Πέμπτη, 30 Απριλίου 2015

Europe remerges as top summer travel destination

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. - Sojern released its Q1 Global Travel Insights Report based on the rigorous analysis of more than 800 million traveler intent data points across the globe. 

From a currency perspective, the report reveals that the weaker euro is attracting large numbers of global tourists to European countries this summer, while the stronger dollar has yet to have a negative effect on worldwide search and booking to the US. In February, Japan benefited from an increase in inbound travelers from countries celebrating the Lunar New Year. In March, Tunisia and Egypt suffered the ill effects of a recent terror attack and the announcement of tighter visa rules, respectively. Throughout the quarter, searches to Cuba were on the rise from the US, as well as from other countries around the world.

“Sojern’s first quarter report analyzes new patterns in travel around the globe, including seasonal events like Easter and Lunar New Year,” said Mark Rabe, Sojern’s CEO. “But it also serves as a crystal ball into summer 2015, as we distill millions of traveler intent data points into actionable insights for travel brands that want to reach consumers as they research summer holidays.” 

Overall, the most searched destinations during the first quarter of the year were the United States, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, Mexico, Turkey, Greece and Thailand. Compared to last quarter, Mexico moves up three places, Russia and India exit the list (the former in spite of its current affordability), while Thailand joins in last position, the only Asia-Pacific destination in the top 10. Greece re-enters the list after a quarter break.

Weaker Euro Spurs Summer Travel Planning to Europe, Globally 
This spring, currency fluctuations (a stronger US dollar and flagging euro) have pushed Europe into the limelight of global travel, as travelers worldwide are able to explore the continent on a smaller budget. Europe is the top international destination for summer travel in three of the four other markets we studied: 45% of the Middle East and Africa, 33% of Asia-Pacific and 22% of North America ranks it number one for non-domestic travel plans. Seventy-one percent of Europeans are also planning to explore their own continent this summer.

Summer Travel: Preferred Months, Destinations and Party Sizes
Half of Q1 searchers in North America looked to travel in June, compared with Latin American travelers who were almost evenly split between June (42%) and July (39%) and Europeans, for whom the later summer months take a bigger share of the travel pie - August, in particular, at 23 percent. Asia-Pacific travelers also seem to favor June and July while in the Middle East, July will be taking the lion’s share of summer travel at 47 percent.
The top destinations for summer travel across the globe are: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Barcelona and Bangkok. A whopping 27 percent of Europeans are planning to travel in groups of three or more, followed by Middle East & Africa travelers at 20 percent, 19 percent of Americans, 14 percent of Latin Americans and 12 percent of travelers in Asia-Pacific.
Terror Attacks and Tighter Visa Rules Prompt Drop in Travel to North Africa
The March 18 terrorist attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia’s capital Tunis seems to have impacted travel searches for the North African country: searches dropped as much as 28 percent in March, from across all continents.  Egypt’s announcement of tighter visa rules for all travelers on March 17 was also greeted with a drop in searches: an average decline of about 7 percent across regions, but as much as 14 percent in searches from Europe, arguably the region of origin most affected by the new rules. Most recently, restrictions have been postponed and searches climbed back up.

The Impact of New US Rules on Travel to Cuba and the Caribbean
The relaxation of travel restrictions from the US to Cuba has also taken effect this quarter and fueled continued interest from American travelers: searches from the US were up 184 percent over the previous quarter. searches also increased 41 percent from Canada and 45 percent worldwide. For now, the new rules do not appear to have had a significant effect on travel to the Caribbean region overall, although Cuba did move up three spots in the list of top 20 Caribbean destinations for US travelers, swapping spots with St. Kitts.

Etihad increases capacity on London route

Etihad Airways has taken delivery of its second Airbus A380 in its striking new ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ livery, and will introduce the aircraft on the popular Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow route on Friday, 1 May.
Two of the airline’s three daily flights to London will now be operated by the A380. Etihad Airways has a further eight A380s on order.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Adding our second A380 on the Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow will give our guests more opportunities to experience Etihad Airways’ revolutionary new cabins, including The Residence by Etihad and First Apartments. By August of 2015, all three daily flights on this flagship route will be operated by the A380, offering our guests unparalleled luxury and superior in-flight technology.
In 2014, Etihad Airways carried 533,615 guests to and from London Heathrow. The introduction of the A380 between Abu Dhabi and London will allow the airline to further boost its passenger numbers on the route.

Thailand studies its top tourism source market

tat cn study
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced the results of a detailed market research study that will help it better fine tune its marketing and promotional strategies at its top tourism source market. The results were announced at a press conference by TAT Deputy Governor for Policy and Planning, Mr. Santi Chudintra and TAT East Asia Executive Director, Mrs. Srisuda Wanapinyosak.
China has now become the world’s top outbound travel market; with more than 70 million annual travelers is also Thailand’s top source of visitor arrivals. Chinese visitors totaled 4,623,806 in 2014, a slight drop from 2013 (-0.29%). In 2015, TAT is expecting 5.6 million Chinese tourists generating revenue of 230 billion baht, up from 190 billion baht in 2014.
The research was conducted in eight of China’s most populous cities; Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Xi’an and Shenyang, with a sample base of 2,400 respondents. These cities were chosen because they have direct flight connections to Bangkok.
The study indicated that of the total Chinese outbound travelers, an estimated 10 million people are high-value tourists.
The study showed that the high-value tourist market group in China is aged over 18 years with a good educational background, well-being, stable job, high-income, with average expenditure per trip that is thrice as normal tourists. It can be classified into the following three main groups based on demographics and lifestyles:
Reformer Group: This group includes people of good financial standing. They like to explore new experiences while searching for the meaning of life. They have high regard for preservation and show respect to the host country. This group comprises of about 2 million people.
High Value MainstreaSucceeder Group: This group includes determined people, working hard to get ahead in life and achieve more than others. They are made up of about 4.3 million people.
m group: These are wealthy people who constantly want to improve their own image and that of their families. They are careful spenders and tend to focus on comfort during their travel. Approximately 3.8 million people make up this group.
The profile of Chinese tourists is changing rapidly as travelers become more mature and experienced. Hence, TAT is seeing a huge diversity of Chinese tourists – from first-time visitors to group-travelers to more women travelers and young people, many of whom also speak good English.
Many Chinese are repeat travelers to Thailand. TAT is targeting these travelers through marketing campaigns that emphasize the fun of shopping, enjoying a Thai massage or a game of golf. They are also being encouraged to visit new destinations; such as, Northeast Thailand.
Chinese visitors have an average length of stay of 8.1 days and spending per person / trip of up to 41,390 Baht. They enjoy travelling to different destinations in Thailand. They also prefer to travel independently and spend more time experiencing a variety of tourism activities in the local areas.
According to the January 2015 statistics, Chinese visitors were up 57 percent (560,399). The fact that the tourism situation has returned to normal is an important plus point, as it will allow the airlines to expand capacity.

Shanghai hosts Van Gogh Alive Exhibition

Van Gogh Alive
“Art Castle”, Taiping Lake in Xintiandi district in Shanghai, China presents the Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory traveling exhibition dedicated to the life and work of the eponymous Dutch artist. The exhibition is on display since April 28 and will stay open for four months in Shanghai.
In an instant, Van Gogh Alive can transport a visitor to another time and place, immersing them in the artists’ world. Adults and children alike, wander throughout the space, exploring nooks and crannies and engaging with the experience in a manner that transcends traditional installations.
According to its producers, Australia-based Grande Exhibitions, the show features more than 3,000 images at enormous scale create a thrilling display that fills giant screens, walls, columns, ceilings and even the floor – immersing you entirely in the vibrant colors and vivid details that constitute Van Gogh’s unique style.
The audio-visual show features projections of Van Gogh’s famous paintings, such as “Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers,” “The Starry Night” and “The Café Terrace at Night,” as well as symphonies composed around the same time, according to its organizers.

American chefs experience Asian Flavors and techniques at Worlds of Flavor

chef Zaiyu Hasegawa
America's most influential professional forum on world cuisines, food cultures, and flavor trends; Worlds of Flavor® International Conference and Festival, held last week on the Greystone campus of The Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley in front of an audience of more than 700 culinary, foodservice, and hospitality professionals. The event highlights the growing trend to Asian tastes and techniques in the United States.
world of flavors15"Today, American chefs are embracing and experimenting with what once was considered exotic. These foods and flavors are poised to continue their ascendance and become ever-bigger players in our national dining scene, whether it is in small independent restaurants, high-volume operations, food trucks, or university cafés," said Greg Drescher, vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership at the CIA.
That fact became evident when reviewing the list of participants and the foodservice outlets they represent: Fairmont and Grand Hyatt hotels, Harvard University and Indiana University dining services, Red Lobster and TGI Fridays, Vail Resort and The Cliff House, independent restaurants from across the country, Wegmans and—from London—Marks and Spencer.
Highlights of this year's conference included:
• A fascinating and fact-filled historical perspective keynote on the rise of Asian cuisines and global perceptions of those cuisines, brought to today and a look at the change in status experienced by Asian restaurants in the U.S. presented by Ken Albala (University of the Pacific)
• Paul Qui, of qui in Austin, TX, preparation of a rich and spicy Filipino Pork Blood Stew, which he demoed while talking about cooking with points of references in a deeply rooted culture, expressed in innovative fashion
• The Grilled Duck Salad prepared by Dylan Jones and Bo Sangvisava of Bo.Ian in Bangkok—one of the seven restaurants represented at the conference from S. Pelligrino's "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants" list—that featured Thai Salted Pickled Cabbage
• An in-depth discussion—with culinary demos—of the diversity and traditions of Asian noodles with Jehangir Mehta (India), William Wongso (Indonesia), and Ivan Orkin (USA)
• The appreciative gasps from the audience when Will Goldfarb (Room4Dessert, Bali) shared the secrets of his meringue during the final session
Videos from the conference's live webcast are available on the Worlds of Flavor website. If you did not attend, you can still view all of the above sessions...and more.

Jumeirah opens its second property in Turkey

Jumeirah Bodrum Palace
The global luxury hotel company Jumeirah Group announced its second property in Turkey; Jumeirah Bodrum Palace that opens on May 1, 2015 with a range of new services and special offers for discerning travelers. Jumeirah Group organized a press conference today at the group’s first hotel in Turkey; Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah in Istanbul.
Jumeirah Group President and Group CEO Gerald Lawless and Jumeirah Bodrum Palace General Manager Mete Atakuman announced details of the new Jumeirah property in Turkey.
Jumeirah Bodrum Palace offers 135 rooms made up of generous suites, villas and a six-bedroom palace, all with sea-facing views and spacious terraces, a wide selection of restaurants and bars and eight family pools in addition to 49 private pools for the villas. As well as relaxing on the Aegean coastline, guests can also take advantage of a wide range of water sports, including parasailing, windsurfing, water skiing, fishing, sailing and scuba diving. The 110,000m2 resort also has a signature Talise Spa with 12 treatment rooms and a range of luxury hamams, a fully equipped fitness center and also a Kids Castle play-center.
To celebrate its opening, the hotel is presenting two special offers. The first is ‘Earn an Extra Night’ which invites guests to stay four nights at Jumeirah Bodrum Palace and pay for only three, including 20% savings on all food and beverage throughout the resort. The second is a ‘Turkish Delight’ offer which combines the best of Bodrum and Istanbul by staying four nights at Jumeirah Bodrum Palace and receiving two complimentary nights at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah. Both offers include a complimentary buffet breakfast every morning, wi-fi and unlimited access to the spa and fitness facilities.
Gerald Lawless and Mete Atakuman
Gerald Lawless said: “Jumeirah Bodrum Palace is a truly spectacular luxury resort. We have worked closely with the owner to ensure that the full Jumeirah experience is delivered through the hotel and I am delighted to say that the improvements to the hotel have exceeded our expectations. I am confident our loyal guests from around the world will be impressed not only with the location and design, but also with the service standards for which Jumeirah is famous. I am grateful to Vedat Dalkiran, Chairman of Targets Investment for entrusting us with such a magnificent resort to manage and to Mete Atakuman, General Manager of Jumeirah Bodrum Palace, for assembling a world-class team to delight our guests through the summer season.

The 5th Bulgari property to open in Dubai

bvlgari dubai view
Bulgari Hotels & Resorts has signed an agreement with Dubai-based real estate development company Meraas Holding for a new hotel in Dubai to be opened in 2017. The luxury property will be the world's fifth Bulgari Hotels and Resorts property. Designed by Italian architectural firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners, it will be located on the exclusive Jumeira Bay Island, off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Road, sculpted in the shape of a titanic seahorse.
The Bulgari Resort will comprise 100 rooms and suites in the main hotel buildings, as well as 20 hotel villas and a full range of luxury hotel facilities, inclusive of the signature BVLGARI RISTORANTE and SPA. Each home at the Bulgari Residences has been meticulously designed to create efficient living spaces.
bvlgari dubai
All the 173 apartments and 15 mansions that comprise offer magnificent views. While the apartments range from one to three bedroom apartments, 4 bedroom penthouses, the mansions offer a variation of three to six bedrooms.
bvlgari dubai map
The development offers residents modern, sleek design and well-appointed features that make for unmatched hospitality and luxury living. The spacious interiors exude visual warmth and elegance even as the large glazed windows bring in the verdant freshness of the mesmerizing landscape outside.

Economic impact of UEFA Champions League

champions league
Onefootball and travel search engine GoEuro.com partnered to better understand the effect the UEFA Champions League has on the transportation and tourism industry in Europe. Their findings clearly show the amazing reach the sport has within the continent. Cities with participating teams experience a boost in their hospitality sector which is only comparable to income from the convention industry.
Therefore, GoEuro and Onefootball are looking into how this data can be used by governments to promote sports in a sustainable way.
The research focused on the costs of transport and accommodation and did not factor the price of tickets into the calculations. However, average tourist expenses (inner city transport, expenses and dining costs taken from EGATUR Insitute for Tourism Studies) along with GoEuro’s own beer price and accommodation indexes were used to calculate how much cities could make throughout the competition.
From the findings they have calculated that Barcelona, Munich and Turin all look to have made an estimated 5,637,000€ from their home teams having made it to the semi-finals. Madrid, who have made it to the same stage in the competition, could have received a similar income, however as the infographic shows the selection of their two teams playing in their home city means a loss of income from visiting fans.
Check out the infographic below for more details
champions league tourism income

What’s new at ibtm America 2015?

ibtm america2015
ibtm america, taking place from June 9-11, 2015 in Chicago, announced its theme for inaugural new show format: "Connections Mean Everything". The newly designed ibtm america has sharpened its focus on face-to-face business connections.
PCMA, Site and the ibtm events team will bring participants two sets of three congruent sessions. The first set of sessions will include a breakout around tools for planner productivity titled "Big Data Part 1" as well as an industry engagement option "Shared Economy".
The next set will see more sessions around industry engagement from Site. Returning presenter and attendee-favorite James Spellos will lead the last option "Way Cool Tech Tools". .on day two, Debbie Mayo-Smith, a best-selling author and globally recognised leading business productivity expert will speak on how to improve profits and communication through the use of email, smartphone and other software.
To enhance productivity and informal connection making, the "ConnectZone" will bring additional education offerings for attendees and exhibitors to experience during their breaks. A hybrid of last year's Innovation and Refresh Zones, the ConnectZone (brought to you in partnership with the Meeting Pool) revisits some of AIBTM 2014's popular attractions such as the Innovation Spotlight Stage, sponsored by Certain Software, and the TECHbar.
New this year will be the WellnessNexus, a showcase of the latest and emerging trends in personal and professional wellness, as well as the ImageDeck, where attendees can enrich their personal and professional appearances via image consultants, beauty experts and a professional headshot lounge. Attendees will also be able to participate in some charitable activity, as "Dress For Success" will be on-hand accepting clothing donations. The not-for-profit organisation promotes economic independence for disadvantaged women by providing them with professional attire.

MPI’s 2015 World Education Congress program

mpi wec15
Meeting Professionals International MPI’s signature event World Education Congress (WEC) 2015 will deliver more than 100 education sessions covering topics such as food and beverage trends, cutting-edge event technology, meeting design, corporate social responsibility, women in leadership and room block poaching. The association revealed program details about the conference, including session descriptions, speaker bios, pre-conference programming, networking events and more. WEC is scheduled for August 1 – 4, 2015, at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
The opening keynote will be presented by James Curleigh, executive vice president of Levi Strauss & Co. and president of the Levi’s® brand. During his presentation titled, “The Edge of the Modern Frontier,” Curleigh will discuss the essential balance between leveraging authenticity and at the same time creating excitement with new innovative solutions for today’s lifestyle. Attendees will be challenged to think about what is next for the modern frontier and to re-envision their world by chasing and changing the landscape.
MPI has engaged an array of distinguished speakers for WEC this year including Flash Point speakers Evelyne White, co-founder and CEO of the global social dining community, BookaLokal; Pamela Meyer, author of the national best-seller, Liespotting; Liz Murray, an international bestselling author who went from being homeless to a Harvard graduate; and Kai Kight, a multi-talented violinist, composer and inspirational speaker. The education sessions will feature WEC newcomers such as Yigit Pura, season one winner of the Bravo television show, “Top Chef Just Desserts,” and Judith Holler, personal branding expert, professional improviser and president-elect of the MPI Chicago Area Chapter as well as high-demand, returning WEC speakers Tyra Hilliard, Corbin Ball, Joanne Dennison and Brandt Krueger.
In addition, MPI is taking a fresh approach with the opening general session by hosting a spectacular brunch, which is quite a popular pastime in San Francisco, for all attendees. The association also plans to redesign the WEC 2015 Career & Learning Central with its own take on the creative “San Fran” workspace, incorporating new break room and brainstorm areas as well as pop up meeting rooms.

Accor sells 29 hotels in Germany and the Netherlands

accor brands
Accor announces the sale and franchise-back of 29 hotels (3,354 rooms) in Germany (18 hotels, 2,167 rooms) and the Netherlands (11 hotels, 1,187 rooms) for a total value of €234 million. The transaction will take place before the end of the summer 2015, with German company Event Hotels, one of the Group's main franchisees, which has 15 hotels in Germany under the ibis, ibis Styles, Mercure and Pullman brands.
Accor announces the sale and franchise-back of 29 hotels (3,354 rooms) in Germany (18 hotels, 2,167 rooms) and the Netherlands (11 hotels, 1,187 rooms) for a total value of €234 million. The portfolio comprises 2 ibis budget, 11 ibis, 12 Mercure and 4 Novotel hotels. Of the 29 hotels sold, 27 were acquired in June 2014 as part of the acquisition of the Moor Park portfolio. The two other establishments – an ibis budget in Germany and a Mercure in the Netherlands – were previously owned by HotelInvest.
The transaction is subject to the usual conditions and to approval by the relevant authorities.

Norwegian Epic arrives back in Barcelona

Wiesbaden, April 30, 2015 – Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ship, Norwegian Epic, arrived this morning in Barcelona, Spain to begin another season of 7-night Med cruises until November 22, 2015. The award-winning Norwegian Epic features a new entertainment line-up for her cruises from her new homeport, debuting throughout 2015. Two new Broadway shows will take the stage as headliners: Burn the Floor and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical, coming in October. The ship will also feature an all-new British pop music entertainment experience, The Cavern Club, bringing the legendary Liverpool venue where the Beatles performed to life at sea. To celebrate the ship’s return to Europe, Norwegian Cruise Line has published a dedicated 20-page Norwegian Epic brochure, available online as well as in print, featuring the ship’s highlights as well as all itineraries.
“We are very excited to bring Norwegian Epic back to Europe. With her innovative accommodation and wide array of dining, spa and leisure amenities, she truly is the best ship to sail the Med and beyond in summer and in winter”, said Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and Chief Operating Officer. “The new world-class entertainment offerings that guests can enjoy will even further elevate the guest experience, giving them more options to create their perfect cruise holiday.”
Broadway sensation Burn the Floor, which has received rave reviews on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, brings the sizzle and passion of ballroom dancing to Norwegian Epic with “Ballroom Blitz”, an all-new and exciting show specifically designed for European guests. Based on the Oscar-winning movie, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical is the heart-warming, uplifting comedy adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship and features a hit parade of dance floor favourites, including “It’s Raining Men”, “I Will Survive” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. The show will open on the ship’s October 18, 2015 voyage along with a whole new entertainment venue created through an exclusive partnership with the owners of Liverpool’s The Cavern Club – The Beatles’ original breakthrough venue – which will rock guests each evening to the sounds of The Beatles and other international musicians.
Between May 3 and November 22, 2015, Norwegian Epic will offer 7-night cruises from Barcelona or Civitavecchia (Rome) to the Western Mediterranean, including stops in Naples (Pompeii), Italy; Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy; Cannes, France and Palma, Majorca, Spain. During the winter season between November 29, 2015 and April 7, 2016, Norwegian Epic will sail alternate 10-night cruises to Morocco, the Canaries, Madeira and Málaga (Granada), and 10-, or 11-, 12-night cruises to the Western Mediterranean including stops in Sardinia, Sicily and Majorca.
In addition Norwegian Epic will sail two cruises to and from Southampton, England in 2015, marking the first time that the ship has visited the port since the inaugural celebration in June 2010. The ship’s 6-night sailing will depart Barcelona on September 20, 2015 and arrive in Southampton on September 26, 2015, with ports of call including Cartagena, Spain; Málaga (Granada), Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal. Following a 22-day dry dock in France, Norwegian Epic will embark on a 7-night Iberian Peninsula cruise from Southampton to Barcelona on October 18, 2015. The ship will visit ports of call including Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Málaga (Granada) and Cartagena, Spain.
Guests looking to celebrate Christmas 2015 on board Norwegian Epic can do so on a 9-night Canary Islands & Morocco itinerary which will be offered on December 19, 2015 and those planning to cruise through the New Year can set sail on December 28, 2015, from Barcelona on a 6-night cruise.
About Norwegian Epic
While cruising throughout Europe, guests can discover why Norwegian Epic was named “Best Ship for Sea Days in 2012” by Cruise Critic, as they experience the ship’s array of recreational activities from the expansive Aqua Park, featuring three waterslides and the largest bowl slide on water, the Epic Plunge, to the abseiling wall, rock climbing wall, bowling alley, and pampering Mandara Spa, one of the largest spas at sea.
Foodies cruising through Europe on board Norwegian Epic will delight in the ship’s more than 20 different dining options. Steak lovers can feast on steakhouse favourites, including Certified Angus Beef in Cagney’s, the line’s signature steakhouse. Moderno Churrascaria, Norwegian’s Brazilian-style steakhouse offers guests the opportunity to sample succulent grilled and slow-roasted meats carved tableside by passadors in addition to Moderno’s expansive salad bar. Norwegian Epic’s Chinese Noodle Bar offers counter seating around an open kitchen and serves traditional Chinese noodles, wok-fried dishes and dim sum. For American favourites and comfort food, guests can take a seat in O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill. Additional dining options include Teppanyaki, a Japanese hibachi-style restaurant; Sushi Bar; Garden Café, the ship’s action station buffet-style restaurant; The Manhattan Room, an art deco inspired supper club; La Cucina, Norwegian’s home style Italian restaurant; Le Bistro, Norwegian’s signature French restaurant; and more. Norwegian Epic also boasts 20 unique bars and lounges, including the SVEDKA/Inniskillin Ice Bar, which was the first-ever true ice bar at sea.
When it comes to accommodation, Norwegian Epic offers a range of innovative accommodation options to suit every taste and budget. For guests looking for the ultimate in luxury, the ship features The Haven by Norwegian®, Norwegian’s exclusive ship-within-a-ship suite complex comprised of 60 suites and villas on two private decks located on top of the ship. Norwegian Epic was the first ship to offer the award-winning Studio staterooms designed and priced exclusively for solo travellers, giving guests the opportunity to cruise solo throughout Europe. Plus, Norwegian Epic also offers a wide variety of comfortable balcony and inside stateroom options and family-friendly accommodations including multi-room Suites, interconnecting staterooms and two-bedroom Family Suites.

Hilton Worldwide Exceeds High End of Guidance for First Quarter 2015 Adjusted EBITDA; Raises Full Year Outlook

MCLEAN, Va. (April 29, 2015) - Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. ("Hilton," "Hilton Worldwide" or the "Company") (NYSE: HLT) today reported its first quarter 2015 results and raised its full year 2015 outlook.
 Highlights include: 

• EPS was $0.15 for the first quarter, a 25 percent increase from the same period in 2014; EPS, adjusted for special items was $0.12 
• Net income attributable to Hilton stockholders for the first quarter was $150 million, a 22 percent increase from the same period in 2014 
• Adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter increased 18 percent from the same period in 2014 to $599 million and Adjusted EBITDA margin increased 320 basis points 
• System-wide comparable RevPAR increased 6.6 percent for the first quarter on a currency neutral basis from the same period in 2014 
• Management and franchise fees for the first quarter increased 18 percent from the same period in 2014 to $391 million 
• Gross operating profit margins for U.S. comparable owned and operated hotels increased over 120 basis points for the first quarter compared to the same period in 2014 
• Opened more than 8,000 rooms in the first quarter 
• Approved more than 23,000 new rooms for development during the first quarter, growing its development pipeline to 1,432 hotels, consisting of 240,000 rooms, as of March 31, 2015 
• Reduced long-term debt by $225 million during the first quarter; additional $100 million voluntary prepayment of senior secured term loan facility in April 2015 
• Entered into an agreement to sell Hilton Sydney for A$442 million Australian Dollars in a tax-efficient manner; upon closing, plan to use proceeds, net of transaction costs, to further reduce long-term debt • Entered into an agreement to acquire what is currently the Cypress Hotel in Cupertino, California for $112 million, reinvesting the last portion of the Waldorf Astoria New York sale proceeds 
• Increased outlook for full year Adjusted EBITDA to between $2,810 million and $2,870 million.


For the three months ended March 31, 2015, earnings per share ("EPS") was $0.15 compared to $0.12 for the three months ended March 31, 2014, and EPS, adjusted for special items, was $0.12 for the three months ended March 31, 2015 compared to $0.13 for three months ended March 31, 2014. 

Adjusted EBITDA increased 18 percent to $599 million for the three months ended March 31, 2015, compared to $508 million for the three months ended March 31, 2014 and net income attributable to Hilton stockholders was $150 million for the three months ended March 31, 2015 compared to $123 million for the three months ended March 31, 2014.

 Christopher J. Nassetta, President & Chief Executive Officer of Hilton Worldwide, said, "We started the year with another strong quarter, with top line growth at the high end of our guidance, despite significant weather impact in the U.S., and strong fee growth and owned asset performance, that all resulted in Adjusted EBITDA exceeding our guidance. Our portfolio of industry-leading brands continues to fuel our growth, resulting in the industry's largest pipeline and most rooms under construction globally." 

MICE tourism in Baltimore suffers due to violent attacks

Baltimore, a city known for its meetings and conventions suffered a massive blow to its tourism with violent attacks that took place in the city on 28.04.15.  These incidents lead to the cancellation of visitations and meetings, especially from the business sector causing huge loss to the MICE tourism sector of Baltimore.

Cancellations have come in from Door and Hardware Institute of its CoNEXTions convention which was to be held at the Baltimore Convention Center. There were 2,500 hotel rooms booked for this convention which was to bring 2000 attendees to Baltimore. But the situation was so adverse that the company decided to cancel the booking. The event was to take place on April 29-May 1.

Another company which cancelled its booking was American Heart Association who had a   scheduled meeting from April 29-May 1 at the Hilton Baltimore.

Baltimore is ideal for meetings owing to its infrastructure. 29 conventions have already booked this year where an estimate of 206,000 people are scheduled to arrive in the city causing an economic gain of at least $138 million.

In a city that thrives in tourism, such incidents generally affect the tourism industry the worst. The prevailing situation could cause loss of millions or even billions.

Baltimore has reigned as a tourist favorite destination through the last 20 years. Its convention centre has grown in popularity. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Power Plant Live!, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History are the prime attractions of Baltimore.

Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that there will be a citywide curfew from 10p.m. to 5 am lasting for a week.

The government is planning to build a new security area around the inner harbour where many tourist sites are located.

The government is however rendering full support to groups who are braving the situation to hold their scheduled events. The Food Safety Summit is still continuing with its event which took off early this week.

Ryanair launches improves sports equipment service

Ryanair enhanced its sport equipment carriage service and reduced its fees from a £50 flat rate into 5 different categories; bike, large sport, skis, golf bag and small sport, making it even easier for customers to travel with their sporting equipment on Europe’s lowest fares.

Ryanair customers can now book the following options:
  • Bike - £60 each way
  • Large sport (including but not limited to surfboard, canoe, kayak etc.) - £60 each way
  • Skis - £40 each way (reduced from £50)
  • Golf bag -  £30 each way (reduced from £50)
  • Small sport (fishing rod, bowling ball, racquet, hockey stick etc.) - £30 each way (reduced from £50)
This is the latest in an on-going series of Ryanair customer experience improvements under the “Always Getting Better” programme, including the launch of the new Ryanair website, a new app with mobile boarding passes, allocated seating, a second carry-on bag allowance and a dedicated family service, Family Extra, as Ryanair continues to offer so much more than just the lowest fares, with further improvements to come in 2015.

Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs said: “Ryanair is pleased to announce that we have cut our sports equipment check in fees from a £50 flat rate into 5 different categories including bike (£60), large sport (£60), skis (£40), golf bag (£30) and small sport (£30), making it even easier for customers to travel with their sporting equipment on Europe’s lowest fares.

This is the latest in an on-going series of Ryanair customer experience improvements under the “Always Getting Better” programme, including the launch of the new Ryanair website, a new app with mobile boarding passes, allocated seating, a second carry-on bag allowance and a dedicated family service, Family Extra, as Ryanair continues to offer so much more than just the lowest fares, with further improvements to come in 2015, including a new website and app, new cabin interiors, new crew uniforms and inflight menus, reduced airport fees, and great new digital features such as ‘hold the fare’, destination content and fare comparison services.”

Global Taxi Network expands to Russia

BRUSSELS – The IRU warmly welcomes SemerochkaTaxi Petersburg 068 and Taxi 777’s decision to join the fast growing Global Taxi Network (GTN). The addition of these apps makes it much easier for customers to use high quality, safe, legal taxi services in Russia. Russian citizens can now also access similar services when travelling abroad.

Hubert Andela, President of the IRU Taxi Group, said, “With these three apps joining our Global Taxi Network, our ambitions to create a connected network of high quality, legal, taxi services available through customers’ smartphones has taken another significant step forward. I very much welcome the contribution that our new Russian partners will make to our network.”

Alexey V. Gusev, Director General of Semerochka, said, “We support the idea of creating a pool of companies that provide high quality taxi services. The GTN will become the brand of quality that is recognised by taxi users in any country. We’re ready to contribute to it and I’m sure that joining the GTN will help make our services even better while also increasing our company and partners’ earnings.”

Sergey Kashirsky, Business Development Director of Taxi 777, said, “We’re very happy to become a GTN member. It’s a new challenge for us to align with European requirements and high standards in taxi service quality and one that our customers expect us to meet.  We look forward to discovering the opportunities that GTN membership will bring to us.”

Soloviev Victor Gennadievic, Deputy Director General of Taxi Petersburg 068, said, “Our company offers a full range of taxi services. We ensure the technical inspection of vehicles before trips, as well as professional training and daily health checks for drivers. We’re not only responsible for the comfort of the passengers, but also for their safety. We consider that joining the GTN is an important step in combating illegal taxi apps.” 

The GTN is a network of taxi industry federations and taxi app providers, whose objective is to promote legal, reliable, high quality and safe services to taxi customers, by making use of the latest smartphone technology in full respect of the regulatory framework in force. The network currently operates on 3 continents encompassing 200,000 taxis worldwide, and is growing rapidly with new countries and cities being added regularly.

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago set to become full participant in the renowned Ritz-Carlton Hotel system

CHEVY CHASE, MD. - The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. announced that The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago will become a full participant in The Ritz-Carlton hotel portfolio and all of its programs. Guests will be able to make reservations on ritzcarlton.com and will be eligible for benefits of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards guest loyalty program. This integration is expected to occur in August of this year. The hotel will undergo an extensive renovation of its public space and guest rooms over the next two years.

Since its opening on Michigan Avenue in 1975, the hotel had been using The Ritz-Carlton name under a license agreement with a predecessor of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which by its terms did not provide for full integration into The Ritz-Carlton system. 

"We are delighted to welcome The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago into our family of award-winning luxury hotels,"said Herve Humler, president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. "This will give our loyal customers access to one of the finest addresses in the great city of Chicago. After the extensive renovation that is planned, The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago will take its place among the truly iconic luxury hotels in the United States." 

The statuesque 429-room hotel is located on floors 15 through 30 of Water Tower Place on the city's Magnificent Mile, near Navy Pier and Chicago's Gold Coast. The hotel features 101 hotel suites, a full-service spa, fine dining and over 21,000 square feet of meeting space and a vibrant rooftop restaurant and bar.

Virgin Hotels Chicago saves the best for last - Cerise Rooftop

CHICAGO - Virgin Hotels Chicago recently opened Cerise, the rooftop bar and lounge located on the hotel's 26th floor. Cerise, meaning cherry red, is the fifth and final food and beverage space to open at Virgin Hotels, and joins The Commons Club, Miss Ricky's, Two Zero Three and 24/7 in-room dining.

Virgin Hotels collaborated with Italian designer, Paola Navone, to create the whimsical and playful aesthetic, giving guests a peek inside her wild imagination. From the moment guests depart the elevators, they are immersed in bold hues of blue with touches of red and green, unexpected trinkets from Navone's global travels and expansive views of Chicago's historic architectural skyline, including the Jewelers' Building.  Cerise expands the entire width of the hotel, including a terrace that wraps around three sides. Two bars are situated at the far ends of the rooftop, with an assortment of large, plush couches both indoors and out.

"We've been anticipating the opening of Cerise since we welcomed our first guests in January, and now that Chicago has thawed out, it's time to unveil the cherry on top," said Raul Leal, CEO Virgin Hotels."Cerise isn't like any other Chicago rooftop; the surprising design fuels you with curiosity and imagination and leaves you wanting to explore more. The views, the entertainment and the summer-style cocktail menu, will make Cerise the most sought-after rooftop spot in Chicago."

An Izakaya-inspired menu offers salty and spicy, crunchy and savory small dishes; engineered to be enjoyed with beer, wine and cocktails. Items on the menu include Oysters on a Half Shell, Japanese Chicken Wings and Shrimp Dumplings, while the cocktail menu offers individual or shared drinks. Sip the Tradewinds Punch with up to six friends, combining el Dorado 151 rum, Bombay Dry Gin, grapefruit, guava, lime, vanilla, saffron and IPA, or try something more subtle, such as the Far East Gimlet with Grey Goose Vodka and house yuzu-lime cordial. The full menu can be downloaded here.

The Roots frontman and part of the Jimmy Fallon house band, Questlove, provided the soundtrack for Cerise's opening on April 25, and set the dance floor aflame. A cast of marquee and underground DJs will provide the energy every Wednesday thru Saturday from now until Memorial Day, followed by seven days a week.

The hotel was originally built in 1928 as the Old Dearborn Bank building. With almost 100 years of history, Virgin Hotels carefully renovated the building from basement to 26th floor, maintaining much of its original charm, but adding in modern elements. Part of the renovation process was moving the elevator machinery room from what is now Cerise to a new floor above the rooftop deck.

Seabourn partners with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller to create new menu items for all Seabourn ships

SEATTLE - Dining is about to reach new heights in the cruise industry as Seabourn announces its partnership with world-renowned American chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller. The culinary genius behind a trio of Michelin-starred restaurants – The French Laundry, Per Se, and Bouchon – Keller will bring his award-winning French and American cuisine to the ultra-luxury cruise line in 2015, adding new flavors and flair to complement Seabourn's already celebrated cuisine.

Chef Keller will develop an array of dishes, ranging from appetizers to entrees to desserts for multiple dining venues aboard Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest beginning early fall 2015. The culinary creations will be prepared with high quality ingredients and to exact specifications, resulting in an unrivaled dining experience like no other at sea.

In addition, Seabourn will partner with Keller to introduce a new signature restaurant that will be revealed early next spring on Seabourn Quest before being expanded to the entire fleet, including the line's two new ships designed by Adam D. Tihany – Seabourn Encore launching in late 2016 and Seabourn Ovation launching in early spring 2018.  Keller will also advise on various aspects of the line's culinary operations, sharing his expertise and vision.

"There is really no chef more accomplished or held in higher esteem than Chef Keller, and we are both honored and delighted to have a restaurateur of his stature take our onboard culinary offerings to an even higher level," said Seabourn President Richard Meadows"His culinary talent and sophisticated cuisine are beyond compare and the perfect match for our guests. We have no doubt our guests will be as excited as we are to taste and enjoy Chef Keller's dishes on our ships."

"There's an inherent alignment of our philosophies, which makes our collaboration with Seabourn an exciting new opportunity for our restaurant group. We look forward to sharing our best practices and repertoire with Seabourn's outstanding culinary team," said Thomas Keller, Chef/Proprietor Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.  

Long a culinary leader in the cruise industry, Seabourn offers award-winning cuisine and gourmet dining experiences that rival the world's finest restaurants. For the past two years, Seabourn has been honored as the "Best Culinary Cruise Line" in the SAVEUR Culinary Travel Awards for 2013 and 2014.

Seabourn's intimate ships offer key elements that set the line apart: spacious, thoughtfully appointed suites, many with verandas; superb dining in a choice of venues; complimentary open bars throughout the ship; fine wines poured at lunch and dinner; award-winning service and a relaxed, sociable atmosphere that makes guests feel right at home on board. The ships travel the globe throughout the year, sailing to many of the world's most desirable destinations, including marquee cities, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and lesser-known ports and hideaways.

Keller is globally-renowned for his culinary skills and exceptionally high standards, and has established a collection of 12 restaurants and bakeries that set a new paradigm within the hospitality profession. He is the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide, as well as the first American male chef to be designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France. He has received countless accolades, including The Culinary Institute of America's "Chef of the Year" Award and the James Beard Foundation's "Outstanding Chef" and "Outstanding Restaurateur" Awards. His restaurant properties are located in Beverly Hills, Yountville, Calif., Las Vegas and New York, and include Per Se, Bouchon Bistro, Bouchon Bakery and Ad Hoc. In January of 2015, as President for Ment'or BKB, a foundation he co-founded with Chefs Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse, he lead Team USA to a historic silver win in the Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, France. Chef Keller has also authored five cookbooks and is publisher of Finesse Magazine.

Expedia app now available on Apple Watch

BELLEVUE, WASH. - Expedia.com released the Expedia app for Apple Watch, providing a convenient new way for travelers to receive and access helpful trip information at a glance.

Expedia on Apple Watch is available in the App Store and provides a useful travel solution with notifications, glances and more to give people the facts and confidence they need for a better overall travel experience.

"Timing is everything, especially when it comes to travel," said Jerald Singh, Head of Mobile at Expedia. "With the Expedia app for Apple Watch, we're delivering a more personalized experience by providing the most helpful, relevant information at the right moment throughout a traveler's journey. We know receiving information on your wrist is an incredibly intimate notion, so we're being sensitive about ensuring any updates we share with you on the watch are both actionable and pertinent based on where you are in your trip. Our biggest goal with Apple Watch is to help travelers during their journey; if we do that well, we think they will want to come back to Expedia for their future travel needs."

Designed for quick and easy interaction, the app delivers personalized trip data and alerts to travelers' wrists for every stage of the journey. Key features include:
  • Notifications: Receive over 20 different types of alerts for flight status, gate changes, hotel check-in and check-out, car rental pick-up and drop-off times and more.
  • Glances: See the most relevant reservation information, like hotel check-in time, addresses and maps, at a glance. Simply swipe up on the watch face and scroll left or right to access the information you need.
  • The App: Access itineraries for upcoming trips to see detailed flight and hotel information. For flights, the app presents departure and arrival times, gate numbers and terminals. For hotels, it shows check-in and check-out times, maps, directions and phone numbers.
Expedia on Apple Watch is free and can be downloaded in the App Store in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Also, Hotels.com on Apple Watch features:

  • Guests will be notified about upcoming reservations and have full access to booking details, such as the hotel image and address.
  • The app will also display GPS directions to the hotel and remind the guest about check-in and check-out information.
  • A special feature also enables travelers to find last-minute hotel deals in their current location, to help them choose their ideal hotel for the best rate.
Hotwire on Apple Watch features:
  • As part of our My Trips feature, travelers will be able to check their hotel information – including directions, check-in time, etc.
  • Access to upcoming trips itineraries for hotel and car rentals purchased on Hotwire.
  • Access to bookings itinerary info on the watch including past itineraries.
  • Hotel Check-in alerts: pop-up either at 11 a.m. on the check-in date.
  • Gas up alert: pop-up 1 hour before car drop off time.

BlueBay Group enters the Moroccan market with Blue Diamond Sahara Palace in Marrakesh

Within its dynamic expansion plan, BlueBay Group has just opened in Marrakesh the new hotelBlue Diamond Sahara Palace, entering the Moroccan market. This new luxury hotel is located in the prime area of the Palmeraie, under the Atlas Mountains. It is an oasis in the desert, a world of sensations opens in a heavenly natural enclave to live the dream of 1001 nights, where luxury and relaxation are the basic premises. Majestic and serene, the hotel is certainly a sanctuary of peace and tranquility to pamper guest’s senses with a personalized attention, exclusive services and an idyllic setting.

Blue Diamond Sahara Palace has 89 spacious suites with 24 hour room service and several Riads with their respective suites; all of them overlooking the gardens and pool, the Atlas mountains or the desert of the Palmeraie. The suites are equipped with private terrace, sofas and Balinese beds, large bathrooms, 40-inch TVs, free WiFi, among others amenities.

There are four exceptional restaurants, where gastronomy lovers will be delighted with Moroccan, Indian, international and Mediterranean specialties. The hotel also has a Cigar Bar and a Tea Room.

The 500m2 Royal Suite has three bedrooms and occupies an entire floor of the building, accessible by private lift. It has dressing rooms, a dining room and a living room with fireplaced. The four separate Riads with their respective suites have private courtyard and gardens and the same amenities as the suites.

The Spa by Blue Diamond invites soothing solitude, spread across 3,800m² feature 14 treatment rooms and two extensive hammams in line with the Moroccan tradition as well as pool, yoga room and fully equipped gym. Its main concept is based on Strength Recovery, Sport and Nutrition to achieve “reborn of Body and Mind”.

In addition to this new hotel, BlueBay Group has planned a strong presence in North Africa and the Middle East with upcoming openings in Istanbul (Turkey), Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Fujairah (UAE) and Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), under the BlueBay Group brands: Blue Diamond, BlueBay Hotels & Resorts and BelleVue Hotels & Resorts. In addition, the hotel group will also enter the Brazilian market with five hotels in Rio de Janeiro and strengthen its presence in the Spanish Costa del Sol and Panama.