Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Give the man music

September 26, 2010

This blog has been silent of late due to my travels to, first, a conference in Rome, and then, a couple of weeks of R&R around Puglia.  As such, my ponderings have been banking up while I waited for decent internet access.

All this travel and stays in hotels of various quality and other accommodation has got me thinking about lost competitive opportunities for hoteliers.  The one that is really starting to aggravate is the failure to provide facilities for listening to music.

In a world were huge numbers of travellers are carrying Apple music players of various descriptions, I am stunned that it has not become de rigeur to provide an iPod dock in hotel rooms.  I would love the chance to move beyond headphones or the tinny speaker on my iPhone.

The cost to a hotelier would be low (decent units go for less than $100), and the payoff in terms of satisfaction would be high.  As travellers become more and more linked, and more vocal, through feedback sites such as Tripadvisor, hotels should be looking for simple but effective ways to make the stay more enjoyable and to differentiate themselves from others.  This would be one of them.

I can only recall one hotel that I’ve stayed in which provided a dock. It rocked and was well-named!

Entrepreneurship from the beachside

June 9, 2010

This interview with Travelfish founder offers some nice insights for those of you/us thinking that building a career around lying on a South-Eastern Asian beach would sure beat winter in Melbourne (feel free to substitute your wet and windy hometown here).

Stuart McDonald certainly seems to have built a nice life of running an informative travel website for several prominent countries north of Australia.

I presume many of his site visitors (the folks who are providing the click through revenue) come from down under and other Western nations. But as the interaction is web-based the visitors don’t really care where he is.

His suppliers (i.e. the content providers) and advertisers/clients (the hotels, travel companies etc) are in the six countries his site covers. He has made the very judicious decision to base himself closer to these folk. This reduces his overheads dramatically (as cost of living is so much lower) and makes his revenue requirements much lower. He presumably can also deal with any dramas much more quickly (espcially if they require a physical presence) then if he was sitting in an office in Sydney or Melbourne.

There are other aspects of strategic importance here (such as the decision to focus on a regional niche, the possibility of considerable early mover advantages from network effects, and the scope to extend the model to other locales users identify).

It sounds like a pretty cosy life. Now, can someone think of a version for the rest of us to pursue? 🙂

Selling sexy Samui potatoes

January 27, 2010

My blogging cousin Steve has a nice theory, that there may be still a lot of money to be made selling potatoes. His argument is that targetting proven markets for products with a fresh take on quality or service (for example) may be much more promising than trying to convince prospective customers about a completely new value proposition.

I was thinking about this when I landed in Koh Samui earlier this week.  We have all got so used to airports being, at best, something we suffer on the way to our end destination.  I had given up thinking they could ever make me want to visit a particular locale.  Until now…

Check out these pics of the Samui airport:

Instead of the usual authoritarian and impersonal setting, here was a facility that felt like it was a spruced-up leftover from the Fantasy Island set.  From the cute tram/golf-cart/bus cross-breed transport from the plane to the terminal, to the Gilligan’s Island architecture, the invisible security, the fishtanks in the bathroom to the open-air set-up, it is a fantastic point of differentiation from so many other satisficing airports I’ve visiting.

Who runs it? The airline (Bangkok Airways) that has a stranglehold over the landing slots.  They can clearly see the positive effect it has on customer perceptions.

Let’s hope some others embrace such mundane potato selling.

A Wicked business model

July 24, 2009

Driving mundane hirecars around the South-Western US over the past month, sharing the roads with behemoth Winnebagos, and staying in equally uninspired motels all reminded me of an enterprise and business model I’ve been meaning to write up on this Blog for a good six months at least.

Wicked Camper Daintree tooStrategy is the search for competitive advantage – offering a product that attracts and retains customers in a cost-effective fashion. The folks at Wicked Campers appear to do a great job on all fronts.

For those unfamiliar with this product, just head anywhere touristy and remote in Australia/New Zealand (and increasingly beyond) and you will find them. This mob hire out (and also sell) very basic campervans to the backpacker crowd. The campervans are converted work vans that have been fitted with a very efficiently laid out set of beds, seating, cooker, sink etc. The most noticeable aspect of them is the spraypainted (graffiti-style) exterior and a (typically tasteless) individualised joke/catchphrase on the rear.

We drove one around far-north Queensland last year and it was great fun and extremely practical.

So let’s look at the business model:

Target market: young travellers who aren’t overly endowed with money, are looking to sleep cheaply and explore a country with few constraints. They also like something different to include in their happy snaps and some form of differentiation from the retirees and families they’re sharing the roads and campgrounds with.

Competitors: fairly staid caravan and car-hire forms on one side. Sole operators with no reputation or service/dropoff network on the other.

Substitutes: public transport (land, sea and air), tour groups, and unreliable and transaction-cost-heavy used-vehicle markets.

Value chain: a steady supply of used vans that can be converted at pretty low cost (it’s basically a bit of carpentry, plumbing and supplies from a $2 shop). Standardised repair and maintenance (their pretty much all the same sort of vans). Online booking. Sheds and carparks as distribution points (with most customers prepared to go to dodgy neighbourhoods for the bargain).

Marketing: cheeky as all hell (see this discussion for the mixed opinions of their ad campaigns), with the vans as billboards, and loads of word of mouth.

Wicked Camper Daintree back layoutSynergies: I can’t help but think a big chunk of this was accidentally strategic. Why are the van’s spraypainted with individual designs? Because the old work vans had decals and details from previous uses and the artwork is cheaper (and more distinctive) than a more professional respray.

Market positioning: definitely low cost, and perhaps focussed low cost (they aren’t targetting the broadest possible market). But they’ve managed to build in sufficient differentiation to make sheer imitation a little more difficult (and also opening up new entrants to “copy cat” derision).

Blue ocean-ness: they have stretched the market such that new consumers (backpackers) are considering the previously slightly geriatric and daggy campervan option, and also pared back the bells and whistles that incumbents competed around (comfort/reliability/newness).

Expansion: what brought this back to my attention was firstly lamenting our lack of Wicked Van in the US, and then hours later, spotting one of them. The firm has expanded from its roots in Australia to tackle other backpacker havens. The ordering seems comparable to another Aussie backpacker-related internationaliser, Flight Centre, in that they started with the most similar countries (NZ, Canada, South Africa), and are then broader options (US and Europe (with Italy first I think). Excitingly, the firm could well be considered global now, with Bangkok and Chile about to open.

All in all, this is a viable and well-structured approach. It’ll be intriguing to see if the international expansion can work. Will the humour (if you can call it that) translate?

Retail reflections from the Road – part one

June 24, 2009

Blogging hasn’t been front of mind for me over the past 10 days of so.  Indeed, I have been fixated on consuming burgers, seeing sights, reading roadsigns and booking hotel/motel rooms as I traipse down through California towards San Diego.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d take this opportunity to relate my an early experience in my travels to previous posts on this here Blog.

In San Francisco I had the opportunity to experience Aussie shopping centre giant Westfield‘s US expansion.  They had done a fine job of branding and delivering a suitably slick real estate and retail offering.

There were a couple of Aussie retailers on display (Napoleon Perdis and courier-bagsters Crumpler), as well as the expected mix of US and international chains.  I was disappointed by Zara and H&M‘s offerings (their clothes didn’t seem quite as flashy yet utilitarian as they do in Europe).

I was more impressed by the offerings of Martin+Osa, a fashion house that it turns out is a brand extension from the more ubiquitous and mainstream American Eagle Outfitters.  These two brands serve as a strong reminder of the sheer size and scale of the US market and the limited need for US retailers to internationalise.  American Eagle is yet to spread its wings beyond Canada, while Martin+Osa only has stores in 17 states.  Nevertheless they are able to offer decent quality clothing at their respective (surprisingly low) price points.  Australia-only fashion retailers would simply not be able to compete at that level.

The presence of Perdis and Crumpler remind us that Aussie retailers really do need a neat point of difference to justify tackling the US scene (and beyond).

More on retail in the coming days…