Generator Doesn’t Want to Be Known as a Hostel Brand Anymore

Generator Doesn’t Want to Be Known as a Hostel Brand Anymore

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London-based Generator has always been known as a brand eager to upend preconceived notions about what a hostel could be.

So, it makes perfect sense, as the 14-property brand matures and expands into new markets — including Miami this month — that Generator drops the “hostels” part of its name and moves forward simply as “Generator.”

“I think the hostels part is going to disappear generally,” Generator CEO Alastair Thomann said. “The moment we call ourselves ‘hostel,’ it limits us in certain markets.”

“If we had to call ourselves ‘Generator Hotels,’ that’s a complete misrepresentation,” Generator Chief Marketing Officer Jason Rieff added. “The same way as if we had to call ourselves Generator Hostels. Although that’s something that historically has been our name, it’s also not really a full representation of who we are.”

Generator Hostels CEO Alastair Thomann says the brand will eventually drop the “hostels” part of its name. Source: Generator

Not only that, but as the brand expands to new markets, North America included, it’s finding it challenging to move forward with “hostels” in the name.

“There’s a very negative connotation toward the word ‘hostel’ in the American market, irrespective of what your product offering is. If it has the word ‘hostel’ in it, there will be negative connotations,” Rieff said. “In Europe, hostels are the go-to place for Millennial travelers, so it’s a very tricky situation of how we position ourselves in Europe to how we position ourselves in the U.S., and that’s something we’re trying to bridge.”

What Generator really is, Rieff and Thomann said, is more of a hybrid between a boutique hotel and a hostel driven not only by what today’s consumers want, but also reflecting where the overall hospitality industry is headed. It’s another byproduct of the convergence we’re seeing in which traditional accommodation categories are beginning to blur.

“Our industry, in general, what we used to call the hostel industry, in terms of the luxury hostel, is moving more and more toward boutique hotels,” Thomann said. “And you’re finding boutique hotels adding dorm rooms; they’re moving toward the hostel model. It’s more about the social spaces and the community. At some stage, we’re going to be very close together, these two segments.”

Some of those examples include Sydell Group’s Freehand, Marriott’s Moxy, AccorHotels’ Jo&Joe, and Hilton’s upcoming “hostel on steroids.”

“Now think of your classic three-star, four-star hotel brand — is there going to be a space for that in the coming years?,” Thomann asked. “What’s going to happen to them? Who’s going to open up, oh I don’t want to name any brands, but a Courtyard by Marriott or a Four Points by Sheraton? They’re going to have it really tough because the industry is moving, becoming more exciting, a little bit more controversial and more design-led and more about community.”

Given this category convergence, and the fact that new contenders are numerous and multiplying, Thomann and Rieff know that Generator as a brand needs to evolve, as does the traditional hostel industry. Skift recently sat down with both executives at our offices in New York to discuss this evolution of both the Generator brand and the hostel industry.

A guestroom at the soon-to-open Generator in Miami. Source: Generator

Evolving Generator

Thomann isn’t new to the hotel industry. Prior to his CEO appointment at privately held Generator, he was the CEO of Pentahotels, the lifestyle-driven brand from Rosewood Hotel Group. He joined Generator last year after the company was sold to a new private equity firm, Queensgate, for $480 million.

More than a year since leading Generator, Thomann has made it his mission to not only continue the work of former Generator CEO Fredrik Korallus and former Generator co-owner and chief strategic officer Josh Wyatt, but to build on it.

His vision for Generator, Thomann said, is to be a “continuation” of what Wyatt and Korallus began, as well as to make it a highly profitable business.

“Our biggest job here is to be putting in systems, actually making this whole thing profitable,” Thomann said. “We took over a company where 95 percent of reservations had to be manually inputted,” he explained. “In the hotel industry, people would say, ‘Oh my God, this is like 20 years ago.’ We’re making it more professional, more profitable, and putting in a revenue management system,” a first for the hostel industry, he says.

Overhauling Generator’s back-end systems have resulted in a sizable increase in profits, both said. “Our profits have gone from €20 million ($23.1 million) to €26 million ($30 million) to now €33 million ($38.1 million) in the space of 24 months,” Thomann said. [Editor’s Note: Skift could not independently confirm the accuracy of these profit numbers.]

“People are realizing that, by having rooms with more beds in them, you can make more money,” Thomann added.

When asked if Generator will always remain independent, Thomann said it was inevitable that the company would, at some point, be purchased.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why Queensgate would have bought it — to sell it again. Consolidation will happen by then, let’s face it.”

As Thomann and Rief focusing on bringing its back-end systems up to speed, they’re also looking at eventually opening up Generator’s business model to include franchise and management contracts, instead of owning each of the properties as it currently does with all save for two properties that Generator currently leases.

“We’re open to that,” Thomann said. “I think that’s going to (boost) our expansion much faster.”

For now, however, Rieff said the brand is primarily focused on “solidifying who we are and solidifying our product and what’s we’re doing,” noting that Generator’s first franchise or management contracts might likely appear a year from now.

Not Just for Millennials

Along with attempting to upend any perceived negative connotations associated with hostels, Generator is also trying to debunk the assumption that it’s primarily a brand for Millennial and Gen Z travelers.

“It’s about a miillennial and Gen Z mindset,” Thomann said. “It’s a mindset that people want to say in a hostel, they want to experience that social experience, and they want to be mixing and milling with people of all ages. It’s relaxed and totally unpretentious.”

He said that, having stayed for more than a month at Generator’s London location, he saw “all age groups” represented, from families and Millennials to older travelers and “the suits,” acknowledging that more business travelers are considering the Generator brand when they travel for work.

In fact, Thomann and Rieff said, the company is also currently looking at adding co-working spaces to its properties and offering a co-living type model.

“We’re just starting a product where you buy your room for a month and you get a workspace to go with it,” he said. “I think this is somewhere where the segment will be going to. We’ve also been approached by some of the co-working operators because we have got some spaces that could be converted. I’d say watch this space.”

It’s a slow — but eventual — evolution, according to Thomann. He also noted that some properties sell apartment-style units by the month, and that there’s one regular guest in London who has stayed at the hotel for three weeks of every month for the past two years.

The rooftop at Generator’s Paris location. Thomann and Rieff said each property’s social spaces are a main draw for guests. Source: Generator

The Distribution Landscape

Like Generator’s fellow hotel and hostel peers, the brand is making a concerted effort to drive more direct bookings, while still recognizing the value of online travel agencies such as Hostelworld.

“We’re becoming very exponentially less and less reliant on OTAs [online travel agencies], and that’s got to do with everything from the type of marketing tactics that we’re doing on our brand.com, but it’s also through everything we’re doing on social and through brand partnerships,” Rieff said.

Generator chief marketing officer Jason Rieff has made it his objective to use marketing to get more direct bookings for Generator. Source: Generator

Thomann said Generator’s direct bookings, year to year, are up 40 percent and above 30 percent now. “The OTA segment was about 50 percent for us at some point, and now it’s only around 40 percent and it’s continuously in decline.”

Still, Thomann noted that OTAs are “still essential for us” and that those, like Hostelworld, who are currently engaged in major campaigns aimed at changing people’s perceptions of hostels are helping Generator reconfigure consumers’ perceptions.

And what about Airbnb as a potential distribution channel as well? Thomann said, “We’re looking at that at the moment. I think Airbnb is an amazing brand and, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and I think that’s be our approach to that.”

The New Generator in Miami

The newest Generator, slated to open this month in Miami, marks a number of firsts for the brand: its first location in the United States and its first resort property.

Understanding that the Miami market is different from that of Europe, Generator has also evolved how it developed the project, lessening the number of beds in the property from 350 to 300, spread out over 105 rooms, and adding more private rooms that have the flexibility to become a dorm room, thanks for a Murphy-bed style contraption.

“The next part of the evolution is making the product even more flexible within each property to really optimize your profits, depending on the market demand at any given time,” Thomann said.

Photo Credit: The exterior of Generator’s newest property, the Generator Miami. Generator

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August 20, 2018 at 06:06AM

Luxury Hotelier Oberoi Group Stays the Course By Focusing on One Brand

Luxury Hotelier Oberoi Group Stays the Course By Focusing on One Brand

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The hotel swimming pool of the Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, Rajasthan. Wikimedia

Skift Take: There is something to be said for the will to survive through hardship. Other hospitality groups should take note of The Oberoi Group story. India’s luxury hotel group is one of the subjects in Skift’s recent sixth anniversary book, For the Long Haul, Lessons on Business Longevity, whose chapters we are excerpting for you here in the coming weeks.

— Tom Lowry

Read the Complete Story On Skift

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August 20, 2018 at 05:37AM

Check Out the Companies Attending Skift Global Forum

Check Out the Companies Attending Skift Global Forum

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One of the most important criteria when deciding to attend a conference, probably the #1 factor for most companies, is knowing what other organizations will be there. You need to ensure that the time and money spent on Skift Global Forum are worthwhile investments, so we’re providing you with the complete list of companies registered to date!

We’re excited and honored to have a strong list of diverse companies representing every sector of travel coming to our conference. Over 300 companies from 30 countries have already confirmed, and we expect 550+ companies total. It’s time to add your company to the list by registering today!

Add My Company To The List

Although we don’t publicly share a list of individual attendees, we can tell you that the list is 50% VP level and above. When you attend Skift Global Forum, you’ll be one of 1,100+ attendees networking with the highest level travel executives. That’s a lot of people to meet, so we made sure the networking opportunities are plentiful. You can connect with attendees during…

Check out the full schedule for more details. The mobile app will launch closer to the event, and as a registered attendee you can log in and have access to the complete list of individual attendees. You can message people to make plans, and even schedule specific meetings before, during and after the conference. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to meet the right people for your business, and help you achieve your goals. All while having fun along the way!

This list will be updated as more companies RSVP, so you can keep tabs on who’s attending along with you. Skift Global Forum is only 6 weeks away and seats are filling fast, so don’t wait to claim your spot!

Register Now for Skift Global Forum

Some excellent companies on the list are our sponsors. Make sure to connect with them! AccentureAccenture Amadeus Alliance, VisitDallas, HotelBedsSojern, VSA PartnersTravelsify, Switchfly, Fareportal, TinycluesAIG Travel, Mastercard, Collinson GroupLiveRampCventFive Star Alliance, Brand USARateGainMediaAlpha and LivePerson.

To become a sponsor or for any other questions about our events, email forum@skift.com.

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August 20, 2018 at 05:16AM

6 Tips for Using Minute Suites Via Your Priority Pass

6 Tips for Using Minute Suites Via Your Priority Pass

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Minute Suites are a sweet addition to the Priority Pass network, and one that I’ve taken advantage of plenty of times during the past year. This Friday, with the top Dallas/Fort Worth lounges currently closed, Katie and I used our Priority Pass memberships to snag a nearly three-hour nap in a suite for free after an early 5am arrival in DFW.

From these stays, I’ve picked up a few tips that first time users and experienced users alike may benefit from knowing. First, though, let’s go over where you can find Minute Suites. There are currently five Minute Suites locations across four airports, and all of them can be accessed with a Priority Pass membership:

If you don’t have a Priority Pass membership yet, the best way of getting free access to more than 1,200 Priority Pass lounges is through a credit card. Top options include:

Now that you know where and how to get access to Minute Suites via Priority Pass, here are some tips for your next visit:

1. Food and drinks aren’t included.

Minute Suites has plenty of drinks and snacks for purchase at check-in and inside the room, but none of these are provided for free to Priority Pass members or other visitors. At check-in this week, the agent explained this situation by saying that Minute Suites “partners with Priority Pass,” but it isn’t a lounge. So, you might want to grab a bite to eat before checking in and/or bring a drink with you.

2. Only the first hour is free, then it’s $28/hour afterwards.

While many Priority Pass lounges technically have a 3-4 hour limit on visiting, I haven’t found many lounges that enforce a stay limitation. However, since you’re booking a private room at Minute Suites, there’s a lot tighter control on visit times. Each Priority Pass member “can use their lounge visit entitlement to use a Minute Suite for a 1 hour stay” with additional hours discounted to $28 each.

3. Minute Suites aren’t just for napping.

While most visitors are likely going to use this opportunity to grab a nap, don’t forget that you can use Minute Suites as a private office during a layover. The rooms are surprisingly soundproof — complete with white noise generators — meaning that it’s a great location to make or receive a call. Or, you could use the provided (and speedy) internet to get a bit of work done at the small in-room desk.

4. Set the thermostat and white noise generator first.

No matter why you’re using the room, one of your first steps should be to set the room’s individual thermostat to your desired temperature and then tinker with the white noise dial. Don’t forget to connect to the Wi-Fi network (password provided at the front desk and in the room) and charge your devices.

5. You can stack visits with traveling companions.

While “up to 3 guests accompanying the Cardholder in the same Minute Suite may use it at no extra charge,” you can’t use the complimentary Priority Pass guest access to gain additional hours. Minute Suites will only run your Priority Pass card for one guest to get you one free hour.

However, there are ways of staying longer than an hour. My wife Katie and I have never had an issue checking into Minute Suites for a two-hour stay by each providing a Priority Pass card. On Friday, I tried something new: I asked if I could provide two different Priority Pass cards in addition to Katie’s Priority Pass card for a total of three hours. The check-in agent had no issue with this, swiping each of the three cards to net us a free three-hour stay.

6. Discounted showers are available at some locations.

If you need to freshen up before or after your flight, the DFW and Charlotte locations have showers available for $30, or $20 with a suite rental. Even if you don’t book a room, make sure to pull out your Priority Pass card if you’re planning to book a shower, as Priority Pass members get a discounted rate of $20 for a 30-minute shower.

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August 19, 2018 at 10:00PM

Books News: A New, Flourishing Literary Scene in the Real Shangri-La

Books News: A New, Flourishing Literary Scene in the Real Shangri-La

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Books News

A New, Flourishing Literary Scene in the Real Shangri-La

Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, will host this week’s Mountain Echoes literary festival.Poras Chaudhary for The New York Times

THIMPHU, Bhutan — Not long ago, when Bhutan’s government tried to enroll children in school, parents hid them in the attic and bribed government agents with butter and cheese to go away. Families needed their children as field hands. The last thing they cared about were books.

But flash forward just a few generations, and the situation in this tiny Himalayan kingdom has changed. Literacy is taking root across these deep green mountain valleys — it’s now around 60 percent, compared to 3 percent in the 1950s — giving rise to a surprising underdog literary scene.

The number of bookshops is increasing; there are around a dozen in the capital, Thimphu, and a few more in far-flung districts. Bhutanese writers are publishing books more than ever before — fantasy novels, poetry, short story collections and especially folklore. Each August, Bhutan hosts an international literary festival in which a handful of big name authors step off the plane blinking in the bright alpine light and grinning at how stunningly beautiful this place is. The festival is set to open this week and includes everything from talks about the importance of bees to a performance by Bhutanese hip-hop dancers.

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Customers browsing through books at DSB Books in Thimphu, Bhutan.CreditJeffrey Gettleman/The New York Times

For a remote, fragile country of less than a million people squeezed between China and India — the world’s two most populous nations — it’s a delicate dance of letting in outsiders without getting steamrollered. Historically, Bhutan has sealed itself off, a Shangri-La nestled in the highest, snow-capped mountain range in the world. Before the 1960s, few foreigners set foot here; it was only in 1999 that television was allowed in.

The old ways are fading — you can see it in the profusion of newly built car dealerships in Thimphu, and in the haze of pollution that hangs over the city, and in the packs of young, unemployed men wearing the traditional gho, a long robe, who have drifted in from the countryside to mill around mobile phone shops, pockets empty, trapped between two worlds.

This new generation of Bhutanese writers and novelists see themselves as occupying a special role: as guardians of their nation’s culture. Many are relatively young, in their 30s and 40s, and love to reminisce about growing up in villages without radios or TVs or even roads, wearing traditional clothes and eating traditional foods (such as hard cubes of yak cheese the size of Starburst candies). They feel an urgency to write about the old ways deep in the mountain villages before that lifestyle totally disappears.

“Create?” asked Tshering Tashi, a writer, journalist, tour guide and co-director of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival. “That’s a luxury. Our foremost job is to record.”

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DSB Books claims to be the oldest bookstore in Bhutan.CreditJeffrey Gettleman/The New York Times

Perhaps it’s unusual for an artist to resist the urge to put something new into the world; it’s like looking up at a glistening mountain and feeling no need to climb it. But in Bhutanese culture, there is not an obsession with conquering things. There’s actually a law that prohibits anyone from climbing the highest mountains because that’s where the deities live, after all.

Mr. Tashi, 45, is determined to track down the last of the traditional shamans and spiritual hermits — the custodians of Bhutanese legends — and write their stories, not his, before they take them to the grave. On one mission, he hiked two weeks into the mountains where no roads reach; he finally found his target, an old hermit who had been living by himself for 70 years.

“He was a remarkable man,” Mr. Tashi said. “He never got bored.”

So many different Bhutanese writers are open about their sentimentality and their ache to deliver a strong sense of their place to everything they write. Gopilal Acharya, 40, is a poet with dark eyes, a natty beard, crisp plaid shirts and a slightly coiled vibe. He writes in English, like most Bhutanese writers, because that is what he studied in school. (Several indigenous languages are spoken in Bhutan but relatively few books are printed in them.) Raymond Carver is one of his favorite writers.

“I love everything about the man, down to his drinking habits,” Mr. Acharya said.

But at the same time, Mr. Acharya is passionate about Bhutanese folklore. He wrote a book of children’s tales that celebrate a way of life rooted in isolated hamlets where even today, on windswept mountainsides, people till fields of buckwheat with yoked oxen and wooden plows.

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As a Bhutanese writer, Tshering Tashi says that his “foremost job is to record” his country’s culture and heritage.CreditJeffrey Gettleman/The New York Times

“These stories are how we are anchored as a society,” he said. “We don’t have military or economic power. Our culture is all we have.”

Bhutan may be one of the hardest places to earn a living as a writer. Mr. Acharya is considered one of his country’s most talented (all the more impressive considering that he hails from a remote village and his mother can’t read). But he still works as a consultant on sanitation issues.

“I don’t want to be doing fecal management,” he said. “I live to write. But I need to make money.”

Just about all the writers here are self-published and they said they spend several thousand dollars on each book and end up doing everything: the editing, the graphic design, the layout, deliveries, distribution and sales. Bhutan’s handful of publishing houses tend to stick to textbooks, which are far more profitable than novels or story collections.

“Somebody told me that publishing a book is the easiest way to become bankrupt in Bhutan,” joked Monu Tamang, a 20-something novelist.

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Chador Wangmo — pictured here with her grandmother, Pema Dema — is one of Bhutan’s most popular novelists.’’CreditJeffrey Gettleman/The New York Times

The bookshops tend to stock mass-market paperbacks like entire shelves for Nicholas Sparks. DSB Books, which claims to be Bhutan’s oldest book shop, offers many Asia-themed books, everything from Japanese comics to Buddhist tomes on wisdom. And at the packed little Pe Khang bookstore, titles are arranged in no discernible order. “The Life of Buddha” sits next to “Bob Dylan: The Lyrics 1961- 2012.”

The Bhutanese novels run about $5 a piece, within range of what most can afford. The per capita gross domestic product is equivalent to $9,000, though the Bhutanese government doesn’t get too worked up about these figures. Instead, it prides itself on maximizing gross national happiness.

Every August, the Mountain Echoes festival opens up Bhutan’s literary scene for a brief moment. Dozens of writers from the United States, Europe and other parts of Asia march into the handful of new luxury hotels and mingle with a select few of the Bhutanese intelligentsia at elegant dinners under crystalline skies. The festival is free and audiences tend to be filled with other invited authors, government employees, members of Bhutan’s royal family and lots and lots of schoolchildren.

Last year some of the events were inspired by local themes like one titled “The Karma of Writing.” Markus Zusak, the author of “The Book Thief” and Padma Lakshmi, the celebrity chef and ex-wife of Salman Rushdie, attracted the biggest crowds.

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Gopilal Acharya writes in English, like most Bhutanese writers. Raymond Carver is one of his favorite authors.CreditJeffrey Gettleman/The New York Times

This year dozens more writers are scheduled to come; Sarah Kay, a successful American spoken-word poet, is one of the bigger draws. The Bhutanese contingent seem to enjoy the spectacle but most have no urge to leave their kingdom.

“It’s so hectic over there,” Mr. Tashi said, referring to the West. He spent three months at Princeton conducting research. “There was never any time for reflection or contemplation.”

Chador Wangmo, one of Bhutan’s favorite novelists, is another quiet nationalist. Some of her fondest memories are from long winters as a child, when the light faded at four in the afternoon and the heavy snows kept schools shut for months and the children sat around the fire, without TVs or radios, listening to the elders’ tales.

“Those stories were our only source of entertainment,” she said.

Ms. Wangmo’s books explore old superstitions, like not throwing out the trash at night, juxtaposed with contemporary themes. Her popular novel, “Kyetse,” a word that means something like destiny, is a Dickensian tale of a young woman who is trafficked across Bhutan.

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The gigantic statue of Buddha Dordenma at theBuddha Point in Thimphu, Bhutan.CreditPoras Chaudhary for The New York Times

“I can vividly remember the lovely time we used to have as children and already we are losing this huge reserve of rich oral culture,’’ she said. “The family time and the togetherness is dwindling quicker than we could have fathomed.’’

The culture she wants to preserve, she said, revolves around Bhutan’s Buddhist beliefs. “It’s how we sit, how we talk, our dress, our respect for not just humans around us but the whole environment around us.’’

Lately, Ms. Wangmo, 38, has been interrogating her grandmother, Pema Dema, about all the old stories the elders used to tell around the fire. Ms. Dema, well into her 70s, is having trouble remembering them. She also questions why they should be remembered at all.

“There was nothing back then,’’ she said. There was never enough food, it was so cold, we had no shoes, we walked long distances for water.”

“Today compared to that,” she laughed, “is almost like paradise.”

Follow Jeffrey Gettleman on Twitter: @gettleman.

Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and Twitter (@nytimesbooks), sign up for our newsletter, and sync your calendar with curated literary events.

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August 19, 2018 at 09:06PM

A New Anthony Bourdain Documentary Is in the Works

A New Anthony Bourdain Documentary Is in the Works

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Anthony Bourdain was a huge fixture in the travel sphere (in addition to being a prolific author, noted chef and outspoken activist). During the course of his career he hosted numerous travel-focused television shows, including The Layover and Parts Unknown, which introduced his audience to new places and new foods and inspired people around the world to find adventures of their own.

In the wake of his death in June of this year we’ve seen an outpouring of written tributes and TV show marathons. Now, CNN and Bourdain’s Parts Unknown production company, Zero Point Zero, have announced that a new feature-length documentary, which is being touted as “the definitive Bourdain feature documentary,” about his life and work is in the making.

CNN’s executive vice president for talent and content Amy Entelis says, “We want to make it perfect. We want to make it exquisite for Tony. We want to do him justice.”

Details are few and far between, but the film is slated to be released “as early as 2019,” first on the festival circuit, then in theaters, and eventually on television on CNN.

In the meantime, you can catch the 12th and final season of Parts Unknown, which Bourdain was in the middle of filming in France at the time of his death, this fall on CNN.

H/T: Huffington Post

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August 19, 2018 at 09:00PM

Genesis of Overtourism and 5 Other Tourism Trends This Week

Genesis of Overtourism and 5 Other Tourism Trends This Week

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Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines tourism trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>We came up with “overtourism,” a simple portmanteau to appeal to people’s baser instincts with an element of alarm and fear in it. That is the biggest reason why the term and its exploration by everyone has caught on: The Genesis of Overtourism: Why We Came Up With the Term and What’s Happened Since

>>In Montgomery, Alabama, the tourism board and a new memorial to victims of lynching are building off each other’s visibility, drawing visitors into a revitalized area of the Deep South they may not recognize: Lynching Memorial Draws Tourists to a New Kind of Deep South

>>The new rewards program at Six Flags is designed to keep its already-loyal members engaged and satisfied enough to stay enrolled in a monthly membership. Will the theme park loyalty idea catch on with other operators? Six Flags Is Taking Theme Park Loyalty to the Next Level

>>It is time to reclaim the word tourist, and recalibrate it to mean something good. Tourists can see the world with fresh eyes, unencumbered with the daily accumulations of local life. A new hotel in North Adams, Massachusetts, seeks to do just that: No Need to Live Like a Local: All Tourists Welcome

>>It looks like 2018 could be the year that business travel growth truly peaks. With the specter of trade wars, Brexit, and financial instability on the horizon, the sector’s financial outlook may change in a hurry: Torrid Growth Projected for Business Travel Despite Tariffs and Trade Wars

>>We’re looking forward to a lively, casual night of networking on September 26 to kick off Skift Global Forum. Want to join in on the fun? Register today! Just Announced: Skift Global Forum Opening Event Venue

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August 19, 2018 at 08:04PM

Deal Alert: Nonstop Flights to Cancun From $196 Round-Trip

Deal Alert: Nonstop Flights to Cancun From $196 Round-Trip

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Need a sunny getaway this fall? Look no further than Cancun, with nonstop airfares starting at just $196 round-trip from major US airports across the country. And, you don’t have to fly a low-cost carrier like Spirit, Frontier or Sun Country to get these cheap fares; all of the examples below are on American, Delta, JetBlue or United. While many of the fares are in basic economy, upgrades to regular economy start at just $5 each way.

There are no tricks to find these fares. Use Google Flights to search for your preferred departure and destination and then book through OrbitzExpedia or directly with the airline. If you want to make sure that your ticket includes a carry-on bag, you can use Google Flights’ newest feature, which allows you to filter out no-carry-on fares.

Airlines: American, JetBlue, United, Delta
Routes: MIA/FLL/ORD/DFW/IAH/MCO/JFK/DEN/LAX to CUN
Cost: $196+ round-trip nonstop in economy
Dates: August-December 2018 and March-April 2019
Booking Link: OrbitzExpedia or directly with the airline
Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare), Citi ThankYou Premier CardChase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American ExpressCiti Prestige (3x on airfare plus excellent trip delay insurance) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

Miami (MIA) to Cancun (CUN) for $196 round-trip nonstop on American Airlines Basic Economy:

Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Cancun (CUN) for $201 round-trip nonstop on JetBlue:

Chicago (ORD) to Cancun (CUN) for $202 round-trip nonstop on American Airlines Basic Economy on AA’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner:

Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Cancun (CUN) for $208 round-trip nonstop on American Airlines Basic Economy:

Houston (IAH) to Cancun (CUN) for $207 round-trip nonstop on United Basic Economy:

Orlando (MCO) to Cancun (CUN) for $221 round-trip nonstop on JetBlue:

New York Kennedy (JFK) to Cancun (CUN) for $241 round-trip nonstop on Delta Basic Economy:

New York Kennedy (JFK) to Cancun (CUN) for $251 round-trip nonstop on Delta:

Denver (DEN) to Cancun (CUN) for $277 round-trip nonstop on United Basic Economy:

Los Angeles (LAX) to Cancun (CUN) for $287 round-trip nonstop on United Basic Economy:

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards GoldCiti ThankYou PremierCiti Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

H/T: Thrifty Traveler Premium

Featured image by Federico Scotto via Getty Images

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August 19, 2018 at 08:00PM

Uber Continues to Burn Through Cash in Search for Sustainable Business Model

Uber Continues to Burn Through Cash in Search for Sustainable Business Model

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In March, Uber will turn 10 years old. On paper, it’s one of the world’s most highly valued companies. Uber has become a verb for rides on demand, changed the transportation habits of millions and pushed changes in city planning around the world.

But after a decade of operation and perhaps a year or so away from its initial public offering, an essential unanswered question remains: Is Uber viable?

Put aside questions about whether Uber is overvalued, evil or whatever other clouds exist. I’m talking about simple dollars and cents. Uber Technologies Inc. has burned through more than $1 billion in cash in the last year, by design, and continues to fund itself with the huge capital pools available for young superstar companies since about 2010. If all that cash from SoftBank, Saudi Arabian oil wealth, conventional tech investment funds — or even cash from future public stockholders — unexpectedly dries up, does Uber’s business model work? I don’t know, and almost no one else does either.

There are always questions about whether relatively young companies will have staying power, but because Uber has never had to finance itself solely with the cash generated by its businesses, questions about the company’s basic viability are even more urgent.

I’ve written before that Uber has sensibly tailored its business strategy to the financial realities of the last eight or so years of financial markets. Never before has so much money been thrown at promising young technology companies, and for good reason. People with money are desperate to make more money, and private technology companies have been an appealing way to turn $1 into $10 or $100.

If Uber had started just a few years earlier, it might have been confined to its original business of dispatching luxury cars. Instead, Uber has taken in more than $15 billion from stock sales and borrowings, and that cash has let Uber dream big. It offers semiprofessional drivers at the tap of a smartphone screen in dozens of global cities, has branched into transportation by bicycles and has visions of robot-driven cars and flying taxis. It’s investing in food delivery, matching supply and demand for freight and more.

Uber’s cash has let it become this ambitious, but it’s never been forced to live in a world where it has to operate solely with the cash it generates. The company’s free cash flow — or cash generated by its operations minus costs for capital projects — was negative $1.3 billion in the last 12 months, according to Bloomberg News and other media reports on the company’s self-reported, cherry-picked financial figures. For the sake of comparison to a recent but dramatically different era in technology, Facebook had positive free cash flow for three full years when it filed to go public in 2012.

Shira Ovide, ©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

Don’t just listen to me about the importance of companies that can sustain themselves with their own cash flow. Listen to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “The most important factor for me,” he said at a Fortune conference last month, is “cash flow generation.”

“I don’t want to be dependent on private, public or any markets to fund the business expansion and the extraordinary expansion in front of us,” he said.

Well said. Uber doesn’t need to be cash flow positive when it goes public. And maybe not for years. But eventually it does, and at this point it’s not clear how or when that might happen.

Khosrowshahi and investors in both Uber and other on-demand ride companies have said the economics of the basic business are nicely profitable and improving in some established cities. They say finances for Uber and its rivals are distorted by intentional decisions to grab market share in many cities, global expansion into areas where rides aren’t immediately profitable and investments in promising but cash-draining businesses such as driverless cars.

Young tech companies often say they can pare spending or curtail growth investments if they need to fund themselves solely with cash their businesses generate. That sounds great, but it’s remarkable to think we don’t know what Uber’s business looks like — or if it can even exist — if the company had to live within its means.

If times change and Uber needs to become cash flow profitable earlier than it expects, what happens to Uber’s fares or the availability of rides? Does the cost for a ride double or triple? And if so, and demand for rides shrinks, how much more does it cost Uber to attract and retain drivers, which then depresses demand from riders? If Uber has to stop or pare back its investments in driverless cars or food delivery, what happens to the company’s future value or its cash flow?

And it’s not trivial to cross the chasm from a fast-growing technology company that needs constant fresh cash to a firm that can finance its own operations. In a recent analysis I did of tech companies that had gone public since 2010, I was surprised to see that some relatively seasoned companies had for years generated less cash than their businesses needed to operate. Companies such as Pandora Media and FireEye need continual supplies of fresh cash from stock sales or borrowings.

To be clear, Uber had billions of dollars of cash on hand as of June 30. It’s not in danger of blowing up. But nothing about Uber is a sure thing. Not its eye-popping valuation, not its ability to withstand competition and regulatory challenges around the world, and certainly not its very viability as a business.

Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Shira Ovide from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: In this Wednesday, March 15, 2017, file photo, an Uber car drives through LaGuardia Airport in New York. Seth Wenig / Associated Press

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August 19, 2018 at 06:32PM

The Status on Booking High End Resorts for 60,000 Marriott Points Per Night

The Status on Booking High End Resorts for 60,000 Marriott Points Per Night

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After being unusable for much of yesterday, the Starwood and Marriott websites came back online early this morning with the new award pricing and booking functionality. Of course, for many family-friendly properties and the Marriott Travel Packages, this weekend marked a Points Doomsday of sorts.

The silver lining of the merger is that if you were waiting (im)patiently to book previously pricey or even out-of-range properties such as the St. Regis MaldivesAl Maha, St. Regis Bora Bora or domestic properties such as the St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis New York, St. Regis Deer Valley or St. Regis Princeville on Kauai, this weekend marked go time.

Photo courtesy of the St. Regis Aspen
Photo courtesy of the St. Regis Aspen

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, the systems are not working perfectly quite yet. Some tasks are possible, but some aren’t. If you aren’t chasing a specific award booking I would recommend staying clear of the Marriott and SPG sites and call centers for at least a few more days.

However, if you’re like me and have been counting down the days to make award reservations at the newly lowered rates at high-end properties, then I’ll walk you through my experience trying to book properties today.

Trying to Book the St. Regis Maldives for 48,000 Points Per Night

We have had the St. Regis Maldives on our Spring Break 2019 wish list for a few months. Yesterday morning, I could see availability for our dates at 60,000 points per night, or 48,000 points per night with the fifth night free. However, when the website was briefly functional for a few minutes yesterday morning, several of those dates were somehow already gone. This morning, even more of our March dates were gone, to the point that I started working on a very different back-up spring break plan. Since the St. Regis Maldives only has a small handful of standard award rooms that will be available for 60,000 points per night, they legitimately can and will sell out on many dates.

That said, you can find award rooms available online at the St. Regis Maldives with enough date flexibility (especially next summer), but I’ve already experienced the Maldives during monsoon season and don’t particularly want to do that again. We may try again in a few months to book the St. Regis Maldives for late 2019 during Thanksgiving or Winter Break. Even if we can’t book the St. Regis, perhaps one of the other SPG/Marriott Maldives resorts that are currently under construction will be feasible options by then.

St. Regis Maldives Villa
St. Regis Maldives Villa

We knew that availability would be limited at this resort, but the especially frustrating part is that you can’t currently book the St. Regis Maldives using points online, even when availability displays. My experience calling both SPG and Marriott this morning resulted in being disconnected or told that bookings cannot be made using points at this time. In fact, I was told they can’t even see award rates, which is strange since they are viewable on the public websites. My polite begging for them to at least try was unsuccessful, and I was told to try calling later.

The Sheraton Maldives is bookable online, though that property isn’t on the TPG most-recommended list.

Award Availability for Suites Properties Not Displaying Online

My attempts to find award availability at Al Maha, St. Regis Bora Bora and the St. Regis Bali online were unsuccessful this morning. It is possible that awards at these resorts must be booked over the phone and will not display online, but since the call center award functionality isn’t yet fully operational, dead ends were found with all of these attempts.

If you want to try calling, I was able to reach both SPG and Marriott, though neither was ultimately able to assist at this time.

  • Marriott Rewards: 1-801-468-4000
  • SPG Rewards: 1-888-625-4988

60,000 Point Award Booking Success at Some St. Regis Resorts

It isn’t all bad news today. There are many St. Regis-level properties that can be booked online using points at the new capped rate of 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. For example, the St. Regis properties in New York, Aspen, Princeville, Punta Mita, Deer Valley and Rome all seem to be bookable online for 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night (48k per night with the fifth night free).

If you have your eye on a reservation at one of these properties, and you have the functionality to book the property online, I’d do it now! I say if you have the functionality because point transfers between SPG and Marriott have not yet combined and manually transferring points from one account to another isn’t a given this morning. In fact, I can’t get into my SPG account at all despite following all of the tips in this article.

At my house we didn’t get the Maldives vacation we were after, but as a consolation prize, we did lock in some nights at the St. Regis in Manhattan and are playing around with the St. Regis Deer Valley and Princeville properties.

Rainbows are a regular happening at the St. Regis Princeville
St. Regis Princeville at the end of the rainbow

If you can’t get your first choice resort such as the St. Regis Maldives, I can 100% recommend the St. Regis Punta Mita for a luxury beach getaway a little closer to home.

The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (Photo courtesy Starwood Hotels & Resorts)
The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (Photo courtesy Starwood Hotels & Resorts)

Bottom Line

The bottom line is SPG and Marriott made huge progress towards program integration during the night, but things are not yet smooth sailing. This is especially true if you want to book some of the all-suites properties for just 60,000 points per night. However, there are properties you can book now for fewer points than you could a few days ago — and the all-suites properties could come online at any time — so good luck award hunting!

We’ll continue to update all our coverage of the new Marriott program throughout the weekend and into next week as more of the integration goes live. You can also find the answers to some of the most common questions about the new Marriott program from TPG‘s senior points & miles editors, and be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter for up-to-the-minute information.

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August 19, 2018 at 05:07PM