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Vir.al, a New Inspiration/Booking App & Website, Helps Hotels to Take Back Market Share from Airbnb with Millennial Travelers

May 20, 2017 Apps No Comments Email Email

Today, TripCraft, the hotel industry’s leading provider of mobile solutions, launched a new inspiration/hotel booking app and website, Vir.al, targeting Millennials – one of the fastest growing travel demographics, who are “expected to be taking 320 million international trips each year (by 2020)[i].” Using curated, experience-based, destination-specific content, Vir.al enables users to create unique travel experiences, not just book a hotel room in which to sleep. Currently, Vir.al can be used to plan travel experiences in eight popular destinations in the United States – New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Austin and New Orleans – but more domestic and international destinations will be added on an ongoing basis.

In addition, Vir.al offers a unique social influencer engine with benefits for both hotels and guests.  Hotels can use the Vir.al management console to identify socially active potential guests and incentivize them to book with their property. Socially active Millennials are much higher value customers to hotels because they are more likely to review/recommend a property online[ii] (which can increase a property’s bookings and revenues over time) and because Millennials tend to travel for longer periods of time and, as a result, they often “spend up to two thirds more during their trips”[iii]).

Unlike previous generations, 72% of Millennials choose to prioritize experiences over luxury and material goods.[iv] This preference is the basis of the emerging Experience Economy, in which “businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product.[v]” Vir.al makes it possible for hotels to leverage this shift in consumer preference by creating experiences that increase bookings and revenues earned from this valuable travel demographic, which is expected to “represent the number one consumer segment in the U.S. hotel industry by 2018, if not 2017[vi].”

Today, hotels are also losing a significant share of the market, especially with Millennial travelers, who appreciate the value that the sharing economy can offer; for instance, “NYC-area hotels lost more than 2.9 million room nights to Airbnb (totaling more than $450 million of revenue) in one year alone” (between September 2014 – August 2015) and project that “the annual loss will have almost doubled (to more than $800 million) by 2018”. Vir.al helps hotels take back their market share from alternative accommodation providers by offering Millennial travelers exactly what they are looking for: complete travel experiences, better prices and a large amount of user-generated content (from which they can more effectively plan their holiday).

“Vir.al was designed to be a partner for hotels – not a competitor,” said Mike Murray, founder of TripCraft and Vir.al. “It gives hotels the ability to find and incentivize bookings from high value customers without relying on discounting or other race-to-the-bottom pricing strategies (as most OTAs do), making it possible to increase occupancy without sacrificing ADR or RevPAR.”

Through the app’s social influencer engine, hotels can view potential customers’ social media score (calculated using TripCraft’s Social Influence engine) and offer high-value potential guests personalized perks and/or promotions to encourage them to book; from a consumer standpoint, Vir.al enables potential guests to utilize their social engagement score as a form of virtual currency, making Vir.al a much more attractive booking channel for the cost-conscious and highly socially active Millennial market. Vir.al users can also take advantage of the app’s social influencer engine to see what is trending on social forums for hotels, destinations and events.

FutureCast’s Millennial Brief on Travel & Lodging (2016) shared other stats that emphasize the value of socially active Millennials as a target audience for hotels – and the inherent value of Vir.al as a booking channel to appeal to this market:

  • “…Millennials are the most active travelers online with 97% of Millennials using social media while traveling and 75% posting to social networks at least once per day.”
  • “86% of Millennial travelers were inspired to book a trip based on content they viewed online.”
  • “Millennials check an average of 10 sources before making travel purchases to make sure they pay as little as possible.”
  • “User-generated content has proven to extend a user’s time on a site up to nearly seven minutes for major travel brands.”
  • “A great experience is 3X more popular than getting a bargain price.”

To find out more about Vir.al, please visit http://vir.al/ or download the iOS app at http://vir.al/ios/. The Android app will be available for download and the website’s full booking capabilities will be live during the spring of 2017. To arrange an interview to discuss the app further or for a demo of how hotels can use Vir.al to boost bookings with Millennials, please contact Jennifer Nagy at jenn@jlnpr.com or +1.786.420.1160.

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