RateTiger at ITB 2009

What happened? Last thing you know is that the economy is expecting a horrible year and next thing you hear is that the organizers of ITB 2009, Berlin, Germany, reported an increase in attendees as many tradeshows across the world experienced a fall in visitors.

RateTiger attended with its own stand in the technology section (Hall 8.1). We returned with a similar stand design as WTM 2008 to reinforce our position as a leader in the online channel management industry.

As European Seal of e-Excellence awards winners in marketing of innovation RateTiger received significant interest from visitors especially with our luxurious discounts and offers to celebrate our award win.

International and German hotel companies had their brand presence but the number of people representing chains were down from last year. The key concerns for hoteliers seemed to be that the future is uncertain in relation to the economic downturn. The feedback we received was that hotels are looking at more distribution channels while expecting much quicker returns.This was extremely prevalent among clients in the Asian Market. As a natural consequence, the time spent on channel management has and will increase significantly hence the extreme interest in our products.

Sunaina Jagtiani, UK Sales Manager commented: “The great thing about the show is that I got the opportunity to speak with the decision maker or the influencer with regards to online channel management and sales. I met with several potential clients in the Asian market and Sudhir our APAC SM will be following up on those leads.”

Keith Povah, Director of Sales said: “The sales managers found some clients were a little hesitant to invest in software as there are so many dreadful stories about technology companies going under. Being present at the show showed potential clients RateTiger’s strength and stability with our commitment to deliver and also gave us the ability to provide insight into why channel managers save time and make money”

Hoteliers were keen to discuss current needs and how RateTiger would best solve those. Furthermore, a big part of the discussions were about the newly launched products RTStrategy and RTCorp, first available during ITB 2009. The feedback from customers makes us believe that both products hit market needs.

Ulf Guldi, German Sales Manager, his first exhibition as part of the RateTiger team: “I must say the show was great. I have attended quite a few ITB’s in my travel industry history, but I never had so many qualified meetings. We definitely achieved a lot of success from the show and numerous interesting and hot leads from single hotels and smaller hotel groups.”

There was a constant buzz on the RateTiger stand and we have some big announcements to be made in the coming weeks following partnerships we secured with leading vendors and hotel groups.

Florida Huddle 2009

We attended the Florida Huddle to meet with hotels and discuss opportunities to expand sales and marketing online through third party distribution channels.

Over 230 hotels attended the event and we were fortunate to arrange meetings with over a third of them. The team helped them identify ways to maximize the distribution of rates and rooms across the internet.

Siobhan and Gerard managed to secure a few sales and many leads for hotels and wholesalers. Doubletree Universal has also been referring RateTiger after the event.

Hoteliers were keen to understand more about technology and the online environment as they have manually managed their multiple channels for the past few years. The trend continued that many are worried over how the current economic situation will affect their business over the next 18 months and are looking at all options in an effort to remain competitive across many channels while reducing cost and time spent.

Hopefully by the time we attend HITEC in June many hoteliers will see what they can achieve through streamlining their sales online through channel management systems.

BIT, Milan, 2009

The global economic markets hit BIT 2009 in Milan hard this year. Italy seems to be suffering more than any other country; RateTiger has been to many tradeshows which reported an increase in attendance. However BIT lost 25% of attendees on 2008.

Our sales managers experienced an atmosphere full of pessimism and lack of motivation from many exhibitors and visitors. Giuseppe Messina, SM in Italy said: “I can tell you that the mood was a bit down. I had the chance to talk with hotel managers coming from Florence, Venice and Rome, and they are all in the same scenario: 25-30% of occupation compared to 2008.”

Due to our position in the market hoteliers were keen to talk about RateTiger and online distribution in general. Stand visitors were interested in a product like RTChannelManager but still worried about increasing outgoings until they began to see a greater return in online channels.

Enzo Aita, SM in Italy, was surprised that some of the big players did not turn up: “Hotelplan and Italian TO (Alpitour, Francorosso, etc) did not come as exhibitors – I was very surprised by this.”

We hope the Italian market will begin to pick up over the next few months. RateTiger will be launching soon a product that will assist smaller hoteliers to maximize rates and distribution online while helping tight budgets.

HSMA – eMarketing Day, Frankfurt, Germany

We were invited to speak at the HSMA conference on February 11th in Germany by the HSMA, IFH in connection with the German Hotel Association (IHA) as key sponsors of the event. The entire day was dedicated to electronic marketing and how to make the best out of internet marketing opportunities.

During the morning we listened to representatives from Google describing marketing opportunities for travel companies; Lufthansa showing how airlines manage passengers and use the internet to ease procedures; Micros-Fidelio talking about integrated e-commerce solutions; as well as, various consulting companies presenting how the internet and web 2.0 provide opportunities and challenges.

In the afternoon the crowd of approximately 180 people was able to select from various workshops that would allow for deeper inside info. For example newsletter marketing, search-engine-optimization, legal aspects of web 2.0, RFP procedures as well as integrated revenue management and distribution systems.

We were asked to talk about Metasearch and Channel management – the balance between customer and hotel. During the workshop we established what channel management and metasearch are, how they influence consumer & hotel behaviour and how they are going to develop in the near future. As I love to show the hotel world how inconsistency is transparent on the web, we also walked through an example of why it is important to manage rates & availability properly. I managed to find a hotel during my research for the workshop that had different rates on different travel metasearches and even within the same search engine! I am sure that revenue was lost there…

After the workshops the organizers presented a panel discussion between Trivago, Holidaycheck, Choice Hotels and Romantik Hotels about Hotel-Review-Platforms. To my surprise, the audience was very switched on and engaged…. even at 6pm.

Overall the event was well received. The organizers could have done improved with some of the presenters though. When you present at a nearly 200 people event, you have to make sure your presentation is sharp, informative and interesting enough to follow along. That wasn’t always the case for some…..

Travel Technology and Business Travel Show, Earls Court – London

We attended the annual Travel Technology and Business Travel Show last week to meet customers, potential new clients and find out how our business partners are coping with 2009. The event hosted at Earls Court in London brings together the UK corporate travel companies to discuss technology and trends in business travel.

We were hoping to see a few PMS systems, but not this year. The whole Travel Technology Show was smaller than previous years with only a few booking systems and data management companies. On the second day the number of attendees seemed very low. Many of the businesses exhibiting at the fair admitted it had been much quieter than 2008.

During the Business Travel Show, the current economic conditions were mentioned a number of times by various people and very few were optimistic about the upcoming year. We also noticed an increase in the number of apartment companies who were exhibiting, but many do not sell through on-line bookings yet and therefore do not understand the opportunities of online channel management technologies.

Only very few hotels were exhibiting although we did have the chance to have lengthy conversations with the groups that were present. It is pre-dominantly a show for Travel Management companies and considering, the shows are run together, there were very few Online Travel Agencies. We spoke to HRS, Hotel.info and Hotelshop UK Ltd. all of whom said they liked the show, but it certainly did not seem busy to us. Furthermore, unfortunately, none of the seminars were relevant to us deciding to look at the credit crunch and social media tools to increase online visibility.

Paris seminar – Hotel Conseil forum for French hoteliers

On Monday 9 February I attended the first Hotel Conseil forum for French hoteliers in Paris. The theme of the event was online distribution and I was asked to talk about channel management. Each speaker was allotted 20 minutes for a presentation and Q&A. I was advised by the organiser to avoid a commercial presentation on our products, but to speak more generally about the subject matter. This was good advice.

The first four speakers spoke about their products and it was obvious that either the audience did not understand or were totally bored by the presentations – not one received any applause. Fortunately I spoke after the next coffee break and kept my 12-slide presentation brief and to the point. I introduced how the internet has changed booking trends in hotels, the creation of the new role Revenue Manager and how Channel Management would be integrated in Revenue Management (RM) strategies.

I did not talk about Rate Tiger in the actual presentation, except to finish on how the RM could work with and without RT. This proved to be aimed at the right level and received a very good response with plenty of questions. We also hosted a table with brochures outside the main room, manned by Patrice Florentiny, our agent in Paris, where we received a lot of enquiries during every break.

It was worth attending and I have already been asked to speak again next year.

BTL 2009 (Bolsa de Turismo Lisboa/Lisboa Travel Market) 21-25 January

BTL – Bolsa de Turismo de Lisboa- 2009, defied industry trends receiving 71,121 visitors, a growth of 6% on last year.
According to a statement from the organizers the show “supplanted the original expectations,” not only by the number of visitors it received, but also by the satisfaction shown by most of the 900 exhibitors at FIL (Feria Internacional de Lisboa).

In addition over 40 international destinations and 600 foreign professionals participated in the event across four halls of the FIL in the first two days of the event, when the show was only for industry and trade professionals.

There was positive feeling expressed at BTL during the official inauguration by Vítor Neto, president of the Organizing Committee; “This is not a BTL of crisis and defeatism. BTL is one of trust, responsibility and determination, who wants to show everyone that the Tourism in Portugal enjoys good health and has strength and determination to overcome the challenges it faces.”

However hoteliers had concerns of their own related to the economic downturn. Many of the revenue managers and proprietors we spoke to were interested in ways they can boost revenues. The industry in Portugal is experiencing falling occupancy and RevPar – below that of 2007. The largest annual decline in occupancy was for 5 star hotels, down 11.6% to 49.8%. RevPar for 5 stars is down 5.2%.

Rural Initiatives BTL and Business BTL, which debut this year at the exhibition, had a very good turnout. We expect that these elements of the show will continue for 2010.

One of our customers, Group Vila Galé Hotels won recognition for the design of their exhibition stand. Group Vila Galé unveiled the new company logo and introduced a membership card Vila Galé Premium that works as a credit/payment card and loyalty programme. The hotel chain also announced the opening of Vila Galé Lagos, a four-star superior hotel on 25 April 2009.

We at RateTiger consider BTL to be quite productive. Our Sales Manager Pilar Sanchez Aita had the opportunity to meet 20 hotels to show the benefits of channel management products.

Fitur (Feria Internacional de Turismo) Madrid 28-31 January 2009-02-09

Fitur 2009 had a unique focus on technology and sustainability, which proved positive for us as hotels looked for new markets, new channels and new technology to increase room sales. Hoteliers expressed interest in contracting with more extranets to increase Online Distribution activities and looking at what their competitors are doing across the internet. Many clients are looking for integration to distribute their rates and availability from their CRS to other IDSs

Technology and Sustainability: New technological tools and sustainability was the basis of this 29th edition of Fitur. It was the 1st edition of the conference SMXTravel @ FITUR 2009, showing “all the secrets of the internet” in tourism marketing. It also highlights this year’s edition of Fiturtech 09 that includes, among others, Web 3.0, a 2.0 development environment that integrates a social network with the internal and external customer. Fitur had addressed the demand of the sector regarding online business, and this was extremely positive for RateTiger as we commit to more effectiveness in presentations held with hotels interested in our products.

There is a vast opportunity in the market for Hoteliers to boost incremental revenues. Following in the footsteps of the Low Cost Carriers – hotel companies are adding ancillary products and services to add up to 20% to their bottom line.

However, according to the director of International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR), Ana Larrañaga, there was a 10% fall in visitors on 2008. 
The snowbound weekend had made it difficult for this event to reach or surpass last year’s 250,000 visitors. 

Exhibitors were also at a low – there were 13% less hoteliers and a 9% drop in the number of companies for 2009. Despite the criticism directed at Fitur by some hoteliers on the price per square meter and the challenging organizational structures, the general feeling is that the event was “very positive” and “satisfaction from those who attended it.”

Hoteliers had agreed that “in a difficult economic climate, we can not deny that many companies have been affected by the slowdown and this has had its impact on Fitur”. Despite the situation, they said nothing is more important “when business is especially difficult when we are urged to generate at a meeting point like Fitur where professionals network and it’s valuable generation of new alliances, creativity and ways of doing business to reveal how to boost profits using ancillary strategies”

InnPoints 1st Annual Worldwide Conference

We had the pleasure of participating in The InnPoints 1st Annual Worldwide Conference in Albuquerque, NM.

InnPoints is a client of RateTiger and they were eager to introduce our solutions to their entire client base. RateTiger was not only an exhibitor but I was invited to be a part of a business panel discussion.

The setting was unique in that there were less than 100 people in attendance but the attendees represented approximately 700 hotel properties. The opportunity to sit down in a “friendly” environment and discuss the specific business needs of individual hotels was very productive.

The demand for a demo of RateTiger’s solutions was so high that InnPoints allowed an unscheduled session with some of the hotels at the close of the panel discussion. The panel discussion was important as it allowed RateTiger to increase its online channel management education on how to survive in the present economic crisis. Everyone on the panel agreed that a channel management solution was a necessary component of a successful plan. RateTiger will definitely participate in next year’s InnPoints event.

Phil Stiles