Hacktoberfest: What happens when design is in your DNA

Thursday's Hacktoberfeast potluck

It’s a wrap—our inaugural Hacktoberfest is in the books.

This all-hands-on-deck hackathon-style event brought our teams together to create an all new feature for the platform, from end-to-end, that reimagines how to tell the visual narrative of a travel brand.

A few special guests joined along the way to collaborate, and after three days of hard work, group think and great food, the project started taking shape.

Here’s a one-minute look at what happened:

 

The week in review

A huge thank you to all of our Hacktoberfest guests!

Throughout the week, there was lots of fun to be had with our team members near and far. From daily “Hackachat” check-in’s, to Thursday’s “Hacktoberfeast” potluck, there was no shortage of Gemütlichkeit—and outstanding teamwork along the way.

Among our top highlights? Visits from a few special guests who share our passion for hospitality and lederhosen.

They brought their expertise in destination marketing, visual storytelling and all things digital, while putting their stamp on the creative process.

A huge “danke schön” to Zach Stovall, Jason Holic, Christina Leake and Dan Spellman for stopping by!

Starting (and ending) with our why

Hacktoberfest: hard work, group think and German-style celebration

Hacktoberfest was more than trying our hand at pronouncing German words and getting to break out the Flip.to robot. These three days were a chance to hone all of our team’s talents in one place, putting our heads together to trailblaze travel marketing. As Zach commented during his time with us, the more creative minds coming together, the more incredible the outcome.

At Flip.to, design is in our DNA. We know that great marketing isn’t just about having a polished final product—it’s about innovation and solving real challenges for travel marketers to help them do what they do even better.

Hacktoberfest brought this to the forefront. In the following weeks, look for more about the event and what’s coming to the platform soon.

OPMA Summit: On knowing your audience and your industry

This May, we attended our second OPMA Executive Summit since becoming members.

 

Aside from industry insights, one of our favorite aspects of both OPMA membership and events is the chance to meet up with like-minded industry partners and friends who are also committed to advancing travel.

We reached out to a few for their thoughts on the spring summit and received some great thoughts on the event and OPMA’s advocacy network.

Take a look at their insights below:


Alex Husner, CMO, Condo-World Resort Properties on OPMA:

“The purposefully small group atmosphere allowed for great conversations and networking, and the ability to meet almost everyone at the event. The attendees represented many of the most well known and respected brands in the industry, traveling from as far east as Vermont to as far west as Hawaii!

One of the key takeaways I noticed with this group was an abundant support of collaboration between members…from sharing marketing successes to tackling legal challenges and homeowner relations—no topic was off limits!

This is a group of like-minded, innovative business owners and C-level executives that are all supportive of helping each other succeed. I’m excited to attend more events and learn from our industry’s best and brightest.”

 

Stuart Butler, COO, Fuel Travel on the vacation rental industry and the organization’s role in shaping travel:

“The condo-hotel space faces several unique challenges. Firstly, the fact that the management company has to juggle the priorities of the two stakeholders (the owner and the guest) means that there are constant decisions that have to be made that may benefit one party, while negatively impacting the other.

Having homeowners maintain the quality of their units also poses unique challenges in terms of the quality of the product and the guest experience. This can lead to negative reviews, which impacts ADR and occupancy. Finally, the lack of awareness that the consumer has regarding the differences between on-site and off-site renters is a major problem — one that is exacerbated by the fact that the OTAs and TripAdvisor don’t distinguish between the two.

OPMA is a very special and unique organization. The members—both managers and vendors—seem to have a genuine desire to want to work together to help drive the industry forward. OPMA has introduced us to a lot of new people with whom we can collaborate and solve the problems that the industry is facing.”

 

Maurice Arbelaez, Corporate Director of Sales & Marketing, Millenium Management on the summit:

“OPMA explored common issues and challenges we share with other management companies and condo resorts operators, working to improve collaboration with other members to benefit both of us.

OPMA creates a vehicle to share and exchange ideas and best practices with other on-site management companies that experience similar challenges. Members also benefit from services that offer solutions to those challenges, enhancing the guest experience to surpass expectations.”

 


What are your thoughts on the challenges for the vacation rental industry? Join the conversation! We look forward to continuing to advance this dynamic industry together.

Flip.to on the road: What we learned at DMA West

The lessons learned from DMA West were many. Aside from being introduced to the truly incredible city of Spokane (seriously, there is something for everyone, from great wine to arts & the outdoors—it’s on my radar for another visit!), the event brought together destination marketers on the front lines of where travel and tech are headed.

One presentation in particular stood out, from David Bratton over at Destination Analysts. He had a really interesting approach on how to improve your site, from content to context, through the eyes of your visitors.

Check out my recap:

 

Check out Destination Analysts here for more on their insights from the tech summit. Plus for more on this great city west of the Rocky Mountain foothills, get inspired over at Visit Spokane.

And as always, join the conversation! Reach out, or give me a follow here and let me know what you thought of our takeaways.

NAVIS Leaders Conference 2018: Hidden treasures

Earlier this month, we got to participate in the NAVIS Leaders Conference 2018 at the Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach—just a short drive from Flip.to’s home base in Orlando.

From on-point presentations to opportunities to connect with some pretty amazing people, NLC left its attendees with incredible insights that truly got to the heart of hospitality marketing. Thanks to NAVIS for a fantastic event and the chance to take part!

Check out the video below for my highlights, including the winners of our Hidden Treasures story contest—thank you to everyone who shared stories!

 

We love shaking up the hospitality marketing scene alongside folks like NAVIS (and in beautiful locations like Tradewinds). We can’t wait for next year’s event!

Flip.to on the road: property managers winning with OPMA

A big focus at Flip.to in 2017 has been better understanding the ins-and-outs of the vacation rental market. It’s a segment within our industry that faces all of the same, yet also entirely different challenges than other accommodations providers.

Issues range from regulations and split ownership, to homeowners’ associations and conflicting marketing messaging due to third parties. Navigating that space adds layers of complexity that any operator could easily do without.

When we learned about the Onsite Property Management Association (OPMA) and its efforts to advocate for property managers, we were immediately intrigued. Flip.to became members in short order and participated in our first OPMA summit in our hometown of Orlando this past November.

What we took away is that OPMA has made great strides for property managers—and are working hard on loads more to be done. Topics covered included recent legal victories, paving the way for a better guest experience, all the way to the importance of adopting a mobile-first approach, well, everything.

Our resident video-documentarian and fellow Flip.to contributor to the blogosphere, Hunter Garrett, joined me at the OPMA conference and put together these highlights of our 2-days at Reunion Resort. Enjoy!

 

JAPEX 2017: tackling tough challenges in the Caribbean

At the moment I’m writing this article, I’ve just returned from the JAPEX conference in Jamaica. Now, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean islands a number of times, both for work and fun. The hospitality, the people, the energy are fantastic (as we’ve shared ourselves first hand.)

But this trip was different.

Javier Morales, Co-founder at Social Caddie, talks to the audience at JAPEX 2017.

Not in the way you’d think. The hospitality was still top notch. The people? As friendly and welcoming as ever. And the speakers and attendees at JAPEX were all incredibly insightful.

But it was also grounded.

What I took away from JAPEX went well beyond the usual micro-level discussions that typically embody an event like this. It was the broad spectrum: an impressive (and sometimes sobering) macro-level look at challenges in the Caribbean that took the stage—from competing on a global scale to the recent hurricanes and more.

Working together to compete globally

Over the last several years, the Caribbean has excelled at marketing itself as a highly accessible, dream destination. And this is a good thing. My fellow panelist at the event, and Co-founder at Social Caddie, Javier Morales chimed in nicely as to why:

“It’s important for the Caribbean to be identified as a region. Organizations like the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association have been created as a major resource for all the islands. By pooling their resources, coming together as region helps them all have access to information and programs to succeed as a whole.”

This has helped introduce more travelers to the region, raising awareness on the global level up against other warm climate destinations. But it poses a unique dichotomy: the need to make known that the Caribbean is more than the sum of its parts.

A recent example? Hurricanes Irma and Maria—both which have come and gone, leaving effects that will linger for years.

Not surprisingly, that poses a problem for the unaffected islands as well as the entire region. Some destinations in the region won’t be visitor-ready in the foreseeable future, and the perception is that the Caribbean isn’t quite as attractive for that dream vacation it’s known and loved for.

Except that it is.

The Caribbean is comprised of more than 30 destinations with thousands of islands totaling over 95k square miles, making it an eclectic mix of unique and independent travel locales. In fact, CHTA partners with 1,000 hotels and allied members plus 32 National Hotel Associations to help shape the future of tourism in the region.

You can’t minimize the devastation for some of the island nations. But it remains a small percentage of the total area—with tourism in many of the areas continuing to grow. (And the others working diligently to bounce back.)

Putting out in force that in spite of the storms, the nations of the Caribbean are open for business is a must. Javier had a few more adds on the steps every island nation can take:

“Nearly every island has a tourism board or association to help market their destination. Islands should showcase their unique features to stand out in the group. Destinations and their hotels can work together to highlight these features and compete against other global destinations.”

Diversifying your marketing—at the regional, destination, and hotel levels

Another challenge that surfaced is one that’s more relatable for us mainlanders: OTA dependency. The core of this issue is a tough one to overcome.

The United States is a key feeder market for the region as a whole, and in the US we love to drive. It’s as much a part of our culture as baseball and BBQs. So when we visit our friends in the South, there’s more to the travel planning process. This is an arena where OTAs excel, making it incredibly easy to book an entire trip in one sitting.

We know dependency on any one channel can be risky. And while OTAs help put heads in beds, they don’t help in the long term to build relationships with your travelers to keep them coming back again and again.

Diversifying where and how you’re winning business is the first step to becoming less dependant on any single channel. The goal? Reach new travelers, and reach them in a better way.

Javier offered a few tips to start:

“The online world has changed and small destinations and hotels can now compete with the big guys. A well-developed website, strong SEO plan and social media strategy can help brands of all sizes get their fair share of the market.”

Another way? Advocacy. Arguably one of the most compelling ways to make an introduction, advocacy lets travelers to your region or hotel deliver an authentic perspective to a like-minded audience—by the thousands.

Rather than relying on the consumer to discover your marketing (or vice versa), those who’ve lived the experience are sharing the most memorable aspects with people they know. Trust comes built in, so the message is delivered clearly and effectively.

Writing the stories of the Caribbean

Not only is advocacy a remarkable tool for telling the story, (rather the stories,) of every Caribbean destination, it piggybacks on what the market is doing as a whole: inspiring new travelers by giving those who visit an opportunity to share their dream vacation—and those best equipped to do just that are arriving on the islands by the hour.

Flip.to on the road: CHIEF Conference

Jeff and I recently wrapped up a trip to the Caribbean to attend CHTA’s CHIEF 2016 in Puerto Rico. I met some outstanding industry leaders from the area and got a taste of the incredible Caribbean hospitality and culture.

The event offered some huge takeaways as industry players came together to tackle challenges hoteliers face every day. But something else I was amazed by was how open everyone was in sharing their stories. It took this event to another level.

Check out some of our favorites below from a few of the fine folks we met at this inspirational event.


Thor Harris, Founder & CEO, Percepture

Thor from Percepture provided some fantastic foresight in communication strategies within the hospitality industry. Thanks for sharing some key takeaways from your 12 years experience in public relations, digital marketing and crisis management.

Jodi Diamond, CEO & President, Diamond PR

Jodi did an outstanding job leading and moderating the panel I participated in, ‘Once Upon a Time: Making Sales thru Tales’. Not only did she know just about everyone there, she made a point to make sure we met all of them. Huge thank you for your hospitality!

David Moore & Jessica Peguero, Hotel Managers, Hostal Casa Culebra

David and Jessica’s story is truly inspirational. They jumped headfirst into the hospitality industry by quitting their jobs to lease a 7-room property in Puerto Rico. Not only that, but they’re growing their staff by 33% with the arrival of their first child this fall!

David Chesler, EVP Global Enterprise Sales & Business Development, SiteMinder

David is a longtime friend of Flip.to. What do friends let their friends do? In our case, crash and co-host dinner. Thanks for the incredible opportunity to mingle with some amazing industry folk!

Sunil Chatrani, CEO, Elegant Hotels Group & Geeta Chatrani, Managing Director, Yellow Bird Hotel

Congrats to Sunil and Geeta who snagged the CHIEF 2016 Sales & Marketing Award! It’s clear why when you take a look at Elegant Hotel Group’s social accounts that they do a wonderful job telling their properties’ stories.

Matt Cooper, Chief Marketing Officer, CHTA

As the Chief Marketing Officer for CHTA, Matt knows Caribbean hospitality. He made sure we met some amazing properties, opening our eyes to all the wonderful hotels and the tight-knit community in the Caribbean.

Ed Wetschler, Caribbean Editor of Recommend Magazine

Not only did Ed give a great talk on contemporary communications, but he made it a point to take a photo with all the Eds at the conference. What can I say though, us Eds have got to stick together!

Evy Garcia, Director of Sales, El Conquistador

During our time in Puerto Rico we stayed in El Conquistador Resort. The food, staff and overall resort were outstanding!

In my panel discussion though, I made a remark about how El Conquistador could use an operational survey to gather important feedback on a fictitious problem. Unbeknown to me, the resort’s Director of Sales, Evy, was in the audience and quickly took action to resolve my fictitious problem!

After I was done she quickly came up to me to apologize, and we had a good laugh after I explained it was just an example. Evy and her staff exemplified amazing hospitality—and I was glad to see she and her team had a good sense of humor, too!

Diana Plazas, Caribbean and Latin America Region at Marriott

Beyond sharing incredible insights on the future of the Caribbean travel industry, Diana was our ‘reporter at large,’ updating us Flip.to folks about the football matchups all weekend. (Fortunately she only had good news to report to me.) Thanks for keeping us in the loop, Diana!

Karolin Güler Troubetzkoy, Executive Director of Marketing and Operations, Jade Mountain Resort

Running one of the top resorts in the Caribbean, Karolin stands out as an industry leader. Meeting her at this event was a nice surprise as we know she’s an advocate for social media driving business for her resort. It just goes to show more on why the Caribbean stands out in the hospitality industry.


By the time the conference was over, Jeff and I met some unbelievable influencers from the Caribbean hospitality market. The event was welcoming, informative and especially inspirational. Thank you to everyone that made this event an outstanding experience!

Join us: Unlocking the traveler journey—a digital marketing summit for hoteliers

Join thousands of hospitality marketers around the world as we dissect the fast-paced and ever-changing travel shopping journey. Flip.to will be joining six of the hospitality industry’s leading technology companies on how to navigate each phase of the travel shopping journey and shift the balance of OTA bookings in your favor.

The Evolving Travel Shopping Journey and Its Impact on Direct Bookings THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27 • 11 AM EST

Get registered free now

Each session features top players in the industry and you’ll be able to apply these lessons to your to hotel marketing in no time.

  • The role of each phase of the travel shopping journey, from the consumer’s perspective
  • How each phase impacts your opportunity for a direct booking
  • Digital marketing strategies to shift OTA bookings to your direct channels
  • Live Q&A with our industry experts

Plus, our own President, Ed St. Onge, will be speaking on today’s hospitality landscape, the evolving travel journey, and its impact on direct bookings.

A World of Pure Imagination: Reaching & Inspiring Travel Shoppers 11:15 AM–11:45 AM (ET)

When it comes to travel, people are inspired by friends & family. Learn how to put your hotel in the center of conversation sparked in every corner of the globe.

Let Me Take a Selfie: Traveling & Sharing the Experience 1:05 PM–1:3 5PM (ET)

Your guests provide the most candid insights into your property. Find out how to capture these memorable moments to let your guests introduce your hotel worldwide.

Save my seat


At Flip.to, the traveler journey is something we’re passionate about. Striking up compelling conversations with your guests across their entire guest journey means a richer experience for your guests, and a growing team of advocates for your hotel. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

Flip.to on the road: Flat Ricky’s HITEC debut

HITEC 2016 wrapped up last week, and it was the perfect opportunity to have a bit of fun with our Director of Partnerships, Richard Dunbar by introducing his new-found colleague and friend, Flat Ricky. (One Ricky just wasn’t enough.)

Flat Ricky explored the conference, stopped by the booths of our many partners, and ended an eventful first day with a party hosted by Flip.to, Lanyon, NAVIS and Social Tables.

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Arriving at Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel before shuttling over to the Morial Convention Center.
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Visiting our friends and partners at the Guestcentric and Digital Alchemy booths.
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Saying hello to the folks at SHR and Spring Engage.
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Posing with our partners from NAVIS and IDeaS Revenue Solutions.
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Preparing for the Flip.to, Lanyon, NAVIS and Social Tables party to kick off.

As our night was coming to an end, one thing became apparent—we were #MissingFlatRicky—and word spread quickly!

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Turns out, our friends at Vista Cay had different plans for Flat Ricky, and an adventure in the making unfolded.

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At the end of the day, Flat Ricky got a VIP tour of the town and was swept away once again. We’re still #MissingFlatRicky—but if you have any tips on where he might be, let us know at hello@flip.to! (Don’t worry, all tips remain anonymous.)

We’re #HITECnola bound

It’s here! One of the biggest conferences of the year. We’re headed to New Orleans for the 2016 edition of HITEC. The days are full of innovation, insights, and a bit of fun. Here’s a cheat sheet of just a few of the places we’ll be. Say hello, or reach out and let’s get together.

Monday, June 20


Entrepreneur 20x

Morial Convention Center—Rivergate Room, 1–4 PM

Join our own president, Ed St.Onge, as he sits on the judges panel for the second year in a row at Entrepreneur 20x. You’ll hear pitches from innovative start-ups in hotel tech at this competition. Ed’s joining a host of hospitality veterans on the judges panel, from CIO’s and angel investors, to serial entrepreneurs and industry insiders.

Join in


HITEC Opening Reception — “A Night in ‘Nola”
Generations Hall – A Night in Nola , 6:30–9 PM

New Orleans Jazz, and classic Nola food and drinks? Say no more—we’ll be stopping by.

Say hi

Tuesday, June 21

HITEC Exhibits, Booth #1615
Tuesday, 10 AM–4 PM / Wednesday, 10 AM–3 PM / Thursday, 10 AM–2 PM

 

The booth! We’ve got a ton of amazing things to share this year for Flip.to. To start, we’re unveiling our newest product update—Vision AI.

This powerful new feature uses machine-based insights to let hotels better understand and effortlessly curate their ever-growing library of guest-created content. This innovative use of artificial intelligence is the first of its kind in hotel tech. With Vision AI, hotels can now amplify their brand by delivering incredibly authentic, personal content to different segments of travelers and better convert them into future guests.

Stop by Booth #1615 to see this and other product updates, check out our brand new tour, and take a photo or two with the team. Just be sure to say hello! (We’ve even brought back the comfy couch.)

Schedule timeorTake a tour


Tech Talks: Engagement Vs. Communications: What Are the Best Solutions?
Morial Convention Center, 11–11:15 AM

Industry veteran, friend-of-Flip.to, and all-around hotel tech expert Alan Young of Puzzle Partner will be sharing a bit of his knowledge in his tech talk on better hotel & guest engagement. Short but sweet, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Say hi to Alan


Travel Trends that Matter with Google, GCommerce, & Flip.to
La Louisiane, 725 Iberville Street, 4–6 PM

If you registered early, you’re one of the lucky attendees! This sought-after event features insightful discussion on hospitality and travel marketing trends as told by Google, GCommerce and Flip.to. It’s not too late to join the waitlist! We’ll keep in touch if any spots open up.

Join the waitlist


Break the Ice with Flip.to, Lanyon, NAVIS and Social Tables
Bourbon Vieux, 503 Bourbon Street, 8–11 PM

Break the ice and snap a photo with a new friend while you mix & mingle with the industry’s best. Be ready to take part in our photo contest after the event—you could end with some sweet prizes. This event is by invitation—get in touch to request yours!

Get on the list

Wednesday, June 22

HSMAI’s ROC Conference

Morial Convention Center—Great Hall, 7 AM–6:30 PM

Our very own Ed St. Onge and Danielle Fierman will be onsite for the 2016 Revenue Optimization Conference. Be sure to stop by our sponsor in the Great Hall. Drop us line if you’d like to set up time to chat, or even just have coffee.

Schedule time

Thursday, June 23

Super Session: M&A in the Hospitality Tech Sector: Who is Next? What Does it Mean?
Morial Convention Center, 9–10:30 AM

Our own Ed St.Onge takes the stage once again as part of Thursday’s Super Session: M&A in the Hospitality Tech Sector: Who is Next? What Does it Mean? Sit in as the industry’s best explore the world of Mergers & Acquisitions in hotel tech.

Ed joins a pane of other well-known names in hospitality: Larry Hall, managing director with Trillium Services Group, Alex Alt, president of Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Chris Hemmeter, managing director with Thayer Ventures, and Bob Post, CEO and president with thing5.

Stop in