Hotel Direct-Booking Pushes Really Worked and Owners Were Big Winners

Hotel Direct-Booking Pushes Really Worked and Owners Were Big Winners

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Hilton Worldwide

Hilton’s Stop Clicking Around campaign, which launched in February 2016, encouraged consumers to book direct instead of through online travel agency sites. Hilton Worldwide

Skift Take: The bigger question, however, is whether these campaigns will still work in 2017 and beyond; offering discounted rates can only last for so long. Hotels need to start thinking about how they can ensure this momentum continues in the long run without having to use discounted rates.

— Deanna Ting

Did Hilton succeed in convincing consumers to “Stop Clicking Around?” Did Marriott prove “It pays to book direct“?

According to a new report from Kalibri Labs, they and their peers which launched direct- booking campaigns in 2016 certainly did.

Compiling data from its database of more than 25,000 hotels in the U.S., including validated costs and daily transactions directly sourced from the hotels’ systems, Kalibri Labs found that there was indeed a shift in consumer behavior toward brand.com sites versus online travel agencies such as Booking.com or Expedia. More consumers than ever before chose to book direct versus booking on a third-party site.

The Kalibri study looked at data from May to December 2016, when the majority of major U.S. hotel chains mounted direct-booking campaigns, and examined an estimated 52 million transactions from some 12,000 hotels in the upper midscale, upscale, and upper upscale hotel segments. The hotels examined participated in book-direct campaigns.

Direct Booking Equated to More Money

Not only did the campaigns encourage consumers to book direct, but the study also found that these campaigns were more beneficial for hotel owners than previously assumed. The hotels’ direct-booking campaigns — even by offering discounted rates to consumers — were actually generating more revenue for hotel owners than the online travel agencies were.

Kalibri Labs found that the net average daily rate of brand.com discounted loyalty rates was higher than the net average daily rate of room rates on the online travel agencies. The median net revenue benefit ranged from $9,000 to $33,000 per hotel as well, taking into account all discounts and loyalty and commission costs.

Startling Results

“I was startled with the results,” said Chad Crandell, managing director and CEO of CHMWarnick, a hotel-asset-management and owner-advisory-services company that represents more than 70 hotels. “Initially, when they [the hotel companies] announced these book-direct programs, I was quite skeptical that this would be a win for owners. I thought it would be a win for brands because they would try to direct those customers to their websites.”

Crandell, like many others in the hospitality industry, worried that these discounted room rates for loyalty members — the most common feature of the various hotels’ book-direct pushes — could cannibalize the hotels’ business. CHMWarnick has properties that carry brands from Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, and AccorHotels, among others.

“I thought the premise of discounting our current best customers at the hotels and offering them discounts seemed kind of foolish: Why discount your best customers when that is really the core of your business?,” he said. “I was pretty sure discounts would be in that loss. Yes, we’d gain more reward members, but I though it wouldn’t be a cost benefit to the bottom line. But I was proven wrong: The study showed it did have net positive impact on ADR [average daily rate] booked but also on cost of that hotel acquisition.”

He also noted that even though hotel occupancy rates in the U.S. are at an all-time high, hoteliers haven’t been able to grow their room rates as much as they would like. That’s another reason why it’s so important for hotel companies to be marketing the benefits of direct booking because rooms that are booked direct are the lowest cost for owners.

Loyalty Really Does Matter

Cindy Estis Green, CEO and co-founder of Kalibri Labs, said that perhaps the most surprising finding from the report was the importance of loyalty.

“I didn’t think the percentage of loyalty contribution and how much it’s grown would be that high across the board,” Green said. “I came to appreciate how central loyalty is to what’s going to happen going forward.”

The study found that for upper midscale, upscale, and upper upscale hotels, four to six of every 10 room nights booked were driven by loyalty members. That same 30 to 40 percent growth rate in loyalty contributions was also consistent with the brands reporting membership growth of 30to 40 percent from 2015 to 2016, too.

“That is a significant increase in the number of reward members,” said Crandell. “We got the attention of the customer — maybe 15 years too late — but we finally did. But now what? Will we have to continue to offer discounted rates forever more to keep them interested? Cutting the price will lead to a shift of share of short-term business. But long term, it’s not a good strategy.”

Green said that’s where loyalty comes in. When she refers to “loyalty” it’s not just about points-based programs, but the benefits that travelers get from joining these programs, and the impact they have on their hotel selection decisions.

“Whoever makes the travel experience more seamless and friction free will stand out. If those benefits create a convenient, seamless travel experience, it’s a very compelling value proposition. The fact that consumers were kind of able to be moved like that — again, no one knew what would happen — the fact that it does move consumers tells me that consumers are looking for benefits. It isn’t always necessarily price driven. A lot are repeating customers. They’re not always going for price; the rates were higher in some cases.”

How the Direct Booking Pushes Need to Evolve

If discounted loyalty rates are not a sustainable strategy for getting consumers to stop clicking around and book direct, then what is? Crandell and Green believe that paying more attention to the entire travel experience — not just the hotel stay itself — is crucial.

“We need to control the whole guest experience,” said Crandell. “Customers today are increasingly wanting to not be surprised.” He said guests are looking for features like the ability to choose a specific guest room, to check in on mobile, to use their phones as hotel room keys, and to know their favorite beverages are in their room.

“Hotels can control all that,” he said. “OTAs [online travel agencies are just selling rooms and saying they sell at the lowest price. They don’t control the rest of the guest experience after they sell them that room. Hotels need to control the actual guest experience so they really have loyalty.”

However, online travel agencies, as well as other travel companies (Airbnb, anyone?) are also trying to make inroads in having more control over the overall traveler experience, too, with their own loyalty programs and the ability to often package entire vacations for consumers.

Crandell said that to combat that, hotels need to be more creative in how they think about experiences beyond the walls of their properties.

“Hotels will have to maintain that experience not only inside the hotel but also outside the hotel,” he said. “You need to have a personal concierge on your travels. That’s traditionally what a hotel concierge did. But we have to take that physical experience from the old days and turn it into a virtual one today.”

That focus on how digital technology can enhance the actual traveler journey is where hotels need to direct their investments toward, said Green.

“It it’s not going to be a benefit in the form of a discount [in the future], there are lots of benefits that come from using an app to do mobile check in or use keyless entry,” explained Green. “Those are terrific benefits for consumers whether or not they are frequent travelers. If I were a hotel owner, I’d want to see more engagement on those apps, to see recurrence; to see customers going back to the apps and to other hotels in the same brand family. If I were an owner I’d be paying attention to that to see that my brands were developing those kinds of services for travelers.”

Crandell added, “Hotels need to make investments in technology and training and customer relationship management tools and remain relevant if they want to preserve market share and grow it back.”

Travel

via Skift https://skift.com

November 1, 2017 at 06:33AM

Travelers Get Candid About Their Struggles With Permanxiety

Travelers Get Candid About Their Struggles With Permanxiety

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Bing Qing Ye  / Skift

Travel anxiety affects people of all backgrounds. Bing Qing Ye / Skift

Skift Take: The travel industry at large speaks eagerly and often about creating positive experiences for travelers. This contrasts heavily, though, with the fears and anxieties experienced by real travelers from diverse backgrounds.

— Sarah Enelow

Skift launched the latest edition of our magazine, Travel in an Age of Permanxiety, at Skift Global Forum in New York City in September. This article is part of our look into the current state of the traveler mindset through the lens of the pervasive state of anxiety felt worldwide.Absent a heart monitor, anxiety is nearly impossible to capture in a chart or graph. It’s about how we feel in relation to the world around us and the challenges that appear to be coming our way.

Absent a heart monitor, anxiety is nearly impossible to capture in a chart or graph. It’s about how we feel in relation to the world around us and the challenges that appear to be coming our way. Anxiety’s impact, though, can be measured in the choices we make because we are anxious or fearful. We stay at home instead of going out. Or we don’t vacation in the U.S. because of Trump or avoid Paris because of ISIS or scratch Russia off the list because of unreasonable visa requirements or skip the Caribbean because of Zika. The impact on travel is significant.

The following five stories look at travelers’ permanxiety from a variety of perspectives to better understand what we think about when we visit an airport, check in to a hotel, or visit a new destination. These are similar to conversations that many of us have with friends and family, as well as how we think about things in our own heads. No matter your background, we think you’ll recognize something in these stories from your own experience.

—Jason Clampet

Download Travel in an Age of Permanxiety magazine here

Peter Slatin, as told to Deanna Ting

Peter Slatin travels far and wide in his role as the founder and president of Slatin Group, a company that helps businesses better understand how to deliver customer services to customers with special needs.

I’m blind, and I use a guide dog most of the time when I’m traveling. Sometimes I use my white cane, but most of the time I’ll use a guide dog.

What prompted me to start the Slatin Group was all the kinds of experiences I’ve had — the miscommunication, misunderstanding, and just difficult and challenging service experiences, some of which can be dangerous, and some of which are just annoying and insulting.

At the Airport

The two points that create the most anxiety are the entry to the airport and when I’m waiting to board. When I arrive at an airport, very often, I have a bad experience.

Airport design has changed from a time when you would walk in and the check-in counter would be pretty much straight ahead. A lot of times, it’s off to the side or they’re just kiosks, and the check-in counters are far away, so I rely on someone. I’m hoping that someone from the airline or the airport will find me and guide me to check-in and that’s what I rely on, but most the time that doesn’t happen.

There are also queues that have been set up with the mobile straps and expansions so people can queue up for tickets or to check their luggage. Each airline may have a different setup, and security will be here or there. There are just so many places where it’s really hard to know where to go and what’s happening around you. Once you get to the concourse or your gate concourse, at least again, that’s relatively straightforward. People go in generally two directions, although there are stores and restaurants, and people are streaming in and out of those.

If you have a disability, if you need assistance, first, the airline will help you get your boarding pass, which I usually do at the airport rather than online ahead of time because I try to get placed in a seat that’s advantageous for me and my guide dog where the guide dog has room. Sometimes they’ll block out an extra seat. These are things where things go well, but once I get my ticket, they will guide me to a waiting area. It’s a holding pen for people with disabilities, so I’ll be there, and there’ll be people with wheelchairs and elderly people, senior citizens. We’re just all waiting for someone to take us to our gate, and it’s just an odd kind of encampment of people who need assistance.

The people who come and provide that assistance are a huge mix of people who are extremely competent, kind, and smart, and people who are none of the above. There are people who are well-trained, but no one’s usually well-trained. People usually just do what they can, and you kind of train them on the spot.

You trust them to get you to your gate. Once that gets going, I always engage them in conversation because that puts them at ease. If they’re not up for that or into it, then that’s fine, but most of the time we talk about where they’re from, because they’re almost always from overseas somewhere. Some have been in the country a very short time, and this is a job they just found.

At Hotels

I find the greatest challenge is usually in the lobby. Lobbies, like airport terminals, are diverse in design. They’re all very different in design unless you’re in a very simple, limited-service hotel with the check-in counter straight ahead and one person and that’s it, but if you’re in anything that has a lobby lounge or just a little more variation in design, it’s really hard to know what’s what.

I think it’s less of a thing today, but there used to be so-called lobby ambassadors, which are really helpful, who are there. Their role is to spot someone, whether they have a disability or not, who’s looking for assistance, who seems to need assistance, and that’s their job, or sometimes just to welcome people past the doorman. I know it impinges on ROI, and that’s a terrible thing, but I think that’s really helpful, and something more hotels should have.

I’d say the vast majority of encounters that go wrong are not because of ill intention. They are because of fear and unfamiliarity and uncertainty and awkwardness and just lack of information, lack of education, lack of training, and also clear guidance from the top about what that means. How do you extend service to this or any population of people you’re unfamiliar with?

Hotels where someone, whether it’s been someone in management or on the staff, has very early on in my stay said, “I’m going to watch out for you, and I’m going to make sure you are taken care of,” without being obsequious or overbearing but instead to be, “I’m going to watch out for you.” They’ve just been there. If they see me, they come and say hello. They introduce themselves. They make sure that my experience is good. I don’t know. I couldn’t say it’s because I’m blind. I could say it’s just because they saw it as their role.

What I’d Want to Say to the Travel Industry

I understand the challenge of this, but amid all the requirements that you face and the juggling you face of your own personnel, and competing with all of your competition and everything that changes around you, just keep your eye on the service ball. Because service is not a cliché, it’s real. Without it, no one wants any part of what you have to offer.

You’re a conduit, from point A to point B, or you’re a place to stay, but if someone wants just that, they will go to Airbnb or they’ll rent a car or what have you. You’re there because people really value what you have to offer, and that really includes the service as much as it includes the décor and the food, all of which can be spoiled by bad service. As long as you keep your eye on that and remember that service is the biggest thing you offer, then you’re in good shape.

Neil Miller, as told to Dennis Schaal

Neil Miller, 65, owns an insurance agency in Trumbull, Conn. that he runs with his wife Esther. He has Gold status in the American Airlines AAdvantage program. The couple has traveled everywhere from Japan to Paris and Jordan over the last 17 years, and usually takes about a month-long vacation annually.

We’ve been traveling a lot, and in recent years we’ve been doing more of the exotic types of stuff. We used to go to the Caribbean and lay on the beach for a week. But around 2005 we decided we thought we’d expand our horizons.

So we don’t vacation anymore, we travel.

For about 95 percent of our trips we go on Tauck tours. We don’t have time to plan our vacations and with Tauck pretty much 95 percent of the trip is set up for you. So even when you land, there’s someone waiting for you, taking you to the hotel or wherever you are going.

We already have a trip planning for next June where we are going to fly to Vancouver and then go by train. You sleep one night on the train and wake up in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.

We’re not interested in going to Europe right now; we’ve been so many times I’m personally getting a little bored. And the truth of the matter is because of the state of the world today, we said, “Let’s go to Canada.”

We went to Europe two years ago so we flew to Brussels. And the year after that the airport in Belgium was blown to smithereens. So we said, “forget that.”

We’ve been to a lot of places where there eventually has been trouble such as a train station in Madrid, where they had those bombings in 2004.

My family is not crazy about going to Europe right now. God forbid, if something happens and I’m in Canada, I can still rent a car and come home.

And then there’s President Trump. My wife Esther says she’s “not interested in going to Europe and have them turn around and start yelling, your president is an asshole.”

I can guess what the sentiment is about Trump in Canada, but I’m not worried about the Canadians.

We’ve done things to make the airport experience easier for ourselves. I have Gold status in AAdvantage, and I got the American Airlines Citibank Executive card about four years ago. So we always fly American because I have so many miles and we get to use their Admirals Clubs. We have PreCheck through the Global Entry Program, which we got through the Executive card.

Esther says she’s never leaving our marriage. “I’m staying with him for the miles,” she says.

Having adequate Wi-Fi is a concern when we travel because we work a bit while we travel, even if it’s only five minutes or an hour per day. I usually buy an international phone package and we try to stay in places where hopefully we’ll get Wi-Fi.

We don’t care at all about social media. I have a Facebook account and I don’t really know how to use it and Esther checks it every once in awhile if she’s online and has nothing else to do. I see people so focused on Facebook and sharing their new pictures. My attitude is: find something better to do on vacation or stay home.

In fact, my wife’s daughter gave me a selfie stick for my birthday one year. I told her, “take it back.”

One concern I’ve been having is getting through airport security because I wore braces on my bad knees for several years before my knee-replacement surgery last year. In May we were leaving San Francisco and the titanium set off the TSA scanning machine. I was searched for a long time, and it was really screwed up. It was embarrassing. The TSA guy was touching my “stuff” and it was weird.

In Asia, we’ve traveled to Japan. We were on a ship, and the cabotage regulations meant we had to sail to South Korea. And then that asshole, Kim Jong-un shot off a missile.

“So you can’t even go there now,” says Esther, meaning Asia. “Where can you go? Canada.”

Jeremy Swift, as told to Sarah Enelow

Jeremy Swift is a 34-year-old African-American actor, who was born in Oklahoma and has been living in New York for five years. Swift went to South Korea in 2017 as a performer in Dreamgirls.

My friend and I went to Japan after performing in Korea and I bought a ninja star. I stuck it in my bag, they gift wrapped it and everything. My friend told me to make sure I put it in my checked baggage before we got to the airport.

We go through security. My bag goes through, and I’m thinking that they’re not going to let me take a bottle of Listerine I forgot. So they push it through and say, “We need to check that one more time.” So it goes through again. I’m still thinking about the Listerine. I’m mad, but you know, it was $5; I’m cheap.

I asked them what they were looking for and the security agent wants to know, is there “metal or something” in my bag? I was telling him that I had remembered to take my laptop out just as he pulls out the ninja star.

My friend started screaming and I literally just threw up my hands. I’m certain I’m going to jail or at the least I’m going to get cavity searched. I’m sure I turned red, white, orange, and purple. My friend just kept saying, “Oh my God, oh my God.” She goes, “He didn’t mean it, he didn’t do it on purpose.”

The Japanese agent is much cooler than us. “You can’t have this. Have a nice day,” he says. My friend asks if I can put it in my checked bag and the agent helpfully says, “Let me make a phone call.” He calls the counter and then walks me back through security with the ninja star.

Of course, I’m thinking that if this was America, I probably would have been shot in the face, twice. This just doesn’t fly. I was so shocked at how understanding they were. My friend tells me that in America they would have said, “Take it all off. We are searching every crack you have.”

That was one the scariest moments I’ve had.

On the other end of the trip, it’s a different story. The second we get off the plane in America, this six foot five, 300-pound black man starts yelling in this tourist’s face because she didn’t have her paperwork straight, or something like that. And I was thinking why are people in America not nice? He was literally screaming at her. She was stammering while the man barked orders at her.

Like, I’m sure it’s in her bag, calm down.

I’m a goofball. I’ll sing in the airport security line, dance in line, I’ll rap your name, I’ll just do weird stuff because sometimes flying is stressful. Some TSA agents will look at me like they are going to put me on the no-fly list. And some will join in and dance with me. It just makes things a little lighter. Sometimes I get some nice people. Other times I get ones who I know are thinking, “I have been on this shift since 1974. Shut up.”

Joshua Robinson, as told to Sarah Enelow

Joshua Robinson is a 31-year-old designer of Chilean descent who was raised in Sydney, Australia. He now lives in New York City with his American husband.

I hate security and going through the process of immigration. It’s just scary. I guess I have nothing to fear. I’ve got the correct papers, so why would it be scary?

I’m just scared that they’re going to say, “You can’t come in.”

The first time that I came into the U.S. as an adult was with a J-1 visa. They totally grilled me at that time, but then the next couple of times, once I had the green card, they just looked at the document and they’d write, stamp — so there’s nothing to fear.

What do they do with all those documents? Is it processed at the time? Or is it processed later?

You think that you have everything in order, but what if you don’t? Going through the green card process, you do that with a lawyer so I always know that that’s a backup plan.

I always wonder, would they question my marriage for some reason? My husband advocates for me, plus he’s white. When he’s with me I’m fine.

The media coverage and the facts of the immigration ban contribute to paranoia. And it’s the fact that people had gone and done their research and got their papers correct and then came here and then a certain few were questioned and sent back.

I definitely feel like being Australian we have a close alliance with the U.S.

I didn’t realize how Americans are perceived by some different nations compared to Australia. Australia is friendly. We don’t have really any conflicts with anyone.

My husband Matt and I recently came back from Mexico. I’m in a transition period with my green card where I have a temporary one while they put me onto the 10-year green card. Because my actual card is expired, I have a letter from the government saying that it has been renewed for one year. I just felt like this flimsy letter feels like a letter from your parents to the teacher, it’s like, “Yeah, he’s fine,” but there was just this paranoia of my actual card having an expiring date. But it was fine — we went to the officer and she was like, “Great. Stamp. Next.”

I was just thinking of stories from friends. Some of them have misdemeanors. One of them — every time she comes through immigration — she gets escorted to the little room where they just double check everything.

My friend who’s from Saudi Arabia has no criminal history. Zero.

Whenever he comes to Australia, he’s always escorted into the room, no matter what.

Ping Chan, as told to Andrew Sheivachman

Ping Chan is a 27-year-old Asian-American graphic designer at Skift, who was born in China and has been living in the U.S. for 11 years. Chan is currently a resident of the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

When I first came to the U.S., it was 11 years ago, not long after 9/11 so the authorities were really serious about who was entering the country. My Dad looks really dark-skinned so Customs officers pulled us into a room and interviewed us for 30 minutes, basically asking us why we were here.

I told them I was here to travel. But they found a letter in my bag from a friend telling me to have fun in school. They said I was lying, I was so scared, and then they pulled my Dad away to interview us separately.

Everything is kind of a blur now, but then they let us pass anyway. They only left me with a month to stay, even though my parents had longer visas, and I became illegal because my parents didn’t bother to change my status. The high school had accepted me; I could have switched to a student visa and avoided this. I don’t know whether my parents didn’t care, or messed something up, or what.

The first five years, I really wanted to go back to China, but then I accepted my fate. Skype and all that makes life easier. Honestly before I got my DACA, I couldn’t travel anywhere. I was basically illegal. I was so scared; I was about 15 years old when I came here with my parents, I didn’t know anything about how visas work.

Anywhere I would go, I wouldn’t go to the airport and fly. I would take the bus, even from Indiana to New York which is like a ten-hour bus ride. I would rather take the bus. I thought the bus was the only option. Now I’ve got my DACA, and I can go to the airport. I only fly domestic of course. I would like to visit a place like Cuba, for instance, but can’t. When I travel the country I visit places like Austin and the furthest I’ve gone is Palm Springs in California.

I really want to go to Hawaii, it’s been a part of my childhood dream. It’s the furthest state away from the mainland U.S., and closest to Asia. Even with that, I feel like I have to be really careful and look up whether I can go there without a passport or something else. Even though Hawaii is a part of the U.S., I have second thoughts. Am I really allowed to go? Will I be allowed to come back? I have to do a lot of research on it if I want to go.

I’m worried now because of the Trump Administration repealing DACA. The news came out on my birthday, and it was very upsetting. I don’t know what I can do, it’s very confusing.

Download Travel in an Age of Permanxiety magazine here

Travel

via Skift https://skift.com

November 1, 2017 at 06:05AM

Skift Call November 7: A Framework for Overtourism Solutions

Skift Call November 7: A Framework for Overtourism Solutions

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Skift Take: When your city sees demonstrations against tourists — or even expressions of discontent beyond peaceful protests — you know you have a problem. Destinations around the world are struggling to find the right balance between welcoming visitors and barring them. We’ll discuss a framework for figuring out solutions.

— Dennis Schaal

In the past few years, since we started describing destinations struggling with throngs of tourists outpacing locals and cities’ ability to cope as “overtourism,” the term has become a go-to characterization within the travel industry and mainstream media.

Naming and defining a problem is a step toward taking remedial steps. But as Skift senior writer Andrew Sheivachman asked in this piece, Proposing Solutions to Overtourism in Popular Destinations: A Skift Framework, “Why have some destinations thrown up their hands in helplessness in dealing with the deluge of tourists? And what have other destinations done to successfully limit the effects of increased visitation?”

Member of the Skift editorial team and an expert on overtourism- and sustainability-related issues will explore these issues with you on Tuesday, November 7 at 1 p.m. EST in a Skift Call: A Framework for Overtourism Solutions.

Details about dialing into the webinar or joining the meeting online will be provided — after you register below — in a reminder email on Tuesday, November 7.

Here are some details about the call:

Skift Call: A Framework for Overtourism Solutions

Join us on Tuesday, November 7 at 1 p.m. EST for a conference call with Skift’s Editorial team to discuss overtourism’s effects on global destinations and the steps that cities can take to embrace sustainable tourism.

On this call, you’ll hear from Skift senior writer Andrew Sheivachman, tourism reporter Dan Peltier, and other Skift experts as they provide their perspectives on the struggles some destinations around the world face as tourism scales up too rapidly to accommodate.

Joining the Skift team for the call will be Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health. Epler Wood’s latest book, Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet, was released earlier this year.

Travel

via Skift https://skift.com

November 1, 2017 at 05:01AM

IAG Is Serious About Growing Its Low-Cost, Long-Haul Airline

IAG Is Serious About Growing Its Low-Cost, Long-Haul Airline

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IAG

A Level plane. Parent company IAG is planning to make the virtual airline an official one. IAG

Skift Take: IAG’s testing of the low-cost, long-haul market with a virtual airline seems to have paid off. Its success shows that the model is here to stay. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how this affects the legacy carriers, including those in IAG’s own brand stable.

— Patrick Whyte

When IAG launched Level, its low-cost, long-haul airline in March this year, nobody was quite sure whether it was something the company was genuine about or simply an attempt to outmuscle airlines like Norwegian, which were already active in the segment.

The fact that it was launched so quickly — and that it operated under Iberia’s air operator’s certificate, or AOC — gave the impression that it might not last long, especially as some previous airlines within airlines had largely been failures.

Seven months on and IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh says the brand is “doing extremely well” and will shortly get its own air operator’s certificate, a dedicated CEO, and a second operating base. The company said in its third-quarter results released last week that the trading performance for Level was “positive” but did not give a specific revenue figure.

Level currently flies to four destinations – Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic – out of Barcelona, using two of Iberia’s aircraft. Another three jets are being added to the fleet, at least two of which will go to the new base, which will either be Paris or Rome.

“We will announce the new destinations – where the aircraft go – we’ll probably do that at the end of November, certainly the first week in December at the latest, Walsh said in an interview at the Airport Operators Association Conference in London. “We’re finalizing the recruitment of the CEO to run the business and the AOC will follow after that so there are a couple of decisions to make.”

He continued: “We’ve not yet decided where we will base the AOC; we have options open to us, and we felt it would be better to allow the CEO when appointed to have some say in that.”

Permanent Revolution

The success of Norwegian has persuaded legacy airline groups such as IAG that low-cost, long-haul can work. The growth in the segment has been aided by advances in aircraft technology as well as the trend for unbundling fares.

New aircraft such as the Boeing 737 Max are making transatlantic flights on single-aisle planes much more attractive for airlines thanks to their greater fuel efficiency. These can be used to connect smaller airports directly.

Then there is the willingness of airlines to strip fares down to their basic level with passengers then give the option of whether they want to pay extra for things like in-flight meals. The problem for consumers is that the headline-grabbing lowest price is often elusive.

In a world where low-cost, long-haul is a reality, what does the future hold for legacy airlines that have often traded on their premium image? IAG airline British Airways has been heavily criticized for its apparent move down market under CEO Alex Cruz.

Walsh believes the industry is becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to understanding consumer behaviour.

“There are people who are solely influenced by the price, but there are others who are influenced by other factors,” he said. “And when we segment the market, we see there is a market that can be served by a number of different business models.”

Said Walsh: “The challenge is in the past we’ve tried to serve all the segments with one business, and that’s impossible. So I think you’ve got to be clear in terms of which segment you will operate in, and that’s the beauty of IAG in that we have multiple brands, multiple operating companies so we can look at the market and segment it and use different brands to serve different segments of the market.”

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November 1, 2017 at 04:33AM

Last Chance: Amex Starwood Business Sign-Up Bonus Worth $945

Last Chance: Amex Starwood Business Sign-Up Bonus Worth $945

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Application link: Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

If you’ve been putting off the application for the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express, you’re almost out of time. In order to get the special 35,000 sign-up bonus, you must apply for the card by Wednesday, November 1.

Sign-Up Bonus

Here’s how the limited-time offer is structured: You’ll earn 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $6,000 on the card in the first three months from account opening. To maximize the bonus, you’ll need to spend another $4,000 in the first six months to earn an additional 10,000 Starpoints. That means you’ll need to spend $10,000 for 35,000 points total.

In a time when 50,000-point sign-up bonuses seem to be the new minimum, 35,000 points may sound a little low, especially for $10,000 in spending. But at 2.7 cents per point, Starpoints are the most valuable currency on TPG’s points/miles valuation list. That means the 35,000-point sign-up bonus is worth around $945.

Thanks to the 1:3 transfer ratio between Starwood and Marriott, you can also think of this sign-up bonus as 105,000 Marriott points — which puts you even closer to those super valuable Hotel + Air packages that get you a 7-night hotel stay plus airline miles.

While the $10,000 combined spending requirement is steep, this card offers a solid return on non-bonus spending. Based on TPG valuations, only the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express offers a better return on general spending. Even if you spend all $10,000 on non-bonus spending, you’ll end up with more than a 12% return: 45,000 points (worth $1,215) from $10,000 spending.

Card Features and Benefits

This card earns you two Starpoints per dollar at Starwood (and now Marriott) properties and one point per dollar everywhere else. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, plus no foreign transaction fees. Also, this card offers Sheraton Club access with eligible rates and discounts with FedEx, Hertz and more through the Amex OPEN Savings program.

Not to mention the boost toward Starwood Preferred Guest elite status. If you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you’ll be upgraded to Starwood Preferred Guest gold status. If you do earn SPG status, make sure to match it to Marriott Rewards to enjoy perks across both programs.

Featured image courtesy of the JW Marriott Cancun.

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November 1, 2017 at 12:57AM

New “Cannabis Is Legal” TSA Bins Being Used in California

New “Cannabis Is Legal” TSA Bins Being Used in California

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The next time you go through security in a California airport, you might be surprised by what you find in the bottom of your plastic bin. New “CANNABIS IS LEGAL” ads are now running in TSA security lines in Ontario Airport (ONT) outside Los Angeles, California.

After years of broad use under medical marijuana laws, recreational cannabis will be wholly legal in California for those 21 years of age and older starting January 1, 2018. However, as the bin educates in smaller print: “Traveling with it is not. Leave it in California.”

Unsurprisingly, Organa Brands, the company behind the public service-style advertisements as well as one of the largest cannabis brands in the country, is heralding this as a landmark move.

Image by Organa Brands.
Image by Organa Brands.

“We have long known that California is about to become the biggest recreational cannabis market in the world, and as [one of] the largest brands in the space, we feel a real responsibility to educate consumers,” company co-founder Jeremy von Heidl explained to The Points Guy. “There’s obvious confusion surrounding cannabis laws — even the TSA at times has been confused as to these policies.”

The security bin idea is the brainchild of company PR manager (and self-professed TPG reader) Jackson Tilley, who had to get the idea past von Heidl first. “He thought I was crazy. I’m pretty sure he still thinks I’m crazy,” said Tilley.

In the end it all worked out. After Sacramento Airport (SMF) initially backed away from the ad campaign, Ontario Airport agreed to the idea. Organa expects over 15 million impressions in ONT alone — which we’re guessing will create quite the buzz among travelers.

What do you think of the new bins?

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November 1, 2017 at 12:16AM

Motorist in New York City Mows Down Pedestrians, Leading to Fatalities

Motorist in New York City Mows Down Pedestrians, Leading to Fatalities

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Andres Kudacki  / Associated Press

Heavily armed police stand guard near the scene after a motorist drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial and struck several people October. 31, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Andres Kudacki / Associated Press

A man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and bicyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial Tuesday, killing at least eight and injuring 11 others in what the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror.”

The 29-year-old driver was shot in the abdomen by police and taken into custody after jumping out of the truck with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” officials said. His condition was not immediately released.

The driver barreled along the bike path for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus.

The attack set off panic in the neighborhood, with people screaming in fear and the bike path left strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered over with sheets.

“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.

Police closed off streets across the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River and officers rushed into the neighborhood just as people were preparing for Halloween festivities, including the big annual parade through Greenwich Village.

The driver’s identity was not immediately released.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

A law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said witnesses told police the attacker yelled, “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great” in Arabic — as he got out of the truck.

Asked about that at a news conference, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill replied: “Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle.” He said the statement and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump called it “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” and declared, “NOT IN THE U.S.A.”

Cities around the globe have been on alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. The Islamic State has been encouraging its followers to mow down people, and England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks in recent months and years.

Police said the vehicle, a rented Home Depot truck, entered the bike path at about 3 p.m. on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Center — the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history — and mowed down several people. The truck then turned at Chambers Street, near the trade center site, hitting the school bus and injuring two adults and two children.

In addition to those killed, 11 people were seriously injured, police said.

A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said.

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

At least two covered-over bodies could be seen lying on the path, and the front end of the pickup was smashed in.

Tom Gay, a school photographer, was on Warren Street and heard people saying there was an accident. He went down to West Street and a woman came around the corner shouting, “He has a gun! He has a gun!”

Gay said he stuck his head around the corner and saw a slender man in a blue track suit running southbound on West Street holding a gun. He said there was a heavyset man pursuing him.

He said he heard five or six shots and the man in the tracksuit fell to the ground, gun still raised in the air. He said a man came over and kicked the gun out of his hand.

“So many police came and they didn’t know what was happening,” said Eugene Duffy, a chef at a waterfront restaurant. “People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs.”

The right side of the school bus was bashed in, and firefighters surrounded it and worked to free those inside.

Copyright (2017) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

This article was written by Colleen Long and Jake Pearson from The Associated Press 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 12:04AM

Pandering Never Builds a Legacy

Pandering Never Builds a Legacy

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nathan-shipps-186557

I’m as guilty as anyone else who says that to build a business, or a blog, it’s good to ask people what they want and then give it to them. It works!

But there’s another side to this thinking, and I heard the counterpoint presented beautifully last week by Paula Pant. I wrote about Paula in the appendix of SIDE HUSTLE—she’s my go-to expert on rental properties, a topic I know little about, but one that often comes up in the small business world.

For years, she’s published a popular blog about personal finance. But as she shared in a talk, after starting down the familiar path of “Hey everyone, what should I write for you?” she realized that maybe it was better to ask herself what she wanted to do.

Here’s some of what she said that resonated with me:

“The revolutionaries who came before us – the people who shook the worlds of architecture and music and food and art and technology – they thought bigger than the crowds, and that’s why their work … outlives them.

Do you want your grandkids to remember you for writing articles on “5 ways to save on car insurance?”

If your goal is to leave a legacy – not just make a buck or two, but to leave behind work that represents your time on this earth – you cannot follow the crowd.

You must ignore the crowd and serve the craft. I’ll repeat that: You are here to serve the craft, not the crowd.

Pandering never builds a legacy.

As online content creators, our legacy will not be the number of Facebook likes we’ve left behind.”

By the way, I heard her say this at Fincon, an event I also spoke at. I spoke after Paula and before Darren Rowse, another friend. Small world!

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Image: Nathan

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October 31, 2017 at 11:30PM

Halloween Snacks at Tokyo DisneySea

Halloween Snacks at Tokyo DisneySea

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In Japan, eating kawaii foods is a national pastime. Tokyo DisneySea is basically the New York Yankees of that, with a star-studded lineup including the Gyoza, Ukiwa Bun, Potato Churro, and Chandu Tail batting clean-up. For Halloween, TDS has upped the ante, presumably for an October playoff run to get it to the WORLD SERIES […]

This is a post in the Disney Tourist Blog RSS feed. For tips on Disney vacation planning, including dining reviews, tips & tricks, and other guides, check out Disney Tourist Blog!

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October 31, 2017 at 10:13PM