July 2015 Travel News & Alerts
Embassy Closures for the Month of July
All or Most Embassies: 17th July 2015
1. Bangladesh Embassy: 14th July 2015
16th July 2015
2. Brunei Daarussalam Embassy: 15th July 2015
20th - 21st July 2015
3. Indonesia Embassy: 16th – 21st July 2015
4. Malaysia Embassy: 16th - 20th July 2015
5. Myanmar Embassy: 31st July 2015
6. Papua New Guinea Embassy: 23rd July 2015
7. Thailand Embassy: 31st July 2015
8. United States of America Embassy
Increase reporting of bogus booking site scams in the US
It was recently reported on CNBC News that hackers are cloning hotel websites and scheming to steal your money.
The online scam is now prompting action from the American Congress. Members of Congress from Florida are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate companies targeting consumers with fake hotel websites or call centres. The American Hotel and Lodging Association says bogus sites are setting travellers more than $200 million every year.
As it is currently holiday season in North America, the Federal Trade Commission issued a guideline for consumers to use before making a booking online. You may view the precautionary measures you can take here.
Projected business travel demand fuels airfare hikes in Asia-Pacific
Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) has recently released a “2016 Global Travel Price Outlook” whereby it was revealed that airfares will increase in four ‘major” Asia Pacific countries in the following year. The four countries are Australia, China, India and Singapore. The trend is also reflected in several Central and Latin American countries.
Asia Pacific is projected to see a 1.2% increase in airfares as compared to 0.5% in North America and 0.4% in Europe, Middle Ease and African regions.
Airfares in Singapore will go up by 3% mainly due to lower fuel cost whereas the remaining three countries will see increase in airfares stemmed from improving economic performance.
Hyatt introduces service apartments
Hyatt House is expected to make its Malaysian debut in 2017.
Unlike traditional hotel accommodation, the Hyatt House brand provides apartment-style suites. Guest rooms come in studio, one- or two-bedroom suites, with fully-fitted kitchens and living rooms. Other serviced apartment-type perks include grocery shopping, laundry credits and pet-friendly accommodation options. Based in the affluent Mont’Kiara suburb, the extended stay hotel will be ideally located for business and leisure travellers, with easy access to the key business districts, top international schools and leisure options such as the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
The property will feature 298 apartments, a restaurant, meeting facilities, fitness centre and pool. It will be part of a mixed use development (Arcoris Mont’Kiara) which will also house a range of offices, residential units and a retail plaza on site.
The development is being pursued in partnership with leading Malaysian development company, UEM Sunrise Berhad, and represents their first foray into hospitality.
Currently, the Hyatt House brand is exclusive to North America, although developments are underway to open the brand in several Chinese locations.
The first Hyatt House in Asia is expected to make its debut this summer in Shanghai's Jiading area. Hyatt House properties are also scheduled for development in Shenzhen, Sanya and Wuxi, China, as well as Mumbai, India.
Increase in Middle East air travel projected
Airlines in the Middle East will require 2,610 new airplanes over the next 20 years, worth an estimated $550 billion, said Boeing in a report, adding that one-third of that demand will replace today’s fleets.
Sixty-six per cent of the demand is expected to be driven by the rapid fleet expansion in the region, the jet manufacturer said in its Current Market Outlook (CMO).
According to the report, long-range, twin-aisle airplanes - such as the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner - will continue to dominate the Middle East’s order books, reflecting the global network priorities and emerging alliances and partnerships of the region’s carriers. According to the Boeing forecast, twin-aisle aircraft will account for more than half of the region’s new airplane deliveries over the 20-year period - as compared to 24 per cent globally.
Single-aisle airplanes, such as the Boeing 737, will make up 47 per cent of regional deliveries through to 2032, while large airplanes such as the Boeing 747 will account for 10 per cent of forecasted demand. Regional jets account for the remaining 1 per cent of the demand.
Globally, Boeing has forecast a long-term demand for 35,280 new airplanes, valued at $4.8 trillion. These new airplanes will replace older, less efficient airplanes, benefiting airlines and passengers and stimulating growth in emerging markets and innovation in airline business models.
FCm’s seventh annual National Ball
On 11 July, Flight Centre Travel Group held their annual dinner and dance at Shangri-la’s Rasa Sentosa.
The theme of this year’s National Ball was “Beach Tuxedo” and close to 200 staff from FCm Travel Solutions and Flight Centre gathered on Siloso beach for a night of entertainment and recognition of the past year’s accomplishments achieved in the business. Top performers were acknowledged in the awards segment with categories ranging from Top Novice to Director’s Award for outstanding service contribution towards FCm.
Winners of the night all qualify to attend Flight Centre’s Global Ball that is happening on the 17 to the 19 of July in Las Vegas.
IHG goes mobile
InterContinental Hotels Group recently announced in-house mobile and digital pilots, including mobile check-in and a hotel messaging system. But while the company is thinking up a lot of innovations, it’s being cautious about rolling them out.
IHG is testing mobile check-in and check-out technology at a number of hotels in the Americas region, pairing it with Mobile Folio, which also would allow guests to view their hotel bills in real-time.
Ultimately, the goal is to make the tool available at all IHG hotels. The company did promise that United States-based IHG Rewards Club Elite members will get a crack at the technology first, an effort to encourage direct booking.
Another technology introduction by IHG is its mobile room key testing, which includes user experience, security and technology integration. IHG is developing the tech through in-house lab testing and some on-site testing.
IHG became an early adopter of mobile technology in 2011, when it launched iPhone booking apps for each of its seven brands. It even tested a tone-based mobile guestroom key in 2010 at a handful of Holiday Inns, but the program failed to get off the ground. In the time since, other major hotel companies like Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts have pushed ahead to offer mobile check-in, in-app messaging between hotel and guest, and mobile room keys.
Moving forward, IHG’s mobile and digital strategy is to look beyond booking to think horizontally about the guest experience pre-booking, during the stay and after the stay.
IHG also is doing trials on iBeacon, an in-hotel messaging app; Guest Request, a service that allows guests to place service requests through IHG’s app; and Translator App for Apple Watch, which offers translation assistance for 13 different languages. The iBeacon technology allows a property to push personalized information, such as restaurant specials and loyalty reward reminders, to a traveler’s mobile device based on his or her location in the hotel.
Car rentals industry to improve practices across board
Five major car rental firms - Avis Budget, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Europcar, Sixt and Hertz have agreed to improve the way they deal with customers following an investigation by regulators from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). supported by the European Commission, has led the inquiry focusing on issues including customer complaints and improved booking transparency.
Following the inquiry around the issues of customer complaints and improved booking transparency, the companies have agreed to introduce the following improvements over the next 6 months:
• Improved transparency when making a website booking or reservation. So consumers can have more of the key information they need to secure the best deal.
• Better information at the booking stage about optional waiver and insurance products.
• More upfront information about pre- and post-rental vehicle inspection processes.
• Improved notification of, and dispute processes for, any charges for damage.
Service Apartment Ascott expands presence in Joint Venture
Ascott, the serviced residence company owned by Singapore’s Capitaland, is planning to expand its global presence following the signing of a major new deal.
The company has entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to set up a US$600 million serviced residence fund, with an initial focus on the Asia Pacific and Europe regions. This marks Ascott’s largest private equity fund to date and will invest in serviced residences or rental housing properties.
Ascott will have first right to manage the properties it acquires. Ascott also currently manages a US$500m fund in China that invests in serviced residences across the country, and a JPY12.6 billion (US$103m) fund in Japan. And Capitaland is now aiming to launch six new funds with total assets of up to SG$10bn (US$7.4bn) by 2020.
Relocation of Airlines in Changi Terminal 1
Please be informed of the upcoming changes to the Terminal/Check-in row allocation of T1 airlines in the coming days.
From 2 July 2015 onward, China Airlines and EVA Airways will be operating from Terminal 3.
Similarly, some airlines in T1 will be assigned to new check-in rows. These changes will take place over 2 – 9 July 2015.
|AIRLINES||NEW CHECK-IN ROW||EFFECTIVE DATE|
|Finnair||3||2 July 2015, Thursday|
|Myanmar Airways International||
|Xiamen Airlines||8||3 July 2015, Friday|
4 (All other CA Flights)
|Biman Banghadesh Airlines||11|
|China Southern Airlines||7|
12 (All other PR Flights)
|6 July 2015, Monday|
|KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines||12|
|Cathay Pacific Airways||1|
|Air Mauritius||12||7 July 2015, Tuesday|
|9 July 2015, Friday|
67% of travel managers consider hotel loyalty programs “slightly important” in their negotiations with partners
The GBTA Foundation recently surveyed 500 business travellers in North America to discover how hotel loyalty programs are used. Hotel loyalty programs claimed almost 289 million members in 2014, and a majority of users are business travellers. The survey was conducted to identify the significance of a loyalty program’s role in an RFP and whether such programs encourage or discourage out-of-policy bookings.
Even though a large majority of organizations allow their employees to use hotel loyalty accounts when traveling for business and use their rewards for personal use, many do not address said loyalty programs with their travellers.
It was uncovered that hotel loyalty programs can help drive travellers to preferred hotels and stay in-policy when choosing their lodging.
Loyalty programs may also inadvertently encourage booking through non-authorized channels. For instance, hotel chains are beginning to offer, or are planning to offer, free internet (basic WiFi or premium/high-speed internet) to loyalty members who book through them directly. Travel Managers are largely aware of this trend and believe it will have a negative impact on their jobs if it continues. However companies still integrate loyalty programs into their policies and eventually find a way to use them to their advantage.
Thailand to upgrade Bangkok’s Airports
The Airports of Thailand (AOT) is pushing ahead with the Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang expansion plan in a bid to increase the capacity of airport terminals.
The AOT is revising the major expansion plan with a budget of 140 billion baht. The construction on both airports is expected to be completed in 2021. After the expansion, the two airports will be able to handle up to 120 million passengers a year.
According to the AOT, Phase 2 of the Suvarnabhumi expansion plan has been approved by the cabinet, with a budget of 55 billion baht. The plan to construct a third runway is undergoing an Environmental Health Impact Assessment (EHIA), and would involve payouts to nearby communities for the increase in noise pollution.
For Don Muang, the AOT has plans to build a new concourse and renovate Terminal 1 and 2. The Terminal 2 is set to be re-opened in September. The Red Line’s electric train will also be connected to Don Muang airport’s Terminal 1.
Avis’s new Arrive & Drive service at Heathrow
Avis Car Rental today announced the launch of its Avis Prestige ‘Arrive & Drive’ service at London Heathrow, proving a fast plane-to-car offering.
For no additional cost, Avis Prestige customers will now be able to collect their vehicle at any of Heathrow’s terminals, demonstrating Avis’ continued commitment to providing the highest level of personal service to its customers.
Avis is the only global car rental company to offer this service from all Heathrow terminals.
Customers will be greeted in the arrivals hall, irrespective of what time of day or night it is and will be escorted to their vehicle, without having to wait in line or taking a courtesy bus.
Amadeus to buy Accenture’s Navitaire
Spanish travel technology company Amadeus has announced it would buy Navitaire, a subsidiary of Accenture Plc for $830 million, to focus mainly on digital services for airline passengers.
Amadeus said it expects the deal, which is projected to close in the fourth quarter, will have a minimal impact on its financial performance this year.
About 550 Navitaire employees, including the company’s senior management team, are expected to transfer to Amadeus, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Navitaire which provides technology services to over 50 of the world’s airline operators, focuses more on the low-cost and hybrid segments in the airline industry. The addition of Navitaire's portfolio would enable Amadeus to serve a wider group of airlines which you can view here.
Shuttle Train Service between Singapore and JB
Malaysian rail operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTMB) kicked off a new shuttle rail service to link southernmost state Johor Bahru and neighbouring Singapore. Each trip can accommodate about 320 passengers.
The train departs Woodlands Checkpoint seven times a day and JB Sentral seven times during peak hours. The departure times from Woodlands are 6.30am, 8am, 9.30am, 5pm, 6.30pm, 8pm and 11pm. From JB Sentral, the trains leave at 5.30am, 7am, 8.30am, 4pm, 5.30pm, 7pm and 10pm. With the new shuttle service, trains to and from KL Sentral, Butterworth and Gemas - which previously terminated in Woodlands - will now end at JB Sentral. Commuters will have to use the Shuttle Tebrau to travel between JB and Singapore.
Shangri-la Hefei opens its doors
SHANGRI-LA Hotels and Resorts has opened the doors to its newest hotel in China – the Shangri-La Hotel, Hefei.
Situated between the Yangtze river and Chaohu lake, the 27-storey hotel on Suixi Road is half an hour’s drive to Xinqiao International Airport, Hefei Railway Station or the Hefei South Railway Station.
The hotel offers 401 guestrooms ranging from 45m2 to 135m2, all with full-length windows. The Executive and Speciality Suites come with separate living and sleeping windows, as well as marble-clad bathrooms with a separate bath, walk-in shower and TV.
Guests can expect the hallmarks of Shangri-La’s brand of hospitality, including free Wi-Fi throughout the property and paperless check-ins.
Other amenities the hotel is offering includes the Horizon Club on level 27, Shangri-La’s signature spa, and a 24-hour Health Club featuring personal training sessions, a 25m indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam and sauna room, and a beauty salon are further offered. F&B options at the hotel include Chinese restaurant Yang Zi Xuan; food theatre-style Café Wan serving up Western, Chinese, Japanese, local and South-east Asian cuisines and the Lobby Lounge.
Meeting planners will be happy to know Shangri-La Hotel, Hefei is equipped with a 1,400m2 pillar-less Grand Ballroom that is capable of holding 900 persons, as well as a business centre and eight other function rooms for smaller-scale gatherings and meetings.
Apple SIM Data plans now available over 90 countries
Apple has reached a partnership with mobile connectivity company GigSky to expand Apple SIM cellular data plans to over 90 countries and territories around the world. iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 users that have Apple SIM installed can now purchase short-term data plans while traveling in a long list of countries throughout Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, South America and other regions worldwide.
Users get to pick a cellular data plan from select carrier partners straight from their iPads that that fits the time frame they wish to use it for.
Apple SIM is now available for purchase at Apple Retail Stores in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Apple SIM cellular data plans were previously limited to participating carriers in the United States and United Kingdom including AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S. and EE in the U.K.
GigSky cellular data plans are available on a pay-as-you-go basis with no long-term commitments. Exact prices are listed on GigSky's website and vary based on the country, data amount and length of plan. Given that iPads are unlocked, travellers can also insert a SIM card belonging to a local carrier if preferred.
Apple has posted a full list of countries with Apple SIM coverage on its website here.
Starwood’s Element at Suzhou Science and Technology Town
Starwood has announced the debut of its eco-friendly hotel brand, Element, in Suzhou, China in association with Suzhou Science and Technology Town Kexin Cultural Tourism Development Co., Ltd. This is the first Element-branded hotel in the Asia Pacific.
This 188-room property has a meeting space, business centre and many other amenities. The hotel will benefit from its close proximity to major Chinese cities like Shanghai, Jialingjiang and Wuyishan. The hotel is also well connected with the Sunan Shuofang International Airport, a high speed rail network and modern expressways.
The Element brand mainly serves value-conscious guests and generally seeks to strike a balance between corporate and leisure travelers. Its eco-friendly concepts sync well with Suzhou Science and Technology Town's nature of operation. The hotel is also in close proximity to tourist sites such as Jiangsu Dayangshan National Forest Park, Suzhou Taihu Lake National Wetland Park, Suzhou Amusement Land, Zhenhu Embroidery Street and White Stream Ecological Park. Such a location will make the hotel attractive to both business and leisure travellers.
Starwood's entry into China dates back to 1985 with the debut of Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in Beijing. Leveraging its first-mover advantage, Starwood became one of China's most sought-after global brands. The company is now scrutinizing its opportunities in various untapped but highly populated Chinese cities.
New International Saudi Arabia Airport to open next year
The first phase of construction of Saudi Arabia's new King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) is expected to be completed by the middle of 2016.
Close to 25,000 engineers and workers from 110 companies are currently working on the project, which is nearly 60% complete, reported the Saudi Gazette.
Once the first phase is completed, the estimated SR27bn ($7.1bn) airport will be able to handle 30 million passengers annually.
The airport will be building a 700,000m² terminal complex under the first phase, which will allow all airlines to operate in a single building.
Spread across an area of 670,000m², the building will house both the international and domestic terminals.
The departure lounge at the new terminal will have 200 check-in counters along with 80 self-service counters, 46 departure gates and waiting lounges, a hotel and a modern shopping area.
The airport is being built to serve as a gateway to the holy places of Makkah and Madinah.
According to the master plan developed by the Netherlands Airports Consultants, the airport will be constructed in three phases and is expected to be completed by 2035.
Once completed, the airport will have a capacity to accommodate between 70 to 80 million passengers annually.
UK Consumer Group will start screening online business reviews
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has investigated a number of companies following allegations of fake online reviews and paid endorsements. The impact on businesses – especially in the hospitality industry – can be disastrous, with Igniyte’s latest research revealing that one in six UK businesses believe a malicious review could destroy their business entirely. The CMA, UK’s primary competition and consumer authority, has released a report following an investigation earlier this year into allegations of fake reviews and paid endorsements.
The investigation has found that some companies are writing or commissioning both positive and negative reviews online to boost their own ratings on review sites and to undermine their rivals.
The impact on businesses – especially in the hospitality industry – can be disastrous, with Igniyte’s latest research revealing that one in six UK businesses believe a malicious review could destroy their business entirely.
The investigation also found that some review sites are not publishing genuine negative reviews and instead, encouraging the business to respond to the customer’s complaint offline. Whilst this solves the individual’s complaint, this practice gives other consumers a less complete picture of what reviewers have said about a business.
These practices are not only affecting businesses, but they’re misleading consumers, too, who trust online reviews as a reliable source of information.
The CMA has found that 54% of UK adults use online reviews and 80% of consumers use reviews before making a purchase, meaning consumers could be encouraged to make a bad choice.
In the hospitality industry, the CMA found that 68% of consumers said that the online review was “much more important” or “a little more important” than other sources of information.
Igniyte’s recent research found that over half (51%) of UK companies have been hit by unfounded criticism and malicious postings or have been targeted by trolls in the past year.
With one in five UK businesses now spending up to £30,000 a year trying to put things right, the CMA’s investigation has come at a crucial time. The CMA has stated it will continue to investigate its concerns and will enforce ‘action’ where appropriate to ensure businesses compete fairly in compliance with the law.
Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs); businesses have been advised the following:
• Do not create the false impression that content has been written by a consumer
• Do not mislead consumers about the identity of the reviewer
Review sites have also been warned, guidance given to them includes:
• Be clear about how reviews are obtained and checked
• Publish all reviews – even negative ones, provided they are genuine and lawful
• Disclose commercial relationships with businesses that appear on their site
• Have procedures in place to identify and remove fake reviews