eTourism Solutions presented by IMT-Students: TrustYou

Introducing the world’s largest guest feedback platform

TrustYou-Logo

The eTourism solution TrustYou supports tourism organizations with a feedback platform solution to provide travelers with better services and products by monitoring, surveying and acting on feedback of their guests. This in the best case, results in a better performance, travel experience and thus higher revenue. In times of information overload within digital spaces, it is challenging to compile lots of opinions. Collecting this information through the web is beyond any one person’s capacity. Therefore, TrustYou collects and analyzes hundreds of millions of opinions across the online market, which the hotel then can use to positively influence travelers’ decisions through right marketing arrangements. (Johnson, n.d., p.9)

How does TrustYou work?

TrustYou was founded in 2009 by Benjamin Jost, headquartered in Munich, Germany. It was found out, that people are regularly willing to spend large amounts of money for their vacations, directly connected to their perception of quality about service, product and performance. Looking at a study carried out by TrustYou, 76% of travelers reported that they would be willing to pay more for a hotel with a higher review score (Ady and Quadi-Felitti, 2014, p.7-9). For this reason, the customer has become a co-designer in this process, whereas TrustYou forwards the feedback from the end-customer to the hotel marketing manager. With the structured overview of reviews in the platform, the hotel can improve where there is need to improve, to influence the customer journey, booking behavior and to reach a better ranking in the end.

Looking behind the technology

The company has a unique semantic engine that analyzes online feedback content on travel sites, including Google, Kayak, Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com (TrustYou, 2020 c). Their own algorithm automatically detects, collects, understands, scores and ranks the content to the respective tourism organizations (Willmore, 2018). TrustYou improves travelers’ experiences by providing intermediaries like OTA’s and destination managers or suppliers, such as for over 500.000 hotels worldwide, accommodations, restaurants with structured data in terms of Meta-Reviews, Guest Messaging service, Guest surveys and reputation analytics (Johnson, n.d., p.9). Since 2008, TrustYou has collected and analyzed all over guest reviews and has built up one of the industry’s largest and most elaborate feedback databases from which hotels can benefit in various ways. (TrustYou, 2020 d)

The technology behind the smart system is called “natural language processing” (NLP). For all languages available, there is a mechanism to group those words into the hotel categories. A set of these hotel categories (mainly the main ones) are used for the Meta-Review API. Through Meta-review API, booking sites and meta-search engines, TrustYou can display these data on their website. (Lilleberg, 2020) The data for the Meta comes from their database where all hotels are listed. In contrast to their API, TrustYou’s Meta-review is updated every Wednesday. If a client purchases an API, they can customize this raw data. All of their data partners (e.g. Google), have access to their Meta-Review API and thus the raw review data. This means that they have the right to decide on how they want to show the data on their website and how often they want to receive the updates. (Lilleberg, 2020)

TrustYou is a growing enterprise. Its success is based on high quality standards and a great team behind, combined with a smart digital solution. Since 2009, TrustYou has been a major player for guest feedback. Developing from a startup among the first to collect reviews from across the web and deliver actionable insights for the tourism industry to a dominating well-known name. Now and in the future.

References

Ady, M. and Quadi-Felitti, D. (2014, July) The Effect of Reviews on Hotel Conversion Rates and Pricing pdf. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from TrustYou, p. 7-9

Johnson, N. (n.d.). Consumer Research Emphasizes Importance of Online Feedback Management pdf. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from TrustYou, p. 9

Lilleberg, L. (2020, March 23). TrustYou. (C. Werner, Interviewer)

Trustyou. (2020 a). Homepage. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from TrustYou: https://www.trustyou.com/de/

TrustYou. (2020 b). About us. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from TrustYou: https://www.trustyou.com/de/about

TrustYou. (2020 c). Our Partners. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from TrustYou: https://www.trustyou.com/de/partners

TrustYou. (2020 d) Review Insight Report Global 2020 pdf. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from TrustYou, p. 12

Willmore, S. (2018, February 14). Can hoteliers trust TrustYou? Retrieved March 19, 2020,  from Travel Daily (TD): https://www.traveldailymedia.com/can-hoteliers-trust-trustyou/

Picture

TrustYou. (2013, January 21). Logos & Images. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from TrustYou:  https://www.trustyou.com/de/press/logos-images

eTourism Solutions presented by IMT-Students: SiteMinder

by Josue Steele Aizpurua & Ruihong Liu

Just like in a video game, SiteMinder has the best weapons available to slay your competitors and rescue your revenue while decreasing the pains of the managers and staff of your hotel. Just like a true Hero, their multiple special abilities and skills will guarantee that your Hotel will remain victorious and always ahead of the competition.

 Siteminder1

Max Roseland is a Hotel Channel Manager in charge of selling 300+ hotel rooms through different online distribution channels: OTAs, retail travel agents, metasearch engines, GDS, the hotel’s website, and their social media. Max’s stress level is critical, and he is always struggling to manage the room’s inventory in each channel. To sell the rooms, he split the inventory across the channels trying to forecast which channel will generate more reservations. Once the distributions channels start to generate reservations Max needs to update the inventory in the Hotel PMS/CRS and across the channels one more time.

Max’s job has several pains that affect him and the performance of the hotel. Doing all this work on his own is time-consuming for him and the staff, the complex task also gives open room for human error that can cause overbooking chaos or even unsold rooms that result in low revenues. To save Max and the hotel we need a hero.

Introducing the Hero SiteMinder. Founded in 2007, by Mike Ford, SiteMinder is a cloud operated Channel Management System created to improve the Hotel’s reservation department operations and accelerate the hotel online presence. Our hero’s system updated the availability and rates of hotel’s rooms inventory directly to major OTAs and retrieves the reservations from these OTAs accordingly, making it easy for hotels to offer its rooms online, avoiding possible overbooking, low booking, and rate uniformity issues.

Our Hero has +859 integrations across online travel agents, property management systems, central reservation systems and more, to ensure that the SiteMinder System is compatible, and can be seamlessly incorporated into the majority of hotel’s systems to save hoteliers, acting as a real-time channel manager, effectively selling rooms online, updating inventory and online offers real-time; without the need of additional software.

Siteminder2

SiteMinder also counts with extra superpowers under their sleeves, like:

  • The Booking Button: it is an Online Booking Engine that helps hoteliers rescue reservations, attracting traffic directly to their website rather than through OTA platforms, to guarantee 100% income and No commission for reservations. With the simplified booking system, it allows customers to complete the online booking in 2 steps through computers, mobile devices, or even through Facebook. This extra feature also has comprehensive integrations with channel managers, websites, and PMSs. A 14-day trial version is available to test this skill and it can be fully implemented for a monthly fee of 104.00 euros for a 100-room inventory.
  • Canvas: A Hotel’s Website Design system that helps hotels to capture the bookings from travelers searching online, converting them into guests while enjoying commission free revenue, with a modern and appealing website look. Canvas solution provides the hotels with pre-made themes to apply to their websites, with an easy to use interface that allows them to edit the colors, options, and pictures to give the website a look that goes according to their brand. Having a website design system allow hoteliers to have control over the touchpoints on the pre-stage of the guest’s journey while transforming the pain of finding and managing website developers, and uncertainty of expensive website designer costs, into the enjoyment of having full ownership and control of the hotel’s website with a standard fee of 75 euros per month, for each 100-room on inventory.
  • SiteMinder Insights: A smart platform that gives hoteliers a single place to access trusted, clear, and relevant real-time data on their market and performance. With forecasting features that allow hotel managers to plan for the future and stay on top of their game. This feature counts with an Intelligent Pricing System skill, that provides real-time pricing of your competitors and OTAs, with an alert system that allows adjusting your reservation fees on time to stay on top of the competition today and tomorrow. This skill is critical to have the best offer available on your booking engine at all times, to guarantee a direct flow of traffic to the hotel.
  • GDS by SiteMinder: Give hotel managers access to all GDS’s integrated into a single interface, reducing cost and complex situation on signing and dealing with individual GDS’s. This allows exposing the hotel inventory to more than 600.000 travel agencies worldwide who search for room offers via GDS’s systems. This skill helps to save time and money, with seamless integration to the hotel’s PMS or CRS, eliminating manual data entry, human error, and double bookings. Its Instant Insight Reports helps to analyze the performance of the hotel channels and access to data needed to improve distribution strategies.
  • The Hotel Apps Store: it’s their last integrated feature that serves as a platform with over 100 digital solutions that might help hoteliers to meet their needs. The apps offered can be fully integrated into the hotel’s PMS or the SiteMinder CM, to power up their functionality and avoiding multiple software of applications.

Future Levels – Interview with James Bishop

The Senior Director – Global Demand Partnerships of SiteMinder talks with us about the future of their solution. He expresses that their Channel Manager system will continue to be the core of the platform, but they aim to continue evolving along with the world of travel to keep developing and offering solutions and reach their goal to be a complete Guest Acquisition Platform. He expresses that SiteMinder is always updating its existing features to offer the best solutions to the hotels and stay up to their game.

We also talked about the challenges and opportunities of their solution under the background of Artificial Intelligence Technologies. Bishop reflects that AI – Machine learning is going to be crucial for hotels to understand their data and why, when, and where the guest books, and at what rate they will pay, to help hotels have an insightful look at their data and help them with Occupancy, RevPAR and ADR. SiteMinder is taking effort on how to adopt AI tech applications to make their solution smarted, rather than concentrating on solutions scalability. Moreover, they aim to focus on applying AI to make sure those technologies proactively do the right things and the right points of time, to improve the customer journey within the right segments.

SiteMinder will also continue to improve the ecosystem and offers of its new Hotel App Store to provide hoteliers with the power to connect with their customers at every touchpoint throughout their travel journey.

The SiteMinder solution has a free 14-day trial to test their main features and their fees are defined by the number of rooms that the hotels have on inventory. If the hotel owns 100 rooms, the channel manager subscription will be 161.00 euros monthly (excluding taxes) and 5% discount by paying annually. Their fee structure is extremely attractive for hoteliers since other solutions charge by the commission, this allows them to have a fixed cost in their financial statements and have more accurate financial forecasting of their business.

In 2020, SiteMinder has been recognized as the number 1 Channel Manager Software and broke the elusive billion-dollar valuation. This recognition added to their strong product portfolio shows that SiteMinder is the Superman of hotel solutions, and is working hard to keep hoteliers happy by saving their revenue, lower their stress levels and giving them control of all touchpoints in the guest journey for the ultimate traveler experience.

References:

 Pictures sources: https://www.siteminder.com

eTourism Solutions presented by IMT-Students: Polycular

“Mom, is this the place where games come from?”

by: Leonie Hergesell & Barbara Prodinger

Great software developers leave Austria to work in design studios in the United States, France or Canada. This movement encouraged Robert Praxmarer and Thomas Layer-Wagner to found Polycular. The company is known as an interactive design and technology studio where creative technological innovations facilitate experiences in the real and virtual world. We raised the questions, why companies engage in Gamification, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality and how gamifying tourism can lead to a greater customer experience.

(c)polycular_projects

This blog entry seeks to answer these questions in an adequate manner. The in Hallein based Startup, provides each client a tailored solution. A four-step strategy with a clear value proposition builds the base of a successful result. The essential steps, that each product goes through are: Ideation and Strategy, User Experience, Concept and Design, Technology and Development and Launch and Distribution. The highly customized games and apps trigger rewarding interactions, rise the brand awareness, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty to the destination or company. Through empathy, dramaturgy and storytelling, the eTourism solution satisfies and surpasses the customer’s needs and expectations.

The current technological innovations will not only enhance the customer experience. Trainings in sales, negotiation, conflict resolution and leadership communication can be brought to a new level, through emotional responsive avatars and the development of touchable holographic technologies.

So, this is not only the place where games come from. This is the place where technological innovations are born and raised.

eTourism Solutions presented by IMT-Students: SuitePad

by: Aitana Jansana & Hasini Uthpala Ganewita

Both the Tourism industry and the Hospitality industry are in constant development to meet today’s guests needs and expectations. In order to keep being updated and competitive within such a concurred market, every business sees themselves in the obligation of adapting their offered services and reinventing their core ideas to keep occupying the top positions of the different Hospitality ranking scales. This remarkable evolution that the Tourism industry is experiencing has provided the opportunity for different technological solutions to appear in order to cover new necessities during the customers’ journey.

SuitePad is one example of such. Founded in 2012 in Berlin, the company started as a provider of guest in-room tablets in order to enhance guest communication within hotels. By supplying hotel rooms with their tablet devices, they allowed guests to communicate with the hotel staff, avoiding the need for them to walk down the hall. Accompanying guests during their pre, during and post stages of their stay, they provide them with hotel services booking options; detailed information about the hotel services and relevant information about possible activities and spots to visit in the concrete destination. Establishing such service based on a B2B and B2C model, SuitePad not only enhances quality of the guest stay in a hotel, but also boosts both hotels revenue and local businesses revenues.

However, technical components are not less important. Providing an efficient, comprehensive, accessible and profitable service through technological devices as tablets is not that simple. By the learnings from their first prototype errors, SuitePad decided to invest in designing their own hardware, which gave them the prospect to avoid dependence from a third-party supplier and to adapt it precisely to the needs they aimed to cover.

Furthermore, performing in a highly turbulent and ever evolving market, requires a successful business strategy to keep updated, recognize and understand the contemporary targeted customers’ needs and expectations. Therefore, SuitePad chose to follow a ‘Go-to-market’ strategy, so that they could assure a strong customer base in the long-term. Even if the success of SuitePad is evident, it is crucial for a company like them to stay innovative. As a result of that, the company started to provide further devices than the in-room tablets with distinct features, for example: the ‘SuitePad Lobby’, the ‘SuitePad BYOD’, the ‘SuitePad Phone’ and the ‘SuitePad TV Control’.

SuitePad also makes explicit their concern about sustainability by contributing to reduce the carbon footprint via the Green Solution. It is a precise opportunity at no additional expense. It encourages guests to omit the cleaning of the room in exchange of a small reward and the satisfaction of knowing they have positively contributed to the environment protection. SuitePad’s Green Option serves also as a key cost saving source for hoteliers by facilitating them refinance their SuitePad subscription and significantly lower their carbon footprint.

Currently, while the COVID-19 crisis set the whole world at a chaos, SuitePad has taken steps to help its clients to keep them informed about how to deal with this crisis through their push messaging service. SuitePad also offered tailormade solutions on how to tackle the upcoming COVID-19 travel boom by using digital technological solutions. For example, SuitePad has optimized its in-room tablet to enhance the use of room services in order to adapt to variable guest behavior during this crisis.

Because of their business strategy, their concern about current issues as sustainability and their high understanding of the market they are performing in, SuitePad occupied top 1 position in the category of best Guest Room Tablet by hoteltech Awards 2020.

eTourism Solutions presented by IMT-Students: assistant.tyrol.skill

A skill for Amazon Alexa and Google Action by Speed-U-Up

by Simon Wiesinger & Kerstin Semmelrock

Have you already thought about what to do during you next trip to Tyrol? No? So probably you will not even have to waste your time by searching for adventures hiking paths and recommendable restaurants. Speed-u-up (SUU) has developed a solution in cooperation with the tourism organisation Tyrol, which allows us to ask Alexa or the Google assistant for insider tips for this region. Are you already curious what Tyrol has to offer?

What is SUU?

SUU is a digital service provider in the field of online marketing, setting strong focus on new technologies. Since SUU is based in Innsbruck, they are mainly operating in the DACH region, where the company has managed to build a strong network within alpine tourist destinations. SUU is offering a wide range of future- orientated concepts to DMOs tourism associations, but also to single hotels. SUU is eager to serve individual customer needs and to offer their clients competitive advantages. Therefore, their team is trying to develop continuously and to adapt to upcoming trends. The company consists different departments like a technology and system unit, a performance team or a content studio. Their broad portfolio of digital solutions includes among others: marketing conversions, semantic annotation, skills for smart assistants, CRM, SME, programmatic advertising, newslettering, storytelling, blogging, content production or social media and influencer marketing (Speed-u-up, 2020; Rädler, 2020).

 “Experience Tyrol”

SUU is already experienced in creating smart skills and voice apps for Alexa and co. and has recently developed a solution for the tourism organisation Tyrol called “Experience Tyrol”, by co-creating in an open innovation process with several tourism destinations in Tyrol. This approach led to plenty inputs from different stakeholders and SUU could add an enormous amount of information to the tool. Nevertheless, this smart skill doesn´t stop learning so new information can be added continuously (Speed-u-up,2020; Rädler, 2020). The skill “Experience Tyrol” is free to download and can be activated with the Amazon Echo Dot, a device that runs through Android 6.0+ or iOS10.0+ or Google Home. “Experience Tyrol” gives users insider tips on how to spend their time, where to eat and what to experience in Tyrol. Moreover, weather forecasts, insider stories, language trainings to get familiar to the local dialect and many more possibilities are provided. After the skill is installed on a fitting device (e.g. smartphone, Echo Dot, Google Home) it can be simply activated by using specific verbal formulations (Tirol Werbung, 2020).

Image 2

Even if already more destinations started to use voice assistants, SUU in co-creation with the tourism organization Tyrol remain pioneers in this field. As mentioned before, they are trying to stay on the edge of knowledge when it comes to new technologies, to also develop innovative tech-solutions in future. Through this case, students got an overview on solutions that an online marketing agency offers to the tourism industry. Due to the fact that some students aim to work in the tourism sector later on, definitely some interesting insights.

 

References and further readings

https://www.speed-u-up.at

https://assistant.tirol

https://www.ttr.tirol/innovation-und-inspiration/skilltirol

https://www.amazon.de/dp/B07VWWJL1T

https://assistant.google.com/services/a/uid/000000e47a03bc4f?hl=de_de

Rädler, A. (2020; Mach 30th ; April 6th, ;May 10th). Speed-u-up. (Wiesinger S. Interviewer)

eTourism Solutions presented by IMT-Students: adAlte

by: Elza Kaiumova & Carolina Nieto

Why companies would like to use adAlte as their friendly and easier tech solution?

The main aim of this post is to analyze adAlte as a possible solution for the tourism industry. Taking a closer look, we try to examine its contribution within the industry and the company’s future challenges.

Technological advances have changed the way the tourism industry is interacting. Today, companies are looking for technologies to engage with customers at every stage of their requirements.

adalte

Moreover, tourism companies seek an optimized product or service which can be integrated and customized to their needs.

What is adAlte?

When travel agencies, DMC, Tour operators or service providers seek a tech solution which can improve their daily operations within the market, they might find adAlte as a web-based platform with support on cloud AWS technology. Two categories are the main assets of the company:

  1. Front-desk and back-office software the perfect combination to integrate directly and easily tools and features such as travel management system, reservation system, supplier’s database, groups management and hotel mapping, and,
  2. A B2B travel HUB as an opportunity for adAlte customers to be a “Buyer” or “Provider”, it is a place where they can share their knowledge of the market and expertise with each other.

And what does it mean? On one hand, the buyer offers the best possible online travel service catalog, a mix of product provided by global wholesalers and local DMC which are customized in terms of markups, locations and services published. On the other hand, the provider will be promoted to Travel Hub Buyers Partners. (Adalte,2020).

One could say that this solution is similar to a transaction on the financial market, but in this case, they are not negotiating with currencies, instead they use terms related to tourism. They are offering a B2B Marketplace as a community of professional local experts who offer their inventory online and they also provide the customers interested in these products and service.

It is amazing, how this company can be a “wall street” but for tourism. They can play a vital role as the intermediary between providers and buyers. Now, coming back to the main question why adAlte? This company offers an exclusive access and use through AWS marketplace. Besides, Adalte is a development system that bring on the table a front-end and back-office software to improve business functions and sales using tools for project management, front office, marketing, operating reports and online sales. (Adalte,2020)

AdAlte also lets the customers hold a critical mass of expertise relating to their social and economic conditions, particularly, during the COVID-19 Crisis, a time when the tourism industry has been affected tremendously.

It is relevant to mention that this company, same as others has strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are based on the efficiency, authenticity, security and suitability of its products and services such online booking websites, B2B or B2C websites and travel software for the operational activities. This company offers its customers a hundred percent of personalized and customized results run on AWS-connectivity.

However, the market offers thousands of different solutions for the tourism industry with similar options, more experience in the market and well-known clients. Move on to the weaknesses one has to mention some of the biggest weaknesses for the company, currently:

  1. Small worker base, that limits the amount of interaction and has to coordinate work dozens of companies around the world.
  1. Complexity of use, that may appear intimidating to new and untrained users.
  1. Limited channels of marketing, which can hinder the growth of the company and its recognition factor. Furthermore, a tremendous amount of advertisement and publicity is necessary if one wants to succeed all around the world simultaneously
  1. The homepage and social media channels, such Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn generate uncertainty about its products and services themselves.
  1. The lack of relevant marketing and expertise in the market.
  1. The lack of information from the customers related to their satisfaction with the company and its services.

Finally, one has to mention the main challenges of the company:

  1. Large competition, that contains competitors which are much more recognizable and grow even faster than adAlte.
  2. Fast development of new technologies in the new millennium of globalization. New solutions can come up to the market and push the platform out of the market.
  3. COVID-19 crisis made all tourism industry suffer a lot and adAlte is among that companies. The main challenge is to learn how to quickly identify, quickly and correctly adapt to the situation.

To come to an end, it is difficult to conclude on a positive or a negative note. The contribution for the industry can be the innovative and unique travel hub with the aim to involve all the tourism companies around the world as a whole and unique community. However, this goal is ambitious when this company has only eleven employees in three offices. Moreover, if one considers the statistics of the market size of the global travel industry in only 2019 can observe a market size of 644 billion U.S. dollars. (statista.com, 2020). That means, each and every day new ideas and competitor enter the market. To succeed one has to focus on a particular field or strategy and stay innovative at the same time.

Sources

How to structure a scientific paper?

This week my students had to analyze 30 different papers from the journal “Tourism Management“. The aim was to find out which content elements should be written at which point of the paper.  They had to mark the different elements in each paper section accordingly (Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion & Conclusion). Their notes were collected in a form and now analyzed by me.
aufgabe

The results are shown below. I hope that they will help students to structure their articles even better in the future.

For this interactive visualization, you can click the “play” button below, to walk through the paper from the Abstract to the Discussion. You see the importance of the different terms in the timeline if you hoover them. You can also regulate the speed, add new terms to be displayed etc.

The following Streamgraph is somehow a walkthrough of all analyzed papers. It clearly shows that the abstract covers most of the elements on the very left, we can see the domination of “data” in the methodology and results section. But more important for students is to see the combination of the different elements in each section and the dominance of these elements. Eg. The contribution is important in the abstract, a bit in the introduction and at the discussion and conclusion (click to enlarge).

streamgraph

This scatterplot shows somehow the “landscape” of paper-elements. It was done by calculating the TF-IDF of the whole corpus and using t-SNE algorithm to plot it in 2D. One can clearly see the different Topic-Clusters (click to enlarge) t-SNE built.

scatterplot

 

Finally, Wordclouds and Term-Networks from each structure element (click to enlarge)

Abstract:

abstract1

Introduction:

Intro1

Literature review:

literature1

Methodology:

methodology1

Results:

results1

Discussion & Conclusion:

conclusion1

I hope this helps students to get a better feeling when writing a scientific paper. Please note, that this is not a research project, it´s just a quick and dirty analysis based on the data my students identified. And of course, each topic/paper has it´s own requirements and Journals have slightly different requirements as well. But still, this should provide a rough overview.

ENTER-Conference: 2nd Place – Best Paper Award

At the international ENTER conference, the world’s largest eTourism conference, which took place this year in Guildford at the University of Surrey in the UK, our Masterprogram achieved great success, as we were awarded second place in the Best Paper Award for their paper entitled “Exploring the Impact of Multisensory VR on Travel Recommendation: A Presence Perspective”.

award

left to right: Roman Egger, Jasmin Hopf, Melina Scholl, Barbara Neuhofer

Roman Egger and Barbara Neuhofer had submitted a paper from the Research Seminar together with Master students. “With a rejection rate of 60%, ENTER is considered very selective. The fact that we were then nominated and even achieved second place makes us all the happier”, reports Roman Egger, head of the eTourism department and head of the Key Competencies & Research Methods. “In addition, you have to bear in mind that there were no other Master’s students presenting at the conference, so the competition was definitely very strong,” he adds.

The innovative study brings together the topics of eTourism and experience design. “We have researched how VR can be enriched with all senses in the future, resulting in an immersive experience for the participants”, says Barbara Neuhofer

Over the course of several semesters, the Master’s students work on a research project and the publication, which can then be submitted to a conference. This is a good opportunity to get students interested in research. The successful supervision of the scientific work is confirmed by this. Already in 2019 students could present their paper at the ENTER conference in Cyprus.

The participation gives students an insight into the academic world and has already inspired some of our students to continue with PhD studies.

The Rectorate and International Office of the FH Salzburg supported the students financially, so that they could present their publication on site. The next ENTER Conference will take place in China in 2021.
More information: https://enter2020.ifitt.org/

1st

ISCONTOUR 2019, 8th International Student Conference in Tourism Research

K1024_2019-05-14 17.23.26

This year’s International Student Conference on Tourism Research (ISCONTOUR), organized jointly by FH-Krems and MCI Innsbruck, attracted about 300 participants from over 30 nations to Innsbruck to present their accepted papers.

Master’s students of the program Innovation and Management in Tourism (IMT) were also represented. The articles from the research seminar series “eTourism Research” (Prof. Roman Egger and Prof. Barbara Neuhofer) were submitted and all six papers were assessed in a tripple-blind-review procedure, despite a 50% rejection rate. Thus, the entire 4th semester of the Master students was on site to present their results at the ISCONTOUR.

The culmination of the event was the Best-Paper Award. Two groups won first and second place in the Best ICT Paper Award at the international competition. Victory was won by the study group Augmented Reality. They developed an AR prototype for the Salzburg Zoo to provide information about animals living in the zoo and tested the acceptance of such a solution. Second place went to the Virtual Reality group. In an experiment and with the help of biofeedback (heart rate, skin conduction ), they examined how 4D Virtual Reality (as additional stimuli, smells, wind, heat, etc.) differed from classic virtual reality in a holiday scenario with respect to the construct “presence”.

cover

FlexTour

FlexTour is a software that will make your life as a tour operator easier. You will no longer be juggling with your daily tasks and trying to manage different communication channels. For happy customers and competitive tours, tour operators choose flexTour.

FlexTour was founded after a group of students from the class of IMTE 2018 were given the task to identify problems and create digital solutions for different companies in the field of tourism. FlexTour was given the challenge to find problems for tour operators and identify their daily challenges at the workplace. This project started at the beginning of March and the product development ended at the end of May with a pitch in front of potential investors.

Where did it start for us?

It started with identifying the problem experienced by tour operators. Some of the group members had former experience working for tour operators, but none of us was directing or leading a company. It was therefore important for us to call around and ask tour operators what their problems were. We asked detailed questions with general managers about their biggest problems as a tour operator.

The conclusion of the research gave us three major problems:
1. Lack of efficient communication between themselves and their tourists
2. Time-consuming problem solving
3. Lack of flexibility when managing tours

Some theories we learned on the way

From there, we started to apply some theory that we were guided to. The lean startup methodology, a process that would help startups to succeed and that can be described as learning- building -measure methods was applied. From there, we also learned about personas and the customers journey. With the personas, we looked at what types of customers we are targeting, and why. Our ideal persona was Phil Hellmuth, a middle-aged manager of a small tour operator company in Germany.  We used him in our storytelling throughout our project and we often asked ourselves, “What would Phil Hellmuth do?” Using the customer’s journey we could describe his workday and where his peaks and downfall of working in a small tour operator company lay.

The real struggle for us – Who are we selling our product to?

After finding the problems for Phil Hellmuth came the next phase, how we could help him and test the feasibility of our plans. Our mentor and teacher Mr Marcel Broumels was often in our room and talked to us and when we had so many ideas he would say: “You started  small, and then suddenly when I get back you want to save the world. You need to shrink your idea to something more feasible”. With that he meant, kill your darlings, something that was presented by Mr Roman Egger, and do not hold on the first idea you have.

So why did we have a problem surrounding our product, when we already had the persona and our customers? Well for us it was important to have a solution for what we called the “customer” and the “customer’s-customer”. The customer was the client we wanted to sell our product, the software, to. This would help tour operators with getting a more efficient daily routine and easy communication streams to his clients and partners by using one communication software for the tour operators and direct with their guest, and what we called, “customer’s-customer”. Many hours were spent on identifying the most important part of this product and our MVP- Minimum Viable Product. It was in our case important to find a reason why people would be willing to buy and use or product. It was therefore crucial to find the fine line between working out the idea and designing the platform. This platform would be used for the tour operators to create and adapt their tours and react quickly to changes from suppliers and clients. For the clients of the tour operators (i.e. travelers), there would be an application where they could access their day to day travel plan. Tour operators will have the authority to give access to their clients once they have confirmed their trip. They would receive push-notifications immediately updating them to any changes to their tour.

How much you can agree on when the deadline is approaching

By the end of the project with Mr Marcel Broumels, we had to make a prototype and pitch it in front of him; this was easier said than done when we could not agree on minor problems. It was then important for us to make a prototype and establish our market size and our revenue streams were. Research showed us that the German tour operators market share for SME was 37.7% and that’s where our specialization in this market would be. Our revenue streams would be a model consisting of fixed minimum prices depending on the size of the business and a variable price per user of the application.

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The Shark Tank

Our final pitch in front of highly critical investors was daunting. They were prepared to ask us some tough questions and decide if they would be interested to invest in our idea and our project further. The date was on the 21st of May. The day we all had waited for, our final pitch. Shabab and Tommy had been practicing for days before the final day and hoping to carry and charm the investors with their message. Flextour- the software for all SME companies tour operators. We believe that we sold it very well with the story of Phil Hellmuth and this was something worthy of their investment. A question answer session followed the presentation. Our potential investors were interested to know whether we had been looking deeper into the competitors and if other companies were already using these types of software. Other questions were in regards to the pricing, and where we see ourself in the future.

We came to realize that there were many areas which we had not considered. We were too focused on the product and not on other factors such as pricing, similar features that competitors offered and their pricing model. We were too much into the thoughts of getting the perfect product and not being aware of the environment around. We realized it that we were lacking here the most. However, we did receive some of the more positive feedback from the day, and were considered by one investor as being in the top three companies that had been presented.

Our team at FlexTour and our expertise

Georgia has experience in a hospitality software company with a good eye for combining technology and hospitality. She had new ideas all the time, capable of leading when it was at boiling point in the group. Binod worked for five years in the tour operator business and has first-hand knowledge when it comes to the challenges faced by tour operators. During this project, he worked hard and took the lead when something needed to be done. Tommy has a tourism background from Norway and has always been a tech enthusiast, providing innovative ideas to the group. He, together with Shabab, was the voice of Flextour, speaking out and presenting in a persuasive way. As already mentioned Shabab and Tommy were the spokesperson of FlexTour. They both have good financial know-how and are experts in storytelling. Victorine has past experiences in marketing and was our critical eye when we were discussing our problems. Aleksandra worked as a tour guide in Russia and has backgrounds in intercultural communication beside that she and Edina were responsible for the design and the prototype of FlexTour. Edina has got tourism background and worked in the hotel industry. She is aware of the problems faced by tourists arising from miscommunication. She has seen the complication between tourists and tour operators during her working hours in the hotel.

Reflection on the project and the road for FlexTour

Our project work took several months. During all that time, we faced many problems but always tried to find proper solutions. Moreover, having a chance to develop our own product from the very beginning, we gained useful knowledge and extremely valuable experience in creative thinking and idea managing which could be applicable in creating new projects.

Above all else, the project work taught us teamwork. As all of us are from different countries and have different backgrounds and knowledge, we managed to collect completely different points of view because each team member had a freedom of deploying decisions and creative findings.

We did a really great job but we are at the beginning of a long journey and we have no intention to stop anywhere soon. The sky is the limit for our team, and maybe one day you will come across of using our product FlexTour software and be a happy traveler.

We strongly hope that our project experience will help you in starting your projects and inspire new achievements and innovations. Good luck!