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January 7, 2018

8 Amazing Posts That Explore How AI Will Affect the Travel Industry: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

January 7, 2018 | By | No Comments

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How AI will affect the travel industry: Woman in self-driving car

Hey, Big Thinkers! So, with all the buzz around artificial intelligence in sales and marketing, you’re probably wondering AI will affect the travel industry this year — and beyond. To help you get your arms around the topic, we’ve put together this great list of 8 amazing posts that explore how AI will affect the travel industry for you. Enjoy:

  1. The Washington Post makes its Hospitality Marketing Link Digest debut with a list of travel industry trends in 2018 that you’ll want to know about.
  2. One of the biggest trends we’ll see this year is AI. And the fine folks at Koddi takes a good look at how AI is changing the travel industry. Don’t miss it.
  3. Datafloq also looks explores artificial intelligence in travel and has a great look at how AI will affect the travel industry that’s worth your time.
  4. Worried about how these changes will affect your team — or your job? A recent Skift post argues that the modern concierge is too skilled to be made redundant by technology. Maybe. But as our own Tim Peter talked about on our Thinks Out Loud podcast recently, AI won’t steal your job: smart people who put AI to work will. Make sure to give the whole episode a listen.
  5. Case in point, Tnooz reports that Air Canada is working to improve customer relationships via artificial intelligence. Expect a lot more of this to come.
  6. And if you’re worried that it’s too early — or too late — to get on-board, first, just remember that AI makes big data little and that we could all use more help there. Second, whether it’s AI, or whatever the next big thing may be, you really don’t want to wait to use emerging tech to market your hotel.
  7. Similarly, putting AI to work for your property is both critical for your long-term success and isn’t as hard as you might thing. As Tim points out in a recent Hotel News Now column, with preparation and foresight, the machines won’t win.
  8. Finally, it isn’t just AI that’s affecting the travel industry. That’s why you owe it to yourself to check out these 7 must-see posts highlighting how to market your hotel in the future. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter

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December 20, 2017

10 Tremendous Insights Into the Trends Driving Hotel Digital Marketing in 2018: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

December 20, 2017 | By | No Comments

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Trends Driving Hotel Digital Marketing: Guest shopping on tablet for hotel direct booking

We’re coming up on the end of a big year, Big Thinkers, filled with fascinating news and insights affecting distribution, digital marketing, and the overall hospitality landscape. To help you make sense of it all, here are 10 tremendous insights into the trends driving hotel digital marketing in 2018. Enjoy:

  1. One of the top posts of the past year explored why Airbnb keeps winning at hospitality. In many ways it builds on a top post from last year that asked, what business is Airbnb in? Hotels? Or hospitality? Both posts are definitely worth your time as we continue to deal with Airbnb’s place in the hospitality ecosystem.
  2. It seems a bit weird to include a round-up post in… a round-up post, but these 9 popular hotel marketing and distribution posts for you from earlier this year were simply too, well, popular and important insights into the trends shaping next year to leave out.
  3. Artificial intelligence undoubtedly represents one of the key trends to watch as we head into the New Year. Which is why you need to check out this look at how to make AI work for successful hotel marketing and AI for marketing: AI makes big data little. Both are well worth your time.
  4. Of course, AI isn’t the only big trend coming in 2018. That’s why you owe it to yourself to review these 7 must-see posts highlighting how to market your hotel in the future.
  5. While it isn’t a new trend, these 8 posts highlighting the growth of mobile in travel marketing certainly call attention to one of the most important trends you’ll face in the New Year.
  6. And yet another “holdover” trend examines the single most effective way to improve your brand’s marketing. Simply must-see.
  7. With slowing growth due to market saturation, the OTA’s certainly aren’t sitting on the sidelines through all these changes. That’s why this report from Tnooz that Expedia has set its sights on legacy tech with ambitious ‘travel platform’ for hotels is so noteworthy. So is this post that examines Airbnb and Expedia, execs answering 10 pressing questions. Ultimately, it’s a key reminder of this Warning: OTA’s want to own your guests every step of the way.
  8. In the escalating war of words we’re seeing with OTA’s vs. brands, the fact that OTA’s say hotel companies are just as bad for consumers as… OTA’s(?!?) was definitely one of the weirder things we saw all year.
  9. While we’re on the topic, you might also want to check out these 8 insights into OTA’s, personalization, and your overall digital strategy. Seriously good stuff there.
  10. And, finally, with the rate of change, it’s understandable that when it comes to hospitality digital marketing and distribution, you might ask, “Is it time to give up?” We’d say, “No.” Now go check out the whole post to see why.

Well, there you have it, Big Thinkers. Another year in the books. 2017 has been an amazing year for us here at Tim Peter & Associates, and a great one overall for our clients. We’re incredibly grateful for all the good fortune that has come our way. Hope the same has been true for you too. And keep checking back all next year (or subscribe to receive updates here). There’s a lot more to come as we head into 2018.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter

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September 26, 2017

Why Airbnb Keeps Winning at Hospitality

September 26, 2017 | By | No Comments

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Why Airbnb Keeps Winning at Hospitality

Where does Airbnb get off? Seriously. Late last year, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky used Twitter to engage in a lengthy dialogue with customers about where Airbnb might be heading as a company. Why should you care? Well, because that conversation started with a simple question from Chesky: "If @Airbnb could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?"

Wait a minute… Airbnb asks for feedback, listens to guests, and shapes its service around what its guests actually want? How dare they. After all, as hospitality operators and marketers, didn't that used to be our job?

This all came back to light recently when Hilton Hotels’ CMO Geraldine Caplin called Airbnb a “lodging company,” as compared with Hilton’s larger focus on hospitality. I’ve already made clear my position that Airbnb definitely meets the definition of a hospitality company, but I don’t want to dismiss Caplin’s statement out of hand. Hilton ought to be able to beat Airbnb in terms of delivering great hospitality. Any hotel company should. In fact, I’ve argued repeatedly that it’s critical for hotels to succeed in that effort.

I’m about to do it again.

Now, given this blog’s focus, it's fair to ask what any of this has to do with digital. Sure, it's Airbnb and yes, Chesky used Twitter to enable the conversation, but that's not why the exchange should be important to you. After all, it's no secret that digital has permanently changed the way your guests interact with brands and businesses.

What is important are the results of that change — and how you must respond.

What Chesky and his team recognize is that customer experience is the new marketing. Everything depends on the quality of the interactions your guests experience at every step of their journey. Why? Simple. Your guests carry a printing press in their pocket. Oh, and a full-HD video camera and a production studio and a broadcast network too. And they use these tools to share every element of their experience with their friends and family and fans and followers across social networks.

A 100-room hotel running at 60% occupancy with 1.4 guests per room hosts roughly 31,000 guests per year. And with an average of 200 connections on Facebook alone, those guests have the potential to reach an audience of over 6.1 million people. Even if these numbers wildly overstate your guests' social media activity and only 10% of those guests actually bother to say something about their stay — never mind what it says about their experience at your hotel if only 10% of your customers feel it's worth talking about — that's still over half a million opportunities for potential guests to hear about you each year. Imagine the stories they might hear.

This is equally true for "traditional" ratings and reviews seen on TripAdvisor and OTA's. I won't spend much time on this topic; you live with this reality every day. But it's worth noting that a recent TrustYou study found, "…guests are 3.9 times more likely to book the hotel with the highest average review score when price is equal" and, even better, that "76% of travelers said they were willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores." My real-world experience with properties all around the globe suggests this is true in practice as well as in theory.

Increasingly, marketing is less about telling your brand's story and is instead about ensuring your guests have a great story to tell on your behalf. A study from Flip.to and Fuel Travel found word of mouth was the 2nd most influential factor in your guest's decision-making process. What do you suppose your guests say about you?

None of this happens without digital. Before the internet, your guests maybe could tell a few friends about their travels — or bore them to tears with slides from their trip. But now they're constantly connected with an engaged audience who want to listen. Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter work hard to ensure only the folks who want to see the messages your guests share actually do. And, yes, you have to make certain the rest of your digital platform reinforces those messages once your guests' friends and family are ready to hear more. That's crucial. But it all starts with how they're finding out about you in the first place.

Customer experience is the new marketing. Airbnb gets it, which is why their CEO spent his Christmas holiday talking — and, more importantly, listening — to customers. The question now is: How do you plan to spend your next holiday? Or, for that matter, every other day this year?

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a quarterly column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.
Tim Peter

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August 1, 2017

8 Insights into OTA’s, Personalization and Your Overall Digital Strategy: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

August 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

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8 insights into OTA's, personalization and your overall digital strategy: Man reading the latest OTA and hospitality digital strategy insightsHey, Big Thinkers! Hope you’re having a fantastic day. Don’t miss these 8 insights into OTA’s, personalization and your overall digital strategy as you gear up for the rest of the week, OK? Enjoy:

  1. There’s been a lot of discussion the last couple of weeks around the current OTA vs. hotel brand dust-ups. First, Hotel Marketing published a pair of pieces that claim “New Research Shows OTA Consolidation Harms Consumers” and “OTA Bookings Linked to Lower Guest Satisfaction.”
  2. Tnooz followed that up with “OTA Or Hotel Direct – Putting The OTAs View.” (Full disclosure: That Tnooz headlines continues to bug me. I thought about rewriting it a few times, but it’s general incoherence mirrors the incoherence of the OTA’s argument on this so it felt appropriate to leave it as is.)
  3. Speaking of the incoherence of the OTA’s argument, I took a long look at OTA claims in detail in this post, “OTA’s vs. Brands: OTA’s Say Hotel Companies Are Just As Bad for Consumers as… OTA’s?” This kind of griping and sniping between OTA’s and brands is nothing new—see OTA’s vs. Chain Brands: Expedia Comes Out Swinging and Expedia’s Accelerator Program: A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing for just two examples—and aren’t likely to end anytime soon. But I still argue in favor of a “fair and balanced approach” to managing your OTA relationships—and expect I’ll continue to do that until someone gives me a good reason to switch. The only thing I would argue is that you should approach OTA’s the way male black widow spiders approach their potential mates: carefully.
  4. All that said, there’s a lot you can learn from OTA’s, as BookAssist points out in “Learning from the Giants: How Booking and Expedia Build Their Traffic Online.”
  5. Shifting gears a bit, eConsultancy has a fantastic piece that explains “How Six Travel & Hospitality Brands Use Personalization to Enhance the Customer Experience.”
  6. Personalization for hotels remains near and dear to my heart, as you can read all about in “6 Stellar Insights into Personalization for Hotel Marketing” from the Hospitality Marketing Link Digest series and in
    “Why Hotel Marketing Depends on Personalization.”
  7. With all the changes hotel marketers have to cope with every day, it’s fair to ask “Hospitality Digital Marketing and Distribution: Is it Time to Give Up?” As you might expect, I’d argue “no.” Be sure to read the whole article though to see why.
  8. And, finally, since you’re not likely to give up (and good for you!), check out these 7 Must-See Posts Highlighting How to Market Your Hotel in the Future also from the Hospitality Marketing Link Digest series as a way to round out your knowledge of OTA’s, personalization and your overall digital strategy. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter

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July 20, 2017

OTA’s vs. Brands: OTA’s Say Hotel Companies Are Just As Bad for Consumers as… OTA’s?

July 20, 2017 | By | No Comments

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OTA's vs. Brands: Booking.com and Expedia So the battle of OTA’s vs. brands just keeps getting weirder. The Travel Trade Association (TTA), which represents Expedia, Priceline, and TripAdvisor (as well as Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport and others[1]) responded to the recent AHLA report claiming OTA’s harm consumers by suggesting—and, honest to God, I’m not making this up—that hotel companies are just as bad as they are.

The AHLA report claims that Expedia and Priceline control about 95% of “the online travel market” and that these travel search giants mislead consumers about pricing, availability and a host of other relevant information. The biggest problem from AHLA’s point of view is that most guests don’t realize how much consolidation has limited the actual number of options available to guests when booking hotels online. The TTA’s Stephen Shur acknowledges the point when he tells Tnooz,

“The Federal Trade Commission in a hearing last year testified to Congress that they have no records of consumer complaints on these issues. We checked with the major consumer groups here in the United States, such as Consumers Union, National Consumers League and others, and these issues don’t even fall on their radar. The only place you’re hearing about hotel booking scams is from the hotel lobby.”

Tough to complain about something you don’t know exists, though, amirite? (Also, Is it just me or do you love the “hotel lobby” double entendre there? Just me? OK. Moving on…)

Odder still was Shur’s choice to highlight the number of brands held by six major hotel chains in the US (Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham) noting that they own 10 or more brands each, with Marriott carrying a whopping 31 brands in its portfolio. Except, here’s the thing. They’re comparing apples to orangutans. Brands does not equal market share.

So, yes, those 6 chains do each own a whole bunch of brands. But their collective share of global room inventory is less than 30%. Even with consolidation, Marriott’s marriage to Starwood granted the combined hotel powerhouse only 8.3% of global room supply. Big, sure. But not outrageously so. And if you add in major players like Accor, Best Western, and Carlson Rezidor to the Big 6 named by Shur, total combined share of rooms climbs all the way up to… 34.8%. Again, that’s hardly an anticompetitive distribution when spread across nine separate companies. This data shows the full story:

ChainRoom CountRoom ShareProperty CountProperty ShareOwned Properties% of Properties Owned
Marriott1,200,0008.3%6,1613.9%220.36%
Hilton812,0005.6%5,4003.5%1412.61%
IHG767,0005.3%5,0283.2%80.16%
Wyndham697,6074.8%7,9235.1%20.03%
Choice516,1223.6%6,5144.2%00.00%
Hyatt171,0001.2%6570.4%436.54%
STR Hotel Industry Totals14,500,000100.0%156,000100%N/AN/A
Source: All data retrieved from their respective company’s 2016 annual report or, when not available, from publicly-stated information. STR data retrieved from STR Hotel Census Database. All data as of July 19, 2017.

Now let’s not forget that the two major OTAs also sell pretty much all of these companies’ inventory, as well as a hefty chunk of the remaining 65% too. So I don’t think they’re making the argument they claim to be when criticizing the hotel companies.

The OTA’s make a much stronger argument by the way when they cite Phocuswright data showing they outsell hotel brands by only a few billion dollars, controlling 54% of the market compared to suppliers’ 46%. Except if two companies really do control 95% of that 54% (or, more simply, 51% of the total), as AHLA claims, that’s a big frickin’ deal. Here’s why.

The vast majority of the hotels within each of these chains are franchised. They don’t have to stick with the chain if they don’t want to.[2] If you’re a hotel owner carrying a flag from one of those 6 large hotel chains and aren’t happy with the value you receive from said chain, you have a ton of options available to you. You could dump your current flag and instead:

  1. Switch to your original chains’ soft brand(s)
  2. Go to one of the other 5 chains the TTA calls out, either carrying one of their flags or using one of their soft brands
  3. Go to another chain outside that original set of six (Accor, BW, Carlson Rezidor, Magnuson, etc.)
  4. Go to one of their soft brands, or, finally,
  5. Skip the whole thing and fly independent (potentially affiliating with still other soft brands like The Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred, Small Luxury, etc.—or not—as you see fit)

I don’t know about you, but that feels like a pretty good set of options for today’s hotelier.

On the other hand, if you’re unhappy with Expedia, you could sell your inventory on Travelocity instead. Oh… wait. Expedia owns them. OK, how about Orbitz? Nope, Expedia owns them too. Hotels.com? Also Expedia. And so on. The landscape on the Priceline side isn’t any better, with Booking.com, Agoda, Kayak, Momondo, and the company’s flagship Priceline brand among its guest-facing presence. And these two represent probably 51% of all reservations made online if AHLA’s numbers are right.

Hmm… remind me again who’s better positioned to harm consumers and hotel operators?

Does any of this automatically prove that the OTA’s are evil? Of course not. As I’ve argued repeatedly, OTA’s can represent a reasonable option for reaching guests you’re not able to reach on your own.

What it does prove is that the OTA’s aren’t so great at making an argument about who’s the big bad wolf here. Just like your mom probably told you as a kid, the OTA’s may find that when they’re pointing a finger at the evils of industry consolidation, the rest of their fingers end up pointing right back at themselves.


  1. I’d be curious to know how Sabre and Amadeus feel about this approach, given the amount of effort they’re putting into wooing major hotel chains as clients for their CRS products. ^Back to article
  2. To be fair, this ignores the challenge of getting out of any existing franchise agreement, which can be onerous. ^Back to article

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including: