Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bob's Tour Of Australia

I've no doubt that the "Bob Thinks Big" campaign that is intended to attract more Aussie tourists into Christchurch will be praised for being a social media success.

After all, those that get out there and promote tourism (with other people's money) are seen to be public-spirited, far-sighted and innovative.

Many Kiwis will feel nostalgic seeing Bob Parker peacocking in front of the camera again and his Rhys Darby inspired sidekick provides some muted understated humour....but will the Aussies get it?

I couldn't help thinking, while watching the YouTube promotion trilogy, that a holiday in Aussie, while Christchurch rebuilds...would have been nice.

And looking behind the scenes, it's interesting to note the difference between Bob's plush designer mayoral office and that of his Aussie counterpart's featured in the video. OK, Christchurch may have a few more people for a mayor to lord over...however I'm sure that there wouldn't be too many folk that would mind if Bob emulated the more somber and austere tastes displayed in the mayoral office at Goulburn Australia (population 21,000).

While it's nice to think that Bob's comical tour of Australia will win the minds of Australians looking for a holiday destination, I couldn't help thinking that maybe his efforts should have been best focused back home.

Maybe if Bob stayed at home and focused on rebuilding necessary infrastructure and ensured that his council's bureaucracy didn't impede private landowners rebuilding efforts....that this would've attracted more long-term visitors to the region?

But that wouldn't have been the basis for a cool social media campaign...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Disrupting The Accommodation Industry

There's no doubt that consumer hysteria over the pending iPhone5 release will accelerate the disruption of the travel industry.

The consumer decision making process is heavily influenced by what they view online and this is increasingly via mobile devices.

While there is a lot of mobile browsing of travel media occurring, the next step of actually booking on a mobile device has a relatively low occurrence in New Zealand - but this is growing rapidly.  In this country, I suspect the majority of mobile channel reservations are occurring amongst only a few major players, such as Wotif and that have invested in native apps and mobile web.

Accommodation providers seem to be woefully behind in offering their potential mobile browsing customers a mobilised website that can be easily viewed with relevant content including the ability to navigate using the intuitive features of mobile phones when making a reservation.

Those accommodation providers that do make the effort in creating a mobile website will often make the mistake of purchasing an off-the-shelf solution that simply scrapes content off their main desktop website and randomly assembles the elements in a mobile format. This does little to attract and convert a potential mobile customer. Another mistake that some accommodation providers make is linking their mobile website to a non-mobilised reservation landing page.

For accommodation providers, the mobile channel will quickly become just as important as business attracted via desktop websites. There are very cost-effective solutions available for small businesses to purchase a mobilised website solution. And providers such as Siteminder, STAAH, Bookit, Strait PMS have (or soon will) a solution for a mobilised booking widgets that can be easily integrated into a mobile website.

The good news for small operators is that it is possible to move quicker than larger accommodation businesses in order to take advantage of the rapid change occurring in customer behavior.

Meanwhile...most accommodation providers are in ignorant bliss as to how their online marketing is being viewed by their potential guests on mobile devices - their immediate concern appears to be those pesky clock radios that will soon have outdated iPhone docks:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Contemplating Customer Reward Schemes

The accommodation industry isn't immune from dabbling with new ways to connect with consumers.

Travellers are regually confronted with offers to join mailing lists, apply for a card that collects points or scan QR codes for the promise of special treatment.

Loyalty schemes seem to be extremely popular at the moment and all accommodation marketing groups have them to a greater or lesser extent. Loyalty schemes are a great way to connect with consumers and if a company can embed their own branded loyalty card within the valuable real estate of the purses and wallets of consumers, then they have the opportunity to achieve great things.

The difficultly arises when the market become saturated with these perfectly-formed plastic loyalty cards. Competition is becoming intense. The consumer can only carry around so many of them and only those cards that have simple, intuitive programs and are perceived to return the greatest benefit will survive.

So how can a company stand out from the scrum of bland offerings, when contemplating a customer rewards program...

That's when I came across a new twist on a loyalty scheme that demands further investigation....
Here's an offer that a lot of drivers would have a tough time turning down: free sex after nine car washes.

Police near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, cracked down last week after getting wind of the unique offer from the teaming of a car wash and a massage parlor in the suburb of Sunway Mentari, the Malay Mail reports.

Nine Vietnamese women, ages 18 to 28, believed to be prostitutes were arrested.
Police learned of the unique partnership between the car wash and sex ring when they kept finding car wash loyalty cards in the pockets of alleged customers of the sex ring.
The Mail quotes Emmi Shah Fadhil, the officer in charge of the area's Crime Prevention Division, as saying: "To get the extra 'offer', customers must send their cars for washing nine times within a certain period. The 10th car wash will entitle them to free sex," said Emmi Shah.
 Source: Click HERE


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Apple iPhone 5 Release

Apple have finally announced their latest version of the iPhone and it looks like the most common feature predictions have held true.

The phone is taller, thinner, lighter, faster and as predicted the 4 inch retina display screen at first glance is the most obvious change. The screen may not be as large as some the competition, however I like the qualifying Apple-speak "It's not just bigger. It's just right." This means that Apple cool-kids will still be able to operate the phone one-handed, while others using larger screen hero-model phones will be using the two-handed-mummy-tap-technique.

With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple will ramp-up their influence on travel. 

Initially, accommodation operators will notice an increase of distracted travellers gazing at their glowing screens of desire. Data caps on WiFi provided at motels and hotels will need to rise as travellers utilise the iPhone 5's increased ultra-fast Wi-Fi capability. Improved Facebook integration will increase the noise on social networks and improved camera capabilities including a cool inbuilt panorama function will encourage travellers to upload and share their latest photos. 

The electronic wallet is a step closer with the announcement of Apple's Passbook program that aims to replace the clutter of gift cards and tickets that crowd wallets. This platform will combine boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons and loyalty cards in one place. Major airlines have lined up to join the program along with Starwood Hotels.

Passes, coupons and loyalty points are in the first phase of the program, but the capacity for mobile payments and to become a digital wallet are likely to follow. More travel related companies will be lining up to get a slice of the action and it will be interesting to see how travel purchasing and distribution will be influenced.

In travel, mapping functionality is a core component. Apple have dispensed with Google Maps as their in-built mapping app and replaced it with their own. Maps have been redesigned with Apple's own intuitive style and will offer offer turn-by-turn voice-guided GPS directions and a 3D mode with flyover design effect.
 Oh, and those cool brand new music systems and bedside clock radios with iPod docks that accommodation providers have proudly installed in their guest rooms....are now obsolete. The iPhone 5 now has a new smaller profile connector replacing the aging 30-pin connector. There is an adapter that is included in the box when you buy an iPhone 5...but how many travellers will forget to pack that when they stay away from home?

So not so much of a revolution, but a jump along the pathway of evolution.

I want one!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reviews In Cyberspace

The topic of conversation this week amongst my unofficial motelier focus group acquaintances seems to be all about TripAdvisor. Often the conversation starts out pondering the sustainability of Qualmark (more about that later), but attention soon turns to TripAdvisor and the greater role they are playing in the hearts and minds of the travelling public.

TripAdvisor claims to be the world's largest travel site, with more than 56 million unique monthly visitors eager to read about the travel experience of others and many in turn add to over 75 million reviews and opinions.

Don't let the language of American gush found on many reviews distract you from the fact that TripAdvisor consistently ranks as the number one online source where Kiwis ponder travel and are increasing adding to the noise by uploading their own opinions. 

Surprisingly, even Tourism NZ can see the value of TripAdvisor by offering a default option of interactive TripAdvisor widgets to tourism businesses alongside static Qualmark ratings on

It probably says a lot about the health and acumen of an accommodation sector as to how they engage with and publicly regard TripAdvisor. The motel industry in New Zealand seems to be particularly weary of TripAdvisor and tend to dig a hole for themselves by often raising conspiracy theories and refusing to engage. Unfortunately, industry leaders that enable a negative attitude towards TripAdvisor do little for an industry that needs to embrace a new world of open social media platforms.

Detractors will often knock TripAdvisor by pointing to fake reviews that are allegedly published by self-praising businesses, rivals that trash their competitors or guests that were unable to wrangle a satisfactory discount. While inevitable skulduggery will prevail in any open feedback platform, the instances are very low. Anyone risking posting an out-of-whack review can attract the wrath of considered mass public opinion by often prompting a stream of reviewers that feel the need to unleash natural justice by telling it like it really is. 

Dodgy reviews can be quickly buried by reviews of actual real experiences and an equilibrium over time will still deliver the consumer a realistic overview of what to expect. And let's not forget about the consumer - the reason TripAdvisor remains popular is that consumers can easily interpret and value the travel information presented. 

When travellers use TripAdvisor, more often than not they are able to match their expectations with reality. While accommodation providers may grumble about perceived inequities with TripAdvisor's open feedback platform, surveys measuring consumer satisfaction levels typically run in the nineties.

This may be all very well, however when an accommodation provider receives an unfair negative review, the experience can be crushing. In New Zealand, accommodation options that attract only modest levels of reviews can suffer disproportionately by a one-off negative review and this can have a major impact upon their reputation. 

A knee-jerk response from an accommodation provider receiving an unflattering review can be to trash TripAdvisor and frantically claim a conspiracy theory to anyone that can be bothered to listen. As hard as it may seem, accommodation providers need to front-up by putting it right (even if the customer got it wrong) and ensure similar "misunderstandings" never happen again. 

Accommodation providers need to set up an alert to any activity on their TripAdvsor listing and quickly respond to negative comments positively. 

Although it may not be a natural response, accommodation providers need to accept that they are unable to opt-out of social networks and embrace TripAdvisor by encouraging satisfied customers to post positive reviews. For many this may require a radical personality shift.

In the eyes of the consumer, the relevance of static stars issued from an unknown "official" tourism body is "nice to have" but is becoming less relevant. 

The following embellished graphic currently doing the social media rounds, probably does nothing to enhance TripAdvisor's claim of "offering trusted advice from real travellers"....but I still reckon it's funny:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

American Election Countdown

American politics are far more interesting than what's happening in New Zealand's bland political landscape. 

The political sideshow leading up to the November 5 election in America shouldn't just be followed for entertainment value. Most Kiwi business owners should be wearyingly keeping an eye on what is unfolding, as they all have a vested interest in the end result.

The story of the first black man knocking down race barriers and being elected President of the United States is an inspirational story, however this would appear to be the only positive legacy that Obama will leave behind when he eventually exits the White House - hopefully soon after the November election. 

Unfortunately, Obama still seems to have the edge in most polls over the slightly less scarey option - Romney. Getting rid of an incumbent President after his first term is going to be difficult.

Ignoring the mass job losses and an economy that's tanking, the overwhelming achievement of Obama's presidency is that he has successfully made socialism mainstream. In fact it's hip and cool. For many Americans, Obama has managed to rewrite history and has convinced the masses that "you didn't build that". Free market and capitalism are out - state control and intervention are in.

Are Americans really this stupid? Have their brains, like their expanding waistlines become so fat and lazy that they blindly blame private businesses for their woes and willingly accept any regulation that redistributes the success of the productive?

The video below shows Peter Schiff (a television financial commentator) posing as an anti-business crusader. He found a number of "mainstream" National Convention delegates and attendees who support explicitly outlawing profitability.

Sure, a similar ruse would've uncovered a whole lot of ridiculous comments from nut-jobs attending the Republican National Convention last week ...but those sound-bites wouldn't have been anywhere near as disgusting as what Peter Schiff uncovered this week at the Democratic National Convention:

Hopefully the second part of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, due in theaters on October 10, may arrive just in time before the election to exercise the lazy and flabby minds of those Americans that have allowed the creep of socialism into their once proud nation:

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