What I Do


What I Write

My Top 6 Articles of 2015

My Top 6 Articles of 2015

2015 was a phenomenal year for my site. I would like to thank all of my subscribers for participating, sharing, and spreading the “Words.” I love writing for you guys! This year my articles were read by visitors from 158 countries! I was excited to see Cuba on the list, as they are poised to see some amazing growth in travel and tourism. It was a great year for me professionally as well. Amazing projects all over the world, from London to Oman to Hong Kong, helped me maintain a global perspective on travel. One of the high points was giving the keynote address at the Airbnb Open conference to over 4000 attendees from 110 countries! What really made my day was meeting subscribers and readers like you at events far away from home. When I started writing in 2013, I never thought I would be having fans in Pago Pago, Miami, and Cape Town. In 2016, I plan to continue offering content that you can use to grow professionally without getting bored to death. I’m still rooting for you to make more revenue and more profits. As for 2015, the tribe has spoken. Here are my top posts based on traffic, engagement and social sharing: Expedia Acquisitions Signal Tougher Times Ahead for Hotels  The Free Website Trap: Lessons From Priceline’s Rebranding of Buuteeq  The End of Hotel Rate Parity: Much Ado About Nothing How Airbnb Is Crushing Traditional Hotel Brands Let’s Keep It Real: The Truth About Hotel Meta Search Your Marketing Focus Must Shift To Hotel Value Over Price Share, subscribe,... read more
Marriott’s Acquisition of Starwood: Winners and Losers

Marriott’s Acquisition of Starwood: Winners and Losers

Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood is great news for investors, but unfortunately not for Starwood hotel guests and employees. The quote that sums up the reasoning behind this deal came from Starwood Chairman Bruce Duncan. “We are committed to what is best for shareholders.” Notice that employees and guests are not mentioned. This is because they are not the focus of the consolidation. Industry consolidation is aimed at increasing investors’ profits or killing a competitor in the industry. With this deal, Marriott is hitting both those key points. When a deal like this is made, the numbers have been run and re-run hundreds of times. Everything must look good on paper, first and foremost. Banks and investors are going to be the clear winners in this deal. However, I’d like to talk about the important players in this deal that are not likely to fare too well: the guests and the employees. Guests (The Case of the Diminishing Rewards) The massive march toward total devaluation of loyalty points continues onward. Every major hotel chain has devalued its rewards program in the past five years. Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and Carlson issued major devaluations in their loyalty points in 2013 and again in 2015. Historically, mergers have almost always resulted in devaluation of loyalty programs and inferior service. Anyone who thinks bigger is better when it comes to personal attention has obviously never called his cable company. In 2013, Marriott created a new (read higher) category of hotels: the super “category 9” hotels, where it takes 45,000 points to stay for one night! They also raised the points requirement per night on 40% of their portfolio, which in their case was an increase of around 5000+ points to book a room.... read more
Hotel Brands’ Struggle to Understand Airbnb: The IHG Edition

Hotel Brands’ Struggle to Understand Airbnb: The IHG Edition

When I’m on Twitter, I’m usually catching up on some of my favorite comedians (mostly comediennes) and posting my own material. But every now and then, some non-comedic items capture my attention. This live tweet caught my eye on September 30. Sean McCracken* with Hotel News Now posted this update from IHG’s annual conference. *(Let’s get our “release the kraken” jokes out of the way. I bet he hears them a lot.) Wow. The “Solomons” referred to in the above tweet is not some mid-level manager at IHG trying to shake up the crowds. He is the Big Kahuna/CEO of Intercontinental Hotels Group! At first I could not believe that the CEO of one of the biggest hotel brands in the world would go on stage at their annual conference and say something this ridiculous and detached from reality. Then I realized that he was engaging in the long-standing tradition of hotel brands building up a boogeyman to rally against. I will elaborate on this later. Solomons’ comment also sums up the very reason why hotel brands today are struggling with the reality of the rapidly changing travel landscape. If this is the belief held by those on top, there is very little hope that the brands will manage to stay relevant in the near future. The Struggle Is Real Interestingly, IHG is one of the brands I often refer to when speaking about Airbnb and its impact on travel. The ex-CMO of IHG shocked me at a conference three years ago when he did not know what Airbnb was. They now have a new team in place, but the struggle continues. The fact that... read more
The End of Hotel Rate Parity: Much Ado About Nothing

The End of Hotel Rate Parity: Much Ado About Nothing

  Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about the imminent “end of hotel rate parity” and what it means for the hotel industry. Rulings in favor of ending rate parity clauses have been handed down by regulatory bodies in France, UK, Sweden and Italy. (Rate parity is the practice of maintaining consistent rates for the same product in all online distribution channels—Expedia, Priceline, etc.—regardless of what commission the OTA makes.) The reactions to a scenario in which rate parity will not be required or enforced have ranged from “OMG! This is the greatest thing ever!” to “This will destroy the OTA’s!” to the proverbial “Meh.” Some industry veterans have declared it to be a “revolution” or – even worse – have employed one of my least favorite phrases in the English language – “game changer.” I recommend putting jubilation on hold if you’re anticipating the quick death of OTA’s and the beginning of a new era of tremendous profitability for hotels. Some may believe that that the duopoly of Expedia Inc. and Priceline Inc. were built on the simple and magical hotel rate parity clause, and that they will perish without it. In response, I’d like to offer a gentle reminder: The market cap of these companies as I wrote this article today: Expedia Inc. – $15.87 billion Priceline Inc. – $66.49 billion (Source: Yahoo Finance) The Myth of Hotel Rate Parity as an Obstacle to Profitability Rate parity agreements put in place by OTA’s were never fully implemented by independent hotels. The complex distribution structure of an independent hotel operating in the real world made it impossible. Brand hotels have probably done a better job at implementing rate parity across their thousands of... read more
Your Marketing Focus Must Shift To Hotel Value Over Price

Your Marketing Focus Must Shift To Hotel Value Over Price

It’s amazing how much time and energy gets poured into deciding the price of a hotel room. There are STR reports, RMS Reports, and booking engine reports to go along with the hundreds of tools that are solely focused on how much you are charging for your room. There are stacks of reports on top of other reports all showing pricing data – past, present and future. You want to know anything to do with pricing? There’s a report for that. Now, where is the value report? You see, selecting your competition based on the size of your bed and the bathroom sink is an idea that has passed it’s prime. Boutique hotels (a term that needs to be retired) took a lot of time defining their hotels and restaurants as being truly different and holding certain value that a braded cookie cutter hotel is never going to match up to. Taking the time to educate your guests can make all the difference in value perception. Better perception = Better Price = Better Profits. A lot of the traditional boutique hotels under pressure from stakeholders over the years have descended on the price level competition. When your biggest USP is your price, then it’s all that you will be judged on. A room rate becomes your only significant value. Pricing is an extremely shortsighted play. Anyone looking for long term profitability needs to look at the value that they are providing to their guests. Here is how you can start to turn your team’s focus on highlighting your value versus going into price wars that hurt long-term profitability: Don’t Make Up Value-... read more
The Free Website Trap: Lessons From Priceline’s Rebranding of Buuteeq

The Free Website Trap: Lessons From Priceline’s Rebranding of Buuteeq

  Last year, Priceline.com made a splash when it acquired Buuteeq, a digital marketing and website “cloud-based system” for independent hotels, for what looks like $98 million. My detailed analysis of that purchase made a lot of headlines, and also missed a lot of headlines when some of the top hotel news websites did not carry my article. (Buuteeq was a big advertiser for them.) Last week, Priceline announced that it would no longer let Buuteeq operate as an independent brand, and that they now offer free websites in exchange for a 10% commission on every dollar generated on those sites. Here is my analysis of what this means for the lodging industry. Goodbye, Buuteeq. The first thing I observed is how quickly Priceline moved away from letting Buuteeq “continue to operate as an independent business within The Priceline Group.” I was highly skeptical about them being allowed to operate independently when I first wrote about the acquisition in August 2014 (read my conclusion section here). Thousands of independent hotels and B&Bs using the Buuteeq platform were given a “nothing is going to change” story by the founders. Here is an excerpt from an email that one of the founders of Buuteeq (Brian Saab) sent to a bed and breakfast client: “We remain an independent brand (one of the prime reasons we considered the merger with Priceline Group) and we continue to run business as usual. That said, I am thrilled to be able to rub shoulders with other brands in the group; we’re already getting great advice on how to improve conversion for hoteliers (who wouldn’t want to get best practices from the likes of Priceline, Kayak,... read more

About Words of Vikram


Optimizing hotel and travel asset revenues is what I like to do most. Throughout my 15-year career, I have spent my time identifying clients' online revenue problems and then solving them.

This website -- Words of Vikram -- is where I share my stories, perspectives, and thoughts about the industry. It's also a place where I can make powerful, real-world advice accessible to anyone who cares to listen. I hope that my articles will challenge you to think about what you’re doing, and inspire you to aim higher.

Please bring an open mind and a saltshaker filled with many grains. I’ll try to keep it interesting.

Sign up for my newsletter.

Running a travel business or hotel? Join me for straightforward, passionate and useful content you won’t find anywhere else on the web. 

Get Updates