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Online channels accounted for 39 per cent of travel bookings in 2014: Phocuswright

MUMBAI: Online travel bookings continue to witness double-digit growth despite low internet and credit card penetration, says a report by travel market research firm Phocuswright. According to the report, online channels accounted for nearly 39 per cent of the travel bookings in India in 2014, putting the country just a few percentage points behind the most mature online travel markets like the US and Europe.

While air and rail have long buoyed India's online penetration rates, hotel bookings too are catching up. Online hotel bookings grew 32 per cent to US$800 million in 2014 due to an overall healthy hotel market combined with the online travel agencies' (OTA) efforts to bring fragmented hotel content onto their platforms.

Hotels' shift to online channels will continue at a similar pace, pushing online penetration in the segment to 27 per cent by 2017.
OTAs are also heavily investing in mobile medium with better product experience to pursue a growing user base.

Mobile accounted for nearly one in five OTA3 gross booking dollars in 2014.

India's total mobile bookings (OTAs and suppliers combined) are projected to hit $3.2 billion by 2017, with OTAs accounting for the vast majority.



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Zara Martin launches The Wild headphones line

23rd Jul 15 | Fashion

Zara Martin has launched a new line of headphones, featuring cat ears.

The 31-year-old DJ – who launched a successful ”attention-grabby” fairtrade accessories collaboration with ASOS in December – is now releasing a new line… Continue reading

Review: Latest Parkway musical comedy Half A Sixpence is a triumph

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Imagine living in a basement flat, working to the bone every day as an apprentice draper for a pittance and then… being left a legacy which means you can afford to build your very own mansion.

This good fortune forms the basis of the musical comedy Half A Sixpence, and although based in times gone by, the pure luck of lead character Arthur Kipps is certainly enough to make a modern audience green with envy.

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Class Act Theatre Company's first venture into musicals is a riot from start to finish, and quite different from the company's previous productions. Based on the HG Wells novel, Kipps, it is the timeless story of boy meets girl, boy and girl are separated, then reunited… but there are complications in the romance department, not to mention the small matter of a hefty fortune to deal with.

Class Act stalwart Rob Bishop, taking the lead role, acts as our storyteller throughout the entire show, not only narrating, but dancing and singing his way through the plot.

Rob's an accomplished performer which shows, as is his leading lady, Hayley Wrightam (Ann). Hayley, another name you'll recognise, also choreographed the entire production, so the pairing was just right.

Even when they experienced slight faults with their microphones, the pair sang on and we could still hear every single word – a testament to their professionalism and experience.

The inequality of social class is nicely dealt with.

When Arthur becomes a gentleman through his fortune, unceremoniously dumping silver of service waitress Ann for posh but kind-hearted Helen (Nicola Law), a lady of leisure, he struggles to conform to their expectations.

Helen's mother and brother, Mrs Walsingham (Ann Forward) and Young Walsingham (Ashley Lovett) are perfect studies in snobbery, and the shop girls and boys where Arthur used to work (Jakob Britton, Owen Raper, Adam Barlow, Caitlin Gledhill, Kennedy Gardiner and Kate Prior) are the working class antidote.

But this is a musical after all, so to labour such a heavy point would be to forget what this production truly is – an uplifting, toe-tapping romantic story. And yes, we do get a sing-a-long at the end!

Stuart Owen's scenes as clumsy, chummy actor Chitterlow were an absolute delight. Stuart's comic timing, facial expressions, gait and characterisation were a joy to watch, and he really did light up the stage.

Simon Hewson morphed into grumpy, stingy shop owner Mr Shalford with aplomb, and when Arthur finally gives him a dressing down, it's done with a cheer from the audience.

Mention must be given to the marvellous costumes and inventive set, the marvellous supporting cast who displayed so much energy and the backstage crew work hard to make everything seamless.

Also, we had the pleasure of live music in the form of musical director Jacqueline Wilson and Geoff Green.

It was a lovely touch to see Geoff on stage playing the banjo… I just love it when the music is live and not a recording, so thank you director David Wrightam for no doubt insisting on that.

Something tells me the Class Act team's first foray into musical theatre won't be their last!

Guest reviewer Lucy Wood

Half A Sixpence is staged nightly at 8pm until Friday, July 24.

For tickets, call 01472 290100 or visit


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Meet the inspiring little girl who survived 50 per cent burns after candle set …

Here's the inspiring little girl who survived 50 per cent burns and has chosen to bear all to show strangers she's still beautiful.

Gabby Boady, seven, suffered horrific burns to her body after playing with a candle that set her clothes on fire.

Doctor1s said it was a miracle she survived the third-degree burns that start from the knees up.

Gabby, from Deptford, South-East London, underwent 20 gruelling operations in a desperate bid by surgeons to save her life.

Mum Maz Bozumbil, 27, is now raising awareness to try and change attitudes towards burns victims.

Caters Gabby Boady
Still Smiling: Gabby hasn't lost her smile despite having 50% burns on her body

Maz, a teacher, said: "Seeing my girl for the first time after the accident was heart-breaking, her burns2 were horrific.

"She was in agony and I felt helpless as doctors did their best to save her life and minimise the scarring.

"Despite Gabby's appearance looking completely different to before, she was still the same cheeky, happy girl.

"But I get frustrated when strangers stare, point and ask questions in the street.

"Gabby might have a few scars but she is equally as beautiful on the inside and out. "

Caters Gabby Boady
Horrific Injuries: Gabby and the horrendous burns she received in a candle fire

Gabby has defied all doctors' expectations and has been recovering extremely well since the accident.

The family know they have a long road ahead of them though with Gabby needing reconstruction surgery every year.

Her mum said: "Every time Gabby grows her skin will have to be cut and released as many of her burns are over joints which would prevent growth.

"Her burns were so severe that in the first 48-hours doctors didn't think she would survive and then she spent two months in intensive care.

"We now have to apply cream to her burns at least six times a day and she has to wear pressure garments 23-hours-a-day to help flatten the scarring.

"Gabby had been playing at her grandmother's house when the accident happened.

"Within seconds she'd set herself on fire and her clothes just went up in flames. "

Caters Gabby Boady
Long Recovery: Gabby wearing her pressure garments to help cope with the injuries

Maz said: "Thankfully Gabby's personality hasn't changed, despite everything she's been through she's still exactly the same.

"I want to raise awareness to warn other parents that taking simple precautions can really make the difference.

"We've met some really incredible people a long our journey and it's so sad that so many avoidable accidents are still happening.

"I really felt for Claudia Winkleman's daughter last November and knew exactly what the family was going through.

Caters Gabby Boady
Terrifying Fire: Gabby's clothes caught fire after she was playing with a candle

Alison Tweddle, Operations Manager for the Children's Burns Trust said: "Sadly these incidents are all too frequent.

"In an instant several lives are changed forever not just for the child who has been burnt, but for their family as well.

"Nearly 7,000 children were admitted to NHS Specialist Burns Services last year over 5,000 of these were under the age of five.

"Fast and effective first aid can help reduce the impact of burn injuries, we recommend STOP, DROP, ROLL when clothing catches fire and COOL, CALL, COVER - in all cases.

"Gabby's courage, not only in her everyday life but also in raising awareness of the danger of candles, is absolutely inspirational. "


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Fake Hotel Booking Sites Stirring Up Turmoil for Travelers

Image: Aerial view of the Las Vegas boulevard

Aerial view of the Las Vegas boulevard, the Strip, in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 10, 2011. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP - Getty Images, file

"We've had complaints from people who booked with these sites and had trouble canceling or modifying these reservations or they were charged booking fees that they didn't expect," said FTC attorney Serena Viswanathan. "And some of these are scams where they don't even have rooms."

This is not a new problem. But it's getting renewed attention after Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,

wrote a letter1 to the FTC in May asking it to investigate.

This was followed by a similar request last month from the Florida delegation2 in the House of Representatives.

The FTC does not disclose when it launches an investigation, but Viswanathan told NBC News the agency is monitoring complaints "and if there is a problem, we may start an investigation."

A lose-lose situation


American Hotel and Lodging Association3 welcomed the FTC alert, calling it "a sign of progress" that this problem is being taken seriously.

"This is an issue that needs to be addressed," said Vanessa Sinders, the industry group's head of government affairs.

The association estimates that 2.5 million bookings are done via "rogue, third-party businesses" each year, costing consumers an estimated $220 million. These bad bookings can disrupt a business trip or ruin a vacation. Imagine having reserved a wheelchair-accessible room and none is available.

"Sometimes people show up and there's no room, sometimes they see extra charges on their credit card, sometimes they book a room with certain amenities and when they show up at the hotel, those amenities or rooms are not available because they booked on a third-party site," Sinders explained.

That can leave management at the hotel, which had nothing to do with the reservation, in a difficult position.

They can't return a deposit they didn't get. And they can't give loyalty points for a reservation they didn't book.

Matthew Kent, general manager of the

Best Western Ocean Beach Hotel & Suites4 in Cocoa Beach, Florida, had to deal with this problem last summer, when people who had booked with a third-party site showed up at his hotel.

"Sometimes it was as simple as they thought they were getting a room on the ocean and they weren't. Sometimes it was more complicated, like a family of five is booked in a room with one king bed," Kent said.

This unauthorized site offered rooms at Kent's hotel at a steep discount.

It used the Best Western name and logo without permission, copied photos from the real hotel website, used "Best Western" in its URL and answered the phones "Best Western reservations," he said.

"It puts me in a horrible situation. It's hard to convince them that they didn't book with us."

"We had people show up looking for specific accommodations that we didn't have for them and there wasn't really much I could do except cram them in and make them as comfortable as possible or try to move them around," Kent told NBC News. "They save for months and months to get to the beach in Florida and then it was a nightmare for them."

Kent said he tried to explain that they had booked through an unauthorized reseller, but these unhappy guests didn't always believe him.

Japan Robot Hotel Ready to Welcome First Human Guests5

"It puts me in a horrible situation. It's hard to convince them that they didn't book with us," he said. "And these days, when someone is unhappy, they go on Trip Advisor and tell the whole world."

It can happen to anyone

Debbie Greenspan of Bethesda, Maryland, travels a lot for work.

She spent 20 years in the hotel business, so she's very comfortable booking a room online. But even she got burned.

Greenspan wanted a room at the Marriott hotel in Westchester, Pennsylvania. She pulled up what she thought was the hotel's website - it had the Marriott logo and picture of the hotel - so she called the number listed.

"They answered the phone, 'Can I help you?'" Greenspan recalled. "And I specifically asked if this was the Marriott and she said, 'This is reservations, I can help you.' I had no idea I was booking through a third-party company.

I thought I had contacted the Marriott reservations center."

Greenspan booked the room, but later needed to cancel. She called the hotel and was told they couldn't help her; she needed to contact the company that booked the reservation. That's when she realized she had been snookered.

"They did nothing to help me and could(n't) have cared less. 'You booked and you're screwed; it's your problem,'" she told NBC News. "I was furious.

I felt betrayed and embarrassed. If this can happen to me, then the average person doesn't stand a chance, and that really infuriates me."

Even though it wasn't responsible for the problem, Marriott compensated Greenspan for her lost deposit, around $100.

Protect Yourself

There are plenty of legitimate websites that are authorized to book hotel rooms - familiar names that we all know and trust. It's when you do a random search such as "hotels in downtown Boston" that you can get into trouble.


FTC offers this advice6:

"Your best bet to avoid surprises — look closely at your search results.

If you know you want to deal directly with a hotel, take the time to look for signs you might be on a third-party site, like another company's logo. It's also a good idea to find the hotel phone number yourself, rather than rely on what's listed on the site."

Of course, the safest way to make sure you get what you want and don't get burned is to book with the hotel directly.

Remember: Most major hotel chains offer lowest-price guarantees - they promise that you won't find a lower price anywhere else on the Internet. So, be skeptical of any site that advertises unreasonably low prices.

If you fall victim to one of these fake hotel websites, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge and

file a complaint7 with the FTC.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan.

Follow him on

Facebook8 and Twitter9 or visit The ConsumerMan10 website.


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