Intro to Booking.com

For those of you who are not familiar with Booking.com hopefully, this helps. To be honest, until recently I was unaware that they were owned by Priceline, began as a startup in Amsterdam, and that the brand employed over 15,000 across 199+ offices worldwide. It really goes to show how much impact Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have in the travel industry.

“Our approach to innovations is to fail fast,” said David Vismans, global director, and chief product officer, in a post by The Nation. For example, they will test features like the “Only 1 room left on our site!” on a small segment of users and assess it through A/B testing before it is officially launched.

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I think that is one of their greatest features because it pushes (almost forces) the consumer to make a decision in place of lollygagging. And because the website features free cancellation options and there’s no requirement for pre-payment the user’s room selection is not set in stone.

Screenshot 2017-06-30 12.50.49A couple days ago I noticed that Booking.com changed their homepage and it now features tabs for flights from Kayak, rental cars from Rentalcars.com, and Restaurant reservations from OpenTable (my personal favorite), as you might expect all these companies fall under the Priceline Group.

This is definitely a competitive move against rivals like Expedia, who prides itself on being the world’s largest full-service travel agency.  C-Trip also offers a wide range of similar services primarily for the Chinese market but the company is looking to expand overseas, according to The Wall Street Journal. We can’t forget about TripAdvisor who is heavily invested in hotels, restaurants, flights, vacation rentals, tours, and more.

Research says New York is #1!

For many years, I’ve been an active subscriber to the weekly newsletter sent by Resonance and it has never disappointed me. The company offers impressive research, strategy, and storytelling for all types of brands around the world. Their most recent report is about America’s Best Cities.

Early in the report, Andrew Nelson from National Geographic has validated the research by saying, “the list is an invaluable guide to authentic, surprising and engaging places well worth visiting.” He noted that Seattle is a place where “millions can build and realize their dreams outside an imperial orbit.” Later in the one-pager titled The Rise in American Cities (on page 4) Bend, Oregon is recognized as a place to “grow and showcase best practices for sustainable growth in urban areas,” and as a local born and raised in Portland, Oregon I can validate that statement.

It is worth noting that the researchers surveyed more than 1,500 “Mobile Millennials” (Americans aged 20-36 who have traveled in the last year) in both 2014 and 2017 to monitor and identify 27 factors. The four most interesting factors to me included affordability of housing, diversity of people, economic prosperity, and quality of the arts (culture, restaurants, and nightlife).

I was very happy to see that New York was ranked #1 as the best large city followed by Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. New York is first in the prosperity category due to its #1 ranking for Fortune 500 Companies and then when you look at Broadway and the 40 new shows that are launching this year, the most in three decades, it really can’t be beaten. Next, they looked at the culinary offerings and NYC also ranked #1 because of the 77 of its restaurants that boast one, two, or three Michelin starts. And, earlier this year Eleven Madison Park was named the best restaurant in the world, which has not happened for a restaurant in the United States since 2004. The word on the street is that the restaurant had a killer invite-only closing party headlined by Questlove.

The research is really well written and I highly suggest downloading one of their many great reports before you begin your next adventure within the United States or abroad.

Where do I begin?!

I really struggled with what direction to go on in my first post focused on the intersection of travel and technology. The industry of travel is so exciting and moving extremely fast that it is tough not to get overwhelmed with all the information that is out there. If there’s a topic that you would like me to write about please don’t hesitate to in the comment section below and I am happy to write about it.

For those of you who aren’t as up to speed with travel trends, consider the impact of Facebook‘s Messenger bot to major travel brands including Kayak, Skyscanner and Expedia, Iceland Air‘s Stopover experience and the array of large hotel chains that have created brands that focus on millennials. And we can’t forget about the growth of the sharing economy with AirBnb, Uber, tons and tons of location-based services like Tripr and Tourli, and that doesn’t even scratch the service.

The entire travel industry has so much potential that large companies like Facebook Travel and Google Travel (Google Trips App, Google Flights and much more) see the potential in making billions. As mentioned above, AirBnb is a HUGE player, especially with $850 million in funding from Google Capital.

We can’t forget about the impact that Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Booking.com, and Agoda have on the hotel industry. They offer a service that has been successful and makes a large chunk of change. More to come on this topic.

Why has my bagel guy never left NYC?!

Almost every morning I purchase either a toasted poppy seed bagel with bacon, egg and cheese or poppy seed bread at my local bagel store. I mean, who can beat spending only $3-$5 on breakfast. Back in 2012-2013, it was only 50 cents more for a cup of coffee, but recently the owner raised his prices and you can believe that I give him a hard time about it J. As you might imagine, I’ve gotten to know the owner and all the people that work for him, so when I enter the building they start my order right away.

We regularly have interesting conversations about the weather, sports and how much he enjoys hanging out on his balcony on sunny days. Given that he lives very close to Coney Island he spends a lot of his free time walking the boardwalk, so midway through the summer, he has secured a killer tan that makes all the girls jealous.

One of the conversations that I’ll never forget was about how he dreams of boarding a plane for the first time in his life. Naturally, as a single 40 year-old born in Brooklyn, I had to ask him where he spends his time on vacation outside of traveling on a plane. His answer was that he has only been to Queens twice to see the Mets play, Staten Island once and the Bronx to see the Yankees. At this point, I was so intrigued that I could barely leave the store. So, before I left, I reminded him of the 5 reasons why traveling is finally affordable.

  1. The rise in the sharing economy with brands like AirBnb and HomeAway has made it easier to find cheaper travel alternatives with the main benefit of connecting with locals for a more unique experience.
  1. New search apps like HotelTonight, Kayak, Expedia, Booking.com, GTFO App, Hopper App and many others allow travelers to find flights, hotels and package deals, often at the last minute.
  1. The rise in International Budget Airlines has made it easier and cheaper to fly around the world on a budget. Norwegian Air serves both coasts with connections in Europe and Asia, and WOW from Iceland has started to offer cheap flights to Europe.
  1. There’s a ton of ways to get points and miles using royalty programs. One of the most famous is The Points Guy who can help a user decide which credit card will work best them and their needs. I personally have the Delta Sky Miles card because Delta has some great international flights and daily direct flights to/from my hometown of Portland, Oregon.
  1. There’s a ton of information on the web that has really made traveling so much easier. You can find train schedules, bus times and ferry schedules to name a few. Let’s not forget about sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp that have millions of reviews to help consumers make all their decisions along the way.

I hope sometime in my lifetime the bagel guy will finally board a flight for his dream destination of choice which is Las Vegas. I did tell him that I am always here for him if he needs me to help him do any of the research and my hope is that he takes me up on it.

My Journey to New York City

I’m an Oregonian born and raised in the great city of Portland (yes, airport with funky carpet). My father was born in the Big Apple and because of that, I have always had a fascination with New York City. This side of my dad’s family is also Sicilian, which is one of the reasons why I LOVE all things Italian (food, cars, clothes etc.). If I remember correctly, my first visit to New York was some time before an 8th-grade field trip to the east coast that included time in NYC, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. From then on, I traveled out here every other year, prior to permanently moving. I would switch off staying with my great aunt Rose in Jamaica, Queens or my great uncle Joey on the Upper West Side (UWS). I also have a great aunt and great cousin who reside in Long Island, but the city scares them, so I have only seen them a handful of times.

After working at WE Communications, the lead PR Agency for Microsoft as an Analyst for 6+ years, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to transfer out here to live with my great uncle Joey. So, I boarded a plane on October 20th, 2012 and landed in Newark, New Jersey with 3 large duffle bags in tow. And yes, I paid a fortune for extra baggage, $180 to be exact. Thankfully I could write my moving expenses off on my taxes the following year, which made me sleep better at night.

I ended up living with my great uncle Joey for less than a week before deciding that it would be better to live either on my own or with roommates my own age. However, prior to finding a place to live, I landed a job dog-sitting for a friend near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I was thankful for this job because it was a good opportunity for me to see what it would be like to live on my own in an unfamiliar neighborhood. For those of you that are not familiar with Brooklyn it is worth noting that very few of the neighborhoods are dangerous, especially Park Slope, which is where I’m told that Ogilvy and Mather executives buy their brownstones because they overlook Prospect Park (Fun fact: Prospect Park was designed by the same people who designed Central Park).

My new life in New York started to get interesting three days into dog sitting due to the news that hurricane Sandy was on its way to rake havoc on the entire eastern seaboard. There was no time for me to escape, I had to be an adult and figure out how to setup for this potential disaster. Having lived on the west coast my entire life I had no idea how to prepare for the storm of the century. The three things that I was told to do by my mother was to fill the bathtub with fresh water, purchase tons of groceries and grab as much cash out of the ATM as possible. I am happy to report that my power never went out, but I was on the edge of the couch at times, wondering if I should go alone (or take the dog with me) to a nearby shelter due to a potential flood zone warning. I could go on and on about my first week, but instead, I’ll leave you with a famous photo from Time Magazine depicting what Manhattan looked like without power.

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