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.

Super creative Room 77 launch free Wi-Fi summer [Hotel Insight editor falls in love]

As regular readers of my blog will know, I love to see companies in the hotel industry innovating and bringing something new to online technologies and search.  I also have a real pain point of hotel Wi-Fi charges.  I talk (some would say, moan) about this a lot, and it’s certainly a topic that will not go away and makes travellers frustrated.  So when I saw that the creative team at Room 77 had launched a free Wi-Fi campaign, my heart melted ever so slightly and I had to write a quick post to share it with you.

Quite simply, once you’ve booked your hotel stay through the Room 77 website users can log in with their account details and submit a rebate request for their Wi-Fi charges.  What intrigued me was how an OTA, who doesn’t own the hotels they are selling, or control a local Wi-Fi charge was going to pull this off and why they would do it.  But it’s actually quite a simple process and quite simply, Room 77 are doing this because they truly understand what a traveller wants from a hotel stay, and the pain points for booking that stay and the threat to their enjoyment once they’ve checked in.  Charges for Wi-Fi in hotels will remain a hot topic for travellers, so Room 77 have listened and acted.

Examine your customers pain points.  What is it about a hotel stay they most annoyed them.  In your top three answers, paying for Wi-Fi is one of them, making such a promotion is engaging and of immediate interest to Room 77’s clients – promotions like this bread loyalty.

For those who are yet to discover Room 77, you can take a look at my recent post on this super initiative company by clicking here.  Room 77 are literally taking B2C hotel search to another level with their technology and shopping approach – take a look at their site and you’ll see what I mean.  This promotion is another simply example of actually understanding your customers needs.  Design a website that the user will want to be on – making booking a hotel fun and taking the hassle (and often boredom away), then take it a stage further and target them with something dear to their hearts.  This simple recipe will end in success.

I joined about.me – take a look and claim your name before it goes!

I discovered about.me a few weeks ago and have been meaning to reserve my page.  Tonight, I was lucky enough to find it was still available.  So you can do the same, take a look at the video below which explains the idea behind the site.  This is not just another social network, about.me is a free service that lets you create a one-page website that’s all about you and your interests. Upload a photo, write a short bio, and add your favorite social networks to show the world the big picture of you.

This is a great way to put all your social networks together in one place so people can get to know you on your own personal page. Take a look!

World Wonders Project by Google [video]

Quite by accident I noticed the announcement from Google about their World Wonders Project and it really intrigued me.  I’ve been talking about it with some technology friends on Twitter today and it’s pulled all of our attention, so I found the promotional Google video about the project to share with you.  I bet you’ll take a look after you’ve seen this.  It really is Google doing what Google does best.

TripAdvisor launches Tingo – with a unique concept for giving you your money back…

As you may have seen, TripAdvisor (under their brand of Smarter Travel Media) recently launched Tingo.com with quite a different message to other online hotel booking sites – a promise to automatically re-book your room if the room rate falls and automatically refunds you the difference.

Tingo claim on their website that in the last 30 days 461 hotels in Paris saw a price drop, 267 in London and 220 in New York – so you can see why this would be attractive for travellers.

And I think that’s the key to any new hotel booking engine launching – it has to be different to the dominant players like Booking.com and Expedia.  It has to offer the traveller something that no one else can – and what better way to target customers than by promising to give them money back.

As with some other new hotel booking sites we’ve seen this year, it seems to only be aimed at the American markets to start with as all prices are displayed in US dollars.

 

Accor launches A-Club Places application on Facebook

Some hotel chains are only just waking up to the fact that social media channels equal booking channels.  Some are only just realising it could be an idea not to just have a presence on Facebook, but to let clients book on Facebook.  Accor have been ahead in the game for a while now, and this week announced that they had the first location-based application to reward a hotel group’s loyalty program members.

Accor launched A-Club Places, an innovative and unique Facebook application, available to A-Club loyalty members.  The launch of this application is part of Accor’s strategy to develop its presence on the Internet, on mobile phones and social networks.  Sales through these direct distribution channels represent close to 29% of the Group’s total sales.

The new service allows members to check in on the application on Facebook and rewards customers with a badge depending on the regularity of their stay and on the type hotels the stay at which convert into A-Club points.

This just shows how hotels are having to develop their online presence in social circles even more carefully.  Its important to offer as much of your baseline service on as many channels as possible, and Accor have plugged the gap with their loyalty program.

The Anti-SOPA Blackout Day

The video says it all – but think about this in terms of blogging.  It could mean that a blog, someones own views and opinions, can be censored and closed down – the internet is the only place you can speak your mind and give your opinion – don’t let that be destroyed – show your support.

Some great support shown online today too: