Saturday, April 30, 2011

How is the Qantas frequent flyer program like an angry Russian Model

After ten years I have lost platinum status with Qantas. I fell about 8% short of the status credit target so find myself in the unexpected position of carrying a gold rather than platinum frequent flyer card on my many travels. Time away from the black card has allowed me to reflect on what I am missing and the value of platinum membership. I have decided that losing platinum status is like breaking up with a gorgeous but temperamental eastern European super model. They looked beautiful, your friends were impressed and the promise for excitement was high. But in reality you were treated really badly, the private times never matched the public promise and all that sticks in your mind long after the relationship is over is how often you fought over the stupid things they did but refused to apologize for.

So farewell Qantas Platinum/Ivanka. In my dark moments I miss you and wish I was still part of in crowd that gravitated around you. But without you my life has less missed expectations and fights on the side of the friends say I am better off.

Thanks to teelwan via flickr for the photo

Monday, April 25, 2011

5 of the Best from the Shearwater Blog

Congratulations to blogger and travel/payment executive Martin Collings. For six year Martin was an executive at Amadeus in Europe and Chicago. For two and a half year Martin blogged on online travel and ancillary sales via his Shearwater press site (also a Tnooz node). This week I learned that Martin had moved back to Australia to take up a position as VP Market Development for Mastercard. Martin is pausing his writing at the Shearwater blog. But I thought I should share with you some of his best posts.

  1. "Using a Bow Tie to Make Optimal Marketing and Technology Investments": great piece fro 2009 on ancillary revenues and the inspiration funnel;
  2. His five part series on Tnooz on travel inspiration including the Inspiration Footprint Matrix;
  3. "Google Travel delivers best piece of market research I've seen in the past year": distilling some great insight into the Euro/UK online travel market;
  4. His irreverent take on innovation and travel in "Awards from PhoCusWright that you may not want to win" ; and
  5. Great piece on Hipmunk on Tnooz where he manages to get a reference to Fortitude Valley Brisbane into the same sentence as Silicon Valley
Many more over at the Shearwater blog.

Thanks to Bill on Capitol Hill for this fantastic photo of the old mastercard and visa branding

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Indian online travel players hit accelerator....again!

The Indian online travel industry seems (in market designed to produce mixed metaphors) to burst in waves. Back in 2008- the four leading companies of India - Makemytrip, Cleartrip, Yatra and Travelguru seemed to have created a $2bb plus online travel market from a near standing start.

In their recent India report, PhoCusWright now puts the 2010 online travel market (leisure and un-managed business) at more than double 2008. $4.3bb is their size estimate, as much as 25% of the total travel market. They predict a rise to $7bb in 2012 (you can buy the report here). That would put the India of 2012 at the same size as the online market of Australia in 2010. An almost unrivaled acceleration in online travel. Like many markets online, the buying of low cost carrier tickets is a huge driver. But, unlike many markets, rail is a significant part of the grow story in India. Online rail in India is already more than a $1bb a year and is more than a quarter of the online travel industry's total turnover. In India (according to PhoCusWright), the percentage of rail online is twice the percentage of hotel online.

Corporate activity is accelerating alongside the market acceleration.

Number one player MakeMyTrip (MMYT) has been public for less than a year (IPO in August 2010). They went to the market at $14 and are still trading above $30 (Apr 21 at $32.23) with a valuation in excess of $1.1bb.

Cleartrip is chasing hard. They have just raised $40 mm from travel travel expense and management solution provider Concur (you remember them, they bought TripIt in Feb for up to $120mm).

Not to be left out, a day later Yatra announced they were raising $45mm from raised from Valiant Capital Management, Norwest Venture Partners, Intel Capital and others (WSJ story here). According to the WSJ this eclipes the $33.8mm they raised in the last round. The article quotes sources saying that a float in the next 12-18 months is very likely.

Expedia is also refusing to be left out. They have added India to their list of markets covered by their JV announced with Asian low cost carrier giant Air Asia.

Via is trying to argue there is room for more players. With $15mm raised so fare from NEA Indo-US Ventures, Sequoia Capital India and others, Via (also known as Flightraja) has mega bucks in their sites announcing last month they intend (emphasis on intend) to raise another $100mm.

Travelocity are trying to peek their head above the noise through a marketing relationship with Mastercard.

A very busy 30 days in a fast growing market. Did I miss anything? For the Tnooz latest list of top travel sites in India care of Hitwise click here.

Thanks to FriskoDude for the great photo via flickr

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Search, Social and Mobile- pre Eyefortravel thoughts via eHotelier

I am speaking this year at Eyefortravel May 18-19 in Singapore

I have put together some pre-conference predictions for 2011 (based on by full 2011 predictions). They were picked up and published in a post on eHotelier along side predictions from Robert Bailey of Abacus and (Professor) Timothy O'Neil-Dunne of LUTE technologies (and so much more). Check out the full text here.

My predictions are:

  • Search changes (again); Search already changed forever in 2010. There is more to come in 2011, especially in the measure of authority. The old measure of inbound links will be enhanced with input from social networks, context and location, expert advice, preference matching and more. Search marketing will have to change to encompass content, social, information syndication and data mining. All suppliers and all OTAs will need to ensure that their SEO experts and agents are on top of this change. In addition to the changes in authority, search will change in how results are displayed;
  • Social media will challenge search and retail: the parallel rises of social media, customers asking more complicated (and open) questions online and consumers willingness to discuss and share everything openly and freely will drive through 2011 a change the way the industry attracts and retains customers. The traffic numbers of Facebook, Twitter, foursquare etc are all but unprecedented. But it is not their rise that is the story. The story is the consumer behaviour behind the rise of these products. Pick your metaphor - consumers have opened the kimono, dropped their pants or invited everyone in to their lives. Nothing is sacred. Everything can and will be shared. Marketing channels will need to be adjusted. Communications techniques changed. Customer care models and response times adjusted. Even sales channels will need to be reworked. Get ready for social search, book and buy; and
  • Mobile becomes a distinction without meaning: iPhone did for the smart phones what diet coke did for soda. It created a category, lifted other categories with it and made people buy more of everything around it. The consequence is that people are using their phones (and now tablets) while they are on the move and as a replacement for laptops. Mobile no longer means mobile. By that I mean people will sit in meetings, on couches as home, at the desk...anywhere...everywhere...expecting to be connected. Not caring if a device is called a phone, tablet or netbook. Just caring that it gets them the content or experience they want. The result is device platform discussions will move from "which product is this built for" to "is this compatible for all displays". Much like we now say that a site has to be web ready rather than differentiating between its readiness on FireFox, Chrome, Safari, opera and IE. The type of the device and whether or not it is mobile is now irrelevant. Mobile/PC/Tablet will be the different "browsers" of 2011. All code will need to be written in preparation for this.
For a reminder of my thoughts on last year's Eyefortravel check out this post.

Tnooz: HomeAway, Home and Away and the links between online travel and teen angst

HomeAway is the largest vacation rental site in the world. Home and Away is one of Australia's longest running soap operas and a launch pad for plastic surgeons, vampire hunters and psychotic clowns. What do they have in common? Check out my latest Tnooz post "HomeAway and the real life Home and Away soap opera" to find out.