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Virtual Reality Tourism and the Rise of Google Cardboard

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We’re just a few short months away from professional virtual reality (VR) headsets to hit the consumer market in a storm of holiday promotions, and the future is here.



Google Cardboard  - Free Consumer VR


Google Cardboard, an approximately $20 box frame with plastic lenses, went on sale this year as a proving ground for this new technology and it’s been a wild success. Google brings the concept to anyone who wants to explore the new tech, with free designs for the cardboard headset also available on their website. Reminiscent of the red plastic View-Masters of the late 1980’s, these cardboard boxes have a simple slot for a cell phone. All you have to do is download a VR app to a smartphone and the world of virtual reality is in your hands. 



Images are split into two offset versions, one for each eye, which creates the 3D effect, and the proximity to your eye produces a full immersion “frameless” view. The current graphics for motion are still fairly simple – the world is still waiting on a full camera designed to film the dual images required for photo-real immersion – but the experience will take your breath away with a 360 degree world crafted around you.

Thanks to the free Google Cardboard app, you can walk the streets of Paris and Tokyo. You lean back and tilt your head to the sky, stretching to see the top of the Eiffel Tower looming above you on a blue-sky day. Tour an aviation museum or explore a rocky cave. With some of the more playful apps, you can hang out with dinosaurs or ride a roller coaster, but the possibilities are seemingly limitless.


What it means for tourism marketing



Instead of just sending someone to your website, future customers will check Google Earth. They’ll locate your business or location, slip on their goggles and immerse themselves in a walkable 3D layout of your destination, restaurant, hotel, property or airline. They will want an option to experience the product before they arrive.

Your future promotional videos will take them on a wild ride down a river on one of your tours, watch the sun rise over the ocean at your destination, and show them the peaceful setting of a room at your hotel in the softly glowing morning light.

This is no longer a space-age dream – as these products hit the shelves this December in the global market, it’s time to start thinking ahead of how your business can make the most of this new media. 

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Creating ambassadors for your property with post-stay emails

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The busy, fully booked weekend didn’t throw any surprises at you. You’re confident that all of the guests were happy except that one family you missed at checkout. You're enjoying a relaxing few days before the next batch of holiday makers arrives. That’s when TripAdvisor informs you of a new review.

It’s the family you missed. It’s not good. In fact, it’s bad – the dreaded one star. Just like that, it feels like all the hard work has come undone. You empathise with the problems listed but you try to justify “It was a one off. It didn’t happen to any of the others! Ask the others and they’ll tell you!” Except that they didn’t.

Sound familiar? You are not alone.

It is a common misbelief that a guest relationship ends on checkout (it doesn’t) and post stay contact is not practical (it is!). Real guests are the easiest and cheapest way to promote your property and it’s smarter than spending heaps on glossy ad campaigns. The good news is that a high-impact post stay email is easy to write and boils down to four key elements:

Timing and automation

Timing is everything, send too early and it’s lost in travel noise. Send too late and it loses its gloss. Years of experience taught us that an email sent around the 48-hour mark inspires the best response from the recipient. Always automate the email when possible to ensure everyone gets one.


A well-designed email captures attention – keep it pleasant. Shift the focus from your property to the guest. Make it interesting for them. It’s not about what you have to say, it’s about what they want to hear.


Always make it personal; use intelligent features (such as email tags) to auto populate the guest details. Nothing worse than saying you care when the email starts with ‘Dear Guest’!


Don’t just say thanks, add a call to action, such as like us on Facebook, share your pictures with us, or click here for a limited time offer. Make the effort worth their while.

J. W. ‘Bill’ Marriott Jr., the 83-year-old executive chairman of the Marriott Group, continues to contact guests post stay annually when the group celebrates a customer appreciation month to improve brand appreciation. A post stay email will do the same for you. It will bring in better feedback, promote better reviews and make the guest feel valued. So the next time you miss an interaction with a guest, you know your email has you covered.

Tapan is Product Manager for ResBook, Tomahawk's online booking software.

Thinking Differently About Tourism

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Yes, yes, we know: we are living at a time when 'things' are changing faster than ever. We are reminded of this every time we buy the latest phone, tablet or computer only to be told six months later (when we have finally learned how to use it!) that it is now “the old” model.

And the point is truly highlighted when considering the fact that 60% of the jobs available in ten years don’t even exist yet.

As individual tourism businesses, organisations and an industry as a whole, it is imperative that we are keeping up with changes, and not just surviving but actually thriving. Thinking differently is required by all of us, as what has worked in the past may not work in the future.

“Trendlines not Headlines”

Stealing a quote from Bill Clinton, “consider trendlines not headlines.” This is what I would consider a “grand way to think differently”.

There are a number of examples of this in our industry. Let’s take the motel industry headlines as an example. If we were to follow some of the headlines, they often read that the motel industry is being undermined by the unregulated holiday homes market and talk about the government’s unwillingness to force them into compliance.

If we instead look at the trendlines, we see that the largest growing accommodation sector internationally is the holiday home/vacation rentals. This sector is becoming more commercialised, more organised and fanatically more innovative than any other sector. There is a reason why HomeAway has over one million listings and the peer to peer site AirBNB has the fastest growing inventory online.

So if vacation rentals are the trend, motel owners should be looking at what they can do differently to keep up with this trend (without ignoring their current market). What do vacation rentals offer that motels could? How are vacation rentals booked and marketed that motels can adopt or perfect?

Agents are another example of how the rapidly changing world of both travel distribution and purchase are affecting a sector. In this case, headlines may sometimes sing the blues but trends indicate an increase in revenue for those agents who are productising and promoting differently and/or being innovative.

Examples include those agents who are becoming more a “lifestyle concierge” providing more ‘local’ and authentic experiences. While others agents are thinking differently by investing in technology to allow quicker responses and price transparency for those who want to book quickly at the best price.

So what can we all be doing in our tourism businesses that ensures we ‘keep the gold’ that works while also thinking differently to create something to ensure our prosperity?

With this ever-changing world requiring us to provide our products and services more seamlessly and in an accessible format, all the while being authentic and transparent, it is important to be thinking differently by looking at other silos, industries and perspectives.

If we don’t, we run the risk of not evolving and going the way of the dinosaur or worse, becoming a fad like the waterbed!

Tomahawk to develop new website and strategy for Bella Vista Motel Network

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Bella Vista Management Ltd and Tomahawk are pleased to announce that Tomahawk is to develop the new website and digital marketing strategy for the Bella Vista Motel Network.

The Tomahawk group was appointed following a rigorous selection process from a group of innovative digital leaders invited to respond to a detailed RFP.

“We were very pleased with the proposal from the Tomahawk Group and whilst it was a close decision, Tomahawk stood out for their overall digital strategising and for their understanding of the complex visitor economy,” according to Sales and Business Development General Manager, Hamish Saxton.

The development of the new website and digital strategy activation is underpinned by Bella Vista’s online booking and channel management provider Seekom, which is working on the development of new single property and responsive multi-destination screens for its clients.

The Bella Vista Motel Network comprises of 27 business and leisure motels throughout New Zealand. Renowned for their consistency in design and great locations, business and leisure travel continues to increase for the network. The new website is a must to meet contemporary consumer booking and information-seeking activities.

“The Tomahawk team is excited to be a part of the new website for Bella Vista Motel. With the SEO, SEM and Social Media strategy supporting the promotion of the site, we are looking forward to celebrating increased bookings and brand awareness for them,” said Gina Paladini, Marketing Director at Tomahawk.

Tomahawk is a bespoke tourism marketing agency, creating success for tourism operators throughout New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific. Tomahawk provides a full range of digital marketing services and property management software solutions. Their proprietary systems include ResBook and JobSafe.

Online VS Offline Purchase Patterns

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In a recent report, Google ventured outside of their current online domain and did a study to compare online travel purchase patterns to offline travel purchase patterns. The number of similarities between the two types of buyers provides compelling information that every tourism business owner should know.

Getting right to one of the most amazing facts derived from the study: 90% of both online bookers and offline bookers do their research online. You read that right, 90% of travellers do their research online before booking whether they purchase online or walk into an agency to book in person. Understanding the full value of a travel business's online presence has never been demonstrated so definitively.

Research starts on average 70 days prior to purchase. Both types of buyers use search engines to do most of their research. Naturally, the time spent searching and number of sites visited do vary, as these averages below demonstrate.

Online Buyers:

  • Number of search sessions - 16.7
  • Overall time spent - 129 minutes
  • Number of sites visited - 32.5

Offline Buyers:

  • Number of search sessions - 11.9
  • Overall time spent - 94 minutes
  • Number of sites visited - 22.5

Offline Bookers


Google's Sun, Sea, Sand and Search Report Oct 2013

Looking at the demographic differences between the two types of bookers;

  • 42% of the online bookers are under the age of 34 whereas,
  • 85% of offline buyers are over 34 with nearly half (48%) having children and being retired (48%).

Travel agents are still the preferred channel for offline bookers seeking packaged tours. No real surprises in those numbers. But what is most surprising is that travel research on mobile phones is growing 66% year on year. Google claims this to be the number one take away from the study; "More than ever, travel related businesses need to be accessible on whatever screens consumers are using".

Online Bookersblog1

Google's Sun, Sea, Sand and Search Report Oct 2013

As a tourism supplier, whether your model depends on agency business or you desire more direct bookings, understanding the impact that your online presence, especially on a mobile device has to ALL potential customers is vital to the growth of your business.

Combine Two Great Forces

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Connecting your TripAdvisor reviews to your Facebook page.


Now, in just three easy steps, you can combine these two great forces so your Facebook followers can click on a tab and quickly and easily see your great TripAdvisor reviews right on your Facebook page. So you have worked hard to exceed your customer's expectations and earned yourself great TripAdvisor reviews, fantastic! And in all of your copious spare time, you have also been engaging with your Facebook followers, promoting your posts and increasing your Facebook Likes. tripadvisor facebook





To add the TripAdvisor Widget to your facebook business page you simply go to:

tripadvisor1 1.


2. Enter your business name, choose your business

3. Choose one of the Facebook widget offered to you.


The chosen widget will automatically be added to your business page and your reviews easily available for your followers to see!

How the Internet Influences the Luxury Traveller

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Although the majority of top-end luxury travellers may make their bookings with an agent, it is their friends and family, search engine results, online videos and loyalty programs that inspire and influence their choices.


The results are just in from a report commissioned by Google to help them better understand the affluent US traveller and the role that online resources play in their choice of airline, cruise, lodging, car rental and holiday packages.


Trip Inspiration & Research

One of the most significant pieces of information revealed is that friends or family and the Internet are both equally influential as the number one source for inspiring a trip. Moreover, when it comes to planning and researching for a holiday, the premier sector turns to the Internet 87% of the time.

About 50% plan to spend more time researching because getting value-for-money product is important. They continue to comparison shop for all components of travel, especially accommodation.

Although the luxury traveller still favours luxury hotels, the boutique and holiday home rental is increasing in interest at double the rate of two years ago.

Trip Inspiration

How the Luxury Traveller Engages Online

80% of the premier sector in the US will research online for their upcoming trip. When researching, two (2) out of three (3) read travel reviews and one (1) out of three (3) watches a travel video with an astonishing 90% of affluent travellers taking some type of action after viewing an online travel video.

Online Travel activity


source travel activity

OTAs and DMO sites

The affluent traveller still relies on a brand's website for planning, up 5% from last year, as opposed to reliance on DMO sites, which dropped 8% from last year. Branded sites, searching and OTAs are still consistently the top sources for planning.

Multi-Device Influence on Trip Planning

More than half of affluent travellers (55%) access travel information on their smartphones or tablets for planning. Convenience is the top reason that affluent travellers book on smartphones using both browsers and apps in near equal frequency. They use all devices to engage in travel-related activities from planning through to booking.

Travel Activies done on devices

Loyalty Program's Importance to the Luxury Traveller



96% of the affluent travellers in the US belong to a loyalty program and are increasingly likely to book base



Using email to advise of benefits is the preferred method of getting updates with social media creeping up to 8% as a communication source for benefits.d on membership perks and financial benefits. 



Reasons for joining loyalty

The need for a multi-channel, multi device online strategy is no longer optional for the luxury provider but a definitive requirement to keep up in the competitive luxury market. From inspiration to planning and decision-making, the Internet, whether viewed on a smartphone or computer, is where the luxury traveller is looking.

For a copy of the full report click here

Buying TripAdvisor reviews to boost your ranking

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There are a number of email campaigns going around claiming they can boost your TripAdvisor rankings, some even blatantly advising that you can buy 'genuine' reviews.


We often get asked how to boost your TripAdvisor rankings and our advice is always the same: "Give the better service than the guest expects".

We also often get asked if we think buying reviews is a good investment and our advice is always the same: "No, don't do it."

Today another email campaign made the rounds, it looked like this:

As a TripAdvisor Premium Connect Partner, we immediately reported this to them and they promptly responded with the following:

Hi Gina

Thank you for sending this on - I’ll get this to the attention of our content integrity team who will investigate.

There is a helpful section in the Help Center on TripAdvisor for Owners with several links with regards to Fraud and Organised Boosting:

Help Center Link to Fraud information and helpful links:


What is organized boosting?:

What is TripAdvisor’s policy on organized boosting?

How do you detect fraud?:

What will happen if a business is found to have fraudulent reviews?:

Thanks again for sending the specific details of this company along, this will be reported immediately to our content integrity team for immediate action.

Thanks Avril

If you are a ResBook client, using the automated ‘welcome home’ email to thank your guests for staying and asking if they would kindly give a review is an approved method for receiving genuine TripAdvisor reviews and is a nice way to make it easy for your guests to let you know how happy they are!

Online tourism promotion today

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online travel purchasing and distribution trends

Today, travellers are empowered by instant access to information, at any time and on any device be it computer, tablet or on a mobile phone, and while at work or waiting in line for a coffee. So it is easy to understand why over 78% of travel research is now done online.

And it is not just about research but inspiration; 29% of Facebook users claim they have been motivated to book a trip based on a posting they saw.

Internet travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73% over the past five years providing over 50% of a businesses' bookings. A company's online presence can make or break them. But you don't have to take our word for it, see the latest statics from June 2013 about online travel sales


So what does this mean to your business?

  • Can your website be viewed on desktops, laptops, iPads, tablets and smart phones?
  • Is your website up to date with the purchasing style of today which is picture rich, engaging and customer focused?
  • Are you providing information to your customers that is targeted to their needs so they easily and confidently book with you directly or easily share your website with their agent so the agent can book you?
  • Are you on the first page of Google for your most desired keywords?
  • Are your rates and inventory dynamically updated across all platforms match up across all platforms online and offline (agents)?
  • Are you receiving bright stars on Trip Advisor and interacting to your reviews?
  • Is your social media inspiring, engaging and educating? Are you using the most popular platforms for travel like Facebook, Instagram and You Tube? And if you are interested in China, you need to be on Weibo too.



Traditional Distribution Model



Traditional Distribution Model


Now the importance for integrated channel management offering dynamic pricing across multiple channels (both online and direct with agents) is imperative.

Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like, Expedia, Viator and local promotional sites play an important role in a tourism products promotion and distribution. Whether it is to generate bookings from the sites, use them as 'online brochures' to drive bookings to your site or to assist with search engine optimisation (listing sites that permit website links).


New Distribution Model




But this simplified model doesn't include the new big player in the game, Social Media.

A social media campaign that inspires across a seemingly growing number of platforms is necessary as You Tube, Instagram and Facebook become the voice and conduit for travel inspiration and conversation.

And the powerful voice of the traveller means that customer service and an experience that exceeds expectation is vital as social media, Trip Advisor and Yelp can make or break a business. And if this sounds over dramatised, remember that Trip Advisor is the number one travel site in the world with over 260 million visits a month.

New Travel Purchase Model





Agents and suppliers alike need to ensure that what their customers find online when researching and/or booking effectively and genuinely promotes their product.

Researching travel is considered part of the journey of a trip. So whether a traveller is booking directly with suppliers or through an agent, travel requires more online research than other online purchases as research from Google last year shows.


google research


*Google:Beyond last click: Understanding your consumers� online path to purchase

In the same research done by Google, a typical travel purchase is shared below:




This is a classic example of how social media works within the buying process. It is all about reassurance, quality control, weeding out the negatives.

Understanding how the distribution model has changed and the online travel purchasing process has morphed into a multifaceted procedure is vital for tourism operators to maximise their revenue potential.

How are your relationships?

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Relationship advice in an online marketing article? Absolutely. Today, having a website, a brochure and working with your agents is no longer enough. You put time and effort into ensure the agents you work with are happy with your product and that you are romancing them but what about your online relationships?

facebook-experiments-with-star-ratingsSocial media and review sites like Trip Advisor can make or break a business. An online distribution strategy based on paying commissions to Online Travel Agents (Expedia, is mono dimensional and eats away at margins. Having a Relationship Strategy can serve your agents, increase your online reputation to give potential guests assurance, build customer loyalty and thus increase bookings.

Sucking Eggs

So I am not trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs here, but it all begins and ends with customer service. The effects of one really good or one really bad customer experience can dramatically effect a tourism operation in today's connected market. Review sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Online Travel Agent's own verified reviews leave the customer with the last word. With 93% of global travellers claiming that their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews and 53% of travellers say they won't book a hotel that doesn't have online review the vital role these reviews play in a tourism operator's business is obvious.

One situation not handled correctly, can affect the bottom line, just ask Hotel Quebec. They had one 'Bed Bug' experience that was poorly handled by a staff member resulting in a scathing Trip Advisor review and a corresponding dramatic dip in bookings and revenue. So much so that the hotel sued Trip Advisor for damages and loss of earnings. They lost the case and gained even more publicity on the issue in the process.


Could the horrible situation of being eaten by bed bugs (which was videotaped live by the guest) been turned into a positive and actually made that customer an ambassador for the hotel? Possibly. Could Hotel Quebec have handled the online review better. Absolutely!

The review went live April 2013 and they still haven't responded to it online. Responding to negative reviews is just as important as basking in positive reviews when it comes to a relationship strategy. Expressing concern over the situation raised, that corrections have been made or kindly requesting the reviewer to make personal contact with a manager to learn more are all ways to create a better online relationship.

Make Loyalty Royalty

Generating bookings online through your chosen Online Travel Agents is an important revenue stream for most tourism operators today. But creating an on-going relationship with those visitors once they have been delighted with your product or service, so they become loyal customers should be your ultimate goal.

OMS-31mar2011-RelationshipMarketing-d-picLike a seven year marriage, you need to create ways to keep the relationship alive and make them feel special. Email marketing, loyalty specials announced on Facebook and 'loyalty login' pages on your website for benefits and incentives are all ways to keep visitors interested and encourage them to talk to others about you.

As the saying goes, 'Relationships take a lot of work and commitment,'both offline and online.