October 2015 Travel News & Alerts
Embassy Closures for the Month of October
Please be informed that the following embassies will be closed in October on the specified date:
1. Bangladesh Embassy: 23rd October 2015
2. China Embassy: 1st – 5th October 2015
12th - 14th October 2015
3. India Embassy: 2nd October 2015
4. Indonesia Embassy: 14th October 2015
5. Japan Embassy: 12th October 2015
6. Malaysia Embassy: 14th October 2015
7. Myanmar Embassy: 28th October 2015
8. South Korea Embassy: 9th October 2015
No visa applications will be processed during this period.
ITB Asia panellists cite Personalisation, Innovation and Technology as new industry growth drivers
The eighth edition of ITB Asia, the ‘Trade Show for the Asian Travel Market’, opened its at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on October 21.
The three-day event kicked-off with a number of powerful keynote panels discussing key trends and opportunities that will shape the future of the travel industry.
The opening panel consisted of online travel companies like Expedia, Airbnb and the World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC). In the discussion, personalisation, innovation and technology were identified as some of the leading industry growth drivers.
Expedia heralded the new mobile age is near with more than 1 in 4 of our global transactions in Q2 were booked on a mobile device. Many companies are looking into investing in technology to enable hotel partners to reach travellers in the way that they want to purchase.
This year’s ITB Asia attracted close to 760 exhibitors from 73 countries, as well almost 880 buyers including a significant increase in participation from Asia. The show is now in its eighth year and sees a strong presence from the Philippines, who have increased their booth space by nearly 70% as well as Finland, Egypt, Argentina and India. It also welcomes newcomers including Iceland, Laos, Azerbaijan, Lithuania and Portugal.
Far East Hospitality to introduce more Oasia properties.
Part of the Toga Far East venture, Far East Hospitality’s Oasia hotel is planning capitalise on the growing tourism market being sparked by Asia's fast-growing middle class. The group said it will add more than 700 rooms to its portfolio over the next year. The expansion includes Oasia Suites Kuala Lumpur, the brand's first overseas property, which will open early next year.
Oasia Suites Kuala Lumpur will be located in the Golden Triangle, within the Kuala Lumpur City Centre and walking distance to the city's key business infrastructure. It is adjacent to Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur's only surviving primary tropical rainforest and nature reserves, offering guests a visual contrast to the city with the views of the sprawling greenery.
Cathay to end Doha flights
Cathay Pacific has announced it will discontinue its daily Hong Kong¬–Doha service early next year, as route partner Qatar Airways simultaneously said it will ramp up its service on the route to twice daily.
Concurrently, Qatar Airways announced that it will resume twice-daily services between Doha and Hong Kong, as opposed to the single service it currently operates alongside Cathay Pacific's daily flight.
Cathay Pacific’s last flight to Doha will be February 15, 2016 with the final return service to commence the day after. The airline will provide alternative travel arrangements for passengers affected by the change, including accommodating them on Qatar Airways-operated flights.
Starwood reinforces its luxury status in business traveller survey
Business Travel News (BTN) conducted an annual Hotel Brand survey to identify buyer’s preferences and trends in the market. This year’s results have shown that Starwood Hotel & Resorts brands topping the satisfaction levels among customers with Westin brand and Hyatt Hotels’ Hyatt Place garnered the highest overall scores from travel buyers.
The keys to the performance lies in the themes of wellness, design and modern amenities proved to be the connecting thread that leads to high performance. In recent years, Westin has appealed to travellers looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road with its health-conscious Super Food menu, its new Sleep Well menu, its Fresh by The Juicery juice program, its workout gear-lending program and its Run Concierges.
During the past year, Westin has focused on workspace offering, which features Media:scape by Steelcase smart technology, video-conferencing and seamless connectivity.
Hyatt Regency made its debut in the survey. The brand received high marks for quality of sales staff, consistency of offering, corporate rate programs and quality of data.
While brands in the upper-upscale tier continue to make strides in appealing to corporate travellers, it’s worth noting that overall scores for every brand, except new-to-the-list Hyatt Regency, dropped from 2014. The change might reflect the movement away from the segment as rates have risen in recent years.
Though the upscale tier is comprised of both full-service and select-service offerings, travel buyers ranked three select-service brands highest in the segment.
Hyatt Place improved from its No. 3 slot in 2014 and earned the highest scores for quality of sales staff, consistency of offering, physical appearance of hotel facilities, quality of business and personal amenities and overall price/value relationship. Hyatt Place properties offer large guest rooms, a 24/7 food menu, free Wi-Fi and free hot breakfast, and many locations offer complimentary parking.
The brand is in the process of removing scripts from the check-in process, allowing front desk staff to make a more personalized connection with every guest. Starwood Hotels & Resorts performed strongly again in this segment, as two of its specialty select brands, Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton, took the No. 2 and No. 3 slots, respectively.
Aloft improved from fifth place, while Four Points improved from 10th. The newer of the two brands in both age and its urban-inspired design, Aloft offers free Wi-Fi and Apple TV in all guest rooms, as well as an open lobby with a bar and grab-and-go cafe. Aloft is currrently testing programs that will allow guests to control the air conditioning and lighting and even brew a cup of coffee all from a smartphone. Starwood’s third-largest brand, Four Points scored top points for its corporate rate programs and helpful and courteous service. It was the top brand in BTN’s 2011 survey but has failed to crack the top three in recent years.
British Airways using Heathrow Terminal 3 for long-haul flights
British Airways will be offering a warm welcome to even more customers in a new look Heathrow Terminal 3 with the start of long-haul flights.
A new check-in area has been created for customers during the last few months including a dedicated area for premium customers to use.
The new additions to British Airways’ Terminal 3 schedule will include flights to Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Vancouver, Cape Town, Accra and Nairobi. Now there will be flights to more than 20 destinations in Terminal 3 – this creates better connections with other oneworld partners who are also based within the terminal.
The move of these long-haul flights, which were previously based in Terminal 5, is the last part of British Airways’ consolidation into two terminals at Heathrow, following the closure of Terminal 1 in June 2015.
The extra flights in Heathrow Terminal 3 will mean that it will handle a similar number of British Airways customers each day as the airline’s operation at Gatwick Airport.
From late October, one of the two daily departures to Miami will be operated by an Airbus A380.
British Airways currently operates approximately 700 flights a day at Heathrow and carries more than 110,000 customers to and from the airport on busy days.
Once the long-haul flights moves are complete Terminal 5 will be home to 115 destinations and Terminal 3 will serve 21 British Airways destinations.
Ridesharing adoption up in Q3
In North America, ridesharing services expenses continued to gain on taxis and rental cars in the third quarter, according to Certify’s SpendSmart report, which is based on analysis of 8.5 million expense receipts.
Rideshare services accounted for 34% of overall ground transportation spending in the third quarter. That's up three percentage points from last quarter and double its share from the same period last year. The increase over the past 12 months has come equally from taxis (22% of ground transportation spending in the third quarter) and rental cars (44%).
Sheraton opens second property in Jakarta
It is part of the Superblock Gandaria City mixed-use complex which contains a shopping mall, convention and exhibition facilities and several restaurants.
Features of the hotel include a state-of-the-art fitness centre, outdoor pool, panoramic views of the city, complimentary breakfast and all-day refreshments at the Sheraton Clublounge.
The other food options are Anigre, an all-day dining restaurant serving international cuisine and local delicacies; Paired, serving premium wines and local craft beers; and Café Grande, a pastry shop.
The new-built hotel is also able to accommodate large meetings and conventions, featuring 3,567m2 of function space. It is also located five kilometres away from the commercial hub of South Jakarta and 32km from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
To celebrate its opening, the hotel is extending a 20 per cent discount on opening rates which includes daily breakfast for two and double starpoints for SPG members. The offer is valid until April 30, 2016.
Traffic up at European Airports
There is an increase in traffic numbers at Europe's major air hubs.
Copenhagen Airport, always one of the first to announce its monthly traffic statistics, registered a 6.1% increase in throughput during September. The Danish airport set a new record for the month of September with almost 2.5 million passengers passing through its facilities. It is the first that Copenhagen Airport has handled in excess of 20 million passengers for first nine months of a calendar year.
Price is one of the most important priorities for business travellers
Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Foundation has released a study on the differing booking behaviours of business travellers.
Two of the top three rated factors focus on the outcome of the booking rather than the process. 56 percent of business travellers rank “finding the right price” among their top three booking priorities showing they may be receptive to travel buyers’ efforts to convince them to book using methods that yield the greatest savings.
The study examined how travellers make bookings for business trips with a focus on hotel bookings revealing differences between types of travellers based on their age and the size of their organization.
Employees from large organizations were more likely to use a corporate online booking tool (OBT) than those at smaller organizations who are more likely not to have OBTs. When it comes to booking through alternative channels for hotel accommodations, 54 percent used a direct channel, 41 percent used a third-party website and 5 percent used an event registration site. Interestingly, 42 percent who used an alternative channel said they are not required to share their travel information with their company. This hampers a travel buyers’ ability to monitor and enforce policy compliance and also means they may not be able to locate their traveller in an emergency.
AirAsia relaunches Japan routes
The Malaysian low-cost carrier is given the green lights by the country’s civil aviation authority after its partnership with All Nippon Airways (ANA) dissolved in September 2013. AirAsia Japan lasted just 13 months before closing.
The Tokyo-based airline has since been rebranded as Vanilla Air, and this airline, along with Peach Aviation and Jetstar Japan, will provide direct competition for the new AirAsia Japan. None of these rival LCCs however, are based in Nagoya.
Based at Nagoya‘s Chubu Centrair International Airport, AirAsia Japan will commence services in spring 2016, offering both domestic and international routes.
China's biggest hotel group
Two of China’s leading hospitality groups, Plateno Hotels Group (Plateno) and Jin Jiang International (Jin Jiang) have officially merged, becoming China’s largest hotel group and the world’s top five.
The partnership was made official following the signing ceremony in Shanghai on 18 September with Jin Jiang’s parent company, publicly listed Jin Jiang International (Holdings) Co., Ltd acquiring an 81% stake in Plateno.
Jin Jiang is well established in China’s luxury, upscale, midscale and economy hotel segments with J.Hotel, Jin Jiang, Kunlun, Rock Garden (Yan Hua Yuan) and Jin Jiang Inn. Earlier this year, the company also acquired France’s Louvre Hotels Group (LHG) from Starwood Holdings incorporating the brands, Golden Tulip, Première Classe and Campanile.
Over the past two years, Plateno has acquired 10 brands with over 400 mid-scale and upscale hotels either in operation or under construction. Its diverse brand portfolio includes Lavande, Maison Albar, H12, Portofino, James Joyce Coffetel, ZMAX, 7 Days Inn, 7 Days Premium, µ Hotel and China’s first hotel brand designed for women, Xana Hotelle.
This significant partnership of Jin Jiang, LHG and Plateno effectively forms a combined portfolio of over 6,000 hotels with more than 640,000 guest rooms in 55 countries across all regions – ranking it among the world’s top 5 hotel groups.
Hong Kong to issue fee on departing passengers
Passengers departing from Hong Kong International Airport will have to pay an added airport construction fee based on travelling distance and ticket class from mid-2016.
The original proposal of a fixed HK$180 (US$23) fee to fund the development of a third runway had caused controversy, galvanising Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) to come up with an alternative scheme last week.
For short haul passengers departing in economy class, the fee will be HK$90, while short haul first/business class passengers and long haul economy class passengers will have to fork out HK$160. The levy for long haul first/business class passengers is HK$180. Meanwhile, the fee for short haul transit passengers in economy class will be set at HK$70.
24/7 Ticketing at Flight Centre Singapore
To provide clients with better support, Flight Centre Singapore’s (FCSG) Ticket Centre will now run 24-hours, 7 days a week including public holidays. This new service commences 1 October 2015.
British Airways to close Gatwick Lounge in January 2016
British Airways will close its lounge in Gatwick's North Terminal in January 2016.
It will move all flights across to the South Terminal in November 2016. Hence there will be no BA lounge in the North Terminal for 10 months.
During that period, passengers will have access to the No.1 Traveller lounge instead of a dedicated BA lounge.
The BA facility is being closed so that construction work can take place. Easyjet is also due to consolidate its South Terminal operations to the North Terminal in November 2016.
Travellers want Companies to recommend Travel Apps
In a survey conducted by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), travellers expect their travel managers to recommend travel apps. However, few companies provide this function. The findings have shown that only 17% of travellers had menu of travel apps recommended for them.
The report was based on 521 managed and unmanaged travellers who travel at least once in the past year. Among the participants, 95% of them own smartphones and more than 75% have downloaded travel-related apps on their devices.
The most downloadable mobile app are Navigation apps (e.g. Google Maps, Moovit) with over 54% of survey respondents say they download.
In second place, airlines and hotel apps are the most downloaded at 46% and 45% respectively.
In third place, third-party travel booking apps like Expedia and Booking.com are downloaded by respondents.
Lastly, only 25% have itinerary management and ground transportation apps e.g. Uber and Grabtaxi. GBTA has suggested for companies with a managed travel program, to recommend TMC apps and influence good booking habits through preferred channels.
New hotels in emerging Indonesian cities of Bandung and Medan
Indonesia welcomes international chains InterContinental Hotels Group and Radisson.
IHG has started to welcome guests into Crowne Plaza® Bandung, the first Crowne Plaza in Bandung, Indonesia. The new hotel offers 270 contemporary and upscale guest rooms and a comprehensive range of meetings facilities close to Bandung’s city centre and Central Business District (CBD).
Nestled in the heart of the city, Crowne Plaza Bandung is less than 30 minutes from Husein Sastranegara International Airport and accessible by major railway lines and the Pasteur Toll Gate, perfect for business travellers who want to minimise transit time and easily commute to and from meetings in the main commercial and business districts.
The Crowne Plaza Bandung features state-of-the-art meeting facilities including an 800-sqm ballroom, which can host up to 1,000 guests. There are 12 multipurpose meeting rooms for a variety of social and corporate events, and a dedicated Crowne Plaza meetings team to ensure all events run smoothly. The hotel also provides complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi access for guests to stay connected and an Executive Club Lounge – one of the largest of its kind in Bandung – offering guests seamless personalised service along with a panoramic view of the city.
Radisson Medan will be the fifth Carlson Rezidor hotel scheduled to open in Indonesia after Radisson Blu Bali Uluwatu, Radisson Golf & Convention Center Batam, Park Inn by Radisson Lampung and Radisson Jakarta Cengkareng.
Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia, and within a one-hour flight radius of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Radisson Medan is a 219-room hotel located in the heart of downtown Medan, next to the Medan clock tower, along the major thoroughfare of Jl. H. Adam Malik. The hotel offers convenient access to the airport, which is the second largest in Indonesia and is well connected to key domestic markets, acting as a hub for the main Indonesian carriers. Conference and meetings facilities at Radisson Medan will include meeting rooms and a ballroom and the hotel’s recreational facilities include a swimming pool and a gym. Currently in Asia Pacific, there are currently 13 Radisson hotels in operation and 21 more in the pipeline.
Business travellers want luxury
Business travellers want to fly in luxury, and stay in expensive hotels, even if their corporate travel policy doesn’t allow it. According to data from a Travel Leaders Group survey where 392 U.S. Travel Leaders Group agents who produce more than 50 percent of their sales in business travel were polled, more than two-in-three of corporate agents reported that more than 11 percent of their clients flew in business or first class this year. Three years ago, just over half reported a similar rate of premium flying by corporate clients. In addition, more than 90% of clients who flew coach this year did so because of company policy or the cost of a better ticket, not because they wanted to. Overall, the vast majority of business travel agents said business is better, or at least as good, as last year.
Business travellers have admitted to using sharing economy services in greater numbers than ever before. More than 40 percent of agents reported having a client interested in using an alternative supplier for accommodations.
Two-in-three agents said clients had asked about alternative ground transportation services.
HKIA to be airport with largest self-drop systems
Rockwell Collins is to deploy 120 common use self-service bag drop systems at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), making it one of the largest self-service bag drop projects in the world.
The new technology will allow travellers at one of the world’s busiest airports to self-tag their bags, speeding up the departure process for passengers and reducing handling costs for the airport.
The gateway currently uses Rockwell Collins’ ARINC MUSE passenger processing platform and BagLink baggage message distribution system (MDS).
Under the new agreement signed with Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), it will integrate the Scan & Fly self-service bag drop solution from Type 22 with the airport’s existing systems to provide a completely seamless self-service baggage solution for passengers.
WiFi in Europe for Lufthansa by next summer
Lufthansa plans to offer broadband WiFi access on its short and medium-haul flights in Europe, starting in summer 2016 with about 180 planes.
The German national carrier is adopting technology that uses a mix of ground-based and satellite-based receivers from Deutsche Telekom and satellite firm Inmarsat. The cost hasn’t been revealed.
Bloomberg News reported that Deutsche Telekom will build 300 sites using high-speed LTE technology. The network will link with Inmarsat’s satellites to provide full coverage and capacity in the high-density European airspace.
Lufthansa’s solution is satellite-based WiFi, which is much faster than the ground-based systems more common in the US. Satellite-based WiFi also works on international flights and over bodies of water.
The airline’s rollout will come in stages, starting with Inmarsat’s satellite service and then, once it is completed, the air-to-ground component of the upcoming European Aviation Network — which other airlines are invited to join.