Hoteliers on board with new Google features

"A new Google Maps feature that aggregates real-time hotel rates and availability has passed a seven-week beta test and has gone live, and at least one Central Reservation System provider is on a global road show informing hotel clients of their appearance on the new distribution channel.

Distribution experts still are hypothesizing about what kind of effect the search-engine giant will have on where travelers book hotel rooms, but some say the program should be embraced by hoteliers who don’t want to lose bookings to online travel agencies. Brands have taken notice and are discussing whether to alter their distribution strategies."

Read the full article at www.hotelnewsnow.com

Good Customer Service – Why Don’t They Do It?

"Recently I was talking with a client about one of his employees and customer service. The day before I had presented the Moments of Magic™ customer service program and mentioned that I thought a gentleman in the audience was a skeptic. The client said he wasn’t skeptical, but felt he knew everything I was talking about.

I responded, “Everyone already knows what I’m talking about.” He agreed and I asked him, “So does this guy deliver great service?”

He said, “That’s the problem. He knows, but he doesn’t deliver.”

Read the full article by Shep Hyken via socialcustomer.com

TripAdvisor survey reveals hotel marketers plans to attract travelers in 2011

"TripAdvisor announced the results of its first annual survey of more than 1,000 U.S. accommodation owners – hoteliers, B&B owners and innkeepers – who revealed their plans to attract travelers in 2011 and increase repeat customers.

According to the TripAdvisor survey, most property owners expect room rates will either hold steady (51 percent) or decrease (four percent), while 45 percent expect rates to increase. Yet, owners appear to be investing in their properties, as 61 percent said they are planning renovations to the interior of their properties in 2011. Forty-two percent of survey respondents said they are planning renovations to the exterior of their properties this year.

Most owners also appear to be embracing online engagement with consumers, as 57 percent expect their social media marketing budgets to increase this year versus last year. Thirty-seven percent with social media budgets expect them to stay the same, and only six percent anticipate social media budget cuts. Meanwhile, virtually all owners surveyed (99 percent) plan to respond to online guest reviews."

Read the full article at www.hotelmarketing.com

Google’s search results get more social

"Google has announced an expansion of its Google Social Search results that’s beginning to roll out today on Google.com. Your friends’ activity on Twitter, Flickr and elsewhere — but for now, not Facebook — will soon be a lot more visible in Google’s search results, including having an impact on how pages rank."

Read more at www.hotelmarketing.com

TripAdvisor ‘despicable’ as reviews row escalates

"The website that compiles millions of holidaymakers' star ratings could face legal action, reports Kira Cochrane.

In quiet moments, Jared Blank likes to kick back by looking at reviews of the world's greatest hotels on TripAdvisor. Specifically, the terrible reviews.

Blank is a long-time analyst of the travel industry and a user of TripAdvisor – the consumer review site that has become one of the world's biggest travel resources, attracting 41.6 million users a month and featuring 40 million reviews of hotels and restaurants worldwide. But the pettiness and hysteria of some of the complaints baffle him.

''No melon is ever ripe enough for people on TripAdvisor,'' he says. ''There are hotels that rate in the top five in the world and people are still complaining. I'm always shocked by the comments: from the quality of the fruit to the mobile-phone reception on an island in the middle of nowhere, to whether the person on the front desk was smiling sufficiently upon their arrival. It blows my mind.''

Read the full article at The Sydney Morning Herald

Google Tests Profile Pictures in Social Navigation Bar

"Google is testing a new-look navigation bar that could offer a hint of what the company's plans are for incorporating social elements into search to compete more in Facebook's territory."

From the blog.searchenginewatch.com

Is Microsoft Unintrusively Adding Search History To Its Algorithm?

"Harry Shum, Microsoft VP of Search Product Development, is presenting a keynote address at the Fourth ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining in Hong Kong Friday, where he will discuss the role of personal search history as a factor in search results, the conference site reported.

Shum will explain the changes being made at Bing and how the engine is using a "Dialog Model that consists of three building blocks: an indexing system that comprehensively collects information from the web and systematically harvests knowledge, an intent model that statistically infers user intent and predicts next action, and an interaction model that elicits user intent through mathematically optimized presentations of web information and domain knowledge that matches user needs."

Complete article on searchenginewatch.com

The Hotel Industry: A Global Year in Review

"For most industries, 2010 was a time of challenge, recovery and hope, as  many finally started to see a light at the end of the tunnel after what was likely the worst economic crisis of our time. For the hotel industry, it wasn't just the U.S. that has been slowly regaining momentum in sales and profits. In fact, markets around the world, including Europe and Asia, have seen vast improvements in hotel occupancy, rates and RevPAR, indicating great hope for the new year."

Read entire article by Jean Francois Mourier on www.ehotelier.com

Air travelers to get free in-flight Facebook access

"On the heels of offering free in-flight Wi-Fi to travelers during the holiday season, airlines are touting another incentive throughout the month of February: free Facebook access.

Various airlines are once again partnering with Gogo Inflight Internet to get passengers Web-connected when flying thousands of miles in the sky. Airlines that will be offering the promotion include American Airlines, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Facebook access will be free for all, but full Wi-Fi connection will begin at $4.95 and will vary depending on the length of the flight. For long flights, airlines sometimes charge up to $13 for Wi-Fi access.

Gogo said that Facebook is the top-visited site by travelers. The company aims to get people excited and hooked on the in-flight Internet service during the promotion."

Read full article at Travel News at MSNBC

TripAdvisor gets thumbs-up for getting down and dirty

"While many see it as a ploy to generate attention, TripAdvisor — a website that promotes hotel reviews submitted by actual guests for fellow travelers — has received a thumbs-up from hotel and hygiene experts for its recently unveiled list of 10 dirtiest U.S. hotels.

The list was created by tabulating hotels with the lowest cleanliness ratings in members’ 2010 reviews, said Brooke Ferencsik, U.S. director of communications for TripAdvisor. Another, lesser factor, he said, was poor cleanliness ratings received in previous years’ reviews…(continued)

…“More than seven out of 10 travelers in the U.S. participate in social media. Clearly social media are powerful and credible, and user reviews resonate,” (Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Forrester Research)

Read the full article at: www.msnbc.msn.com