Sunday, 14 February 2010

ENTER 2010 in Lugano

ENTER, the international conference on Information Technology and Travel & Tourism took place from the 10th to the 13th February in Lugano. Over 300 academics, industry representatives, destination managers, marketers and government representatives participated and discussed current issues and future trends in tourism.

The programme consisted of more than 100 presentations from international researchers and tourism practitioners and covered a great variety of topics from content management, e-marketing, semantic web, augmented reality, mobile services, travel distribution to sustainability through ICTs.

Evert van Loenen (Philips Research), for example, presented how ambient intelligence applications in tourism can revolutionise the user experience. Ambient intelligence (AI) refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people. Van Loenen pointed out that ambient intelligence applications might be especially interesting for the so-called bleisure lifestyle segement. Bleisure, a term coined by the Future Laboratory describes the blurring of business and leisure.
In the 80s, business was about competitive advantage and using left-brain characteristics. In the 90s, it was about knowledge economics and using the right-side of our brain. But now it is about firing up both sides of the brain and mixing and merging left (work) with play and creativity (right). Bleisure people are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their body. They multitask, talk, listen and type and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first. Often work was considered as something you do to get money to buy leisure. But that is a false way to look at it now. If you are doing something that you enjoy doing and you are getting paid for it, it becomes a profitable hobby rather than drudgery.

Philips Research has developed the Guest Inspiration System, a photo inspiration centre for hotels. The hotel guests can swipe their keycard over a networked table to receive suggestions about things to do and to collect points of interests (POIs). The hotel guest can then present the keycard to either the concierge or an info terminal in order to obtain more detailed information about the POIs. Ambient intelligence is context aware and personalised by applying algorithms which match metadata (e.g. time, location) with local conditions (e.g. time, day, weather, hotel location).
Van Loenen concluded that the challenges for the future will be to keep the user-system-interaction as simple and intuitive as possible and to understand the needs and especially the latent needs of future travelers and other stakeholders.

Andrew Pozniak from Google explained that Google’s solutions for the tourism industry link the virtual and the physical world with a focus on search, video and mobile. Google plans to invest hugely in mobile and anticipates a new era of computing since phones are getting more powerful and less expensive. People get connected to the internet more often from more places via their phones. Another objective of Google is to create Place Pages for every place in the world and organising all the relevant information about it. There are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities all over the world.

Another innovative Google solution is Search by Voice which makes searching faster and offers new possibilities for the users. I tried out Search by Voice myself on my iPhone and I have to say it is amazing! You simply hold your mobile phone to your ear and speak the search query after the beep. For example you can search for hotels in Lugano by saying “hotels lugano Switzerland” or you can use the phone as a currency converter by saying simply “125 Swiss Francs in Euros” and you will get the exact calculation (see screenshots below taken from my iPhone, click on graphic to enlarge).

Google is further working on a software for bridging the language barrier by speech-translating foreign languages almost instantly via the mobile phone. By building on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation, Google hopes to have a basic system ready within a couple of years (Source: The Sunday Times online, 7th February 2010).
Just like in Star Trek! Well, a mobile language translator would certainly be a great help for travelers and would make communication among human beings a lot easier.

I contributed to ENTER myself with two presentations. I was honoured support Professor Jamie Murphy in his workshop on the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC). In 2009, over 10,000 students from 57 countries around the world taking part in the GOMC. The GOMC was developed by professors in collaboration with Google and it gives students and instructors likewise the opportunity to gain a practical, real world online marketing experience. Student teams receive US$200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns. The teams outline a strategy, run a campaign, assess their results and provide the clients with recommendations to further develop their online marketing.

I participated in the GOMC last year with my Master students at the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems and we carried out very successful Google AdWords campaigns for 11 clients. One of the teams was even among the semi-finalists (i.e. the top 50!) in the Eastern and Middle European Area. For more information on the GOMC 2009 read the article IMC Krems: Tourism students support Companies with e-Marketing. Needless to say that we will participate in the competion again this year!

Furthermore, I chaired the Friday morning session titled “New Generation of NTO Tourist Information Portals”. The presentations of Jonah Sigel (PlanetEye), Andrew McIntyre (Australian Tourism Data Warehouse) and Alexander Trieb ( tried to give answers to the questions: do current NTO b2c websites meet customer needs and how will developments in social media and user behavior influence NTO websites and the role of NTOs in general?

This year ENTER was hosted by the Università della Svizzera italiana and I would like to express my thanks to the local team including Professor Lorenzo Cantoni, Nadia Kalbaska, Elena Marchiori and Alessandro Inversini who made this ENTER conference a truly memorable event. Besides the many interesting presentations and discussions, like every year ENTER offered many opportunities for networking and socialising. For more information on ENTER 2010 visit

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tips for Clicks on Your Website – Combining Social Media and E-mail Marketing is a Growing Trend

A couple of days ago I met a friend of mine who is the content manager for the website of a regional tourist board and we discussed to what extent social media networks can drive more visitors to your own website and especially of what quality these clicks were regarding leads and user engagement. We concluded our discussion that the success of social media marketing is dependent on the content quality and how the usage of social networks is integrated into the whole eTourism and eMarketing strategy.

To summarise the tips for clicks, it must be emphasised that first and above all content is still king! High quality content means that it is interesting and relevant for your visitors and potential buyers. Self-adulations and exaggerations about products and services (as they can be found frequently in brochures and flyers) are in most cases not perceived as credible by customers.

Moreover, the navigation, information structure and look & feel of the website should be distinguished by a high usability which caters for the skills and needs of various user types (e.g. experienced – inexperienced, first-time visitor – returning visitor). Not only can you please your visitors with relevant content and an intuitive navigation structure but this will also improve the volume and quality of traffic to the website from search engines via organic search results (i.e. search engine optimisation).

Despite the wide variety and potential of online marketing formats, offline marketing should not be neglected. Every contact point with customers (e.g. personal contact, public relations, press releases, print catalogue, phone call, voice mail etc.) is an opportunity to point clients to content on your website. However, customers should also be made aware of the benefit they get when visiting the website. You can collect the user feedback in order to find out why customers visited your website and what they found particularly useful.

Many tourism businesses and organisations have planned to increase their communication activities on social networks in the next months with the goal to generate more website traffic. This trend is also underpinned by the “2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report” from MarketingSherpa, published by eMarketer (21 Dec 2009). Increasing website traffic significantly outranks other marketing objectives such as increasing leads and sales revenues or improving search engine rankings and brand awareness (see table below, click to enlarge):

However, creating content for social media platforms (e.g. fan pages, blogs, videos, tweets), communicating with users and monitoring user activities also require more financial investments into staff and co-operations with agencies or consultancies. It is therefore not really surprising that many industries plan to raise their marketing budget in favour of social media marketing (see chart below, click to enlarge).

Half of the marketing managers from the travel and leisure industry claimed they intend to increase the budget for social media marketing in 2010, according to the “2010 Social Media Benchmark Report”, for which 2,317 US marketers were questioned about their marketing budget plans.

In spite of the hype and growing popularity of social networks, recent surveys revealed that it is still the e-mail newsletter that can lead to high conversion (e.g. purchases, subscriptions etc.) and user engagement rates. E-mail is obviously still the king of online content sharing, according to a survey carried out by StrongMail and published by eMarketer (23 Dec 2009). E-mail links achieved conversion rates of nearly 37% for online content shared by Internet users, whereas Facebook led to conversion rates of 3% and Twitter of 0.4% (see chart below, click on chart to enlarge).

Another “driver” for e-mail sharing is SWYN which stands for “Share with your Network”. The integration of a code snippet in an e-mail newsletter allows subscribers to share email content with various social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg etc. (see graphic below).

It actually seems that the combination of e-mail marketing and social media is a growing trend for driving more visitors to the website, which is also reflected in the planned marketing spendings for the year 2010. Seven out of ten business executives around the world are going to increase the budget for e-mail marketing and 60% will spend more money for social media marketing (see chart below, click on chart to enlarge).

Of course other marketing activities such as search engine marketing, banner advertising, ads on mobile applications, strategic e-partnerships and many more are also still relevant in the marketing mix. It is essential for all marketing activities, though, that the objectives and metrics of how to measure these objectives are clearly defined, targeted and geared to the user needs.

Therefore, the basic ingredients for driving more traffic to your website and turning visitors into customers are a well structured website, top-quality content / offers, aligned marketing activities, regular analysis of performance metrics and continuous quality improvement.

Related arcticles:
How to Conduct Email Marketing that Doesn't Suck
Poor Usability Drives Down Bookings on Hospitality Websites
What travelers are actually looking for when searching online

Saturday, 9 January 2010

One of Two Europeans Uses the Internet Daily in 2009 – Austria Faces a Digital Divide

The number of households with Internet access is steadily growing in the 27 EU member states, which gives hope for increasing online business. In the first quarter 2009 two thirds of Europeans (65%) could access Internet from their home, compared with 60% in the first quarter of 2008, according to Eurostat (news release from 8 Dec 2009). Almost 40% of individuals aged between 16 and 74 years in the EU27 had purchased something over the Internet in the last 12 months. In Austria, one person in three used the Internet daily in 2009, as a survey by IMAS Market Research revealed.

The internet access landscape in European households is - not surprisingly - rather diverse and ranges from 30% in Bulgaria to 90% in the Netherlands. In Austria 70% of all households had internet access in 2009, compared to 69% in 2008 and 60% in 2007.
The online shopping behavior varies also considerably between Europeans aged from 16 to 74. The online buying share in 2009 was highest in the United Kingdom (66%), Denmark (64%) and in the Netherlands and Sweden (each with 63%), whereas Romania (2%), Bulgaria (5%) and Lithuania (8%) were on the lower end of the scale. The Austrians (41%) seem to be a bit diffident as far as online shopping is concerned and can be found in the middle field, together with France (45%) and Germany (56%). These figures are quite important for eTourism strategists, because although some of these Eastern European countries are considered as emerging markets in the online travel landscape (see my post from 3 Jan 2010) the potential of online bookers is still rather low.

Is Austria facing a digital divide?
Every third person (37%) in Austria older than 16 years uses the Internet daily and therefore can be called a “heavy user”, whereas 41% of Internet ascetics totally refuse to use the Internet, according to a survey carried out by IMAS between August and September 2009 and presented yesterday (see IMAS chart below, click to enlarge). The data from Eurostat differs slightly in this respect, which might be led back to a different formulation of the question. According to Eurostat, 70% of Austrians aged from 16 to 24 and 48% of individuals aged from 16 to 74 use the Internet on average daily or almost every day.

The data gives evidence that the Austrian society is split into those 59% of individuals who use the Internet at least once a month and the 41% of non-users. Interestingly, the Internet user/non-user ratio has remained relatively constant over the past five years. It will be interesting to see what impact this trend might have on the communication behavior and information/knowledge transfer.

Looking at the socio-demografic characteristics of either group the following pattern can be observed: the higher educated and/or the younger a person is, the more likely it is that (s)he uses the Internet daily. For example, 62% of Austrians aged between 14 to 29 and 59% with a higher education (e.g. A-Levels, University) use the Internet daily (see chart from IMAS below, click to enlarge).

Will these developments lead to a digitally divided society in Austria, i.e. those who do it and those who don’t, namely using the Internet for information search and communication? Or will the communication behavior of the baby boomers and generation N level the differences over the next years anyway?

The IMAS survey further revealed that every fifth Austrian older than 16 years is a member of a social networking platform such as Facebook or Xing. Interestingly, the main reasons for joining virtual communities are to stay in contact with friends and relatives (60%) and to get in contact with people of similar interests (59%). I believe that especially the latter reason can be used by marketers in the travel industry, for example creating fan pages or special interest communities so that individuals can get in contact with people of similar travel or activity interests. Observing the communication between the “fans” on the fan page can give deeper insights in the consumer needs and wants and is probably more effictive than simply placing an ad on a social networking platform.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

eTourism Trends for 2010

Happy New Year and welcome to 2010!

The end of the old and beginning of the new year is not only the time for many well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions but also for prognoses which technologies and developments will play an important role and hopefully also will become profitable in the coming months. I have tried to summarise key predictions and trends in eTourism for the year 2010 from various sources.

  • The online travel market share in Europe will grow despite the economic crisis. Whereas the total European travel market faces a double-digit decline through 2009 and 2010, the online market share for leisure and unmanaged business travel will increase from 28% in 2008 to 34% in 2010 (PhoCusWright, 21 Dec 2009). It seems like a side effect of the recession that customers are increasingly searching online for budget travel deals (Scene Advisor, cited on NewMedia TrendWatch, Nov 2009). Especially Germany will gain more online market share (see illustration below, click on chart to enlarge). Morever, emerging markets in the east such as Poland or Romania will also increase their shares in the European online travel landscape.

  • Travel metasearch websites such as Checkfelix or Kayak will become increasingly popular among European Internet users due to the highly fragmented European online travel market and the price-sensitivity of the customers (PhoCusWright, 21 Dec 2009). This new breed of online “meta-mediaries” aggregate offerings from suppliers and intermediaries likewise and could have the potential to change the travel distribution landscape fundamentally. The benefits for the consumers are that they get access to a wide range of suppliers and that they can compare their offers immediately.

  • Online media consumption will continue to grow due to increasing consumer empowerment and technology advances (eMarketer, 14 December 2009). Online content will become more distributed (i.e. the same content will appear in multiple channels and formats), personalised and contextualised (i.e. content and format is geared to the location and social situation of the users). Therefore a more precise targeting will be essential to reach the target audience.

  • Social media marketing and social commerce will become an integral part in the online marketing mix and the marketing spending will continue to shift from traditional to online media. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter will certainly remain the most attractive social networks for marketers also in 2010 (see graphic below, click on chart to enlarge).

  • However, it is necessary to find better ways for managing and measuring the impact of “earned media” (eMarketer, 31st Dec 2009). Earned media means the additional unpaid exposure that a brand receives when users share information about the brand online. “Social marketing works best when it’s earned, not paid for.” (eMarketer, 14 Dec 2009)

  • The need foradvanced analytics” is also identified by Gartner’s analysts for whom “the new step is to provide simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, not simply information, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action.” This will be particularly important for the question whether a large fan base on a social network can eventually generate sales or increase brand loyalty. Furthermore, real-time content from social networking platforms (e.g. Facebook) and temporal search (e.g. Twitter) will increasingly be considered by search engines and integrated into the search results.

  • Mobile is moving into the mainstream. The convergence of location-based and social-aware mobile applications will engage consumers en-route and will make mobile services an integral tool for travel planning and management. By the end of 2010, 1.2 billion people will have smart phones with mobile Internet access capable of rich content and user experiences (Gartner). As a result of this mobile advertising spending will also gain a bigger share in the marketing mix (eMarketer, 31 Dec 2009). The fusion of different technologies (e.g. internet, telephony, television) and applications will lead to new forms of media consumption and new marketing opportunities. Google’s $ 750 million purchase of AdMob can maybe also seen as an indicator that 2010 can turn in to the “year of mobile” (eMarketer, 8 Dec 2009)

  • Video conferencing will gain momentum as an alternative to business travel and is seen as a lead trend in 2010 by some analysts (Scene Advisor, cited on NewMedia TrendWatch, Nov 2009). This trend is further supported by the economic backdrop and the often rather tight budgets for business travels in many companies. I personally doubt that video conferencing will be booming among representatives of the travel industry but this trend could have a negative impact on the airline and hospitality industry.

  • Whole body scanners will become the standard on many airports due to increased threat of terroristic attacks (Scene Advisor, cited on NewMedia TrendWatch, Nov 2009). The failed bomb attack on a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in December 2009 has weakened the arguments of privacy defenders against the usage of full body scanners which will show not only hidden weapons but also very intimate body details. The Netherlands and also airports in Germany will start using whole body scanners (Focus Online, 2 Jan 2010).
The year 2010 will bring significant changes in terms of online media usage, advertising formats and e-commerce, m-commerce and social commerce activities. Monitoring those developments and reacting quickly if necessary means that you will be better prepared to capitalise on those changes.

I wish all readers and followers of my blog an exciting and successful happy New Year 2010!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Many C’s of eTourism

Sunshine, a blue sea and 25 degrees outside temperature is just excellent when I know that at the same time it is freezing cold and snowing back home in Vienna. However, we had no time to relax at the beach because the topics covered on the second day of the E-Tourism & E-Marketing conference in El Gouna were far too interesting and not be missed. Just to make you a little bit jealous, though, I post a foto of me in the beautiful garden of the El Gouna Mövenpick hotel.

The presentations on the second day were centred around the themes distribution 2.0, branding 2.0 and tourism education and how tourism businesses and organizations can make the best usage of social media applications.

Matt Jerwood, discussed “How Tourism Organizations Can Embrace Digital Media and New Channels of Distribution” and pointed out that the “norm” of digital media usage evolves quickly and the challenge for tourism organisations is to keep up with that speed of change. He concluded that it does not make sense to put the same effort into all activities but tourism businesses should analyse and evaluate the strengths & purpose of different platforms and applications such as social media, email, mobile, web, sms or voice for different user activities. Not all platforms or services are likewise suitable for creating awareness, browsing for information, purchasing a product or post sales activities. Online is certainly an important part of the entire marketing mix and therefore businesses should also start reorganising their budget and shift it from traditional marketing to experiental marketing because online drives traffic and reservations. It’s all about selling experiences!

The issue of “E-Learning and Capacity Building in the African Travel Sector” was discussed by Damian Cook. He explained that eTourism consists of a number of important C’s in the travel life cycle that we need to consider in our marketing communications . eTourism means

  • Communicating the right
  • Content across a variety of
  • Channels to the best value
  • Clients who will
  • Convert to a sale and keep
  • Coming back

Dimitrios Buhalis provided an overview of how DMOs can exploit the new technologies for marketing and distribution. He revealed that he was able to predict the future but he cannot say when it will happen …
Nonetheless, he presented the lessons to be learned in order to tackle the challenges of the future. Travelers, he argued, were always connected through social networks and mobile applications. Therefore, a simple list of inventory of products and services is no longer enough for DMOs to stay competitive. They need to promote experiences and develop location based services for tourists en route.

The last session of yesterday was dedicated to Tourism education which faces challenges such as increasing globalization, sustainable tourism development, informatisation of the entire tourism value chain and the growing importance of innovation. As a result of this, tourism education should consider these trends in the curriculum design and educate and prepare students for the flexibility of the tourism market. Tourism is an important and growing industry also in 3rd world countries and a high quality tourism education is considered as a major imperative especially in African and Arabic countries.

In my presentation on “Tourism Education in Europe and Overseas” I focused on student employability. Employability is regarded as a key performance indicator for Higher Education Institutions. The three major stakeholders in tourism education are the students / graduates, the higher education institutions and the industry (see illustration below; based on Sofia Reino).

There should be a very close interrelationship between all the stakeholders. The aim of higher education institutions is to endow the students in the related subject matters with the key assets knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA) so that they will be fit for and competitive on the labour market. The industry asks for specific skills and competences of the graduates and life-long learning has become crucial in our fast-changing times of increasing internationalization and globalization.

You can download the complete presentation on “Tourism Education”.