News: Guinness World Records honours Ras Al Khaimah with World’s Longest Zipline title
The emirates of Ras Al Khaimah achieved a Guinness World Records title earlier with its latest adventure tourism product – Jebel Jais Flight: The World’s Longest Zipline.
The official certification was handed over to sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, by Hoda Khachab, the official adjudicator from Guinness World Records, earlier.
Ahmad bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi himself was the first to trial the new zipline this morning, following the official certification.
“This is a great achievement for Ras Al Khaimah’s international tourism ambitions,” said Haitham Mattar, chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
“We are now receiving our largest-ever number of visitor arrivals and are confident that Jebel Jais Flight: the world’s longest zipline, will earn the UAE’s emirate of Ras Al Khaimah considerable recognition on the local, regional and global stage and propel the destination into the major leagues of global adventure tourism.
“The Jebel Jais Flight will become Ras Al Khaimah’s flagship tourism product and will cement Jebel Jais as the adventure tourism hub of the Middle East.
“We are expecting to see an increasing number of adventure tourists coming from across the globe to try this bucket list experience.”
The zipline, measuring 2.83 kilometres, the equivalent to over 28 soccer fields, and spanning the chasm of Jebel Jais, the UAE’s largest mountain peak at over 1,680 metres above sea level, opened to the public today.
It is expected to achieve a strong following among thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies from across the world.
The Ras Al Khaimah zipline is being operated by Toroverde Ras Al Khaimah, the world’s most experienced zipline managers.
“Toro Verde brings to Ras Al Khaimah immense zipline management experience earned through previous projects in Central and South America, including Toroverde Puerto Rico – the ‘Monster’ – which, at 2.2 kilometres, previously held the zipline record now claimed by this ambitious emirate,” said Ricardo Lizano, chief operating officer of Toro Verde.
Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, was presented with the prestigious honour earlier today
Delivery of the zipline, which features a steel cable weighing more than six tonnes and is suspended 1,680 metres above sea level, has been in the planning phase for over a year.
The process involved extensive feasibility studies, master-planning, comprehensive surveys, soil tests and construction simulations.
Maintaining sustainable environmental practices within all construction acts, strong anchor holes were drilled into the rugged Hajar Mountains that alone took over six months.
Thrill-seekers will be suspended above the mountain as they prepare to take the flight headfirst in a ‘superman’ style position.
The experience will see participants fitted with a special suit and equipment for the adventure, with the longest flight itself taking approximately two to three minutes.
Once completed, guests will finish the bucket list flight on a suspended landing platform – unique in the world – where they will be transferred to a second line, measuring in at one kilometre, to complete their journey back to the ground.
“It actually comprises two main zipline cables, allowing friends and family members to experience and race together, adding to the fun and competitiveness of the facility.
“Zipline pilots will experience a flight like never before while being secure and safe.
“While the time and speed they complete the flight in is dependent on weight and weather conditions, the whole experience is expected to last around two to three minutes, with top speeds reaching between 120 and 150 kilometres per hour.
“We anticipate the attraction accommodating a rider every five minutes on the two zip lines, equating to approximately 200 people per day, and around 100,000 per year,” explained Jorge Jorge, chief executive of Toro Verde RAK.
“We also believe given its location in Jebel Jais, which is traditionally 10 degrees cooler than average UAE temperatures, we can operate during the summer months,” added Jorge.
The launch of the world’s longest zipline is another milestone in Ras Al Khaimah’s campaign to transform the emirate into the region’s adventure and activity tourism hub.
With the emirate benefitting from diverse landscape – including the Hajar Mountains and Jebel Jais – it has already built a following among walkers, hikers and cyclists with the campaign taking a leap forward in 2016 with the opening of the highly successful Jebel Jais Via Ferrata (Iron Path), hiking, climbing and ziplining product.
Later this year the developing emirates will also welcome the World Travel Awards Middle East Gala Ceremony 2018.
The event, which will take place alongside the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, will take place on April 19th at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah.
Hundreds of industry leaders are expected to be in attendance with more information on the official website.
For more information on, and booking for, Jebel Jais Flight, please log here.
via Breaking Travel News http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/
February 1, 2018 at 02:09PM
The Anxiety of the Olympics in Korea
One week after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the United States
colonels Charles (Tic) Bonesteel and Dean Rusk, the future Secretary of
State, pondered what to do about Korea. Having extracted Tokyo’s
surrender, the U.S. and Russia were left to deal with (i.e., divvy up)
what had been a Japanese colony. “Neither Tic nor I was a Korea expert,
but it seemed to us that Seoul, the capital, should be in the American
sector,” Rusk later wrote. “Using a National Geographic map, we looked
just north of Seoul for a convenient dividing line.” The Thirty-eighth Parallel,
which divides North and South to this day, had historical
precedent—Japan and Russia had haggled unsuccessfully over the same
boundary in the late nineteenth century. But for Bonesteel and Rusk, as
the journalist Barbara Demick notes, “The division was very random.”
The Thirty-eighth Parallel remains a simmering hot plate in an
otherwise Cold War. It’s also the starting point for an understanding of
inter-Korean and U.S.-Korean relations, even when it comes to a cheery
event like the Winter Olympics. “The Anxiety of the Olympics in Korea” is
a compact guide to the swirl of politics and history unfolding in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This month, as a symbolic rejoinder
to the unnerving exchanges between Washington and Seoul, athletes from
the two Koreas will march under a united flag. “Kim Jong Un saw a great
opportunity with these Olympics to try to neutralize the effect of
international condemnation,” Demick explains. “South Koreans are very
vulnerable to North Korea’s tantrums.”
The games in Pyeongchang come thirty years after Korea hosted its first
Olympics, in Seoul. Months before the 1988 Summer Games,
tens of thousands of South Koreans had risen up against the country’s
authoritarian regime and forced a reasonably democratic Presidential
election. I recall watching the lavish opening ceremonies with my
immigrant parents, on a small Sony TV. As lines of traditional
dancers entered the stadium, to the tune of Korean taepyeongso and changgu drums, I wondered if Mom and Dad felt homesick.
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February 1, 2018 at 02:06PM
Chase and Starbucks Launch First Co-Branded Credit Card
The Starbucks credit card has finally arrived. On Thursday, Starbucks and Chase launched the co-branded Starbucks Rewards Visa Card, a card that allows you to earn Starbucks Rewards stars on non-Starbucks purchases.
First, the basics. The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 2,500 stars after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months. Note that the $500 in spend doesn’t have to be spent at Starbucks — it’s cumulative purchases on the card at any retailer. Then, once you load your Starbucks Rewards Visa Card to your Starbucks card in the Starbucks app for the first time, you’ll get a bonus of 250 stars.
When it comes to spend, the bonus earning structure breaks down as such:
- You’ll earn 1 star for every $4 spent outside of Starbucks
- You’ll earn 1 star for every $1 digitally loaded on your Starbucks card in the app, in addition to the 2 stars per dollar when paying with your in-app Starbucks card
So, you’ll want to be sure that if you’re purchasing something at Starbucks, you’re using the credit card to load money digitally onto your app-based Starbucks card in order to get the maximum 3 bonus stars per dollar spent.
The card also comes with automatic Gold status in the Starbucks Rewards program. With Gold status, you’ll get a free birthday reward, the ability to order ahead, free in-store refills, access to member events, paying by phone, double-star days, a personalized gold card and a reward for every 125 stars. As a benefit of the credit card, you’ll also get eight complimentary curated barista picks annually, which are automatically loaded on your app and based on your beverage preferences.
The Starbucks credit card comes with a $49 annual fee, which is not waived for the first year. You will also be charged foreign transaction fees if making purchases with the card while abroad.
The stars you’re earning with every purchase made with the Starbucks Rewards Visa cannot be transferred to any partners. Instead, they’re redeemable only for Starbucks purchases. Because the card comes with automatic Starbucks Rewards Gold status, you’ll be able to redeem for a free reward with every 125 stars. The 125-star can be used toward any eligible food or beverage item in store — which could be anything from a tall coffee to a more extravagant Venti Frap.
So, based on the sign-up bonus alone (2,500 stars after you spend $500 in the first three months), you’ll get 20 free food or beverage items. Then, when you load your in-app Starbucks credit card, you’ll earn an additional 250 stars, which is the equivalent of two more free food or drink items.
It’s worth noting that you can’t redeem stars at every Starbucks store. You can redeem the stars and take full advantage of the card’s full benefits, such as the barista-curated drinks, at more than 8,000 participating Starbucks locations — and they’re all in the US. While you can’t redeem stars at every Starbucks location, you can earn stars at anywhere in the world that Visa is excepted. Just keep in mind that the card does not waive foreign transaction fees.
Is It Worth It?
If you’re a frequent Starbucks customer, the sign-up bonus may seem especially appealing — 20 free drinks or food items. However, the card might not be all that worth it once you’ve hit the minimum spend. If you use the card for only non-Starbucks purchases, you’ll need to spend $500 in order to get one free drink or food item. And, with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve earning you 3x points on the same dining purchases, you could be accumulating more valuable points elsewhere.
If you value each redemption (125 stars) at $5, you’re getting about a 1% return on non-Starbucks spend. Keep in mind also that the card comes with a $49 annual fee. After you earn the sign-up bonus (2,500 stars) and load your in-app Starbucks card for the first time (250 stars), it’ll be hard to break even on the cost of the annual fee with your rewards:
- $500 in non-Starbucks purchases at a rate of 1 star per $4 spent = 125 stars (redeemable for about $5)
- About $42 on Starbucks purchases at a rate of 3 stars per $1 spent = 125 stars (redeemable for about $5)
Based on our soft valuation of 125 stars being worth $5, you’d need to spend about $420 on Starbucks purchases, earning 3 stars per dollar in order to break even on the $49 annual fee. Even more outrageous, you’d need to spend about $5,000 on non-Starbucks purchases in order to break even on the $49 annual fee.
That being said, if you’re a frequent Starbucks customer, the card could be worth it for the complimentary Gold status, sign-up bonus and constant earning. Plus, the eight complimentary barista picks annually add some more value. However, we don’t recommend using this credit card for non-Starbucks purchases. Earning only 1 star for every $4 spent on non-Starbucks purchases is a pretty unfavorable rate no matter how you look at it.
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February 1, 2018 at 02:05PM
Focus: Breaking Travel News investigates: Live Aqua Boutique Hotel, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
I knew I’d arrived at my kind of boutique hotel when the bell boy pulled my bags past a retro VW Beetle.
It had been cut in half and covered in beautifully painted Sea Shells for maximum impact.
Such were my first impressions of Live Aqua Boutique Hotel, situated in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
I follow the bell boy into the spectacular atrium, the entrance is proof that boutique hotels aren’t necessarily small.
All sixty rooms surround this large courtyard – overlooked by a huge mural created by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra.
It’s a homage to the French post-impressionist artist Douanier Rousseau’s ‘The Dream Painting’.
The brightly multi coloured frieze depicts a lady reclining in the Yucatan jungle.
The Mural covers the entire length of the 15-metre wall, and beneath sits the appropriately named El Mural restaurant.
This is a chic, minimalist hotel, incorporating in its design various types of stone, wood, and bamboo, as well as relaxing water features.
Art and antiques are subtly poised around the hotel.
An antique fisherman’s canoe from Mexico’s Lake Pátzcuaro hangs on the wall near the lifts and is half the length of the five-story building.
Another hugs the infinity pool on the top floor and a third is in the shallow water fountain in the reception area.
The top floor is where the cool hip people of ‘Playa’ hang out and enjoy the chilled-out music.
The mesmerising infinity pool has a view over the Caribbean Sea and is surrounded by comfortable sunbeds and cabanas.
It’s serviced by obliging staff from the rooftop bar, which has been decorated in brightly coloured Mexican floor tiles, giving it a feel of a Hacienda.
Enjoy one of their signature cocktails whils watching the sun set over Playa Del Carmen.
Here you will also spot the remaining half of the VW Beetle, a creation by artist Anthony Patti, initially used in Tommy Hilfiger’s stores for his Surf Shack Collection.
There’s two choices for lunch and smaller type meals on the top floor by the infinity pool.
The bar serves lighter traditional Mexican food or, for a more substantial meal, head to the tapas sushi restaurant next to the pool.
For dinner, I’d encourage you to try the Dai Restaurant on the ground floor: let yourself be spoilt by the head chef Juan.
The small modern restaurant offers a good selection of Asian fusion dishes, and the shrimp dumplings were delicious.
On the ground floor, they also offer a small deli for light snacks and coffee.
The stunning rooms in the hotel have a contemporary Mexican feel with an excellent choice of minimal designer furniture, while the larger suites are a good size.
The gym is compact but has everything you need for a good work out.
The Spa is small but adequate, it has a steam room and excellent masseurs.
As the hotel is located on the 5th avenue, guests have favourable entry rates to Mamita’s Beach Club, two streets away.
You pay a fee equivalent to £6 per person, which can be redeemed against food and drink, and included is also a sunbed and umbrella.
The beach is quite narrow and not the best in the area.
This adults’ only all-inclusive hotel is the perfect hideaway in Playa Del Carmen and not to be missed.
It’s located on the north end of 5th Avenue, Playa Del Carmen’s thriving, main hub, itself packed with bars, restaurants, shops, outdoor cafés, coffee shops, dive centres, and tour operators.
Live Aqua Boutique Resort offers visitors exquisite restaurants, stylish guestrooms, a rooftop infinity pool, contemporary art, and the authentic elements that make for a truly wonderful holiday.
With its minimalistic architectural, creative spaces, and relaxed feel, it is the highlight of any break in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Find out more on the official website.
Words and images: Mark Hakansson
via Breaking Travel News http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/
February 1, 2018 at 01:27PM
These Are Top Hotels.com Properties Around the World
Brand loyalty can be a bit of a blinding force; chasing bonus points and suite upgrades with a single hotel chain can inadvertently cause you to overlook some amazing properties. Hotels.com is a great alternative for travelers not ready to commit to a single brand — and it even comes with its own loyalty program.
After booking 10 paid nights, you’ll receive a credit for one free night based on the average cost of your 10 stays. In other words, you can think of it as a 10% rebate on all your bookings. Plus, stack that with the 10x miles you can earn on Hotels.com bookings with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, and you’re looking at a 20% return on spending. But with hundreds of thousands of properties in over 200 countries and territories, where do you even start? To inspire your future bookings, here are seven of our favorite Hotels.com properties around the world.
1. Firebrand Hotel, Whitefish Montana
Hotels.com rating: 9.2/10
Average nightly rate: $113
While most people come to Whitefish to ski, hike or golf (depending on the season) in Glacier National Park, the Firebrand Hotel will tempt you to stay in and cozy up to one of its many fireplaces. The rustic design carries on throughout the hotel, from the fur throws and mounted taxidermy in the lobby to the nature photography present in every room.
2. Ambrosia, Key West
Hotels.com rating: 9.2/10
Average nightly rate: $219
Heavy tourist demand keeps prices in the Florida Keys consistently high, but you should feel right at home in this charming bed and breakfast without breaking the bank. Relax and take advantage of the in-room kitchens and two heated pools or wander through nearby Old Town and enjoy some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever eat.
3. Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur
Hotels.com rating: 9.4/10
Average nightly rate: $167
The Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur has a prominent position in the city skyline, right next to the famous Petronas Towers. The modern rooms offer sweeping views, and the property’s fine dining restaurant overlooks Kuala Lumpur City Center Park. Naturally, you have easy access to some of the city’s best nightlife as well. Most importantly, this 5-star luxury hotel can be booked at an incredibly reasonable price of ~$170 a night after taxes.
4. Hilton Okinawa Chatan Resort
Hotels.com rating: 9.2/10
Average nightly rate: $201
Situated in the middle of Japan’s most overlooked tourist destination, the Hilton Okinawa Chatan Resort provides the fresh air and beaches you’ll be craving after the hustle and bustle of a big city like Tokyo. This waterfront property is also well positioned for Okinawa’s most popular activity: scuba diving. The famous Blue Caves at Cape Maeda, shallow enough that beginners can dive without prior training, are only a 20-minute drive away. Other popular attractions, including 15th-century Shuri castle, are also close by.
5. The Stones Legian, Bali (Autograph Collection)
Hotels.com rating: 9/10
Average nightly rate: $162
When planning a trip to Bali, you want to be careful to avoid the rainy season (and the volcano season!). Peak travel dates usually mean peak prices, but thankfully The Stones Legian, a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, comes to the rescue. Located in the North Kuta region, this hotel is a perfect base for those looking to get off the beaches and explore the incredible natural wonders hidden throughout the island.
6. The Kimpton Muse, New York
Hotels.com rating: 9.2/10
Average nightly rate: $229
Kimpton has been getting a lot of attention since it began accepting redemptions of IHG points and free night certificates, but the brand’s customer-friendly policies have long made it a fan favorite. While you can count on free bike rentals, nightly wine hours and an incredible pet-friendly policy (any animal, any breed, free of charge) at all Kimpton properties, The Muse gives you all of these guest friendly amenities just a block away from Times Square.
7. Hotel Papadopli by Sofitel, Venice
Hotels.com rating: 9/10
Average nightly rate: $248
Venice oozes romance and sophistication, and while there are plenty of upscale hotels to choose from, they are not all created equal. The Hotel Papadopli by Sofitel pampers guests with an abundance of gold trim throughout the rooms, but what really sets it apart is its prime location. The hotel is just off of the grand canal, providing seamless access to the cities major transportation artery, while still retaining some privacy. The back entrance (see featured image) opens directly onto a smaller canal, allowing guests to depart and arrive by gondola.
Prices shown are accurate as of January 26, 2018.
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February 1, 2018 at 01:13PM
Pageant Standards for Camel Beauty
At least 12 contestants have been disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s annual camel beauty contest because the owners injected their lips with Botox.
The judges were set to hand out millions of dollars in cash prizes to the breeders of the most toothsome beasts. But the contestants at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Rumah had to adhere to one condition: All beauty must be “natural.”
Ideal: dark, oval, twinkly. Convey desperation to place first in all camel pageantry. Each of three eyelids should have a deep, exaggerated crease for that “Disney princess” look. Strong eyebrow game encouraged. Lashes should be whimsical and spidery, suggesting sauciness and self-protection from a cataclysmic sandstorm.
Flaws: saggy lids, a vacant or wall-eyed stare, pinkeye. Instant disqualification for reading glasses.
Ideal: lower lip is irrepressibly flappy. Pursing of the upper and lower lips generates the sound of a prolonged fart. Widely separating the lips allows the camel to belt out its signature mating song, “Satan Belching.” (Tongue should resemble a sunburnt sea cucumber.)
Flaws: Botox, Revlon Colorstay.
Ideal: shiny and swathed in green spittle or froth. Individual teeth should be at least three inches long and mustard yellow, collectively resembling a vandalized picket fence. Upper canines are vampiric, lower canines comically derpy mutant chiclets, and the rest of the mouth should evoke staring into the gaping maw of a peyote-induced hallucination.
Flaws: obvious fillings. Veneers. Invisalign.
Ideal: curvaceous, with the pleasant firmness of a gigantic lone boob. Sizing must be close to a singular ZZZ cup. Hump should be composed of no fewer than eighty pounds of fat to insure perkiness and that it’s not slumping like a sad orca fin.
Flaws: hump implant, Juvéderm, one-cupped push-up bra.
Ideal: must go on for days. Capable of both seduction and kicking a tourist in the spleen. Knees must be battleship gray and not unlike the bulbous burls of a singed redwood. Twiggy shins should taper sensuously into severe camel toes. Extra marks awarded for a thigh gap of more than two feet.
Flaws: Spanx, cellulite, Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs.
Participating camels are encouraged to show off their natural talents in this portion of the pageant. Some examples of appropriate talents include: ventriloquism, cheerleading, an oboe solo, rifle twirling, Irish step dancing, karate, and beatboxing.
The televised final night of the pageant will be judged—and prizes will be awarded—based on the following breakdown:
Charisma: twenty-five per cent.
Swimsuit: ten per cent.
Spitting distance: thirty per cent.
Evening wear: fifteen per cent.
Grace when carrying saddlebag weighing six hundred pounds: twenty per cent.
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February 1, 2018 at 12:20PM
What’s the Best Card for Paying Taxes and Fees on Award Tickets?
“Reader Questions” are now answered twice a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — by TPG Assistant Editor Brendan Dorsey. Brendan has been with TPG for a year and a half and hails from Northern California.
For those in the points and miles hobby, one of the best feelings is finding saver award availability and redeeming those hard-earned points and miles for a flight or hotel. Although, this can sometimes be a bittersweet pill, as award flights do have the unfortunate addition of taxes and fees. TPG reader Blake recently wrote in asking how to best pay for these fees:
Does the American Express Platinum card give 5x points on airline taxes and fees for award tickets? Or should I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve, netting 3x points?TPG Reader Blake
Well there are a few things you’ll want to consider. First, the specifics of the category bonuses are important. The Amex Platinum gets 5x points on all airfare purchased from the airlines or through Amex Travel, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets 3x points on all travel and dining purchases.
At first glance, it may seem like the Amex Platinum is an obvious choice. But there’s more to it than just how many extra points you’ll receive. Amex Membership Rewards points are actually worth less than Chase Ultimate Reward points, according to TPG’s latest monthly points valuations. Based on those valuations, Membership Rewards points are worth 1.9 cents a pop, while Ultimate Rewards come out to 2.1 cents each.
Amex states the Platinum card will only get 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airlines or through Amex Travel. But does Amex count award taxes and fees as “airfare?” According to multiple data points on FlyerTalk as well as TPG staff members’ own Amex Platinum accounts, taxes and fees will code as airfare.
We can do the math comparing the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve, and throw in a similar “premium” credit card, the Citi Prestige, which we’ve seen code taxes and fees as air travel eligible for 3x points. Let’s assume Blake’s taxes and fees come out to $200 for his award ticket on an international round-trip itinerary.
|Card||POint Bonus||Point Value||points earned||Value earned|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||3x||2.1 cents||600||$12.60|
|American Express Platinum||5x||1.9 cents||1,000||$19|
|Citi Prestige||3x||1.7 cents||600||$10.02|
We can see the Amex Platinum will net Blake a whole 400 points more than both the Reserve and Prestige. And he’s not just coming out ahead in points earned, but also in value. By using the Platinum, he’s getting 50% more value than he would with the Reserve and nearly 90% more than the Prestige.
Still, there’s a more important factor when choosing what credit card you want to use when paying for the taxes and fees on award tickets. Baggage and trip delay insurance can be hugely valuable benefits, and some card policies stand out more than others.
Those insurance policies do apply to award tickets, but only if you pay with the Reserve or Prestige. Amex requires you to pay for the full cost of your ticket if you want any of its travel protections.
Many of TPG’s flights are booked with points, but he pays with the Citi Prestige because of the fantastic trip delay insurance that the card offers. If a flight is delayed for more than three hours, Citi will reimburse you up to $500 dollars in eligible expenses. The Sapphire Reserve’s insurance, meanwhile, kicks in after six hours.
It’s even worse with the Platinum, as it doesn’t even come with trip cancellation insurance, just coverage for lost baggage and travel accidents. Both the Sapphire Reserve and Prestige offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance, along with baggage and accident insurance. The Reserve has the best policy when it comes to trip cancellation, with $10,000 per person per covered trip.
And if you’re not a premium credit card holder, mid-tier cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi ThankYou Premier also offer some trip delay, cancellation and baggage insurance — although the policies aren’t as generous. Even co-brand cards like the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and United MileagePlus Explorer Card offer coverage.
So Blake, it comes down to what you value more: the couple extra dollars in points you’ll get from your Amex Platinum, or the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 3x points plus all its extra insurance features. Personally, I’d book with the Sapphire Reserve, since you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you’re insured, and you’ll still earn bonus points.
So, do the math with on how many points you’ll earn and make sure you examine your credit card’s trip insurance policies before booking. Thanks for the question, Blake, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image by Phil Boorman/Getty Images.
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February 1, 2018 at 12:01PM
In its first-ever acquisition, ATPCO snaps up Routehappy
ATPCO, the airline-owned company that collects and distributes fares and related data, acquired Routehappy, a six-year-old company that provides flight scores, cabin amenity data and other merchandising tools.
Terms of the deal, which is ATPCO’s first acquisition in its 53 years, were not disclosed.
Routehappy, (Startup pitch here) will be wholly owned by ATPCO but will operate separately, led by current chief executive officer Robert Albert.
The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves by ATPCO under Rolf Purzer, a long-time executive with the company who became CEO a year ago.
Purzer has been on a mission to modernize the company.
It began working with Routehappy in April to unite pricing data and merchandising content.
When NDC, IATA’s technical standard for airline retailing, was initially introduced, some pundits concluded that its dynamic pricing features would spell the end for ATPCO; instead, the company has taken a leadership role in the development of the concept, collaborating with SITA to build an NDC Exchange to lower the barriers to NDC adoption.
The Routehappy acquisition is “a match made in heaven,” Purzer says, a “happy coincidence between planning and good timing.”
“It was a gap we needed to fill. We want to enter into the retailing mindset with a good product. We want to be more modern and agile.”
Albert agrees. From Routehappy’s beginnings, he envisioned the creation of new technical standards that would benefit the whole industry.
“By uniting with ATPCO — the “standard setter” in the air fare ecosystem – “we can make it happen overnight.”
Routehappy also is starting to “explore” NDC – it recently was endorsed by IATA as a partner to the initiative — so the pairing of the companies could not come at a better time. Although Albert says rich content “isn’t really a part of it at this stage,” Purzer thinks it’s a natural evolution.
“NDC is really about retailing,” he says.
Through the collaboration that began last year, the companies already have integrated ATPCO’s Optional Services Industry Sub Codes into Routehappy’s content platform, Routehappy Hub.
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February 1, 2018 at 12:00PM
Obama CTO says ‘Big Data is BS’ in keynote to hoteliers and vendors at HEDNA 2018
As far as setting the tone for HEDNA’s conference in Austin, TX, Harper Reed offered quite the frame for attendees. Reed is a man of many talents, having moved from founding revolutionary online t-shirt maker Threadless to running Obama’s data-driven fundraising machine as Chief Technology Officer and then to a startup that eventually sold to PayPal. Today, Reed is the Head of Commerce at Paypal’s Braintree Payments.
While this might seem like an odd placement for someone with Reed’s background, it made perfect sense when considering how hotels must compete on the technology front in today’s complex environment. With more channels than ever, and technology reaching across every interaction in a hotel’s operation, there’s a need for hoteliers to understand how data, technology, and the guest experience intersect.
Oh, and Reed is a fantastic presenter. By using humor and his own experience to illustrate his points, Reed certainly makes an impression. Here are some key points, with the full keynote captured live following below.
#1: Stop asking if you’re sure. Harper says that the Obama campaign saw millions of dollars in life when the campaign implemented a “quick donate” button that had no ‘are you sure’ confirmation screen. Perhaps hotels should do the same?
#2: Big Data is BS. We’ve all passed the point of Big Data saturation. But it’s really not about the size of the data, it’s what you do with it. It’s just data — and if brands collect it without doing anything with it, then it simply doesn’t matter.
#3: It’s about Big Answers. Folllowing on from the Big Data thread, Harper reminds us all that it’s about taking that data and finding answers to the important questions. The data is a means to an end, and not the end itself. It’s something that is often forgotten, especially as the Big Data buzzword took over boardrooms.
#4: If there’s no metric, it doesn’t exist. This was a maxim passed on by Harper Reed’s boss. The premise is straightforward: if there isn’t any data behind it, you can just walk away. There is no point in having a conversation. We have other things to do!
#5: What does conversion mean for your product? If you don’t have an idea, it’s very hard to have a solid use of data to back that up. Start with understanding the outcome you want, and then work backward to capture the right kind of data to help you achieve those goals.
#6: Track ENOUGH data. If you track too much data, you risk two things: not knowing where to begin or what to do with it, and ending up being really creepy. Harper used the Target example of the father wondering why his daughter was getting mailers for pregnant mom items. There’s no need to go overboard, and there’s no need to capture the noise. Hone in on the signal.
Watch the full keynote:
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February 1, 2018 at 11:51AM
Travel Tips: The Right Way to Order Room Service at a Hotel
Room service is often the last refuge of business travelers, and an overpriced, under-seasoned option for travelers without many options. According to Martyn Nail, the executive chef of Claridge’s hotel in London and author of the recently released “Claridge’s: The Cookbook,” “the food you get isn’t necessarily a reflection of who prepared it,” he said. “There’s an art to ordering room service.” He has a few tried and tested ways to make sure every room service meal is a good one.
If Mr. Nail isn’t in a rush, he requests that his meal is delivered in courses because the food tastes fresher and the dining experience feels more special and leisurely. Surprisingly, most hotel kitchens have no problem fulfilling this request. “I don’t like the idea of my entree getting cold while I have my starter, and if I’m having ice cream for dessert, it’s going to be melted by the time I get to it,” he said.
Choose the Right Dishes
Consider how well a dish will travel before you order it. Many hotel kitchens are in the basement while your room might be on a high floor, which means that your meal could take up to 10 minutes to reach you after it leaves the kitchen, and that’s not including any other room service deliveries along the way.
While hot items are usually delivered in a hot box, they can still arrive lukewarm. Soups are the exception and tend to stay hot. Also, if you see a soufflé on the menu, don’t bother ordering it. Mr. Nail said that it will be a pancake by the time it reaches you. Club sandwiches and Caesar salads, on the other hand, travel especially well.
If there’s a regional dish or specialty on the menu, however, go for it. Mr. Nail said that these local specialties have been some of his best meals on the road.
Don’t be afraid to order off the menu, Mr. Nail said. “Hotel kitchens tend to have a wide variety of ingredients on hand, and if the chefs have time, they are happy to make you what you want,” he said. Just be reasonable and ask politely, and you’ll have great results.
If you’re craving a specific dish, such as chicken potpie or meatloaf, ask for it but with a caveat: give advance notice, preferably 12 hours, if you want a labor-intensive dish or something particularly special.
Always Order Through a Live Person
Pick up the phone and speak to someone to place your order, even if you have the option to do it electronically through a tablet, app or your in-room television.
Mr. Nail said that your order taker is your guide through the menu and can share suggestions such as side dishes to pair with your entree that you may not have thought of. Some of those options may be upsells, but talking to a real person is the only way to hear the daily specials, or ask about options that may not be included in the menu.
If You’d Like Wine, Ask to Speak with the Hotel’s Sommelier
The option isn’t available in your average, economy hotel with a chain restaurant attached, but if there’s a destination restaurant or one related to a well-known chef, you may be surprised.
Ask if the restaurant has a sommelier, first, and then if you can speak to them. Most luxury hotels have one, and they’re not there just to help in the restaurant or at the bar. “If you want a good glass of wine, a creative cocktail or another spirit to go along with your meal, ask for the sommelier to give you a call to discuss your options,” Mr. Nail said.
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February 1, 2018 at 11:12AM