As the spring weather spreads across North America, ski resorts are finding creative ways to lure visitors for some late season action on the slopes. Take for example Mammoth Mountain, which is offering discounted room rates based on the high temperature from the previous day. That means that as the mercury rises, the price of the room drops accordingly, giving guests bigger savings as a result.
Here’s how the deal works. Visitors must book a stay of at least two nights at Mammoth between the dates of April 14 and May 23. While there, they’ll receive a discount off the regular price of their accommodations that is equal to the highest temperature recorded at the Main Lodge – and posted on the Ski Patrol website – from the previous day. So, if the temperature hits 45ºF, guests at the lodge will get $45 off their price. If the following day the thermometer rises to 48ºF, they’ll get an additional $48 off the rate for a total savings of $93. All in all, a very simple way to get a cheap rate.
With nearly 300 inches of snowfall for the season, Mammoth still has a solid amount of powder on the ground. As of this writing, the resort is reporting a base depth of more than eight feet on the mountain and 5.5 feet at lower altitudes. The spring weather has been pleasant and crowds are often at a minimum this time of year, which makes it a great time to hit the slopes before the season officially comes to an end. We know that won’t happen before Memorial Day, but skiers and snowboarders will want to take advantage of every opportunity they can. After all, the off-season can be a very long one!
As we make plans for travel through the first of the year, holiday events are often included. At home or on the road – traditional, old fashioned or new – different holiday events are in place for us to enjoy. Some are free to see, others have a ticket or admission price, but all aim to be a part of our holiday travel plans. Here are a few of the more noteworthy holiday events to consider.
Norwegian also launched a sweepstakes that gives “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” attendees a chance to win a cruise for a family of four on Norwegian Breakaway, which will be the largest ship to homeport year-round from New York City beginning in May.
Holiday Ballet “The Nutcracker” from Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theatre– Atlanta
To many of us, nothing says “holidays” like a good performance of “The Nutcracker” and Atlanta’s Georgia Metro Dance Theater has one of the best.
In its 11th year of creating holiday magic, they invite you to come and watch the timeless tale unfold as a young girl’s gift of a nutcracker comes to life and a handsome prince whisks her away through the land of snow.
Every year, many people visit Istanbul to shop in the historic Grand Bazaar to haggle over carpets, Turkish tea glasses, and souvenir t-shirts. But most locals do their shopping in Istanbul’s many malls, markets, high streets like Istiklal near Taksim Square and Bağdat on the Asian side, and neighborhoods such as posh Nişantaşı and funky Çukurcuma. This year, from March 18 to April 26, travelers can take advantage of the best of all worlds with the first Istanbul ShoppingFest, also celebrating the 550th birthday of the Grand Bazaar. For 40 days, shoppers can get special discounts and win prizes, shop late into the night (with bigger discounts after 10pm), and be entertained with performances and events. Each Saturday, one mall each on the European and Asian sides will stay open until 2am, and all malls will be open until 11pm daily during the fest. In addition to sale prices, foreign travelers can get tax back on purchases at various malls around the city and enter raffles with each 40 TL (about $25 USD) spent.
Already established in India, Singapore, and Dubai in usual sale seasons, Istanbul’s promotion will hold a special draw as discounts will apply to new season merchandise and take place over several major holidays including Easter, Passover, and Iranian Nowruz. With this festival, Turkey hopes to carry over some of the momentum from last year’s European Capital of Culture designation, and become the destination of choice for travelers from nearby countries such as Russia, Iran, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Rumania, Syria and Iraq.
Check out more details and events at www.istshopfest.com and follow their Facebook page and Twitter @istshopfest. See also the March issue of Time Out Istanbul in English for feature guides to the fest and the Grand Bazaar.
In 2011, REI Adventures, the travel arm of outdoor gear retailer REI, is celebrating its 25th year of offering great outdoor and active journeys to adventure travelers. To commemorate the occasion, they’re passing on a substantial discount to members of the REI Co-Op, giving them 25% off some of their most classic trips.
In all, there are seven trips that the discount is being applied to. Those trips include a classic safari in Tanzania, a trek to Everest Base Camp, cycling in the Loire Valley of France, trekking the Tour Du Mont Blanc, hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, backpacking in Fitz Roy and Paine in Patagonia, and exploring the Alaskan wilderness on foot and kayak. Each of these trips is considered to be one of REI Adventures’ signature vacations, offering some of the most amazing and memorable experiences for any traveler.
As mentioned, to take advantage of the 25% discount, you must be an REI member. Becoming a member is simple however, and it offers more benefits than just the discount on these trips. There is a one time fee of $20 for the membership, but it entitles you to take part in special events at REI stores, increased discounts on gear items, and a yearly dividend that is based on the items you purchased. That dividend can then be spent on new gear in the store as well. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast at all, then the membership usually more than pays for itself in the first year alone.
Members always receive a discount on REI Adventures trips, but the additional 25% savings is on top of that already discounted price. For instance, the African Safari normally costs non-members $4075. Members get the same trip for $3699, but if you take advantage of the added discount, you can visit the Serengeti for just $2775. Not a bad deal at all.
Dates for the discounted trips are limited, so you’ll want to take advantage of them as soon as possible. To get more details on these adventures and the dates when they are available, click here.
Online travel agencies have had a solid run over the past two years. They picked up some market share as would-be travelers were willing to poke around a little more to score cheap tickets. High rates of unemployment and under-employment and general economic uncertainty, of course, were enough to make consumers value every dollar a little more. This opened an opportunity for online travel agencies to advance in the marketplace, and chip away at the dominance of their suppliers (i.e., the airlines) on the web.
Online travel agencies will have to overcome this tendency by investing smartly and substantially in their own brands. This is what we’re seeing in the latest move by CheapOair, the one of the 10 largest online travel agencies in the sector, in its recent announcement of a marketing mix change, which teases a broader strategic shift given changing market conditions.
A Changing Travel Market
From 2008 to 2010, online travel agencies were able to chip away at the online market share of their suppliers, reducing the suppliers from owning 62 percent of the online business in 2008 to 59 percent in 2010, according to travel industry research firm PhoCusWright. Bargain hunters drove the market, which eroded the importance of brand loyalty.
From 2009 to 2010, PhoCusWright notes a “strong countercyclical performance for the OTA category.” In 2009, sales fell only 1 percent for the sector, compared to 5 percent for the total online leisure/unmanaged business travel market. And, online travel agencies have posted double-digit gains in 2010.
Stronger industry conditions, however, are better for the suppliers, and PhoCusWright observes, “With the rebound continuing, supplier websites will likely regain momentum as the OTA fight to hold on to their share gains.”
In regards to the actual travel experience, ostensibly, the airline’s brand matters most. When a passenger books through an online travel agency, the brand associated with the transaction lasts for a few minutes – or a few hours, depending on the diligence of the buyer’s search. Meanwhile, interaction with the airline’s brand starts during the search for a ticket, persists through the flight and ends sometime after the passenger hops into a town car to get to his ultimate destination. To register in the customer consciousness, online travel agencies need to develop the sort of presences that will keep them top of mind.
This runs counter to the traditional online customer acquisition models associated with the online travel agency business, which involve a combination of search engine optimization, online ads, affiliate programs and social media. These are transaction-oriented tactics, which speak directly to the brand-barrenness of big discounting.
More Than the Transaction
The largest online travel agencies have already moved past transaction myopia: everybody knows the Travelocity gnome, Priceline‘s William Shatner and the likes of “Cooper” from Expedia. For all but the top players, however, investments in mass media brand development (such as television) have generally been eschewed in favor of what’s been known to work. Speaking at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference last week, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow noted that Travelocity grew to $4 billion in revenue through online means before it moved to television to get to the next level.
Yet, for the online travel agency sector to hold its ground – and even grow – in 2011, brand has to matter more, and this means casting a wider media net. This, plus the size of CheapOair relative to its competitors, is what caught my attention about its recent media diversification. The company is launching its first television ad campaign, “Get More for Less,” in an aggressive move to get out in front of the imminent online travel market shift.
The move to television is an aggressive one, and it comes a bit ahead of “schedule” for CheapOair, if you use the Travelocity number as a reference point. Expedia pulled in close to $3 billion in revenue last year, for example, and Priceline at $2.3 billion. Travelong/CheapOair generated $825 million in revenue in 2009 and has grown at a year-over-year rate of 45 percent this year, resulting in forecasted 2010 revenues of $1.2 billion.
The company’s CEO, Sam Jain, says, “TV is a new strategy for CheapOair and as we head into our 6th year we believe this is the right time to expand our marketing efforts. TV is a natural evolution from our current digital marketing and will help build awareness among a larger audience and introduce more people to the brand.” The countercyclical tendencies of the online travel agency market relative to travel as a whole reinforce this point.
Pointing to the potential for a virtuous cycle, CheapOair’s Sr. Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Bill Miller, adds, “This new TV campaign should draw in more customers for us which in turn will bring more value to our supplier partners. Our suppliers — airlines, hotels, car rentals —- want valuable and efficient distribution partners. I believe we are all that and more and this TV campaign is just another example of how we can extend our marketing reach on the behalf of our supplier partners.”
Fashion versus Reality
It’s been fashionable among the digerati to claim the death of other forms of media, and I’m as guilty as the rest. But, the reality is that SEO and online ads (a la Google’s pay-per-click model) are becoming increasingly crowded and competitive. Since they are focused on the transaction rather than the brand, they don’t provide for a relationship with the customer that results in a gradual reduction in cost per revenue over time. It’s strictly “pay by the drink,” and that can get pricey.
With the travel market starting to tip in favor of the travel suppliers over the online travel agencies, the costs associated with traditional online marketing will become even higher, as brand brings customers back to the suppliers and online travel agencies chase a shrinking share of bargain hunters. For online travel agencies to compete effectively, they have to make their own investments in branding – a commitment that lacks the predictability of other forms of marketing.
Strangely, television may become the key to winning on the web in the travel industry in 2011. A better market translates to the amplification of the importance of brand, and commercials are still a critical aspect of this in the consumer world.
A battle of the brands is about to break out. The good news is that it’s for your benefit … and you’ll get to watch it on TV!