Deal Alert: Los Angeles to Singapore from $384 Round-Trip

Deal Alert: Los Angeles to Singapore from $384 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 American Express Platinum Card, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through 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.

Looking for a last-minute mileage run — or do you enjoy torturing yourself with 18 hours in economy? Well, here’s your chance, as United’s new nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to Singapore (SIN) is on sale with prices starting at just $384 round-trip. Availability is solely for flights in November, although you can depart this month and return in December. This route now holds the record for the longest nonstop flight departing from the US, clocking in at 17 hours and 55 minutes.

This is a great opportunity for those who might need some United Premier Qualifying Miles to re-qualify for status in 2018 — you’ll receive a whopping 17,740 PQMs for the round-trip itinerary.

Singapore is a great place to visit, but also a great jumping off point for other Southeast Asian destinations. You can grab a one-way flight on Scoot to Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok for only $37.

Airline: United
Routes: LAX to SIN
Cost: $384+ round-trip in economy
Dates: November 2017 — December 2017 (for return flights only)
Booking Link: OrbitzExpedia or with the airline directly
Pay With: The Platinum Card from American Express (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

Los Angeles (LAX) to Singapore (SIN) for $384 round-trip:

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 5.12.23 PM

 

Los Angeles (LAX) to Singapore (SIN) for $384 round-trip:

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 5.14.28 PM

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as the American Express Platinum Card (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi 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.

If you’re able to score one of these tickets, please share the good news in the comments below!

Featured image courtesy of Visit Singapore’s Facebook page.

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November 1, 2017 at 09:48PM

MakeMyTrip Takes Steps to Escape Becoming a Price-War Casualty

MakeMyTrip Takes Steps to Escape Becoming a Price-War Casualty

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MakeMyTrip

Pondicherry or Puducherry literally means ‘new town.’ It includes French Quarters with colonial villas and chic boutiques and a beautiful beach where one can catch a sunrise over the Bay of Bengal. MakeMyTrip

Skift Take: The online travel market in India is ripe with opportunity. But competition is brutal. In response, MakeMyTrip has recently debuted loyalty programs and technological upgrades to entice well-heeled customers to choose it over the discounters.

— Sean O’Neill

Everyone knows that India presents a large growth opportunity for travel businesses as its middle class widens and shifts to booking trips online.

But not everyone knows how to be profitable while building a business in India. The opportunity has sparked fierce competition, requiring local players to use discounts to build up their customer bases. That dynamic appears to have dampened profits for all players, domestic and foreign.

A case in point is India’s largest online travel agency, MakeMyTrip, with a market capitalization of $2.4 billion.

On Wednesday, MakeMyTrip reported a loss of $62 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2017. That was a 57 percent increase over the loss it had in the same period a year prior.

The news bothered investors. They shaved a tenth off the company’s market value in trading for the day.

The company noted the loss was about the same as the $68.2 million loss it reported in the prior quarter, and was mostly tied to merger-elated expenses for its acquisition of rival Ibibo  earlier this year.

Yet growth at the Gurgaon, India-based company has been continuing. Its revenue rose to $152.9 million in the September quarter, up 79 percent over the same period a year earlier.

Many Rivals

MakeMyTrip, which offers flights, hotels, buses, and trains, faces competition on several fronts. For four-and-five star hotels, it saw more inventory gains and marketing-spend increases by Priceline Group-backed Booking.com this summer. On a call with investment analysts Wednesday, executives said in the quarter they saw “an increase in a gradual but measurable manner” of attention to the India market by Booking.com.

At the budget end of the lodging market, MakeMyTrip faces competition from branded booking networks such as Softbank-backed Oyo Rooms, which MakeMyTrip executives said has been “fairly aggressive this quarter” in pricing and marketing. MakeMyTrip has dropped Oyo from its search results in favor of its own branded-budget product GoStays, but Booking.com displays Oyo’s inventory.

On flights, MakeMyTrip faces Yatra as its largest homegrown competitor. Cleartrip is another player that adds to the discounting of travel products online.

Avoiding the Discounting Trap

Since last October, MakeMyTrip has taken a series of steps to try to escape from the rampant discounting in the sector that is driving margins down: consolidation, outside investment, a huge loyalty push, large technology investment, and adding products that its competitors lack.

In January, MakeMyTrip merged with Ibibo, India’s largest hotel booking site that also sells flights, bus rides, and car sharing.

The deal enables more price discipline by uniting two large players. In the near-term, though, it has added to losses.

In the summer, MakeMyTrip raised $330 million. As a result of those transactions, South Africa-based Internet company Naspers and Chinese Internet giant Tencent are the  largest shareholders in the company, owning 43 percent. The Chinese travel agent giant Ctrip owns an 11 percent stake, and has a commercial partnership.

MakeMyTrip’s next goal is to drive loyalty. To understand that push, one should note that India’s consumer travel market is far from homogenous. MakeMyTrip sees a chance to stand apart and — eventually — be profitable by targeting frequent travelers who are less price sensitive without abandoning its effort to appeal to all demographic segments.

In July, it replaced its old rewards program with a two-part new one. MMT Black Loyalty lets travelers earn vouchers redeemable for future MakeMyTrip bookings by reaching certain spending levels. More than 73,000 people have joined.

The company also debuted MMT Double Black, where consumers pay an amount — of about 1000 to 1,500 rupees — to get access to members-only benefits, such as no fee for canceling trips under typical conditions. About 16,000 people have enrolled so far in the test program.

MakeMyTrip founder and chief executive Deep Kalra said, “We’re trying to meet a dual objective, which is to continue to keep growing across segments but also get more high-quality growth, if you will, in the premium sector…. It is not a change in strategy.”

On the product front, the company made it possible to book multiple room types within the same transaction— something that addresses the popularity of group and family travel in India.

It also added e-ticketing functionality for its three brands so that users can receive a boarding pass for flights via their mobile app.

MakeMyTrip said it is the first travel company in the world to make e-ticketing available via WhatsApp, a messaging app. WhatsApp now has about 200 million users in India and, combined with a recent increase in affordable Internet data usage via mobile devices, is becoming a cheaper channel to connect with customers than Google and Facebook.

On the technology investment, the company has invested in artificial intelligence to try to replace some of its routine call center questions with automated answers. It revamped the extranet that suppliers use to upload inventory to help hoteliers plan their distribution more strategically.

The company also installed a fresh technology platform to run its bus ticketing. Relatedly, a few months ago, it began adopting Travelport’s technology platform for certain processes.

MakeMyTrip also is trying to diversify its income stream to business travel, given that companies are more loyal and less price-sensitive than some leisure travelers. In the past few months, it debuted a tool to help companies book their travel through its platform, starting first with small and medium enterprises. It has 2,000 companies signed up, it said.

Bumpy Ride Ahead

Costs rose overall in the most recent quarter, but the company hopes to cut them long-term.

Marketing spending rose partly on offers to pay users to refer other people to download its app and book travel. But so did the efficiency of the marketing, executives claimed.

A bumpy ride is in store for MakeMyTrip. India’s income gaps are large and the pace of growth is lumpy as India has spurts of regulation and deregulation, investment and disinvestment, making consumer spending patterns tough to predict.

Activity by foreign investors also complicates matters. In the past year, majority-ownership of its rival Yatra was acquired by a special-purpose acquisition company, Terrapin 3, which in turn is backed by Australian investment bank Macquarie Group.

Expedia has yet to figure out its India strategy and is generally weak in the country while strong in Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Priceline, via its Agoda brand, has traction in Vietnam, Thailand and other smaller markets in Southeast Asia. It also owns about 9 percent of Ctrip.

Ctrip has not yet expanded in a significant way its commercial partnership with MakeMyTrip. The relationship was not discussed on today’s earning’s call.

On the horizon, fast-growing, Expedia-backed Indonesian travel company Traveloka looms.

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November 1, 2017 at 09:33PM

John Kelly’s Bizarre Mythology of the Civil War

John Kelly’s Bizarre Mythology of the Civil War

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Among the many oddities to be found in Donald Trump’s response to the
violent neo-Confederate protests in
Charlottesville in August was his complaint that protesters who wished to remove the
statue of Robert E. Lee at the University of Virginia would not stop
until they’d removed statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington,
too. It’s often difficult to divine Trump’s thinking in the best of
circumstances, but the through-line here seemed to be that these figures
were all guilty of enslaving black people. In a more normal time, it
would have been jarring to observe a politician born and raised in New
York City place Robert E. Lee, a Virginian who attempted to overthrow
the United States government, in the same category as Washington and
Jefferson, who’d built that government in the first place.

We witnessed the second installment of
Yankee Sympathizing with the Lost Cause earlier this week, when Trump’s
Boston-born chief of staff, John Kelly, stated in an interview with
Laura
Ingraham
that Lee was an “honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his
state.” He went on to argue that “the lack of an ability to compromise
led to the Civil War.” It would be tempting to see this as the Trump
Administration inching closer to Orwellian Ministry of Truth
fabrications about the past, but this mythology predates Trump’s arrival
in the White House and remains widespread a century and a half after the
end of the war.

Kelly’s interpretation of history is striking for a number of reasons.
One is his tolerance for the idea that someone’s state loyalties could
reasonably supersede national ones, though he works in an Administration
that is obsessed with the possibility of Muslim citizens placing their
religious loyalties above their American ones. Another is its
antagonistic relationship with the facts of history. The argument that
Lee was moved to take up arms in defense of slavery according to the
abstract principle of “states’ rights” is belied by Virginia’s 1861
Ordinance of
Secession
, which clearly states that its grievance lies with “the Federal
Government having perverted [its] powers, not only to the injury of
the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern
slaveholding states.”

Kelly’s argument that the war in which Lee fought was caused by an
inability to compromise is even more tortured. The history of the
Republic to 1860 is literally a history of compromises designed to
reconcile varying positions on slavery. A short list of those agreements
would include the removal of the anti­­-slave-trade
passage
in the Declaration of Independence; the three-fifths, slave-trade,
fugitive-slave, and Electoral College clauses of the Constitution; the
Northwest Ordinance, the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850,
the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and, on the verge of the war, the proposed
Crittenden Compromise, which would have prohibited federal abolition of
slavery in the South. By 1858, when Abraham Lincoln delivered his
House Divided”
speech
,
it had become clear that more compromise could no longer stave off a
national reckoning with slavery. “I do not expect the Union to be
dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall,” he wrote. “But I do
expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all
the other.”

The more profound issue—one that Kelly’s view of the war completely
overlooks—is not how compromise could have prevented war. It’s that
those compromises were part of the reason that black people, who made up
more than forty per cent of the Southern population in 1860, had existed
in slavery or indenture for two hundred and forty-one years in North
America. Contemporary observers tend to think of the Confederate cause
as hypocritical for its indignant references to “liberty” and “freedom”
while it held four million black people as slaves. But the key point is
that white Southerners, by and large, understood slavery to be
function of their liberty. They considered themselves heirs to the
revolution led by Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and Jefferson—a
revolution that had as its goal the creation of a white-supremacist
republic. By 1857, they could support their claim by pointing to the
Dred Scott decision, in which Chief Justice Roger Taney held that the
Founders never intended to include blacks as citizens of their republic.

These arguments—prominently, unabashedly presented at the time—are
nearly absent from current popular discussion of the South. It is this
absence that allows space for people to believe that the men who fought for
the Confederacy were “honorable” and warrant the monuments and memorials
dedicated to them, both in and beyond the South.

The idea Kelly articulated—that the Civil War resulted from the blunders
of politicians who failed to act imaginatively enough to avert it—has
appeal for obvious reasons. It erases the moral culpability of
slaveholders. It excuses contemporary white Americans from feelings of
guilt that this nation was nearly torn in half because of a debate over
whether black people are human beings. As the historian W. E. B.
Du Bois observed eighty years ago, the end of the war presented both
the North and the South with reasons to avoid a truthful retelling of the war’s origins. Northerners, he argued, disdained the fact that saving their Union required the assistance of nearly two hundred thousand black
soldiers, and demurred on the subject of the war altogether.
Southerners, aware that history would judge them for fighting to their
last for the right to buy, sell, rape, breed, and exploit human beings,
retreated into a fantasy that the war was due to the vagaries of
federalism.

As the social-media reaction to Kelly’s statement attests, it is
strikingly common even today to hear it argued that the war was about
“states’ rights,” not slavery. That argument falls apart when you
consider that Southerners supported legislation, like the Fugitive Slave
Act, that actually reduced states’ rights, as long as they further
empowered slaveholders. Were states’ rights the primary cause of the
conflict, the states should have exploded into open warfare following
the Supreme Court’s McCulloch v. Maryland decision, which drastically
diminished state powers of taxation while increasing those of the
federal government. But no war broke out. In South Carolina, an
overheated tariff debate led to threats of secession in 1831, but no
such fracture occurred. Only slavery, the pivotal conflict, the issue
that previous generations had attempted to kick down the road
indefinitely, brought together the economic, moral, and political
elements necessary for a conflagration.

It is not entirely implausible to see this strand of absolutionism
appear again from the Trump Administration. Trump’s self-declared goal
of making America great again is also a marketing campaign to make white
people feel good again, even if doing so requires parting company with
annoyances like facts, data, evidence, and, currently, the historical
record. This is not a novel phenomenon, but the current decibel of this
racialist noise is noteworthy. The more fundamental point, the one that
Trump unwittingly articulated two months ago and Kelly confirmed on Monday
night, is that, while April, 1865, marked the end of the war, the end of
the hostilities is another matter entirely.

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November 1, 2017 at 09:25PM

American Airlines Catering Out of Los Angeles Disrupted by Listeria Traces

American Airlines Catering Out of Los Angeles Disrupted by Listeria Traces

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Listeria traces have forced Americans Airlines to stop using the Gate Gourmet catering facility at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Several health agencies reportedly tested the facility and found traces of listeria, however American said that it hasn’t found any traces on its food and no illnesses have been reported. As a precaution, the airline has halted Gate Gourmet catering operations out of LAX beginning November 1.

An American spokeswoman said that starting overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, the carrier began notifying passengers whose catering was affected by the temporary cease of Gate Gourmet operations. In the interim, AA is working on solutions to the problem, such as offering snacks at certain gates at LAX, finding other catering options and, in some cases, providing vouchers to passengers to use on future flights.

“As a health and safety measure, the company has taken the appropriate steps of removing all food catering for all LAX departures starting immediately and lasting approximately a week,” said Bob Ross, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, in a letter to AA flight attendants. “The information we have received so far is that American is working to provide you enough supplies as possible for your flight. They do not expect you perform miracles.”

Ross also noted that flight attendants, and, by association, passengers, should know that there is no immediate threat to their health or safety. At this time, all food that is normally provided by Gate Gourmet at LAX will be removed. Anything that is available has been vetted as safe.

According to The Street, Gate Gourmet is the catering company also used by Delta Air Lines as well as a few other international airlines out of LAX. At this time, it’s not known if Delta or any other airlines will cease catering operations with Gate Gourmet while the issue is resolved. According to Gate Gourmet, traces of listeria were found in non-food contact areas.

“As part of routine inspections, we identified traces of listeria in non-food contact areas, primarily floor drains, at our LAX unit,” Gate Gourmet said in a statement. “Immediately and in accordance with our protocols, all floor drains and surrounding areas were immediately and aggressively treated. Independent food safety agencies have confirmed that our unit adheres to food safety regulations and we are not aware of any instance where passengers are put at risk. We reaffirm our commitment to food safety and the safety of the travelling public. Our unit is open for business and we continue to cater our other customers.”

Listeria is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it a serious infection, with an estimated 1,600 people diagnosed with it each year. Of those, approximately 260 people die.

American offers more than 200 daily departures out of LAX — more than any other airline. This catering outage is surely to be a disruption, especially for premium passengers on long-haul routes.

Featured image by Wikimedia Commons.

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November 1, 2017 at 09:15PM

Post Malone, Thelonious Monk, and More Music We’re Listening To This Week

Post Malone, Thelonious Monk, and More Music We’re Listening To This Week

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Photograph by PYMCA / UIG via Getty

Post Malone, “Rockstar”

When I hear a song I like, I want to know not only who made it but also its origin story. After my sister Lizanne gave me “Rubber Soul,” my first album, in 1965, when I was six, I spent the rest of my childhood trying to differentiate between the John, Paul, and George songs. That was what knowledge meant to me, early on, and it propelled my pseudo-scholarly interest in pop music. Since then, it has been a lifetime of liner notes, fanzines, and guitar mags. With the Internet, it became guitar-tab sites, behind-the-scenes videos, and self-appointed annotators, now partly organized by the Web site Genius, which is where I wound up not long ago, seeking the dope on “Rockstar,” by Post Malone. According to a video on Genius, the John and Paul of “Rockstar” are the song’s lyricist, the twenty-three-year-old Post Malone, née Austin Richard Post; and the song’s beat maker, Tank God, a biology major at the University of Hartford, in Connecticut. They met by chance, in a studio in New York, and Tank played Post the track, which creeps along at eighty beats per minute, through a dark valley of 808s, its sonic pathway studded with kicks and snares and canopied with high hats. Inspired, Post immediately spat out the song’s hook, “I feel just like a rock star.”

Nothing about the sombre mood of the track suggests joy or ecstasy, leading this wishfully thinking parent to suggest to his eighteen-year-old son that the song is actually a cautionary tale about rock-star life. “Rockstar” grafts Post’s plaintive, vaguely Hank Williams-style delivery onto hip-hop rootstock in way that transcends traditional musical genres, and perhaps even suggests a future for pop music in which collaboration, rather than appropriation, is the norm. Thanks to the enormous success of the song, Tank God and Post Malone might even have the chance to find out what feeling like a rock star is really like. But for the beat-maker, at least, success is about “longevity,” as he says in the video, and “what you do next,” not just “one and done–never that.” Tank God won’t likely be living like a rock star any time soon. He has to get his biology degree first.—John Seabrook


The Civilians, “Stars”

The first time I saw the work of the documentary-theatre group the Civilians was in 2007, when they reprised their gorgeous, oddball musical “Gone Missing.” Based on interviews with people about things they’d lost—a ring, a body part, “my cool”—the show was punctuated by the brilliant songs of Michael Friedman, who died this past September, at the age of forty-one. Michael had his own completely individual idea of what a “show tune” was, or could be: his lyrics seldom rhymed, and his songs usually ended like a dropped phone call rather than with a flourish. Michael, too, made a sudden exit, and the theatre world has been grappling with his loss.

Recently, the Public Theatre held a memorial service that brought together all of Michael’s theatrical families, plus his real one; audiences filled up six different spaces throughout the building, and the performances were simulcast. Toward the end, the Civilians performed “Stars,” the last song from “Gone Missing,” and it’s been swimming around in my head ever since. The song, like everything in the show (written not long after 9/11), is about loss—about how the things we lose never really belonged to us to begin with. At the Public, Steve Cosson, the Civilians’ artistic director, introduced it by saying that, whenever the actors got too wistful, Michael would tell them, “Just remember, this is a breakup song. The guy is dumping someone, and he’s using Plato as a justification. He’s a huge dick!” The direction went unheeded during the memorial: everyone was in tears, onstage and off.—Michael Schulman


Thomas Adès, “Piano Quintet: 1”

Since I’m eagerly looking forward to going to the Metropolitan Opera to hear “The Exterminating Angel”—which is already a smash hit—this week, I’ve been boning up on my Thomas Adès. A British native, Adès is one of the leading transatlantic composers of his generation; the Met presented his first grand opera, “The Tempest,” in 2012. Since the end of his college days, at Cambridge University, he began writing works that were not merely highly praised but that began at once to enter the general repertory. The parallel with the career of Benjamin Britten has been, to put it mildly, noticed.

I’ll put forward two works to which I feel a particular connection. My link to the Chamber Symphony is personal: I was present at the world première, in Cambridge, in February of 1991. (I was a master’s student in composition there; Adès was completing his undergraduate degree.) This is very much the young Adès, a little saucy and impudent, but also respectful of the past. Notice the odd perseverance of the opening tango rhythm, how instruments are often used in extreme ranges or seem slightly out of tune; it’s all part of his singular way of creating durable music themes at the same time that he seems to be destroying, or at least muddying, them. You don’t so much listen to the piece as give way to it, powerless at the musical ivy that is progressively crawling around your ears. My connection to the “Piano Quintet: 1” (2000) is not personal but communal: like Berg’s Violin Concerto, it is one of those pieces that many composers admire. Cast in one sonata-form movement of Mahlerian scope, it blends influences of Schubert, Ligeti, and Brahms with Adès’s own moods, which are frightful and disarming by turns. Drink deeply.—Russell Platt


Thelonious Monk, “Piano Solo”

The new reissue by Sony France of Thelonious Monk’s first and, to my ears, greatest solo piano session—recorded in June of 1954, on a tinny piano in a Paris room that sounds like a panelled basement—is a model for improving a familiar release over and above a sensitive remastering. First, unlike previous issues (whether the original ten-inch LP or the 1996 French release), the new disk restores the session in its entirety—recorded for radio broadcast—to the order of its performance, as originally heard, starting with the broadcast producer André Francis’s introduction and Monk’s own brief but touching remarks, in French. Second, the booklet includes interviews about the session with Francis and the producer Marcel Romano, and also a vivid historical account by the pianist Laurent de Wilde of concerts that Monk gave in the same week. Third, and most important, the disk includes twenty-three minutes’ worth of previously unissued recordings of Monk from those concerts, featuring him playing his own compositions in a trio (with local accompanists on bass and drums), which he did very rarely in the remaining two decades of his career. Those playful, ruminative performances would alone justify the disk. As for the solo session itself, it’s also devoted to Monk’s own compositions (plus an exquisite rendition of Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”), which he illuminates with a bouncy sense of rhythm, propelled mainly by the percussive variety of his right-hand touch, and a forthright, freewheeling audacity, including flights of near-atonal dissonance at a brisk and loose tempo that are unlike anything I’ve heard him essay elsewhere. This sample, taken from a previous release of the solo session, provides a good idea of the new reissue’s delights.—Richard Brody


In search of new music? Every Wednesday, our writers and editors tell you about four songs they’re listening to. Browse The New Yorker Recommends to discover more cultural recommendations from our staff.

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November 1, 2017 at 09:10PM

A Famous Australian Landmark Is Being Closed off to Tourists

A Famous Australian Landmark Is Being Closed off to Tourists

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One of Australia’s most iconic landmarks will soon be inaccessible after a government body voted to close the natural wonder this week. Uluru, previously known as Ayer’s Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith located in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board voted to close the site to climbers on November 1. Now, tourists will only be able to visit the area around the rock, but not scale the monolith itself.

Aerial view of Uluru (Ayer
Aerial view of Uluru in Australia’s Northern Territory. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images)

The unanimous decision to close the rock was made by eight Anangu tribal members and three National Parks officials due to religious and safety concerns. The UNESCO World Heritage Site site has been subject to national debate and is considered sacred to the Anangu tribe.

Luckily if climbing Uluru is on your bucket list, you still have time to fulfill your dream — the park won’t be closed to climbers until October 26, 2019. Although, tourists will still be discouraged from climbing the rock until then.

The Australian Government returned Uluru to the Anangu in 1985 and in 1992 signs were placed asking people to reconsider ascending the mountain.

“It’s always been the wishes of the traditional owners that visitors to the park don’t climb to the top of Uluru, and I think that’s something both domestic and international tourists will understand and respect,” John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, told CNN.

The decision to close off Uluru to climbers was accompanied by the criteria that new visitor experiences are created, so people will still be able to experience the beauty of the monolith without climbing it.

Featured image by Anthony Devlin/Getty. 

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November 1, 2017 at 08:42PM

Marriott CEO: Trump Is Driving Conference Business Out of U.S. to Canada

Marriott CEO: Trump Is Driving Conference Business Out of U.S. to Canada

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Bloomberg

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said Canadian destinations like Toronto are benefiting from the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and travel bans in the form of increased meetings’ group business. Bloomberg

Skift Take: The U.S. has already seen a Trump Slump in international tourist numbers so this shift in more meetings’ groups heading to Canada shouldn’t be at all surprising. I mean, why meet in a country where you or your attendees may not even be able to get in?

— Deanna Ting

Divisive language and policies from President Donald Trump are helping push business travelers north of the border, the head of Marriott International Inc. said on Wednesday.

Large groups of travelers, particularly for conferences, are changing reservations to friendlier cities such as Toronto over U.S. options “with the view that bringing in an international group would be more hassle-free in Canada and maybe a little bit riskier in the U.S.,” Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson said in an interview in Toronto.

RevPAR growth, a measure of financial performance based on revenue per available room, will be in the “mid- to high single digits” in Canada this year, compared with 1 to 2 percent in the U.S., Sorenson said. RevPAR growth alone doesn’t indicate whether travelers are changing their destination.

“You’re going to have people coming in from everywhere, and they’re going to be looking at ‘Can we get our people in? Are they going to want to go to that place?’” Sorenson said, sipping a cappuccino in a meeting room of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. “At the moment there’s a perception around the world that the U.S. is a little less welcoming than it was in the past.”

Sorenson cited the president’s efforts to ban travelers from some Muslim-majority countries and speeches that emphasize nationalism and criticize current immigration policy. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly defended Muslims and extolled immigration.

Marriott is bringing up the issue in conversations with the White House on “welcoming visitors from abroad,” Sorenson said, declining to provide details.

Canada’s economy is booming, expanding faster than any Group of Seven nation’s and forecast to grow at an average of 2 percent annually over the next five years. In the U.S., gross domestic product grew by 1.5 percent last year, though it is forecast to reach 2.4 percent next year, according to a survey of economists by Bloomberg. Overall, Marriott’s occupancy in both countries is over 80 percent.

Sorenson has commented on Trump’s policies in the past. The president’s travel ban is “not good, period,” he said at a company event in Dubai in April. The ban has been repeatedly blocked by federal courts and has drawn condemnation from employers in industries including technology that rely on foreign talent. Sorenson was named to the board of Microsoft Corp. last month.

Sorenson was vice chair of President Obama’s Export Council and was in the delegation that visited Cuba in March of 2016, part of an overture Trump has criticized. Sorenson wrote an open letter to Trump on LinkedIn soon after his election, in which he emphasized the need to unite the country and “break the cycle of retribution.” Former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has denounced the president’s character, is on Marriott’s board of directors.

Corporate guests represented about 70 percent of Marriott’s room-nights in 2016, with leisure accounting for about 30 percent, according to the company. This includes properties from Marriott’s September 2016 acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company is opening a St. Regis-branded hotel in Toronto’s financial district, replacing Trump’s brand on the 65-story luxury tower. The building, now under renovation, was purchased by InnVest Hotels LP this year after financial difficulties, dozens of lawsuits, and negative sentiment plagued the development.

–With assistance from Hui-yong Yu and Josh Wingrove

©2017 Bloomberg L.P. This article was written by Katia Dmitrieva from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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November 1, 2017 at 07:46PM

Newark United Club Closes November 7, Rebrands as Polaris Lounge

Newark United Club Closes November 7, Rebrands as Polaris Lounge

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The rollout of United’s new Polaris Lounges has been much slower than most — including United itself — anticipated. After the first Polaris Lounge opened in Chicago (ORD) in 2016, the carrier laid out an optimistic plan for the opening of more of its lounges — Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO) were supposed to be open by mid-2017, and Washington Dulles (IAD) and Los Angeles (LAX) were going to open by the end of the year. However, here we are at the beginning of November and ORD is still the only Polaris Lounge with its doors open to travelers.

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 2.23.25 PM

The delay isn’t news — we’ve known for a while that the next Polaris Lounge wasn’t going to open until 2018. But now, we have some more details about when and where the Polaris Lounge at Newark will open. As Edward Russell of FlightGlobal tweeted, the EWR Polaris Lounge will be located in what is currently the United Club by Gate C120. The current United Club will close on November 7, so it can be refurnished and rebranded as a Polaris Lounge. Once the renovations are complete, the former United Club will reopen as a brand new Polaris Lounge in summer 2018.

We reached out to United for confirmation, but have yet to hear back.

The current United Club near Gate C120, which is also close to United’s Classified restaurant, is one of two United Clubs in Terminal C at the carrier’s Newark hub. The other is located on the upper level of the Terminal, close to Gate 74, so United Club pass holders will still have access to one lounge in the Terminal. The closing of the United Club by gate C120 is just six days away — not much warning.

Currently, the United Club offers the basics — snacks, beer and wine, showers, Wi-Fi and more. If the already-opened Polaris Lounge at ORD is any indication, the EWR lounge should be a huge step up from what passengers are used to seeing in the space.

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November 1, 2017 at 07:22PM

Options for Paying Your Mortgage and Rent With a Credit Card

Options for Paying Your Mortgage and Rent With a Credit Card

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For most of us, housing accounts for one of our largest expenses. Regardless of whether you’re renting or paying a mortgage, chances are it takes a hefty chunk out of your income. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to earn miles on your mortgage and rent payments with a mile-earning credit card? Luckily, there are several options for paying your mortgage and rent with a credit card, at a fairly reasonable cost:

1 – Plastiq

Plastiq is my favorite service for making rent and mortgage payments with a credit card. What’s so great about Plastiq is that is can be used to pay virtually anyone, so if you have student loan or car payments to make, you can earn miles doing it! Plastiq normally charges a 2.5% transaction fee, which is pretty reasonable. Plastiq frequently runs promotions, discounting this rate for certain card issuers (i.e. MasterCard).

Another great Plastiq feature that reduces processing fees? Their referral program. Refer a friend to Plastiq and not only will they earn $500 fee-free dollars after making $500 in payments, but you’ll get $1,000 fee-free dollars. (Note: I’ve included my referral link above)

Plastiq is a great option if you want to pay your mortgage with a credit card and earn rewards. In many instances, the value of the rewards can off-set the transaction fee. If you just want to meet a large credit card spending requirement, then Plastiq is a great way to get that done without much hassle. In my experience, they’re reliable in delivering payments on time, so I would highly recommend Plastiq.

2 – Tio

Tio was acquired by PayPal a few months ago…if you’re mad at PayPal like half the people I know, you’ll be happy to know Tio operates independently from PayPal. Tio charges a 2.8% fee on bill payments (including mortgage) made with a credit card. In addition to accepting every major credit card, Tio also accepts PayPal payments.

3 – Radpad

I personally haven’t used RadPad, but I know lots of people who have and are happy with the service. RadPad accepts credit cards for rent payments at a 2.99% transaction fee. That’s higher than Plastiq, but I’ve included it here for the sake of providing multiple options. RadPad also serves as a listing place (like Craigslist) for apartment rentals, so it’s sort of a one-stop shop for your rental needs.

4 – RentMoola

RentMoola charges a 2.99% fee on rent payments. They also have a “rewards program” called MoolaPerks – it’s really just a coupon page that members can take advantage of. It’s certainly not something I would use the service for, but still worth pointing out. The one good thing about MoolaPerks is that the company runs giveaways on that page, offering credits towards rent payments.

5 – Venmo

Venmo is a popular option among young people these days (i.e. teens and early 20-somethings) for payments. You can sign up with Facebook and easily send money to your friends for that $2 McDonald’s purchase you were too broke to pay for. If you’re an adult with stable income, you’ll be happy to know you can use Venmo to make mortgage and rent payments with a credit card.

The fee is hefty at 3%, but again – this is simply another option I’m listing. It’s also worth noting that debit card payments are free, so if you have a mile-earning debit card, you can earn rewards on rent payments without paying for it!

You should do the math and determine whether it’s worth it for your to pay your rent or mortgage with a rewards credit card. After all, if the fees are high and you’re not maximizing your rewards through high-value redemptions, you could be paying a hefty price. My personal recommendation is to use your credit card for mortgage and rent payments in order to meet credit card spending requirements or if you’re able to cover the fees through referral credits.
I’d like to hear from you: How do you make mortgage and rent payments with a credit card?

 

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November 1, 2017 at 07:05PM

Google to Retire ITA Software Flight-Search Engine for Small Companies

Google to Retire ITA Software Flight-Search Engine for Small Companies

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Ralph Orlowski  / Reuters

Small businesses used ITA Software, now owned by Google, to enable consumers to search for flights, but the service for small businesses is being phased out. Pictured, planes stood on the tarmac during a pilots strike of German airline Lufthansa at Frankfurt airport, Germany, November 23, 2016. Ralph Orlowski / Reuters

Skift Take: ITA was a hot commodity in its heyday before Google swallowed it up in 2010. That’s ancient history, and there was waning interest among small companies to access what is now Google’s flight-search software. All things must pass.

— Dennis Schaal

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is pulling a software tool that let small companies access search information on airfares, a potential blow to online travel newcomers.

Google’s tool was opened in 2011 after its $700 million acquisition of ITA Software Inc., an online airfare broker. In approving the deal, a federal judge required that Google keep an ITA flight search and pricing software, called QPX, accessible to third parties for at least five years.

In 2014, Google created a cheaper version of the QPX software, called QPX Express, meant to target smaller companies and startups. Google shut that service down due to “low interest,” according to a company spokeswoman. Google said it is keeping intact a version of the original software tool for corporate customers.

Google used ITA’s tool to create Google Flights, which aggregates airline prices directly inside its powerful search engine. The product competes with companies like Priceline Group Inc.’s Kayak.com and Chinese travel giant Ctrip.com International Ltd.’s Skyscanner. Those travel sites would tap the Google flight search engine through the open software, along with major airlines.

Since buying ITA, Google has slowly improved its travel-search products, and has started letting some users book flights without having to directly visit sites owned by Expedia Inc. and Priceline, the two dominant players in the industry. Still, those two companies are among Google’s most important customers, spending billions on online ads every year.

In a post on its website for developers, Google said it’s closing off the QPX Express service on April 10, 2018.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Mark Bergen and Gerrit De Vynck from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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November 1, 2017 at 06:49PM