Colorado Trail Race 2017 Gear Roundup

Colorado Trail Race 2017 Gear Roundup

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The epically wet and stormy 2017 running of the Colorado Trial Race pushed riders and their gear to the absolute limits.  The technical singletrack and massive elevation gain of the CT also reward a light-and-fast approach to packing.  There is no room for excess gear in the alpine.  However, setting out without improper or inadequate […]

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August 10, 2017 at 03:13PM

MakeMyTrip records gross bookings of $1 billion for the quarter

MakeMyTrip records gross bookings of $1 billion for the quarter

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MakeMyTrip’s results for the April-June quarter tell a familiar story of double and triple-digit increases across the board in terms of revenue, room nights and flight segments, with sales and marketing costs and net losses also on the up.

This quarter’s numbers include the impact of the Ibibo Group businesses following the 2016 merger.

Talking to analysts, the executive team continued to highlight the immediate and short-term importance of market share gains and customer acquisition in order for the business to succeed in the long term.

Underpinning this approach are a number of macro factors which feed into MakeMyTrip’s long-term plans, with the Indian government’s generally proactive approach to travel and the digital economy helping greatly.

Execs highlighted the UDAN initiative, which is intended to increase regional connectivity across India by insisting airlines offer a certain number of discounted seats on flights between designated secondary airports.

The Indian government has also launched a BHIM, a payments app which provides a nationwide platform to users to transfer money.

Deep Kalra, MakeMyTrip’s CEO said: “This will undoubtedly benefit all e-commerce companies over time by bringing in a new segment of users into the market”.

The private sector too is also helping MakeMyTrip. Reliance JOI, one of the country’s biggest mobile networks, has been upping its presence with “disruptive and affordable smartphone and data plans.”

Other positive macro tailwinds include the generally strong outlook for the Indian economy – GPD up 6.6% this year, 7.2% next year according to the IMF.

And the aviation sector in India will expand. “Indian carriers have already placed more than 1,300 new orders, with 250 planes expected to be come into service over the next two to three years,” Kalra noted.

The theme here is the importance of so-called second/third/fourth tier cities and India’s rural population. Taking to analysts Kalra confirmed “Large opportunities for new user growth will likely come from the non-urban parts of the country, where penetration levels are estimated at 16%.”

MakeMyTrip is already actively pursuing this segment and has launched a MMT Lite, a 1-megabyte Android app which has been built to address storage issues on entry-level smartphones, favoured by many new users.

The positive soundings around the future for online travel and India’s digital economy in general comes in the context of a some impressive growth figures for its April-June quarter. In volume terms, standalone hotel room night bookings was up by 192% at just under 5.5 million. Air segments were also ahead, up 65% to around eight million in the quarter.

Gross bookings for the three months broke through the billion dollar barrier and were 81% up on the same period last time. Revenue was up 54.6% to $192.1 million compared with the same quarter last year, while revenue less service cost was up 135.0% at $141.2 million.

The net result however was a net loss, which came in at some $53 million for the quarter.

Sales and marketing costs for the quarter were up 152.5% to $133.0 million thanks to “significant customer inducement and acquisition programs expenses.” Execs were keen to explain to analysts that the efficiency and return from its sales and marketing spend were improving. Kalra noted that sales and marketing costs this quarter were around 12% of revenues – he expects that to drop to around 5% “within three to five years”.

Click here to access its Q1 2017 earnings release.

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August 10, 2017 at 03:03PM

The Baby-Sitters Club: The Trouble with Donald

The Baby-Sitters Club: The Trouble with Donald

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Kristy, the president of the Baby-Sitters Club, always brought the
meetings to order. The club’s other members—Mary Anne, Stacey, and
Claudia—answered her roll call as usual, and then settled in to address
the agenda.

“Our babysitting schedules are jam-packed,” Kristy said, adjusting her
visor. “We’re almost too successful. We need to add a new
member—someone experienced, with a list of good clients.”

“That’s a smart idea, Kristy,” Stacey said. “Especially since I have to
take time off to go to New York City for some tests for my diabetes.”

“And Claudia wants to take that art class, and you know my dad won’t let
me stay out late,” Mary Anne said, tossing a braid over her shoulder.
“It would be great to have someone else to help out.”

“Perfect!” Kristy stood up. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

“Why, do you know a trustworthy girl?” Claudia asked.

Just then, the doorbell rang.

Kristy wore a guilty expression.
“I didn’t want to say anything until
we’d discussed it, but I’ve been texting with a girl named Kelly,” she
said. “My mom’s friend said Kelly was a very good babysitter, so I
asked her to come to our meeting.”

“You didn’t even meet her first?” Stacey looked shocked.

Claudia’s mom’s voice floated up from downstairs, and then footsteps
echoed in the hallway.

“Kelly’s coming up!” Kristy whispered. “Be polite and act friendly.”

A tall man with close-cropped white hair appeared in the doorway.

“Um, hi,” Claudia said. “Are you Kelly’s dad?”

The man smiled awkwardly.
“I was afraid there might be some confusion,
because I’m not good at texting,” he began. “I’m Kelly—General John
Kelly, to be precise.”

The girls gaped at him. It was Mary Anne who recovered first.
“It’s nice
to meet you,” she said with a smile, and stuck out her hand. “I’m afraid
that we were expecting you to be a thirteen-year-old girl, like us.
We’re a little surprised. Are you a babysitter?”

“I am now,” General Kelly said sheepishly. “Before this, I was head of
the Department of Homeland Security, and before that, I was commander of
the U.S. Southern Command.”

“I don’t really understand what that means, but it sounds impressive—I’m
sure parents would feel you were very responsible,” Kristy said. “But I
thought you said you had a client list?”

“I do. It’s only one client, but the family pays very well.” He
shrugged. “I guess they have to, though. The previous babysitter only
lasted six months.”

The girls exchanged looks.

“I see.” Kristy flipped open a notebook. “Do you mind if we ask this
person’s name?”

“Donald. He lives over—”

Stacey cut him off.
“We know Donald, don’t we, girls?” she
asked.
Everyone nodded. Mary Anne looked pained.

“Unfortunately, Donald is on our black list.” Kristy said, and shut the
notebook. “His daughter called us for a job, and we assumed it was for
her kids, but when we got there . . . ”

“I tried to keep him off Twitter!” Mary Anne said and burst into tears.

Stacey rubbed her back. “No one could have stopped him. He’s very . . .
single-minded.”

Mary Anne continued to sob.

“We vowed never to babysit him again. It was even worse than the time
little Betsy accidentally broke my leg.” Claudia’s expression was grim.
“We won’t be able to partner with you, but we wish you the best of
luck.”

“Luck!” Kelly exclaimed. “I don’t need luck. I’m a Marine! Oorah!”

Kristy nodded politely.
“I’m sure your training was tough, but the four
of us have faced down some of the scariest kids in Stoneybrook,” she
said. “Even so, Donnie was definitely the most difficult. Those
tantrums! That spelling!”

“Maybe you young ladies just aren’t up for the challenge. I’ve often
said that women in combat lower the military’s standards,” Kelly said
stiffly. “I’m sure I’m capable of babysitting one person all by myself,
even if you’re not.”

Mary Anne jumped to her feet. “Look, mister, we’re four female
entrepreneurs running a very successful business. Don’t condescend to
us.” She opened the bedroom door. “Good luck with Donnie. You’ll need
it.”

Kelly marched out, slamming the door behind him.

“That was awkward,” Stacey said. “And we still don’t have anyone to help
us.”
Her phone buzzed, and she read off the screen.
“It’s someone named
Scott Baio? He says he’s not a babysitter, but he played one on TV.
Donald told him about us, and he needs the work.”

“Delete it,” Kristy said. “Let’s go over the next item on our agenda:
finding a V.C. who values female founders.”

“We might as well wish for a woman President,” Mary Anne muttered.

The girls sighed wistfully.

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August 10, 2017 at 02:05PM

Can WorkForm Make it Easier to Work on the Road?

Can WorkForm Make it Easier to Work on the Road?

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Remote work is often marketed as the pinnacle of work opportunities, with endless flexibility and complete control over your schedule and life. However, we all know that even the most favorable situations can come with some pitfalls.

So, just how feasible is remote work, anyway? What happens when you hit the road, but you’re still on the clock? Many remote nomads have been able to find viable work spaces while traveling, especially in population centers; but what happens if you’re off your beaten path and away from chain cafes on which you usually rely?

Recently, we reviewed Cafe Wifi, which is an online and iOS interface through which remote workers can find Wifi hotspots near them. Cafe Wifi also provides information on the speed of the internet connection, the type of vibe in the space, and the quality of the available refreshments. However, although Cafe Wifi is constantly growing, it really only works for large population centers.

Fortunately, several such databases exist, and one that offers a higher degree of completeness is Workfrom. Workfrom operates as a search engine for wireless connections around the world, such that working nomads are able to search for a place to log in and get things done and has become one of my favorite tools for traveling.

Users can search for public spaces, private spaces, spaces with fast internet connections, spaces with available power outlets, and more. Once Workfrom finds a subset of spaces available in a location that you specify, you can filter your search according to parameters that are important to you.

These parameters include the availability of alcohol and/or food, a quieter atmosphere, pet friendliness, family friendliness, or outdoor seating. Users are also able to refine the search radius between 5 miles and 50 miles. Workfrom displays all results in a convenient and user friendly Google maps format, and provides information on each venue based on community participation. If you join Workfrom, you have access to additional information, such as internet speed, and you are able to share and save favorite places.

Of course, there are loads of available venues in large population centers such as Los Angeles and Denver, Athens and Saint Petersburg, for instance. However, I wanted to check out the usability in smaller population centers, such as the Iowa/Illinois border town of Davenport. When I checked the database for Davenport, I noticed something strange; Workfrom listed only one location, but there were several grey circles on the Davenport map as well. What did these hits mean?

Grey circles refer to a place that Workfrom recognizes as a potentially favorable spot to work, but it isn’t officially in the database — yet. Venues like this, such as Koffee Break Restaurant and Java Java Cafe, are listed in a more or less “unofficial” way; these places were called from the search as a Google Maps search would call from a search for cafes, but they don’t exist within the official framework of Workfrom because they haven’t been scouted by Workfrom users. This was still pretty impressive to me, though; it meant that even if locations weren’t officially in the Workfrom database, users still have access to them as they would on Google Maps.

Of course, Workfrom does not boast a totally complete database; however, its database does include over 1,900 cities and consists of a community of over 3,200 scouts. Workfrom scouts are users who are actively building the Workfrom database and community.

You can become a scout, too! If you have visited a neat venue that you think would be good for other remote workers to know about, you can review the venue and share information about it directly on the Workfrom platform. You can also let other users know where you are, if you wish, by “clocking in” on the website or app, which allows you to warn other users if the space is unusually crowded or let them know that there is plenty of space for them! Note that the app is available for both iOS and Android, boosting its accessibility to users worldwide!

If you are looking for a comfortable space to knock out some remote work, or if you know of any sweet venues that would be great for other nomads, join the Workfrom community and always stay plugged in!

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August 10, 2017 at 01:03PM

JetBlue banks on proactive customer service with investment in Gladly

JetBlue banks on proactive customer service with investment in Gladly

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JetBlue will centralize all customer communications through a new partnership with Gladly and will also invest in the business through its JetBlue Technology Ventures.

Gladly brings together all customer contacts – via phone, text, chat, email, Tweet or Facebook message – into a single passenger record, which avoids customers having to repeat information they’ve already submitted on one platform when contacting the airline through another.

This facilitates contacts in real-time throughout the journey using the method of contact which is most convenient to the traveller at the time. Customers will also be able to switch contact channels mid-conversation, while customer service representatives will see the full history of customer conversations even for previous flights.

For example, if a customer shared on social media that they were looking forward to a family trip with JetBlue and then notified JetBlue of problems on the day of travel, JetBlue’s customer service team could see both the current situation that needs to be addressed and the degree of importance the customer places on the journey, which supports adequately empathic response.

The multiplatform features of the Gladly system allow customer service to respond dynamically to customers in stressful conditions. For example, they could sending a quick SMS with alternate flight options to a customer on-the-go, and confirm final travel arrangements via email.

Frankie Littleford, vice president customer support, JetBlue says:

“We started JetBlue with the idea that we could bring humanity back to air travel but the customer support technology hasn’t kept up with the increasing number of ways customers want to interact with us. Gladly gives us the tools to deliver on our mission in today’s environment.”

Joseph Ansanelli, CEO and co-founder of Gladly adds:

“JetBlue and Gladly have a shared focus on people and humanizing every experience. By empowering JetBlue crew members with technology that helps them understand their customers more deeply, it frees up crew members to focus on what matters most – the person”

Related reading:
JetBlue venture arm invests in Betterez (Aug17)

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August 10, 2017 at 12:53PM

News: Bahrain to welcome US$10bn in accommodation investment by 2020

News: Bahrain to welcome US$10bn in accommodation investment by 2020

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The island kingdom of Bahrain has announced that it is set to receive 15 new hotels and beachfront resorts by 2020.

The development will have a collective investment of over $10 billion and will put Bahrain firmly on the map as a desirable and competitive holiday destination.

Bahrain’s exciting new arrivals include world-renowned hotel brands such as One&Only, Wyndham, Fairmont, Vida, The Address, Ibis and Pullman, each set to make their entry over the next three years.

They will find themselves in excellent company as they join the destination’s other big names such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Sofitel.

The new hotels will make valuable additions to Bahrain’s existing portfolio of over 190 hotels and resorts.

This includes 18 fantastic five-star hotels, 48 four-star hotels, 35 three-star hotels, 81 serviced apartments and 11 resorts.

These hotels currently offer a capacity of more than 16,500 rooms for visitors to the Gulf’s only island nation.

Commenting on the developments in Bahrain’s tourism and hospitality sectors, Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive at EDB, said: “These future investments in the hospitality sector will bring several new international hotel chains to the kingdom and raise the profile of existing ones.

“They are expected to increase hotel capacity in the country by around 4,000 hotel rooms, by 2020, as well as fill the gaps in the market, especially in the mid-market and luxury sector”.

He added: “These new developments will both help to meet rising demand and attract new visitors to the Kingdom. Bahrain showed strong growth in tourist numbers in 2016, witnessing a six per cent increase in the number of tourist arrivals, receiving 12.2 million.”

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August 10, 2017 at 12:09PM

News: TUI Group reports strong financial performance for third quarter

News: TUI Group reports strong financial performance for third quarter

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TUI Group reports strong financial performance for third quarter

TUI Group recorded turnover growth of 16.4 per cent, to €4.94 billion, for the third quarter of financial 2017.

This is up from a figure of €4.24 billion for the same period last year.

Including foreign exchange translation, turnover rose by 12.6 per cent to €4.78 billion.

Underlying EBITA climbed 18.7 per cent to €191 million.

“This will be another good year for TUI Group.

“We are delivering growth and reiterating our guidance.

“We expect turnover growth of more than three per cent, our underlying operating result is expected to grow by at least ten per cent1 in the full year,” said TUI Group chief executive Fritz Joussen.

TUI Group continued its transformation into as a fully integrated tourism group during the period.

Joussen added: “We successfully completed the sale of our Travelopia specialist tour operator business in quarter three and the remaining stake in Hapag-Lloyd AG in July 2017.

“This completes the transformation of the former diversified conglomerate to tourism group TUI.

“The rebranding has also been very successful in all countries and has strengthened TUI both at the global and local levels.

The UK will be the last market to roll out the rebranding in autumn 2017.

Joussen continued: “Our clear focus on the high-growth and high-margin hotels and resorts and cruises segments has proven to be the right strategy and has been very successful.

“The digitalisation of our businesses and services is progressing well.

“We are embracing new technologies such as Blockchain, and have already started to apply it in our hotel businesses.”

TUI was and remains prepared for shifts in demand for individual destinations.

Lower demand for Turkey was already taken into account when planning the summer 2017 programme, as demand for Turkey had declined as early as 2016.

This factor was fully offset by additional offerings to alternative destinations.

However, late bookings reflect a renewed popularity of Turkey and North African destinations among customers.

Joussen: “This good performance reflects our successful transformation and focus on own hotel and cruise brands.

“We have significantly reduced the seasonal swing of our business.

“For the first time, we have delivered a positive operating result for the first nine months of a financial year.

“TUI is in excellent shape about to fulfil its objectives.”

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August 10, 2017 at 11:28AM

News: Waldorf Hilton introduces Handy Phone for guests

News: Waldorf Hilton introduces Handy Phone for guests

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The Waldorf Hilton is empowering guests through the smartphone technology, Handy Phone, to further improve the visitor experience.

All 298 rooms are equipped with complimentary Handy Phone service, ensuring 24-hour connectivity and convenience, as well providing free international calls to selected countries (including the United States) and unlimited calls in the UK.

Guests can also enjoy unlimited internet access with 3G data; with the Handy Phone also offering social media networking, destination-specific content, exclusive hotel offers and promotions, comprehensive city guides and recommended shops, bars, restaurants and places to visit.

Hotels can also provide unique services that answers travellers needs and wants.

Benefits for the hotel include call-to-action features, in-depth guest analytics, seamless integration with PMS networks and an integrated TripAdvisor guest feedback system.

All designed to elevate the guest experience and unlock unexplored opportunities for the intrepid hotelier.

Guy Hilton, general manager, The Waldorf Hilton said: “Handy Phones are the ideal companion for the modern traveller.

“At the Waldorf Hilton, we are always looking at ways of going beyond providing the best service possible for our guests.

“Now they can reserve a trip, book theatre tickets and discover more of the city from the comfort of their room or while they are out and about outside of the hotel.

“Without doubt it helps us to enhance the guest experience.

Handy (which can be used outside of the hotel) also comes equipped with fully adjustable language selection, allowing hotel guests to enjoy the full breadth of the phone’s capabilities regardless of their linguistic preferences.

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August 10, 2017 at 11:28AM

News: Qatar to offer visa waiver to citizens of 80 countries

News: Qatar to offer visa waiver to citizens of 80 countries

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Qatar has confirmed it will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries, effective immediately.

The news comes as the destination seeks to diversify its tourism opportunities amid a continuing blockade from rivals in the Middle East.

Citizens of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are currently barred from visiting the country, hitting the domestic tourism market.

As a result, citizens from a host of new countries wishing to visit Qatar will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa.

Instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free-of-charge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.

Depending on the nationality of the visitor, the waiver will either be valid for 180 days, from the date of issue, and allow the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar (multiple-entry waiver); or it will be valid for 30 days from the date of issue and entitle the visitor to spend up to 30 days in Qatar.

The latter case will then be offered the possibility of applying for an extension of the waiver for an additional 30 days (multiple-entry waiver).

These developments come as part of a series of measures that Qatar has taken to facilitate visitor access to the country.

Last month, Qatar launched an e-visa platform through which travellers of all nationalities can apply for tourist and visitor visas with more efficiency and ease.

According to Hassan Al Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer at Qatar Tourism Authority, visa facilitation is a critical component of the national tourism sector strategy, which QTA is currently reviewing in partnership with stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

With renewed focus by the country’s leadership on diversifying the national economy, a revised strategy which empowers various players to boost the growth of tourism is set to be launched on September 27th, when Qatar hosts the official celebrations of World Tourism Day.

“Easing entry to Qatar is a key enabler for the growth of Qatar’s tourism industry. With this announcement we are already turning the pages of the Next Chapter of Qatar’s journey towards 2030,” commented Al Ibrahim.

“Together with our partners in the public and private sectors, we have examined all of the elements needed to create a smooth and enticing experience that can attract visitors from around the world.

“There is no doubt that facilitating and streamlining access at all ports of entry are key factors in creating a positive first and lasting impression of Qatar.”

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August 10, 2017 at 10:52AM