Digital. Season 2, Episode 5. The Top 10 Travel News Stories of the Week: Day In, Day Out
Australian court found Trivago guilty of misleading its users by not showing the cheapest hotel deals, but the ones on which advertisers bid the most. Federal Court Justice, Mark Moshinsky, stated that Trivago “did not provide an impartial, objective and transparent price comparison service, (and) the fact that Trivago was being paid by the online booking sites was not made clear.” The company was also found guilty of misleading users by comparing different room types, creating a false impression of savings.
As already speculated on an old Digital., Thomas Cook could be relaunched as an OTA as early as this summer (June, according to rumors) by Fosun, the current owner of the oldest travel firm’s brand. That being said, Thomas Cook’s customers are still waiting to get refunded for the canceled vacations…
During ITB2020, Protel will release the new version of AIR, “industry’s first and only PMS to include built-in voice capabilities for hotel employees.” If you’re interested in voice, or simply looking for a cool party (theme of the event: the roaring ’20s) to attend, save the date: Mar 3, 2020 19:30–23:00, Bar Lebensstern58 Kurfürstenstraße10785 Berlin.
Digital #7, 6 & 5
Google I/O 2020 has, finally, a date and a location: May 12th — 14th, at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. The event was promoted by a cool puzzle, that you can try to solve here.
On different news, Google’ SERP redesign (check out the previous edition of Digital.) backlashed: many users (including yours truly) complained about the fact that the new design blurred the line between paid and natural results, making ads look more like organic search results. A Google spokesman minimized, by saying that the new SERP mirrors “the design that we’ve had for many months on mobile.”
Still on Google: according to CEO, Sundar Pichai, artificial intelligence (if unregulated) could be used for “mass surveillance”, or to “violate human rights.” The Financial Times published an interview with Pichai, who highlighted how regulations should “take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms, especially in high-risk areas, with social opportunities.” Google, according to Pichai, “wants to be a helpful and engaged partner to regulators as they grapple with the inevitable tensions and trade-offs. We offer our expertise, experience, and tools as we navigate these issues together.”
According to a recent Sojern survey, 60% of independent hoteliers consider increasing direct bookings their number one challenge. I wrote a piece with my (“against the grain, that’s where I’ll stay”) opinion on this direct-booking obsession that you can read here. Martin Soler seems to prove my thesis: in his “Overview of media in Hotel Marketing of 2019” (a must-read), he found out that, traditionally, “Direct Revenue has been a hot topic every year. The war against OTAs for more Direct has been the rallying cry for most hotel marketing agencies, tech companies, and more. It even permitted one tech company to raise millions of dollars from investors. In 2017 it clocked in over 13% of the mentions, declining to 7% in 2018 and is now at an all-time low of 2%.”
Travel tech companies, on the other hand, seem to be more focused on creating a really frictionless travel experience, helped by the use of AI. According to Lindy Andersen, Director of Global Accounts at Expedia Group, the group is “harnessing the power of innovative technology, using AI to alleviate stressors and drive better efficiencies of our entire platform.”
Trip.com expanded its “Cancellation Guarantee” initiative to hotels outside of China. If you’re a hotelier, you’ve probably received this message from the company formerly-known-as-Ctrip:
Dear valued partners,
The outbreak of the new coronavirus pneumonia in China has severely affected and impacted the travel plans of passengers, and through this urgent letter, we hope to seek your kind understanding and support in working together with us to assure passengers with our cancellation policies.
Under such circumstances, Trip.com hereby sends you an urgent “Safeguard Cancellation” initiative. Your hotel’s reservations from Ctrip/Trip platform, made before January 24, with a check-in date from January 22 to February 8 will have cancellation waiver if the travelers voluntarily cancel the bookings. This will cover customers traveling from China to your hotel, via channels including direct connectivity, direct-contracted rates with your hotel, or by other 3rd party agents who sold your hotel on our platform together with our flight + other vacation packages.
Your participation will contribute to the global efforts in the control and prevention of the spread of the epidemic, and will also be sincerely appreciated by Chinese tourists. Thank you for your understanding and support. We sincerely look forward to your participation in this program at this critical juncture.
PhocusWire does not need an introduction. If you’re in the industry, you know that PW is your “comprehensive daily news companion for the industry”, powered by Phocuswright, the most respected travel research authority and events brand in the world. During today’s episode of Digital. (3:00 PM CET) I will be joined by PhocusWire Senior Europe Reporter (and personal friend of mine), Linda Fox. Linda has been writing about technology and distribution in the travel since 1998, for media such as Travolution and tnooz. I had the privilege of working with her on a few articles over the years, and she’s -by far- on my personal Top-5 of favorite travel reporters. Tune in at FunnelTV, or follow the Livestream on LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube.