Announcing Our New VP Sales and Marketing!

ericwithgirls

Eric and his 3 daughters Celeste, Brooke and Audrey

Last month, here at Blizzard, we welcomed Eric Fullerton as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Eric has a very unique and diverse background in online marketing and technology implementation and we are so excited to have him here!

Eric’s expertise has helped many leading companies develop innovative solutions online which have lead to increases in business and enhanced ROI. For the past 13 years, Eric has worked in online marketing and eCommerce/web architecture for Aspen/Snowmass Resort, Stay Aspen Snowmass, Sport Obermeyer, and Ski.com.  Among other things, he also helped to improve the online presence for over 150 websites in hospitality and other industries.

You may recognize his name from a conference or workshop you’ve attended in the past.  He’s presented at numerous industry gatherings, including Search Engine Strategies in New York and Mountain Travel Symposium, the annual event for the ski industry.  He also co-produced the Partners in Group Sales conference for several years.  His engaging and entertaining presentations have earned him high regards amongst those in both the hospitality and SEO industries.

“I am very excited to be a part of this expert team at Blizzard Internet Marketing,” says Eric, “In the short time I have been here, it is clear that this company’s customer-centric values, service, and professionalism provide a high caliber of comprehensive marketing solutions for hotel, resort, vacation rental, and real estate companies in the US. I am confident that with our modern technology solutions coupled with our excellent reputation and visionary leadership we can go very far.”

Eric holds Bachelors degrees from UC Santa Cruz in philosophy and psychology and a MBA with an emphasis in Marketing/eCommerce from the University of Phoenix. We look forward to Eric sharing his vast knowledge and techniques to continue to push our client’s Online Marketing efforts to the next level.  His expertise and passion for marketing and technology will give us some extra edge!

Be sure to catch Eric at our upcoming Blizzard University on July 16 & 17th here in Glenwood Springs.   He will also be speaking at the national VRMA conference in Nashville and RezFest in Las Vegas this fall.  And if you can’t make it to the Workshop, be sure to keep an eye out for some of his great knowledge on our blog.  If you don’t run into him camping, hunting, hiking or skiing in the mountains, you can follow him here: www.linkedin.com/in/ericfullerton or on twitter: @ericjfullerton

 

Timeline of TripAdvisor in the News for last 12 months

Read a  summary timeline of TripAdvisor in the news during the last 12 months with links to articles with more details:

10/28/11 Hoteliers and restaurateurs anxious to sue TripAdvisor in the U.S. over travelers’ disparaging reviews may have to rethink their strategy following a legal decision involving Yelp. Read More

10/20/11 TripAdvisor gets sued for 10 million after naming hotel the “dirtiest hotel” in the country.  The Grand Hotel, in Pigeon Forge, was ranked the dirtiest hotel in America and now its owner is going after TripAdvisor.  Read More.  Also read: Does TripAdvisor Play Dirty with Hotel Reviews? in USA Today.

10/20/11 TripAdvisor is seeking verification from a consumer after discovering a potentially false review.  The Howarth House (a hotel in the UK)  brought brought the review to TripAdvisors attention. Read More

10/4/11 Trip Advisor punishes hotel for writing its own reviews, and for writing a negative review of a competitors.  The hotel now has the “red badge” on its listing at TripAdvisor and denies wirting fraudulent reviews. Read More

9/27/11 TripAdvisor now emphasizing Traveler photos (along with reviews).  With over 8 million traveler’s photos on TripAdvisor, your guests can now shape public opinion of you not just by writing about your, but by also sharing photos.  This is a natura; extension of TripAdvisor’s user-generated content.  Read More

9/12/11 TripAdvisor waters down its trustworthiness when it removes “Reviews You Can Trust” and changes to “Reviews from our Community” Read More [Read more...]

TripAdvisor Shares ROI Study for TripAdvisor Business Listings

TripAdvisor is touting a Forrester Consulting study The Total Economic Impact of TripAdvisor’s Business Listings that is sharing some interesting ROI results from 154 lodging properties (hotels, inns, resorts, etc.) with about 50% of them located in the U.S..

In a nutshell, say the TripAdvisor Business Listing:

  • Offered a 410% “risk adjusted ROI” Annually.
  • Averaged $6 in incremental booking for every $1 spent.
  • Only tracked click-throughs and online bookings.  Phone calls not tracked.

Does this mean every hotelier should run out and buy an ad?
Some of the factors that caused a higher than average ROI were:

  • Your Popularity Ranking
  • Whether the hotel used the Special Offers feature
  • Smaller hotels (100 rooms or fewer) did better

In another Forrester Report, an anonymous organization that manages twenty hotels using TripAdvisor’s Business Listing shares some eye opening results… with a 400% return being on the low end.

So, if you have a good popularity ranking, and will take the time and trouble to use the Special Offers feature, you should probably purchase a TripAdvisor Business Listing.

How does the TripAdvisor Business Listing compare to other sources in terms of ROI?
I took a look at 55 lodging websites using Google AdWords and found that ROI was about 1,050% (for July-December, 2010)  and that the conversion rate was .34%  (average for 2010).
I didn’t “risk adjust” the ROI, I just got it out of Google Analytics.   If you believe it, every $1 spent in Google AdWords brought $10.50 in online revenue.    (It takes about 300 visitors for a conversion.)

So, should you run out and do PPC?  Not so fast. [Read more...]

.hotel Domain Name Registrations for the Hotel Industry

The International Hotel and Restaurant association is supporting the creation of a new .hotel Top Level Domain (TLD).   dotHOTEL (.hotel) will be exclusively dedicated to hotels, their organizations and the hotel business worldwide.

The new .hotel will enable hotels and the larger hotel community to register their .hotel names next year (2012).  This could be a great opportunity for hotels who don’t have theirname.com or a strong keyword.com style domain name.

It will be exciting for hotels to get names like:

  • www.nyc.hotel
  • www.beach.hotel
  • www.yourbrandname.hotel

It is planned that .hotel domains will be available for registration to all organizations directly associated within global hotel business on a local, national and international level. The registration of .hotel domains shall be exclusively limited to the following hotel community categories:

  • Individual Hotels
  • Hotel Chains and Hotel Marketing organizations
  • International, national and local Associations representing Hotels and Hotel Associations
  • Other Organizations representing Hotels and Hotel Owners

It is not clear yet how other organizations  involved in hotel industry supply, education, media and management and other business areas will be able to register .hotel domain names.

Yet to be determined:

  • Hotel Schools, Universities & Educational Centres
  • Hotel Managers Organizations
  • Hotel Industry Publications
  • Hotel Booking and Online Distribution Platform
  • Hotel Property Technology
  • Hotel Revenue Optimization
  • Hotel Safety and Security
  • Hotel Quality, Health and Food
  • Hotel Taxation, Legal and Consulting
  • Convention and Event Management in Hotels
  • Other Hotel Suppliers and Providers
  • Other Hotel Industry Stakeholders and Supporters

The anticipated time line for registrations is March 2012, when hotels and the hotel industry will be able to start registering .hotel domain name.

Learn More at www.dothotel.info

TripAdvisor and Google Struggle Continues

According to the WSJblog Digits, TripAdvisor Says Google Won’t Stop Using Its Content

TripAdvisor LLC says Google Inc. has refused its requests to stop using content from TripAdvisor.com, the travel information and reviews site, on Google services that could compete with TripAdvisor.

In an interview this week, Chief Executive Stephen Kaufer said talks between his company and Google broke down after the Internet search giant said it would continue to include TripAdvisor’s user-generated reviews of businesses such as hotels in its Google’s Place pages and Hotpot business-reviews service. Mr. Kaufer said those services compete for Web traffic with his company’s site.

Here is a timeline of the struggle between TripAdvisor and Google:

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, for clearly this skirmish is not over yet.  For many hotels, resorts, and other lodging businesses, TripAdvisor reviews are a powerful element of their marketing success… and they often experience frustration with something they can’t control and often feel is unfair.  Of course, some hotels enjoy great reviews and rankings in TripAdvisor and should be keeping their eye on this development.

TripAdvisor and Google Places Changes Good News for Lodging Businesses

Back in November we reported that the change in Google Search Results is GREAT news for lodging businesses because it emphasizes the business’s website over the giant lodging directory.

This good news would be bad news for those giant directories like VRBO.com or TripAdvisor.

As a followup, in December, TripAdvisor acknowledged that its traffic from Google dropped by more than 10% since Google made the changes to its search results that emphasized the Google Places content.  Curiously, this came on the heels of an October claim that “TripAdvisor benefits from Google’s new Place Search feature” which clearly proved to be mistaken.

We think the individual lodging websites are the ones that took that 10% back from TripAdvisor.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor had pulled its reviews from Google Places.  It used to be that TripAdvisor dominated the reviews at Google Places… now websites like Hotels.com, Yelp, Travel.Yahoo.com, Travelpost, etc. are more important for reviews.

This is probably pretty good news for most hotels and lodging operations for two reasons:

  1. Many hotels had problems with TripAdvisor reviews and rankings and TripAdvisor DOMINATES the spots.  By removing TripAdvisor reviews from Google Places, hotel operators have a bit of a clean slate.
  2. Many hotels have been gaming TripAdvisor, but ignoring the multitude of other review spots.  Now those other review locations will have a little more importance.

If you currently dominate TripAdvisor in your market… this is all BAD news!

VRMA Announces Vacation Rental Switch RFP

Industry StatsThe Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA) made an exciting announcement today: They are sponsoring the construction of a “vacation rental switch” — a centralized location for vacation rental managers to easily distribute their inventory to online distribution channels.

A Vacation Rental Switch (VRS) could be a huge boon for the professionally managed vacation rental industry.  It will provide one low-cost and structured mechanism to quickly and easily enable online bookings at 3rd party websites.

GOOD JOB VRMA – THIS COULD SOLVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS

Currently there is much pain in the industry around distributing inventory to 3rd parties… each VRMA member is at the mercy of their Property Management Software’s (PMS) distribution system and relationships.  It will

  • help the PMS companies by providing on switch to rule them all and in effect leveling the playing field.
  • help the VRMs by lowering their cost and increasing their efficiency.
  • help the suppliers by having only one data-feed to work with thereby creating larger scales of efficiency.
  • help the industry by putting the owners of the data (the VRMs) back in the driving seat.

THE INDUSTRY ITSELF IS HUGE AND RICH

PhoCusWright’s Vacation Rental Marketplace: Poised for Change:

  • Vacation rentals accounted for more than 333 million available unit nights in the U.S. market in 2007.
  • Vacation rentals accounted for nearly $24.3 billion in rental revenue in 2007.
  • Approximately 10% of all U.S. adults and nearly 20% of all online travelers have booked a vacation rental.
  • Vacation rental consumers are a market to covet: They’re well-off, well-educated, and they travel – a lot. Nine in 10 take at least four leisure trips a year.

VRMA itself averages more than 600 property management and associate members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean representing approximately 150,000 vacation rentals, condos and villas.

Hundreds of millions of investor dollars have flowed into this space in recent years, whether to rental-by-owner behemoth HomeAway (which  announced a staggering $250 million placement) or B2C and B2B online players such as Escapia, LeisureLink, VacationRoost and Zonder. Vacation rental management companies across the industry have identified online distribution and investment in technology among their top strategic business priorities. Wyndham’s concerted push with its Endless Vacation Rentals brand is but one of many.

DETAILS ON THE NEW SWITCH

Many of the current pain points can be understood by reading between the lines on VRMA’s Declaration of Distribution Independence.  The Italics added by me to help readers grasp critical pain points and read between the lines:

Goals

  • Create quick access and trusted experiences for consumers
  • Create centralized location for vacation rental managers (VRMs) to easily select distribution channels and control inventory distribution (i.e. blackout dates, distressed inventory)
  • Create a centralized location for distribution channels to access vacation rental inventory
  • Provide a platform on which the industry can develop relevant merchandising and e-commerce tools such as reviews, tours, special insurance, etc… that would benefit the industry first before any 3rd party distributor
  • Require that all distribution channel partners who access the inventory abide by a set of rules that protect professional mangers’ best interests and corporate integrity
  • Facilitate simple, cost-effective 3rd party distribution that ultimately leads to greater volume of bookings and greater revenue per booking for the VRM industry
  • A low cost to utilize the Switch for both VRMs and Distributors that will stimulate usage and ultimately facilitate significantly greater amounts of commerce
  • Create a revenue stream to be used for the promotion of the VRM industry and its interests
  • Create an revenue stream for any software provider who enables VRMs to simply and easily distribute through the switch by adopting its technology standard
  • Create a revenue stream for distribution channels who abide by the rules of the switch enabling managers to choose which distribution partner they would like to distribute through based on that channels terms & conditions
  • Provide a manual upload for property managers to distribute through the “Vacation Rental Switch” in the event their software provider does not participate
  • Provide influence and control to Industry Stakeholders
  • Have a Switch that is produced and managed by a credible, experienced management team with
    • knowledge of the needs of VRMs and Distributors
    • the technology expertise to deliver the solution, and
    • The financial stability and resources to fund the Solution and maintain it over a long term period

Concerns:

  • The Solution should protect vacation rental managers from unfair exploitation from 3rd party distributors while enabling distribution to propagate
  • The Solution must not attempt to set market rates, rather it should facilitate more competition and market rate options. The presence of the Switch will permit the free-market system to establish competitive rates, and eliminate monopolistic rate power.
  • The Solution should be constructed to benefit from the lessons learned from the hotel and airline industry distribution world, and explicitly provide mechanisms to avoid allowing any 3rd party distributor from gaining so much pricing power that it could “dictate terms” to the industry
  • The Solution should not create the opportunity for a “choke point” in the industry that would allow any one party to take advantage of the industry
  • The Solution should not be set up so that a sale of any particular vendor or participant in the Solution could seriously jeopardize the interests and well being of the VRM industry

This will be fun to watch play out.  I expect some sour grapes and sniping from the entities that stand to lose control and revenue.  I expect many supporters who are either sick of the current status or on the outside looking in.  For sure, VRMA has taken a huge  bite and will be challenged by the difficulties of mounting a giant technology project.  I support their endeavor and hope it is wildly successful.

Check out the Request for Proposal to learn more.

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What do you think of all this??  Please comment below.