Δευτέρα, 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2013

Industry to Assemble in Dublin to Discuss Key Issues in Distribution and Travel Experience

Geneva – More than 600 industry stakeholders from the air travel value chain will attend the third annual World Passenger Symposium (WPS), taking place on 29-31 October 2013 at the Dublin Convention Center, Dublin, Ireland. Organized by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), WPS brings together experts from the airline, airport, travel agent and technology communities to identify ways to improve the air travel experience from the booking process to service delivery.
“This year, airlines and airports will handle more than 3 billion passengers, equivalent to more than 40% of the world’s population. Accommodating this many people safely, securely and expeditiously, while delivering even more value to the passenger requires enormous cooperation and innovation,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The World Passenger Symposium provides an excellent opportunity to bring together all parts of the travel value chain to address the challenges that we face and to set a vision for the future of air travel.”
Under the theme “From Service to Value – A Customer Driven Transformation”, WPS will focus on the overall customer experience. A highlight of the event will be a report on the status of the New Distribution Capability (NDC) program. NDC is an IATA-led, industry supported initiative to create an XML-based language standard for data exchanges between airlines and travel agents. Implementation of the NDC standard will enable access to all of an airline’s products and services and the ability to comparison shop among different features when using a travel agent or visiting an online travel site.
The WPS will feature keynote addresses by Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller and IATA’s Director General and CEO Tony Tyler. The leadership panel, moderated by BBC Presenter Rajan Datar, will feature leading airline, airport, regulatory and distribution experts, including:
·  Douglas Anderson, CEO, Carlson Wagonlit Travel
·  Matthew Baldwin, Aviation Director, European Commission
·  Alexandre de Juniac, CEO, Air France/KLM
·  Christoph Mueller, CEO, Aer Lingus
·  Kevin Toland, CEO, Dublin Airport Authority (DAA)
·  Gordon Wilson, President and CEO, Travelport Limited

Other topics to be discussed at WPS include: creating a better passenger experience; the benefits of social media for air travel; realizing the security Checkpoint of the Future; passenger rights; serving the connected traveler; and whether the low cost and network airline models are converging or diverging.

Thameslink tunnels to transform the railway in London and the south east

The first stage of work to connect two rail tunnels to the national network took place over the weekend of 14 and 15 September in a development which will transform the shape of rail services in the south of England. 

Canal Tunnels in north London, which run between the East Coast main line near King’s Cross station and the Thameslink route at St Pancras station, will link for the first time local and regional services from Cambridge and Peterborough with the route to Gatwick, Brighton, the south coast and Kent.

Connecting these services, which are currently operated by First Capital Connect, to the Thameslink route through central London is a key stage in the evolution of the rail network and a vital part of delivering capacity improvements in and around London.

Trains travelling through Canal Tunnels will provide up to eight of the possible 24 services an hour which will travel through central London when the £6bn Thameslink Programme is completed in 2018.

The Thameslink Programme will provide a significant increase in capacity into, through and out of London and provide better connections with Gatwick and Luton airports, Crossrail services at Farringdon and Eurostar and high speed services at St Pancras International.

Canal Tunnels were built at the same time as the redevelopment of St Pancras station between 2004 and 2006. Network Rail is currently installing track, signalling, power and safety systems to run services through them from 2018.

Recife bidding to host the IGLTA Annual Convention 2016

The Recife Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pernambuco Tourism Board (Empetur), Recife City Hall and the Brazilian Association for Gays, Lesbians and Sympathizers (ABRAT GLS) presented Recife’s candidature to host the Annual Global Convention of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) in 2016. 

To formalize the bid, Recife CVB produced a bidding book, which was sent to IGLTA this week. A Host Committee with representatives of various institutions linked to the tourism trade negotiated concessions and planned a schedule for the event. The official hotel will be the Golden Tulip Recife Palace.

While there are three more cities bidding to host the event, only two of them will have the chance of personally presenting their proposal in Madrid this October. For three years, Recife CVB and Empetur have been developing the idea of hosting the Convention, including promoting the city during the event in Florianópolis last year and again in Chicago this year. “This is an extremely important event, one of the best of the LGBT sector. The attendees are almost entirely from the tourism trade and will work as multipliers and opinion makers. Having them come here is strategic to boost our Gay Friendly project,” comments the executive director of Recife CVB, Maitê Uhlmann.

Empetur’s President, André Correia, is confident about the bid. “Recife has always welcomed diversity with open arms. Hospitality is the best quality of our people, according to research on LGBT tourism. We have been working hard on that,” explains Correia.

José Otávio Meira Lins, representative of ABRAT Northeast and member of the Host Committee, is also confident. “Pernambuco has fought for a long time to be the Northeast’s LGBT entrance gate. We don’t lack culture, excitement or scene. We have to show them Pernambuco has everything new and exotic that the segment looks for in a touristic destination. Ever since we created our Gay Friendly seal and started working on the segment with Empetur we have been intending to show our qualities to those who inspire and command the LGBT tourism. We are presenting them a different product that offers culture, shopping and fine cuisine and that hasn’t been fully explored by the kind of tourists who won’t stop travelling during crises and spend over 40% more than the usual visitor.”

Nowadays Recife is a highlight on the LGBT route, since Pernambuco is one of the top five gay-friendly destinations in Brazil according to the Brazilian Board of Tourism (Embratur). Working to secure this position, Recife CVB has created the advertising campaign Friendly LGBT.

Pernambuco was the first state in the Northeast and third in the country to create a guide for LGBT tourism. It is called Recife/Pernambuco – A State of Happiness, developed by Empetur, in partnership with Recife CVB, Recife City Hall, and ABRAT GLS. Created two years ago, the guide was published in Portuguese, English and Spanish and lists the main attractions in the state, from bars and restaurants to tourist spots and nightlife.

Starwood Debuts the Ultimate New Travel App on iOS 7

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG®), the award-winning loyalty program from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. introduced an innovative and inspiring new app for iPad as well as an exciting new design to support iOS 7. 

The SPG App for iPad joins the SPG App for iPhone, extending SPG’s digital suite of products and gives today’s connected traveler a visually rich, personalized experience on every step of their journey from imaginative destination exploration to the details of their trip before, during and after a visit. Each new, native iOS 7 app builds on the operating system’s latest features and designs and provides guests with the beautiful, immersive travel experience Starwood is known to deliver. 

The new Starwood apps deliver both the convenience and speed mobile travelers desire while highlighting the SPG lifestyle. 

SPG App for iPad: 

The new SPG App for iPad app pushes the boundaries of current hospitality apps by uniting Starwood’s unique focus on design and photography, as well as both curated and real-time social content into one mobile experience. Alongside SPG’s iPhone and Android apps, the new SPPG App for iPad provides a seamless guest experience, simplifying and enriching both business and leisure travel. 

App Highlights: 

•           Explore: The “explore” section inspires travelers to dream of more vacation time with a rich mix of curated content including the more than 100 Member Favorite Resorts awarded by fellow SPG members and dynamic content generated through social interactions 

o          Using our guest interactions through social media, the SPG app highlights the hottest venues, as reviewed by previous guests, around the hotel right on the map embedded in the app. So when you are far from home, you can eat, drink, and travel like a local. 

•           SPG life: This section of the app is a hub for learning about Starwood Preferred Guest’s many benefits. Here, members can access up-to-date account information including point balance, upcoming stay information and elite benefits. Members can also take a peek at all the exclusive benefits SPG offers its members like a virtual backstage tour at one of SPG’s Hear the Music, See the World performances, soar with trapeze lessons with Cirque du Soleil or take a seat in the SPG Luxury Suite at the US Open. Users can bid on SPG Moments like these and see Instagram photos from events and live the #spglife within the app. 

•           Fast and easy personalized booking: A secure area stores credit card information streamlining booking to just three taps. All of Starwood’s more than 1100 properties in 100 countries are represented with full detail with ratings and reviews from verified members who have stayed at the hotel. Perfect for researching your next escape. 

•           Brand sections: Each of SPG’s nine brands have stunning visual content, designed to highlight each lifestyle brand’s unique attributes and social activities as well as give travelers a realistic representation of what each destination provides. 

Starwood’s mobile team partnered with Bottle Rocket to design and develop the SPG apps—resulting in smart, intuitive navigation that seamlessly integrates SPG and hotel-specific branding into the iPad’s famously user-friendly interface. The SPG App for iPad will launch in both English and Chinese and will be updated with additional versions and multiple languages. The app, currently available for free from the App Store on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad or atwww.spg.com/mobileapps, is the latest development in SPG’s evolution into a hyper-personalized guest services platform

ILTM reveals new insights into the Luxury Traveller and Social Media

ILTM Americas, the Americas’ largest and most exclusive gathering of the luxury travel industry has revealed a new report identifying a unique insight into the experiences that luxury travellers seek and share online. 
‘The Luxury Traveller & Social Media: The Americas’ highlights that luxury traveller behaviour patterns - and specifically the way purchasing decisions are influenced - are now redefined by the ‘Millennial’ generation, who seek ‘Instagram-able’ experiences that are visual, one-of-a-kind and will generate buzz amongst their social networks. The Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) is responsible for the growth of social media in record time. 

In 2013, there will be a total of 278 million internet users across Latin America, for the first time surpassing the number of users in both North America and Europe. During the research period, social postings by North American luxury travellers increased by 130% while social posting by Latin American luxury travellers increased by 304%. The satisfactions levels among both groups also steadily increased.

‘The Luxury Traveller & Social Media: The Americas’ was produced by Circos Brand Karma, global leaders in hospitality industry digital analysis and management and will be presented by the company’s COO and Co-Founder, Mario Jobbe at ILTM Americas on Monday 30 September. With a specific focus on the Americas, the report analyses the key findings of 541,186 reviews written for more than 2000 luxury hotels worldwide (researched between January 2011 and June 2013). The report interprets and identifies the preferences and behaviour of current and future generations of luxury travellers and explains the key changes across the global luxury travel landscape. 

The report also highlights that 5000 Facebook ‘Likes’, a Tripadvisor rating of at least 4.5 and a strong presence on Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest are now considered the new minimum levels for social media excellence. North Americans and Europeans place the most online hotel reviews, but it is the emerging markets that lead in engagement on Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks.

Simon Mayle, Head of Marketing for ILTM comments:

“The Luxury Traveller & Social Media: The Americas’ report highlights the increasing importance of digital content in influencing today’s luxury traveller. At ILTM Americas, we will hear from leading luxury travel advisors who have created multi-voiced Facebook and Twitter campaigns which communicate their own true passion and knowledge for hyper-personalised travel experiences, and as a result, are seeing significant growth in their networks of Millennial clients.” 

There is a marked difference between North American and Latin American travellers’ preferences based on their social media reviews; North Americans seeking experiential travel with high values placed on helpfulness, empathetic service and aesthetics and Latin Americans prioritising the more key functions such as room and restaurant standards.

ILTM Americas takes place from 30 September – 3 October at Riviera Maya, Mayakoba, Mexico, hosting up to 69 pre-scheduled, one to one appointments between up to 230 buyers and 230 suppliers, with a detailed programme of social networking activities throughout. 

To download a copy of ‘The Luxury Traveller & Social Media: The Americas’, please go to www.iltm.com/socialmedia.

Moscow hosts the 2nd UNWTO Global Summit on City Tourism

The 2nd UNWTO Global Summit on City Tourism, “Innovative strategies for improving competitiveness and the development of new business models” in Moscow, capital city of the Russian Federation, (19-20 September 2013) sets the stage for the second phase of the “Cities” project initiated by UNWTO last year. 
Organized in conjunction with the Moscow City Government Committee on Tourism and Hotel Industry, the Summit will provide a platform for the presentation of the second phase of the UNWTO Cities project. How to measure the impact of tourism on cities and how to create new tourism products in urban areas are among the highlights of the event.

“City tourism has become a strategic element in urban planning and management,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “This second summit is a good opportunity to further our initial efforts in city tourism to enhance urban development, involving all relevant stakeholders, ranging from the private supply to the public of policy,” he added.

The event includes the presentation of a prototype developed in collaboration with the Madrid Visitors and Convention Bureau and the UNWTO Affiliate Members - Madrid Precious Time – as a first attempt to establish models revolving around specific areas which can be replicated in other destinations. One of the central elements of this approach is its public-private partnership component.

A new feature of the Summit will be a Speed Networking session aimed to encourage direct contact and further exchange among participants.

This event follows UNWTO’s collaboration with 21 cities worldwide which resulted in the publication of the Global Report on City Tourism (1st UNWTO Global Summit on City Tourism, Istanbul, Turkey, November 2012).

10 Great Conference Venues in London

London is one of the world’s premier business hubs. A place where people regularly meet from all over the world, and as such, a city where people need to have access to world class conference facilities for a variety of occasions. 
London certainly does not disappoint. Here is a run down of 10 of the city’s top conference venues that host a variety of events throughout the year.

1. The O2
The O2 is the world’s most popular venue. With venue spaces of a variety of size it can host large conferences and exhibitions as well as smaller intimate parties and meetings in rooms off of the main arena, which are perfect for breakout areas at a large event. It is also within a couple of miles of London CityAirport, perfect for international travellers.

One Moorgate Place

This is an historic building with bundles of character situated in the heart of the City. If you are looking to impress those who have a love of great architecture then One Moorgate Place is a fantastic venue that can house conferences for up to a couple of hundred.

3. The British Library

The British Library is not only the national library of the United Kingdom but also one of the world’s greatest academic institutions. Situated next to Kings Cross St Pancras, fantastic for access to Europe via Eurostar, it houses a number of meeting and conference rooms.

4. Kensington Conference & Events Centre

Situated in South West London, this conference centre has spaces available for a variety of events of many sizes, and also provides easy access to London’s prime museum district in South Kensington.

5. The Barbican

The Barbican, situated in the heart of the City, is Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue. It has a variety of rooms ideal for everything from board meetings to exhibitions, including a large theatre that can seat hundreds.

6. ILEC Conference Centre

This conference centre is one of the largest hotel venues in West London. Not only does it house a number of its own meeting and conference rooms, but is also located next to Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre.

7. ExCel

One of the largest and most flexible spaces in the UK, and London’s only International Convention Centre, ExCel is located in East London near the city’s tech hub, and is a great space for forward thinking tech events.

8. Earl’s Court

Earl’s Court has a number of conference and meeting rooms that can be used for conferences large and small. The main hall, the largest venue in West London, has a capacity for up to 20,000, and the smaller halls and rooms are ideal for catering for numbers in the low hundreds.

9. Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre

With seven rooms catering for audiences of up of up to 1,000, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is a flexible venue capable of hosting a variety of conference styles. Situated in Westminster adjacent to the House of Parliament, it is a fantastic location to attract visitors to one of London’s most historic areas.

Imperial CollegeLondon

Recently rated the 5th best university in the world, Imperial College London houses numerous large event spaces in stunning architectural surroundings. Situated in London’s museum district in South Kensington, this venue is perfect for those looking to bring an academic feel to their conference.

These are just a few suggestions for conference venues in London. Naturally there are plenty more to choose from, each offering its own unique experience and surroundings, fit for any conference style or theme.

Bio: Jonathan is writing on behalf of Virtual Venue Visit, which provides video tours of top conference venues for event professionals to browse from their desks.

La Reunion & Seychelles discuss coming October Creole Festival in Seychelles

Mr Jean Francois Sita and Mrs Corine Beaulieu called a meeting with all the different sections from both the Regional Council of La Reunion and also its General Council to discuss the island's participation in the 28th Edition of the Creole Festival in Seychelles tho coming October. 
Also present was Mr Pascal Viroleau, the CEO of the IRT (Ile Reunion Tourisme) who will be using the event to also showcase La Reunion as a tourism destination to the invited press and to the general public.

The meeting coincided with the working visit to La Reunion by the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, Mr Alain St.Ange. It is the Department of Culture of the Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and Culture who are mandated to organize this Creole Festival and to regroup the Creole Speaking Countries of the World in the one celebration.

La Reunion Island are making their mark at this coming edition of the Creole Festival not only with the their traditional cultural participation with music, dance and food, but they are taking their delegation to new heights with an important contingent from the island's business community to showcase all products made in La Reunion inclusive of the creative industry range.

The La Reunion delegation will also have a group of businessmen who are specialists in the world of renewable energy and water.

"The aim of regrouping everyone from the Creole Speaking World is to firstly showcase the Creole People in all its diversity, but it is also to open trading possibilities between our islands. We salute La Reunion Island for the initiative to use this Creole Festival to open business opportunities for their manufacturers, artisans, musicians and artists. We shall be working with them to ensure that they find local partners in Seychelles to become their agents and start importing intro Seychelles products made in the Indian Ocean Region" said Alain St.Ange to the press after the meeting. 

The Minister from Seychelles also said that the La Reunion Leaders are working hard to open new avenues for their business community. The Minister also said that it was now confirmed that not only Seychelles and La Reunion, but Mauritius, Rodrigues of Mauritius, Creole Speaking Louisiana in the USA, Haiti and Martinique were all going to be in Seychelles for the 28th Edition of the Creole Festival from the 25th of October.

Aeroflot Offers 20% Discount on Air Tickets to Russia’s Far East

Aeroflot reduces by 20% all economy fares for the flights from Moscow to the cities of Russian Far East: Blagoveshchensk, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. 
The discount will apply to the tickets on sale from September 18 and until the end of 2013. 

This is yet another action of Russia’s leading airline aiming to help people of the region that suffered from disastrous floods. “A natural disaster demands efforts from us so we made a decision to lower economy fares for the flights to Far East by 20% until the end of the current year,” – announced Aeroflot CEO Vitaly Saveliev during his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday.

Aeroflot has already actively stepped in helping the victims of high-water. The airline transfers and evacuates children from the flooded regions; transports volunteers to assist in rescue operations and humanitarian aid e.g. provision, baby food, hygienic supplies, medicaments and consumables. Additional transportation of volunteers to Khabarovsk is planned to accelerate restoration works and preparation of damaged housing for winter season.

Aeroflot Management Board agreed on rendering financial assistance of 10 million rubles to the region in distress. Besides, company’s employees of all ranks voluntarily transferred part of their salaries to the victims of the floods. 

These actions fully correspond with Aeroflot’s traditions and philosophy of socially responsible company, always ready to help people in critical situations.

Wizz Air Ukraine announce new base

Wizz Air Ukraine has announced that it will use its fifth Airbus A320, due for delivery early next year, to open a third base in the country at Lviv International Airport. 
The low-cost carrier will station the 180-seat aircraft at the western Ukrainian facility from April 30, 2014 to introduce an additional 12 weekly flights across five new routes.

The airline made its debut in Lviv in September 2008 when it first introduced domestic links from Kiev and Simferopol. From 2009 it started to focus on international services and it currently has links from Bergamo, Dortmund and Treviso. It will now add links to Barcelona Girona, Naples, Rome, Valencia and the Georgian city of Kutaisi, the latter subject to regulatory approval. The Barcelona Girona, Naples and Valencia routes will be served on a twice weekly basis, while Kutaisi and Rome will have three flights a week.

According to the carrier, this expansion represents a fleet investment in Lviv of approximately $80 million (at list price) and will grow capacity at the airport to over 300,000 seats in 2014. “By basing our aircraft in Lviv and opening new routes, we support job creation in the region. Our commitment to Ukraine is clear - we deliver reliable air traffic operations with low fares,” said Bus.

Wizz Air Ukraine was created to launch domestic operations in Ukraine in July 2008 and currently has its main base at Kiev’s Zhuliany International Airport and from where it serves an expanding network of domestic and international destinations. The carrier confirmed ahead of Routes CIS this year that it would also base one new Airbus A320 at Donetsk’s Sergey Prokofiev International Airport from October 2013 to increase its existing Kutaisi route to five times weekly and introduce a three times weekly link to Bergamo and twice weekly flights to London Luton, Memmingen and Rome Fiumicino.

Starwood Hotels’ Sizzling Aloft Brand Arrives in Panama

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced that its Aloft brand has arrived in Panama, one of the most important travel markets in the Americas. 
Aloft Panama is the fourth Aloft hotel to open in Latin America, since the brand made its debut less than two years ago. It is owned and operated by Nuevos Hoteles de Panama S.A. under a franchise agreement. Aloft Panama offers 139 spacious loft-like rooms, tech forward innovation and a buzzing, social atmosphere. By 2014, it will offer an additional 186 rooms as part of an expansion phase. 

Panama is one of the most dynamic travel markets in the Americas, with a high-demand of business travel and an increasing number of leisure tourism. Strategically, Panama is an important market for Starwood. Following this opening, Starwood will operate five brands in the country, including Aloft, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Meridien and Westin, and will extend its footprint to eight hotels. 

Aloft Panama is adjacent to Sheraton Panama and Convention Center and strategically located across the city’s ATLAPA Convention Center and is approximately 5 KM from downtown and the financial center, making it an ideal choice for savvy business travelers. Amenities include an outdoor SplashSM pool, W XYZsm bar, RE:FUEL by Aloft, its 24/7 pantry for self-service light meals and snacks with healthy options, and RE:CHARGE, Aloft’s 24/7 gym, and nearly 5,800 square feet of flexible meeting space ideal for both business meetings and social gatherings. 

Pioneering initiatives in music, design, and technology have positioned Aloft as a must-have brand for the next generation of travelers. Aloft has reported consistently high guest satisfaction scores since launch, reflecting the success of its modern and vibrant design at an affordable price point. 

The opening of Aloft Panama will mark Starwood’s fourth Aloft hotel in Latin America following the opening of Aloft Cancun, opened in July; Aloft San Jose, Costa Rica in 2012 and Aloft Bogota in 2011. Four more hotels are slated to open, including Aloft Guadalajara in 2013; Aloft Merida in 2014; and Aloft Montevideo and Aloft Asuncion in 2015.

Ascend Collection Expands in Europe, Australia

Ascend Hotel Collection from Choice Hotels International, Inc. continues its global expansion with the announcement that two boutique hotels have joined the portfolio. 
These properties are the Gibson Hotel, Dublin, Ireland, and Lindenwarrah at Milawa, Australia. The announcement was made to industry insiders at the 19th annual meeting of The Lodging Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Ascend Hotel Collection is a portfolio of upscale independent hotels with rich local character. With its latest additions, the group now has 108 properties in North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Australia.

Gibson Hotel

Located in Dublin’s new cultural hub, the gibson hotel is 10 minutes from the airport and a short stroll along the Liffey River to the city center. The 252-room property features cutting-edge design, high-energy ambiance and guest comfort. Visitors to the hotel can enjoy a destination restaurant and bar; state-of-the-art gym; relaxation areas; courtyards; business center; and extensive square feet of meeting space with sweeping views of the Dublin cityscape.

Spanning two floors, the conference area has nine contemporary meeting rooms accommodating up to 300 people and is equipped with free Wi-Fi and the latest audio-visual technology. An experienced team of event planners assures impeccable, memorable affairs. Also part of the gibson hotel experience: a relaxation area with sauna and steam room; Japanese copper baths on the terrace with mountain vistas; and courtyards, with towering bamboos and water features. Guests can enjoy a Zen-like atmosphere in the heart of the bustling city.

Guestrooms feature custom furnishings, a soothing neutral color palette, plush beds and natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Many rooms include private balconies with stunning views of tranquil interior courtyards or the Dublin skyline.

Lindenwarrah at Milawa

Lindenwarrah combines the distinctiveness of a boutique hotel with the tranquility of its mountain and vineyard setting. Food and wine play a prominent role at this retreat in the heart of the renowned Milawa Gourmet Region. This hotel exudes laid-back luxury with 40 individually decorated guestrooms and suites, a fine-dining restaurant, bar, spa, lounge areas with Australian artwork, rooftop terrace, sunny courtyards and state-of-the-art meeting and event space.

Guestrooms feature contemporary furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of sunrises and sunsets. Rooms open onto balconies or peaceful gardens. The bright, airy Restaurant Merlot serves breakfast and dinner featuring fine regional cuisine. At the Spa at Lindenwarrah, guests can enjoy massages or relax in a sauna and outdoor solar-heated swimming pool. Bringing a touch of the outdoors in, meeting and banquet space accommodates up to 120 people in modern, light-filled rooms that open onto a large terrace. 

Lindenwarrah is next door to the famous Brown Brothers Winery and Epicurean Center and within walking distance to other regional culinary delights. Additionally, guests can hop on a bike and pedal past acres of vineyards to villages with small producers to fill their basket with nuts, honey, wine, olives and more.

Hilton HHonors Partners Vietnam Airlines’ Golden Lotus Plus

Hilton HHonors, the loyalty program for Hilton Worldwide’s 10 distinct hotel brands, announced a new alliance with Vietnam Airlines’ frequent flyer program, Golden Lotus Plus. 
Under this partnership, members of both programs can now earn Hilton HHonors points and Golden Lotus Plus miles when they stay at any of the more than 4,000 participating hotels within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio. 

Through this alliance, Hilton HHonors members can earn 10 HHonors base points + 1 Golden Lotus Plus mile for every dollar spent during their stay at a participating hotel within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio (and up to 100 Golden Lotus Plus miles for stays at Hampton Inn & Suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton).

andel’s Hotel Berlin goes green with Electric cars for hire

Berlin’s largest design hotel is teaming up with Europcar, the leader in car rental services in Europe, to offer its guests a cool, environmentally friendly alternative to taxis and public transport. 

Effective immediately, two electric-powered supermini-sized cars are available for hire at the andel’s Hotel Berlin. The electric cars are recharged with guaranteed electricity from renewable sources via remote-controlled charging stations from RWE. The andel’s Hotel Berlin has installed a total of three RWE eBox remotes, the first of their kind in use at a hotel. 

“With the Citroën C-Zero electric rental car, our guests can explore the city quietly, affordably and emissions-free,” explains Ralph Alsdorf, General Manager of the andel’s Hotel Berlin. The electric rental cars from Europcar have a maximum range of 160 kilometres on a single charge and can be recharged for free with 100 percent green electricity at one of 290 RWE charging stations throughout Berlin. The cars, which are available for a daily rate of just € 60, can be hired by guests of the andel’s Hotel Berlin as well as by external visitors. 

The andel’s Hotel Berlin has installed three charging stations from RWE to speed up the charging process. The eBox remote can recharge the battery of an electric car quickly and safely with up to 11 KW. “Thanks to the RWE eBox remote, our guests can hire the electric cars in short intervals without long waits in between,” says Ralph Alsdorf. “The charging stations are also available for guests arriving with their own electric cars who want to fill up.” The RWE eBox remote is unique in that it is easy to use and can even be operated from a distance of up to 50 metres, making it possible to remotely charge the electric cars comfortably via smartphone, tablet or PC from the concierge’s desk. The andel’s Hotel Berlin is the first hotel in Germany to make use of this technology. 

With the new electric rental cars, the andel’s Hotel Berlin is taking a further step towards more sustainability and environmental awareness in its business practices and daily activities. In August 2013, Berlin’s largest design hotel was, for the third year in a row, awarded the internationally recognised Green Globe certification for its active contribution to environmentally and socially sustainable development on the Berlin hotel market. 

The andel’s Hotel Berlin has put together a special rental car package for its guests. With the “sleep.drive.green” package, guests hire their electric rental car directly in combination with an overnight accommodation in one of the hotel’s 557 stylish guest rooms. The price of € 84.50 per person includes an extensive breakfast buffet and free use of the large a.spa with two saunas, steam bath, whirlpool, fitness studio and relaxation terraces. The andel’s Hotel Berlin accepts reservations at www.andelsberlin.com.

Kempinski Hotels focuses portfolio expansion on Africa.

NAIROBI, KENYA - Kempinski Hotels has announced plans to expand its portfolio of luxury hotels in Africa. With two new properties opened in Kenya in 2013, Kempinski looks to add five more hotels to its African portfolio in the next year.

Upcoming openings in Africa in 2014 include the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City in Accra, Ghana and the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski in Cairo, Egypt set to open early in the year, as well as a newly signed 450 key hotel in the future capital of Equatorial Guinea, Oyala. Additional plans are moving forward to open hotels in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of the year.

At a press conference at the new Villa Rosa Kempinski in Nairobi, President and CEO of Kempinski Hotels, Mr. Reto Wittwer told reporters that following the company's success expanding into the Middle East and China over the past twenty years, Kempinski expects its growing portfolio in key destinations across the African continent to become a major source of revenue for the company, as well as provide new sources for talent and talent development across the company.

Kempinski Hotels currently operates 82 hotels in 31 countries and has 37 more hotels under development worldwide. Congratulating the team of Villa Rosa Kempinski on the occasion of their recent opening Mr. Wittwer stated "We will continue our development strategy throughout the continent over the next few years, partnering with key players in Africa to secure the best locations for our luxury properties. There is a worldwide fascination with this region and we believe in the strength of places like Kenya as a destination. Our distinct brand of European luxury and operational know-how makes us a key player in all the markets we operate in, and we expect that our new property here in Nairobi will be no different," explained Mr. Wittwer.

"African hospitality traditions lay a great foundation for our global expansion here in Africa, and around the globe. Kempinski places a great emphasis on recruiting and retaining the best talent in the industry and the quality of candidates we are encountering in places like Kenya and Ghana, gives us great confidence that we will be able to deliver the service that we have built our reputation on over the past 116 years that Kempinski has been in operation" said Mr. Wittwer.

Kempinski currently operates hotels in Egypt, Djibouti, Tchad, Seychelles, and Kenya. With five hotels set to open in Africa in the next year, Kempinski will hire more than 1500 people in the next twelve months, nearly doubling its current workforce on the continent, and will draw heavily on local talent in each destination.

"Finding new talent, which will push us further in the future, continues to be our utmost priority," said Mr. Wittwer. "We are looking for candidates who are interested in different cultures, speak various languages, share our passion for hospitality, and are looking for a bit of an adventure abroad." He continued "In addition to our needs in Africa in the next twelve months, our global expansion plans for the next five years will require an additional 12,000 new members of staff, and it is essential to attract and retain talented people who are dedicated to offering our guests the outstanding service that Kempinski is known for."

Recent and upcoming openings in Africa
The five-star Villa Rosa Kempinski is located on Chiromo road, within the Westlands area in the heart of Nairobi. It is only a half-hour drive from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and five minute drive to the Nairobi Central Business District. The new luxury hotel will consist of 200 spacious rooms and suites distributed over ten floors, including two Presidential Suites on the top floor. The hotel will feature three concept restaurants in addition to an all-day dining restaurant, a bar, and a cigar lounge.

Olare Mara Kempinski luxury camp is located in the beautiful Olare Orok Conservancy, which is home to some of the Mara's largest lion prides. The property features twelve spacious luxury tents, which are built on elevated decks with private balconies that offer unhindered views of the Mara Plains and the Ntiakitiak River.

Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra set to open in early 2014 will offer 269 rooms, including 22 suites and two Presidential Suites and will feature include two restaurants, a lobby cafe with outdoor seating, a cocktail bar and lounge and 6,000 square metres of retail space. The 3,000 square metre Resense Spa (the first branded Resense spa in Africa) will offer 10 treatment rooms, a beauty parlour, a fitness centre, a yoga studio, an organic food bar, a 25-metre outdoor pool, two table tennis courts and two tennis courts. It will set new standards for luxury, quality and service across all of West Africa.

Set atop the budding desert hills of New Cairo and just minutes away from Cairo International Airport, the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski opening in early 2014 will be beacon of grandeur and luxurious hospitality. Guests will enjoy cool breezes of desert evenings in lush open spaces, the aromatic flavors of signature restaurants, as well as the serenity of 244 spacious, stylish rooms and suites. Housing the largest ballroom in the Middle East the hotel is set to become the most sought after venue in the city for conventions and celebrations.

Kempinski Hotel Oyala, due to open in early 2014 will be the first luxury hotel in the city and marks the debut of the Kempinski brand in the future capital of Equatorial Guinea. The newly built hotel is made up of 400 rooms and 50 suites, modern meetings and conference facilities for up to 2,000, restaurants, lounges, spa and a championship golf course.

The European Court reshuffles VAT rules for travel agents

The European Court of Justice handed down a decision in 8 cases brought against Member States for the incorrect application of the special VAT scheme for travel agents. Travel agents all over Europe will now have to apply the margin taxation scheme to supplies of travel services to all types of customers and may no longer benefit from the essential simplification of a global margin calculation.  

The Court dismisses the actions brought by the European Commission against Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, France, Finland, Portugal and Spain for failure to comply with the special VAT scheme applicable for travel agents, as provided for in article 306-310 of the EU VAT Directive.

The Commission contended that the special VAT scheme for travel agents is applicable solely to sales of travel services to the ‘travellers’, i.e. legal and natural persons using the travel services. The extension of the special VAT scheme for travel agents to other supplies of travel services, such as supplies to other travel agents (so-called wholesale supplies), is not allowed. This misinterpretation is due to a mistake in the some language versions of the Directive, which incorrectly uses the broader term of ‘customer’ rather than ‘traveller’.

In its judgments, the Court acknowledges the different use of terms in the various language versions and even within the same language version. In light of these divergences, the EU provisions must be interpreted by reference to the general scheme and purpose of the rules of which it forms part. In that regard, the Court considers that an approach consisting in applying the special scheme to any type of customer is the best way of achieving the aims of the scheme. It enables travel agents to benefit from simplified rules regardless of the type of customer to whom they provide their services, while encouraging a fair distribution of receipts between the Member States. Thus the special VAT scheme must apply to all sales of travel services in accordance with Article 306 of the VAT Directive and cannot be limited to supplies made to ‘travellers’.

The Court’s judgment will have far-reaching consequences for travel agents in the other 20 Member States, which will now have to change their legislation to bring it in line with the Court’s decision. The extension of the scope of the special scheme to all supplies of travel services in accordance with Article 306 of the VAT Directive will no doubt create distortions of competition between travel agents and the suppliers of the underlying services (e.g. hotel, transport undertaking etc.) as the margin scheme denies taxable customers the right to recover input VAT on the underlying travel services, to the extent that VAT can be partially or fully recovered on such services (there are different rules in Member States on VAT recovery on costs such as hotel accommodation and meals incurred in the course of business), and the VAT on the travel agent’s margin. Any cause that inhibits a right to recover VAT that is otherwise deductible in the intermediary consumption stage for a business customer is contrary to the basic principle of neutrality of the Community VAT system and will leave such taxable customers financially better off to buy the services directly from the service suppliers.

As regards Spain, the Commission claimed four further infringements of the EU VAT provisions for travel agents, notably the exclusion from the special scheme of retail agents selling in their own name travel services put together by wholesale agents, the issuance of an invoice with VAT not related to the output VAT due, the right to input VAT deduction restricted to services supplied in Spain and the use of a global margin calculation.

In all four points, the Court upheld the claims of the European Commission. These are issues relating to the specific legislation in Spain, with the notable exception of the global margin calculation. The latter allows travel agents to determine their margin over a period of time rather than transaction by transaction and is current practice in the vast majority of Member States. The calculation of the margin on a transaction basis would be very burdensome and even impracticable due to the fact that the taxable amount cannot be determined at the tax point because of late invoices of suppliers, refunds to or (part) cancelations of customers, additional commissions from suppliers such as volume rebate at the end of the year, etc. It would require many adjustments to invoices and thus the VAT due.

Said ECTAA President, Boris Zgomba: “The special VAT scheme for travel agents is a useful simplification for travel agents. However, the judgement of the ECoJ will bring about far-reaching changes to the national legislation in more than 2/3rd of the EU Member States. Travel agents supplying to taxable persons stand to lose most.” He also added: “The abolishment of the global margin calculation is a non-sense. The determination of the profit margin on a transaction basis would defeat the very essence of the margin taxation scheme which is to simplify the VAT obligations of travel agents”.

Travel agents, who acquire travel services from third parties and sell them in their own name to the customer, benefit from a special VAT scheme, as provided for in articles 306-310 of the VAT Directive 2006/112/EC.

The special scheme for travel agents has been introduced as a trade facilitation measure. Its objective is to prevent the complications that the application of the normal VAT rules would cause travel agents where they sell services supplied outside the Member State concerned. Under the normal VAT rules, travel agents would have to pay VAT on every supply of services made to him and register in each Member State from which he purchased services. But under the special 'margin' scheme all transactions performed by the travel agent in respect of a journey are treated as a single supply of services for VAT purposes, taxable in his own Member State. He has no right to deduct VAT on supplies made to him, but on the other hand he is only taxed on the profit margin realised on the supply of the travel package.
The special scheme also has the advantage that VAT revenues are allocated to the Member State where the final consumption of each individual service takes place, i.e. VAT on the travel agent’s supply goes to the Member State where the travel agent is established and where the profit is generated, while the VAT on the hotel accommodation is allocated to the Member State where the service is rendered.

In 2002 the European Commission presented a legislative proposal to revise the special scheme for travel agents (COM(2002) 64 final). The objective of the proposal was to modernize the special scheme and to ensure a more uniform application of the special scheme across the EU Member States.

ECTAA strongly welcomed and supported the initiative of the Commission on the revision of the margin scheme. The industry would like to see the adoption of a scheme which would retain the existing benefit of simplicity but which would address the distortions and inequities inherent in the current arrangements.

Regretfully, the Member States were unable to find agreement on a compromise text in the Council discussions in 2002-2003 and again 2010-2011.

In 2007, the European Commissionn started infringement proceedings against a number of Member States for the incorrect application of the special scheme. The Court has now rendered its judgment in the 8 cases.

ECTAA regroups the national associations of travel agents and tour operators of 30 European countries, of which 26 are within the European Union, and represents some 70.000 enterprises.