Δευτέρα, 31 Μαρτίου 2014

Finnair welcomes TAM Airlines and US Airways to oneworld

TAM Airlines and US Airways  completed their transition to oneworld, marking the biggest single-day expansion of the world’s leading quality airline alliance since its launch 15 years ago.

From today, the 140 million members of the established oneworld airlines’ frequent flyer programs can earn and redeem awards and tier status points and receive all other oneworld benefits when flying on TAM and US Airways. To celebrate the additions to oneworld, Finnair Plus members will receive double the normal mileage awards when flying on TAM during May, and double the regular mileage awards when flying on US Airways between April 1 and June 30.

TAM and US Airways significantly expand the alliance on many key measures:

• Increasing the number of passengers carried annually across the alliance network by a third, adding another 120 million customers a year
• Expanding the annual capacity offered by the alliance by 20 per cent
• Adding almost a hundred destinations to the oneworld network – nearly a 10 per cent increase

“We at Finnair are very excited to welcome this extremely significant expansion of the oneworld family in the Americas,” says Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo. “Finnair passengers can increasingly feel at home with fellow oneworld carriers on every continent, and Finnair Plus membership now has more utility than ever, as customers are able to earn points and redeem them for services and flights all over North and South America.”

oneworld becomes the top alliance in the Americas

As the leading airline in Brazil, TAM Airlines makes oneworld the leading alliance in Latin America’s largest economy and the world’s third largest market for domestic air travel. Using the two-letter code JJ, TAM serves 61 destinations in 16 countries in Latin America, the USA and Europe, with a fleet of 172 aircraft operating 800 departures daily. It boarded 37 million passengers in 2013. It has added nearly 45 destinations in Brazil to the oneworld network, and its home base São Paulo, the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere and in the Americas, becomes a new hub for oneworld.

LAN Airlines, TAM’s partner in LATAM Airlines Group, has been a full member of oneworld since 2000 with all the other LAN passenger airlines joining the alliance as affiliate members since – LAN Argentina, LAN Colombia, LAN Ecuador and LAN Peru. The addition of TAM consolidates oneworld’s position as the leading alliance for flights within Latin America and between the region and both the United States and Europe.

US Airways brings more than 50 destinations to the oneworld map along with its key hubs of Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington DC’s Reagan National, expanding oneworld’s presence across the United States, particularly throughout the East Coast and across the North Atlantic. US Airways’ merger with American Airlines has created the world’s largest airline on most measures. With both American and US Airways on board, oneworld becomes the leading alliance in the United States, the world’s largest air travel market.

Until the full integration of American Airlines and US Airways – which will see the combined airline retaining the American Airlines name – US Airways and its regional carriers will operate as oneworld affiliate members, under the American umbrella. During the transition period as they work toward their full integration, American and US Airways will maintain their current loyalty programs, American’s AAdvantage and US Airways’ Dividend Miles.

With its regional affiliates, US Airways serves more than 200 destinations and 30 countries with a fleet of more than 620 aircraft. It carried 82.5 million passengers in 2013 and currently operates 3,200 departures a day. It uses the two-letter code US, but this will be changed to AA once the two airlines combine under a single operating certificate.

The alliance’s welcome to TAM and US Airways today, to be followed on May 1 by SriLankan Airlines, completes what has been oneworld’s biggest expansion program to date, with the addition in the past two years also of airberlin, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways.

With these recruits, oneworld:
• Serves almost a thousand airports in 150 countries, with 14,250 daily departures.
• Carries more than 500 million passengers a year on a combined fleet of some 3,300 aircraft.
• Generates US$ 140 billion annual revenues.
• Offers more than 600 airport lounges, including many frequently rated the world’s best.

oneworld’s other members include airbelin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and more than 20 affiliates.

Global Report on the Meeting Industry launched by UNWTO

UNWTO announced the release of Global Report on the Meetings Industry that provides an overall view of the main issues facing destinations aiming to build a competitive meetings industry along with case studies from around the world.
“This report shows that public-private collaboration and partnerships are fundamental for taping into this valuable market and harnessing its many benefits”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in presenting the report. “The Meetings Industry has been systematically studied by UNWTO for over a decade, including the definition of the scope of this segment and the methodology required for the measurement of its economic contribution”, he added.
The report is the seventh volume of the UNWTO Affiliate Member Reports, which address critical areas for the tourism sector against the backdrop of private-public collaboration and partnerships. The study was produced with the collaboration of Meetings Professionals International (MPI), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the Asociación de Palacios de Congresos de España (APCE), the Asociación de Ferias Españolas (AFE), the Organización Profesional de Congresos (OPC), the Association of Spanish Destination Management Companies (DMCs Spain) and the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE).

Air France CEO to open Routes Europe Strategy Summit

Taking place on Sunday 6th April 2014 and open to all attending delegates, the Strategy Summit will open Routes Europe in Marseille.
At the summit, discussions will focus on topics such as: How the low cost carrier model is evolving; Government policies and how industry bodies can work together to implement changes for the good of the whole industry; and How, as the fastest growing segment of the travel and tourism industry, the cruise industry can work more closely with the aviation industry.
Frédéric Gagey
One of the highlights of this year’s Routes Europe Strategy Summit will be the keynote address from Frédéric Gagey Chairman & CEO of Air France. The Summit, which is sponsored by Edmonton International Airport, will provide a valuable insight into aviation across the region, as panels of leading industry experts take part in a number of moderator led discussions addressing key air service development issues
Mr. Gagey commented: “The Routes Europe Strategy Summit offers a unique opportunity to promote dialogue between airlines, airports and aviation stakeholders. At a time of volatile economic environment and increased competition, it is key to meet, to exchange strategic views on the regulatory environment and to plan for the future. We at Air France are proud to be part of this unrivalled platform, gathering so many decision makers of the air transport industry and organized in Marseille, a great city where, with 400 flights per week, our airline feels at home.”


1) helloworld CEO Rob Gurney resigns

Rob Gurney has announced he’s stepping down from his position as Managing Director and CEO of helloworld, with current CFO Elizabeth Gaines taking over with immediate effect.  “Rob indicated to the board that as the helloworld business transformation is now at an advanced stage, he wishes to pursue a new opportunity with an international focus,” according to a statement from helloworld Limited.  helloworld Chairman Tom Dery said together with the helloworld executives, Mr Gurney had overseen the development of the helloworld brand, engaged key stakeholders and concluded major commercial agreements.

2) High costs close Baillies Sydney Plans

Increased construction costs and regulatory constraints have put a stop to the planned Baillies Sydney development.  The luxury accommodation group Baillie Lodges confirmed the suspension of its planned nine-suite luxury hotel.  The development was to be within heritage buildings in Sydney’s Rocks precinct and had been scheduled for completion in 2015..

3) Time poor tourism industry puts marketing research on back seat

Opportunities to capture the travel and tourism market are being wasted, as marketers are unaware of research available to them to make better choices in marketing.  Smaller, provincial and upcountry destinations and operators are not armed with the insight and tools that they need to implement strategic and tactical marketing.  Each year tourism departments in governments, companies and associations spend millions of tax payer dollars on market research and insights relating to the travel and tourism industry, however this effort is often wasted.  

4) AAT Kings rolls adventure brands together

Touring company AAT Kings has expanded their offerings with Aussie Adventures as the Downunder Adventures brand is folded into the company’s main budget product.  AAT Kings Managing Director Anthony Hayes said re-branding the Downunder Adventures product to Aussie Adventures was the next important step in growing the Aussie Adventures story in Australia.  “Aussie Adventures continues to go from strength to strength and is now represented in the Top End, Sydney and Kangaroo Island,” Mr Hayes added.

5) NZ to benefit from better technology

Enhancing visitor experience through improved technology is a critical enabler, according to Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) Policy and Research Manager Simon Wallace.  A new report from the Innovation Partnership revealed more effective business use of the internet could add as much as $34 billion each year to the New Zealand economy, further backing up the findings back up the Tourism 2025 growth framework.  Mr Walllace said it can be a powerful sales tool, “those businesses that can attract customers with an engaging website and make it easy for them to book and pay at the same time are going to reap the rewards.”  TIA welcomed the new digital tool Digital Journey, which will be able to help small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) assess their digital maturity and put together an action plan to make better use of online services.

6) HotelsCombined builds Asia presence

Australian company HotelsCombined has partnered with Zodio to further expand their offerings in Asia. The Thai-based iPhone search app Zodio provides tips and reviews on a variety of different businesses ranging from nightclubs to spas.  The alliance will see Zodio allowing HotelsCombined to power a hotel price comparison aggregation platform.  This will allow users to search for hotels, browse ratings and read reviews.  From here, Zodio will also show a ‘Book Now’ button to allow users to complete their booking.  The feature is currently only available in the iPhone app with potential future integration into other platforms.

7) VA 4 million members and growing

Virgin Australia is feeling the love in Australia as they continue to grow their Velocity frequent flyer membership numbers. Recently welcoming their 4 millionth frequent flyer member, a Virgin Australia spokesperson told KarryOn that the average number of joins per day continues to increase, with a record breaking 4,500 members joining in one day last week.  The airline continues to focus on enhancing and growing the program, giving members more ways to earn points.  In recent months, Velocity membership has seen a number of enhancements including the ability for members to book an upgrade on more fare types and a market first ability to earn on reward seats, family pooling and rewarding points in accordance with the fare you pay.

8) EK capacity boost for LGW

Emirates will increase the capacity of travellers in and out of London Gatwick (LGW) by 15 percent with the launch of their A380 flights. Following on from London Heathrow, the airline will be the first to service London Gatwick with the A380 aircraft. Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations West Hubert Frach, said “six years after launch the Emirates A380 is still a customer magnet, with airports the world over are eager to have the Emirates A380 on their roster and today’s launch to London Gatwick is representative of that demand.”  Meanwhile, Emirates received a double, double-decker delivery, as their 46th and 47th A380 aircraft arrived in Dubai in the early hours of Friday.

9) NZ supports AKL airport growth

Auckland International Airport Limited’s announcement of a development plan aimed at growing visitor numbers from 14 million to 40 million in the next 30 years has been welcomed by the national airline Air New Zealand.  Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon recognises the importance of Auckland airport as a key piece of national infrastructure and says the plan offers enormous potential benefits to tourism.  The announcement comes days after the launch of national framework Tourism 2025.

10) MH flying family to Perth

Malaysia Airlines has released a statement saying they will fly family members from fatal flight MH370 to Perth once it has been authoritatively confirmed that the physical wreckage found is that of MH370.  This will also be after relevant government agencies have provided clearances for Malaysia Airlines to bring family members to the site where aircraft wreckage will be kept.
Ready to meet family members will be a Family Assistance Centre (FAC) in Perth which will become the focal point for all activities that have been planned for the families including briefings, religious and prayer services.

11) Tahiti treats at TravelMart

From the picture perfect shores of Bora Bora and Moorea to Huahine’s Garden of Eden, a group of 10 Australian travel agents were treated Tahitian style for the annual TravelMart conference. Held in Tahiti last week, the agents enjoyed a week-long busy but blissful tour of Tahiti. Held at the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti, the Tahiti TravelMart provided agents with a valuable opportunity to familiarise themselves with the latest products, providers and offerings in the region.  Tahiti Tourisme Australia Director Robert Thompson said the annual meeting was also a great way to promote visitation beyond Tahiti’s well-known destinations of Bora Bora, Moorea and Papeete.

12) TravelManagers sales sky high

It has been a positive start to 2014 for TravelManagers with their personal travel managers producing a new high in monthly sales revenue and a record number of new managers signing up.  January sales were 29 percent higher than last year, followed by an 11 percent increase in February.
TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager Michael Gazal said “our consistent increase in sales further cements TravelManagers’ standing in the industry and naturally we are seeing more interest from travel agency owners and managers to join our business model.”  Recruitment increased by 120 percent in January and 20 percent in February compared to 2013.

13) Scenic Tours $200 OBC offer

Guests who book on Scenic Tours Russia River Cruising program for 2015 can enjoy a $200 on board credit with the pre-release offer.  This deal is in addition to securing the date and cabin of choice from the entire cruising season, the very best Earlybird offer and any special upgrades released in the full Europe River Cruising (including Russia) 2015 brochure.  Scenic Tours Russia River Cruising will feature the boutique small ship, Scenic Tsar, which is the first new ship to be registered in Russia in 25 years.  The Scenic Tsar will take a maximum of 112 guests from St Petersburg to Moscow through Russia’s hidden imperial
jewels, The Kremlin, Red Square, Peterhof Palace and St Basil’s Cathedral, and will visit Kizhi Island, Goritsy and two of the ‘Golden Ring’ cities.

14) Wicked witches at Wotif.com

Travel website Wotif.com is bringing spellbinding Sydney travel packages to Aussies as they partner with Broadway musical WICKED.  The bewitching Sydney travel packages combine flights, hotel and theatre tickets.  Wotif.com is the official travel partner for the Sydney season of WICKED.  Set to thrill audiences at the Capitol Theatre from 20 September 2014, WICKED is based on the untold story of the Witches of Oz.
Was sourced from carryon

Aeroflot: Passenger traffic for the first two months of 2014 totalled 3.14 mln

MOSCOW – JSC Aeroflot announces operating results of the company and Aeroflot Group for February 2014. 

Aeroflot standalone:

  • Passenger traffic in February 2014 totalled 1.56 mln. This represented 14.9% year-on-year growth, considerably ahead of the overall Russian industry growth rate for the period of 8.9%. At the same time, domestic passenger traffic increased by 31.1% year-on-year, driven by Aeroflot’s active role in transporting guests of the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Passenger traffic for the first two months of 2014 totalled 3.14 mln, a 14.3% year-on-year increase and faster than the 9.7% year-on-year increase for the industry as a whole.
  • Revenue passenger kilometres (“RPK”) in February 2014 totalled 4.45 bln, a year-on-year increase of 10.0% (versus 5.6% for the industry overall). RPKs for the first two months of 2014 increased 10.0% year-on-year, ahead of the 7.4% year-on-year increase for the industry as a whole.
  • In the first two months of 2014, the Company expanded its fleet, flying five new Airbus A320s, one new Boeing 737-800 and two new Boeing 777-300ERs, which contributed to a 14.9% year-on-year rise in available seat kilometres (“ASK”).
  • Higher ASK and capacity during the reporting period enabled the company to start offering new routes for the Winter 2013/2014 season, including: Blagoveshchensk, Ulan-Ude, Chita, Yakutsk, Novokuznetsk, Magnitogorsk, Abakan and Toronto. The launch of flights to these new destinations led to a temporary decrease in the passenger load factor in February 2014 to 74.0%, 3.3 percentage points (p.p.) lower than in February 2013.

Aeroflot Group:

  • Total passenger traffic for February 2014 was 2.16 mln, growing 14.6% year-on-year. The main factor driving passenger traffic growth was a 33.0% increase in domestic traffic. Passenger traffic for the first two months of 2014 increased 13.0% year-on-year.
  • Revenue passenger kilometres in February 2014 increased 4.3% year-on-year to 5.65 bln. This growth was attributable to an increase in domestic RPK, which rose 25.0% to 2.12 bln and accounted for more than a third of the Group’s total RPK in February 2104. RPK on international flights decreased 5.2%, driven mainly by reallocation of some OrenAir capacity from Middle East and Asia routes (due to political instability) to European destinations, which drove down load factors. The Group’s RPK for the first two months of 2014 increased 4.3% year-on-year.  
  • Aeroflot Group’s passenger load factor in February 2014 was 72.7%.

STTIM 2014 poised to attract local and international experts & investors

The tourism industry is one of the key pillars of the economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In line with this, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) will organize its 7th Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market 2014 exhibition (STTIM 2014). In support to this major event, Abdul Latif Jameel Real Estate Investment Company (ALJREIC), owner and developer of Anjum Hotel in Makkah, sponsored this prestigious business-to-business and business-to-consumer travel show, as a strategic partner to the event. The event is aimed to offer an integrated platform to attract major local and international companies working in varying capacity in the Kingdom’s tourism industry.

STTIM 2014 is poised to accommodate a group of investment and development companies concerned with hotel construction and management, such as (ALJREIC) which has developed the SAR 10 billion worth Jabal Al Ka'aba project in Makkah. The company will promote its flagship “Anjum Hotel’ of the Anjum brand that will offer 1,743 rooms and suites. The latter is being established as a key contributor to support the Saudi tourism, accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims and tourists. The Anjum Hotel is the largest and the first hotel within the project. It will introduce a novel hotel concept to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, presenting a perfect blend of spirituality and genuine Hijazi hospitality.

Yousef Abdul Latif Jameel, Chairman STTIM 2014
A leading expert, investor and contributor to the local tourism development in Makkah and Saudi Arabia, Yousef Abdul Latif Jameel, Chairman of ALJREIC will be honored with a gratitude plate for his efforts and contributions to the Saudi tourism industry by His Highness Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz: the Crown Prince of the city of Riyadh during this significant event.

Speaking about ALJREIC’s developments and contributions, Jameel revealed that the company has invested a total of SAR 10 billion for the development of Jabal Al Ka'aba project in Makkah. Of the total fund, it has allocated SAR 4 billion for the development of the 1743-room Anjum Hotel in Makkah.

The launch of the Anjum Hotels hospitality brand comes in line with the company’s aim in creating a Saudi-cultured, spiritual hotel experience unlike any other. The flagship hotel of the brand Anjum is expected to efficiently serve the needs of Hajj and Ummrah visitors.

The Anjum Hotel offers an array of exclusive services including for instance a dedicated Guest Center to respond to the various requests of the guests; a “Manasek Desk” to assist guests throughout their religious rituals; furthermore, the Kids World featuring a specialised, trained team to look after children between the ages of 3 and 7; and the “Azad Floors’ which offers premium services to its guests, as well as many others.  

“Our participation in STTIM 2014 comes in line with our marketing strategy aimed at achieving industry excellence and leadership. Through this event, we look forward to throw the spotlight on Anjum Hotel as one of our first-class milestones in Makkah. The hotel is built with an aim to cater to the needs of Haj and Umrah pilgrims from various regions, including the GCC, the Arab World and Islamic countries, as well as to all visitors wanting to visit the Kingdom for religious purposes,” Jameel concluded.

Delta Vacations grows with Delta in the Dominican Republic

PUNTA CANA – Delta Vacations, a leading U.S. provider of world-class, tailored vacation packages, announced that its bookings from Delta Air Lines’ U.S. gateways to the Dominican Republic have experienced tremendous growth in the past few years.

The announcement was made during a news conference at the 2014 Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange held at the Paradisus Palma Real Convention Center.

“We’ve seen huge growth to the Dominican Republic,” said Steven Bradley, MLT Vacations Product Manager for Dominican Republic. “This growth mirrors Delta Air Lines’ increased service, particularly to Punta Cana. In fact, from January through the end 2014, Delta is expected to have increased service into Punta Cana by more than 30 percent.” 

According to Bradley, much of Delta Vacations’ growth in Punta Cana is from Delta’s two main domestic gateways, New York and Atlanta. “Between 2011 and 2013, bookings to Punta Cana from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Atlanta have seen strong triple digit growth,” said Bradley.

Romance blooms in Punta Cana
Included in these bookings are substantial increases in specialty vacations, such as destination weddings and honeymoons. Delta Vacations destination weddings business more than quadrupled between 2011 and 2013. Honeymoon vacations increased five-fold and bookings for adults-only properties nearly doubled during the same period.

With Delta Vacations, travel agents and their clients can choose from dozens of resorts that offer destination weddings, and nearly 40 properties that cater to honeymooners. Delta Vacations confirms wedding dates, times and ceremony locations, and ensures travel agents and couples are in contact with on-site wedding planners well in advance.

Along with up to 3,000 bonus miles per person, in addition to credited flight miles through the SkyMiles program, Delta Vacations destination weddings and honeymoon packages include roundtrip transfers between airport and hotel, luggage handling at hotel, maid and/or bellman gratuities and all hotel taxes.

Delta Vacations offers family, romance, luxury and other specialty vacation packages to four Dominican Republic destinations: Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, La Romana and Samana.

In cooperation with Delta Air Lines, Delta Vacations brings its travel agent partners and their clients superior levels of service, the lowest airfares on Delta, more ways to earn award travel, and a lowest price guarantee for their vacation packages.

United helps customers power up before pushing off with 500 new electronics charging stations

CHICAGO - United Airlines is making it easier for customers to power up their phones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices while traveling. This month the airline began installing nearly 500 electronics charging stations in customer seating areas at many of the airports United serves.

First on United's list is Chicago O'Hare International Airport, which will be outfitted with more than 110 of the new charging stations in Concourses B and C by the end of March. The airline will begin installing the charging stations at its Houston, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington Dulles hubs in the coming weeks as well, along with New York LaGuardia and Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.

"Our customers have told us they depend on their electronic devices to stay productive and connected at 35,000 feet, and that requires a full battery," said Jimmy Samartzis, United's vice president of customer experience. "From installing charging stations to expanding access to in-seat power and Wi-Fi, United is working to deliver a more flyer-friendly travel experience for our customers."

Each of United's new charging stations offers access to six, 110-volt power outlets and two USB ports, enabling customers to charge a range of electronic devices simultaneously. The new stations also feature a sleek design with a large "power outlet" icon and prominent United branding, helping customers quickly locate the units in gate areas.

Ecuador launches global tourism campaign: "All you need is Ecuador"

NEW YORK - Nineteen cities around the world, seven of them located in Ecuador, will see giant 19-foot letters appear on April 1 at 9 a.m. ET in emblematic places. These letters, put together, will make up the phrase "All You Need is Ecuador", the slogan of an ambitious tourism campaign that highlights the unmatched supply of tourism attractions this South American country has to offer.  

This initial stage of the campaign consists of a 10-day launch in Paris, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Bogota, New York, Santiago, Berlin, London, Lima, Mexico City, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires; while the Ecuadorian cities where these letters will appear are: Cuenca, Manta, Loja, Guayaquil, Tena, Santa Cruz and Quito.

Each letter will have a different design representing a product, artistic expression, activity or attraction of the country. These designs were selected by the Ministry of Tourism taking into consideration each city's target audience. Each letter has a quick response (QR) code, a web address and a hashtag (#) inviting the audience to interact with this campaign and find out what the letters mean.

The Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador acquired the rights of use of The Beatles' original song "All you need is love" to be used in promotional pieces that will circulate around the world in 2014.

To publicize Ecuador's tourism attractions, a large scale campaign was launched on February 28 using social network and digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and the website. The #?AllYouNeedIs hashtag used in these platforms has become a global trend that managed to make an impact on 20 million people within a period of less than 15 days.

Escaping from routine, getting away from any concerns, discovering new places, letting yourself be astonished by new cultures, harmonizing with nature, having fun, living, loving, sharing, flying, jumping, laughing and building good memories; this is what Ecuador's new tourism campaign promises for 2014, "Like nowhere else, all in one place and so close."

In an area of 98.985 square miles (256.370 Km2), Ecuador has the highest active volcanoes in the world, the magical Galapagos Islands, an Amazon jungle with the greatest concentration of species by area, beaches with tall waves and white sand; in addition to great cultural diversity that brings four very different regions to life – the Pacific Coast, the Andes Mountains, the Amazon jungle, and an insular region that is a Natural World Heritage Site.

The tourism industry is the fourth largest source of income for the Ecuadorian economy as well as an important source of job creation that is growing at a rate of 20 percent each year. In 2013, the country received more than 1.3 million tourists and in 2014, Ecuador is expecting that number to rise to 1.5 million, making then the tourism industry third place in revenue generation for the country.

Survey reveals ‘Customer Service’ and ‘Staff Productivity’ are top goals for UK travel industry

Customer service and staff productivity are the leading concerns for the travel industry, however businesses are slow to recognise how technology can help, says a new survey.

The ‘Unified Communications in Travel 2014’ survey was carried out by leading unified communications provider, Elitetele.com and UC manufacturer Swyx, in conjunction with Travolution magazine. It set out to investigate uptake and usage of advanced communications technology in the travel sector.

Polling over 80 IT and senior travel professionals, the research uncovered a range of key trends that are seen as important to the sector, but it also showed that there was a lack of awareness over how IT such as ‘unified communications’ (UC) can help to support current and future operational challenges.

Over 80% of respondents cited customer service and staff productivity as primary business drivers, however nearly three quarters of UK travel businesses are unaware of the benefits of UC; a technology that converges telephony and IT to reduce costs, enhance service and boost overall employee productivity.

Matt Newing, CEO and Founder of Elitetele.com says: “Surprisingly the research shows a clear lack of knowledge on what unified communications can offer the travel sector. Whilst most could pinpoint the benefits and business drivers of upgrading current systems, they didn’t know what unified comms was or how it could significantly impact their operations.”

Ralf Ebbinghaus, CEO at UC Vendor Swyx who co-sponsored the research adds, “UC is the ideal tool for an industry that prides itself on customer experience and loyalty, yet still wants to increase productivity and the volume of bookings.

“The concept behind unified communications is simple; it provides all the information an advisor needs to communicate, by integrating all systems together – from the call centre through to the back-office systems and even social media. This means that the customer always gets the best and consistent experience possible and at the same time there efficiencies and cost-savings too. It’s a win/win situation.

“With cloud based UC now available there are even few barriers to adoption because no upfront capital investment is required.”

Key drivers for UC – Improving Service and reducing costs
Of those businesses that are currently using UC technologies, the majority stated that the original reasons for investment were to reduce costs and improve customer service. Those who had not heard of UC (60%) said that they would only consider upgrading current systems if it led to improved customer service and reduced costs.

Matt says: “Improving customer service was the top driver for travel companies looking to upgrade systems, above reducing costs. This echoes our own experience of working with travel operators who differentiate themselves on the quality of their customer service.

“One of our customers, luxury travel specialists, Destinology, is using UC to enhance their reputation for exemplary service. Meanwhile Wendy Wu Tours has recently implemented the technology to maintain and enhance its reputation for unparalleled customer care levels as well as to reduce operational costs.

“With UC it is easier to make the customer feel special, because calls or enquiries are answered more quickly (even during peak times), existing customers can be automatically routed to the same member of staff for continuity, and because the system is integrated with booking systems all the information required is instantly available on-screen.”

“Both companies are also taking advantage of UC to support remote working, so staff can work from home, giving greater access to knowledge and resources, regardless of where they are. Those operators that are open 24/7 can also easily re-direct calls across the globe if necessary.”

Trends – ‘Social Media, Web Services & Mobility’
Small travel companies (1-49 employees) consider social media and web services to be the biggest trend over the next two years, with large businesses (1,000+) stating that mobile and mobile convergence will be a major area for investment.

Matt comments: “Most trends identified by travel executives seem to be an integral part of the UC proposition which suggests that company owners and directors are simply missing out on the best ways to facilitate these.

“Mobility, cross-platform convergence, super-fast networks and self-service consumer end points were highlighted to be big growth areas over the coming years, all of which are easily achievable using unified communications. With our experience of delivering communications solutions to the travel sector, we see it as our role to educate travel companies so that they understand the benefits and cost improvements behind UC.”

Obstacles to UC adoption – ‘Cost’
The majority of those polled (56%) admitted that cost was the biggest obstacle to investing in UC. Matt adds: “Despite most respondents not knowing what UC does and what returns it could offer, it seems that the technology is perceived as carrying a high price tag which is misleading. Unified comms simplifies communications tools and makes them easier to manage. The productivity gains and cost reductions far outweigh the original investment into a new platform.” 

Khiri Travel Adds Luxury Carriage to Luang Prabang-Hanoi Train

Khiri Travel has added a luxury carriage to the Luang Prabang-Hanoi train service linking Laos and Vietnam. The carriage sleeps six in air-conditioned cabins and includes a lounge with food and beverage service and specially enlarged windows for viewing the dramatic mountain scenery between the UNESCO heritage town and the Vietnamese capital. Departures leave Luang Prabang on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. The reverse trip departs Hanoi Central Station on Thursdays and Mondays. All trips allow for a day of onboard sight seeing and an overnight sleep before mid morning arrival the next day.
The public train service was reinstated in June 2013 using a limited section of the former Indochinese colonial rail network. Khiri Travel CEO Willem Niemeijer said the service has already proven popular with budget travellers, but that there was demand from upper market clients who wanted to link the two popular heritage destinations in style. The electric train service, run by the Lao-Viet Friendship Rail, has been adapted to utilise the abundant hydro electricity generated in the Laotian mountains. The first luxury departure is 1 April and berths are fully booked until mid-May. "We have been very impressed by the demand from western European travellers seeking an authentic Mekong travel experience," said Niemeijer.
Travel tariffs for the trips depend on the season. Travel agents seeking further information and rates should email luxtrain@khiri.com and quote booking code, "Midnight Express."

Impact of Business Travel on U.S. Economy and Jobs

A new GBTA report highlights the positive economic impact of business travel on the U.S. economy.
According to the study, business travel was responsible for about 3 percent of U.S. GDP in 2012 ($491 billion), and for every 1 percent increase in business travel spending, the U.S. economy gains an additional 71,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in GDP, $3 billion in wages and $1.2 billion in tax collections.
The impact study also found that in 2012 the nation’s businesses spent $384 billion to send travelers out on the road on 452 million business trips. The study shows that the business travel industry supports 7.1 million jobs and generated $118 billion in federal, state and local taxes.  
“As the Global Business Travel Association’s study notes, nearly $500 billion was contributed to the U.S. economy by business travel alone in 2012. That same year, Florida’s tourism industry supported over one million employees and contributed over $51 billion to Florida’s economy. Business travel and the tourism industries are a crux of economic vitality across the country, and especially in states like Florida. The bottom line is that both international travel to the United States and domestic travel within our nation create jobs. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, I will continue to work to foster an economic climate that promotes travel and economic vitality,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
Study highlights include:
• In 2012, U.S. domestic business travelers spent an average of $540 per trip, including $147 on lodging, $230 on transportation, $100 on food and beverage, $28 on shopping and $22 on entertainment. These averages consider all trips – day and overnight – and all methods of transportation – air, rail, personal auto and rental car. Business trips that utilized air travel as the primary mode of transportation averaged $1,100 in total spending per trip.
• Business travel in the U.S. contributed $491 billion to U.S. GDP in 2012. Essentially, every dollar of business travel spending generated about $1.28 in GDP. Of the $491 billion total, $208 billion accrued directly to businesses that served travelers or meeting attendees. The supply chain for these businesses received an additional indirect contribution of $120.5 billion. Finally, the downstream spending of business-travel supported wages generated an induced contribution of $162.8 billion.
• The average business trip lasts 1.75 days and covers 268 miles (945 miles if primary transportation is by air). The typical U.S. business traveler takes about four daytrips and two overnight trips per month. Over the course of a year, a road warrior on average spends 19 nights in a hotel.
• U.S. business travelers are most likely to be mid-career (age 35-55) and be employed in a managerial or professional position. Business travelers have an average annual household income of $102,329 and almost three-quarters of business travelers are married.

CNC sponsors WTM Latin America 2014

Brazilian employers’ organisation The National Confederation of Good Trade, Services and Tourism (CNC) is to be a main sponsor for World Travel Market Latin America, the leading global event for the Latin American travel industry.
CNC is sponsoring WTM Latin America to expand its contacts amongst the global travel and tourism industry with the aim of boosting tourism to the country.
WTM Latin America takes place between April 23rd and April 25th at the Transamerica Expo Center, in the city of São Paulo, at the same time as the 41st Braztoa Business Meeting (the Brazilian Association of Tour Operators).

ABTA reveals top LGBT honeymoon spots

Following same sex marriage being legalised in England and Wales, ABTA – The Travel Association – has revealed some top honeymoon spots for LGBT couples. These include long established LGBT destinations such as Brighton, the Greek Islands, Miami and Sydney as well as newer favourites Puerto Vallarta and Tel Aviv. ABTA has also identified up and coming destinations such as Montpellier in France and Florianopolis in Brazil.

Brighton, UKPuerto Vallarta, Mexico
Cape Town, South AfricaSan Francisco, USA
Greek Islands (Mykonos and Lesbos), GreeceSitges, Spain
Miami and the Florida Keys, USASydney, Australia
Phuket, ThailandTel Aviv, Israel

Currently around 7,000 same sex couples enter into a civil partnership each year* and many are expected to get married, with the first ceremonies taking place over the weekend. Many of these couples will be starting married life with a honeymoon and ABTA is advising engaged couples and newlyweds to consider the following when they book:
  • Research your destination
    Whilst some destinations are openly LGBT-friendly, some may be less welcoming, and in others there may be serious safety issues to consider. Consider this when choosing where to go, and also research what is deemed appropriate behaviour to avoid getting on the wrong side of local laws or customs. Countries that recognise same sex unions are a good choice but there are also many countries that are very gay friendly even if legislation is not explicit.  Always check the Foreign Office advice before you travel.
  • Let your travel providers know it’s your honeymoon
    Tell people it’s your honeymoon or consider a honeymoon package, as you may be able eligible for romantic extras. Remember that to qualify for offers, some companies may ask to see documentation – a wedding certificate for example.
  • Go with a reputable provider
    Wherever you’re going, your honeymoon is incredibly important so choose a reputable holiday company with a good track record that is a member of ABTA.

ABTA spoke to some couples getting married about their honeymoon plans: 
Emma Powell and Sarah Keith have been together for nine years and got married in Brighton on 29 March.
Emma explained:  “We were amongst the first lesbian couples to get married after the legislation changed and we’re really thrilled to have gotten married in Brighton – which is so central to gay culture in the UK and which is a wonderful seaside city. We’ll be spending a mini moon there as we’re soon to relocate to New York. Our plan is to take a honeymoon after we’re settled in the US, possibly over the border in Canada or in California. We’ve also enjoyed travelling together in Thailand which we found very gay friendly.
How LGBT friendly a destination is, is important to us; we’ve generally enjoyed great experiences abroad but we like to know more about the approach in different destinations– small things like having to insist that we want a double and not a twin room really affect the feel of a holiday and knowing which destinations are the most progressive and welcoming is really useful. Luckily there are many beautiful and welcoming spots to explore and we’re really looking forward to doing lots of travelling as a married couple.”

Peter McGraith and David Cabrezza were amongst the first gay couples to get married in England and tied the knot in Islington just after the legislation changed at 00.01hrs on 29 March.
Writer and activist Peter McGraith commented: “David and I will be taking some time to relax in London after our wedding and may look to plan a belated honeymoon abroad. In many destinations, being on holiday or being on honeymoon as a gay couple will be trouble free. But, there are certain places and certain situations that LGBT couples and newlyweds should be aware of when they are travelling, from the point of view of safety as well to ensure that they enjoy the best possible experience. The destinations highlighted by ABTA are good choices for LGBT newlyweds and holidaymakers. We would urge all couples to do their research and where possible to consider using hotels that advertise to LGBT people and that have clear policies of supporting LGBT staff.”

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, said:
“A honeymoon is a traditional way to start married life so we recommend couples research their options thoroughly: talk to a travel professional, who will be able to offer advice about destinations and experiences; check travel advice with ABTA and the Foreign Office and always book with a reputable company. There are some fantastic locations to choose from to inspire all newlyweds to get the most out of their honeymoon plans.”

John Tanzella, CEO, IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) said:
“It is encouraging to see LGBT marriage and honeymoons on the rise globally. As LGBT rights increase around the world, we’ll see more and more destinations embracing this sizable market. However, when you’re planning that dream trip it’s still important to work with travel professionals who understand the needs of gay travellers as individuals and aren’t just treating them as a ‘niche’ to target.”

UNWTO welcomes the UK government decision to review the Air Passenger Duty

UNWTO welcomes the recent decision by the UK government to reform the Air Passenger Duty (APD). The current APD system, in place since 2008, has significantly hindered UK’s tourism while creating important market distortions affecting long-haul destinations.

UNWTO has been long advocating for the need to review the current APD scheme. The existing band scheme, according to which values to be paid by travellers are calculated according to the distance between London and the destination country’s capital city, has made long distance flying out of the UK significantly more expensive. This has created significant barriers for tourism development in long-haul destinations which depend mainly on air travel while curbing UK’s tourism competitiveness in emerging markets.

“While taxes are a fundamental fiscal tool, there is a growing concern regarding a proliferation of levies on travel and tourism which produce market distortions and act as trade barriers, hampering fair competition between destinations” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “UNWTO, alongside partners such as WTTC, IATA, CTO and PATA, has been long advocating for the revision of the APD. This measure is very welcome news and we trust the UK economy as well as the economies of destinations with strong links to the UK will all benefit from this decision”, he added.

The UK’s announcement to review the APD follows similar reforms taken by countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and Australia. Australia has recently frozen the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC).

Holiday Inn Express Opens its Doors in Colourful Clarke Quay

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is welcoming its newest addition to its Holiday Inn Express family in Singapore. The 442-room Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay has opened its doors in one of Singapore’s liveliest food and entertainment districts.
Getting to Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay is a quick and convenient 20-minute drive from Changi International Airport, ensuring that travellers lose no time at all before heading out to explore the best Singapore has to offer. Guests will find themselves in the heart of the city and steps away from the riverfront, famous for the city’s most popular restaurants and bars serving up delicious fare with a side of live entertainment and music.
Those who want to do some sight-seeing will enjoy taking a stroll along the Singapore River, navigating the waters on a river boat tour or watching some of the regular music events and theatre performances close by in Fort Canning Park. Art lovers are near to the local arts scene, with the likes of Singapore Art Museum and National Museum of Singapore just a few minutes away.
Mark Winterton, General Manager, Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay commented, “Travellers to Singapore will be hard-pressed to find a better location and quality of hotel for the same price than Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay. We’re in the heart of one of Singapore’s most exciting locations – its entertainment and dining hot spot – which is hugely popular among locals and tourists alike.
“Our guests can look forward to a refreshing and hassle-free stay with my team and I who are here to make their experience as easy and as uncomplicated as possible. Holiday Inn Express guests know exactly what they want from a hotel and we listen to them closely.”
Providing everything guests need and nothing they don’t, the select-service hotel brand offers guests the reliability of an international name with the reassurance that their budget is being managed wisely during their stay. Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay offers guests a smart and convenient stay which includes:
· Free and fast Wi-Fi available in guest rooms and throughout the hotel so they stay connected all day, every day
· Free Express Start™ Breakfast or a Grab & Go option for a smart start to the day
· A comfortable and restful sleep with high quality bedding and a choice of firm or soft pillows
· Self-service business centre and laundry room for your everyday needs
· 24-hour fitness room access to indulge in your fitness regime any time
· Rooftop swimming pool for a refreshing dip to soak up the sun
The award-winning green-designed hotel also features a spacious landscaped roof-top area which includes a fitness room and swimming pool. Guests can recharge with a workout or a refreshing dip in the 40 metre infinity pool with picturesque views of both Clarke Quay and the Singapore skyline. Guests can also watch Clarke Quay’s colourful transformation as the sun sets and the lights come on, revealing the lively ambience of Singapore’s hottest district.
Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay follows the successful launch of Holiday Inn Express Singapore Orchard Road in July 2013. There are currently six Holiday Inn Express hotels in South East Asia with properties in key cities in Indonesia and Thailand and more than 2,200 around the world.
“Holiday Inn Express is one of the fastest growing hotel brands in the world and this is our second Holiday Inn Express hotel to open in Singapore in under a year. In the last eight months alone, the brand debuted in both Indonesia and Singapore and across the two countries, we opened five Holiday Inn Express hotels in that time. We know that there is a demand for select-service hotel brands in the region and Holiday Inn Express is here to meet that. With 19 Holiday Inn Express hotels due to open across South East Asia alone over the next five years, we’re confident this is just the beginning of a successful growth period for the brand,” said Clarence Tan, Chief Operating Officer, South East Asia & Resorts, IHG.
The new hotel is developed in partnership with RB Capital Hotels, the hotel arm of RB Capital Group – a property investment and development group in Asia that also launched the Cuppage Terrace development in Orchard Road and the EFG Bank Building in Singapore.
Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay’s special opening rate from SGD180.00++ per night includes free Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel and free Express Start breakfast for two, for stays from now until 31 July 2014.

EasyJet agrees 10 year deal with Luton Airport which will enable it to double its size at the London airport

EasyJet, the UK’s largest airline, has agreed a new 10 year deal with London Luton Airport which could see the airline more than double its size at the airport from four to nine million passengers a year. The expansion would also see the creation of 2,500 new jobs at the airport – the UK’s sixth largest – and in the surrounding region.
easyJet has 15 aircraft based at London Luton, its second largest London base, and plans to grow its capacity by around 20% over the next year – adding new business and leisure routes and increasing frequencies on some of its existing 39 routes from London Luton.
Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, said:
“This is a substantial, long term deal with London Luton Airport – our first base and the airline’s home – which will enable us to double our size at London Luton in the next decade and add an even greater range of business and leisure destinations. We are looking forward to working with the airport, and the new concession owners Ardian and AENA. Their financial investment and long term commitment to developing London Luton were a key factor in our agreeing to this new deal and will help us deliver our plans.
“The speed of easyJet’s expansion at London Luton is in part reliant on the airport’s plans for much-needed improvements being approved. Those improvements will unlock the airport’s potential by improving the customer experience of the airport while also increasing the numbers of passengers flying to and from London Luton. This will in turn drive economic growth and jobs for the region.
“London Luton can make a real and immediate contribution to the need for more airport capacity in the South East. It currently serves almost 10 million passengers a year and if the expansion plans are given the go-ahead would be able to grow to 18 million in the coming years – using the existing runway but with huge improvements to the rest of the airport’s infrastructure.“This demonstrates that our industry can make the best use of existing capacity in the South East of England before any new runway is built.”

WDC and WVG will invest $41bn in the tourism market of New Zealand by 2025

Whangarei District Council (WDC) and the Whangarei Visitor Group (WVG) are ready to play their part in building the $41bn tourism market in New Zealand by 2025.

The Tourism Industry Association New Zealand recently released its ‘Tourism 2025’ plan which sets out a framework that will guide tourism development in New Zealand over the next decade.

Employing over 172,000 people, tourism currently contributes $24 billion to the NZ economy and accounts for 3.7% of its GDP.

“We have already recognised the importance of tourism for Whangarei, but this national level framework helps to give greater focus on tourism not only nationally but also within the District,” says WDC District Promotions and Tourism Manager Paul Davis.

“Tourism is one of our major industries and Council has committed greater resources to developing tourism and working with the industry here through the Whangarei Visitor Group.

“We aim to boost tourism activity and performance in the District, particularly targeting the domestic market.

“The next steps for us are to align the interim Whangarei Visitor Plan, developed by WVG and the industry last year, with the 2025 Framework.

“This will give Whangarei an even greater synergy with tourism’s national direction and addresses the five key themes within the Framework,” said Mr Davis.

Kate Malcolm from the Whangarei Visitor Group said that the Tourism 2025 strategy has been developed with solid research and statistics, and provides a platform that enables our diverse tourism industry to work collaboratively together on common goals.

“It is a strong pat on the back for work that WDC and the WVG have been already doing in uniting our local visitor industry with the 2013-2016 Whangarei Visitor Plan, and reinforces the path we are on together is the right one.

“There are many ways we can work towards potential opportunities both individually and collectively and it [the framework] gives me immense confidence in our local Whangarei Visitor industry,” she said.

The duo said the next Whangarei tourism industry meeting will be on 30 April and detailed work aligning local strategies with the Tourism 2025 Framework would begin.