February 2016 Travel News & Alerts
Embassy Closures for the Month of February
Please be informed that the following embassies will be closed in February on the specified dates:
All or Most Embassies: 8th - 9th February 2016
1. China Embassy: 8th – 12th February 2016
2. Hong Kong Embassy: 8th – 10th February 2016
3. Japan Embassy: 11th February 2016
4. Malaysia Embassy: 5th February 2016
5. Vietnam Embassy: 8th – 12th February 2016
No visa applications will be processed during this period.
Gold Card Star Alliance Members enjoy free Heathrow Express Upgrades
Star Alliance and Heathrow Express have teamed up to offer Star Alliance Gold Card holders a special benefit when travelling on Heathrow Express trains – a free upgrade.
Customers just need to purchase a standard class single or return ticket for the Heathrow Express, the fastest rail link between the airport and London Paddington Station.
Once on the train, customers can choose any available seat in Business First Class and show both their train ticket and Star Alliance Gold Card to the attendant.
Amenities in Business First include complimentary newspapers and magazines, more leg room, wider seats, a personal table, a power socket at each seat and on-board TV.
This special promotion is open to all frequent flyers holding Gold Status in any of the 21 Frequent Flyer Programmes offered by the Star Alliance member airlines.
End of direct German link in Malaysia
Malaysia will no longer have direct air connectivity with Germany from March 1 when Lufthansa suspends its Frankfurt-Kuala Lumpur service which it had been operating since 2004.
Ascott adds seven more new properties in SE Asia
Ascott has strengthened its leadership position as the largest serviced residence operator in south-east Asia with the clinching of seven new management contracts, adding over 1,500 apartment units to its portfolio.
It has expanded in Bangkok in Thailand, Hanoi in Vietnam, and Petaling Jaya in Malaysia while venturing into Bandung in Indonesia, Penang and Shah Alam in Malaysia, and Nha Trang in Vietnam as demand for serviced residences heats up.
It also celebrated the opening of Somerset Medini Nusajaya, Ascott’s second serviced residence in Iskandar Malaysia.
Citing the group’s reasons to get into the various areas, Lee Chee Koon stated their intention to not only target business but leisure travellers.
Bandung is the third most-visited city in Indonesia after Jakarta and Bali, attracting business, meetings and incentives as well as leisure travellers.
Also, Penang and Shah Alam are both home to industrial parks housing multinational companies and popular with domestic and international tourists.
The coastal city of Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s key tourist destinations and an emerging economic hub of South Central Vietnam.
The new Somerset Ekamai Bangkok and Citadines Bayfront Nha Trang are slated to open at the end of 2016 while Somerset West Point Hanoi will open in 2017.
London Black Cabs to accept credit cards
Regulatory body Transport for London has ordered all the U.K. capital’s 22,500 licensed black taxis to accept card payments by October. At present, only around half accept cards. Drivers will not be permitted to surcharge according to payment method. The announcement exemplifies the increasing potential for almost all business trip expenses to be captured through card payment. Taxis also universally accept cards in Copenhagen.
Garuda to fly ‘direct’ to Heathrow from Jakarta
Garuda Indonesia will begin direct flights from London's Heathrow Airport to Jakarta on March 31, ceasing the current stop-over in Amsterdam and also shifting from London's Gatwick Airport in favour of the Heathrow hub.
However, there'll now be stop-over in Singapore on the outbound Jakarta-London leg instead of flying that leg direct.
It's understood this is due to the inability of the runways at Jakarta's Soekarno–Hatta International Airport to handle the Boeing 777-300ER when fully laden with fuel, necessitating that fuel-stop in Singapore.
As part of the move, the Indonesian flag carrier and SkyTeam member will boost the Jakarta-London flights to run five times per week, up from the current three-day roster, with departures every day except Mondays and Garuda Indonesia's flagship Boeing 777-300ER boasts eight first class suites. The suites are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout – the middle pair have a slide-up screen for privacy if you're flying solo, but it also makes for a good companion arrangement when you're travelling with a companion.
There are also 38 ‘Executive Class’ business class seats and 268 economy seats in a 3-3-3 layout.
IACC releases top meeting package trends for 2016
IACC (International Association of Conference Centres) released its Top Meeting Package Trends for 2016, which are influencing meeting planners and venue operators across the globe.
Here are some takeaways from their research across IACC member venues in 22 countries worldwide.
• Trend: 95% of venues have offered non-traditional meeting packages for over 5 years. IACC member venues surveyed stated that they have been offering flexible and highly creative delegate meeting packages for over 5 years. As a result, they have developed packages over time, which meet the specific needs and requirements of planners and delegates. They are now experts in customising packages.
• Trend: Innovative packages developed by venues and clients. Two-thirds of delegate packages were crafted and developed by the leadership at IACC-member venues, using their specialised knowledge in selling meeting space in this inclusive and consultative way. At the same time, a third of those surveyed reported that their planner clients had a direct hand in developing a package that was bespoke to them and their needs. Being able to influence the way a venue packages services and products is a true demonstration of collaboration between venue and client.
• Trend: 55% reported that meeting planners wanted to tailor a package specifically to meet their needs. Offering inclusive delegate packages provides certain differentiation, but being able to tailor a package to the individual client is a further step. With 55% reporting their clients prefer flexible packaging, this is not a rare approach any more. Of the packages offered which include guest room accommodations and meals, 56% of responders cited that these packages were becoming more customized.
• Trend: 65% reported that planners are starting to request new inclusions. A significant number of members surveyed reported that clients are starting to ask for packages beyond the normal meeting room, F&B and tech inclusions. The top additional items requested were teambuilding, local cultural trips, coaching and facilitation. Although many IACC venues offer free delegate WiFi, the inclusion of high bandwidth WiFi to support the use of collaborative technologies was highlighted as a growing trend. The survey also indicated that the inclusion of collaborative technologies such as audience participation and meeting apps, had potential for future packaged pricing.
• Trend: The top components included in customized packages. Food & beverage enhancements lead the list of inclusions, with 76% of those surveyed reporting they tailor packages with non-standard F&B items. Indoor teambuilding and meeting room configurations were second at 70% and outdoor teambuilding was forth. Also included in the list of components used to customise delegate packages were AV, WiFi and culinary teambuilding activities.
• Trend: Delegate packages make good business sense for 3rd parties as well! Thirty-five percent of the venues surveyed reported that third party booking agents could consider all components of the delegate package as part of their commercial terms with the venue.
• Trend: Flexible meeting packages are here to stay. Although flexible meeting packages - where the client can build a package that fits their needs exactly - have only become widespread amongst IACC venues since the economic downturn, all surveyed believe that this is a concept that is here for the long term and demonstrates that they are true partners to their clients and understand their needs.
Four Seasons Hotels & Resort to manage Capital Palace in Jakarta
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Rajawali Property Group have announced that Four Seasons will manage a new, all-suite luxury hotel in Capital Place, a luxury mixed-use development located in the heart of Jakarta’s bustling Sudirman Central Business District.
Four Seasons is well-known for operating some of the world’s greatest hotels in key global financial centres including, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, London, New York and Paris.
Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta will replace the current Four Seasons hotel located on Jalan H.R. Rasuna Said, which is also owned by the Rajawali Property Group, and has been closed for renovation since late 2014.
With 125 spacious suites offering panoramic views of Jakarta’s skyline, the hotel will be an impressive addition to the cityscape.
The architects of the development are the internationally acclaimed Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, whose design celebrates the Indonesian architectural principle of transparency between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The clean lines of the French Deco inspired hotel interiors, designed by the renowned New York interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, will gracefully complement the impressive outdoor spaces created by tropical urban landscape designer Bill Bensley.
Guests of Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta will enjoy a world-class facility including state-of-the art spa, fitness, and event and meeting facilities combined with the highly customised service synonymous with Four Seasons.
InterContinental London O2’s debut
InterContinental Hotels Group has celebrated the opening of InterContinental London - The O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula, London’s rejuvenated historic, entertainment and financial gateway.
With 182 InterContinental Hotels & Resorts open worldwide and more than 50 hotels in the global development pipeline, IHG continues to expand the brand’s premium luxury offering in the most sought-after destinations around the world.
The stunning 453-room InterContinental London - The O2 will bring a new level of glamour to cosmopolitan guests seeking to enjoy the allure of global etiquette, timeless experiences, and the city’s local heritage.
Alongside its five destination-inspired food and beverage outlets including The Peninsula Restaurant and rooftop sky bar, Eighteen, the hotel boasts a world-class health spa and sumptuous accommodation - including 59 suites - and the most breath-taking views over London.
Adjacent to the world-renowned O2 Arena and just 400 metres from North Greenwich underground station and North Greenwich Pier, the hotel offers regular access into central London in as little as 15 minutes. The hotel’s conference centre boasts a 3,100sqm pillar-free ballroom - one of the largest in Europe - with an additional 19 meeting rooms, organiser’s office and an impressive 1,600sqm pre-function space exposing dramatic views of Canary Wharf.
The hotel is close to famous attractions within historic Royal Greenwich including The Cutty Sark and Greenwich Observatory, and the Maritime Museum.
InterContinental London – The O2 will operate under a franchise agreement with Meridian Hotel Operations and will be managed by a division of the Arora Group.
It is the second London property in the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts portfolio of 30 prestigious European hotel destinations.
The opening of InterContinental London - The O2 joins the recently opened InterContinental Estoril in Portugal and InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel in France.
Amadeus partners AccesRail to enhance door-to-door travel in Europe
Door-to-door travel has long demanded integrating the air and ground travel worlds to provide a seamless booking experience.
Booking a flight to London Heathrow and then adding a bus connection to Bath on the same screen was previously not possible - but Amadeus and content aggregator AccesRail have now made this a reality.
Having committed to a multimodal travel future at the turn of the millennium, this partnership has evolved to now offer travel agencies one simple link to enrich their offer with over 18 rail and bus operators across 26 countries bookable on the same screen as air, via Amadeus’ Air-Rail Display.
This link also allows railways to broaden their reach in a key sales channel and increase revenues.
AccesRail’s growing content means travel agencies can offer Deutsche Bahn’ stand-alone services in Germany and National Express bus routes in the UK, in addition to popular routes such as London Heathrow-Bristol with Great Western Railway and Madrid-Barcelona with Spanish Renfe.
Uber overtakes car rentals in expenses reports
In a recent report by Business Travel News, Q4 of 2015 represents the first time Uber rides outpaced car rentals on Certify corporate expense reports.
Uber accounted for 41% of rides, an increase from 34% in the previous quarter, according to Certify's analysis of 9 million receipts and expenses during the fourth quarter and 30 million receipts for the full year. Car rentals' share fell to 39% during the fourth quarter compared with 44 percent in the third quarter.
Taxis, meanwhile, lost 2 % points in share quarter over quarter, accounting for 20 % of rides. Uber first surpassed taxis in terms of share during the second quarter of 2015.
Uber’s chief competitor, Lyft, accounted for a relatively small portion of receipts processed, and Certify did not count it in market share totals. However, Lyft also is growing in use among corporate travellers. It accounted for more than seven times as many expenses in 2015 as in 2014.
Certify’s analysis shows the growth of the sharing economy on the lodging side, as well. Receipts from Airbnb rose 259% year over year in 2015, appearing most often in San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Oakland and New York City domestically and in Vancouver, London, Toronto, Mexico City and Sydney outside of the United States.
Asian hotel performance dip slightly last year
The performance of hotels in Asia Pacific remained almost flat in 2015, compared to 2014.
According to the full-year data from STR Global, region-wide occupancy edged up just 0.1% to 68.2% last year, while the Asia Pacific’s average daily rate (ADR) dipped 0.5% to US$108.79. Revenue per available room (revPAR) was down 0.4% to US$74.25.
Oceania was the only sub-region to post a revPAR increase in 2015, rising 4.1% to US$107.84. Central & South Asia was down 0.6% to US$70.75, Northeast Asia dipped 0.8% to US$66.03 and Southeast Asia declined 1.3% to US$83.90.
In terms of the region’s major markets, China’s revPAR declined 3.5% to CNY354.91 (approx. US$54), driven by falling ADR (-3.4% to CNY545.20), while Singapore’s occupancy (-0.4% to 82.5%), ADR (-3.3% to SG$288.90, or approx. US$202) and revPAR (-3.7% to SG$238.38) all declined.
Thailand recorded double-digit growth in occupancy (+13.6% to 73.6%) and revPAR (+13.1% to THB2,668, or approx. US$74), but ADR in the country dipped 0.4% to THB3,663. Prior to the Bangkok bombing in August, the country had seen double-digit revPAR growth in seven consecutive months, but year-over-year comparisons were affected by a weak 2014.
Australia meanwhile, posted increases across all three measurements: occupancy (+1.3% to 75.6%), ADR (+1.9% to AU$183.31, or approx. US$129) and revPAR (+3.2% to AU$138.51).
In terms of cities, Hanoi experienced double-digit growth in terms of occupancy (+12.3% to 76.2%) and revPAR (+10.5% to VND1.76 million, or approx. US$78), while Tokyo’s ADR (+12.7% to JPY18,175, or approx. US$153) and revPAR (+12.5% to JPY15,749) also grew by double digits.