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Travelport says its non air business helped it face challenging market conditions in its latest financial report.

In Q3 results, the distribution giant says Beyond Air, which includes its eNett payments business, helped it deliver a 2% increase to net revenue of $623 million for the quarter.

The company’s EBITDA also increased 2% to $139 million while net income was up 25% to $6 million.

The Travel Commerce Platform saw a 2% revenue increase to $598 million, 32% of which is attributed to Beyond Air which saw a 14% increase to revenue of $24 million.

Air revenue declined 3% to $13 million for the quarter which Travelport attributes to a dip in air reported segments following the loss of a large agency in the APAC region and “other travel agency headwinds.”

The eNett payments business delivered a 58% increase to net revenue of $86 million.

In a statement, Travelport president and CEO Gordon Wilson refers to “specific customer headwinds” which are affecting the company.

He adds that the company is in a good place for “longer term profitable growth” based on deals, such as with Air India and Jet Airways, and technology and content investment around merchandising, mobile, data and payments.

Travelport believes full-year 2018 net revenue will come out at the lower end of its 4% – 6% guidance range.

REGISTER NOW! Corporate travel execs, tech vendors and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
Click here for details, tickets and the program for this year’s event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.

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Tools to help professional vacation rental managers save time and control who can book their properties are part of a new suite of products launched this week by Booking.com.

Booking.com vice president Olivier Grémillon, who leads the brand’s home division, says the company developed the tools based on input from professionals that manage some of the 5.7 million listings of homes, apartments and other private accommodations available on the site.

One tool created based on such feedback allows property managers to set filters that determine which Booking.com users will be able to book their properties – such as only guests with verified phone numbers or only guests that have made a reservation on Booking.com in the past. Partners can also now instantly report guest misconduct and block those guests from making future bookings.

“The instant booking model, we really believe that it’s actually what the customers want. They want to be able to book an apartment as easily as they book a hotel,” Grémillon says.

“The partners understand the instantly bookable model gives them more bookings as well. But one thing they told us, though, is the fact that they want to … be able to filter some of the guests that are coming to their place.”

“We think it’s the best of both worlds, because it gives control to the hosts on one side, and it’s still a very frictionless experience on the guest side because they can book instantly any property that they see.”

The system is starting with a few filters, but Grémillon says it may enable more in the future.

“These are strictly created by Booking,” he says.

“Obviously one of the things we want to avoid is that some partners do filtering based on criteria we wouldn’t necessarily approve of. So we are the ones deciding on the filters.”

Property mangers can also use a new Group Connect feature that streamlines communications with guests through message templates and automated scheduling.

Another time-saver is a new bulk action capability, enabling property managers to create cancellation policies, promotional offers and house rules across all properties at once. The system also now has a new profile page where partners can add personal messages about themselves, their properties and the neighborhoods where properties are located.

All of these new features are available on all of the platforms professional managers use for their portfolio of properties, including Booking.com’s extranet, its mobile app for partners called Pulse or a connectivity provider.

Next steps

Looking ahead, Grémillon says Booking.com is focusing its expansion efforts for the home division on the United States, “because we have some catch-up to do there,” he says. Asia, primarily China, is another region in his sights.

Along with growing the rental property inventory, Grémillon says it will continue to develop connections between Booking Holdings’ tours and activities business – boosted by its acquisition of Fareharbor in April – and its accommodations brands.

“Right now if you book an accommodation in Booking in some selected markets we actually propose you some of these activities – it doesn’t matter whether you book a hotel or a home or an apartment,” he says.

“The thing we are actually doing as well for some of our accommodation partners is if they actually provide experiences themselves, they can list that on our platform not only to their guests but to additional guests.”

And while, in the past, Booking Holdings has acquired businesses to provide software and tools to its hotel partners, Grémillon says that is not the current plan for alternative accommodations.

“I would never say never, but I would say our strategy is to partner with tools that exist that our property owners are using because the market is very fragmented,” he says.

“We are more in the strategy of partnering with a lot of them and having deep discussions on how to make the technology better for the partners, for the hosts and elevating the technology by providing them better connectivity and by also telling them what we need from their side.”

REGISTER NOW! Booking Holdings, Expedia Group, Ctrip, MakeMyTrip and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
Click here for details, tickets and the program for this year’s event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.

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It’s been exactly one year since Ctrip purchased Trip.com – a strategic move by the Chinese online travel powerhouse to bring its services into local Asia Pacific markets.

And the past 365 days have so far paid off, according to Victor Tseng, Ctrip vice president of corporate affairs, who says the Silicon Valley-based travel brand has been able to leverage Ctrip’s scale and access to products in niche categories and price ranges.

Trip.com, as a brand, has a fairly unusual history. It was founded in Silicon Valley in 2010 by Travis Katz as a travel social network under the name Gogobot – it rebranded to Trip.com in late-2016 and, for a number of reasons, then caught the attention of Ctrip.

The acquisition in November 2017 led to a two-fold strategy: Ctrip got the brand name Trip.com, and Skyscanner got the trip planning services behind the scenes. Katz joined Ctrip-owned Skyscanner as its vice president of product.

Ctrip’s version of Trip.com is a very different proposition to the site that hit the scenes and raised $39 million in funding.

“I think for such a young product, Trip.com has been growing quite well,” Tseng tells PhocusWire in an interview at WIT Singapore 2018. “In the markets Trip.com is in with a lot of consumers – like Korea or Singapore – a lot of the travel spend is outbound, and that plays to its strengths as well. … Anywhere around the world there’s flights, there’s hotels, there’s cars, there’s in-destination [activities] for consumers.”

Currently, Trip.com has services available in 13 languages; it has more than 1.2 million hotels in 200 countries and regions and more than two million flight routes connecting 5,000 cities.The deal to buy Trip.com

Tseng says flights are anchoring Trip.com’s growth, particularly in markets such as Korea, where market share has been growing “quite fast,” as well as Hong Kong, where market share is over 10%.

Flights are more scalable than other products, he continues, because Ctrip has been investing in flight technology and how to link up with global distribution systems and low-cost carriers, thus creating a “vast, comprehensive flight inventory and fresh data.”

Local matter

Ctrip has also been investing in localization efforts in Trip.com markets, Tseng says, because each region needs to present unique value propositions to its local user base.

In Singapore, for example, where a lot of travel is outbound, Trip.com has been promoting “staycations” to residents to help local hotel chains grow bookings.

In Japan, meanwhile, Trip.com launched a co-branded credit card with the bank Sumitomo that allows users to log loyalty points with purchases.

There has also been a concerted effort to assist local users in making payments and contacting customer service. “Ctrip has been in the travel business for almost 20 years, and part of our DNA is service capability,” Tseng says. “We’re really investing in the human touch with call centers.”

He estimates there are as many as 14,000 call center people who pick up the phone within 20 seconds available 24/7, and a call center recently opened in Korea in response to the volume of calls coming from the area.

“I think there’s a lot of value in having a human-touch service that can really differentiate the experience, but it’s not to say we’re not automating,” Tseng says. “We’ve invested massively on artificial intelligence, massively on data; they need to go hand in hand.”

Building a “super app”

Tseng believes Ctrip has succeeded at becoming a one-stop shop, or “super app,” for consumers looking to book or manage multiple parts of a trip, and it’s a blueprint Trip.com can follow – with some local tweaks.

For example, for Chinese Ctrip users, there’s a 20 to 30% natural attachment rate of booking other travel products in the same itinerary, which he says presents a lot of opportunity for Trip.com to leverage.

“It’s a win-win: A more seamless user experience and better conversions for suppliers, as well.”

Travel, Tseng says, is “already time-consuming and pressure-packed,” and Trip.com’s ability to function as a one-stop shop helps differentiate it from the OTA competition.

To that end, Trip.com added Ctrip’s car rental service in March and its tours and activities inventory in August, giving travelers more booking options beyond flights and hotels.

“One-stop-shop capability is something we’ve done tremendously well through Ctrip, and there is a recipe and formula in some ways that Trip.com can adopt,” he says.

“But not absolutely; they need to also balance with the local element.”

REGISTER NOW! Ctrip, Expedia Group, Booking Holdings, MakeMyTrip and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
Click here for details, tickets and the program for this year’s event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.

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The private accommodation sector has been in the spotlight for the past few years. It has attracted the attention of the online giants but also witnessed the entrance of bold new players such as Airbnb.

And, of course, metasearch has tried to become a part in the process – with some big investment rounds going into startups and, unfortunately, some fairly high-profile casualties along the way.

Phocuswire spoke to Dr. Patrick Andrae, chief executive of HomeToGo about current trends and the need for metasearch in the vacation rental industry.

Why do you think vacation rental needs a metasearch platform?

The vacation rental market is extremely fragmented – much more so than the hotel or flights market. There are hundreds of websites offering vacation rentals – it can take users hours of searching to discover the perfect accommodation for their needs.

From our own experience with this dilemma, and hearing our friends complain about the pain of trying to find a vacation rental, the need for a solution was clear. Thus, HomeToGo was born.

With HomeToGo, you can search for exactly what you need, at the best price, and still book with your preferred website -fast.

Google has made forays into hotels, flights, tours, and activities – do you see it going after vacation rental as well?

Google is a search engine, so it makes sense for them to aggregate travel inventory like flights and hotels. However, flights and hotels are easier to aggregate.

From a coverage standpoint 90% of the inventory is the same for all hotel metasearch engines. None of the big vacation rental providers have more than 20% of the market. This puts HomeToGo at an advantage as aggregation goes well beyond simply price comparison.

How will the OTA giants decision to divert marketing spend away from metasearch affect their development going forward?

Many metasearch platforms with a lower quality product will be negatively impacted by this. If an OTA is not getting value back from the metasearch, it is inevitable they will stop spending with them.

Our 300 partners work with us for a variety of reasons – one of which is that we are able to provide a new stream of highly qualified “ready-to-book” traffic to their sites and listings.

For smaller vacation rental websites, we help them gain visibility (we send over 20 million users per month to our partners). In general, this might harm platforms that rely on a low number of partners.

Can you share what you customer acquisition strategy is as you go up against much larger companies with deep pockets?

We aggregate and compare more websites, and therefore more vacation rentals, than anyone else. This provides the user with a faster, easier, and more cost efficient way to find the best accommodation for their specific needs.

We are also the technology leader in metasearch for vacation rentals. HomeToGo is based on a complex search technology that integrates, combines, and deduplicates the data of hundreds of partner websites to make the world’s vacation rentals easily accessible and comparable for everyone.

With this technology we give users the largest choice with one quick search, while machine learning based sorting technology guarantees the results are ranked by relevance for the needs of the individual user that searches.

In such a competitive vertical, that is very cost intensive when it comes to marketing, we spend wisely and with purpose. Our growth in the US market demonstrates that we are making the right decisions with our share of TV ads, retargeting, and other marketing efforts.

Additionally, our advanced technology provides the user with a lot of benefits while performing their search. We see this reflected in the large amount of return and direct traffic that continues to increase each month.

How do you see metasearch platforms evolving in vacation rental and more widely especially in light of the challenges faced by Tripping?

Inevitably, less robust products will drop off. The winner will have the best tech, user experience, and partnerships. In the end, it will be a “Winner takes all” situation and we are on a very promising path.

For HomeToGo, the future involves expanding our offering and localized product while enhancing our search functionality even further to continue to provide the best results no matter the search.

In general, metasearch will have to continue to evolve to accommodate users seamlessly across devices, including voice search technology.

REGISTER NOW! Airbnb and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
Click here for details, tickets and the program for this year’s event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.

As OTA giants such as booking and expedia race to add vacation rental inventory to their offering – with the belief that consumers want to compare traditional accommodation and rentals – how does vacation rental metasearch make it’s mark?

The vacation rental market is extremely fragmented. There are literally hundreds of websites offering vacation rentals. For a user, finding what they are looking for quickly, efficiently, and at the best price, is key.

While there are many big players out there, a provider is limited to only their inventory. By offering an aggregation of many providers at the same time, vacation rental metasearch makes life easier for users.

As people get more and more used to the idea of a vacation rental as a beneficial accommodation, they are more likely to experiment with new ways of finding the best vacation rental for their desired destination, budget, and needs -metasearch makes it easy to do just that.

HomeToGo recently acquired Casamundo. Can you share anything further about how this fits in with the overall strategy?

HomeToGo and Casamundo’s experiences and insights complement each other and create a promising opportunity for future growth and development.

Casamundo has a great team and brand in the UK and European vacation rental industry. We’re looking forward to continuing to build, as a group, the best vacation rental search experience on the market.

Most likely, Casamundo will open its platform to other aggregators as well.

Does not having Airbnb participate in the model hamper it in anyway? Why do you think Airbnb has chosen this strategy and do you think there’s any chance it will change it’s mind in the future?

We can’t speak to Airbnb’s current or future strategy, but by looking at some of our domains you will find that Airbnb is already a partially integrated partner. For instance, via pop-under users can easily reach and compare prices on Airbnb.

What’s your view on the metabook model?

Making the process even easier for the user is key.

How important do you believe brand is in metasearch?

Of course, brand is important, but building a brand without a foundation of a robust product and high quality tech will only carry you so far.

Once a company has a solid foundation, building a brand helps build user trust and recognition, which is always important in a competitive market.

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  • This article was written by Jacopo Rita, head of product for metasearch at Bookassist.

According to recent industry buzz and rumors, Trivago has seen better times.

Hardly a month (or even a week!) goes past by without an article or press release highlighting even more trouble for the metasearch site.

The issues seem endless: Financial woes and a weakening competitive position as an effective marketing channel are compounded by online travel agencies pulling back on spend.

But at the same time, we are still bombarded by Trivago commercials, and demand and interest from hotels in Trivago show no signs of slowing down.

There’s no doubt about the steady interest in the company from the market, and it still remains a major player in travelers’ efforts to research, find and book the ideal hotel.

So, what’s behind all these stories?

From a hotelier perspective: the good about Trivago

At Bookassist, we work with hundreds of hotels to boost their visibility on metasearch sites, including Trivago.

We collect a huge volume of data over time, and that gives us a privileged position in determining how effective Trivago is from an advertising perspective for independent hotels.

And some positive news can’t be ignored.

1. Trivago is still the metasearch leader in terms of traffic generation to hotel websites.

2. The ROI is there.

3. The volumes vs. profitability eternal dilemma: Trivago is fine here, too.

Trivago still drives lot of traffic to hotels websites at a reasonable cost of acquisition, given the ROI it delivers at a larger scale; and it’s actually the metasearch site – second only to Google – that gives the best balance between these KPIs.

So, again: why all the negativity?

All that glitters is not gold

While the year-to-date figures above show some pretty nice and positive KPIs for Trivago itself as well as for Trivago’s effectiveness compared to other metasearch engines, the same can’t be said when those very KPIs get compared to the previous year.

Trivago – as with any other digital marketing actions – has to have a long-term strategy, so looking at its growth (or decrease) over a longer time frame is a crucial task for hotel digital marketing managers – especially at this time of the year when 2019 budgets are due!

When we look at Trivago’s growth through a year-over-year comparison, the picture changes dramatically.

While Trivago is still the channel that delivers the most traffic to hotel websites (see Chart 1 above), the trend has actually decreased quite significantly compared to last year, showing a concerning up-to 40% drop for some hotels.

While metasearch as a whole has been growing, Trivago has been falling behind, not only in terms of traffic generation (see Chart 4), but also in terms of contribution to bookings for hotel websites.

When everything changed … for the worst (aka the bad thing about Trivago)

At the end of last year, Trivago rolled out a major update to its algorithm that determined how advertisers ranked in the auction. While Trivago always has been proud of its price-win auction dynamics (resulting in giving first position to advertisers with the cheapest room rate), this has all now changed to a bid-win dynamic: Room rate is no longer a way to guarantee a first position in the ranking.

Whether this has been done in a desperate effort to try to keep OTAs onboard (as they had started pulling back on spend) or as a way to increase revenue (it’s hard to say, but it’s likely to be a bit of both ), the outcome is the same: This move has only penalized independent hotels and, in particular, the effectiveness of their pay-per-click investments on Trivago. The result is a higher cost-per-click (Chart 6 below) and, as a consequence, less traffic to hotel websites.

Less traffic to hotel websites at a higher cost of click acquisition can only lead to a decrease in profitability, as has happened to many hotels.

The Trivago value proposition compromise

On the consumer side, overall popularity of Trivago also seems to have taken a nose dive. Again, comparisons to last year show fewer users – apparently – using the Trivago search engine, which Trivago also states in its quarterly reports when significant decreases in qualified referrals are reported.

Trivago’s changes to its algorithm didn’t only affect profitability of hotels investments – it has also compromised its value proposition to its customers.

How can you promote yourself as the go-to place to find the best price if the results don’t reflect that?

There’s disconnect here between brand promise and user experience.

And this can be certainly one of the reasons why Trivago, as a brand, has lost some popularity compared to the past in users’ eyes.

So while bidding and ranking algorithm changes were crucial to the effectiveness of hoteliers’ investments in Trivago (which turns into a higher or lower profitability), attractiveness of Trivago to travelers is now crucial in terms of potential volumes that it can drive to hotels.

These are the two key areas that need to be looked at closely to ensure ongoing successful performances for hotels, and we expect (and hope!) that these are the two main areas where Trivago moves next.

A hotelier action plan

Like everything involved in technology and the digital ecosystem – and when it comes to metasearch advertising, even more so! – change is the norm, and the speed of change is the paradigm.

Things change so quickly, so often: Reacting to change – and adapting on time – is the key to staying competitive.

This is the same approach that needs to be taken with Trivago.

Trivago is still delivering positive KPIs as an advertising platform, and it’s a cost-effective channel, especially compared to a number of other digital advertising options hotels can choose. This can’t be ignored by independent hotels in their quest to drive direct bookings.

Trivago is still the leader in terms of traffic acquisition in the meta landscape, especially for properties located across Europe: There’s a lot of traffic to hotels online (official websites or OTA listings) through Trivago, which it makes it a worthwhile channel.

Conversion rate optimization is the key when it comes to converting Trivago’s huge traffic into bookings. Hotels need to be well-equipped for that, with outstanding landing pages, well-performing booking engines and, last but not least, an optimized user experience for mobile devices (since 70% of traffic on Trivago is through mobile).

These are some of the tactical actions required to maximize the Trivago opportunity.

  • This article was written by Jacopo Rita, head of product for metasearch at Bookassist.
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