I’m Burgundy with Qatar Airways – so there!

I posted this on my Compnay Blog too.

 
Yesterday I received my Qatar Airways Burgundy Privilege Card.

I’ve only flown with them twice – from here in Singapore to London and back last month.

But, you know what, it kind of feels quite good to be recognized by them already.  And not just recognition, but also some benefits – the usual priority this and that (things that rarely mean anything concrete) but an additional baggage allowance.  That’s something that feels real to me.

Now, I don’t know much about loyalty plans specifically.  But I think I understand some of the broad ideas.  And I’m guessing that there are various strategy shapes that can be adopted  – time on each tier, average time to reach next tier, when and how much to reward etc.

Call me a succor for recognition but I feel kindly now towards Qatar Airways.  The rewards structure / strategy they have adopted – the one that gives me a new colored card after just 2 (long) flights – makes me feel wanted.  They have recognized that, not only did I join the scheme, but I actually flew with them.

With British Airways I remember getting entry-level status and then nothing else, apart from earning points, of course.  I felt like one of the masses.

Qatar have (it seems to me) recognized me immediately and then rewarded me for becoming a customer of theirs.

I’m still one of the masses – I know that.  But I feel just a little bit special too.

Search without Searching – implications for the travel industry.

Search
(Originally written for Web In Travel)

I've written a couple of articles lately on websites/applications that allow us to plan a trip.  Essentially they act as a portal providing access to information around certain aspects of the trip – the flight, the accommodation, and, as I recently reviewed in the case of NileGuide, events happening in and around my destination when I plan to be there.  All good stuff and very useful.  And, quite clever in terms of some of its functionality and application but just how clever are these things?  I really don't mean this disrespectfully in any sense.  But I've been reading a couple of articles just recently on a Google initiative they call SWS – or Search Without Searching

When using NileGuide or even just booking flights online we are essentially telling the application everything about our trip – where, when, how many people etc.  We tell it where we want to stay and how much we want to pay.  In the case of NileGuide events we tell it what kinds of things we might like and through some fixed criteria (that, frustratingly, someone else decided) we are then presented with options albeit very beautifully and intuitively. 

But one of the core principles around SWS is exactly the absence of this telling.  Google talks about presenting you with search results that you didn't even know you wanted.  How do they think this might be accomplished? Well, through analyzing everything they can find out about us from our (presumably public) online profiles.  I don't want to dwell on the potentially scary privacy aspects around this here – plenty has been said before and will be said again, so for now I'd like to focus on what I see as the huge potential here specifically for the travel industry.

So, imagine that I’ve been tweeting about how stressed I am at work and need a break.  And a few days ago I ‘liked’ a friend’s pictures on Facebook from a trip they took to Vietnam.  And, the SWS algorithms were able to look at recent hotel bookings I’d made on AsiaRooms and some positive comments I’d made about a specific hotel type I liked on TripAdvisor.  Imagine all this.  Getting the idea now?  So, coupled with these and perhaps some recent search history going back a few months and some SocialGraph ‘likes’, the Google algorithms then cobble together a ‘trip theme template’ (my own expression) and then run through all the portal stuff looking at flights and accommodation etc and tie this up with my diary free time to come up with the pre-packaged trip along with dates, flights and all the usual stuff that I might otherwise have to go searching for.  I then get notified from the ‘intelligent’ travel site…”Hey Carl, we think you could do with a break now and we’ve put this itinerary together for you leaving Thursday next week and getting you back in time for your first day back at work and that important review meeting” And then there’s my full itinerary with all its components listed out perhaps with quick options to fine tune various aspects.

It’s not here yet but, you know what, I think this kind of stuff is just around the corner and for me, at least, it represents the next kind of paradigm shift that the ever social and interactive web will lead us towards.

NileGuide adds Events

Screen shot 2010-07-26 at 13.35.41

 

A few days ago, NileGuide
announced their new ‘events’ functionality for their already great
website.  I test drove the
NileGuide website before here.

As soon as I was on the site I immediately felt ‘at home’.  Although I haven’t used the site a lot,
my experiences so far have been good and there’s something nice about coming
back to a place where you had a good time last time you were there.  Flowery language you may think, but I’m
a strong believer (as some of you may know) of things and places having the
potential to make me smile and feel good and websites are certainly no
exception.

The events are quickly accessed from another tab that sits
logically alongside tabs such as ‘restaurants’ and ‘nightlife’.  Initially I hadn’t signed in and I was
presented with an interactive map and various search criteria.   Interestingly, one of the event ‘types’
was ‘Dangerous Festivals’.  It
immediate caught my attention and an event I am attending in September falls
into this category and is descried on NileGuide as: ‘…event is not for the feeble-hearted. More than 30,000 participants
purchase a ticket. …Understandably, tempers are short, and foul language and
nudity are very much a part of the experience.’
 Can you guess where I’m going?  You can be sure that I will blog about it!

Anyway, back to NileGuide.  I decided to focus on Singapore as a reference point to get
a feel for what I could find.  The
list of events was impressive.  It
covered a wide-range of things including exhibitions, sports events and religious
festivals.  I’d logged in by this
point and so was able to add them to ‘my list’ using the excellent core
functionality of the NileGuide site where one can create one’s own trip around
choices of hotel, restaurants and places to visit.  I could sort the list of events by start date and
proximity.  I liked the ‘proximity
sort’ option allowing me to sort with respect to a place of my choosing – my
hotel for example or the airport. 
This made very good sense. 
There were also some search filters including criteria like ‘kids
friendly’, ‘outdoors’ and ‘active’ etc. 
These too make sense but I look forward to the day when the web and its websites
and applications know me as an individual a little better and I don’t have to
filter and make choices based on others’ segmentation and differentiation however
well informed and intentioned.  (This is only around the next corner I think)

A click on a specific event brings up all the details you
might need – all contact details, a brief description and a map location.  It’s also shown on the page’s own map
as are all the events when looking at the whole list so proximity is easy to
gauge.  This is all integrated, as
I said, with the already great website and adds depth, context and richness to
the whole experience of planning a trip and working out what to do when
there. 

As I was viewing Singapore events, it occurred to me that
I could use this aspect of the website simply as a local ‘what’s on’ guide for
me.  I would certainly recommend
the folks at NileGuide to see how they could re-skin their existing content for
this purpose.

Oh Come On! Don’t you get it yet?

Screen shot 2010-05-26 at PM 02.34.34

Ok, so I received an email
from AsiaRooms.  It had a nice
picture on it and the now obligatory logos of both Facebook and Twitter.
 

The text in the box read
as follows:

Stay up to date with all the latest
news from AsiaRooms.com by following us on your favourite social networking
site. Be the first to receive expert advice and top travel tips as well as news
of exciting up and coming events plus our best deals and newest special offers.
So what are you waiting for…?!

Now, I spend a lot of my
life encouraging brands and organizations to engage with their customers in the
social media space so what’s my beef here?  Read the text again and think about it.  Now let me summarize it for you:

Please give us the opportunity to
market at you on your social networking sites.  And please let us market at you quicker than we are
currently able to market at you (we don’t want to wait for you to visit our
website or for you to read our emails – we want to get you when you are socializing)
And we use words like ‘tips’ and ‘exciting events’ and ‘special offers’ but
actually, yeah… we just want to market at you.

Worrying right?  I’d have preferred something like:

Here at AsiaRooms we’re keen to
understand what you think of our products and services.  Let us know by getting in touch via
Twitter or Facebook.  Share with us
and some of your fellow travelers your experiences. We are keen to see some of
your photos and videos and every month we’ll ask you all to vote for a winner
who’ll win a luxury weekend break courtesy of AsiaRooms.

Just a thought ….