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November 2015 Travel News & Alerts

01 November 2015

Embassy Closures for the Month of November

Please be informed that the following embassies will be closed in November on the specified date:

1. Angola Embassy: 2nd November 2015

                                11th November 2015

2. China Embassy: 6th November 2015

3. India Embassy: 11th November 2015

4. Japan Embassy: 3rd November 2015

                               23rd November 2015

5. Myanmar Embassy: 26th November 2015

6. Philippines Embassy: 30th November 2015

7. Russia Embassy: 4th November 2015

 

No visa applications will be processed during this period.

For more information please contact your travel manager.

Travel apps boom for smartwatches but slow adoption rate

In a report by Business Travel News on 26 October 2015, one in five American adults already uses a wearable device (Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Gear), according to a Forrester Research survey of 952 consumers that was released in September.= According to the Forrester survey, 16% of wearables adopters use the Apple Watch. While its arrival in April generated plenty of buzz, consumer adoption thus far has been lukewarm.

In August, UBS equity analysts found that consumer interest in the Apple Watch, based on consumer Web searches, was “lower than for earlier Apple products, as well as many consumer electronic launches.” However, as with many emerging technologies, smartwatches may evolve into something better, more pervasive and cheaper.

Travel suppliers have awoken to the promise of smartwatches. American Airlines has enabled baggage claim and gate change notifications, as well as boarding passes, on the Apple Watch. Uber users can request a ride and receive car-arrival notifications on Apple Watch. Smartwatch-wearing Starwood Hotels & Resorts guests can unlock hotel room doors, at least at some properties, and check-in and review reservation details. Hotel Tonight allows for booking of last-minute hotels on watches.

A few tech products used in the corporate realm also have positioned their wares for watches. Apps like TripCase and TripIt itinerary management tools support various smartwatch platforms, enabling travellers to see upcoming trip information and receive notifications.

Travel management companies (TMC) may have a reputation for being slow to respond to consumer technology trends. TMCs and buyers may even have an audience, as many early wearables adopters also happen to travel for business.

According to BTN’s Mobile Migration survey of 300 travellers, 20% travellers own a smartwatch. Sure, that pales in comparison with the 98% carrying a smartphone and the 77% wielding a tablet, but it’s early. In a separate study published in April by Phocuswright showed business travellers adopting wearables at a faster pace than general consumers were. According to another online survey by the group last year, 15% had a wearable device versus 9 percent of overall consumers. The survey showed that 66% planned to acquire a wearable device “in the next few years.”

On the other hand—or wrist—there are plenty of travellers who, according to the results, “are reluctant to add another device to their lives.” Of the research group’s survey respondents, 35% were not interested in adopting wearables ‘anytime soon’. “Business travellers pack light, so any new device has to provide serious value,” wrote the group. “Given that the majority of business travellers already own two or three devices, adding a wearable and its accompanying paraphernalia like chargers and cables to an already crowded briefcase is something many travellers will think carefully about.”

If wearables turn out to be the next big thing, they’re not there yet, giving travel managers some time to grapple with the potential implications.

China Eastern launches routes to Brisbane and Chicago

The new direct service to Brisbane will commence on 16 January 2016, operating three times a week. 

Flights will leave Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1740, arriving in Brisbane at 0625 the next morning. The return service will depart at 1100 every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, arriving back in Shanghai at 1930.

China Eastern will deploy a two-class Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the route, configured with 30 flat-bed seats in business class and 204 seats in economy.

Then on 18 March 2016, the airline will launch three weekly flights direct from Shanghai to Chicago. Services will depart Pudong Airport every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 1140, arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at 1240. From Chicago, the inbound flight will take off at 1500 and get back to Shanghai at 1910 the next day.

Like all China Eastern’s other US routes, the Chicago flight will be operated using a new three-class 316-seat Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which offers six private suites in first class, 52 flat-bed seats in business class and 258 seats in economy.

Chicago will become the carrier’s fourth US destination, following New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, while Brisbane will mark China Eastern’s third regular Australian port-of-call, following Sydney and Melbourne.

Shanghai-Brisbane is not currently served direct by any airlines, while China Eastern will complete with United and American Airlines on the Shanghai-Chicago sector.

The Fourth Holiday Inn Express in Jakarta

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has opened the Holiday Inn Express Jakarta Wahid Hasyim in the heart of the Indonesian capital, making it the 8th Holiday Inn Express in the country.  

The 160-room hotel’s Jalan K.H. Wahid Hasyim location is close to the city’s markets such as Pasar Pagi Tanah Abang, major shopping malls like Grand Indonesia, and the Central Business District (CBD) and the Kuningan neighbourhood.

Guests have a choice of queen or twin guest rooms, an efficient check-in and convenient amenities including a complimentary Express Start Breakfast with a Grab & Go option, a 24-hour fitness room, self-service business centre and laundry stations.

The other Holiday Inn Express in the capital are at Jakarta International Expo, Jalan Cikini Raya and Emporium Pluit Mall.

Internal expense reporting drains company’s resources

In a joint study titled Expense Reporting: Global Practices and Pain Points between GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, and HRS Global Hotel Solutions, it was identified that 70% travel buyers currently process expense reports internally using third-party software, two in ten (19%) process expense reports internally without the help of third-party software and four percent outsource this process entirely.

Annually, approximately half a million dollars and nearly 3,000 hours correcting errors in expense reports, according to a new study that identified pain points in expense reporting.

While the costs for processing expense reports present the greatest challenge to company time and money, travel buyers identified the beginning steps of preparing an expense report as the most troublesome including setting up the expense report (24%), entering the data (33%) and attaching receipts (37%).

Here are the five numbers that show how expense reports can drain company resources.

1. The average cost to process an expense report for a single night hotel stay is $58.

2. It takes 20 minutes on average to complete one expense report.

3. 19 percent of expense reports contain errors or missing information.

4. It takes 18 minutes to correct each expense report.

5. This costs an additional $52 to correct each expense report.

 

Global Differences in Expense Reporting Practices

• Travel buyers in North America (86%) and Asia-Pacific (84%) most often use an expense reporting software, while Latin American travel buyers report using such software at a much lower rate (60%). Instead, they are much more likely to use another computer program to submit their expense reports (50%, compared to 22% of the total). Alternatively, travel buyers in Europe (35%), led mostly by Germany (45%), are most likely to submit paper expense reports.

• With receipts, submitting paper receipts remains the most popular method (63%), particularly in Europe (81%) and Latin America (71%). The exception is North America, where majorities of travel buyers report submitting receipts via scanned images (84%), electronically (62%) and using their smart phone (61%).

Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines limited JV

Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines groups have been forced to compromise their previous independence. One new strategy is to form a revenue sharing joint venture. This method of cooperation is becoming more common between Europe and Asia, having already been established in the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific markets. Most JVs were established to enhance a position of strength built on pre-existing solid footing. In comparison, Lufthansa and SIA are setting aside differences in this time of duress to respond to the Gulf carriers that have changed their business profoundly. The JV was signed on 11 November to operate routes between Singapore and Europe on a JV basis, expand codeshare ties and deepen commercial cooperation. The agreement also includes Austrian Airlines, SilkAir and SWISS. Elements of the agreement, including new codeshare services, will be introduced in the coming months. Other features require additional regulatory approval and will be implemented during 2016. The agreement includes the following:

• The carriers will operate Singapore-Düsseldorf, Singapore-Frankfurt, Singapore-Munich and Singapore-Zurich services under revenue-sharing arrangements;

• The airlines will cooperate in key markets in Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia, including coordinating schedules, offering joint fare promotions, aligning corporate programmes and exploring enhancements to frequent flyer programme ties;

• More than 20 new codeshare routes will provide Singapore Airlines passengers with access to and from points in Austria,Belgium, Germany and Switzerland via Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich. Lufthansa and SWISS will codeshare on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir services to destinations in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. The carriers' codeshare cooperation is expected to be expanded to additional destinations.

Although Lufthansa and SIA account for about 27% of non-stop Western Europe-Southeast Asia capacity, their share of flown passengers is around 13%. Emirates alone has 12%; adding Etihad and Qatar now has 27% of the market transiting via the Gulf. But SIA and Lufthansa are the only airlines operating non-stop service between their respective countries.

A Singapore-London passenger, for example, could go non-stop on SIA outside the JV or via a German/Swiss hub under a JV. Both airline groups will compete for the Kuala Lumpur-Amsterdam passenger.

Accor Shanghai Hongqiao by end 2016

AccorHotels has announced the signing of Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao, in partnership with Beijing Macrolink Group. 

Located in the heart of Hongqiao CBD, the new hotel is slated to open in Q4 2016.

Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao will be a part of the Macrolink Hongqiao Hub complex, which comprises a shopping mall, a convention centre and offices. The hotel is located near the National Exhibition and Convention Centre and five minutes’ drive to the Hongqiao Transport Hub, the largest of its kind in the world which integrates airport, subways, and bus stations.

Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao has 360 guest rooms, three restaurants and a bar, plus a grand ballroom and ten meeting rooms, as well leisure facilities like an indoor swimming pool, fitness centre and a spa.

Etihad Loyalty Program courting for business travellers

Etihad Business Connect, the loyalty programme run by Etihad Airways for businesses, is offering 15,000 bonus miles for new enrolments. 

The promotion is valid for Etihad Guest members who work for a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) that enrols before December 20

At least two Etihad Guest member employees per organisation must be connected to the Business Connect account and at least one must take a flight by the same date.

To participate in this offer, sign your company into Business Connect via the individual who manages your company travel at etihadbusinessconnect.com.

This promo is not eligible for redemption flights, free flights or codeshare flights and bonus miles earned will be Etihad Guest base miles and not tier miles.

The new Business Connect account will earn a maximum of 10,000 Etihad Guest bonus miles in addition to the 5,000 welcome bonus miles.

Starwood adds Design Hotels to its SPG Loyalty Program

Design Hotels has deepened its relationship with majority owner Starwood Hotels Resorts in a partnership that gives member hotels access to the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program as well as Starwood’s consumer and corporate booking channels.

Starwood expects 40 hotels to be listed by the end of the year, and a large portion of Design Hotels’ 288 properties to join in the coming months.

Design Hotels guest will receive most of the same points earning and redemption benefits as they would in other Starwood properties.

The SPG relationship gives properties access to consumers through Starwood’s own booking channels, as well as corporate travel planners, using a pay-per-performance model.  

Most major hotel chains have heavily courted independent properties over the past two years. Marriott’s Autograph collection has more than 90 properties, Hilton’s Curio has 17, and Starwood’s own Tribute group has four, with eight planned openings in the next few months.

Unlike these relationships, where participating hotels are required to meet brand standards handed down by the corporate parent, the Design Hotels/SPG relationship allows its properties to maintain whatever standards they see fit. And unlike other independent groups, Design Hotels’ members range from five-star properties to those with more character than bling.

Although Starwood owns a 74% equity interest in Design Hotels, it continues to operate independently and Starwood does not include its financials in quarterly reports.

The strategic alliance is aimed at exploring areas of potential cooperation, including joint procurement, maintenance and repair collaboration to identify cost savings and achieve economies of scale.

UK travellers can apply for accelerated US entry

Starting December 3, UK citizens can apply for the expedited U.S. Customs and Border Protection clearance program at the U.K. Home Office website for a £42 fee. Successful applicants will receive a U.K. Access Code to apply online for a five-year membership through the Global Online Enrolment System for US$100. Approved applicants will move on to an interview with a U.S. Customs officer. Global Entry is available at 46 U.S. airports and 13 pre-clearance locations, and members also are eligible for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check expedited pre-flight security screening. More than 18,000 U.S. citizens are U.K. Border Force Registered Travellers, enabling them to use European Economic Area screening lines and facial recognition ePassport Gates upon arrival in the United Kingdom.

Qantas increases Singapore and Hong Kong flight frequency

Qantas will boost its Perth-Singapore routes daily and add extra services between Sydney and Hong Kong over summer as the airline continues its Asian expansion with increased fleet utilization and a flexible schedule designed to cater to peak demand. Qantas Domestic Sale

Launched with five services a week in June, Qantas will add an extra two flights a week on the Singapore-Perth route from December 1 to offer a daily service that will operate year round.

Qantas exited year-round Perth-Singapore service with Airbus A330 aircraft in May 2014, but resumed flights between the West Australian capital and Singapore with smaller Boeing 737-800s.

Meanwhile, Qantas said it would also offer 12 flights a week between Hong Kong and Sydney from December 11 2015 to March 23 2016, with two services a day on weekdays and one flight a day on the weekend. The increases come on top of recent announcements covering seasonal increase to Manila, Jakarta and Hong Kong.

The oneworld alliance member recently went to 11 flights a week on the Sydney-Hong Kong route just as Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce indicated when the announcement was made in September he was looking to add more flights to Hong Kong if additional take-off and landing slots could be found at the busy Chek Lap Kok Airport.

Citibank reduces charges on credit card frequent flyer rates

Citibank has abandoned controversial changes to the frequent flyer 'conversion rates' under the Citibank Rewards program.

The changes would result in an immediate effective 'devaluation' of Citi Rewards Points as high as 25% and was also to be applied to customers' existing Citibank point’s balances as well as future transactions.

Citibank cardholders will be able to swap the bank's own points for airline frequent flyer miles for more generous rates, the Australian Business Traveller confirmed with a Citibank representative.

Shanghai welcomes St. Regis Jingan

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has announced the signing of an agreement with Shanghai Huayu Real Estate to bring its ultra-luxury St. Regis brand to Shanghai.

Scheduled for completion in early 2017, The St. Regis Shanghai Jingan will open its doors in one of the most exclusive, sought-after locations in the heart of the city’s central business district. 

The new hotel will join the brand’s fast growing presence in Greater China, where St. Regis currently operates six properties and has an additional ten in the pipeline - including The St. Regis Macao, which is set to open this December.

The St. Regis Shanghai Jingan will be situated on West Beijing Road - one of Shanghai’s most desirable addresses - in close proximity to the West Nanjing Road business area in Jingan, a well-established central business district featuring premium corporate offices and luxury retail stores.

Part of a new mixed-use development, the hotel will offer approximately 480 guestrooms, including 41 suites and 47 residences.

All guestrooms will be located from the 29th to 59th floors, boasting stunning views of the Shanghai skyline.

There will also be several three-bedroom luxury St. Regis apartments on the top floors of the building, redefining high-end city living in downtown Shanghai.

The new hotel will offer sophisticated culinary experiences with three restaurants and an alfresco bar, extravagant wellness facilities including a spa, indoor swimming pool and a sprawling fitness centre, as well as approximately 2,000 square meters of event space.

World Travel Awards Asia and Australasia Gala Ceremony 2015

David Fraser (Second from Right)World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia Gala was held in InterContinental Grand Stanford in Hong Kong on the 29th October. FCm picked up the title of Asia's Leading Travel Management Company FCm Travel Solutions. David Fraser, Managing Director of FCm Great China was the representative to collect the award for the regional offices.

The event saw industry leaders from the government tourism boards, airliners, hoteliers, technology and booking solutions etc. gathering at the annual ceremony that is regarded as the best event within the travel and tourism industry.

These are some of the award winners of the night:

Asia's Leading Airline - Singapore Airlines

Asia's Leading Airline (Business Class) - Hainan Airlines

Asia's Leading Airline (Economy Class) - Asiana Airlines

Asia's Leading Airline (First Class) - Cathay Pacific

Asia's Leading Airport - Changi Airport, Singapore

Asia's Leading Business Car Rental Company - Hertz

Asia's Leading Business Hotel - The St. Regis Osaka, Japan

Asia's Leading Business Hotel Brand - InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

Asia's Leading Hotel Brand - Hilton Hotels & Resorts

Asia's Leading Hotel Residences - Cordis Hong Kong at Langham Place, Hong Kong

Asia's Leading Meetings & Conference Centre - Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, Singapore

Asia's Leading Meetings & Conference Destination - Hong Kong

Asia's Leading Meetings & Conference Hotel - One World Hotel, Malaysia

Asia's Leading Serviced Apartment Brand - Frasers Hospitality

Asia's Leading Serviced Apartments - Fraser Suites Singapore

We would like to congratulate all the winners of the night for the contribution to making travel better.

GBTA releases October Traveller Index Findings

Millennials are nearly twice as likely to want to travel more for business than Baby Boomers (45% to 26 % respectively), and a strong majority of Millennials (57%) believe that technology can never fully replace face-to-face meetings to seal a business deal.

Additionally, Millennials are far more likely to rely upon social media to meet up with friends when traveling than Baby Boomers (46% to 17%) and are far less likely to want to use their personal credit cards to float business expenses (53% to 69%). In terms of travel amenities, if only one could be selected, Baby Boomers would strongly prefer to pay no fee to check bags (47% compared to 34% of Millennials), while Millennials want free Wi-Fi (30% compared to 17% of Baby Boomers).

The study also found that overall business traveller satisfaction with getting through airport security dipped over the past three months (from 55% in Q2 to 45% in Q3). Despite this drop, overall satisfaction levels with the business travel experience remain high (73%).

Given a choice, business travellers preferred getting past security easily (52%) compared to other airport amenities. However, smoothly sailing past airport security holds much more importance to Baby Boomers (59 %) and Gen Xers (56 percent) than to Millennials (35%). While almost one-half (48 %) of business travellers want free Wi-Fi at the airport, this is more important to Millennials (54%) than Baby Boomers (44%). Regardless of age, GBTA identified that two in five business travellers (39%) want airports to offer non-stop flights to their destinations.

Aside the results, there was a concern raised around confidence in the economy. The percentage of travellers who believed that the present times represent an optimistic economy dropped from 32 percent in quarter two to just 21 percent this quarter. This is despite the fact that travellers’ views of the health of their own company or industry remained virtually unchanged and much more positive. More than half of business travellers feel their own company is in excellent financial shape (62%) and that the overall health of their industry is excellent (51%).

It was also uncovered that travellers frown upon speaking on mobile phones in-flight. The study finds that nearly two thirds of business travellers oppose allowing passengers to talk on their mobile phones while on board an aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines new business class seats on A330

Malaysia Airlines will upgrade its Airbus A330 business class from April 2016 for flights to Australia and Asia.

The spacious fully lie-flat seats replace the current A330's angled flat beds and "sloping sleepers".

From the in-situ image from Australian Business Travel, the staggered layout is alternating between 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 – which would afford direct aisle access for most passengers plus a handful of wide Swiss with two wide shelves either side.

The 20.6-inch wide seat turns into a fully flat 76-inch bed, which the airline says will be dressed with soft bed linen.

The 16-inch touchscreens are complemented by AC and USB outlets. The airlines has not mentioned if the same seats will extend to the rest of its fleet, including its Airbus A350s due to arrive from late 2017.

Ascott expands in Beijing and Shanghai

Ascott, the Singapore-based serviced apartment operator, has expanded its portfolio in China with the introduction of new properties in Beijing and Shanghai. 

The company has signed management deals for three new hotels in the two cities, including the 162-unit Ascott Beijing, the 142-unit Citadines Jinxiu Shanghai and the 154-unit Citadines Putuo Shanghai. And Ascott has also secured a contract for the 125-unit Citadines Gugeng Dalian, meaning the company has now added a total of 583 new serviced apartments to its Chinese inventory.

Ascott Beijing will open its doors in 2016, taking the company’s citywide portfolio to 11 properties, while Citadines Jinxiu Shanghai and Citadines Putuo Shanghai are both scheduled to launch in 2019, becoming the sixth and seventh properties in the company’s Shanghai collection. Citadines Gugeng Dalian meanwhile, will debut in 2016, joining two Somerset-branded properties in the north-eastern port city.

Ascott is currently largest international serviced residence operator in China, with more than 14,300 units in 80 properties across 24 cities. 

BA to operate daily A380 flights on Singapore-London Route

British Airways will start operating Airbus A380 flights on one of their two daily flights to Singapore from 20 November 2015. BA’s other daily Singapore flight is operated using a Boeing 777 aircraft. British Airways Logo

Flights will depart Heathrow at 1905 and arrive in Singapore at 1555 the following day. The return service then leaves Changi at 2320 and arrives back in London at 0515 the next morning.

The A380 service will be temporarily reduced to three times a week between 25 December 2015 and 24 February 2016, when the aircraft undergoes maintenance. But the daily service will resume on 25 February 2016.

 

For more information please contact your travel manager.

IATA releases study on how to keep airline passengers happy

 

International Air Transport Association (IATA) surveyed 60,000 fliers worldwide and measured how satisfied they are across 75 “individual passenger experience factors” including crew interactions, available services and products for 30 major airlines.

However, the report did not insinuate or conclude that keeping the customers satisfied would relate to airline financial success. 

IATA uncovered that competitiveness among carriers has helped increase airline standard of product offerings and overall, all passengers benefit from the upgraded experience. They have also identified that there is a positive relationship between strong branding and passenger satisfaction with a product.

Plaza Premium Hotels coming your way soon

Plaza Premium Group, which operates independent lounges at airports across the world, has unveiled its global expansion plans, including the launch of a new hotel concept. During ITB Asia in Singapore, the company introduced three new brands to its portfolio: Allways, Aerotel, and Flight Club. 

The most significant of these is Aerotel – a new airport transit hotel concept that will initially launch in Singapore. Aerotel Singapore, which has already soft-opened at the Departure Transit Lounge of Changi Airport’s Terminal 1, becomes the world’s first airside hotel to provide an outdoor swimming pool and pool-side bar, while rooms will come equipped with comfortable beds and hot power showers. Future Aerotels are expected to open in Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow airport next year.

Plaza Premium has also launched Allways, the group’s airport “meet and greet” service brand. This is initially being rolled out at seven airports: Toronto, Delhi, Singapore, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Muscat and London Heathrow.

The company also introduced “Flight Club” -a new dining concept specifically designed for airports, providing healthy eating for transit passengers. The first Flight Club is now open at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and will operate 24/7.

The company has revealed that airlines are collaborating more with their services; China Eastern working with the company on its new lounge at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport. The grand opening of the flagship No.77 China Eastern Plaza Premium Lounge will be held early next month.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Plaza Premium Group now provides services in 35 international airports across the world.