and booking engine that gets prices from hundreds of sources so travelers can get a great deal and a great room on over 200,000+ hotels worldwide.

Q: How would you describe Room 77’s position in the market?

Room 77 aims to deliver on the promise of “best room, best price” and we differentiate ourselves from other hotel sites by focusing on giving travelers a faster search experience, a clear and transparent view into pricing from many different sources, unique search filters like filter by view, and an easy way to get into a great room with our complimentary Room Concierge service on eligible bookings.  We also recently added the ability to search for AAA and Senior discounts on our fast, pop-up free, search experience.

Q: Is the product just available in the US?  And what are the expansion plans to roll this out to the world?

Our website,, can be accessed worldwide but our focus right now is on US customers.  We expect to expand our language and currency customization options in the near future to appeal to a broader audience internationally.

Q: Most OTA’s have exactly the same way of shopping for a hotel, but Room 77 clearly takes this to another level. What was the original reaction to this when you launched and how has this changed?

At launch, people really connected with our mission to help them avoid getting a bad hotel room.  We kept hearing the same horror stories from travelers who found themselves in hotel rooms with a view of a dirty alley or being kept awake all night by the ice machine situated outside their door.  We haven’t changed our mission to deliver travelers into great rooms, we’ve just added a really fast and clean hotel shopping experience on top of it.  Today, instead of simply finding information on the best rooms, we also get travelers the best deals and deliver them into a great room with our Room Concierge service.

Q: Do you see other hotel websites (direct or OTA’s) trying to adopt similar functionality?

We work with many OTAs and hotel chains to deliver on our promise of providing price transparency and many of them have expressed interest in providing similar levels of insight down to the room level so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more room data integrated on hotel and OTA sites in the future.

Q: How do Room 77 see search?  Other OTA’s see it as a commodity, a simple city search, select a brand and book, with little or no shopping or guest interaction

We see search as the core of our competitive advantage.  Being a metasearch engine means that we’re going out into marketplace and finding as many prices, options, and choices as we possibly can for consumers so they feel confident that they are getting a great deal and the best selection of hotels.  Our technology team has built a fast search engine that also is comprehensive, getting rates that are normally missed by other search engines such as AAA or senior rates that millions of travelers qualify for but never take advantage of.

Q: What’s next for Room 77?

We’re always working on new features and product enhancements to help make the hotel shopping process more pain-free.  We recently introduced an update to our app for iPhone so travelers can get a great deal on-the-go anywhere they may be.  We’ve got some other exciting product features that we can’t quite share yet but keep an eye on us and let us know how we can build a better hotel search experience.

My thanks to Roger for taking the time in talking to me about Room 77 – I’m sure you’ll agree that his company are really leading the way in re-defining hotel search and it will certainly be interesting seeing how the rest of the worlds responds to their search concept in the future.  One final point – check out the free Room 77 mobile app – available for iPhone and Android.  Why do I mention this?  Because the world of hotel mobile booking apps are the same as online – presenting un-inventive search.  But that’s for another post, another time…

Hotel Insight talks to Rosie Akenhead ahead of this year’s Travel Distribution Summit

The Travel Distribution Summit Europe is one of my most eagerly awaited dates in the calendar, and that’s no exaggeration.  Each year, EyeforTravel put together a fantastic conference with key speakers from all areas of the travel world.  From the latest mobile trends to social media, and from revenue management to marketing, the Travel Distribution Summit is full of key industry leaders sharing their opinions and businesses practices.  A particular highlight of last years event was meeting Naveen Selvadurai, the co-founder of FourSquare.  Naveen spoke passionately about his company as he shared the stage with Facebook and Yelp – it was a fantastic session that had everyone talking and I was lucky enough to speak with Naveen afterwards.  This is a true measure of TDS – attracting the best in the business year after year.

So it gives me great pleasure to bring you a short interview with Rosie Akenhead who is the person that brings this event together.  If you have any questions please feel free to post a comment.

Q: Rosie, please tell us about your role at EyeforTravel and the organisation of TDS?

RA: I am the Global Director of Events & Industry Analysis at EyeforTravel. Along with the research and industry news that we provide, I also head up our flagship events, one of which is on 17-18 April in Islington, London –TDS Europe. This event focuses on almost every aspect of online travel- distribution, pricing, innovation, mobile & tech, marketing & social media. It brings together the travel industry as a whole- suppliers, consultants, solution providers- and makes it easy for us all to discuss industry trends and to network with friends old and new. We expect around 1000 attendees in total over the two days, so it is our biggest and best event, and we’re very proud of it.

Q: The speaker list at this years event is particularly impressive – is there one session your particularly looking forward to?

RA: This year’s agenda is really varied, which is probably a reflection of a slightly turbulent industry and economy. I think if I had to choose one (out of 36!), the top session to watch out for is our first keynote. This looks at the remodelling of traditional travel companies. EyeforTravel has seen in our research a blurring of the lines between luxury and low-cost. It’s interesting to see big luxury brands giving in to the unbundling phenomenon (particularly airlines), and seeing some of the lowcost get a) decidedly less low cost and b) rebundling their ancillary products. It will be fascinating to hear the opinions of very high level execs from Accor, TUI and The Travel Horizon Group. On top of this, we’ve got Airbnb on the agenda for the first time. I can’t wait to hear more about their model and how this idea of the “consumer becoming the supplier” will impact travel moving forward.

Q: What was your highlight of last year’s event?

 RA: I am slightly biased (!) but I felt last year’s TDS was our strongest ever in its 15 year history. It was really great not just to have the travel brands that we know and love, but also “the kings of online” (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Foursquare, Ebay). To hear from their perspective their plans for the forthcoming year was invaluable. The other session which really grabbed me (and everyone else, the room was overflowing!) was the search session. Panellists like Google, Bing, Skyscanner, Travelsupermarket really made it the session to watch. We are looking at search again this year, and with the introduction of google flights and google hotel finder actually in action, this session is still hot stuff.

Q: The social media interaction at TDS is fantastic – is there anything new planned this year? 

RA: We’re lucky because our moderators are all so social media savvy.  We have a big Social Media Conference in San Francisco as well so when it comes to keeping up to speed on this we can do so with reasonable ease! We welcome feedback and comments on the event hashtag #tdseurope before, during and after the event on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. We’ve developed a twitter feed platform for this year to make it a little bit slicker in the conference rooms. We’ve also got new extensive EyeforTravel social media and mobile research that we’ll be sharing, plus a marketing barometer available to download on-site for everyone attending. Social media is huge for us, and it’s important that we practice what we preach!

Q: We talk about the upcoming trends a lot at TDS – give us a sneak preview, what do you seen as the trends of 2012 and beyond? 

RA: TDS always covers the hot topics for the forthcoming year, because we’re always talking to the industry and finding out about challenges and goals from every brand we deal with. Aside from this, in the other part of my job, I look very closely at industry trends and analyse them. One of the first key trends I see is something I’ve been discussing in detail with Scot Hornick from Oliver Wyman over in the US. We both see a trend towards a change in the whole travel eco-system with the OTA-supplier relationship. Of course, which way this goes depends on a number of factors. First and foremost, what happens when the big group hoteliers re-negotiate their contracts with the OTAs (this will happen for a lot of the big hoteliers in 2012/2013). The flipside of this is the introduction of new models such as Roomkey, which gives the power to the supplier direct, or HotelTonight, the last minute mobile OTA to watch. It wouldn’t be fair to consider this lengthy topic without thinking about the future of meta-search too. A lot of the big merchandising characters in the industry are thinking about if/how/when the meta guys will start including ancillary products in the offerings, and if they do, that will have a huge impact.

All in all, it’s a seriously interesting time for travel. What happens with the economy in 2012 and 2013 is really going to show up who sinks or swims. Now is the time to find or re-negotiate partners, but also to innovate and develop mobile and social strategies, and I think all our attendees for TDS 2012 are attending for those very reasons.

Our thanks to Rosie for speaking with Hotel Insight.  The Travel Distribution Summit is held at the Business Design Centre in London on 17-18th April 2012.  To find out more about Travel Distribution Summit, please visit their website by clicking here.