TSA Tests Fingerprint Scans at U.S. Airports to Replace IDs


The TSA will test using fingerprints to identify customers in its Precheck program. Bloomberg

Skift Take: While some passengers may worry about privacy, this is a good development. The current system, in which an officer must compare a picture on an ID with a traveler, is not the most reliable. Humans make mistakes. This is a better approach.

— Brian Sumers

Airline passengers may soon be able to put away their IDs and boarding passes at screening lines as the Transportation Security Administration begins an experiment to use fingerprints to ensure people’s identities.

Passengers who are enrolled in PreCheck, the TSA program that gives travelers expedited screening, will be able to use their fingerprints at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International and Denver International to verify their identity and to pull up their boarding pass information, the agency announced Tuesday.

The TSA becomes the latest security agency or business to begin using automated biometric information to verify people’s identities. JetBlue Airways Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air France’s KLM are experimenting with fingerprint and facial-recognition technology to speed the check-in process. Alclear LLC’s Clear, a subscription service that allows faster access to airport screening and sporting events, also uses fingerprints.

Delta announced Tuesday that is also working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Atlanta and New York’s Kennedy International to test a new biometric procedure for people leaving the country. Passengers can use facial recognition portals to verify their identity and scan their boarding passes, Delta said in a release.

“Through these and other technology demonstrations, we are looking to reinvent and enhance security effectiveness to meet the evolving threat and ensure that passengers get to their destinations safely,” TSA Acting Assistant Administrator Steve Karoly said in a release.

Most people enrolled in PreCheck have already provided the government with fingerprints in order to pass a background check. Once the system matches their prints, it will not only verify their identity but also link automatically to their boarding passes, according to TSA.

Providing a fingerprint before going through security is voluntary, the agency said. At least initially, passengers will also be subject to the “standard ticket document checking process,” according to TSA.

In the longer term, the technology may allow passengers to automate the document-checking process, which can save time for the traveler and reduce the need for TSA staff.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Michael Sasso and Alan Levin from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Airbnb Ramps Up Push to Get More Hosts to Choose Instant Booking


A new set of tools is now available for Airbnb hosts who choose to make their listings instantly bookable on the homesharing platform. Airbnb

Skift Take: With these new features, it’s clear Airbnb wants to reduce discrimination on its platform, sign on more vacation rental managers, and generate more bookings. But is this enough to keep hosts happy?

— Deanna Ting

Airbnb wants to incentivize more of its hosts to make their listings instantly bookable.

The alternative accommodations platform is introducing a suite of new tools for hosts who opt into the feature, making it easier for them to manage their listings.

Currently, 1.7 million out of Airbnb’s more than 3 million listings are instantly bookable, and the company says more than 70 percent of new listings on the site are from hosts who enabled Instant Book as soon as it became available. Airbnb also said that 60 percent of its bookings from guests are now being handled via Instant Book.

The new tools include the following features for hosts who sign up for Instant Book:

  • Hosts with multiple listings have access to an improved calendar tool designed to prevent double bookings and set minimum night stays for specific dates.
  • Hosts can hold certain days from being instantly bookable by other guests if they’re already in conversations with guests who are inquiring about those dates.
  • First-time Airbnb guests will receive information explaining the difference between an Airbnb versus a hotel stay, for example. Currently, all Airbnb guests must read and agree to an individual hosts’ house rules and expectations prior to booking.
  • Hosts can allow check-ins and check-outs on specific days of the week and at certain times.
  • If a guest rates a host with two stars or lower, that guest cannot instantly book with that host again.

What Airbnb Hosts Think of the New Tools

It’s clear that Airbnb’s new suite of tools is designed to make things easier for hosts, and to give them control over when and how their guests place a booking on the platform.

Prior to the introduction of these new features, the primary incentive for hosts who chose to opt into Instant Book was better visibility on the platform and a higher chance of getting more bookings, said San Francisco-based Airbnb hosts David Jacoby and Peter Kwan.

“For starters, it’s one of the three main items that is featured for guests to filter by. So, if you want to appear in more searches, this is the way to go,” Jacoby, president and co-founder of Hostfully, said.

He also said that Airbnb has already put into place measures that give hosts more control. “Second, I very rarely actually say ‘no’ to a guest, so this saves the back-and-forth hassle of them requesting if they can stay with me, and then me approving them,” Jacoby said.

“As a host, I actually like the ease of getting the reservation immediately, while also knowing that Airbnb will indeed let you cancel an Instant Book reservation, penalty-free, if you feel uncomfortable with the guest. So, you still do have an ‘out’ if you need it. They also give you flexibility of the ‘guest requirements,’ which controls the level of screening for guests who can book with you. For example, have they already used Airbnb and have positive reviews?,” Jacoby said.

Airbnb hosts who use Instant Book can cancel up to three reservations per year, and Airbnb has previously told Skift that hosts who cancel Instant Bookings must give the company a specific reason for their cancellations.

“Finally, I’ve heard, but I’m not 100-percent sure, that their algorithms promote instant bookings more in searches in general because there is a higher chance that a booking will actually be made,” Jacoby added. “I don’t know the exact details of that, as they keep their listing order and search algorithms close to their chest, but many people believe that.”

Kwan, who’s also the co-chair of the Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco, said, “Airbnb has been keen to persuade hosts to migrate to Instant Book for awhile now. I can’t confirm whether Instant Book hosts get preference under guest search results, but as David [Jacoby] pointed out, there is a tab that allows guests to automatically filter Instant Book results. I switched awhile ago and have not noticed a negative effect from switching to Instant Book.”

Kwan said the improved calendar settings and education for first-time Airbnb guests are welcome additions, but he hopes Instant Book guests will still be required to agree to house rules during the actual booking process, too. [Language describing the new feature is somewhat unclear.]

“My understanding is that no guests currently can book without first agreeing to house rules (by checking a box) during the booking process,” Kwan said. “If I’m wrong, I’m glad Airbnb is fixing this deficiency — all guests, whether Instant Book ones or not, should not be able to finalize the booking without first agreeing to house rules.”

Combatting Bias

Melanie Meharchand, an Airbnb host based in Monterey, California, agreed with Jacoby and Kwan, saying, “The biggest incentive for Instant Book, as a host, is preferential search ranking. That’s the holy grail for hosts who want to fill their calendar — appearing higher in search results, with the goal of showing up on the first page.

“There are many factors that go into search ranking including price, reviews, photography, calendar updates and so forth. It’s a bit of a guessing game on how to get ideal positioning, but when you do, it means you’ll get booked more often.”

She also pointed out that aside from getting more bookings, promoting more Instant Book listings helps Airbnb decrease the likelihood of discrimination or bias taking place on their platform.

“From Airbnb’s standpoint, Instant Book means they can avoid some of the subjective pitfalls that have come up, like hosts declining guests of certain ethnicities, religions or sexual orientations,” Meharchand said.

Airbnb recently settled a race discrimination complaint in California by agreeing to work directly with government regulators to police and improve upon its non-discrimination policy, which was announced in September 2016 following intense media coverage and scrutiny of incidents where Airbnb guests were discriminated against by hosts because of their race.

Growing Its Share of the Vacation Rental Market

Another reason why Airbnb wants more Instant Book listings on its platform relates to its desire to grow its share of the traditional vacation rental market. Vacation rentals generally  face less regulatory scrutiny than Airbnb’s listings in urban centers such as New York City or Paris, for example.

Earlier this year, the company purchased Luxury Retreats, a specialist in high-end vacation rentals. By making it easier for property managers to use Airbnb, and get more bookings through it, Airbnb hopes to increase its number of listings for these specific types of homes.

Last fall, an Airbnb executive told Skift Airbnb is making it a priority to increase its current roster of 500,000 vacation rental listings out of the 2 million listings overall that it had at that time.

According to more recent Airbnb data given to STR, some 1 million, or a third of its total 3 million listings, comprise professionally managed rentals. By comparison, however, Expedia’s HomeAway family of short-term rental and vacation rental sites has an estimated 1.2 million listings for professionally managed vacation rentals.

Airbnb has been adding a variety of features making it easier for professional vacation rental management companies to get bookings through its platform. More than a year ago, for example, Airbnb added a new feature that makes it easier for multiple hosts to manage listings.

Taking Hosts’ Needs Into Consideration

“Overall, as I said, this package of changes is positive,” Kwan said. “Whether it will persuade a significant number of hosts to migrate to Instant Book is unclear to me. It will definitely remove some of the barriers, but I also know a good number of hosts who hold strongly to their refusal to adopt Instant Book on the basis that they highly value the pre-booking exchange with guests as a comforting vetting process.

“Many of those hosts have also expressed to me their preference not to adopt Instant Book on the basis that it distinguishes them from hotels in that these hosts value very much the personal service and hospitality they provide in opening up their homes to travelers. So, they shy away from doing anything that makes them look more like hotels.”

While Meharchand thinks adding features like this for hosts who choose to allow Instant Book is a step in the right direction, she said she wished the company would also consider revising some of its policies regarding cancellations.

“As a host, I’d love to see more ways to identify or channel high-risk groups, like party groups, to properties that are better-suited to them than a family neighborhood,” she said. “Hosts who cancel reservations face penalties in how they are ranked in future searches. If there’s damage, the onus is on hosts to go after guests through the self-service Resolution Center.

“If guests create a disturbance, the system doesn’t offer much help in dealing with angry neighbors or penalties from cities, which are typically directed at hosts, not guests or Airbnb. I’d love to see more fine-tuned pre-stay and post-stay options to help hosts ensure the right situation for guests and hosts.”

Kwan added, “These hosts are valuable to sites like Airbnb because what they do represents the core of Airbnb’s values of hospitality, to ‘Belong Anywhere. On the other hand, I can understand why, commercially, Airbnb wants more hosts to adopt Instant Book — it increases booking rates and, therefore, profits. I hope Airbnb continues to tread carefully in negotiating this tension between preserving the brand and increasing profits.”

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Why Scandinavia’s SAS Is Creating a New Airline With the Same Name in Ireland


This Boeing 737-600 is registered in Sweden. But starting this year, some of SAS’s planes will belong to a separate Irish operation. SAS

Skift Take: To the average flyer this makes little sense. Why would a Swedish airline build a new airline with the same name in Ireland? But many consumers expect to pay 30 or 35 Euros to fly from Copenhagen to London. If an airline is going to offer those prices, it needs to control costs.

— Brian Sumers

Sweden’s SAS is creating an Irish subsidiary — also called SAS — to fly some shorter routes because that’s the only way it can compete on costs with discounters like Norwegian Air, Ryanair and EasyJet on certain competitive routes, its CEO told Skift in a recent interview.

The airline’s foreign competitors obviously do not use a Scandinavian operating certificate on short international flights that touch SAS’s hubs in Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen, giving them a labor cost advantage. But even Oslo-based Norwegian Air, its most fierce competitor, operates many European flights under an Irish certificate, rather than a Norwegian one.

Over time, SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson said, SAS learned it could not profitably compete on some routes, such as Copenhagen to London, using the current model, where customers demand one-way tickets for 30 to 35 Euros, or roughly $33 to $39.

“If you know that your competitors, by flying from London to Scandinavia rather than flying from Scandinavia to London can have cost advantage around 35 percent, it’s tough to compete,” he said last week during an interview at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Cancun, an annual conference of airline executives.

The new Irish airline should be flying by year-end. It expects to have nine Airbus A320s and two bases, one in London and the other in Spain, the airline has said.

Cost control

The Irish airline will be assigned to routes like Copenhagen-London, which has 25 daily departures on SAS, British Airways, Ryanair, Norwegian and EasyJet, according to Gustafson. It will also fly between Scandinavia and southern Spain, shuttling vacation-seekers to the beach. Gustafson called that a, “growing market.”

Among its competitors to London, SAS is the only airline that must pay its employees according to Scandinavian laws, Gustafson said. British Airways employs its crews in the UK, while the other airlines can hire from anywhere in Europe, giving them a major cost advantage.

The new SAS, like its competitors, will hire employees from outside Scandinavia. The alternative, Gustafson said, might taking drastic action, like leaving London.

“We are going to hire people who are going to fly from there to Scandinavia,” he said.

Other European airlines have created or bought a lower cost brand, and they sometimes base them in other countries to capitalize on friendlier laws. But most give the new carriers a different name so customers will not confuse the two operations.

But Gustafson said SAS, with a fleet of about 150 jets, is too small for a sub-brand. Plus, unlike Lufthansa Group, which wants to differentiate between carriers like Swiss International Air Lines, a full-service operation, and Eurowings, its low-cost brand, SAS wants customers to believe they’re flying one airline.

Indeed, customers may have not know they’re traveling on anything other than the 70-year-old Swedish carrier. Planes will have SAS painted on them, and SAS will sell tickets.

“We have a very, very strong brand,” Gustafson said, “so we believe you’re better off trying to build on that brand rather than trying to spin off and build another brand from scratch.”

No plans to add long haul

SAS also has considerable competition on many long-haul routes, but without discounters like Ryanair and EasyJet flying them, the threat is less acute. And none of the existing long-haul airlines have such a big cost advantage over SAS.

Norwegian’s Boeing 787s, which compete directly with SAS on many routes, are registered in Norway, though the airline’s Boeing 737s Max aircraft now flying short routes from the Eastern United States to Western Europe, are on the Irish certificate.

But even if Norwegian shifts more long-haul aircraft to Ireland, SAS may not follow. Gustafson noted SAS has only 16 Airbus A340s and A330s in its long-haul fleet, and it splitting the fleet in two makes little sense.

“Then you’re into sub-scale operations,,” he said. “Another reason is that our core idea is to continue to create a cost-effective and highly effective core SAS, and that’s plan A for us.”

Too late?

The threat from low cost carriers is not new. Many low cost brands moved into SAS’s markets years ago, but Gustafson, who took over in 2014, said he doesn’t want to dwell on the past.

“It’s always easy to look back what you should have done in the past when you sit there with all the facts,” he said.

As for whether it’s too late, a recent report from CAPA, an aviation analysis firm, suggested SAS may still have time to recover. The report called it a “pragmatic approach to intense competition,” from lower cost airlines.

“After years of cost reduction programs – also years of initiatives aimed at enhancing the appeal of SAS’s product and brand to its core target market of Scandinavia’s frequent flyers – a bolder step is needed,” the report said.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

WTTC Says Trump Should Make Tourism Job Growth a Priority

Peter Clark  / Flickr

Tourism directly supported 5.5 million jobs in the U.S. last year, according to a new report. Pictured are employees at the Southern Hotel in Covington, Lousiana. Peter Clark / Flickr

Skift Take: U.S. tourism job growth is already projected to be smaller than the rest of the world without the full impact of some of the Trump administration’s policies. The travel industry is asking for a seat at the table to convince Washington why that means bad news.

— Dan Peltier

As a global travel organization released new employment numbers for the industry, its outgoing CEO urged President Donald Trump to encourage U.S. job growth in tourism rather than inhibit it.

In the U.S., tourism directly supported 5.5 million jobs and supported a total of 14.2 million jobs both directly and indirectly in 2016, according to a new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council, or WTTC (see full report below).

“Travel and tourism jobs are intrinsic to making America great because they cannot be replaced elsewhere!” David Scowsill, WTTC’s CEO, said in a statement. “We urge the U.S. administration to acknowledge the strength of these figures and to adjust their current predominantly inward-facing strategy, which seems to be restricting growth in the travel and tourism sector.”

The U.S. travel industry is the country’s fourth-largest by total employment, second-largest in economic impact and sixth-largest by GDP impact. The country supports twice as many jobs as banking (2.7 million) and nearly six times as many jobs as automotive manufacturing (987,000), for example.

Given the president’s “America First” policy that’s largely tied to job creation, WTTC feels the Trump administration’s anti-tourism actions such as the travel ban and proposal to eliminate Brand USA would cost U.S. jobs.

Scowsill, who’s been vocal in his opposition to the travel ban since it was first announced, is stepping down from his position later this month and his successor hasn’t been named.

“We invite the Trump administration to sit around the table with the top travel and tourism industry leaders to discuss how the U.S. can continue to be a thriving tourist destination, welcoming over 77 million visitors a year,” Scowsill said.

Last year, the global travel and tourism industry directly supported more than 108 million jobs, a 1.6 percent increase over 2015. Travel is the world’s fourth largest industry by employment behind only the retail, construction and agriculture industries, WTTC found.

Tourism also directly contributed $2.3 trillion to the world’s economy and directly and indirectly supported more than 292 million total jobs — about 10 percent of all global jobs.

Asia-Pacific is the top region for travel employment with 67.3 million jobs and $714 billion in GDP contribution directly supported by the travel industry as of 2016. In Europe, tourism directly supported 14 million jobs and $696 billion in GDP contribution last year.

“It is easy to applaud the efforts or even to criticize the failings of travel and tourism in isolation without looking at the picture of our industry separate from the overall industrial context,” Scowsill said.

WTTC’s analysis is based on data from 27 countries, including the U.S, UK, France, China and Australia, and although the data include many of the world’s largest economies, the total number of jobs and GDP impact are likely higher than WTTC is reporting.

The analysis also compared travel and tourism to eight other industries, including construction, financial services and automotive manufacturing. The travel industry directly supports nearly twice as many jobs as financial services and more than five times as many jobs as chemicals manufacturing, data show.

The data show global travel industry GDP is projected to grow four percent per year during the next decade. Estimates show travel GDP in the U.S. will grow 3.3 percent per year for the next decade.

It’s uncertain how much Trump’s words and actions can be tied to the United States’ smaller estimated growth, but it’s clear that WTTC and the travel industry want to sit down with the administration to discuss how to prevent U.S. travel GDP growth from becoming even less competitive with other countries.

Download (PDF, 910KB)

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Most Hotel CEOs Dismiss Airbnb’s Impact But Demand Level Playing Field


AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin in knows that Airbnb will continue to grow, and feels strongly there needs to be more transparency about the identity of hosts. He’s pictured above in a promotional video. Accorhotels

Skift Take: Most CEOs said the same thing they’ve said about Airbnb countless times before — ‘We need a level playing field’ — but there are signs that some are starting to take the $31 billion alternative accommodations provider a bit more seriously.

— Deanna Ting

Ask any hotel CEO what his or her thoughts are about Airbnb, the homesharing platform that’s valued at $31 billion — just a little less than Marriott International’s $38.7 billion market cap — and you’re likely to hear the same refrains:

“No, they’re not a threat.” Or “We just want a level playing field.” Or the admission that, “Yes, sometimes we see an impact on compression nights [periods when hotel occupancy is saturated because of a city-wide event or large convention.]”

That was the case at the NYU Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York City last week. However, there are signs that some CEOs are beginning to view Airbnb as more of a direct competitor, if not a threat, including Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts CEO J. Allen Smith.

And then, of course, there’s iconic hotelier Ian Schrager, who’s often been quoted as saying Airbnb is a “mortal threat” to the hotel industry — so much so, in fact, that his newest hotel, Public New York, is a direct response to it.

Skift spoke to a half-dozen hospitality CEOs, as well as other executives, to learn their thoughts about Airbnb, as well as the ongoing battle between the company and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). Here’s what they had to say:

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson: We Need a Level Playing Field

“Well I’m not deeply expert in all of these [things] that AHLA is doing,” Sorenson said. “But I think the core aim is to achieve a level playing field, period. And that means if we pay larger taxes, those platforms should pay larger taxes. It means if we’ve got to go through a process of getting approval and registered to do business in markets, they should be, too.

“And obviously, that becomes less controversial the more their [Airbnb-like platforms] growth is in dedicated units as opposed to someone’s extra bedrooms. But where there are dedicated units, they raise real questions around accessibility, around fire life safety, around lodging taxes, and to some extent what cities want around residential policy. How many units do they want to be essentially off the market to local residents because it’s some sort of micro hotel? And so there are dozens of questions in all of that, but in the first instance, it’s about a level playing field.”

Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian: Airbnb Is Impacting Housing

“I guess, in short the AHLA is really leading the way in this effort,” Hoplamazian told a group of reporters. “The particular focus has been on listings … listings by, what could be described as, commercial owners of properties, multiple properties that, first of all, are problematic from a regulatory perspective but also, not really what the site was originally based on, which was allowing the individuals to rent a room in their house or rent their house.

“As a consequence of that, it feels much more like a ‘shadow hotel’ operation. That’s been their principal focus, which is to shine a light on those facts, which is that a very large proportion of total bookings and revenues are coming through those kinds of listings as opposed to the individual or home owner. And to really focus the minds of municipal policymakers on what the pending consequences of that are.”

He continued, “One of the consequences is distortions in the housing market, where you’ve got support for property values for residential properties that are derived from what could be considered to be ‘shadow hotels’ if you will. That’s not a natural marketplace.

“In some markets, I think San Francisco is probably high on the list, you see the consequences of that which are unaffordability and extremely high levels in growth of homelessness. It’s a problem that’s beyond the hotel industry’s focus and attention. There are serious municipal policy issues that are at stake here. That’s really been the primary avenue.”

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi: Appropriate Regulations Are Needed

Unlike some of the hotel CEOs attending the conference, with the exception of AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s company is anactive and direct player in the alternative accommodations space: Expedia owns HomeAway and sister brand VRBO, among others.

“With HomeAway, [we’re] more involved in traveling to resort destinations, beach destinations, resort destinations where vacation rentals have been rented out for a long period of time. It’s just the channel shift going from offline to online,” he said. “A lot of these destinations already have laws in place, [so] I think it’s the urban market that is appearing. I think any time a new business forms in a marketplace, regulations have a tough time catching up to the formation of new businesses because it just happens more slowly.”

“My caution is that, one, I’m not sure that I factually buy into [the idea that] real estate market prices are going up because of homesharing. They’ve been going up I think because of the technology sector and all the wealth created there; we could debate that.

“With that aside, I think regulations are needed, but I think that appropriate regulations, constructive regulations that are not designed to stop advancement, but are designed to benefit the customer and appropriate regulations for this new sector let say, may not be regulations that may not completely mirror the hotel industry. I do believe in an eveplaying field. I think folks should be paying occupancy taxes just like hoteliers do, so I think this could be a nice local revenue stream as well. I think it’s important to register these homes.”

HomeAway, along with Airbnb, recently settled its lawsuit against the City of San Francisco by agreeing to automatically register all local hosts in compliance with short-term rental laws that went into effect in 2014. However, HomeAway also recently filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago alleging that a somewhat similar law is “deeply flawed.”

“I think a lot of good is happening, it’s just right now there’s a bunch of thrash as regulations catch up,” Khosrowshahi said. “There’s the additional complication that every single local municipality wants their own flavor, which is very difficult for platform companies like ours to build out 50, 60, 70 different flavors.

“What we’re hoping is that you get to some consensus. Is it appropriate consensus? Is it constructive consensus? Because travel is a good thing. This is a new product that consumers want. Let’s not try to block it and then go there and roll out the regulations appropriately.”

AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin: We Need More Transparency

AccorHotels has a number of investments in alternative accommodations platforms that include Oasis and Squarebreak, as well as owning luxury homesharing provider Onefinestay. Accorhotels is also planning to acquire Travel Keys, a luxury vacation rental specialist.

“We’ve been asking for one thing, very simple, which is transparency,” Bazin said. “And for all listings to be reported someplace, so that we know who is behind that home. Is that a primary homeowner, who obviously has a right to put it on the listing? Is it a multi-owner with three or four sites? Is it a commercial developer and is that why he has a big building on which all the flats in it happen to be on Airbnb?

“The first thing is listings. Listings within a home, so I guess you know how many rooms, how many nights, etc. The second thing is taxes. We as a hotel have so many taxes on so many different items, I guess 90 percent of the European owners of Airbnb do not declare any taxes. The minute that they start having to pay taxes, then it’s going to be much easier to understand who is getting the initial income.

“I’m not asking for those to pay, I’m just asking for an even playing field. But I’m not asking for Airbnb to stop because they will continuing growing, and as I said many times, I wish I could have invested in Airbnb. I just want to make sure they have the same constraint as we do and the same opportunities.”

Best Western CEO David Kong: Regulations for the Public Good

“In general, I don’t think anyone in this industry has anything against the homesharing economy or home sharing for that matter,” Kong said. “I think the industry just wants to make sure that there is an even playing field. It’s not just for our industry. It’s for the general public as well. There are reasons why health and safety and accessibility roles are in place. It’s to provide and care for the general public. When you have companies like Airbnb that purposefully skirt these requirements, it provides a bad name for the accommodation industry. That’s one.”

“The other side of that is the taxes,” Kong continued. “We all have to program our systems to make sure that we comply with paying our taxes and Airbnb somehow doesn’t have to do that. It just seems unfair and it’s also, not just for the industry as competition but also for the communities that they serve, it seems unfair to the community because when are those tax monies going to be useful except for those communities, right? I think that those are the reasons. It’s obviously the level playing field, but also it’s the health and safety measures and taxes. It’s more for the public.”

Loews Hotels CEO Jonathan Tisch: It’s a Matter of Safety

“We as hotel companies spend a lot of money protecting and keeping our guests and our team members safe,” Tisch said. “The safety and security of anybody that walks into a hotel is paramount, anybody that works in a hotel is paramount. [That’s] yet another issue where that is not necessarily in turn with somebody renting out their home.”

Preferred Hotel Group CEO Lindsey Ueberroth: our workforce is Being Impacted

“We have a residence collection because that vacation rental space is huge,” Ueberroth said. “We felt that we had a sweet spot sort of in between what an Airbnb is all the way up to an exclusive resort. We sort of sit in the middle. We have a lot of hotels that actually have a residence product. Let’s really kind of create a platform around that as well as examples like the AKA hotels here, which really lend themselves to more of long term stay, or families that want a hotel experience, but they really want a residential component.

“The residence space is something we’re very interested in growing. We think that we can add that layer of the seal of approval of a brand, the quality assurance process, the fact that it can be booked directly through a consumer, or through a travel professional. We kind of have a nice way to wrap around that, the whole vacation rental/residence area that’s becoming increasingly popular.”

She added, “Is Airbnb a threat? In some ways, but I think it’s been great for the industry. I do think, when you read about all this stuff, I do think the playing field needs to be leveled a bit in terms of some of the regulations and the things that they should have to abide by and follow.

“What’s interesting is we met with our hotel advisory group, and they were saying the effect it’s having on them is less about the loss of room nights but, depending on where they’re based, that the apartment rental market is drying up so that their employees are having a hard time finding places to live. It’s impacting their workforce. It’s impacting their ability to hire and hire well. Their potential employees are having to commute too far to get to the hotel … It’s having other unintended effects that I don’t think we all really thought about beyond room nights.”

Dream Hotel Group CEO Jay Stein: Airbnb Is Having a Small Impact

“I think it’s a small impact, to be honest with you,” Stein said, when asked if Airbnb was having an impact on his hotel business. “On certain nights, it has had an impact, and even a small impact is a big deal. One, 2 percent, if I get that 1 or 2 percent, it’d be great to have it. But I think the way the laws are moving and the way the government is moving, they [Airbnb and other homesharing platforms] need to be put into a box so they operate like a business.

“They can’t just be a cowboy and make a whole bunch of money, not have regulations, and have, basically, hotels that don’t follow hotel rules. That’s changing and I think they’ll fall into a classification that people that want that, they’ll pay taxes, and they’ll have insurance and other types of things.”

He added, “But the big part of Airbnb, where there were whole buildings that were becoming Airbnb buildings, will go away, and I don’t think they’ll find any way to get traction, particularly in New York and now, we’re seeing in other cities. So, I think that’ll be pretty common.”

According to a recent UBS report, Stein may be correct in his assessment that Airbnb’s growth is slowing, at least in New York City, which has some of the strictest short-term rental laws in the U.S.

Meininger Hotel Group CEO Hannes Spanring: Airbnb Is Very Positive

Berlin-based Meininger Hotel Group has a collection of 18 hotels and hostels throughout Europe.

“I see [Airbnb], actually, as a very positive sign,” Spanring said. “People always ask me, ‘What do you think is a disruptor? I don’t think [it is]. Not for our customers or our clientele because I think it, in a way, more opened up the market for us. [It’s] something else [other] than those typically five-star and four-star hotels. I mean, people like when they are going there. Normally, in an Airbnb, they’re staying a little bit longer. I do not think that this is any competition to us, but it’s more pointing out that there is something more actually in the market.”

Red Lion Hotels CMO Bill Linehan: Concern for Timeshares, Online travel agencies

“VRBO, and vacation rentals have been around for years, and so have various timeshares and rental units,” Linehan said. “It’s a different type of accommodation. What Airbnb has done is it’s really made it easy for everyone to get into that marketplace. I would love to see the reports and the market penetration of Airbnb on timeshare rentals. If individuals and companies are concerned about its erosion to lodging, what about this erosion to timeshare rentals? That’s where I think it really is.”

He also said Airbnb is becoming more of a direct competitor to online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia and Priceline.

“I also think that what they’ve built is they’ve built an online platform that, quite honestly, perhaps the OTAs might get concerned [because they’re becoming a new type of OTA],” he said.

When it comes to hotels, Linehan said, “For me, in the hotel space, where they are impacting our business is very much where we need more supply. They are an alternative lodging. They are not, however, a hotel. A hotel has a lobby. It has services. It has a staff. It has experience. You don’t know what you’re getting. You have some reviews and so forth, but you’re getting another residence. You’re not getting a hotel. It’s an alternative lodging.

“So are many other alternative lodgings. Is it one that we are concerned with? One that needs regulation and fairness? Absolutely. What the AHLA is doing, I’m fully supportive of it, yes. But am I going to whine and complain about what are they doing, and say, ‘This isn’t fair,’ and so forth? They are an alternative. What they’ve done is they’ve harnessed and created a new lodging alternative that I don’t think impedes all of lodging. It’s just another option. … Just like I’m not going to villainize the OTAs for having an opportunity for me to go somewhere and get more market share.”

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

A Scenario-Based Guide to Hotels for Business Travel in Hong Kong

Werner Bayer  / Flickr

The Hotel Icon is a lesser-known option for business travelers who want polished service that gets details right. Werner Bayer / Flickr

Skift Take: A quick, no-nonsense guide to where to stay for business trips in one of the world’s most spectacular cities: Hong Kong.

— Colin Nagy

This is the first of several articles highlighting where to stay on business in some of the world’s most interesting cities. Sure, you can listen to your corporate travel department or Concur and stay where they tell you, but we propose what is likely some more-interesting options.

Below, some tried and true hotel options in Hong Kong, based on various scenarios for the discerning business traveler.

The original Mandarin Oriental

Best for: travelers who need polished service and a great business center but prefer traditional, old-school hospitality in a Hong Kong institution. 

While the Landmark Mandarin is geared towards Mainland Chinese visitors looking to put the hurt on a credit card, the first Mandarin Oriental is a more subdued Hong Kong classic. Consider it a beautifully cut, Saville Row suit that has been broken in perfectly over time. The hotel serves as the first and flagship property for the global brand with recently refurbished rooms and discrete charm. Don’t miss the Chinnery lounge, an old school club lounge feel with dark wood, green leather banquettes and an air of intrigue from another time.

The Pottinger

Perfect if: You want to stay in Central, close to everything, but don’t want to break the bank. You like the feel of a boutique hotel but not too much trendiness.

The Pottinger is a charming, British feeling hotel in the middle of Central. Rooms are crisp, elegant and at a mid-range price point. Space is a bit constrained in the common areas due to how very central the hotel is to everything, but location is prime as it is walkable to Soho, Lan Kwai Fong and the escalators to the Mid-Levels. An easy taxi will get you to any meeting in Central quickly.

The Upper House

Best if: You want to splash out and have a future-of-hospitality experience with an emerging HK brand.

My favorite hotel in the world, full stop. The Upper House is a bleeding edge, modern example of what a modern luxury hotel can be. They blend technology and old-school hospitality to incredible results. The location in Pacific Place is very close to most businesses in Hong Kong and if your time allows, it is near the design district and also one of my favorite places in Hong Kong, the museum at Asia Society, a short walk up the hill. Don’t miss.

The Peninsula

Best for: those who want to spend some cash, get picked up in a Green Rolls, wear a linen suit, and get a taste of Hong Kong’s colonial past.

It’s impossible to write a list about Hong Kong hospitality and neglect the Peninsula. It is a timeless, stately institution that serves as the flagship for the brand. Service is impeccable, old-school, and polished with incredible lobby and common areas. Don’t miss the pool, which is arguably one of the most stunning in the world, with a perfect view of Hong Kong Harbor.

The Mira

Ideal if: You want to channel Edward Snowden on the run in an affordable yet stylish setting in Kowloon.

Known for being the Snowden hideout in Hong Kong, the Mira is a well-priced, modern hotel on Nathan Road in Kowloon. It was recently added as a member of Marriott/SPG which is good news for business travel, and it plays at a reasonable, mid-range price point and is also relatively easy to book with points. The neighborhood is a bit chaotic, but very convenient to everyone in Hong Kong via a well-placed MTR stop.

The Langham in Kowloon

Best for: fans of classic hotel experiences, a grand lobby, and buttoned-up service (but not a giant price tag).

I’m a huge fan of the Langham brand, particularly the London property. Their Hong Kong offering is very similar in terms of classic, polished service, with a fantastic lobby, rooftop pool and one of the best breakfast offerings in the city. The Kowloon location is a short walk from the Star Ferry and its an easy transfer from the Airport Express.

Hotel Icon

Good for: those who want a view into the future of hospitality leaders: 

The Hotel Icon is a fantastic experience in Kowloon that is aligned with the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The best students serve as staff and service is consistently polished and attentive at the level of some of the hotel’s more well-known neighbors. The Icon gets details right, from a thoughtful mobile pre-arrival experience, to an incredible club floor and the Timeless lounge, which allows early arriving travelers a shower room, fitness, steam and sauna and a comfy chair while you wait for your room to be ready.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Laptop Ban May Not Be Expanded, Homeland Security Boss Hints

United Airlines

A passenger uses an iPad on a United Airlines flight. iPads are banned on some U.S.-bound flights from the Middle East, but the DHS secretary said Tuesday the ban may not be expanded to other routes. United Airlines

Skift Take: Is it necessary for the DHS Secretary to deliberate so much in public? He seems to change his statements week by week. Enough, already.

— Brian Sumers

It may not be necessary to expand a ban on laptops and other large electronics in the cabins of many international flights into the United States right now, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Tuesday.

Kelly didn’t rule out an expansion from 10 current airports, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, to all nonstop flights from Europe to the U.S., but he said he has a “fair amount of confidence” that aviation security can be raised enough to limit or eliminate some inconveniences for travelers.

“The good news is, I think … with a fair amount of confidence, that we can raise the level overall of aviation security and not inconvenience the traveling public very much, if at all in some cases and just really add to the security and get our arms around” the situation, Kelly said.

He said if he wasn’t so confident, “I would increase the ban,” adding that new technologies are being developed that will help enhance air travel security.

Kelly was speaking at the International Summit on Borders in Washington and was asked about consulting with airlines and others before security policies are changed.

Homeland Security first banned laptops and other large electronics from the cabins of flights headed to the United States from 10 cities in March amid concerns about an undisclosed threat described only as sophisticated and ongoing. The current ban applies to nonstop flights to the United States from Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The roughly 50 affected flights are on foreign airlines.

Since the initial ban was put in place, Kelly has said several times that he was considering an expansion to flights from Europe. Late last month Kelly said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that he was considering expanding the ban to all flights in and out of the U.S.

Airlines and others in the aviation industry have balked at the possible expansion, and U.S. officials have held multiple talks with officials overseas about what might changes might be made in the future.

An electronics ban affecting nonstop flights from Europe would impact as many as 400 daily flights carrying about 85,000 passengers.


Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Uber CEO Plans to Take Leave as Management Board Asserts Control


Following months of internal strife, Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick told staff he plans to take a leave of absence. He has not disclosed a return date. Bloomberg

Skift Take: As Uber shambles on following the departure of numerous top executives, one has to wonder who exactly will be tabbed to fill the company’s leadership vacuum. Will the company be able to continue its rapid growth without Kalanick’s aggressive presence at the helm?

— Andrew Sheivachman

Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick told staff he plans to take a leave of absence, without disclosing a return date. The company will be run by a management committee as it tries to navigate a wave of scandals.

Upon Kalanick’s return, Uber will strip him of some duties and appoint an independent chair to limit his influence, according to an advance copy of a report prepared for the board.

At a staff meeting Tuesday, the company conveyed the results of a probe conducted by Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general who Uber hired to look into allegations of harassment, discrimination and an aggressive culture. The 47 recommendations include creating a board oversight committee, rewriting Uber’s cultural values, reducing alcohol use at work events, and prohibiting intimate relationships between employees and their bosses.

Uber’s board met Sunday to review a detailed version of the report and voted unanimously to approve the recommendations. Afterward, the San Francisco-based company ousted Emil Michael, Uber’s head of business.

The board will move to diminish Kalanick’s role once he comes back by giving some of the CEO’s job responsibilities to a chief operating officer — a position Uber has been actively recruiting for but has yet to fill. This person would “act as a full partner with the CEO but focus on day-to-day operations, culture and institutions within Uber,” the report said.

“The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here, rests on my shoulders,” Kalanick wrote in an email to employees. “For Uber 2.0 to succeed, there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.”

Uber lost or removed much of its management team in recent months as scandal after scandal emerged. The 14,000-plus workforce lacks a clear No. 2 who could run things in Kalanick’s stead. Uber has started taking steps to fill out the executive bench. Last week, it hired Harvard Business School’s Frances Frei as senior vice president of leadership and strategy, and will add Nestle SA’s Wan Ling Martello as an independent director.

Despite recent turmoil, Uber’s business is growing. Revenue increased to $3.4 billion in the first quarter, while losses narrowed — though they remain substantial at $708 million. But Lyft Inc. has stolen some market share in the U.S., and Uber’s internal strife could open opportunities for competitors globally to lure partners, raise funds or poach talent.

Executives at Uber had looked to the Holder report as a likely turning point in their efforts to put the company’s past indiscretions behind them and provide a road map for the future. Holder, an attorney at law firm Covington & Burling LLP, interviewed employees as part of a 14-week probe he conducted with his colleague Tammy Albarran. A separate examination by Perkins Coie LLP is reviewing 215 HR claims. More than 20 people have been fired as a result of that inquiry.

“The process was longer than we thought and more painful than we thought, but this chapter comes to an end today,” Arianna Huffington, an Uber board member, said in a statement prepared for the staff meeting Tuesday. “Our task now is to learn, rebuild and move forward together to write Uber’s next chapter.”

Claims of Sexism

The crisis was sparked by a Feb. 19 blog post by former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler. She alleged that her former manager had propositioned her for sex and that Uber’s HR department told her it wouldn’t punish him because he was a top performer. In addition to her sexual harassment allegation, Fowler’s nearly 3,000-word post chronicled day-to-day indignities women faced at the startup. In one instance, female employees were told they would need to pay for their own leather jackets even though men were getting them for free; a manager explained to her that there weren’t enough women to justify buying them in bulk, she wrote.

Fowler’s accusations ignited an uproar inside the company and throughout the tech industry. Many women shared their own horror stories, and the controversy prompted companies throughout Silicon Valley to reexamine their diversity practices. At Uber, Bloomberg reported that at least a half-dozen members of the recruiting team left after their attempts to prioritize diversity hiring initiatives faced resistance from Kalanick.

While the public report doesn’t address Fowler’s individual claims, the board-approved changes offer a path to make Uber a more hospitable workplace for women and minorities. The company intends to raise the profile of the head of diversity, adjust executive compensation to incentivize good behavior, institute mandatory leadership training and establish an employee diversity advisory board. Uber published workforce demographics for the first time March, which show that only 15 percent of tech workers at Uber are women.

Holder’s interviews with current and former Uber employees eventually became far broader than Fowler’s initial complaints, including a look at a trip to a Korean karaoke bar in 2014 that was the subject of an HR complaint, the use of software called Greyball to help drivers avoid government officials and the mishandling of a 2014 India rape case.

However, anyone hoping that the report would name names or call out problematic incidents at the company will be disappointed. The report offers no such details. No new dismissals are expected Tuesday, but the other probe by Perkins Coie is ongoing.

Several of Uber’s planned changes are symbolic. For example, a conference room known as the War Room will be renamed the Peace Room. The company also plans to scrap many of its cultural values, notably “Let Builders Build, Always Be Hustlin’, Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping, and Principled Confrontation,” which the Holder report described as being “used to justify poor behavior.”

“Many of Uber’s 14 cultural values, while well-intended, had been allowed to be weaponized,” Huffington said in her statement. “That’s completely unacceptable.”

Focus on HR

Chief Human Resources Officer Liane Hornsey, who joined Uber in January, said the company will reform. Uber is looking to improve its HR practices and daily life for employees, including flexible hours, clearer guidelines for attaining promotions, a revised performance review process and earlier on-site dinners so that the “benefit can be utilized by a broader group of employees, including employees who have spouses or families waiting for them at home,” according to the report.

Uber will also create stricter guidelines for what’s acceptable in the office. Several rules outlined in the report deal with alcohol, controlled substances and sexual relationships. “Uber should consider limiting the budget available to managers for alcohol purchases,” according to one recommendation in the report.

The company hopes to “ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated,” Hornsey said in a statement. “While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.”

Kalanick decided to take a leave while also coping with the death of his mother, whose funeral he attended last week. “Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team,” he wrote to employees. “It’s hard to put a timeline on this — it may be shorter or longer than we might expect.”

Uber has a long road ahead. The CEO is tied to some of the company’s biggest scandals. The company’s president and the heads of autonomous vehicles, growth, mapping, policy and software engineering all left this year, and Kalanick isn’t filling holes in his leadership fast enough. No one is more central to the company’s culture. As co-founder, Kalanick rapidly built a global workforce and molded the place in his image. He also helped craft the values that the company now plans to excise.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Eric Newcomer from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

American Airlines Reverses Plan to Shrink Legroom on Some Planes

American Airlines

American will take delivery of its first 737 MAX later this year. All seats in regular economy will have 30-inch pitch. American Airlines

Skift Take: In today’s airline landscape, legacy carriers generally offer between 30 and 32 inches of seat pitch. Discount airlines give customers 28 or 29 inches. American Airlines had planned to shrink some seats to 29 inches, but customers complained. The plan is off. That’s good news.

— Brian Sumers

Perhaps it was the complaints from customers. Or maybe it was the recent stories and blog posts attacking American Airlines, with many arguing the carrier had crossed a line with its new plan to reduce legroom on some narrowbody planes.

But about a month after confirming plans to shrink seat pitch on its soon-to-be-delivered Boeing 737 Max aircraft, American Airlines said Tuesday it had altered the strategy to make it more passenger friendly.

The airline will not try match the legroom that Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines offer, as American had once planned.

As it tried to cram more passengers into each plane, American had expected to be the first non-discount U.S. airline to shrink seat pitch below 30 inches. Only three rows in each 737 Max would be affected, with the rest having 30 inches of pitch, a measurement more competitive with other full-service airlines. American never said exactly how it would allocate the three rows with the subpar pitch.

The decision received considerable attention, and ultimately American decided it wasn’t worth it. Its first four 737 Max aircraft will arrive later this year, and all regular economy seats will have 30 inches of pitch. That’s one fewer than on the airline’s existing 737s, but it still roughly matches industry norms.

“It is clear that today, airline customers feel increasingly frustrated by their experiences and less valued when they fly,” American told employees in a message Tuesday. “We can be leaders in helping to turn around that perception, and that includes reviewing decisions that have significant impact on the flying experience.

Pitch is not legroom. Instead, it’s the distance from one place on a seat to the same place on the seat in front of it. But seats with less pitch generally also have less legroom.

American’s new 737s will still have 172 seats, or 12 more than the current 737, which has the same-sized cabin. American will eliminate the need for 29-inch pitch rows by slashing a row of its extra legroom section, called Main Cabin Extra, it told employees.

“Designing aircraft interiors is an art and a science,” Robert Isom, American’s president, said in an internal note. “It requires us to take into account customer experience, revenue, and other considerations. We’ve reassessed what’s appropriate for the markets served by our new 737 MAX and have found a way to deliver a minimum of 30 inches of pitch for all Main Cabin rows.”

American said customers may not notice they’ll have one fewer inch of pitch compared to the current 737s. “These seats are designed to make efficient use of the space available and feel more spacious so a 30-inch pitch will feel more like today’s 31 inches,” it said.

American also said it may install the same configuration on its more than 300 existing Boeing 737s.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

TripAdvisor Returns to TV Advertising With Bathrobe-Clad Owl as Spokesperson


The photos are stills from TripAdvisor’s ‘Little Wiser’ series of TV advertisements. The owl, inspired by TripAdvisor’s Ollie the Owl logo, serves as the TripAdvisor spokesperson in the campaign. TripAdvisor

Skift Take: TripAdvisor’s new ad campaign comes at a momentous time for the company, although TripAdvisor views it as part of a long-term TV advertising enterprise. With $70 million behind it and an empathetic bent it will probably do well. You can expect Trivago to up its game as well.

— Dennis Schaal

Forget Priceline’s William Shatner, Hotels.com’s Captain Obvious, the Trivago Guy, and Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome. TripAdvisor returned to TV advertising in the U.S. Tuesday after a two-year absence with a bathrobe-clad owl character, inspired by the company’s Ollie the Owl logo, advising consumers that through TripAdvisor they can retrieve hotel results from 200 sites, save up to 30 percent on the rates, and find the “right hotel for you and the best price.”

The tagline for this initial “Little Wiser” campaign, which will be a series of ads, is “TripAdvisor: latest reviews, lowest prices.” TripAdvisor showed Skift a 30-second and two 15-second TV ads that are part of the initial rollout.

There isn’t any messaging in this first series of TV ads, which vice president of brand marketing Neela Pal told Skift will evolve, about booking on TripAdvisor other than the company’s overall tagline at the end of the ads: “Know better, book better, go better.”

Pal said the campaign starts with an emphasis on comparing hotel prices, and subsequent ads might touch on booking on TripAdvisor and other site features.

TripAdvisor is “well-known but not known well,” Pal said. “People know our name but not our full value proposition.”

Read More From Skift Research:  A Deep Dive Into TripAdvisor’s Competitive Position in Travel 2017.

The fact that the campaign doesn’t push booking on TripAdvisor fits well with the company’s de-emphasis of Instant Booking on TripAdvisor, which is still a site feature but not as prominent following its recent redesign. Instead, consumers can click on a link and navigate to a site such as Booking.com, Expedia.com, or Marriott.com to complete a booking.

TripAdvisor announced earlier this year that it would spend $70 million on TV advertising in 2017. The TV campaign rolled out in the U.S. Tuesday, will be introduced in the UK, France and Spain in the next couple of weeks, and will debut in Australia in July, Pal said.

Ad agency Supermoon, which became TripAdvisor’s agency earlier this year, crafted the campaign. It is geared to emphasize the owl spokesperson’s wisdom while projecting confidence and a relaxed manner as the character lies back on a hotel bed in his — yes, the owl is a he with a male voice — bathrobe, in a great hotel, Pal said.

There are certain parallels between the TripAdvisor Roaming Gnome, which traces its beginnings to around 2003, and TripAdvisor’s owl character. Pal pointed out that TripAdvisor’s Ollie the Owl logo has long been a company asset while the Roaming Gnome didn’t have any Travelocity history when it was introduced.

The owl is “not a manufactured asset,” Pal said.

The owl is also a lot cuter than the Gnome.

Supermoon has also done work for Expedia’s Hotwire, Ancestry.com, and The Honest Company.

The TripAdvisor ad tagline, “TripAdvisor: latest reviews, lowest prices,” is differentiated a tad from rival Trivago’s “Find the ideal hotel at the best price.”

Trivago CFO Axel Hefer recently told Skift that its advertising strategy revolves around spots that are “explainer” ads. He said the hotel-search site, which competes with TripAdvisor, decided its advertising has to teach people how to use the site before it can seek to create an emotional affinity with the brand.

TripAdvisor’s new campaign is also in the “explainer” category, instructing consumers that they can find hotel results on the site from 200 hotel-booking sites, and low prices.

The difference between TripAdvisor and Trivago, Pal said, “is we actually have a lot of emotional affinity. We have some of that emotional attachment.”

TripAdvisor’s new campaign will air on a mix of media, including network and cable channels, Pal said. It is predominantly a TV campaign in its initial incarnation.

TripAdvisor was not immediately putting the campaign on social media or releasing the ads to reporters. Spokesperson Brian Hoyt said that’s because this campaign will evolve, and the ads that follow these initial ones, which he characterized as “the first version,” may look significantly different as TripAdvisor measures performance from the debut.

The TV campaign comes as TripAdvisor looks to accelerate growth after struggling with its rollout of Instant Booking in 2016. TripAdvisor’s stock price opened at $37.88 on Tuesday compared with a 52-week high of $71.69.

Hoyt pointed out that the company’s revenue per hotel shopper, a key metric, improved has been climbing in the U.S., which was the first geography to see Instant Booking completely rolled out, as have the number of unique hotel shoppers.

TripAdvisor struggled with the transition from metasearch — or clicking over to third-party sites for booking — to becoming a booking site and is now downplaying the latter feature in favor of its more lucrative metasearch offering.

TripAdvisor hasn’t done any TV advertising over the last two years as it labored with the transition and then redesigned its sites to place metasearch rather than Instant Booking as the dominant option.

In the interim, rival Trivago and other sites such as Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Travelocity and Booking.com have all been heavily advertising.

TripAdvisor’s new campaign is designed to get its voice back on TV and more in the public mindset.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico