East Africa E-Tourism 2014 conference experience

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

I arrived at Nairobi airport greeted by bright yellow walls and friendly customs attendants shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’. I reminisced on my Kenya trip 9 years ago when we installed ResRequest at Governors’ Camps. At the time our greatest challenge was the modem dial up contending with at least 4 other voices shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’ as we tried desperately to get a data transfer through.

As my taxi driver tore through the streets of Nairobi pointing out this building and that one, I was totally gobsmacked at how much the city has changed. I asked him which buildings were new and, it turns out, almost all the buildings! I oo’ed and aa’ed about all that had been built over the last 9 years. Everything looked, well similar to home, except for the adrenalin junkies sailing out of the bus doors as they spun round the massive round-a-bouts, which the taxi driver assured me was rather unusual.

I was blown away by the high rises and apartment blocks in Nairobi, granted my taxi driver may have taken me the best routes, but in that case, the taxi drivers have got better at tourism then they were years before!

As I saw and experienced parts of Nairobi and caught up with customers, I wildly started hash-tagging #WhyILoveKenya, of course it helped that I’ll be heading home 2kg’s heavier thanks to my room attendant, Edith. Edith loaded my bathroom full of bottles of lemon grass conditioner, after I left her a reply to her welcome note which read: “Thanks for my conditioner Edith, I love it!”  For some weird reason I feel compelled to Pinterest my hair after Damian’s states that 94% of Pinterest users are women.

conditioner

Speaking of Damian and the reason for this post, Damian Cook and his wife, Elizabeth,  put on an intense, action packed and totally at-the-heart-of-things E-Tourism conference for East Africa. After attending the Cape Town conference last year, and receiving rave reviews from our marketing manager after this year’s CT session, I was really excited. Once again, Damian did not disappoint. The conference was packed and Damian’s Kenyan customers were totally absorbed in the programme from beginning to end.

I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to present to the audience, which consisted of a number of our customers. What surprised me, and them, was how much rich functionality ResRequest has to offer.I was able to tell our story and was rewarded with several customers telling me that they’ll be heading back to their office to check out much of the functionality I mentioned.

Damian’s presentations were honest and right at the heart of the challenges we face. He paid particular attention to helping Kenyan customers understand, plan and implement a crisis management strategy around their current tourism crisis.

Of course I don’t know how long Edith’s conditioner supply will last so I sincerely hope that Damian plans the next E-Tourism conference soon.

Are you interested in a direct link to Africa’s finest properties?

Our interface product, ResConnect, offers you stock, rate and availability access to Africa’s most luxurious and remote destinations. This service is now available FREE.

ResConnect links Agents, Tour Operators and Online Travel Channels to ResRequest inventory, rates and bookings.

• Quick and Easy Setup
• View Availability & Rates
• Create Bookings Electronically

How to Connect:
When you are ready to start the technical connection we will send you our service agreement (NDA) and introduce your developers to our developers. Your developer will receive access to a test site and our technical documentation.

Once you have established commercial agreements with your property partners from our client list, our call centre will setup the links to connect you with your selected properties.

Connection Charges:
Use of our API is free.

Should you require our services to co-ordinate setup with our customers or development assistance this is billed at our annually published support and development rates.

For more details on how to get set up, contact us on:
Email: info@resrequest.com
Telephone: +27 (0) 35 772 5615
Website: www.resrequest.com

ResConnect is developed and supported by the ResRequest Group.

Technology trends in tourism

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

A few weeks ago I consciously unplugged from the matrix to join this year’s e-Tourism Summit. It felt great to be unplugged. I actually watched the air hostess mechanically deliver her flight-crash-pitch – which reminded me to quickly sneak in a 5 minute Google to confirm if there would be any life-threatening effects from my kids playing too much Minecraft.

As the wheels picked up, I listened to the guy in front of me tell his across-the-aisle colleague how he planned to single-handedly change the insurance industry, I wondered if he dyed his hair – as I set a reminder to chase my insurance broker for an update on my policies. I heard the crying 6 month-old three rows ahead of me and, as the air filled with the unmistakable smell of a mother’s worst in-flight nightmare, I thought back on my kids and scrolled through my photo gallery.

I was welcomed in Cape Town by her customary light showers and as I enjoyed the friendly banter from my Rwandan taxi driver, I tweeted a photo of table mountain in all it’s glory. In the hotel I readied myself for a long night of presentation-prep. I popped a quick Skype to the office – just to let them know that I was still alive. They told me they’d seen my check-in status on Facebook. Facebook – did they say Facebook?  Gosh I had almost forgotten – with three hours of no social contact it felt like a past life. I quickly checked recent friend threads, liked the obligatory posts, and of course I could not ignore my Instagram fan base so I uploaded a shot of the Cape Town ocean front.

As I reached for my laptop and juggled power cables to charge my iPhone, iPad and Mac, it dawned on me that I was delusional to think I could or would unplug. Staring at the cable-maze I realised – I am a child of the technology age. Whether I have 3G, Edge, WiFi or flight-mode – I’m connected. I’m a millennial. I love living in technology nirvana.

With that epiphany I walked enthusiastically into the e-Tourism summit, wanting to learn about the innovation around me and make sure I was plugged into the latest and greatest technology. The summit did not disappoint. As Damian Cook kicked off the event I felt some sort of energy take over. I had to hold myself down when the music started pumping and the dancers started moving. When he said: “please tweet and Facebook throughout the conference”, I felt like I had just been told school was out. I took off my heels, immersed myself in the presentations and I walked away with some great technology trends, social media tips and the intense pleasure of feeling alive. Alive and plugged in.

For those of you who were unable to attend (and you have got to make a plan to change that next year!) e-Tourism published copies of presentations and recorded highlights. I have included some of my personal favourites below along with some study material I enjoyed as I trawled the internet for ideas to apply to our business.

Do I need an app to connect to my market?

Read article

Written by: Immedia

With over 6 billion mobile subscribers, the digital marketplace and the way audiences consume media have changed. With the ability to consume media at their leisure, consumers are now in control what they search for, how they interact with media and to what extent. If both the consumer and the technology they use have changed, then it only makes sense that your business follows suit.

The informed consumer

Changing your digital strategy gives you the potential to reach an audience that has already bought into the concept of apps and is already active in the app marketplace. Post-PC technology has empowered and equipped audiences with up-to-date, reliable decision-making tools. Today’s consumer is privy to an endless supply of information at their fingertips, allowing them the opportunity to make informed decisions based on readily available information and peer reviews.

This means that audiences are now more fragmented and mass messaging is no longer as powerful in reaching your target audience. Apart from allowing consumers to pick and choose the information they want to consume, new media like apps and social media enable consumers to be vocal in their appreciation and dissatisfaction of a service or product. With audiences choosing different devices and operating systems, they are also choosing different app store and methods to consume media.

Research shows that users are actively moving away from browser-based sites and that usage on mobile apps have exceeded websites by more than 20 minutes per day. Some of the reasons consumers are opting for mobile apps as opposed to going onto websites, are their usefulness when offline or on flaky data connections; a pre-downloaded app that one can access at any time increases the likelihood of it being viewed. In an already time-starved world, mobile apps save a consumer time as they’re often designed for one specific purpose.

An app is not a website

One of the more common misconceptions about apps is that they are simply websites that have been optimised for a phone. Apps allow for greater functionality, providing users with enhanced product engagement and quicker results. Simply put: a potential customer can go to your website to read up on your business and product, and could then easily and securely purchase the product via your app.

Apps give you a direct line to your customer. By taking advantage of push notification technology, you can send your customers important information in real-time, straight to their phone, for a fraction of the cost of an SMS or email campaign. The response rate on push notifications is currently three times higher than emails and SMS, making post-PC technology significantly more effective as a communication tool.

Yes, websites allow you to speak to potential consumers, but people prefer a predictable and immediate level of service. By giving your customer a simple and direct way to provide feedback, apps empower you to better meet the needs of your consumer whilst also providing them with a means to engage in productive dialogue with you.

Why an app could work for your business

According to Mashable, apps open new shopping and engagement opportunities such as  the ability to send through a push notification to remind a user of an abandoned shopping cart or storing login and billing information. This provides users with the opportunity to transact at their convenience and also ensure that they are reminded of your service offering without you having to advertise or require them to be in the store.

Launching an app that clearly meets customers’ expectations can also lend more credibility to a brand in the emerging post-PC marketplace, by demonstrating an understanding and a willingness to embrace a changing digital market.

Having an app as an addition to your marketing arsenal doesn’t mean that you need to change your essential business principles. Your app will allow you to do what you do, but better – it will help provide the best service to your customer by creating a real-time, always-on service point.
Think before you create an app

The development of an app isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all to optimising your digital strategy. A well-designed app causes a positive impact on the organisation by helping staff become more efficient at what they do, and in turn servicing the customer better. Therefore creating an effective app is not just a technical solution – it needs to involve buy-in, support and input from many stakeholders within the organisation, and can be a costly exercise.

From Information week: “…what’s missing in the enterprise space is an overall mobile strategy and an understanding of how an app will help both users and the company offering the app.” Before taking that leap and investing time and resources into creating an app, it helps to unpack how such a tool can holistically empower your organisation to best serve your needs.

Because we understand that every company is different and requires tailored solutions, post-PC solutions agency immedia helps organisations step-by-step through their digital transition, by collaborating together with your ideas rather than proposing a rinse-and-repeat solution. Book a strategic consulting session with us, and let us help you arrive at the best solution for your individual needs.


 

Can online payments work for lodges?

Online Credit Card Payments

In the past lodges have shied away from online payments citing concerns from “my customer will not understand complex travel logistics”, to concerns like “online payments will take away the personal contact with my customer”, and even “online bookings will create an unrealistic travel expectation”.

These concerns are valid and should be addressed. In fact they are already being addressed by pioneer lodges and travel sites like Expedia and Agoda. These businesses consider lodge stock sales as a feasible market and they are addressing sales challenges through packages, site content and seriously (seriously!) rigid booking terms and conditions.

If a customer can look, book and pay for a holiday to a lodge on a travel site, what’s stopping you from offering the same service on your own site? Answer that question and you may find it’s easy to put plans in place to direct your online customer to book on your own site.

Implementing online payments on your site caters for the customer who understands logistics, or a customer who is prepared to find out details after they have committed to the sale. It caters for the repeat guest, international guest, business guest and the impromptu buyer. Your online shopper has an inherent trust in web content and your brand, they have researched you on Tripadvisor, Facebook and other social media platforms. By the time they are prepared to enter their credit card details, they have concluded that you meet their expectations and they trust that you will fill in any gaps for them.

Ignoring online payments may mean you alienate a potentially lucrative market from your business. Why? Because these online customers prefer to shop at a time that suits them, on a device that suits them and they prefer instant (and electronic) response to their quoting and purchasing needs. This customer interprets your personal attention from your e-content such as, your social media posts and your web site content. They expect that you will fill in any gaps for them, even after their transaction is completed online. And if you don’t cater to their shopping preference – they will likely close your web page and find someone in your area who does.

Offering credit card transactions is a necessary service for this customer because it provides them with a convenient, effective time-saving method of processing payment, in a secure environment.

To find out specifics about how ResRequest can help you with online payments, take a look at our ResRequest online payments starter pack.

Online travel channel sales a success!

Those that have been hard at work investing the resources and effort to implement online sales channels have reported sales success! In a relatively short time ResRequest properties have reported that online sales channels have added impressive revenue cream every business owner dreams of.

With internet penetration increasing and customers taking to the web, building a strong online sales strategy appears to be a lucrative strategic investment for ResRequest properties. There are several options available to our ResRequest customers which we have documented in our Online Options Book. One aspect of an online sales strategy is investing in online sales channels. These channels are websites who act as web-based travel agents. Their entire focus is on finding ways to attract keen buyers to their websites in order to make a sale.

In the past, availability, rates and bookings were manually co-ordinated between the channel and the property and only big hotel chains could invest in automating business with channels. This has changed with the introduction of interfaces between reservation systems. We are now able to communicate electronically and automatically send availability, rates and bookings from ResRequest to these channels through our connector module.

Our clients were cautious with their approach to this new sales area until the end of last year when a few pioneer ResRequest properties invested resources, time and patience into an online channel strategy. In a few months these properties established relationships with online vendor agents such as Expedia, Agoda and Booking.com. They setup the ResRequest channel connector module and started working with their vendor partners to ensure that they get the best return on their channel investment.

Soon after this effort, rumblings of unprecedented earnings reached our ears and we enthusiastically celebrated our client’s successful forage into this exciting new revenue stream.

By now you’re either dreaming of creamy financials or salivating over your keyboard and waiting for the sign pointing toward the holy grail. So here it is, the key ingredients you will need for this new sales model are: your resources to setup and manage this channel strategy (remember this takes time and effort), a connection between ResRequest and the channel, and a relationship with each channel.

channels1

Let’s review each of these ingredients closer.

ALLOCATE RESOURCES

To get value from this new revenue stream, you will need to invest the resources, time and patience to manage your channels.

I can almost hear you sigh saying: “I thought you said this was ‘online’?” And I did say online, but online channels are just an ‘e’ version of a travel agent. You are the product, the channel is the agent and ResRequest electronically connects your data together.

You are still ultimately doing business with a company that has specific rules and methods of working. The electronic connection is simply automating the detailed data lookups. You still need to nurture relationships, negotiate rates, manage specials and stay in touch with your channel partner so that you can be sure to deploy all the tricks to get your property listed at the top of their search engine!

The technical connection between the channel and ResRequest is just one part of others needed to make this work for you. Properties who have seen success from their online channels are the properties that have allocated resources internally to develop and deploy a channel strategy. They have recognised that like any sales strategy, dedication and effort are required to make it work.

SETUP RESREQUEST CONNECTOR

ResRequest has developed a connection bridge to three connector partners: Nightsbridge, eRes and SynXis. Each of these connector partners distribute your data to a host of channels and travel websites.

The diagram below illustrates how your ResRequest data electronically reaches your channel partner.

Online-Configuration

 

Even with a connector in place, there are still data setups that need to be managed in both the connector partner and the channel partner’s system. This is another reason an allocated resource is necessary!
MEET CHANNEL PARTNERS

There are a host of channels available through each ResRequest connection partner. Some of these channels are for listed searches only while others deal in online availability and sales.

Two of the most successful channels amongst our pioneer properties are Expedia and Agoda. We contacted these popular channels to find out who our lodges can talk to in order to become more familiar with the type of business they can bring you and how they work. To find out more about what these renown channels can offer you, click the links below:

See our detailed Channels List for a list of channels offered by our channel managers.

Remember that you will need to establish a relationship with each channel you choose to do business with. That allocated resource should also fill this role perfectly!


What does it cost me?

Along with investing resources in this project, be prepared for connection fees and, of course, the channel commission. The general price expectation is: (Your Resource & Time) + (ResRequest Connector Fee + Channel Manager Fee) + the Channel’s Commission.

Here is a breakdown of these costs:

ChannelPricing

These prices are subject to change and should be confirmed by the respective vendor.

What next?

If you are interested in taking the next step, contact our Call Centre so that we can talk you through the process.

 


See related Online Options topics:

Online Options for ResRequest Customers (Overview)Sell Bed Nights to Direct Guests on Your Website
Sell Bed Nights to Agents
Sell Bed Nights through Partner Sites
Sell Bed Nights through ResConnect Agents
Sell Bed Nights through Mass Market channels

 

Online connections | What’s available?

Reaping the benefits of online booking channels sounds appealing until you hit the Google search button. The vast volume of results leave most people feeling intimidated or exhausted before they even click ‘Next’. 

As the online inventory and availability distribution hub, ResRequest plays a key role in working with our channel and technology partners and customers to identify online booking options that clients can embrace, turning this online challenge into an exciting opportunity.

To help you kickstart your blueprint to success, we have identified the online booking options available to you, their pitfalls, successes and general industry trends.

 

Channel Options

Your website. Your investment in a great web design is to excite customers about your product and lead them to buy. Once your customer has made a commitment to purchase, they ask for price and availability, which culminates in a sale. For this reason close to 90% of our clients proactively engage in showing rates and availability on their website.

Luxury / remote lodges are less confident of the value of creating bookings and processing credit cards directly from their website. Reasons for look-to-book reluctance includes fears that guests will not be able to arrange complicated transfers. In addition lodges are concerned that automating bookings sidesteps the value of building a relationship between the customer and their product. To top these concerns, many lodges are wary of how partner agents may react to them openly targeting the direct market.

As a result of all these concerns, we see a more cautious approach to creating bookings online, resulting in clients favouring availability displays with an easy-to-use enquiry form.

However, over the last year we have seen an increase in creating bookings with close to 5% of our clients implementing this functionality on their website. We believe that, even though lodge consumers may continue to need personal interaction with reservation offices or agents, over the next 2 years online bookings will become an expected norm from direct and travel trade.

 

Your business partners. Over time, marketing groups have formed with the objective of stimulating travel in niche markets. Some of these groups are commercial ventures, while others are informal associations born from like-minded neighbouring properties. This year saw an increase in interest for marketing groups and regional availability, where independent / neighbouring properties are interested in publishing availability on a collaborative web-page. Approximately 5% of our clients now participate in this type of online channel. This is a market sector that is growing in popularity and benefits both direct guests and travel trade.

 

Specialist agents. Ask any agent or tour operator and they will tell you that a large portion of their success is the skill with which they are able to quickly prepare a customised itinerary. Giving specialist agents access to your stock means that agents are able to prepare and respond to requests for quotations faster then their competitors. More then 70% of our clients allow agents to access stock through our agent module, with close to 3% allowing agents to create bookings.

To enable agents with their own systems to electronically extract rate and availability from multiple clients, we have developed an auxiliary product, ResConnect. Approximately 90% of our clients have established relationships with our agent partners who use ResConnect.

 

Mass market channels / Global Distribution Systems (GDS). Travel sites reported significant 2011 revenues: Expedia $3.45 billion, Amadeus at E2,7 billion. With revenues like these it is understandable that every hotel would love to tap into those markets. So why are lodges cautious of tapping into these very lucrative channels?

Lodges have many concerns with these channels. Concerns include the effect of boycotts by specialist travel agents and tour operators. Lodges also fear that channels will create a price war climate that will ultimately result in cheapening their products and forcing rack rates to drop. In addition lodges have logistical fears that these channels have no concern for the guest’s knowledge or ability to transfer to and from complicated, remote locations. There is also a fear that web-savvy consumers receiving an unexpected experience will complain on public forums such as Tripadvisor and Twitter, tarnishing a lodge’s reputation.

It is clear that the lodge industry have not yet understood if and how this market sector could be valuable to them. Among our clients we see 3 opinions: clients who are adamant this sector will not work for them, clients who are cautious but tempted to experiment and clients who embrace these channels as a new type of agent.

Despite these fears, this year we have seen our first 16 properties tap into these channels. Early evidence suggests that once the connection is established, marketing effort is then required to ensure that trends and product pricing align with each partner site’s requirements, to ensure that the lodge will be listed high in relevant searches.

 

Considerations

“Where does ResRequest fit in?”
Each channel option requires a specific strategy and project plan and ResRequest is an integral part of this strategy. To demonstrate where ResRequest fits in and how you can use the online Channels available to you, we have created a Connections starter document. Please download this file for more information.

“Do the bookings roll in once I’m connected?”
A common misconception about online channels is that because they are automated, they will generate business immediately. This is a myth, marketing effort is required to manage and understand how to sell bednights effectively on each channel.

Approach this as a completely new way of promoting your product by investing in managing and understanding each connection model, and they will become exciting new opportunities to sell bed nights.

For consulting advice on setting up online channels contact our support centre: support@resrequest.com

 

iBooks | The Evolution of the Brochure

Written by: Immedia

You might have noticed the increase in smartphones and e-book readers recently when walking through the mall, or shuffling down the airplane aisle. You may have seen your clients or friends no longer using their phone solely to make calls, but also to take notes, to diarise appointments and to capture high-res photos. Our mobile devices are now a part of our daily lives and routines.

This technological space that we find ourselves in is the post-PC era, a time in which people are no longer bound by the need for a desktop or laptop computer. They are constantly connected to their work and personal life through their mobile devices – of which they have many.

Due to this state of constant connectivity, consumers now expect to interact with us on their own time, which is no longer during office hours or when seated in their study.

Our consumers’ need for ‘instant gratification’ has them expecting news or updates with a tap of a finger, rather than scouring through a maze of website tabs or having to fill in their details in an often overlooked website contact form. People are reaching less and less for print magazines and brochures – they are now searching for information on their ‘companion’ device while sitting in a meeting or watching TV.

iPad users desire convenience, and with a wealth of online info already available on demand, marketing approaches need to now include creating digital content which is easily accessible and always up-to-date.

Jump past to easy


A new innovative way to reach the consumer wherever they are without losing any of the beauty of the travel product is Apple’s new iBook – an easy alternative to a clunky website or an expensive brochure; with the same visual appeal plus the benefit of updatable video, audio and text delivered to the consumer when they want it.

An iBook (exclusively for iPad) helps you create stunning digital brochures by incorporating almost any type of media into the book, changing the way your customer experiences your brochure. Flipping through a book is no longer limited to text and a fixed image. iBooks allow your consumer to engage with your destination through videos, sound clips, galleries of photos, 3D imagery and interactive diagrams, turning every page into an audiovisual ‘experience’.
You have a captive audience on iPad, just waiting for dynamic content


What makes an iPad different from other tablet devices and book readers such as the Kindle is the lack of restriction on interactivity. Most existing tablet devices cannot cater for rich media content to be embedded into an e-book or e-brochure. Considering that iPad users spend more time using their iPads than watching TV, the demand for mixed media is ever-increasing. It has also been revealed that 51% of users who have read a magazine in print and on the iPad chose viewing on an iPad, if given the choice.

The iPad is currently the most prolific selling hardware in history, with over 15 million (out of a total of 55 million) sold in less than a year. This growing, upwardly mobile audience cannot remain unnoticed especially with 87% of them using it every day of the week, in almost every type of interaction.

Having your content in an iBook gives you the chance to reach out and entice the traveller, and then tell them more about how you can help make their travel dreams a reality. And with iBook technology, the user’s brochure is always updated with the latest accommodation rates or tour fares by simply being hooked up to the internet.

Think different


African Storybook Digital are digital transition consultants who understand the change that digital has brought to your customer and have the ability and nuance to help you embrace these changes in your business, at your pace.

As a South African IT provider with a solid background in providing services to the tourism industry, we see how the iBook can enhance the discovery of travel experiences and enhance the way potential guests interact with travel information.

We have already begun providing serious players in the travel industry with the tools to make a smooth transition to tailored, digital marketing strategies which can target the right audience without any wasted printing costs, especially in a more socially – and environmentally – conscious world.

The iBook makes for a good first-time foray into the world of digital, being much cheaper and quicker to produce than a smartphone or tablet app and with none of the printing costs of a brochure or magazine, allowing you to inexpensively complement your existing marketing efforts to measure your effectiveness. Chat to us about your needs and we’ll help guide you to where you want to go.


For more information visit Immedia’s website at: www.immedia.co.za

ibooksgallery