Who Are the Richest People in Travel?

Andrew Magill, Flickr

Skift took a look at the recent Forbes 400 list and pulled out all the people that had a connection to the travel industry. It found 30 people on the list who were in some way involved with travel.

It’s no news that there’s money to be had in travel. In fact, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2012, global tourism was responsible for $2.1 trillion to global GDP and 101 million jobs.

So who’s on the list? The top spot for the richest travel investor goes to Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent A Car, with a net worth of $11.4 billion, and who comes in at No. 36 on the overall list. But maybe more impressive is the Pritzker family, the owners of Hyatt; 10 members of the family are on the Forbes 400 list.Based upon the rankings, hotels, casinos and cruise lines seem to be the most lucrative areas of travel investment. But then again, so is online media: Barry Diller of Expedia has a net worth of $2.1 billion.

According to Skift’s list, here are the top five richest people in the travel industry, with their overall Forbes listing:

36 Jack Taylor and Family Enterprise Rent A Car $11.4 billion
61 John Malone Cable TV, Expedia $6.7 billion
61 Elon Musk Tesla Motors $6.7 billion
70 Micky Arison Carnival $5.9 billion
118 Barbara Carlson Gage hotels, restaurants $3.9 billion

Looks like it’s time to go and brainstorm a new travel app that rents cars in a luxury casino on a cruise.

Travel-Related Websites That Really Engage Their Customers

travel-related web sitesThey all talk about it. “Like us on Facebook,” “Follow us on Twitter” and “Read our blog,” say travel-related websites selling everything from guidebooks to airline flights, gear and gum. Many give us little reason to like them, follow them or do anything other than buy their products on the way to the next online destination. But some travel seller sites actually do put some time and effort into creating a reason to visit other than to buy something.

The task of buying a hotel room for a night is easy to define. The short list of variables includes location, price and availability. Easy. Any number of search sites can gather that information, whirl it around and present viable options. Hotel.info does more. On their blog we find The Ultimate Guide To Cooking In Your Hotel Room that brings us unique, interesting content that in and of itself is a good reason to visit their site.A Different Kind Of Hotel Search
travel-related web sitesProviding step by step directions and video, Hotel.info teamed up with chef Nicola Whistle (the Secret Restaurant) to hack hotel room food. Using things commonly found in a hotel room, like a shower cap and iron, Chef Whistle cooks up some delicious dishes. Poached egg on toast with steamed asparagus for breakfast? Cooked in your hotel room? Yes indeed, it can be done and visiting hotel.info shows travelers exactly how to do it. Visitors to this site actually have a reason to like, follow and maybe check in with their #ultimatehotelguide hashtag from @hotelinfo_EN on Twitter from time to time.

Still, visitors would probably leave the Hotel.info site if their search results were not productive. Running a test search, Hotel.info vs. Kayak, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Expedia and others, results were similar but engagement was not. They all ask for our like and follow but only Hotel.info had additional content worth a look.

15,000 Things To Do On Planet Earth
Another travel buy site that earns our vote is Viator. This travel tour buy site caught our attention last year with their “Win Your Dream Travel Job” contest that had four winners tasked with traveling through 20 countries in 60 days in both North America and Europe, and documenting their adventures on camera. Viator also earned likes from cruise travelers, saving them money with Viator Shore Excursions offering more than 500 shore excursions in over 80 of the most popular ports around the globe. But more moving past simply selling tours, Viator engages site visitors with features like inviting travelers to submit photos and a rich library of tour-specific videos.

Selling a no-wait Skip The Line Guinness Storehouse Entrance Ticket for visitors to Dublin might be reason enough to buy. But Viator builds on that value with recent photos and a short video that is an accurate representation of the tour. A new Viator Tours & Activities App makes finding and booking activities for almost any given destination we might visit while traveling easy too, with more than 15,000 curated trip activities in hundreds of destinations including photos, video and reviews.

Clicking a “like” or “follow” button takes just a split second. But consider that click as a vote and be sure your vote counts. The best travel-related websites not only offer good pricing but come equipped with unique content that makes for a better overall value.

Searching, Thinking, Speaking Travel Apps No Match For Human Brain, Maybe

travel appsUnder the premise that searching for a flight online is a time-consuming and annoying task, travel buyers have been presented with a number of solutions. As new technology moves from the lab to the street, we see it being applied in helpful ways that do indeed make life easier and save us time.

Searching for flights online, buyers commonly visit multiple websites, see something they like on one, look for it on another, cross-check with the airline site and so on. When the time comes to pull the trigger and buy, those flights are often unavailable or priced differently. It can be a frustrating task but one that has to be done to find a flight that works with our travel plans – until now.

Say hello to Pintrips, a new online tool that allows business and leisure travelers to “pin” and see flights they’ve found across the web in one spot. Find something you like on a Pintrips-enabled website? Pin it with a click on the pin button next to each flight and Pintrips saves the find, constantly tracks price changes and enables easy comparison.

Stop right there and Pintrips is a win, consolidating all the good stuff we see while searching and putting it in one place. But going a step further, Pintrips pulls in the results of similar searches done by others in a crowd-sourcing sort of way that might eventually be worth considering.

Called “Public Pinning Boards,” this new feature provides “a fast track to pinning by providing the latest pins from the community as well as latest deals,” said Pintrips in a Wall Street Journal statement.

Pintrips does have its limits; capability is currently available only on American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Air and Virgin America airline sites and search sites Google, Expedia, Kayak and Orbitz. But new sites are being added every month and users can request sites too.

Easier yet, Cheapair has a new voice-activated flight search travel app.

Basically, we don’t have to lift a finger with this one to find an abundance of flight information. Using the new CheapAir app available for iPhone and iPad, say a request like, “Orlando to Los Angeles, May 5th to the 10th” or “L.A. to Vegas tomorrow coming back Sunday” and up pop the results – no form to fill out.

Still, finding the right flight can be much like looking for a needle in a haystack; there are just so many different options. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use our brains to narrow down the results, find the perfect flight, priced right, and be done with it?

Applying the flavor of recent research at University of California, Berkeley, that day may come. Scientists have discovered that when we embark on a targeted search, like looking for a contact lens on a bathroom floor or a car key in a bed of gravel, that various visual and non-visual regions of the brain mobilize to track them down.

“Our results show that our brains are much more dynamic than previously thought, rapidly reallocating resources based on behavioral demands, and optimizing our performance by increasing the precision with which we can perform relevant tasks,” said Tolga Cukur, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UC Berkeley in a RDMag article.

We look forward to more results from that research but know that the world of travel apps is constantly changing, as we see in this promotional video for the Travel Channel To Go app from 2008.


[Photo credit – Flickr user TZA]

Suspicious About Hotel Reviews? You Are Not Alone

Hotel reviewsHotel reviews come from a variety of sources. Trusted travel experts, agents and professional organizations may have delivered in the past when travelers chose an unfamiliar hotel so, naturally, people continue to utilize the resources for their future decisions. Others might check in with TripAdvisor or online travel sellers Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com. Whoever travelers are checking in with, it’s big business with mixed results.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the hotel review equation is difficult to navigate. “It’s hard to overstate how important customer reviews are [to hotel sales],” said Douglas Quinby, senior research director at PhoCusWright Inc., a travel-research firm.

Common complaints about online hotel reviews stem from their accuracy. What one guest experiences and reviews turns out to be an entirely different experience for someone else.

Reviews often highlight a stark difference between commonly rated factors like the “value received” and whether a hotel “exceeded expectations” from one stay to another.

Oh, and those reviews that jump off the page as being just too good? Reviews that sound like they were written by a hotel manager looking for business? They might very well be.

In a study of hotel-review websites last year, PhoCusWright decided to remove one small national brand of hotels because the data was suspicious. “The volume of reviews was off the charts and the [rating] scores were off the charts,” said Mr. Quinby. He declined to identify the hotel brand.

Which reviews should you trust? Probably not TripAdvisor.

In February, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority ruled that TripAdvisor’s advertised claim of “trusted advice from real travelers” was misleading, because fake comments could be posted without verification.

TripAdvisor says it has technology to filter reviews, weeding out problems and that customers and hotels themselves are able to police the site for fake or inflated reviews.

But do they?

“When reviews don’t match up with reality, consumers return to the site to post reviews of their own experience,” said Adam Medros, vice president of global product for TripAdvisor in the Wall Street Journal report. Hotel owners sound the alarm either when another hotel is suspected of adding in fake reviews.

“It just works,” said Mr. Medros. “The site wouldn’t have grown as it has without users coming back and saying the information was useful.”

Experts disagree.

Travel-guidebook legend Arthur Frommer told the Journal that he began printing reader letters about hotels in the 60s. After a few years, he realized that hotels were writing him letters about themselves. “I was being gamed,” said Frommer. “Hotels are so dependent on reviews that of course they will generate their own. They would be crazy not to.”

Should You Trust Online Hotel Reviews

Flickr photo by notphilatall

Expedia announces 2010 Insiders’ Select hotel rankings

The 2010 Expedia Insiders’ Select hotel rankings provides Expedia customers with an annual list of the world’s best hotels rated for quality and value as determined mostly by traveler reviews. These are hotels that routinely exceed customer expectations – in their customer service, amenities, competitive pricing and more.

Now, I’ll admit that when I first saw the list, I was a bit puzzled (and you may be as well), but I spent some time talking to Janice Lichtenwaldt, the Expedia executive who oversees the list, and she explained exactly how the ranking works.

The way Expedia ranks the Insiders’ Select properties looks more at traveler reviews and value for money than anything else. Value for money is determined based upon the price and star rating of the hotel, then compared with the daily rate for other hotels in the vicinity. Honestly – this system makes perfect sense, and despite creating a rather odd looking list, I’m glad the focus is more on value and quality, than building a list that “looks cool”.

Here are the top ten properties that made the Expedia 2010 Insiders’ Select lineup:

  1. Galaxy Iraklio Hotel – Crete Island, Greece
  2. Hide Away Guest House – Garden Route, South Africa
  3. Drury Inn Indianapolis – Indianapolis, Indiana
  4. Al Manshar Rotana Hotel – Kuwait
  5. Conrad Bali – Bali, Indonesia
  6. Staybridge Suites Minneapolis-Bloomington – Minneapolis, Minnesota
  7. Hotel De La Cite – Languedoc-Roussillon, France
  8. Bosnian National Monument Muslibegovic House – Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  9. Cambridge Suites Sydney – Cape Breton Island, Canada
  10. The Westin Chosun Pusan – Haeundae, South Korea

New for 2010 is the ability to search for Insiders’ Select hotels – when you browse hotel search results on Expedia, simply click the “Hotel Preferences” link, and check “Insiders’ Select” to find hotels that made the list.%Gallery-73514%