Walking in Chengdu
Send me some feedback for a chance to win a B&H Gift card
There’s been a lot of changes in the photography and technology worlds over the past couple of years so we want to make sure we’re in tune with the things you want to see more of.
We created a very quick and simple 11 question survey that should only take you a couple of minutes to complete. Plus, for completing it we’ll put your name in the hat for a chance to win a $200 gift card from B&H Photo!
Of course, all answers will remain strictly confidential and will be used solely for internal planning purposes. Scouts honor.
Daily Photo – Walking in Chengdu
I didn’t even realize Chengdu had one of these cool bamboo forests like Kyoto. It might even be a little better because of the red walls that complement the green so well. This was my hostess here, and she offered to act as a model, walking slowly right down the middle. At first, I had a shot without a person, but I think it’s a little better with her in there. I kind of wish she wasn’t wearing that color shirt, but, hey, I’m really looking for stuff to complain about, I suppose.
via Stuck in Customs http://bit.ly/2sX4vPC
January 21, 2019 at 08:07AM
The New York Times Misfires With 52 Places to Go List
In an age of influencers and online reviews, do we really need The New York Times to recommend 52 Places to Go every year?
For the last 13 years, The New York Times travel section has kicked off its year with a Places To Go package, featuring destinations around the world curated to provide the most interesting experiences to travelers. Delving into the list can break your mind; small cities in the U.S. are given the same space as perennial vacation destinations like Las Vegas, the Setouchi Islands, and the Azores.
Last year the newspaper added a new wrinkle to its effort: It would actually send someone to write up stories on all of the 52 locations on the list over the course of the following year. The New York Times then touched off a marketing blitz, asking readers to write in about why they should be selected to travel the world.
This led to submissions from thousands of people, families, and sometimes famous personalities (like leather aficionado and author Buzz Bissinger) whose pleas and videos The New York Times decided to package to advertise the Travel section. They also ran a Q&A with themselves about the success of their marketing stunt.
“The qualifications are quite broad because I wanted to make sure that people who applied were not just travel journalists and not just writers, but people who are really good at visual storytelling,” said then-travel editor Monica Drake last year.
An experienced journalist from New York Magazine, Jada Yuan, was chosen for last year’s edition, though; the rigors of traveling constantly while producing quality writing on deadline is outside the skill set of most people no matter how much they would love the opportunity to travel the world.
It’s not traditional journalistic practice to entice your readers into applying for a job they will never be selected for, and then use their confessionals as marketing fodder. The New York Times Travel section went there for the last two years, though.
The New York Times routinely took to social media to continue to promote the experiment even as Yuan tweeted about the stress and challenges she endured from the endeavor.
Get to check-in counter 30 mins before it closes, feeling good, show ticket agent my India Evisa on phone, she insists it has to be printed out. SHE can’t print it out. I have to find a printer. WHERE DO YOU FIND A PRINTER IN AIRPORT?
— Jada Yuan (@jadabird) November 26, 2018
Sebastian Modak, this year’s selection, also happens to be an experienced journalist and veteran of the New York City media scene. This didn’t stop the paper from repeating the marketing stunt once again.
Same Old Places
It seems that the proper thing to do would be to send a writer to the destinations before releasing the list; who, then, is actually vetting these destinations for inclusion in the list?
Well, there are extensive criteria listed: The list is essentially crowdsourced from New York Times reporters and those working at its global bureaus, with destinations gaining traction if something notable is planned for 2019 or particular attractions are under the threat of climate change. So, at heart, the 52 Places are just suggestions from a bunch of professional journalists working a variety of beats, not picks from wisened travelers or a diverse set of globetrotters.
There is also the strangeness of encouraging consumers to travel to destinations that are the most at risk of an ecological catastrophe, particularly in an age of overtourism.
Breaking down the destinations selected shows bias toward North America and Europe, with African destinations, in particular, losing out. Gambia and Dakar, Senegal, made the list but no other African destinations made the cut this year. Perhaps leaving African cultural cities out has a silver lining: Cities like Akkra and Lagos burst with culture and not being included will thankfully prevent them from becoming the next Medellin or Tulum.
In 2016, Skift tasked a statistician to examine the destinations that had been chosen for the list over the previous nine years. The list has continuously had the same bias toward the Americas and Europe over the years, which is logical considering the profile of The New York Times’ readership and the background of its writers.
For what it’s worth, marketers and destinations love to make the list, for obvious reasons.
“I imagine any destination would love to be included in the 52 Places in the New York Times,” said Nancy Friedman, CEO and founder of agency NJF, part of MMGY Global. “It’s exposure and an endorsement that lasts for an entire year. It both reinforces and introduces destinations to a wide audience of travel enthusiasts.”
Tour operators, too, see an uptick in business based on links included in the list.
“The list is one of the few pieces of coverage that Intrepid sees directly move the needle, both in terms of web traffic and direct sales,” said Darshika Jones, regional director for North America at Intrepid Group. “It’s one of the only news sources where we see users click on a link from an article and immediately book a tour. We’ve seen direct conversion within 24 hours of it publishing from first-time visitors to our site.”
Travel Media Reality
The New York Times itself has financial skin in the game; its Times Journeys site selling small group tours happens to include many options for bookings in the cities it puts on the list, although it doesn’t appear to link to its own co-branded tours in the list.
Luxury and travel sector print advertising has become a smaller piece of The New York Times’ business during a period of declining advertising revenue.
“Total advertising revenues decreased 3.8 percent in 2017 compared with 2016, reflecting a 13.9 percent decrease in print advertising revenues, offset by a 14.2 percent increase in digital advertising revenues,” stated the company’s 2017 annual report. “The decrease in print advertising revenues resulted from a continued decline in display advertising, primarily in the luxury, travel and real estate categories.”
It makes financial sense, then, that the organization would commit itself like it has to drawing attention to its travel coverage in order to attract lucrative print advertising deals from the travel sector.
But what about the hundreds of other travel stories The New York Times publishes each year? Well, the paper has a policy that travel writers who accept hosted or press trips from travel companies can’t write for the Times if they’ve accepted a trip in the last year.
The reality is that it should be incumbent on a publication’s editorial staff to guide accurate and balanced coverage, and not ban talented and creative writers for other work they’ve done. Accepting a free trip isn’t the same as an influencer accepting money from a hotel brand to post positive things about their stay or a writer getting paid for a gushing essay about a trip placed in a sponsored content package.
Blowback on this policy culminated online late last year with Amy Virshup, editor of the Times travel section, asking writers to narc on their colleagues who have both written for the Times and accepted hosted trips for their other jobs. Plenty of people violate, and will continue to violate, the rules anyway.
— Amy Virshup (@amyvirshup) November 14, 2018
The policy and discussion around it display a naivety about both the state of travel writing today and underscores The New York Times’ inability to bring different voices to its travel coverage. Perhaps greater diversity in the Travel section’s writing staff would yield more interesting and varied destinations for the Places to Go list as well.
The deeper irony, perhaps, is that destination travel coverage in The New York Times is almost universally positive, even with its obtuse ethical restrictions that are supposed to yield more candid stories. The restrictions that ensure only a very specific type of person can write for the section, a person who is of course incentivized to write a very particular type of story if they want their byline in the Times again.
The Power of Suggestion
As consumer travel magazines have transitioned to luxury lifestyle magazines, and the rise of review sites like TripAdvisor have helped flatten the travel suggestion landscape, good travel suggestions have become harder to find.
At the same time, many travelers have turned to a form of experience collection as a badge of honor; getting that photo of a waterfall for Instagram or eating at the taqueria with hipster decor in Mexico City have replaced spending some time around another culture and immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the place.
The backlash to this trend is coming, but isn’t quite here yet. Long lists of destinations that meet vague criteria don’t do much to counteract this trend and help travel as a sector move forward.
Say what you will about Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List, for instance, but the magazine at least has a cohesive editorial point of view, even if most rich people don’t need to be told they should go to Paris and stay in a giant room with a canopy bed and pedestal bath.
As travel has become democratized, do travelers really need gatekeepers telling us where to go anymore? Nope.
Photo Credit: In this March 4, 2017, photo, tourists enjoy the popular Maya bay on Phi Phi island, Krabi province. Rajavi Omanee / Associated Press
via Skift https://skift.com
January 21, 2019 at 07:35AM
Jonas Software Rolls Up Hospitality Tech Group to Compete Against Bigger Players
Jonas Software, a Toronto-based holding company for software providers across multiple verticals, recently decided to go big in travel.
Last June, it created Jonas Hospitality, a tech provider to more than 5,500 hotels, resorts, and spas in North America.
It built the company through acquisitions. In November, Jonas acquired Leonardo, which helps hotels manage their digitized visual assets to market their properties online. In 2017, Jonas expanded to Europe when it acquired BookAssist, a Dublin-based provider of digital marketing and direct booking hotels primarily to European hotels.
Jonas and some of its subsidiaries didn’t respond to several invitations to speak for this story.
Yet it appears that Barry Symons, CEO of parent group Jonas Software, has begun to group some of the smaller tech vendors that have grown up to serve independent and other smaller hospitality players with property management tools and online marketing and distribution expertise.
“Barry appears to be picking up distressed assets, or at least those at the bottom of the shopping lists of more preferred suitors, in a bid to own the long tail,” commented Sundeep Chanana, CEO of the investment bank focusing on travel tech plays, Horatio Partners. “It’s hard to believe what he’s cobbling together can compete with the likes of Sabre, Oracle, and Amadeus in building hospitality enterprise services.”
In 2016, Jonas acquired two hotel property management systems: Multi-Systems International (MSI), which focuses on mid-tier, economy, and extended stay segments, and Springer-Miller Systems, which also has a property management system Atrio, a customer relationship management platform for mostly upscale hotels, resorts, and spas.
More such roll-ups are likely. “Benefits include back-office synergies as well as complementary technology solutions addressing a more holistic solution set that touches hotels, alternate lodging, booking and distribution systems, and channel management,” said Toni Portmann, the former CEO of DHISCO, a hotel distribution tech company that last year she sold to travel tech company RateGain.
“There often exists terrific economic benefits to buy and integrate, such as taking advantage of economies of scale and lower the unit cost of customer acquisition,” Portmann said.
Many hotel tech vendors, such as Alibaba-backed Shiji Group in hosptiality tech , are pushing in the strategic direction of uniting under umbrella groups for shared efficiencies. Some are outright building “full stack-native platforms,” like Amadeus, Sabre, and Oracle are attempting.
“A lack of integration among tech systems remains one of the key challenges for the hospitality industry,” said Skift Research’s senior analyst Rebecca Stone. “That’s what we found in our tech vendor focus group in our report, The State of the Hotel Tech Stack 2018.”
Tech Roll-Ups Are Risky
Jonas’ strategy fits in line with experts’ expectations for ongoing consolidation in the space. This might translate into a few major players running the core systems at properties.
“No matter the impetus, offering a full stack platform doesn’t guarantee commercial success,” said Chanana. “Ultimately, hoteliers will select the headache-inducing option of stitching together disparate systems, over a bundled solution, if it has the performance edge.”
Stone agreed. “There’s still room for niche, independent tech players to develop capabilities that are more “plug-and-play” — meaning that hotels can easily incorporate the tools into their overall IT systems.”
Smaller players vary by category and market. For example, Cloudbeds has one of the fastest-growing adoption rates for its property management systems in North America, where its used by tens of thousands of hotels and other properties. Hotelogix leads in India.
“So while a turnkey solution does allay vendor fatigue and reduce integration costs, hoteliers still need to be compelled by a superior offering relative to best-of-breed point solutions and of course by generous bundled pricing programs, which can be fraught with price and margin erosion risk,” said Chanana.
“Software providers attempting to cover all tech solutions for multiple industries run the risk of offering subpar performance in all areas rather than being really good at one capability,” said Stone.
Profitability may be a struggle, too.
“Hotels are typically operated as pure service businesses, so their vendor selection process for technology is usually based on price alone, just like it would be for putting television sets or bibles,” said Ephraim Spiro, CEO and founder of BookDirect.com, a startup company aimed at driving consumers to book direct with its partner hotels.
“At the same time, hoteliers are actively seeking solutions to stem the flow of bookings from their direct channel to third-party channels, but most technology vendors have not been able to deliver on this and justify premium pricing,” Spiro said. “This makes it exceedingly difficult for technology hospitality businesses to reach profitability, which will drive consolidation in the sector.”
Jonas Looks Ahead
Jonas has its roots in software markets for construction and fitness club management. Its ownership philosophy has been to let the companies they buy continue to operate as independent brands but with the adoption of best business practices learned from dozens of other software companies. At Leonardo, it has promoted the chief revenue officer Mark Charlinski to become CEO, rather than make an external hire.
Another case in point: Jonas plans to support Leonardo, founded in 2001, in building a new content management platform to replace the one the company has offered for a decade. The planned upgrades are intended to help it be better able to handle the exponential growth in large images, videos, and other rich digital content online.
Jonas’s plans seem to acknowledge the rising demands hoteliers face in managing their businesses online, as Skift noted in a deep dive on the evolution of the hotel front desk. Leonardo, for example, has helped hotels store the visual content they need to market their properties online accurately and to update the imagery across third-party channels on behalf of the properties.
“As the hotel world becomes more and more dependent on digital distribution, rollups of PMSes [property management systems] and other tools will intensify,” said David Brillembourg, CEO and founder of Brillembourg Group, which includes private equity and consultancy functions for hospitality and technology.
Photo Credit: A photo of the lobby of the Bobby Hotel in downtown Nashville. The property uploaded this photo for distribution to online marketing channels via the tech platform Leonardo, which was recently bought by Jonas Software, which has put together a hospitality technology company through acquisitions of Leonardo, MSI, Springer-Miller, and BookAssist. Lisa Diederich / Bobby Hotel
via Skift https://skift.com
January 21, 2019 at 07:06AM
Esports Disrupt How Brands and Events Engage With Their Communities
No matter how boring and trite you may find the concept of esports competition and culture, the hobby is on the forefront of a major shift in the habits of how we consume media and interact in online communities.
The event industry needs to adapt to the reality of how a new generation of attendees demand engagement through a variety of online platforms.
Fortnite, a video game wherein cartoon characters blast each other with weapons and dance around, captured the imagination and dollars of the world in 2018. For the extremely online millennial and Gen Z generations, the game’s free online battle royal mode represents something more than just a colorful time-waster. Since everyone is online all the time, the game acts as a platform for engagement on multiple levels.
Friends play and chat over the internet with each other each night, earn almost random rewards that incentivize them to keep playing, closely track the news regarding updates and exploits on websites and message boards. They do this while watching tournaments and streams populated by players who routinely dedicate 10 hours a day to mastery of the game’s competitive systems. Kids may be dancing the stupid dances from the game, but plenty of adults have embraced this style of engagement with Fortnite as a platform.
It’s no surprise that the multifaceted elements of the online gaming ecosystem are starting to bleed into the world of big business; Fortnite publisher Epic Games routinely holds online tournaments with a million dollar prize, and fans flock to real-life stadium events featuring the best in the world at other games.
As Skift has reflected consistently over the years, shifts in the behavior of travelers and consumers begin in their personal lives; their expectations shift as their habits do, leaving organizations to often play catch up as old paradigms become ineffective.
Social networking has undergone a reckoning as of late.
Facebook has become a cesspool of racism and misleading clickbait, while LinkedIn is rapidly becoming Facebook for people who wear suits. Twitter is chaotic and dense, making it hard to identify and join communities. Instagram is style over substance, rewarding a motif that everyone is trying to ape for increased engagement at the cost of true value to users.
As the battle over online privacy has heated up, new players have slowly entered the social networking arena.
Slack, a messaging app for the workplace, has picked up casual social users for communities based on certain topics while Discord, an online voice and text chat service, has slowly risen to prominence as a successor to old-school IRC (Internet Real Chat) of yore. As Instagram expands the ability of organizations to sell tickets to events, also expect the platform to introduce group and community interaction capabilities and management tools for organizers.
The truth is that the explosion in online communities spurred by esports has serious ramifications for the traditional events sector, particularly business events and conventions. Keeping association members engaged and educated is a complex issue, particularly in the always-on digital world. How do you keep members engaged and satisfied in a world defined by digital distraction?
Engagement is going to be limited even if you offer an app for your association, group, or event; people want to be reached where they spend most of their time, which will increasingly be in apps like Slack that provide the ability for hundreds of contributors to chat, send files, and more. The conversation is persistent and doesn’t disappear after an event ends. Chatting with organizers and direct messaging between attendees has been common for event apps for a few years, but lacks the ability to facilitate communication, education, and bonding over the full event lifecycle.
Dedicated message boards or LinkedIn or Facebook groups lack the immediacy of live chat, particularly for those looking for timely information or advice. Why wait until your chapter meeting to pose a question? There is no replacement for real-life meetings and the face-to-face connections they create, but digital platforms can help enhance the overall event experience the rest of the time.
So often, organizers encourage attendees to post on Twitter or Facebook from an event. Sure, it looks good for the organization’s marketers that people are tweeting, but does it provide any lasting value to attendees or the organization’s health?
Building an engaged community is more valuable than things like Twitter chat or webinars, even if it can’t be seen by the outside world as a visible marketing success. In particular, it offers increased value to those who may not be able to attend a real-life event for whatever reason, and those new to a group or sector who may lack the connections to feel comfortable at an event.
Live chat that persists beyond the timeline of a physical event is more valuable, a living and searchable testament to the strength and power of an association or community. With digital communication and content more effectively threaded throughout a physical experience, so too will the overall event experience become more cohesive and powerful for attendees. If stronger digital personalization really ever comes to meetings, digital platforms will be intermediating the experience anyway.
This will help thread the offline event experience with a persistent, always-on digital community that younger professionals operate within. It’s not enough to be relevant once or four times a year; groups need to provide constant value and brain food to members, wherever they are.
Photo Credit: The rise of esports and the ways that people communicate online have profound implications for the traditional events sector. This photo features competitors during an esports competition. Bloomberg
via Skift https://skift.com
January 21, 2019 at 06:31AM
Skift Tech Forum 2019 Will Be on June 27 in San Francisco
Today is an exciting day as we can reveal our official date and venue of the 2019 Skift Tech Forum! Skift will return to Silicon Valley for a second year, and we heard our past attendees loud and clear. This time we’ll be taking our conference to the heart of downtown to make it even easier for you to attend. Join us on June 27 at the beautiful Fairmont San Francisco as we define the future of travel tech.
Registration is officially open, and at this time we’re offering 35 Super Early Bird Tickets to the people who act fast! Once these tickets are gone they are gone, so don’t wait to claim your spot at the lowest price we offer—that’s a $495 discount off full price!
Skift Tech Forum is a one-day, single-track forum examining how changing consumer behavior is driving technology solutions that impact revenue and guide investment in travel, the world’s largest industry.
The event brings together the world’s most influential travel-focused tech companies and aggregators, along with the leaders of major travel brands to explore technology’s role in addressing marketplace disruptions, collapsing silos, and shifting partner alliances in travel. Tech Forum’s fast paced executive conversations are unique because they combine Skift’s hard hitting tech journalism with insights from Skift Research analysts, as well as a proprietary data from a growing library of our premium travel tech reports.
And much like everything else with Skift, we are putting our own unique filter on travel tech. We have created a conference that is laser-focused on the tech disruptions happening in the retailing, merchandising, and distribution (RMD) of travel. New technologies and consumer behaviors have been opening up new ways of selling — not to mention new relationships between businesses.
Our moderators are unafraid to go deep to address the sophisticated questions on the minds of industry decision makers. Unlike other conferences, Skift Tech Forum cuts through the hype and fluff to surface the latest strategic thinking, AND it’s backed by data.
Sessions will explore key trends and disruptions that impact revenue and drive the e-commerce and technology strategies that power retailing, distribution, and merchandising decisions in travel.
- Expect a deep dive into the tech stacks of leading airlines, hotel groups, cruise lines, car rental companies, and other travel suppliers.
- Look for insights into how the giants of travel are updating their connectivity with partners and the tech platform behemoths, as suppliers rebalance both their direct and indirect distribution.
- Get the down low on sectors that are receiving the most money and acquisitions, such as vacation rental tech, blockchain startups, and direct-to-traveler business travel startups.
- Unlock AI’s Potential — AI improves prediction quality, and the travel industry depends heavily on accurately forecasting demand and supply, so the anticipated impact is significant.
- Find out where blockchain will actually matter.
You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. Act fast to snag one of the 35 super early bird tickets available, and save $495 on your ticket. Register now!
If you’re interested in sponsoring Skift Tech Forum on June 27, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
via Skift https://skift.com
January 21, 2019 at 05:20AM
How refugees saved Riace, the tiny Italian town that could
January 21, 2019
Share this article
In Italy’s Calabria region, Nicola Zolin charts the rise and fall of a depopulated town, and the mayor who welcomed refugees with open arms and built a special kind of utopia in the process.
It’s as if time has stopped. It’s August 2015 and, on this sunny summer’s day, I’m driving through the southern Italian region of Calabria, all the way down to the tip. Marvellous—yet mistreated—beaches reveal themselves at every turn. But I’m not here to see them.
I eventually reach Riace, a medieval village on a hilltop overlooking the Ionian coast. I’m hungry after my long journey and in search of a good meal. There’s one tiny bar, but it’s about to close. My brief conversation with the Croatian owner grabs the attention of a woman upstairs, who offers to cook me a plate of pasta with tomato soup. I gladly accept.
Over lunch, we
talk. Although originally from Riace, Teresa—the woman upstairs—was now living
in Rome. She moved there because she thought her children would enjoy a better
education and more opportunities, but visits Riace every summer to see family
Teresa explains that an old world of traditions and professions had been lost in Riace, and that for a long time, there was nothing left to replace it. In just a few decades, the population of the town dropped from 2,500 to around 600, and most of its young people migrated away, lured by the same things—jobs, education, money, opportunity. The town’s most happening spot during that time became the post office, on pension day.
Riace fell into such a deep sleep that even the sub-aquatic 1972 discovery of two ancient Greek statues, ‘The Bronzes of Riace’ couldn’t wake it. The perfectly-preserved statues—billed as one of Italy’s most important archaeological discoveries of the last 100 years—were whisked off to Reggio Calabria while Riace barely batted an eyelid. The town was cold to the touch.
“You’re a journalist, aren’t you?” Teresa asks me while pouring me a coffee. I smile. I wonder how many of us she’s seen in these last few years. Quite a few, I suspect. Because some 26 years after the statues were discovered, on the same shoreline, something equally unexpected happened: A boat of exhausted human beings bound for Greece floated into Riace marina. There were 218 of them.
“When I saw these mountains, I thought of Kurdistan, my home,” says a man named Bahram a few hours later, taking a drag on his cigarette as he peers at me through his sunglasses. “The colors, the shapes, they were familiar.”
Bahram was in that boat in 1998, and is known as the oldest ‘foreign citizen’ of Riace. “I wanted to work,” he says as we walk around the small alleys of the old town, past African children playing, murals and street poetry, and old people sitting, smoking and talking—waiting for the second bar to open. “I’ve been everything here. A carpenter, bricklayer, blacksmith, a driver … I can’t complain.”
On the road leading to the office of ‘Città Futura’ the cooperative for the reception of refugees, we run into Lucano, who’s now Riace’s mayor. ‘Mimmo’, as everyone calls him in Riace, had been a long-time activist before his switch to politics, and the ‘refugees welcome’ project, as it’s become known, was his brainchild.
In a time where politicians around the world often use migrants as a distraction from other issues, Lucano created la città dell’accoglienza, or ‘the welcoming city’. “We dreamed of a town where people could live according to local traditions, free from the inhuman rules of capitalism and consumerism,” says Lucano. “A culture of hospitality that can always welcome any foreigner. Only 20 years ago, there was nothing of all this. The village was dying. Look how lively it is now!”
The experiment in Riace inspired a new approach towards migration across Italy, based on the inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers in small communities, with services such as language lessons, cooperative workshops, professional training and legal support all provided. The refugees were seen as a resource—not a problem that needed to be fixed. Though it was technically operating outside of the law, Riace was hailed around the world as a model of integration, and came to be seen as a political laboratory for many other struggling and depopulated towns around the country.
At its peak, some 800 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from 20 countries populated Riace. Buildings and previously abandoned houses were transformed into businesses selling handicrafts, chocolate and all manner of goods from around the world. Locals taught the newcomers age-old traditions, and Riace’s old establishments began reopening.
But without funds, the local cooperatives, used to support the refugees, quickly accumulated debt. Some months later, the machine stopped functioning entirely. Most of the workshops were closed, local people lost their jobs, and a wave of discontent washed over the previously thriving town.
Two years later, on October 2nd 2018, Domenico Lucano was placed under house arrest, accused of myriad small crimes amounting to favoring illegal immigration. Riace awoke in a state of shock. At his tribunal, Lucano declared he was “guilty of humanity.”
I returned to Riace on October 6th and joined a demonstration of over 6,000 people who gathered to show their support to the now-suspended mayor.
The morning after the demonstration, Riace is empty and depressed. I visit Lucano’s house and ring the doorbell. “How can I accept laws that dehumanize people?” he tells me. “They want to destroy us. We must reflect on the system that we are living in, and how human values are being lost in this consumerist and capitalist society.”
“Free Mimmo!” someone shouts from downstairs.
The mayor closes his eyes and grimaces, as if his heart just broke in his chest.
“That’s Aiva,” he whispers, recognizing the voice. “I invited him to live with us. And now … what is he going to do?”
via Adventure https://adventure.com
January 21, 2019 at 05:00AM
The Best Ways to Get to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII
And then there were two. The 2019 Super Bowl is upon us and the Rams will be taking on the Patriots in Atlanta on Sunday, February 3, 2019 at 6:30pm. And no matter who you’re rooting for, you won’t want to miss out on the action — whether you’re in it for the teams, the commercials, the halftime show or the buffalo wings.
If you’re one of the lucky ones planning to follow your team on their trip to Super Bowl LIII this year, we’ve got some pointers on the best travel options for reaching Atlanta from both Los Angeles and New England. It’s important to note that airlines often add flights for events like the Super Bowl once the teams are set, so we’ll update this post as airlines release additional flights. In fact, Delta and JetBlue have already made it known that they are adding flights from Los Angeles and Boston, respectively.
Hey New England – we just added a few more flights to Atlanta for the big game. More than 3. Fewer than 28. https://t.co/D1BT2bY4z0
— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) January 21, 2019
.@Delta is adding service from Los Angeles for fans coming to Atlanta for the Big Game weekend.
— Delta News Hub (@DeltaNewsHub) January 20, 2019
We’re also already seeing some 3:25a departures early Monday morning after the game from Atlanta to Los Angeles on United. While things will continue to change, here are your current options for following these two victorious teams to the big game. This post assumes you would be traveling to Atlanta on Thursday or Friday in order to take advantage of all of the weekend’s festivities.
If You’re Flying From Los Angeles to Atlanta
Flying from the West Coast’s largest multi-carrier hub to the world’s busiest airport leaves you plenty of options for the trans-con flight to support the Rams in Atlanta. Let’s start with Atlanta’s own legacy carrier, Delta.
If you’re hoping for a great deal using your SkyMiles, we hate to burst your bubble, but there isn’t much in the way of value for a round-trip ticket through Delta:
The perfect travel dates of Thursday to Monday will run you an astounding 150,000 SkyMiles for the cheapest ticket. Changing your travel dates by a couple days could save you as much 61,000 SkyMiles if you can come back on Tuesday instead of Monday. Cash fares on Delta aren’t any better with $1,029 required for a Thursday departure and a Monday return:
Moving across the other legacy carriers, United has round-trip award tickets available for 32,500 miles if you are a Chase cobranded cardholder and can access XN fare availability. The outbound is one-stop with a red-eye but the Monday return is nonstop after the game has ended:
United basic economy fares are as cheap as $458 for the round-trip trans-con flight with a Friday departure and very early Monday morning return (you don’t even need a hotel that night!):
On our final legacy carrier, American, there are actually plenty of outbound flights available on American partner Alaska for just 12,500 miles. You do have to connect in Seattle, but can depart from LAX, Burbank (BUR) or Orange County (SNA):
The Monday return with American on the other hand is pretty ugly, with all the nonstop and connecting flights requiring 75,000 miles for an economy seat. Ouch:
The cheapest cash American Airlines fare for a Friday to Monday trip is a $717 basic economy ticket:
Low cost carrier Spirit has a nonstop itinerary for the outbound and one-stop itinerary for the return available for $477, but that does not include a carry-on bag, checked bag or seat selection:
After looking at all the airlines and flights, your cheapest option for both cash or miles is a Tuesday return. Taking an extra day off of work or away from the family isn’t always an option, but the savings a Tuesday return represent are significant enough to try and make it happen. You may be better served missing ATL on “mass exodus Monday” anyway.
If You’re Flying From New England to Atlanta
If you’re planning to follow your Patriots south for the big game, you have a wide range of options across different classes of service. Again, Delta has some of the best options because you are flying to its hub in ATL, but in the hours since the Patriot’s win, the prices on Delta have taken flight.
Round-trip prices from Boston to Atlanta are now over $800 on Delta, with awards ringing in at 150,000 SkyMiles. There are cheaper options than Delta available, but the very cheapest $200+ fares have overnights in Orlando on ultra low-cost carrier, Spirit. If you’re looking to help boost your segments logged for the year for status, there are a range of options, like American starting at $175. These cheaper options will see you fly at least two segments, and some options would see you rack up three on your jaunt down to ATL. While it won’t help much with your EQD total, it’s a low-cost option for racking up segments.
Nonstop flights from Boston to Atlanta are pricing close to $1,000 on Southwest Airlines for that weekend, but that could be the best deal out there if you have the Companion Pass and are bringing along a friend or family member.
While pricing flights, be sure and check other area airports, such as Providence (PVD), that also has Delta nonstop flights into ATL.
If You’re Making a Road Trip
If a road trip is sounding more up your alley (roughly 17 hours from Boston), be sure to use a credit card that will earn you points and has rental car insurance as a part of your card’s benefits. If you need to brush up on the rules or check if your card has you covered, check out the two guides below to see which card in your wallet you should use to book your rental.
Airlines will continue to add additional flights to Atlanta to serve the increase in demand. We will update this post as the airlines make those announcements and additions. If you are looking for a place to lay your head using hotel points, check out this article on using points to see the Super Bowl.
Additional reporting by Richard Kerr.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here: https://thepointsguy.com/mailing-list/
via The Points Guy http://bit.ly/26yIAN2
January 21, 2019 at 04:34AM
Travelstop Counts on Asian Startups to Unlock New Era in Corporate Travel
Five months and $1.2 million in seed funding later, Singapore-based Travelstop, which aims to disrupt the huge corporate travel management space in Asia, is rolling out local versions of its platform this week in seven languages in Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.
Competition in the sector in the region is only beginning, and the startup sees the ability to offer a localized product as key to become a dominant disrupter.
Asia’s corporate travel management space is ripe for a shakeup. The reasons are not dissimilar to those in North America and Europe, where startups such as Palo Alto-based TripActions and Barcelona-based TravelPerk have jumped in to try and streamline cumbersome and complex ways of managing business travel booking and expenses, and raised millions of funds in the process.
A handful of entrepreneurs in Asia-Pacific are having a go at it. Besides Travelstop, there’s Baoku in China, Tripeur in India, and Corporate Travel Management in Australia. In Southeast Asia, Travelstop, based in Singapore, is believed to be the only tech-focused corporate travel startup there to date.
The company is led by its CEO Prashant Kirtane, chief technology officer Vijay Aggarwal, and chief product officer Altaf Dhamani, ex-Yahoo! engineers who later launched Travelmob, which was fully acquired by HomeAway in 2015.
After rebranding and leading HomeAway’s expansion in Asia for two years, they left HomeAway and set up Travelstop in August.
More than 90 percent of Asia-Pacific’s business travel spend is unmanaged in that it is not bound by preferred suppliers, and tools, formal policies and compliance, Kirtane told Skift, compared with 69 percent in the United States.
“The Asia-Pacific region is the largest business travel market in the world, comprising 40 percent of global business travel,” said Kirtane. “Asia is on track for strong growth in business travel, expected at 10.4 per cent CAGR between 2015 and 2023, compared with 3.8 percent in Europe and 4.1 percent in the U.S.”
Business travel expenditure in the region is a third of the $1 trillion global amount annually, and growing, added Kirtane.
“By 2025, business travel spending in Asia-Pacific will more than double and will make up half of the global total, forecasts by Amadeus show. Trade within the region is a key driver of this growth,” Kirtane said.
A startup selling to other startups
While that all looks good, it also reflects the continuing challenges in transporting a borrowed western concept to Asia. Like the U.S. concept of incentive travel in its early days in Asia, business travel management is still unknown or alien to the region.
Big western brands such as Egencia and Concur, along with the region’s corporate travel agencies, have been pounding the streets in Asia exhorting the value of business travel management for over a decade. Yet, as Kirtane said, 90 percent of the business travel spend is still unmanaged.
While the big players have managed to crack the multinationals or the larger regional companies that understand the need for travel policy and compliance, a large chunk of the market still comprises fragmented, small and medium-size enterprises that are quite happy to have the managing director’s secretary and/or the human resource manager handle travel bookings with a semblance of expense monitoring.
So why does Kirtane think he can pry open a larger pie, when others before him are finding that it’s a one step forward, two steps back?
Kirtane points out that the business travel market in Asia has changed. There are now lots of high-growth, mid-size technology-driven companies that can relate to another technology startup such as Travelstop.
“These startups are growing from 200 to 500 staff, many of them now having to travel, and the companies are only thinking about how to manage their travel expenses.
“Currently, business travel management tools are expensive for them. It takes 75 to 90 days to onboard the companies. The first question in the negotiation [between the travel management company and the client] is, what is your travel budget? Anything less than $25,000 per month — they are not interested.”
Travelstop charges $10 per active user per month, on-boarding takes minutes and the platform is easy to use and intuitive, he said.
“We are 100 per cent self-serve and machine-learning platform and corporates and employees can on-board themselves in matter of minutes. We support most of the Asian languages, currencies, merchants and we are focused deeply in providing the best possible travel booking options for business travelers in Asia,” said Kirtane.
Of course, only Travelstop’s clients would be able to weigh in on whether these pledges are based on reality.
New features added after beta test
So rather than focus on the large companies, Travelstop reached out to startups in four initial Southeast Asian cities, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok, in the first five months of inception.
“Our target wasn’t to get as many companies to join us. It was for 75 percent of the business travel booking and reporting to be done on our platform,” said Kirtane. “Once you’ve built a product that solves all their problems, afterwards it’s just marketing in order to get sales.”
The beta test brought forth new insights, for example, the fact that a lot of CEOs and CFOs do not intend to book travel by themselves. Thus a Book for Others feature has been added.
Other new features, launching at the same time as the seven local versions, include a way to address compliance where, once set up, bookings that are outside of travel policies are automatically flagged during the booking process.
Also, given that Asia is mobile-first, Travelstop has released its iPhone app to help users access their trip information and manage their business expenses on-the-go. An Android version will be released in the next few months.
Startups that are now using Travelstop include affordable accommodation platform RedDoorz and peer-to-peer financing platform, Funding Societies, both based in Singapore.
Said RedDoorz’s founder and CEO, Amit Saberwal, “Before, our company’s business travel [management] was handled in a decentralized matter. It was very painful to control. There wasn’t any other option for small businesses like ours until Travelstop came along. Concur, Egencia and the like are all for the big boys.”
But the business is global. Travelperk, for instance, already has clients in Singapore and is understood to be planning further expansion outside its European home ground.
Said Kirtane, “Competition is always good as it helps to broaden the category awareness but to win in Asia you have to be deeply rooted in Asia which we are.
“We have the technical ability and experience to build a platform that caters to the needs of Asian users.”
Besides local languages and currencies, Travelstop also offers support for regional tax differences, reporting formats, payment options, and eventually plans to introduce customer service to its users in local languages.
It claims to have the largest selection of flights in the region, with over 800 carriers, including most regional and low-cost carriers.
Travelstop’s seed round was led by U.S.-based venture capital firm SeedPlus and angel investors including former Expedia senior executives Dan Lynn and Vikram Malhi; president and COO of Rally Health David Ko, and regional operations director at Hyper Island Singapore, Jarrod Howe.
Photo Credit: Travelstop wants to remove pain points of booking and expense reporting for Asian business travelers. Pictured are business people in Hong Kong. Bloomberg
via Skift https://skift.com
January 21, 2019 at 04:15AM
United Passengers Stranded for More Than 14 Hours on Plane at Frigid Canadian Airfield
Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight bound for Hong Kong from Newark (EWR) were stranded for more than 14 hours at a frigid Canadian airfield after the flight diverted after just four hours in the air. While diversions are rare, flights are usually back up and airborne in a matter of a hours. However, United Airlines flight UA179 experienced another complication as the flight prepared to take off following the diversion. According to CNN, the flight experienced mechanical issues, which stranded more than 200 passengers in Newfoundland.
United Airlines flight UA179 departed Newark (EWR) at 3:21pm, less than 20 minutes after the flight’s scheduled departure time. The Boeing 777-200ER climbed out of Newark and leveled off at 33,000 feet. While the flight departed a few minutes past schedule, favorable winds would have put the flight in Hong Kong a few minutes early, however, the flight experienced its first incident as it neared the southern tip of Greenland. Around 3 hours and 40 minutes into the flight, the Boeing 777 made a left turn back towards North America.
A passenger onboard the flight reportedly suffered medical complications that were serious enough to force the aircraft to divert. The aircraft diverted to Goose Bay Airport (YYR) in Newfoundland. After the aircraft landed, the passenger, who required medical assistance, was taken to a local hospital and the flight prepared to take back off to continue on to Hong Kong. It was at this time that the crew discovered an issue with one of the aircraft’s doors. The flight was forced to remain at the airfield until the issue could be resolved.
Because United Airlines does not operate regularly scheduled flights into the small Newfoundland airport, the aircraft was stranded at the airport until mechanics could be sent to the airport to resolve the issue. Unfortunately for passengers, Goose Bay Airport was unable to allow passengers to disembark, as there was not a customs agent available at the time. This meant that passengers would be forced to wait onboard until a customs agent, mechanic or replacement aircraft arrived at the airport.
Four @united tech ops workers trying to fix the right wing emergency exit door of #UA179. A planeful of people is hoping they have better luck than the last set of mechanics and pilots who tried hours ago @United_179 pic.twitter.com/PlC41Rh7qp
— Steven Lau (@unoslau) January 20, 2019
According to CNN and multiple reports on social media, the wait exceeded 14 hours. Lloyd Slade was one of the passengers who took to Twitter to share his account of the nightmare diversion. He noted that though he was tired, the crew was handling the delay very well. He did, however, call out United’s operations team for its poor response to the incident. Another passenger, Sonjay Dutt, shared a photo of the aircraft on the ramp following the overnight delay.
My home for the last 12+ hours. pic.twitter.com/RFbyA2wCXp
— SONJAY (@sonjaydutterson) January 20, 2019
As the aircraft sat at the airport overnight, temperatures dropped to -21 F. Though it was well below zero outside of the passenger cabin, the original aircraft had fuel for the 13+ hour flight to Hong Kong, which meant the crew was able to keep the aircraft warm throughout the night. Though temperatures didn’t drop to unbearable levels, passengers tweeted that the flight was almost out of food and that passengers were hungry. United Airlines reportedly coordinated with Goose Bay Airport officials to have the famous Canadian donut shop, Tim Horton’s, bring food to the aircraft. Sunday morning, passengers aboard the stranded airliner were treated to donuts and coffee as United sent a recovery aircraft to bring stranded passengers back to Newark.
The recovery aircraft, United Airlines flight UA2758, departed Newark a few minutes before 9am and landed in Goose Bay at 11:51am. Aboard the aircraft was a replacement crew and four United mechanics. According to the United Airlines app, the four mechanics were “upgraded” to business class on the recovery flight. After mechanics boarded the stranded airliner, passengers from UA179 boarded the recovery aircraft. The recovery flight bound for Newark departed Goose Bay at 3:53pm, more than 14 hours after landing at the Canadian airport. United Airlines flight UA8179 landed in Newark a little before 6pm.
Following the overnight diversion, many passengers decided to not continue on to Hong Kong. Others were accommodated on other United and Star Alliance flights and continued on to Hong Kong. United issued the following apology saying, “We apologize to our customers and our crew is doing everything possible to assist them during the delay.” As of 9pm EST Sunday, the original aircraft is still stuck in Goose Bay and is expected to return to Newark Monday morning.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here: https://thepointsguy.com/mailing-list/
Featured image via Philip Earle @Philipearle on Twitter
via The Points Guy http://bit.ly/26yIAN2
January 21, 2019 at 02:27AM
12 Mistakes Most Tourists Make in Greece
From the Acropolis in Athens to the winding whitewashed lanes of Mykonos, the Mediterranean country of Greece is certainly no slouch when it comes to tourist iconography. But to experience Greece the way the Greeks do — and to get a better read on some of those clichéd but essential sights — it helps to avoid the common pitfalls that could compromise an otherwise unforgettable trip.
1. Treating Athens Like a Layover
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and the Parthenon is just the start. A full day is scarcely enough time to explore the Acropolis properly, let alone the Acropolis Museum and ancient sites nearby such as Areopagus, Agora, Temple of Hephaestus and others.
In summertime especially, it’s easy to give in to the temptation to just pass through Athens on your way to the Greek islands, but think of it this way: Fire Island might be a great escape from Manhattan, but even in the height of summer there are things you’ll find nowhere else but in the city. Athens is much the same. Ideally, you should take a city tour on your first day just to get oriented, then branch out to explore neighborhoods like Kolonaki, Koukaki and Petralona.
2. Dining in Plaka
Plaka is the pretty neighborhood at the foot of the Acropolis and, unsurprisingly, it’s also the most touristy in Athens. Its pastel-colored neoclassical mansions and scattered ancient ruins make it great for a stroll, but with few exceptions it’s not where the locals go to eat or hang out. And there is surely no reason to overpay for a Greek salad.
To sample quintessential Greek homestyle cooking at amazing prices, eat at any branch of Ladokolla (an unchainlike Greek restaurant chain that specializes in grilled meat and other “native” dishes including saganaki and ameletita) where many dishes are served on signature paper plates.
For souvlaki perfection — and I’ve tried dozens if not hundreds to compare — an industrial-chic spot called Hoocut is the ticket.
3. Relying Completely on the Athens Metro
The Athens Metro is definitely modern, but distances between stops can be vast and some of the most central neighborhoods have no metro service at all. So it’s a good way to get from the airport to the city center, or to catch an early morning ferry from Piraeus, but not the best way to explore Athens in the manner of, say, the much more extensive Paris Métro.
Thankfully, Athens is a city of the south, meaning the weather is generally conducive to sightseeing on foot. Uber didn’t work out too well in Greece, but there’s a great way to order a taxi from your smartphone called Beat.
4. Taking a Three-Island Day Cruise
Greece has hundred of islands (thousands, if you count the uninhabited ones) so choosing which ones to visit can be either fun or exasperating, depending on how much time you have. But trying to cram in as many islands as you can into a single trip? Big mistake.
It can be tempting to take one of those cruises from Piraeus (the port of Athens) that promise you three islands in a day — usually that means islands of the Saronic Gulf like Aegina, Poros and Hydra. With the advent of high-speed ferries, in summer you can even go to Mykonos for the day and be back in Athens for dinner.
None of the above, however, is recommended. You will spend too much of the day in transit and you’ll almost certainly overpay. The savvier plan is to do a bit of homework and see what islands appeal to you more, then make plans to visit them accordingly.
For example, Poros and Hydra are both within easy reach of Piraeus and each merit a day trip (or longer) on their own. But with a little creative scheduling, you could even visit both in the same day, and seeing two islands in a day makes things a bit less of a blur than trying to take in three. Check out the sites for Hellenic Seaways and Ferryhopper.
5. Overlooking Piraeus
At first glance the port of Piraeus appears to be rather lacking in charm. And it is. As Greece’s busiest passenger ferry port, its main business is shipping as well as shuttling people to and from the Greek islands. However, Piraeus has a long history going back as far as Athens, and without her superior naval fleet which was in antiquity berthed in Piraeus, the Athens we know might have been little more than a footnote in the history books. The Archaeological Museum of Piraeus is a must, as is exploring the city’s “mini” leisure ports such as Zea Marina, where you can gawk at megayachts.
6. Staying Exclusively at Airbnbs in Athens
Prior to moving to Athens, I stayed at dozens of hotels and Airbnbs in the city. If you’re traveling here for the first time, I absolutely recommend you stay at a hotel instead.
Staying in an apartment on your virginal visit to Greece may mean totally missing out on philoxenia — the proud tradition, since the time of Homer, of Greek hospitality. It also means missing out on breakfast. Although “bed and breakfast” is implicit in Airbnb’s acronym, very few Airbnbs actually offer breakfast. By contrast, most Greek hotels include breakfast in their room rates and the service can range from light and continental to pretty epic. There are also plenty of points hotels in Athens, too, so you can definitely get a better value during your travels that way.
Also, I know that many Airbnb hosts are helpful and happy to point out neighborhood highlights and such, but concierges and other hotel staff members tend to have a deeper general knowledge of both specific restaurants as well as hot spots and the general workings of the city. And they’re available 24/7.
7. Skipping Thessaloniki
The second largest city in Greece is completely different from Athens and is a cultural heavyweight in its own right. Named after Alexander the Great’s half-sister, the city also happens to be the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. But this spirited seaside city wears its historical complexities well. Essential stops include the Archaeological Museum, ancient Roman Rotunda and the Jewish Museum.
8. Going to Santorini
The fact that Santorini is now probably the selfie stick capital of the Mediterranean is a superficial complaint: The real problem is that, from toxic cruise ship fumes to just too many darn people scrambling around what is basically a volcanic rock, Santorini is the island poster child of overtourism. Plans are afoot to triple the size of its sardine can of an airport, but absent some major volcanic activity, Santorini won’t be getting bigger any time soon.
Yes, the scenery is impressive and there are plenty of luxury hotels with pretty infinity pools. But the crowds can be unbearable. And if you’re thinking of Santorini in summer? Sorry, but you’ll find beachier beaches on the Jersey Shore. Happily, there are hundreds of alternatives. Check out islands like Ios, Tinos, Milos, Sifnos and Amorgos instead. Parakalo (you’re welcome).
9. Looking for a Bargain in Mykonos
Are you one of Lindsay Lohan’s friends? No? Well, in that case you’re going to have to part with a truckload of points to score a halfway decent hotel room in Mykonos in high season (from June to September) or otherwise forget about it and hit up a nearby island instead, like Paros, Naxos or Syros.
10. Getting Coffee at Starbucks
Make like the locals and order έναν ελληνικό καφέ (enan elliniko cafe), or Greek coffee instead. And remember, it’s a frappé you want for that instant — and cold — caffeine kick, whereas a characteristically grainy Greek coffee involves a bit more of a ritual. You know you’re getting the real stuff if it costs you around $2 (or less).
The Greek answer to Starbucks is actually two chains, one called Gregory’s and another called Everest. Coffee Island, CoffeeLab and CoffeeBerry tend to offer more artisanal options. A Starbucks in Mykonos might look appealing, but a quality cappuccino freddo in Greece should never cost more than around $2. (Photo via Shutterstock)
11. Insisting on a Nonsmoking Table
Yes, there are laws mandating nonsmoking sections in Greek restaurants, but bear in mind that getting a random restaurant full of Greek diners to foreswear tobacco is a bit like asking a room full of teenagers to put away their cellphones: Good luck with both. Mitigate the nuisance by asking to be seated outdoors, which happily is often an option.
12. Underestimating Crete
On a recent visit to Crete I met two Americans who’d had enough of the crowds on Santorini (see above) and hopped a Seajet ferry to Heraklion, hoping to explore Crete in two days ahead of their flight home from Athens. I reminded them that Crete runs about 160 miles from east to west, and is approximately 3,220 square miles in total.
Santorini, by contrast, is barely 29 square miles and Mykonos isn’t much bigger.
Crete is the largest island in Greece and not even 10 days is enough to thoroughly explore the place — neither the mountainous terrain nor the rather rudimentary network of roads work in the time saver’s favor.
If you’re looking for a short beach break, stick with Mykonos, Sifnos and other small islands. But Crete is so big it demands more time and maybe even a separate trip. Which, unless you hate gorgeous beaches and fantastic food, would definitely be worth your travel time.
Featured image by Kylie Docherty via Unsplash.
via The Points Guy http://bit.ly/26yIAN2
January 21, 2019 at 12:16AM