Qatar to Launch Qsuites on Washington – Dulles to Doha Route in 2018

Qatar to Launch Qsuites on Washington – Dulles to Doha Route in 2018

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Qatar Airways’ new business-class product, Qsuite, may be the best product of its kind flying today. In December, the carrier will bring its Qsuite business class to its first North American destination in New York (JFK), and next year, flyers can expect another North American destination to be added. From January 16 through March 23, 2018, the Qatar site shows that the airline will operate Qsuites between Doha (DOH) and Washington – Dulles (IAD).

Qatar has yet to make a formal announcement that it will be operating its Qsuites-equipped 777-300ER on the route. However, its seatmap is showing that the product will be offered. If you’re looking to try out the Qsuite product, the 77W will operate on the QR707/708 frequencies. This is what the operating schedule looks like:

  • QR707 Doha (DOH) 8:20am Departure ⇒ Washington – Dulles (IAD) 2:50pm Arrival
  • QR708 Washington – Dulles (IAD) 8:00pm Departure ⇒ Doha (DOH) 4:35pm (+1) Arrival

As of now, the Qsuite product is appearing on Qatar’s schedule between DOH and IAD only between January 16 and March 23, 2018. After that date, the route switches back to one of Qatar’s 777-300ER aircraft that’s not equipped with Qsuites, with seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration.


The Qsuites cabin (L) vs. a non-Qsuites cabin (R).

Although it appears to be temporary at this point, IAD is a surprising route addition from Qatar. In September, the carrier announced it would begin flying Qsuites to New York (JFK) in December 2017. In addition, Qsuites is offered between DOH and Paris (CDG) and DOH and London (LHR), its launch route.

At each seat, Qsuites passengers get their own sliding door for privacy, fine dining options, access to a premier lounge in Doha, top-notch amenities and the option to turn the center two seats into a “honeymoon seat” bed. When TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig tried out the product, he was blown away.

Check out this post for complete details on how to search and book Qsuites with miles. Your best bet is to use AAdvantage miles for a one-way business-class ticket on the route, which will cost you 70,000 miles. There appears to be some award availability in both directions, and if you’re looking to book with AAdvantage miles, you’ll need to call AA to do so.

This is good news for travelers based in the Washington metro area who are looking to test out Qsuites. Rather than having to get to New York to try it out, there will soon be an option right at IAD — at least temporarily. Of course, there is the chance that this is an error on Qatar’s part and the Qsuite-equipped 777-300ER wasn’t supposed to appear on this route. However, the roll-out for the product has been smooth up until this date, so it’s entirely possible that Qatar does intend to have its Qsuites on the route.

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November 20, 2017 at 02:33PM

Mobile app startups – Hoof, Lookaround, Skyhour

Mobile app startups – Hoof, Lookaround, Skyhour

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This is a regular roundup of some of the latest mobile application startup launches in travel covering everything from trip inspiration and planning to virtual assistants.

Hoof

What is it?

Hoof aims to help users log their travels, share experiences and manage who sees their check-ins and posts. It helps them keep in touch with friends and family as well as allowing them to connect with anyone they meet along the way.

Who’s behind it?

Elliott Grant – founder and CEO. Grant formerly worked at luxury travel operator Black Tomato.

Oliver McGinn, Co-founder and COO.

Is there a problem you’re trying to solve?

Grant says:

Travel has always played a big part in my life and losing track of where I had been had always been frustrating. There wasn’t any kind of medium for storing check-ins as you travel around which led me to believe there was a ‘missing travel app’.

“I wanted to create an app which features elements never combined in one application before and most importantly, an app which aims to bring together a community of like-minded fellow globe trotters.”

What else?

Last year it raised £125,000 from investors. Hoof is now looking to raise a further £200,000 seed funding at the end of this year.

mobile app

Lookaround

What is it?

Lookaround is a mobile travel guide that uses 360° video content to inspire travellers to explore and experience more in the city they are visiting.

Travellers can use Lookaround to preview tours & activities via 360° videos and then book one.

It also enables users to watch 360° vlog videos on topics such as eating out, shopping, clubbing andsightseeing providing visitors with a complete view on what to do in destination.

Who’s behind it?

Lookaround is founded by three friends:

Nikolay Mihaylov – founder and CEO. Managing product and investor relations.

Ivan Ivanov – founder and CTO. Managing technology and programmatic marketing.

Marc Wyss – founder and COO. Managing B2B and expansion.

Is there a problem you’re trying to solve?

Mihaylov says:

“Most of the content travelers see online is very unattractive, repetitive and not honest, thus users spend an enormous amount of time researching until they find something interesting to do.

“Therefore, we wanted to build something that provides a new way to explore things to do when traveling – a new platform that will inspire you to try a new experience or visit an exciting place.

“And we concluded that there is no better way of doing this than with the power of 360° video storytelling where everything is visible to the user and is provided from a totally new perspective.

“This is really revolutionary for the travel industry as it totally changes the way travelers explore and get inspired what to do.

“With 360° video the user is in the middle of the action and can get a taste of the destination as if the user is there making this the most immersive way to attract someone to explore & book things to do. Ultimately, these 360° videos can become the new point of sale for hotels, restaurants, tours & activities.”

What else?

Lookaround is funded with €200,000 by the the ex-founder of Telerik and serial angel investor in the US and EU, Vassil Terziev.

The company is also part of the The Family accelerator in Berlin and is currently raising a €600,000 seed round of which €50,000 is raised already.

Skyhour

What is it?

Skyhour is a gifting platform for air travel, available as a mobile app as well as via desktop.

Who’s behind it?

Skyhour has two founders:

Fernando Camara – Co-founder and CEO.

David Nogueira – Co-founder and CTO.

Is there a problem you’re trying to solve?

“Skyhour’s platform, which offers flights across 350 different airlines for both domestic and international travel, addresses the challenges consumers traditionally face when gifting air travel; not having enough miles, needing personal information of the traveler, or airline vouchers that are limited and have aggressive terms and conditions.”

Anything else?

The startup has received funding from JetBlue Technology Ventures to officially launch Skyhour and bring the platform to market.

skyhour mobile app

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November 20, 2017 at 02:03PM

You’ll Soon Be Able to Score Free Upgrades on Some Delta One Flights

You’ll Soon Be Able to Score Free Upgrades on Some Delta One Flights

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On Saturday, we learned that Delta’s bringing its premium lie-flat business-class product to a handful of additional routes — but the airline isn’t stopping there. Come April 1, 2018, Medallion elite members will be able to take advantage of a very welcome new perk: complimentary upgrades to Delta One on domestic flights. That’s right — positive change from the SkyMiles program.

What’s especially notable here is that this change doesn’t only affect Delta’s new upgraded routes — all domestic Delta One flights will be eligible, so beginning April 1, we shouldn’t see any lie-flat seats going out empty on the airline’s premium US flights.

I was expecting a slew of terms and conditions, and while some details are yet to be worked out, Delta’s Vice President of Customer Engagement and Loyalty, Sandeep Dube, told me that the airline’s goal is to make this upgrade process simple and intuitive.

In a nutshell, Delta One upgrades will work the same way first-class upgrades work today, with one exception: they’ll be processed only on the day of departure. It’s not yet clear if that means 24 hours before the flight or only on the actual calendar day, but Dube did confirm that the goal is for upgrades to be processed prior to the gate — though, depending on no-shows and seats held for last-minute sales, I imagine gate agents will end up processing some upgrades, too.


Free upgrades include all Delta One perks, including Westin Heavenly bedding. Photo by Eric Rosen.

Other than that “day of departure” restriction, we can expect the same first-class upgrade procedures to apply here. That means anyone currently eligible for a complimentary upgrade to first class will be able to score a Delta One seat, depending on availability, of course — that includes companions, and individuals with upgrade perks from Delta’s partnership with Starwood Preferred Guest.

Personally, I don’t have any Delta elite status, so upgrades thanks to my SPG Platinum status are at the bottom of the list. So would I ever expect to score a flat-bed seat on one of this flights? Nope. That said, depending on the day and time of travel, it’s entirely possible that members in lower Medallion tiers will get moved up to Delta One — while Diamond members are prioritized first, of course, I imagine it won’t be unheard of for Platinum, Gold or perhaps even Silver members to book economy and get a lie-flat seat during off-peak periods on some of the leisure routes.

American Airlines, meanwhile, offers complimentary upgrades to business class on premium domestic routes, but only to Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members. United doesn’t offer complimentary upgrades to any customers on its premium domestic flights.

No matter what, this change means Delta One seats won’t go to waste — some of the airline’s most valued customers will soon have a chance to experience them for the cost of a seat in coach, though, as always, if you want a guarantee that you’ll be seated in business class, that’s the cabin you’ll want to book.

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November 20, 2017 at 02:01PM

News: World Golf Awards prepares for Spanish debut at La Manga Club

News: World Golf Awards prepares for Spanish debut at La Manga Club

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Star names from the golfing world will join key figures from the global golf travel industry in heading to Spain’s La Manga Club later this month to take part in the annual World Golf Awards.

Hundreds of thousands of ballots have been cast in a variety of different categories ahead of the event – regarded as the most prestigious awards programme in golf tourism – with the winners set to be unveiled at a gala prize-giving ceremony on Saturday, November 25th.

Taking place in Spain for the first time from November 23th-26th, this year’s awards will bring together market leaders from all corners of the globe including North America, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Central and South America and Australasia.

Representatives from 40-plus countries will gather at La Manga Club in Murcia, south-east Spain, for three days of unrivalled networking events, dinners and exclusive golf-experience activities, and the chance to share in the resort’s 45th anniversary celebrations.

Joining them at the event will be a host of leading names from the golfing world including ‘the Voice of Golf’ Peter Alliss and ex-Ryder Cup star and Sky Sports commentator Andrew Coltart.

And attendees will have the chance to enjoy the full extent of La Manga Club’s facilities – the resort features three 18-hole golf courses, a nine-hole academy course and an outstanding practice area – with the event programme including two rounds of golf and a networking dinner on November 24th.

Chris Frost, World Golf Awards managing director, said: “We’re tremendously excited to be staging the awards in Spain for the first time at La Manga Club and this year’s event promises to be the biggest yet.

“With every continent represented, the event is going to be truly global and we’re looking forward to having a weekend to remember at one of golf’s most iconic resorts.”

Set across an area of 1,400 acres, La Manga Club has been at the forefront of European sports and leisure destinations since its inception in 1972.

La Manga Club has enjoyed a rich golfing history over the last four decades, with three of the game’s legends, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros, all figuring prominently, and the resort celebrated its birthday in style recently when it joined a select group of courses to be granted royal status by the Spanish royal household, and given the title ‘Real Golf La Manga Club’.

José Asenjo, general manager of La Manga Club, said: “It’s a great honour and privilege to be chosen to host the World Golf Awards for the first time, in what is a landmark year for the resort as we celebrate our 45th birthday.

“Each year the event attracts some of the most respected figures in the golf industry, and we’re very excited to have this opportunity to showcase our numerous world-class golf and leisure facilities to a key global audience.”

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November 20, 2017 at 01:51PM

News: NYC & Company launches True York City global ad campaign

News: NYC & Company launches True York City global ad campaign

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NYC & Company has revealed a new global tourism campaign entitled True York City, with advertisements and promotion now live around the world.

True York City showcases the unique culture produced by the 8.5 million residents of New York City’s five boroughs.

The campaign invites travellers to discover the iconic experiences we are known for, as well as lesser-known aspects that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

“When people think New York City, they think authenticity,” argued New York mayor Bill de Blasio.

“As the safest and most dynamic big city in America, we have endless cultural offerings that continue to make the five boroughs a global draw for tourists.

“But now with True York City we can give those travellers an even more genuine, bona fide New York City experience while helping our businesses and communities thrive at the same time.”

True York City is being introduced through NYC & Company’s most expansive campaign presence to date, with media and partnerships running across 17 countries, including the US, through the autumn and into next spring.

In-kind, partner and paid media contribute an approximate value of $15.6 million globally with ad messaging Famous Original NYC and digital and content elements incorporating the overarching campaign of True York City.

“Over the last decade, New York City has grown into one of the world’s most exciting and popular destinations, as evidenced by our record number of tourism-related jobs, almost double the number of international visitors and unprecedented economic impact, now the largest in the US; but we ask ourselves, where do we go from here?” said Fred Dixon, president of NYC & Company.

“The answer is we go deeper by enticing tourists to become travellers. 

Tourism works for New York City – in 2016, New York City’s travel and tourism sector saw a record-breaking year, with 60.5 million visitors and $43 billion in direct spending, the largest economic impact of any US destination.

The industry also sustained a record 383,000 jobs for working New Yorkers in all sectors of the economy.

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November 20, 2017 at 01:36PM

News: Rosewood Phuket welcomes first guests in Thailand

News: Rosewood Phuket welcomes first guests in Thailand

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Rosewood Phuket opens today, nestled along 600 meters of one of the last remaining secluded beaches on the island, on Emerald Bay in south-western Phuket.

Its debut marks not only the first south-east Asia resort for ultra-luxury Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, but the unveiling of Asaya, Rosewood’s new wellness concept. 

Guests can enjoy convenient access to the bustling seaside towns along this stretch of coastline, while Phuket’s cultural heart, the historic Old Town, is a short drive away.

Inspired by the serenity and sophistication of luxurious beachside estates, the resort features 71 pool pavilions and villas immersed within a 43-acre verdant landscape, creating a tropical beach hideaway perfectly placed for guests to explore the hidden charms of Thailand’s most famous island destination. 

“In design, art, cuisine and most especially in gracious service synonymous with Thai culture, at Rosewood Phuket our brand’s A Sense of Place philosophy has found a rich context in which to flourish,” said Sonia Cheng, chief executive officer of Rosewood Hotel Group.

“We are also thrilled that guests will experience our first Asaya, an innovative concept in holistic and integrative wellness journeys.”

Melbourne-based BAR Studio has applied its refined aesthetics to the resort’s design to celebrate its diverse range of landscapes.

Each sea-facing, residential-style room features interiors that blend east and west, contemporary and traditional.

Their expansive garden terraces are private sanctuaries of relaxed outdoor seating, daybed, infinity pool and Andaman Sea views. 

The 130-square-meter Ocean View Pool Pavilions feature spacious bedroom and living room areas and an exterior courtyard with deep soaking bathtub and rain shower.

The 796-square-meter Ocean House comprises a master bedroom, twin bedroom, separate living and dining rooms and a lush oasis of garden courtyards and shady terraces, and guests can choose a plunge in their private infinity pool or taking a few short steps to the warm, crystal-clear waters of Emerald Bay.

Asaya is designed to provide a unique opportunity for guests to discover their own true path to wellness.

At Wellness Ateliers upon arrival, experts create bespoke experiences for guests and help them choose organic, home-grown herbs and ingredients to be used in tailored treatments. 

Six suites include one signature wellness suite which caters to small groups of friends with dedicated treatment areas, outdoor relaxation space and Watsu pool.

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November 20, 2017 at 01:30PM

News: Qatar Airways boosts European frequencies

News: Qatar Airways boosts European frequencies

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Qatar Airways has announced that it will increase daily frequencies to the Scandinavian capitals of Stockholm and Oslo, alongside the Italian cities of Milan and Rome.

Due to an increase in demand to key European destinations, especially from the Asia Pacific region, flights to Rome, Milan and Stockholm will increase to 17 per week from Doha’s Hamad International Airport, while flights to Oslo are set to increase from seven to ten frequencies per week.

The airline has also announced that double daily flights to the Russian capital Moscow will increase to three times daily from December 14th, just five days before Qatar Airways’ inaugural daily flight to the Russian city of St. Petersburg.

The additional frequency to Moscow will be operated by an Airbus A320 aircraft.

Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways continues to expedite its ambitious expansion plans and demonstrate strong growth across Europe and Russia.

“These additional frequencies will provide our passengers with an array of convenient travel options when travelling to Doha or further afield on our global network.”

The national carrier of Qatar currently serves double daily flights to Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, Milan’s Malpensa Airport and Rome’s Fiumicino Airport with a mix of Boeing B787, Airbus A330 and Airbus A321 aircraft.

With a seamless stop-over at the five-star hub of the airline, Hamad International Airport, European travellers can reach more than 150 business and leisure destinations across six continents with the airline’s young fleet.

In addition to the frequency increases to Moscow, Stockholm, Oslo, Rome and Milan, Qatar Airways recently announced additional daily non-stop flights to Kyiv, Prague, Warsaw and Helsinki due to a significant increase in passenger demand.

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November 20, 2017 at 01:20PM

An Unabashed Appreciation of Smitten Kitchen, the Ur-Food Blog

An Unabashed Appreciation of Smitten Kitchen, the Ur-Food Blog

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It’s hard to remember this now, in the era of professional Instagram
influencers, but there was a time, not too long ago, when many ordinary
people just . . . had blogs. From about 2002 through 2006, once the Internet
had stopped being the exclusive province of people with real technical
expertise, and right before the dawn of widespread social-media use,
WordPress and Movable Type made it possible for civilians with only a
tiny bit of HTML at their fingertips to launch their own small
publications. They wrote about bands and books and their love lives,
often with no real goal beyond recording their daily existences. Some of
these people managed to garner real readerships. One of them was Deb
Perelman, a New Jersey native living in New York City, who, in 2003,
started a blog to write about her bad dates. After meeting the man who
would become her husband, she pivoted to writing about her domestic
life, especially cooking and eating. Eventually, she named the blog
Smitten Kitchen.

Today, almost all of the personal blogs that began in the early aughts
are gone, but Smitten Kitchen remains. Not only does it remain: it
thrives; it grows. Simultaneously, it retains both editorial
independence and Deb’s unmistakable funny earnestness. Her mission is
the same as it’s been for many years: to make recipes as good as they
possibly can be. Her tone has remained essentially unchanged since her
first tentative
post
,
about the glory of “the damp spot on top of a ripe tomato when you twist
the vine off. It smells like summer to me, back when tomatoes came free
from our backyard and not at surprising sums from Holland.” Smitten
Kitchen, these days, is not just a food blog: it is the food blog,
what many people think of when you say those words. And now, with the
publication of Deb’s second cookbook—“Smitten Kitchen Every
Day
”—it
is poised to take Deb into the realm of her lodestars, the Inas,
Marthas, and Nigellas she jokingly writes about imagining herself to be.

I have, full disclosure, been a part of the same blog-generation as Deb
long enough to have had many lovely e-mail and Twitter interactions with
her, and also to have once met her in person (an occasion on which I was
completely starstruck). But most of my disturbingly encyclopedic
knowledge of everything S.K.—the way Deb’s recipe-making mind works, her
family dynamics, her likes and dislikes—comes from being a longtime
reader, and from having cooked and eaten probably hundreds of her
recipes. She’ll write something like “The second I had these ingredients
together—lemon, tahini, butternut squash, garlic, chickpeas—I couldn’t
believe it was the first time,” and I’ll suddenly be convinced that I
need to make a warm butternut-squash
salad
for dinner. I love the work of many other food writers, but there’s no
other cook with whom I’ve achieved quite this level of one-sided
intimacy. And I’m not some outlier weirdo here! To prove it, I asked a
friend who has also been an S.K. reader since the beginning to quickly
list five things she knows about Deb’s palate. She responded in seconds:
“1. Doesn’t do fish. 2. Will fritter anything. 3. Thinks of crepes as an
easy make-ahead food 4. Not hugely into spicy food 5. Isn’t afraid to
rework a complicated recipe or dumb down ingredients from a traditional
one.”

This is pretty much the same list I’d make, though I’d never noticed the
crêpe detail, and I’m inclined to give Deb credit for trying to become
more fish-curious. But I’d add another item, and probably list it first:
the enduring backbone of the S.K. aesthetic is that Deb is a
recovering vegetarian who sees meat as a form of seasoning. She
definitely doesn’t think it’s a requisite part of a complete meal. This
contributes to the over-all affordability of cooking the S.K. way,
something that other cookbook authors seem not to take into account when
devising their recipes, unless they’re specifically writing about cooking
on a budget. Deb assumes, rightly, that almost everyone is on a budget,
and builds frugality into her recipes in small but welcome ways. She
will never ask you to use a tiny amount of a big-ticket item that only
comes in large quantities, for example. She has genuine love for beans,
grains, eggs, and tofu. In this sense, her cookbooks are a part of the
legacy of Mollie Katzen, who popularized hearty, mushroomy vegetarian
main dishes in her “Moosewood Cookbook” and its sequels.

Everyone I know who cooks has a favorite S.K. recipe. From the new book,
I already have a few keepers, and many that I’ve bookmarked to try. I love it
when Deb tries to replicate the humble, takeout-y foods of N.Y.C., which
she somehow manages to do without being gimmicky. Her at-home halal-cart
chicken, complete with copious “white sauce,” provides all the primal
satisfaction of the original, and she has unlocked the secret of the
carrot-ginger dressing that comes on sushi-bar salads, which I will
always think of as Dojo dressing, after the wallet-friendly restaurant
near N.Y.U. (The secret: white miso.) I also can’t wait to try a few of
the weirder-sounding dishes, like “caramelized cabbage risotto.” Deb
really, really loves cabbage. She explains that this is because she
wasn’t served it growing up, and thus never developed an aversion: she
loves it “with the open-hearted abandon of someone who chose it.”

Such is Deb’s power: I trust her when she tells me that something called
“sesame-peanut pesto” is worth getting out the Cuisinart for, and that I
should serve “loaded breakfast potato skins” at my next brunch. I know
that Deb isn’t padding with filler to reach a page count or to churn out
content; her commitment to the recipes she creates is evangelical and
absolute. It sounds like a job-interview cliché, but if she has a flaw
it is, truly, her perfectionism: she weighs ingredients and calibrates
cooking times precisely, and this baker’s mind-set can sometimes irk
when you’re just trying to make a salad. But if you do follow her
thoroughly tested recipes to the letter—like, say, her reworking of
classic canned-soup green-bean
casserole
,
perfect for Thanksgiving—you are inevitably rewarded. Dinner is served,
and you will likely be tempted to write about it online, or at least
post a picture of it to Instagram.

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November 20, 2017 at 01:08PM

Wait…Airbnb is a Reason to Say “No?”

Wait…Airbnb is a Reason to Say “No?”

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Airbnb-rebrand-by-DesignStudio_dezeen_468_8Feasibility is at the core of every hotel development. Will the property be able to be sustainable, given other factors in the marketplace?

So, you look at historic, present and future demand, at the competition, the budget of the Destination Marketing Organization, the anticipated growth of the region’s economy and a number of other markers.

Twenty-some years ago, as Madison was looking to build its Frank Lloyd Wright designed Convention Center, feasibility experts cautioned that the simultaneous development of an adjacent headquarter hotel could spell disaster for one of the other existing downtown hotels. Wait three years, they said, until the market demand stabilizes. And, because we cared for the hotels that had been our partners for decades, we did.

So, you can imagine my surprise at a headline over the weekend that read: “Danville has the Market for Downtown Hotel, but it could harm Airbnbs.

Pardon me?

Don’t get me wrong. I think Airbnb is a wonderful addition to our destination experiences…IF they are required to play by the same rules as hotels.

But, in what alternate universe would any community consider not pursuing a Downtown hotel because it might pose a threat to a disruptive platform that allows people to rent their homes? 

Yeah…the alternative universe in which we live.

 

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November 20, 2017 at 01:03PM

tnoozLIVE@Arival: Rezdy COO Chris Atkin

tnoozLIVE@Arival: Rezdy COO Chris Atkin

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This is the continuation of a series of articles spun out of tnoozLIVE@Arival, recorded live at the Arival in-destination event held at the LINQ in Las Vegas. More clips to come! To learn more about how to bring tnoozLIVE@ to your event, please email Kerry Cannon.

Reservation technology is the backbone of the digitalization of the tours and activities space. Without it, there’s no shift from pen-and-paper to digital inventory management and e-commerce. And given that around 40 percent of in-destination providers still rely on some form of paper, there’s plenty of room to run in this segment.

During the inaugural Arival event, we sat with an executive from one of the players in the reservation technology space, Rezdy. In his positions as Rezdy’s COO and CFO, Chris offers a view into the tours and activities sector — especially about how his company takes a customer-first approach to guide the way they build solutions for tour operators with a variety of needs.


Chris: My name is Chris Atkins. I’m from Rezdy. I’ve come all the way from Sydney. So this is the first day that I’m likely to see it through to beyond 10 o’clock in the evening, so that’s nice to achieve.

Nick: It’s tough, that jetlag, it’s a far one.

Chris: It’s a long way but I think it just goes to show what a really important event Arival is, that first tours and activity focused event that we’ve got. I think there are loads of international people here. I think a third of the people are here from international. So it’s great.

Nick: So what brought you to Arival? Obviously, this is the first event. A lot of people want to check it out. Why are you here?

Chris: Loads of our customers and stakeholders are here is the simple one. We exist to sell our products to suppliers and help them run their businesses.

But critical mass is working with the agents and resellers and everyone’s here and we want to be with our customers that are already on our platform but also work with essential people to come on and join us in the journey if you will building a platform for the industry.

Nick: Seems like it’s been a long time coming, I’ve been saying all day. Are you happy that there’s an event like this to bring your customers together?

Chris: I think it’s brilliant. It’s almost like a sign of maturity for the industry that it exists. As someone that’s relatively new to the travel industry, as I’ve tried to research coming into it, you pick up some data and it’s always about hotels or car rentals or flights. There’s hardly a mention if you will of tours and activities and so forth. To get its own identity it’s fantastic.

Nick: It’s amazing because it’s a bigger business then car rentals by, you know, billions. Not just a little amount. You have a personally interesting story because you’re not from the industry. And sometimes in travel it’s always a revolving door of companies and people. Talk to the viewers a little bit about yourself and what brought you to travel.

Chris: I think there’s just a really exciting time in terms of what’s going on in the travel industry at the moment. My background covers a number of areas. It covers content and media, it covers working on technology and digital products. And also brand and really consumer-focused products. Those three really come together neatly in the industry at the moment and certainly what we’re trying to achieve at Rezdy.

Nick: Businesses are made of people — they consume your products, so in B2B you have to remember this. How does a consumer product focus translate to something that you sell into businesses, some of them are smaller and also sell to consumers, so B2B2C. How does that translate into your perspective at Rezdy?

Chris: From a personal perspective, I was a brand manager at Diageo for a while, and you have to put the customer at the heart of what you’re doing. So my first reference point for anything we’re doing is, How do I look at it through the customer’s lens?

And that applies to us building our product and it applies to the features that we might apply within the product or how the user experience works.

These are guys running businesses that are so diverse and different. We need to try and understand those guys and make sure that we’re embedding that. So not just in the product but then through the whole customer experience they have from sales, their contact with customer success, and so on. We have to embed it and become a fully customer-centric business to be successful in my view.

Nick: So as the COO and CFO, it’s good to have the operation guy in charge of the money. But how do you operationalize a business — just like there are so many different types of consumers there are so many different types of suppliers — how do you build a product set that allows you to play in different arenas when I think the needs are somewhat similar are also drastically different?

Chris: And I think you touched on it on the face of it there’s a lot of similarities but in terms of how individuals want to use it quite differently. So you might take two businesses that look exactly the same on the outside so their feature needs may be the same. But one person’s running it as a lifestyle business. The thing they value most is their time, rather than necessarily business growth.

Whereas the other guy sees it very much as a business: what they value most is growing their business. Even though the operations of their business are the same, they need quite different solutions and the way they’re going to use it can be quite different. So with our product, we try to provide a sophistication so they can set it up to empower them to run their business just the way that they would like to.

Nick: Does that also mean a lot of training? Churn is obviously always an issue across all of hospitality and travel. But if I’m a mid-size supplier, I have say 400 employees and a lot of them need to learn software or learn new ways to sell. How does training play into that? Is that a central part of it to make sure everyone’s up to date?

Chris: It has to be, particularly the way that we run our business. We want to be an enabler for this industry, so we want to enable a supplier to run their business, to be able to market their business online and through direct channels, but also to be able to reach through a broader distribution network. And in order to be able to do that, there are multiple ways that we need to be able to support them.

Nick: And what are some of those ways?

Training-wise, because you need to set it up in different ways, there’s a set of layers for the training that you’ll get. When someone signs up, one of the first things we want to understand is what does success look like for you. I referenced those two similar businesses with different needs from their owners. We need to understand that [distinction], for us to be successful in delivering to you as a customer.

So that sets the tone for both what the training will be, but then also what the ongoing journey within Rezdy will be. So, first of all, get yourself a product set up, learn how to make sure that you can do that for maybe the one product or 10 products or the other 40 products you might have as a business. And then make sure that you’ve got that bookable on your website in a really smart way.

And that’s where we feel, in a way, we’re almost a consultant when we set someone up. Many of our businesses don’t have that experience of making sure their website is getting the traffic, making sure that they’ve got the right visuals.

We’re in a fantastic industry here where we’re selling experiences. And experiences aren’t sold by just text and then a price. Pictures of people enjoying the experience, that’s what’s going to help people connect and making sure that message comes across is a really important thing for us. And so it needs to be embedded in the training.

Nick: There was a lady next to me during check-in, and she was actually complaining to the desk agent that the room that she saw on her phone had a bathtub basically. None of the rooms here have bathtubs. And she was trying to find this image on her phone and she was just so insistent that she remembered this image of a bathtub and had an expectation from one image she saw somewhere on the Internet. Those are the moments that occurred to me that it’s really hard to be a supplier. So how do you guys approach not the image problem, but the visual matters, and helping us suppliers keep it accurate and updated?

Chris: We’re an increasingly visual age. And you know you see that all around with particularly the move to mobile. The more you can have an image that represents what you’re doing as people flicking through, the more you’re going to cut through because people don’t want to see text on mobile.

You need to almost design your web page for people to touch rather than imagining that you’re doing it to click on with a mouse. And so we have through all of our engagement with customers, we’re trying to encourage our use of the visual to be able to do that.

And it’s interesting you mention that lady’s story. But listen to Ben talk about TripAdvisor earlier on stage this morning, of all of the one star reviews that you see, it usually comes from a failure to meet expectations. Well, that’s a that’s a problem yes.

But what we have is a lot of people that aren’t really setting high enough expectations to get the sale because they haven’t got great visuals. They’re not presenting their product in the way that they really should do and that’s the journey we’re trying to get them on.

So in a way success for us would be having set such high expectations that occasionally they fail rather than people having a relatively bland or difficult to find experience on their website — when actually they should be getting thousands of people.

Nick: And then the accurate representation sometimes…people see the world differently. I believe that blue is not blue for everybody. Let’s do a quick SWOT analysis for tours and activities, I’m more thinking of your view on the industry in the wider sense. What are some of the biggest strengths and weaknesses, where do you see the opportunities, and are there any existential threats to tourism activities? Is there something that maybe you were not paying attention to? Maybe there’s nothing, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Chris: The thing that attracted me to the tours and activities industry, and Rezdy particularly, was just the sheer amount of opportunity there is in this market. We’ve got a populous within tours and activities that the majority haven’t been online, or haven’t been online for very long. And so we’re able to shape a whole industry and that doesn’t happen very often.

The opportunity is just simply that there’s still probably maybe more than half of the tours and activity providers globally aren’t online. So that’s obviously a clear opportunity that we see.

What I’m seeing and been amazed by is just the potential virality that comes through the ecosystem that exists. I was just at lunch with one of our big suppliers, and all they want to talk about is getting more agents on our platform so that they can have more and more online bookings through a broader set of agents. They’re a global player. They’re based in South America. They’re just opening in the U.S. They’ve got plans for European and broader U.S. expansion. So they want agents that cover the globe and we’re adding agents every day to our platform. It’s easy to do with an API. Just building up that relationship and actually working that viral chain from a big supplier that gives you a list of 50 agents they want to work with, and then starting to work with those agents who give you the list of 50 or 60 suppliers that they work with that aren’t online and therefore they want to ease the process.

So suddenly before you’ve had three conversations you’ve got a list of 200 people that you need to engage with and work with to keep the platform growing. And that’s just really exciting.

But I think at the same time brings a bit of a threat if you will, which is that there is so much opportunity. You have to make sure that you’re really ruthless in your prioritization. Otherwise, you spread yourself too thin and you can’t achieve. And what happens, back to the expectations point, is that I think people’s expectations are here and you’re doing too many things and then you deliver underneath that. So that’s what we’re very mindful of to make sure we’re doing it in a staged way.

Nick: Expectations are the hardest thing to manage but it’s one of the most important jobs of anyone.

Chris: There are two really big words I would use: expectations is one, because they set the most important other word, which is context. I set the context for the relationship. If we work very closely with obviously all the big OTAs. When they send someone to us, we’ve immediately got a context that is a positive one because it’s been a recommendation. It’s been a referral. You need to work with Rezdy, they’re great to work with. That’s fantastic. It’s a fantastic starting point. Whereas if you’re just coming cold, you’re having to do a lot of work over potentially a lot of time to even get to that starting point. It’s really, really important to have those expectations, be positive. But then to be able to deliver too.

Nick: So we have a global industry. Obviously, tours and activities can really only happen in a place. It’s not a commodity that can easily be replaced. So fragmentation is the way it’s built. Is that an opportunity or a threat? Or is it just the way it is and we just deal with it? Is consolidation possible with things that are so fragmented?

Chris: I think one of the beauties of our industry is that they’re really specific experiences, often very local in their origin. They’re often connected with the natural beauty or the surroundings of a certain place. And so trying to find a way to almost homogenize, it feels like it’s ruining the experience to some degree from me. And so, from a supplier side, you might get some more connectivity from a management perspective, for the operations piece. But I hope it doesn’t start to really pervade and you start getting — my apologies to Starbucks — but a Starbucks experience for tours and activities, because I think that would be a really retrograde step.

Chris: Where you’ll find that there’ll be the most opportunity for aggregation or changes is just within the ecosystem. In a way we’ve got a reference point with how hotels and flights and car rentals have moved over the years in terms of that journey. First of all online but then also of the mix in terms of where the customers are buying from. And I think that’s a reference point for us to watch and see because I think that will then provide some of the landscape changes I think. And they’ll be the interesting ones to watch.

Nick: I guess you could call it the Airbnb cycle, where you start off really really authentic and now it’s all managed by property managers. It’s consistent now, but it’s much less interesting. And now you have tours they do too. So at some point the tours there probably also need to be quality controlled.

Quality is one of the biggest issues for OTAs. How can they assure their end customer, the consumer, that they’re going to get a good experience? Because if not, as an agent it reflects on you. And so I think that’s a really important thing.

We can play a role to help with that as well by providing an operating system for them to manage their business. And prompting them to think about the things they need to prepare their customers for: bring the right shoes, wear the right gear, make sure that kids are doing this or not doing that, think about safety. Or thinking about just the logistics of the operation. It helps to bring that up.

And then also in the communications. Make sure that people have got a clear idea when they need to turn up. Give us some time beforehand and find ways of getting that message across that isn’t just you know the standard one. Think about mobile etc. And in that sort of consultancy role that we can play in setting them up and training them, we can play a role you know that helps get that consistency. You’re really just trying to iron out the bad experiences because you to keep the individuality. They’re the things that make the difference

We’re in Australia so everyone’s going anywhere outside the front door. Make sure you’ve got some sunscreen and hat and some water. Particularly when you have a significant number of overseas visitors and people might come and wake up on a Melbourne morning and it’s seven degrees and think crikey it’s cold! But by 11 o’clock it’s already 28 degrees and there’s the sun there’s out there. If you’re out there for an hour you’re going to be burned.

Nick: And they may leave a bad review. And all you had to do was tell them to wear a hat!

Chris: Exactly.

Nick: Mobile. Part of me wonders what is the end point of mobile? Where is the sweet spot? Mobile is never going to be 100 percent of everything. But at what point does mobile even out and like 70 percent of bookings happen on mobile? Is there a point where you’d think there would be an equilibrium?

Chris: I’m not a technology Futurist. But interestingly, sitting there this morning, I referenced back to my digital advertising agency background and just seeing some of the data of how people are engaging there. Seeing that data come through again today, it’s the same sort of journey. I can only see it continuing. The devices are more and more powerful. The apps that people are investing in enable you to do more and more on that. So I think that for the foreseeable future, it will be an inexorable move to make sure that you are able to deliver both your engaging story to attract the customer but then the whole experience in a nice visually friendly, clean, and attractive way on a mobile device. If not, you’re going to be falling behind. We certainly make sure that that’s a critical part of how we do any of our updates. And when we think about our user experience from a platform perspective to make sure that that works.

Nick: What about on the supplier and management side? Is mobile you 90 percent? Are most of these people are out and about, managing tours on mobile phones, that’s really where mobile comes into play.

Chris: I mean it’s just as true if not more so from the logistic side from a supplier. But obviously, we’re seeing the data from a consumer perspective.

If you think about the fact that you might be checking people onto a whale watching tour, you’re standing at the quayside with a gangplank and you want to be checking the QR codes there or swiping people off. If you’re collecting people on the way to a winery tour from different hotels, the driver wants to be able to use this app, tick those people off to make sure he’s got everyone he should be having. And that he’s returned them where they came from!

You don’t have to refer to the sheet. Of course, so much of it being outdoors as well. The old-fashioned sheet getting rained on from the clipboard…you know it takes all of that away. You’ve really got so much power in your pocket. So both for the consumer, because they’ve got the QR code, they know where to go and what they needed to bring. But also a supplier to better manage the event and give them a great experience.

Nick: So looking ahead to the next 12 months for your company, what are some of the things you’re most excited about and some of the challenges that you’re really tackling you’re really putting resources into.

Chris: For us, I go back to my point before. It’s “customer, customer” for us. A massive focus for us is just broadening our sweep of support from a customer success perspective in a number of areas. So making sure that people get a great onboarding experience when they come onboard that they know the power of the platform, and that they’re able to use it for the the way they want their business to use it.

Chris: But then all the way through the touch points that we have with the customer through the lifecycle and making sure that we’re there to support them when they’ve got technical issues. But just as importantly to work with them to help grow their business.

Chris: So when they move through what we talk about the different phases of maturity. They’ve got their operations working, they’ve got their marketing right through their website for direct bookings, and then they’re starting to maybe look at broader distribution channels that we can offer through our channel manager. That’s the conversation that uncovers whether they’re ready and how we can help them.

Nick: How do they approach that kind of onboarding process? Do you standardize it, so you can identify themes, or does every one of the people dealing with onboarding do their own kind of vibe? Do you keep it the same?

Chris: When someone signs up they’ll have an immediate call within the first 24 hours of someone in customer success. That’s all about understanding what success looks like for you as a customer. And then what that does is tailors the first onboarding training session.

Chris: So if getting bookings through our marketplace and the various distributors we have around the world is a really important thing, then it will be weighted so that in the training. If you really just want to take the old diary and throw it away and move to just a simple online calendar to tell your bookings, then we’re very much focussed on setting up an effective and sensible way for you to run your business.

Nick: Let’s close this out with more about customer service. We don’t talk about this enough. What are some lessons you’ve learned in this process that other vendors or other people in the industry that can maybe learn from?

Chris: Well you know I go back and reference again my background in creative agencies. We’re selling experiences but the visual medium is a tremendous way to get a message across and not just the experience side of things but also some of the more practical elements.

Chris: You know we’re regular travelers here, we see how the in-flight video has changed, the safety video, in terms of it becoming much more of a character and aligned with the different brands. Quantas has a number of people around different parts of Australia explaining segments of the safety piece. There’s real creativity in that.

Chris: I think that that’s a lesson that we can learn in terms of servicing our customers. So making sure that we’ve got really useful how-to videos so that people can be as effectively on-boarded us as they can be. But they’re on their own terms, so if they’re time-challenged they can go online and see those videos. But then also helping them in selling their story and running their business to use video, to use the experience that they sell and package it up effectively so they are marketing their business as well as they can.

Nick: So as they train with you guys, maybe they can learn some good onboarding of a tour person. Even if it’s just a two-hour tour, you have to on-board them into your experience and your rules.

Chris: It’s all a customer experience. There are different goals and there are different elements that need to be ticked off. But if you think about that end to end experience, and look at it through the customer’s eyes, then when you think about the different touchpoints you have to try and get their message across, then you can really think to enrich the way that you that you market and communicate with your customers.

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November 20, 2017 at 01:02PM