Focus: Breaking Travel News investigates: Norwegian Cruise Line plots course for growth

Focus: Breaking Travel News investigates: Norwegian Cruise Line plots course for growth

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The smallest of the three United States-based majors, Norwegian Cruise Line certainly does not lack in ambition.

Just weeks before its launch, the international media was invited to view its latest creation, Norwegian Bliss, as artist Wyland put the finishing touches to its whale-themed hull art at the Meyer Werft dock in north Germany.

Inside, the ship was rapidly approaching completion, as nearly 1,000 builders, welders, plumbers, and their colleagues assembled what resembled a gigantic Lego set.

Bliss will feature a top-deck race track, variety of exciting new dining options, luxurious accommodations, and the largest Haven – essentially an exclusive ship-within-a-ship – of any vessel in the fleet.

When she takes to the water, she will become the third Breakaway Plus-Class ship Norwegian has launched, able to carry 4,000 guests.

During her inaugural summer season, Norwegian Bliss will sail weekly seven-day Alaska cruises each Saturday from the recently expanded Pier 66 Cruise Terminal in Seattle.

Itineraries will feature calls in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia, along with scenic glacier cruising.

An expanded observation deck will allow passengers to fully experience the natural wonders around them as they cruise through the crystal-clear waters of the region.

Bliss will then head to Miami for her first winter season.

Beginning in November, the ship will sail seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises each Saturday from PortMiami, featuring calls in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.


Norwegian Bliss will launch in April this year

As the launch approaches, Norwegian has also revealed what, to British cruise fans at least, might seem an unusual choice for godfather of the ship, syndicated radio host Elvis Duran.

He will perform the ceremonial duties – including smashing a bottle of champagne on Bliss’ hull – when the ship officially debuts in Seattle in the spring.

As Nick Wilkinson, Norwegian Cruise Line vice president and managing director of UK & Ireland and Middle East and Africa, explains, the ambition was to appoint a godparent who would continue the relationship after the initial launch celebrations.

“What we are seeking to do with our godparents is build relationships, to secure people who will bring their following to the brand over the lifetime of the ship,” he explains.

“They stay involved after the excitant of the launch has died down.”

He adds: “As one of the most beloved radio hosts in history, Elvis’ commitment to entertainment and bringing laughter and joy to his listeners each day is exactly why we believe he is the perfect fit to represent Norwegian Bliss.”


Norwegian this week celebrated the steel-cutting for its next ship, Encore

This is an exciting time to be in the cruise sector – with all the major lines bringing a new ship to market virtually every year.

Demand outstrips supply in many markets, with the shipyards, and the slots they offer to build new ships, the main bottleneck slowing the pace of growth in the industry.

Indeed, occupancy onboard Norwegian vessels sits at over 100 per cent on many sailings.

With double occupancy for each cabin counted as ‘full’, a small family of three to a cabin can push up figures.

In response to this optimism, Norwegian also celebrated the first steel cutting for Encore this week.

She will be the seventeenth vessel in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and the line’s fourth, and final, ship in the Breakaway Plus Class.

Known until this week as Ship 708 in the Meyer Werft nomenclature, she is set to sail from Miami in early 2019.

Norwegian Encore will feature amenities and interactive experiences that will excite and inspire, and more details on the ship’s design, accommodations, dining and onboard offerings will be shared in the coming months.

“Norwegian Encore will be the ultimate Breakaway Plus Class vessel and we are thrilled to celebrate the start of construction for this incredible new ship,” said Andy Stuart, president and chief executive officer for Norwegian Cruise Line.

“Over 50 years ago the Norwegian brand began creating unforgettable vacation moments with the first inter-island cruise in the Caribbean from Miami.

“We continue building on our legacy of innovation with this brand-new state-of-the-art vessel perfect for exploring the natural beauty of some of the most remarkable islands in the world.”


Norwegian will next turn its attention to the Leonardo class of ships

Norwegian Encore is, however, tinged with a touch of sadness, as she will be the last Norwegian ship to be built at Meyer Werft for the foreseeable future.

The next generation, the so-called Leonard class, will be built in Italy, at the Fincantieri yards.

Four ships are already on order – again illustrating the confidence Norwegian Cruise Lines has in the future of the market.

The first will be delivered in 2022, while the line holds the option of two further ships to be delivered in 2026 and 2027.

“We are looking forward to this exciting new generation of ships.

“The new, breath-taking design will offer our guests a flexible on-board experience with an incredible array of offerings and further integrates inside and outside spaces, so they feel more connected with the sea,” said Christian Böll, managing director Europe, Middle East, and Africa Norwegian Cruise Line.

The four 140,000 gross ton ships will each accommodate approximately 3,300 guests, a figure slightly smaller than the current Breakaway Plus class.

This will increase the number of ports with the facilities to host the ships – a vital attribute as an ever growing number of ships crowd the most popular destinations.


Securing crew has been identified as a possible constraint on the growth of the cruise sector

Of course, it is not all plain sailing in the industry.

With demand so high, rivals Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation are also looking to increase capacity in the sector, while a number of smaller operations continue to grow.

One area where this is beginning to cause problems is staffing, with around 800,000 new members of crew needed, sector-wide, but 2025, according to Mark Kansley, senior vice president, hotel operations, at Norwegian Cruise Line.

With traditional source markets in the Philippines close to exhaustion and American tightening visa restrictions for Indian crew, following a surge in the number who abscond while the US, a crunch is looming.

In response Norwegian is opening a training centre in Manila where it hoped to develop the next generation of staff for its fleet of ships.

But, in many ways, this is an illustration of the success of the sector, and particularly Norwegian, with no end to the recent run of exciting growth in sight.

More Information

Norwegian Cruise Line is the innovator in cruise travel with a half-century long history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising.

Most notably, Norwegian revolutionised the cruise industry by offering guests the freedom and flexibility to design their ideal cruise holiday on their schedule.

Today, Norwegian invites guests to Feel Free to explore the world on one of its purpose-built ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed, resort style cruise holiday on some of the newest and most contemporary ships at sea.

Norwegian Cruise Line is also considered the World’s Leading Cruise Line by the World Travel Awards.

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole

Travel

via Breaking Travel News http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/

February 2, 2018 at 03:46PM

United Now Allows Basic Economy Passengers to Select Their Seat, Adds Wi-Fi Subscriptions

United Now Allows Basic Economy Passengers to Select Their Seat, Adds Wi-Fi Subscriptions

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United is making some changes to the passenger experience, and that includes passengers with a basic economy ticket. As of February 1, basic economy passengers can pay extra to select a seat for their flight, and beginning February 2, United will begin selling Wi-Fi subscription packages for all passengers.

According to an internal memo, United now allows basic economy passengers to select their seat — under a few conditions. If you have a basic economy ticket, you’ll be allowed to pay for a seat of your choosing as long as it’s done prior to 24 hours of departure. The cost of the seat selection will vary based on the specific seat chosen in the main cabin.

While you can defeat United’s basic economy restriction with its co-branded credit cards, one of the inescapable downfalls of basic economy has always been seat selection. While a co-branded card, such as the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or the United MileagePlus Club Card, allow you to bypass basic economy baggage and boarding rules, there was no way to get around the lack of seat assignment until check-in. Now, basic economy flyers have the option to purchase it ahead of time. So, if you’re a cardholder of the United co-brand cards, you have the ability to make the in-flight experience about the same as that of regular economy passengers — just be prepared to fork over some cash for the seat selection.

The second new feature comes in the form of subscription packages for in-air internet access. As of Friday, you can purchase from a number of Wi-Fi plans. There aren’t specifics for the packages that will be offered, as they’re available only pre-flight or in-flight via United.com. You can pay for the subscription by credit card or by using MileagePlus miles.

Wi-Fi subscriptions are nonrefundable and non-transferrable. Subscription packages are also only offered by region — if you’re traveling outside of your selected region, the subscription will not apply. Cash refunds will not be issued in instances where Wi-Fi is not working.

Overall, these are both positive additions from United. Giving basic economy passengers the opportunity to select their seat — of course, for a fee — plus the decision to implement subscription Wi-Fi services makes sense. As View From the Wing notes, a passenger who purchases a Wi-Fi subscription package will be more inclined to travel with United in the future to make sure the subscription doesn’t go to waste.

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February 2, 2018 at 02:25PM

Polo Ralph Lauren’s Complicated Streetwear Past

Polo Ralph Lauren’s Complicated Streetwear Past

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In April of 1992, twin ads ran in Esquire and GQ featuring a
windbreaker with a runner’s bib, the word “Stadium” across its
midsection, and red letters spelling POLO across its chest. The tagline
read, “Polo Ralph Lauren is proud to support the 1992 U.S. Olympic
team.” No matter that J. C. Penney was the actual Team U.S.A.
outfitter—Polo’s “support” was aspirational, a way of laying claim to a
heritage and an aesthetic. The other ads that Polo ran that year also
evoked a Waspy fantasy of sporting America: white men leaning off the
decks of yachts, or wearing “U.S.A.” fleeces while playing on ski
slopes.

The ads telegraphed the audience that Polo was targeting. But the
Stadium collection, of which the windbreaker was a part, found a
different audience: a small group of black and Latino Polo enthusiasts
who called themselves the Lo Lifes. In the nineteen-eighties, the Crown
Heights and Brownsville-based crew collected, flaunted, and, most
infamously, stole large amounts of Polo clothing—occasionally storming
department stores in so-called million-man rushes. Whereas Lauren—who
was born Ralph Lifshitz, in the Bronx—had social-climbing ambitions, the
Lo Lifes relished the ironic distance. “You could see me in Brownsville
rockin’, then go to Fifth Avenue and see a white person wearing the same
jacket,” Thirstin Howl the 3rd, a founder of Lo Life, writes in the book
Bury Me with the Lo On,” a
photographic
history
of the movement. “Difference is that they bought it—we weren’t buying
shit, we were taking it.”

Over the years, the Lo Lifes became less of a fearsome street gang and
more the stewards of a high-low fashion tradition. That tradition was
enshrined in a 1994 video for the Wu Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So
Simple,” when Raekwon wore a Ralph Lauren windbreaker with red, yellow,
and blue color blocking and the words “SNOW BEACH” across the stomach.
(“I was definitely inspired by Lo Lifes because they were a bunch of
wild assassin young niggas,” he tells Howl.) The windbreaker became a
legendary item; in 2012, Chris Brown wore one in tribute during a
performance on “The Today Show.”

Last year, a man named Ezra Wine announced that he would be selling a
hundred Lo Life pieces that he had gathered over the years for a million
dollars. “This is one person’s chance to own the collection that created
a culture,” he wrote. Shortly afterward, Ralph Lauren announced that it
would be rereleasing several of the Stadium collection pieces for the
twenty-fifth anniversary of its début; in January, it reissued Raekwon’s
“Snow Beach” jacket. The offerings suggest an abrupt and long-awaited
embrace for Lo Lifes and so-called Lo Heads in general. Their devotion
has always been unrequited—the Ralph Lauren vision of upper-middle-class
America has never included them.

Designers are always pressed to move forward; the retro-ing of clothes
represents an opportunity for them to slow down and recognize their
pasts. Last year, Helmut Lang brought back a suite of vintage designs as
part of its house reset; Nike has created a cottage industry out of
retro sneakers, and has been selling its customers’ enthusiasms back to
them since 1984, when it reissued its Air Force 1 model in Baltimore,
after fans in the city clamored for the sneaker’s return. The irony is
that the audience for a retro is often larger than the one that gave the
original style its cachet. Nike isn’t a retro titan because it keeps
selling Jordan XIs to the people who were sneaker-hungry teen-agers in
1995. Rather, through endless tweaks and remixes, the company has
cultivated the shoe’s mystique for decades. (Many of its customers
weren’t even born when His Airness débuted them.)

Other labels, though, have more fraught relationships with their pasts.
Lauren’s preppy rival Tommy Hilfiger, which embraced hip-hop in the
nineties, has spent the last twenty years dipping in and out of black
culture in ways that have sometimes alienated customers. For years,
Hilfiger was plagued by a false rumor that he had disavowed his
minority customers during an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”; in
2014, he told Bloomberg Businessweek that hip-hop “fueled a lot of
growth, but it took us away from our roots.” All the same, he recently
revived his urban-focussed Tommy Jeans line for a capsule collection.
When he presented his main line in London last September, nineties
hip-hop serenaded the crowd.

The closest parallel to Ralph Lauren’s Stadium and Snow Beach projects
is Gucci’s collaboration with Dapper Dan, the Harlem designer known for
his “crack-era
classics
.”
The collaboration came about as penance after the label was caught
cribbing his designs. In both cases, a big brand recognized that
something exciting had been created outside of—and, partially, in spite
of—its own marketing efforts. For Gucci, it was Dapper Dan’s creative
use of bootleg monogram prints for his urban, minority (and
unacknowledged) customer base. Polo has built its foundation on picking
and choosing elements of British, American, and, to the consternation of
Native American observers, pre-American pasts to reproduce and glorify.
The Lo Lifes have given the brand something that it never really sought:
street cred.

And Ralph Lauren Corporation has noticed. The company’s stock price
peaked in 2013, and sales have been declining. On a recent conference
call with investors, Patrice Louvet, the second Ralph Lauren C.E.O.
since Lauren stepped down, in 2015, said that the company planned to try
“focussing on our icons” and “developing limited editions to inject
energy and excitement into our brand.” One strategy for driving growth,
apparently, is to use streetwear-style hype to gain relevance. That
means acknowledging streetwear-style icons: Thirstin Howl the 3rd,
Raekwon, and the Lo Lifes got a shout-out from the company’s house
publication in stories on the retro drops. Louvet touted the new retro
efforts, noting that “seventy-eight per cent of the people who purchased
Stadium at a Ralph Lauren store in North America were new consumers to
the brand.”

Over the past six months, Ralph Lauren’s retroed versions of other
Stadium and Snow Beach-era pieces have received mixed reviews. Some of
the clothes have been modified: a graphic-heavy jacket received puffer
panels; a taffeta hood got attached to a crested knit sweater. These
pieces have their defenders, but there were also grumblings among ardent
Polo fans that the company should have hewn closer to the original
designs.

A decade ago, Ezra Wine, the owner of the million-dollar Polo
collection, tried to convince Polo to reissue its designs for its
fortieth anniversary. “Their message to me was that Ralph doesn’t want
to be remembered for these pieces, for the Snow Beach and other items
like that,” he said. When the company released a fortieth-anniversary
photo book, in 2007, encompassing what Lauren called “every nuance that
I ever connected to,” there were cowboys and cricket clubs, but no Lo
Lifes. (They’re not in the “revised and expanded” fiftieth-anniversary
edition, either.) Recently, I was standing in a line for wristbands that
would let customers buy the new Stadium pieces, and I met Cherie Ebron,
who has been collecting Polo for twenty-seven years. “He’d better
acknowledge this type of community,” she told me, referring to Ralph
Lauren. “Latinos and Blacks and Indians and people that are not white
America—we made this. We’re the ones who put it on the map.”

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February 2, 2018 at 02:19PM

FAQs About the Capital One Venture Rewards/Hotels.com 10x Partnership

FAQs About the Capital One Venture Rewards/Hotels.com 10x Partnership

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Earlier this week TPG himself, along with Captain Obvious from Hotels.com and Jeopardy’s Ken Jennings, announced on Facebook Live a brand-new partnership between Capital One and Hotels.com. Thanks to this new collaboration, people with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card can now get 10x miles when booking hotel reservations at Hotels.com and using a special link.

Below, we’ve answered the most common questions about this new partnership, including exactly what steps you have to take in order to get the bonus miles and which cardholders are eligible. We expect you’ll have more questions, and if you want to learn more about a particular feature that isn’t addressed here, please add it to the comments below.

Question: When does the new Capital One/Hotels.com partnership take effect?

Answer: The partnership officially launched on January 30, 2018, and will remain in effect for at least two full years until January 2020.

Q: Do both the Capital One Venture Rewards card and the Capital One VentureOne card get this offer?

A: Yes, both cards are eligible for the 10x bonus miles.

Q: What’s the difference between the Venture Rewards and the VentureOne cards?

A: There are several differences, but the primary one is that the Venture Rewards card earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, while the VentureOne only earns 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases.

Q: How much are the annual fees?

A: The annual fee on the Capital One Venture Rewards card is $95 per year (waived the first year). There is no annual fee on the Capital One VentureOne card.

Q: How much are these points worth?

A: You’ll get 1 cent per point by using the “Purchase Eraser” feature to redeem for statement credits against travel purchases made on your Capital One Venture card, or by booking travel via the online Capital One Venture portal.

Q: How do I get 10x miles at Hotels.com using the Capital One Venture cards?

A: In order to get the 10x bonus miles, you need to book your reservation through the specialized link — hotels.com/venture — and choose “Pay Now” at checkout. Of course, you also have to pay for the reservation using a Capital One Venture or VentureOne card.

Q: Can I book through the Hotels.com app and get 10x miles?

A: No, you need to use the hotels.com/venture link, so the app is excluded. However, you could book on the Hotels.com mobile website (using that same link) and get 10x miles.

Q: Do I earn the 10x miles on top of the usual base miles, or is it 10x miles in total?

A: You’ll get 10x miles in total for reservations made at the hotels.com/venture link, including the base miles.

Q: If I book through the specialized link, can I still collect rewards with Hotels.com Rewards?

A: Yes, you can still use Hotels.com Rewards to get one free night after 10 nights booked at Hotels.com when using the hotels.com/venture link.

Q: If I book through the specialized link, can I still use Hotels.com Secret Prices or use a coupon code?

A: Yes, you can still get Secret Prices or use a coupon code when booking through the hotels.com/venture link. However, as is normally the case with Hotels.com, using a coupon code will prevent you from collecting nights in the Hotels.com Rewards program, though you will still get the 10x miles on your Capital One Venture card.

Q: If I book through the specialized link, can I also use a shopping portal for Hotels.com?

A: No, you cannot use a shopping portal when using the hotels.com/venture link.

Q: If I book through the Hotels.com link, will I still be eligible to earn hotel points and credit toward elite status?

A: No — hotels generally don’t award points or elite status credit on paid stays booked through an OTA. If you have status with a hotel and book with Hotels.com, you may also miss out on elite perks.

Q: Are the prices higher when booking through hotels.com/venture than they would be otherwise at the regular Hotels.com page?

A: The hotel prices are identical between the specialized link and Hotels.com itself.

Q: If these cards get 10x miles for Hotels.com bookings, why is it sometimes referred to as a 20% discount?

A: Since you can stack the 10x miles from the Capital One Venture cards with the free night earned from Hotels.com Rewards — and the value of that free night is the average of your previous 10 paid nights — you’re effectively getting back 10% of each of those 10 paid nights in the free night. Therefore, 10% of each paid night plus 10x miles at 1 cent each equals a 20% discount.

Q: If I have an existing Capital One Venture Rewards or VentureOne card, do I get the 10x miles at Hotels.com, or is it only for new cardholders?

A: Existing cardholders are also eligible for the 10x bonus miles, so long as they book their reservations using the hotels.com/Venture link.

Q: If I have an existing reservation at Hotels.com, can I cancel it and rebook using the specialized link to get 10x miles?

A: Yes, you can cancel and rebook if your existing hotel reservation allows you to cancel without penalty. Remember when rebooking through the hotels.com/Venture link, you must choose to “Pay Now” and pay with one of the two Capital One Venture cards.

Q: What qualifies as “travel purchases” for statement credits?

A: The travel category on the Venture cards include purchases made from airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and time shares. Availability for redemption is based on the merchant category code assigned to purchases by the merchant.

Q: What is the minimum point redemption?

A: There is no minimum point redemption for travel statement credits — you can redeem as little as 1 point.

Q: What are the sign-up bonuses on these cards?

A: The Capital One Venture Rewards card currently offers 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months after account opening. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards card currently offers 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Q: If I have previously had a Capital One Venture card, closed it, and apply again now, can I still get the sign-up bonus? Do I have to wait a certain amount of time before I’m eligible again?

A: Capital One doesn’t have any firm rules against getting a sign-up bonus again or a set period of time you have to wait to get a second bonus. However, the bank is sensitive to people who have had many credit card accounts and has been known to deny folks who appear to “churn” cards.

Q: Which credit bureau does Capital One pull credit reports from when you apply for a credit card?

A: Capital One pulls credit reports from all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — for one credit card application, so be aware that you will see an inquiry on all three of your credit reports if you apply for a Capital One card.

Q: What kind of travel protection benefits are available with these cards?

A: With either card, you’ll get Visa Signature benefits, which includes Travel Accident Insurance up to $250,000 and Lost Luggage Reimbursement up to $3,000. You’ll also get secondary Auto Rental Coverage.

Q: What kind of purchase protection is available with these cards?

A: When making everyday purchases with either card, you’ll get Extended Warranty Protection, which doubles the manufacturers warranty up to one extra year for warranties of three years or less, with a maximum of $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder. Both cards also come with Purchase Security, which replaces, repairs, or reimburses you for purchases in the event of theft or damage within 90 days of the purchase date, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder.

Q: Are there any foreign transactions fees with the Capital One Venture cards?

A: No, neither card has foreign transaction fees.

For more information, read our complete review of the Capital One Venture Rewards card.

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February 2, 2018 at 01:34PM

A viewpoint on GDS surcharges and the evolving airline distribution landscape

A viewpoint on GDS surcharges and the evolving airline distribution landscape

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This is a viewpoint from Rajendran Vellapalath, CEO of TPConnects.

Air France KLM is the latest airline to introduce the GDS surcharge for travel agents. The airline joins other European carriers with surcharges, as Lufthansa introduced its levy in 2015 and British Airways introduced a surcharge last year.

Some would argue that the GDS is a fair system. After all, it enables travel agents and their clients to access travel data, make price comparisons, access special rates, and book their travel. There’s also no denying that the mainframe-based system operated by the likes of Travelport, Amadeus and Sabre generate billions of dollars in global travel sales. These channels are massive revenue streams for travel providers.

Some industry analysts believe that the GDS may evolve and take on more of a tool for direct corporate bookings type of role, with technology targeting specific interests such as corporate or leisure travel.  The fact is that the current system is old. It’s been around since the 60s and it has serious flaws baked into its older mainframe approach. Not so long ago, research revealed security flaws in PNRs as used by the GDS, which meant they could be easily hacked.

In addition, agencies can promote their own displays in favour of preferred partners. This means that travel agents’ bookings are swayed by the airlines they have preferred agreements with. It earns them bonus payments if they reach a certain volume each year. This can skew the equation away from the traveler’s best interests.

The fact is that three main players still dominate the global travel distribution system. Amadeus is the largest player in the travel agent air booking market, with a self-reported 43.5 percent market share in Q1 2017, followed closely by Sabre’s 36.3 percent, and others such as Travelport. All three make the bulk of their money from flights, earning huge margins through license fees, service fees, and transaction fees for bookings and access to their networks.

Now here’s the rub. Every GDS charges per transaction. Booking fees are usually between 2 and 4 percent of a ticket price, and around 20 percent for a hotel booking.  So, for a percentage of a booking’s price, an airline receives access to a global network of travel sellers from travel agents to OTAs. Airlines also pay additional fees for system access and consulting.

When you consider that more than a billion flights are being booked each year, these are serious sums of money.  Travelport reported its agency commissions as well as revenues. For the first quarter of 2017, the company made revenues of $650.8 million and paid commissions of $310.4 million. Compared to 2016, these figures show that while revenues have increased by 7% year-on-year, commissions are now 10% higher. (source: Business Travel IQ)

Carriers are fighting back

Recently, there have been disputes between certain airlines and the GDS. In a recent legal case involving US Airways, it was revealed that some airlines pay different transaction fees based on their contracts with the GDS. Some pay as much as $16 per transaction.

Last year, Ryanair failed to renew its agreement with Amadeus as it became abundantly clear that they, like many other airlines, found that GDS fees cut too deeply into margins.  Tensions between airlines and GDSs have been further exacerbated with carriers making more from unbundling their fares and then offering services like luggage, food and drink as add-ons. This move has been hugely profitable for airlines — and has increased airline revenues by shielding these add-ons from middlemen.

European airlines have perhaps been most active in exploring models outside the GDS. In an attempt to shift bookings to other channels Lufthansa placed a surcharge of around  $16 on GDS transactions made by travel agencies. CEO Jens Bischof claimed that in addition to the high fees, the technology associated with its current sales systems couldn’t display their individual offers adequately.

We are seeing changes to the current systems. The travel distribution giants struggle in areas like airline merchandising and hotel content, and smaller companies are making investments in certain areas that have gone through changes in recent years.  New companies like ours can aggregate content faster and in a simple way. The fact is that it’s new technology that will guide and change the travel distribution system. Smaller players have more of an opportunity to create innovative solutions that do not involve the big three.

 We also need to consider the social networking and search companies, TripAdvisor, Google and  Facebook.  They have direct access to consumers and are pushing hard into selling travel. If Facebook opens up its user base of more than one billion people to travel companies you can imagine that many will jump on board.

Changes to airline strategy

Competition among carriers is intense and the airline industry is under extreme financial pressure. Airlines have been heading towards a merchandising strategy for some time now, increasing profits and shifting from a service provider to a retailer. This hasn’t been an easy move as its success is reliant on the support of players like the IATA as well as GDSs.  However, there is no doubt that this is the path they need to take to grow and attract wider sales. While some full-service carriers are trying to find less costly approaches that meet customer needs, others are evolving and moving away from the traditional low-cost carrier model in search of different sources of revenue such as premium passengers, according to a recent report by Embraer.

The fact is, in order to make these changes successfully they cannot be restricted by financial burdens, outdated systems and old technology. New platforms and systems need to be continuously developed to support them as the airlines’ business model evolves and passengers demand more from their carrier wherever they book their tickets.

Related reading:

Enough of the Amazon of Travel talk, airlines can aim higher

This is a viewpoint from Rajendran Vellapalath, CEO of TPConnects.
Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of tnooz, its writers, or its partners.

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February 2, 2018 at 01:02PM

Tired of Traveling Alone

Tired of Traveling Alone

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February 2, 2018 at 12:24PM

The Airline Gave Our Seats Away — Reader Mistake Story

The Airline Gave Our Seats Away — Reader Mistake Story

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Today, I want to share a story from reader Tuan, who wasn’t allowed to board despite arriving at his gate in time for departure. Here’s what he had to say:

Last year, my family of three booked a morning flight with American Airlines from Miami to San Francisco. We only booked two seats since my daughter was under two years old. Since I have the Platinum Card from American Express, we arrived at the airport early to use the Centurion Lounge, which was about 10-15 minutes from our gate on foot.

We made it to our gate 20 minutes before departure, but to my surprise our seats had already been given away. The door was still open, but the gate agent would not allow us to board the plane, since our seats were no longer available. We weren’t the only ones in that situation, as another passenger who showed up before us also had his seat given away. No announcement was made in the airport in either case.

The gate agent was able to book us on a later flight with a two-hour layover in Dallas. Unfortunately our connection was delayed, and then had a last minute gate change to another concourse, so we had to run for it. Again, no announcement was made (even for the gate change), and we would have missed a flight for the second time that day if I had not been constantly checking my phone for updates.

In the end, our six-hour trip home turned into a twelve-hour trip, which taught me a few lessons. First, show up at at your gate at the boarding time. You never know if the airline will finish boarding early or give away your seat. Second, take initiative to confirm your gate, especially when your flight is delayed. Don’t depend on the airline to announce gate changes or to call your name during boarding!

Tuan may have made a mistake here, but it’s not the one he thinks he made. American Airlines’ conditions of carriage specify that passengers must be at their gates and ready to board 15 minutes before a scheduled departure from the US (30 minutes for flights originating outside the US, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands). Since Tuan and his family arrived in time, their tickets should have been honored. Assuming they complied with other ticketing rules and weren’t turned away for safety reasons, American violated its own policies (and federal regulations) by giving their seats away without offering involuntary denied boarding compensation.

I don’t think it’s essential to be at your gate precisely at the scheduled boarding time, though it doesn’t hurt. If your flight appears to be full or overbooked, then arriving on time may help you avoid getting bumped. Otherwise, just abide by the rules set out by your carrier. Like American, Delta and United ask passengers to arrive at the gate no less than 15 minutes before domestic departures, while Alaska specifies a more stringent 30-minute window. If you show up to find your seat has been given away improperly, be sure to document the time along with any other relevant information, including the name of any agent who assists you. A clear record of what transpired will support your case for compensation later on.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Tuan for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by AlxeyPnferov/Getty Images

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February 2, 2018 at 12:15PM

An Oral History of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Halftime Wardrobe Malfunction

An Oral History of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Halftime Wardrobe Malfunction

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The National Football League has confirmed that Justin Timberlake will perform at Super Bowl LII in February, marking his first return to that closely watched stage since he infamously exposed Janet Jackson’s breast during a performance at the 2004 Super Bowl.

—Washington Post.

Bob Costas, longtime sports commentator: I remember that night well. What a time for sports. We were only ten months away from the reëlection of George W. Bush, and the occupation in Iraq was still in its infancy. But sports are about so much more than that. From a socioeconomic standpoint, the country was—

Rob Gronkowski, current New England Patriot: I was fourteen during that Super Bowl. I remember there was this bomb-ass Doritos commercial with a talking dog and a chick in a bikini. So sick. Anyway, that was the halftime with Kid Rock, right?

Kid Rock, fellow halftime performer: They invited me to be part of the show, and then they let the Mickey Mouse kid grab boob?

Tom Brady, played in the game: I won Super Bowl M.V.P., but all anyone talked about was the halftime controversy. I can be controversial! Last off-season, I ate a soybean. Do you know the sodium content of soybeans? Do you?!

Costas:—and the crash of the housing market was still a few years off, which begs the question: What role did sports play in the creation of a bubble that would ultimately—

Janet Jackson, performer: Look, nothing’s changed since I last spoke about this. It really was a wardrobe malfunction. When he pulled at my outfit, it wasn’t supposed to expose that much.

Donald Trump, current President of the United States: Many people keep telling me that they’re proud to have a groper back in the Super Bowl halftime show. And I am proud to have led the charge against the assault on a cherished and beautiful tradition.

Justin Timberlake, performer: I think the ensuing backlash was tough on both Janet and me, but we didn’t let it hold us back. We both used it to make us stronger. I took that publicity and propelled my music and acting career to new heights. And millions and millions of people have Googled “Janet Jackson boob.”

Costas:—little did we know that we were in the fourth quarter when it came to meaningful action against climate change, with Katrina just around the—

Bill Belichick, Patriots head coach: It was all due to a complete lack of preparation by the production team. A wardrobe malfunction is, quite frankly, inexcusable. Player uniforms were equipped with everything—from Stickum spray on our gloves to miniature ball deflators in our socks. And we’d gone through hours of drills to insure there’d be no malfunctions.

Roger Goodell, current N.F.L. commissioner: In my more than eleven years as commissioner of the N.F.L., we have had zero incidents of accidental nudity. And that is how Roger Goodell’s N.F.L. has been able to completely avoid controversy. Have the players once thanked me for this? Nope. Not even an acknowledgment. It’s almost as if they have long-term memory issues, the direct cause and full extent of which have yet to be uncovered by modern medicine, or something.

Costas:—and we don’t watch and play football for music or for scandal. We watch and play football because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And singing, dancing, whatever it is that Kid Rock does; those are noble pursuits. But play-action passes, quarterback draws, condescending halftime monologues; these are what we live for. OH, CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!

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February 2, 2018 at 12:12PM

Vacation rentals vs hotels? HomeAway VP of Data Science keynote at HEDNA 2018

Vacation rentals vs hotels? HomeAway VP of Data Science keynote at HEDNA 2018

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There was a bit of an interloper at this year’s HEDNA North America conference: vacation rental provider HomeAway. It’s possible that Expedia’s recent acquisition of HomeAway had something to do with this, as it brings the brand into the stable as one of the world’s largest OTA conglomerates. Or perhaps it’s a sign that hoteliers have finally accepted the importance of understanding the threat/non-threat of vacation rentals.

Regardless, it was a bold move on the part of the HEDNA board. After all, HEDNA is the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association. A legacy name, to be sure, but a name that doesn’t include non-hotel forms of accommodation.

Hotels vs STRs?

Props to the organization for bringing this issue to the forefront with the second keynote of the opening day, offering up a perspective from HomeAway’s Head Economist and VP of Data Science Justin Rao. And similar kudos to HomeAway for taking a data-driven approach to cut through the noise and offer their side of a heavily weighted debate.

It’s a battle that’s certainly fueled by the media, but also industry associations that act aggressively to regulate short-term rentals. The core issue is if (and how) STRs are complementary to both the hotel industry and local municipalities.

While the presentation was a bit rambling –and didn’t quite live up to the session’s title of “Vacation Rental Industry and Its Effect on Hospitality” — it did highlight just how important data is to HomeAway’s ongoing regulatory efforts. By parsing data, and then providing these reports (eventually) to all municipalities, the company clearly understands the power of counteracting regulatory reactions with detailed data.

Watch the video for highlights of two quite different case studies, one of San Diego, CA, and the other of Orange Beach, AL, which showcase how vacation rentals can impact home values and local economies.

More HEDNA coverage here, as well as on this YouTube playlist.

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February 2, 2018 at 11:42AM

Explorer: In Campeche, Pyramids Are Everywhere. Crowds Are Not

Explorer: In Campeche, Pyramids Are Everywhere. Crowds Are Not

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Photo

The ruins of an ancient Maya city in Calakmul.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

Of the nearly 1,000 registered archaeological sites scattered across the southeast Mexican state of Campeche, Xcalumkín is far from the most impressive. Just over 40 miles northeast of the state capital (also called Campeche), it looks, at first glance, like little more than a few half-excavated hillsides. On the stifling May morning that I visited, the scrubby forest was dry and radioactively bright, baked under a sky the color of a pilot flame. It didn’t take long for this abstraction of a city to come to life. Hills revealed themselves as pyramids. Fields became plazas. A cave opening suddenly in the ground — a tree, like an umbilical cord, growing from its center — became a reservoir.

I had come out that morning with Rubí Peniche Lozano, who runs a restaurant called Capuchino in the historic center of Campeche, an extravagantly pretty town on the west of the Yucatán Peninsula. She’d brought along her sister, Ada, a local teacher, and Lirio Suarez Améndola, a former delegate for the National Institute of Anthropology and History, or I.N.A.H.

Photo

The restaurant at the eco-lodge Puerta Calakmul.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

Ms. Suarez walked us through the site, pointing out the hidden mouths of cisterns and offering I.N.A.H.’s best guesses as to what each structure might have been. Xcalumkín, she told us, had likely existed since the beginning of the millennium but, like most settlements in this part of the peninsula, would have flourished between the 8th and 10th centuries, part of a vast network of city-states and vassal towns that made up the classical Maya world. By 950 A.D., that world had all but disappeared.

“To make the stucco they used to cover the buildings and pave the roads, they needed charcoal, so imagine how many trees they needed,” she said as we looked down into the reservoir that was now a cave. “They emptied their water sources, cut down all their trees. The temperature raised two degrees. They changed the climate completely.” She sounded almost exasperated. “Lots of people look at the Maya very romantically, that they lived with nature and all that, but it’s not true. They were just like us: human beings.”

Photo

Cochinita pibil at El Bastión restaurant in Campeche.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

We had reached Xcalumkín by driving north along the modern highway that connects Campeche to Mérida in the neighboring state of Yucatán, following the route of the Camino Royal, or Royal Road, built for the visit of Mexico’s short-reigning Hapsburg Empress Carlota in the late 19th century. We stopped at Kankí and Acanmul, a pair of ruins that, despite lying just off the highway, receive almost no visitors. In the pretty colonial backwater of Hecelchakán, we ate breakfast at an enormous rotunda-like taco stand in the central plaza, famous enough not to require a name. For four generations and 40 years, the family that runs the place has turned out Campeche’s best cochinita pibil, a dish of adobo-rubbed pork roasted in an underground oven, and relleno negro, an ashy stew of ground turkey and pork stained black with charred chilies. Most days, they run out of cochinita by noon and relleno negro even earlier.

The afternoon would take us to artisan towns like Dzitbalchén, known for its embroidered blouses, and Bécal, where Mexico’s finest panama hats are woven from hair-thin lengths of palm in damp underground caves. The whole day, we didn’t pass a single other traveler. Despite its pastel-hued jewel-box of a capital, its rich archaeological history, a clutch of top-notch hotels and food to compete with anything on the peninsula, Campeche remains mercifully lost to tourism.

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Photo

A plaza in Campeche.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

Campeche’s star attraction should be the ancient Maya city of Calakmul, once the most powerful city-state in the classical Maya world, now an immense archaeological site buried deep in the wild southern jungles of the 2,800-square-mile Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. But while Chichen Itza and Tulum, in the neighboring states of Yucatán and Quintana Roo, attract as many as 5,500 visitors per day, Calakmul draws barely 100. When I came down to Campeche for the first time in February 2017 (a relatively cool, dry month in Mexico’s tropical south) Calakmul is what I came to see.

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From the early 10th century until the late 1920s, when, according to the oral tradition of the local rubber tappers, an American prospector spotted the site from a low-flying plane, Calakmul was lost to time and memory (its presence was officially registered by I.N.A.H. in 1931). For the next 50 years, the rubber tappers working in the forest chipped the narrative glyphs from the city’s monolithic steles, selling the city’s recorded history one piece at a time. Excavations didn’t begin in earnest until the 1980s.

Photo

A wild turkey on the road to Calakmul.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

To reach Calakmul, I drove four hours down well-paved roads, booby-trapped with ill-marked speed bumps, stopping en route at El Cachimbazo, a seaside restaurant in the town of Champotón, for a lunch of ceviche and Campeche’s unofficial state dish, pan de cazón (layers of tortilla and shredded shark bathed in tomato purée, jauntily capped with a whole habanero).

At the entrance to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, I dropped my things at a serene eco-lodge called Puerta Calakmul, by far the best hotel in the area (high-season rates start at $175), and crossed the road to see the exquisitely preserved stucco frieze at Balamku, one of many smaller archaeological sites in the area. At sundown, I drove five minutes down the road to watch millions of bats spill from the mouth of a hidden cave and spiral skyward. At dawn the next day, I woke to the call of howler monkeys and drove the last 90 minutes through the park to the site itself.

Photo

The ruins of an ancient Maya city in Becán.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

On the way, I picked up my guide, Manuel Pech, who has lived most of his life in the nearby village of Conhuas. He had returned a year before from the capital, where he’d studied biology, “because,” he told me, “I wanted to save the world.” Growing up next to ruins, he seemed to view civilizational collapse as imminent rather than hypothetical.

Mr. Pech and I spent well over three hours at Calakmul that morning, wandering among the lost foundations of untold buildings. At the ceremonial center, we climbed a flight of steep stone stairs to the summit of the highest pyramid. Fifteen hundred years ago, kings and priests would have performed their ceremonies here — coronations, perhaps, or sacrifices, though no one knows for sure — looking out over a city of 50,000 people with stucco-paved roads, called sakbe, radiating out from its center.

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Photo

A street vendor in Campeche.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

My view was different. Jungle extended infinitely in every direction. To the south, Guatemala. To the north, the horizon undulated like heat. “Those hills out there,” Mr. Pech said, “we don’t know which are just hills and which are pyramids that we haven’t uncovered yet.” The only signs of human life were the peaks of Calakmul’s two other great pyramids bursting through the canopy like mountains through clouds.

I left Calakmul the following day and drove east, stopping at Becán, where a series of interconnected plazas and public buildings suggest the shape of quotidian Maya life, and at Chicaná, once Becán’s aristocratic suburb, now another abandoned stone settlement in the forest, where heavily ornamented mansions reveal a world as stratified as our own. At Xpujil — the last of the ruins along the highway, roughly 40 minutes from Puerta Calakmul by car — I turned north along a recently paved two-lane road and through 40 miles of forest, virtually uninterrupted by human settlement. The trees along the roadside were more chartreuse than green. Swarms of butterflies ferried between them like they had places to go.

Photo

Pan de cazón at El Cachimbazo restaurant.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

The scenic route took me through languid towns like Dzibalché and Iturbide, and to beautiful, lonely ruins at Dzibalnocac and Hochob, elaborately carved in an architectural style known today as “Chenes,” which Mr. Suarez would later describe as “Maya Baroque.” About 25 miles before Campeche, I stopped at Edzná, whose carefully reconstructed galleries, pyramids and open plazas rival Calakmul’s in grandeur. A short distance from Hacienda Huayamon — Campeche’s most luxurious hotel, housed in the restored remains of an 18th-century plantation — Edzná is Campeche’s most popular archaeological site. Even still, on the day I visited, there were more iguanas than people. When I reached Campeche that evening, I settled in at the Hacienda Huayamon’s sister hotel, Hacienda Puerta Campeche, just inside the city walls (rates in high season start at $418).

Like most haciendas in the Yucatán, Huayamon — a 20-minute drive from the city — was founded in the 18th century (although most of its buildings date to the 19th century) to cultivate and process henequen, a tough fiber made from a variety of agave. Starting in 1870, the buildings that now house Puerta Campeche served as Huayamon’s warehouse and a shop selling everything from imported wines to lentils to rubber from the southern forests. Both are relics of the city’s 19th-century decline, a reminder of where the word decadence comes from.

Photo

The pool at the Puerta Campeche hotel.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

By the time henequen had become the Yucatán’s economic mainstay, most trade had shifted away from Campeche to the newly built port of Progreso — or Progress — on the peninsula’s northern coast. For the previous three centuries, Campeche, Mexico’s second-oldest port, had thrived at the periphery of law. Though just two hours from Mexico City by plane, Campeche was, in those days, far from the centers of colonial power and virtually ungovernable. When I met Ms. Peniche’s husband, the local historian Alejandro MacGregor Gonzalez, he told me, “contraband was this city’s glory!”

He had asked me to join him for breakfast at a no-frills storefront on the Parque Santa Ana, a charming plaza just outside the city walls. He ordered us ice-cold bottles of sweet black tea and two trancas de lechón, the Taquería del Parque’s specialty. The tea, he explained, combined Campeche’s first colonial cash crop, sugar cane, with black tea that came in on British pirate ships in the 16th century. The trancas were sandwiches of lechón, a Creole roast pork dish from the Caribbean, served on crusty lengths of bread introduced by French corsairs.

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Photo

Bats fly out of a cave near Calakmul.

Credit
Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

“That food is very Yucateco,” he said, pointing across the street to Taquería Hecelchakán, which trucks in cochinita from the town of the same name each morning. “This is very Campechano. Our whole culture is mixed!” Elsewhere in Mexico, the word campechano is usually used in the context of food and means just that — mixed — as in a campechano taco, made with meat and sausage, or a campechano ceviche, made with shrimp and octopus and whatever else is on hand.

For the rest of the day, Mr. MacGregor showed me around the elegantly restored old quarter center of his hometown and its northern and southern edges, where the peaceful streets give way to mangroves and scruffy urban beaches. He told me about centuries of pirate attacks and the city walls — the last of their kind in Mexico — built to fend them off. He told me how his own ancestors, Scottish privateers, had arrived here in the 17th century via Charleston. We drank beers on the tranquil malecón and watched cormorants dive low over the water. The name Campeche, he explained, derives from the words kaam, meaning mirror, and pech, meaning birds in the near-extinct local dialect of Maya. “Campeche is literally ‘a mirror for the birds!” he said. I’ve never known someone to speak with so many exclamation points.

That evening, I walked along quiet cobbled streets past candy-colored houses where old men and women sat out on the sidewalks to play cards and gossip. For dinner, I ate tamales and drank coconut horchata, slushy and sweet as a milkshake, at the open-air Portales de San Martín just outside the old city walls (there are several small restaurants, or antojerías, located in the Portales, all serving more or less the same food). I tried to imagine the city’s bloody, lawless past, but the image wouldn’t materialize. If Campeche today is one of the safest places in Mexico, it’s in part because, Mr. MacGregor told me, “we had 200 years of piracy, fear and violence. We’re not interested in all that now.” Pirates and traders, an empirical fact of a knowable past, seemed more remote and fantastic than a Maya world conjured from stone and dust.

I had come back to Campeche, despite warnings about the May heat, to see an archaeological site that Mr. Pech had told me about, not far from Calakmul. His grandfather, he told me, had uncovered it back in 1950 during his youth as a rubber tapper (nearly all the ruins around Calakmul were found this way, though there are no records to confirm these stories). The first archaeologist officially entered the site in 1993, guided by Mr. Pech’s grandfather, and although I.N.A.H. spent a year restoring it in 2001, they soon abandoned it to the forest. They called the place Nadzcaan — Maya for Closer to the Sky.

Nadzcaan isn’t technically open to the public, but the only real restriction on getting there is stamina. Set about nine miles back from the road, it’s accessible either on foot, a three-hour hike through the forest, or by motorbike (40 minutes plus a half-hour trudge a gradual incline). Walking in, we passed iridescent wild turkeys and the fresh tracks of feral pigs. A troop of spider monkeys high up in the trees shook branches to scare us off. Eventually, Nadzcaan emerged coyly from the forest, the 130-foot pyramid at its center dissolving into the trees like the memory of a dream.

That night we camped on top of the pyramid. I asked Mr. Pech what the Maya would have used this place for. He dragged a finger across his throat. “Sacrifice probably,” he said, “but we never really know.” The best we can do is guess what this world once looked like and how it all came crashing down.

As the sun set, I looked out over the forest. Howler monkeys called from the distance. Cicadas chirred. A blood moon rose slowly into a bank of clouds and emerged, a half-hour later, washed clean. Mr. Pech smiled. “It’s like a mirror,” he said

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February 2, 2018 at 11:06AM