Monday, February 22, 2010

How does the Aegean–Olympic merge affect Cyprus Tourism?

Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air are very close signing an agreement that will create the new Greek airline. The 2 companies will very soon announce their merge and the new airline will be called Olympic. The new company will have a structure where the 2 strong men of the two companies will have equal shares, Vasilakis  from Aegean and Vgenopoulos from  Olympic Air (Marfin Group) and the rest of the shares will be in the Greek stock market. The new entity will be owned by Aegean Air by 75% and 25% by Marfin . (News published on Inbusiness news online in Greek)

Now the question drawn from this piece of news is.  When are they going to buy Cyprus Airways,  Eurocypria of both? The bad financial situation of the two Cypriot Airlines should worry the Cypriot Tax payer. The airlines that lately had a media fight about who should close down, are completely sustained by state investment. The state of Cyprus owns 100% of the regular airline (Cyprus Airways) and 100% of the charter airline, Eurocypria. The minister of finance of Cyprus has played his last card for Eurocypria last week at the parliament where he obtained 35 million Euros to inject them in the empty cash drawers of Eurocypria.
Most economists of Cyprus believe that the 2 airlines are not sustainable due to their very high operational costs produced basically by the “heritage” of civil servant employees and the lack of modernization of internal procedures in order to have more flexibility and productivity.

Now with the airports of Cyprus being managed by the private sector the 2 airlines do not have the favours they user to have before (especially before 2004) something that finds them “exposed” to the open global market. If the new Greek airline giant wants to keep the piece of the pie in the Cypriot routes then the option of buying the 2 companies is not a bad one.

We will be waiting to see what the next move is. Vgenopoulos has the expertise in buying Cypriot companies and I am sure he knows the potential of Cyprus as a hub in the eastern Mediterranean.

From this blog I predict that next year the same day we will be talking  about one global Greek and Cypriot air carrier and is then when we will be able to fly to Cyprus with better connections and definitely better prices.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Online Marketing for Tourism: Social Media can Drive Sales to Hotels and Airlines

This post is inspired on the Mashable post about Social Media and how it can drive revenue to airlines and hotels. Therefore I would like to thank Shashank Nigam, its writer for the inspiration.

As Shashank very accurately says Social media is no longer the “new” thing, especially for airlines. Looking at JetBlue or Lufthansa we understand that social Media is part of their daily routine. However, most airlines are still wondering or even worse are still doubting that Social Media can drive them Euros in their accounts. In resort areas, and especially in the Mediterranean, things are even “harder” since the big tour operators are dominating the market and the average airline manager is Social Media illiterate and this because of working habits and lack of training. Cyprus Airways, Olympic Air, Egypt Air etc are companies with long tradition in bureaucracy and difficulty in change of Business Culture. Maybe the exception is Turkish Airlines who has lately been very Social Media oriented and I am sure their seeing the benefit.

If Dell can makes $6.5 million from Twitter, why can’t airlines and hotels? The 5 tips given from Mashable are very helpful. Here I twisted them a bit and added ideas for resort hotels and local airlines.

1. Clear Distressed and Early Booking Inventory of rooms and seats on Twitter

Like Mashable points out, running an airline or hotel is much like running a cinema, with more operational complexity though. It costs about the same to operate the plane or the hotel no matter how many seats or rooms are filled up. Any unsold seats or rooms at the last minute are called “distressed inventory.” Combine the last-minute nature of such seat/room availability with the real-time features of tools like Twitter and you create the opportunity for airlines and hotels to generate cold, hard cash. Any seat sold there before departure is less money lost.

Resort hotels and Airlines should be able to create a new tariff category. Twitter tariff that would be valid only for twitter followers and it should have an expiring hour. This will avoid conflicts with travel agents and tour operators. Of course, you have to set clear expectations with your followers that the account will only be sending out deals, and is not a customer service vehicle.

Ultimately, using real-time platforms like Twitter helps the airline circulate cheap very last minute or early booking fares and get people to fly more often, or even for the first time. Hotels could similarly post unfilled room inventory on Twitter. Those rooms they are trapped after the cut off dates of the Tour Operators. Ultimately this could fill up the planes and hotels and drives more revenue. Especially in the two edges of the steam, Early booking and Last minute.

2. Integrate Social Media Into the Booking Engine

Hotels should use social Media driven booking engines such as Sybelio version 5.0. This platform creates unique URLs for special offers in 14 Languages and is capable to post them on the most popular Social Media Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (fun page and profile). Highly recommendable to test drive the tool, you will love it.

Airlines should be able to connect with Social Media seamless and the sign up forms could be the start point. Instead of the check box, “Would you like to receive emails about our offers” they could have “ would like to share with us your travel experience on social Media?”.

3. Integrate with Social Media Travel Applications with the frequent flier and loyalty programmes.

For example, an airline could integrate TripIt data with their frequent flier database to create a list of their loyal customers and the destinations those customers are planning to visit. The airline could then reach out to them with a custom-tailored travel deal.

A hotel could do something similar, taking into account the location the traveller, and in case the company does not have a hotel in the area suggest a third party one. This will increase trust, loyalty and industry solidarity.

4. Create Private Online Communities

This a great tip for independent hotels that have from season to season repeaters. Small and medium size stand alone hotels could forget the complex loyalty schemes. A small, simple and user friendly online community, will do a great job. Ning is a good start, and it has all the above characteristics. It can be as private as you like and it has the capacity to create groups. People would feel special and defiantly it will increase return business.

5. Remember: Social Media is About Relationships

It’s important to remember that social media is always about relationships first.
A good example of relationship building is Lufthansa’s MySkyStatus, which allows you to share your location with your Facebook and Twitter friends during the flight. Right now, it’s not generating any revenue for Lufthansa, but if they integrate a field to input a passenger’s frequent flyer number, they might be able to mine the data for some unique insights. However, right now, they are concentrating on building a relationship with passengers through social media, not hammering them with ads.

It is important to always set the right expectations with your fans or followers on what you’re going to be doing. If you’re only selling seats or rooms, let them know. If you are providing customer service, let them know that, too.

In the hotel industry we know very well how painful is to loose a relationship and hard it is to create one. So do NOT confuse advertising with Social Media. People will walk away if you bang them every day with sales and offers. So treat your customer online as if he was standing in front of your front-office or even better as if he was having a coffee in your lobby.

Here I would like to thank again  Shashank Nigam for his post.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where does Cyprus Tourism stands, according to Holiday Money Report ?

Holiday Money Report, British Post compares prices to the destinations British tourists usually travel. The 2009 report makes interesting points concerning the position of destinations, amongst them Cyprus, in the UK travel market. We took some points and added our comment and opinion.

• Bulgaria’s cheap packages and low living costs made it popular during the noughties – but another Balkan beach destination, Croatia, stole its thunder in 2009. Cyprus failed to compete due to Airline restrictions and late reaction of the sector, a bit of humbleness would not be bad sometimes.

• Turkey: seemingly unstoppable, resorts like Bodrum and Marmaris gave Turkey mass appeal. As the euro rose in value in the late noughties, a reputation for value and a weak currency made it the obvious choice for families looking for cheaper deals. This was the big bet,  families prefer Turkey due to price but not to quality. Cyprus with the boom of the 2nd house industry forgot tourism and as a domino effect the quality of service simply disappeared.

• Dubai: a 205 per cent rise in Post Office sales of the UAE dirham over the past four years shows that demand for holidays in the Emirate has been unrelenting. Dubai has a model that has never been tried before but its capacity to adapt in crisis environment maintained tourism relatively high and managed to offer value for money and excellent service at the resorts. Despite that Dubai is further from Cyprus the flight to Dubai from the UK was coming out cheaper. Cyprus was not able to play in the same league with Dubai ever but in times of crisis we had the opportunity to compete but we were very busy saving the last bits of the sinking ship.

• Egypt was the top mid-haul destination of the decade. Low package prices and cheap resort prices made Egypt’s Red Sea destinations popular with a 45 per cent growth in Post Office currency sales since 2005. We have no excuse as Cyprus not to be able to compete with Egypt. A destination with almost no infrastructure managed to shoot us on the foot and run away. Private sector was more active than the public sector and they took tourism management very seriously.

• Malta made a successful transition to the eurozone in 2008 and is now one of its cheapest members, with tourist items costing significantly less than in Cyprus, which joined at the same time. It seems that Cypriots have been busy again not managing their tourism. The stock market fraud before the euro and the price increase after the euro have been lethal.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Apostolides’ Lawyer, Constantis Kantounas will file case against 60 tourists that were accommodated in Dome Hotel Kyrenia.

This Blog on the 24th of January 2010 has already given an opinion what could have happen to the tourists that visit  the so called “North Cyprus” and stay in hotels there.

Our predictions were that the owners of hotels could take to court tourists that were accommodated in illegally occupied hotels. The case Apostolides Vs Orams opens the gates to the legal owner to take to court the users of the properties, that means the tourists.

Mr. Constandis Kantounas , the young lawyer who crashed Cherie Blair to the English and European courts, has admitted today in the most read newspaper of Cyprus that he is filing a case again 60 tourists who have been accommodated in the Hotel Dome in Kyrenia. On the post I published the 24th of Jan. 2010  I have used the Dome Hotel as an example without having in mind this fact.

Will this stop the English citizens look for cheap vacations in Cyprus using illegally hotels in the occupied part? Will this stop the hundreds of unconscious Greek Cypriots overnight in Hotels and Casinos in the occupied part of Cyprus.  I am not sure. If the Cypriot state does not take action against them then things will continue to be the same.
I am not against visiting Kyrenia or any other part of the so called “North Cyprus”.  I am against spending money there in activities that are illegal. The Turkish Cypriot workers and shopkeepers have the right to live a decent life but they cannot go against the international law. Their so called government dragged them in labyrinth of lies and fake promises for 35 years now. The only ones who took advantage of these lies are the politicians of both Turkey and occupied part of Cyprus.  I would say that it is time for the people to say something and stop this comedy. The Turkish military and their political allies here in Cyprus have used the people to gain political power and dragged them into a huge 35 year lie.

Now 35 years afterwards we see that using property of someone else illegally can cost you a fortune, sooner or later the law will come and find you. This should be a lesson also for those Greek Cypriots who only last Augusts have spent 450,000 euros in Casinos using credit card. In a country of 700,000 inhabitants we all know who is spending money in illegal casinos that keep financing the Turkish military status quo in our fathers land.

We, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots want to live together, this is a fact, and we want to build a future for our children in peace in a united Europe under the same sun. Politicians, people who use the status quo to make money, people like the Orams and more to come on the surface make things difficult for us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hotel Loyalty programs. Could they move to Social Media?

In the next 5- 8 years the majority of hotel consumers will be 24hrs a day connected to the internet via a mobile device. An iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry or whatever other gadget that will appear in the market will be in the pocket of all the customers of a hotel. Those gadgets already have a connection to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and many other Social Media.

Hotels have spend fortunes to create complex Loyalty Programmes and maintain them cost them even more. It is very hard to keep track of all those cards you given out and even harder to determine who likes what. Social Media could be the substitute if used well. The painful part will be the transition. Hotels need to create in-house procedures of how those tools will be used in order to keep an open line of communication without crossing the line of privacy and not being annoying.

Some tests have shown that customers trust real People more than impersonal Social Media Profiles. It is more easy to become a Facebook friend of the director of a hotel than of the HotelGrand. The Hotel Napa Mermaid in Agia Napa Cyprus has started slowly but surely to connect its customers on the social Media Sphere.  The result is fantastic, customers already book not only their rooms for the next season but also participate in conversations with the director who receives direct  suggestions on how he could improve the services of this newly renovated upscale resort hotel.

Hyatt started last year a Twitter Concierge Service and opened the way to new ways of customer care. Now the next step is to create engagement elements on the social media sphere to maintain frequent non disturbing conversations and pass the “plastic loyalty” to a more live loyalty where personalisation can reach perfection.

We are entering the era of transforming hotel loyalty programmes and creating the conditions for Online Marketing for hotels to finally  get personal. In order to achieve this we need to be careful and professional. Practical training is needed in order to create new internal standards and procedures, show people how to use the online tools adequately.