September 2015 Travel News & Alerts
Embassy Closures for the Month of September
All or Most Embassies: 11th September 2015
24th September 2015
1. Bangladesh Embassy: 25th September 2015
2. India Embassy: 25th September 2015
3. Malaysia Embassy: 16th September 2015
4. Vietnam Embassy: 2nd September 2015
No visa applications will be processed during this period.
Serko introduces new tool to aid with hotel program compliance
ONLINE travel booking and expense management company Serko has released a new Online Booking Tool (OBT) designed to tackle the issue of hotel leakage by using integrated content feeds from Expedia, Wotif and Booking.com.
It was uncovered that almost 50 per cent of hotel bookings “leak” (i.e. users book their flight but not a hotel) at the time of booking, causing a problem for companies who have to deal with unmanaged travel and duty of care compliance issues. Research from Expedia has shown that 37 per cent of travellers leave an OBT because they think they can procure cheaper accommodation rates from other sites, while 45 per cent of travellers have accommodation preferences that are not available through the GDS’ inventory.
Darrin Grafton, CEO of Serko shares “Our solution is to bring the content that users are booking elsewhere into the OBT so it can be searched and booked through the managed channel, which is a win for the user, corporation and the travel management companies.”
The new OBT prompts users that require a hotel to provide a detailed reason if they do not book one. It also invites users trying to complete a booking without a hotel to return to the workflow and search the inventory provided by the feeds from the three online travel booking sites.
Grafton believes that with this new tool, Serko can significantly reduce hotel leakage. This will help to reduce compliance burden for corporates, improve travel policy compliance and ultimately drive further savings through their managed travel programme.
Qantas to remove seat selection fee on most international flights
Qantas is set to slash the cost of choosing your seat before you fly overseas, with fees 'advance seat selection' fees reduced or removed entirely for the majority of economy tickets.
Under changes which kick in for bookings from 23 September 2015, Qantas will axe the $25 charge for Advance Seat Selection on all international tickets 'economy saver' and 'economy flex' fares.
On trans-Tasman flights, the Seat Selection fee will drop from $25 to $15.
But not every economy passenger will end up more in their pocket: travellers on the cheapest 'economy sale' fares on all other Qantas International flights will have to pony up $30 instead of $25 to pick their pew.
Free seat selection continues to come at no-cost in premium economy, business and first class, as well as being a perk of all Qantas Frequent Flyer status grades from Silver upwards.
The carrier stated that Economy Saver and Flex fare customers who selected their seat before 23 September 2015 will not be eligible for a refund of any Seat Selection charge paid, except where otherwise permitted in the Seat Selection terms and conditions.
If a customer makes changes to existing Seat Selection on the same flight after 23 September 2015, an adjustment may apply to the charge already paid and would be collected at the time of processing the seating change.
Pan Pacific to refurbish four properties
Pan Pacific Hotels Group has embarked on a series of refurbishments at four of its Asia Pacific properties.
The company is investing more than US$35 million in renovation work at the Pan Pacific Perth and Parkroyal Parramatta in Australia, Parkroyal Yangon in Myanmar and Parkroyal on Beach Road in Singapore, including new rooms, technology and revamped public areas and facilities.
Over the past four years, the hospitality group has been dedicated to bringing to life the distinctive Pan Pacific and Parkroyal brand experience across various customer touchpoints, notably through property transformations and the recent launch of the brand’s websites.
At Pan Pacific Perth, 132 of the property’s 486 rooms and suites have been revamped, including the roll-out of new lighting, LED interactive televisions, iPhone docking stations, high-speed Wi-Fi and other amenities. The hotel also recently started upgrading its lobby with pod-style reception Parkroyal Parramatta meanwhile, has embarked on a 15-month extension project which will make it the largest hotel in the city, boosting its inventory from 196 to 286 rooms by mid-2016. The project involves the construction of a new seven-storey tower which will also include a club lounge, gymnasium and four new meeting rooms. The hotel will also revamp its existing restaurant and bar, including the introduction of a new alfresco dining area.
Parkroyal Yangon has completed a refurbishment of its rooms, public areas, business centre, restaurants, club lounge and meeting facilities, and the façade of the hotel building has been also been spruced up with a fresh coat of paint.
Finally, Parkroyal on Beach Road has refurbished 130 of its premier rooms (pictured top), all of which now feature large floor-to-ceiling windows, free Wi-Fi, 40-inch LED TVs and power points at the bedside tables. The revamp also saw the launch of a new 104m² executive suite and the relaunch of its Orchid Club Lounge.
Asia is the largest global air market
The Asia Pacific region is the largest global aviation market in the world, according to new data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Releasing its World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) for 2014, IATA found that 42% of international traffic travelled to, from or within the Asia Pacific region last year.
And airlines based in the Asia Pacific region carried 33% of total global passengers in 2014, while the five busiest international and domestic routes were all in Asia Pacific.
Airlines around the world carried a total of 3.3 billion passengers on scheduled flights in 2014, an increase of 5.8% compared to the previous year. 1.1bn of the total were carried by Asia Pacific-based airlines, giving the region a 33.3% total share of traffic. Europe (873.4 million passengers, 26.3% share) was second and North America (841.8m, 25.3%) third.
Passenger traffic in Asia Pacific also increased 8% in 2014 – the highest rate of growth of any region apart from the Middle East (+10% to 173m passengers).
The top five international passenger routes last year were Hong Kong-Taipei (5.1m passengers),Jakarta-Singapore (3.5m), Hong Kong-Singapore (2.8m), Hong Kong-Shanghai (2.7m) and Hong Kong-Seoul (2.5m).
The top five domestic routes were also all in the Asia Pacific region: Jeju-Seoul (10.5m),Fukuoka-Tokyo (8.3m), Sapporo-Tokyo (7.8m), Melbourne-Sydney (7.0m) and Beijing-Shanghai (5.8m).
Etihad Airways rolls out new baggage policy
Etihad Airways will introduce sweeping new baggage policy enhancements in conjunction with the launch of its new Fare Choices tariff structure, effective for tickets issued on or after September 14th 2015, providing more choice and clarity to its guests.
The new policy has been introduced to respond to individual customer needs with greater flexibility and to more closely align Etihad Airways with other Etihad Airways Partner airlines.
The changes will provide greater benefits to guests, with increased rewards for Etihad Guest loyalty program members.
Most routes will now operate on a piece concept basis.
This means that customers are entitled to one, two, or three bags, depending on their Fare Choice, route, and Etihad Guest membership status.
As part of the policy change, the cost of excess baggage will be dramatically cut on the majority of fares.
On some routes the cost of buying an additional 23kg piece of baggage will be reduced by up to 90 per cent, with a further reduction of up to 30 per cent if pre-purchased directly with Etihad Airways up to 24 hours before travel.
Members of Etihad Guest, Etihad Airways’ award-winning loyalty program, will especially benefit from the new baggage concept, as higher tier members now receive an extra bag or additional weight allowance depending on the market and route.
New baggage policy highlights:
• Increased allowance for Economy Value and Economy Freedom guests on certain routes from 30kg to two pieces of baggage at 23kg per bag – a total allowance of 46kg.
• On selected routes, the Economy Class allowance has been increased for all fare choices from 30kg to two pieces of baggage at 23kg per bag.
• In premium cabins on certain routes, the allowance has been increased from 40/50kg to two pieces of baggage at 32kg per bag.
• Etihad Gold and Platinum members will receive one extra piece of baggage at 32kg on piece concept routes, compared to 15kg and 20kg respectively previously.
• For piece concept markets, Etihad Silver members now receive a minimum of two bags of 23kg
ITB Asia 2015
ITB Asia, the ‘Trade Show for the Asian Travel Market’, is continuing its strategic partnership with Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s premier business association, to provide delegates with its most comprehensive business-focused programme to-date. This year’s show will take place from 21 – 23 October 2015 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands. The GBTA Business Travel Outlook session will provide delegates with key insights into the current economic conditions in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) as well as an outlook on business spending over the next two years.
A highlight of this year’s show is the 2016 Global Travel Price Outlook, which will provide an in-depth understanding of the evolving travel landscape, offering travel buyers the information they need to successfully budget for and negotiate their upcoming travel programs. As China is a key regional market, GBTA will also host a session dedicated to examining the trends emerging in the Chinese meetings. The latest results of GBTA’s Business Traveller Sentiment IndexTM, created in partnership with American Express will also be unveiled. These findings will offer a glimpse into the complex world of traveller sentiment, focusing on how business travellers feel about their travel experiences, and how these feelings affect their actual behaviour.
A new element at this year’s show will be the inclusion of the Global Travel Professional (GTP) examinations. GTP is the first and only certification for dedicated business travel professionals, which was designed to raise industry standards, enhance work performance and recognise individuals who demonstrate core competencies essential to business travel management. ITB Asia will host the GTP examinations on the second day of the show, bringing together committed industry professionals from all across the region.
ITB Asia 2015 will play host to its strongest conference line-up to-date, leveraging partnerships from all across the travel industry. These include partnerships with the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) and Centre for Aviation (CAPA). Through these partnerships attendees can expect to gain a well-rounded understanding on China’s booming outbound travel market, learn more about the latest change drivers that are essential to understanding the future of the aviation industry, trends in the premium travel and hospitality industry in Asia, as well as Asia’s unique association landscape. ITB Asia is a partner event of TravelRave, a premiere travel and tourism week organised by the Singapore Tourism Board. Last year’s show attracted close to 750 exhibitors from 76 countries, as well as 850 buyers from 62 countries. For more information on ITB Asia 2015, visit www.itb-asia.com.
Cathay now flying to Dusseldorf
Cathay Pacific launched its inaugural flight to Dusseldorf on 1 September 2015.
The new route will now operate four times a week (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), departing Hong Kong International Airport at 0045 and arriving in Dusseldorf at 0715. The return service then departs the German city at 1320, arriving back in Hong Kong at 0635 the next day.
Cathay will operate the route using a 275-seatBoeing 777-300ER aircraft with six seats in first class, 53 in business class, 34 in premium economy and 182 in economy.
Dusseldorf becomes Cathay’s second destination in Germany, after Frankfurt. And this also marks the third new route the airline has launched in 2015, following earlier services to Zurich and Boston.
Malindo Air opens first lounge at KLIA2
Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) now has its first dedicated airline lounge operated by hybrid-carrier Malindo Air.
Located at the main terminal building, it is Malindo Air’s first purpose-built lounge.
Last year Malindo Air flew 2.4 million passengers.
With free WiFi access, refreshments featuring Malaysian flavours, free use of personal computers, shower facilities and a comfortable rest area, the lounge provides the definitive travel experience to Business and Economy Class passengers.
On the airline’s future plans, it was said it was looking at flying to cities in southern China, Jeddah, Australia, the Philip¬pines and Japan.
Thailand provides extra security for MICE groups
Thailand has unveiled a series of measures it intends to take to reassure the MICE market, following last month’s bomb attack in Bangkok.
MICE is a lucrative sector for the Thai visitor economy, but it is also one of the first to be impacted by events like the bombing, and generally takes longer to recover. To shore up the sector, the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has now announced six immediate steps it intends to take to provide extra security and reassurance to event organisers and groups.
These measures include providing a dedicated a “MICE Lane” for travellers arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, setting up a special TCEB Counter at Suvarnabhumi to provide group information and assistance, providing updates to meeting planners on the security situation, offering police escorts to large groups (minimum 200 delegates), providing extra security for high-level executives or VIPs, and for the event itself. For the first three quarters of the 2015 financial year, Thailand welcomed a total of 726,280 business events travellers, up 7.8% year-on-year, although this is comparable to a difficult 2014, when political unrest and the military coup dampened arrivals to the country. Thailand’s largest MICE source markets during this period were mainland China, Singapore, India, Malaysia and the US.
Shangri-la Tangshan debuts
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has opened a new property in Tangshan, northeast China.
The 301-room Shangri-La Tangshan is located in Phoenix New Town, a newly developed eco-oriented urban area adjacent to the financial and commercial hub. As part of the city’s first integrated development, the hotel is next to a shopping mall and landscaped park.
Ranging from 45 to 135 sqm, guestrooms are decked out in natural tones that complement the Chinese-style paintings and local ceramic wares. Standard room amenities include complimentary WiFi, a large workspace and marble-clad bathroom.
Shangri-La Tangshan also offers 34 studios and one- or two-bedroom apartments for long-stay guests. Residents will have full access to the hotel’s facilities and services.
The brand’s signature Horizon Club Lounge is located on the 23rd floor and offers complimentary breakfast buffet, all-day refreshments, meeting facilities and personalised concierge service to club floor guests.
Shangri-La Tangshan also offers a number of meeting spaces, with the highlight being the 1,800 sqm ballroom, the largest in the city. This is complemented by eight other function spaces.
Recreational facilities include the Health Club, which features a 24-hour gym, indoor swimming pool, yoga and aerobics studio, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms.
Premium Economy Demand picks up in APAC
Corporate travelers in the Asia/Pacific region increasingly are gravitating toward airlines with premium economy offerings, according to a Sabre Asia Pacific survey of 108 corporate travel agents in the region.
The survey, conducted back in May, have revealed that premium economy class is a “powerful stimulant” for companies. About half the agents have seen corporate cost-cutting lead to downgrades from business class to economy, but almost as many, 41 percent, instead have shifted travelers from business to premium economy seats.
Meanwhile, 24 percent said travelers required to fly economy are requesting premium economy seats. The agents noted this as a “tendency to demand more than what is permitted by policy.”
Premium economy class also is affecting travelers’ choice in carriers. Just under a quarter of agents in the survey have fielded requests from corporate travelers to switch to carriers with premium economy seats when offered standard economy bookings. About a dozen carriers in the APAC region offer premium economy service.
The report has demonstrated that premium economy has provided travel management companies with another lever to adjust their client’s travel budget, without significant loss of comfort for travelers.
In addition, the survey highlighted that companies are asking travel agents to exercise tighter controls around ancillary air spending. About a third now control ancillary costs for corporate clients, compared with a fifth in a survey conducted last year.
JAL expands routes in China and the US
Japan Airlines has announced plans to expand its network in the US and China.
Its trans-Pacific expansion will commence on 30 November 2015 with the launch of flights from Tokyo Narita Airport to Dallas. This new route will initially be operated four times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) using a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. JAL will then increase the frequency to daily flights in spring 2016.
The Narita-Dallas route will form part of JAL’s trans-Pacific joint venture with American Airlines, which will codeshare on the services.
Meanwhile, JAL has also announced plans to expand and revise its Chinese network. From 25 October 2015, the airline will add new direct Boeing 767 flights from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Shanghai and Guangzhou. It will also double the frequency of its Haneda-Beijing route to two flights per day.
The launch of the new Guangzhou route however, will lead to the suspension of JAL’s existing flights from Narita to the southern Chinese city, while the extra Beijing flight will also come at the expense of one daily flight on the Narita-Beijing route.
Q2 Air Transaction increases globally
July air transactions processed by major travel agencies and settled through Airlines Reporting Corp rose 0.1 percent year over year, according to ARC data. However, this is a drop from June’s 4.2% performance.
Online travel agencies saw a 10.3 percent, a 2.3% decrease from June’s performance, while the group of travel agencies classified by ARC as "other" posted a 4.8 percent increase. Total U.S. travel agency air ticket transactions rose 5.7 percent.
British Airways targets Silicon Valley
Sun-drenched Silicon Valley is to get a direct service to Heathrow when British Airways starts offering non-stop flights to San José in summer 2016.
San José is the world’s software power-house and home to household hi-tech giants such as Adobe, Apple, Cisco, eBay, Google and Intel, as well as thousands of tech start-up companies and world-famous Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto.
British Airways will offer daily flights on the only service between Europe and San José, to the airline’s fourth Californian destination, after Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, on its brand new 787-9 Dreamliner, which features its very latest First cabin.
Customers can already fly daily to Los Angeles and San Francisco in comfort and style on British Airways’ super-jumbo, the A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. The new British Airways daily service starts on May 4th, 2016.
The BA279 will touch down in San José for the first time, just after 6pm in the evening, after a ten hour 50 minute flight from Heathrow. The airline’s 787-9 Dreamliner will offer eight seats in its new First cabin, 42 seats in Club World, 39 in World Traveller Plus and another 127 for those seated in World Traveller. The British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner, which will make its first commercial flight from Heathrow to Delhi in October, will be the most technologically advanced aircraft in British Airways’ fleet.
Multinational contract wins boost for Flight Centre
Flight Centre has seen its profits rise by 13 per cent thanks to strong growth by its global corporate travel brands.
The Australia-based company, which owns FCm Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveller, made a pre-tax profit of S$367.8 million for the year to June 30, as revenue rose by 6.8 per cent to S$2.4 billion.
Flight Centre said that its business travel brands increased their total transaction value (TTV) by 16.3 per cent to S$5.6 billion for the year. Corporate travel generates 33.6 per cent of Flight Centre’s total turnover.
Managing director Graham Turner said: "Our corporate businesses globally have started the year with strong momentum following record wins during 2014/15.
“We have been particularly successful in securing multinational accounts and these types of accounts now represent about 30 per cent of FCm's sales globally."
Three more new brands in Thailand by Accor Hotels
Accor is currently seeking opportunities to launch its serviced apartment brand The Sebel, its Suite Novotel sub-brand, and its recently acquired lifestyle label, Mama Shelter, in the country.
All the properties are expected to be in Bangkok, although no firm projects have yet been signed.
Accor does not currently operate any of these three brands in East Asia, although it has a strong portfolio of Sebel properties in Australia and has already confirmed plans to launch the upscale brand in Myanmar and China.
Accor will launch its ibis Styles brand in Chiang Khong – a town on the banks of the Mekong River in northern Thailand, close to the new Friendship Bridge to Laos. This forms part of plans to “push” the ibis Styles brand further in Thailand.
In terms of total pipeline, AccorHotels now has 13 new properties in various stages of development across Thailand, all of which are expected to open within the next three years.
US hotel occupancy and rates up
The U.S. hotel industry reported positive results in the three key performance metrics during July 2015, according to data from STR, Inc.
In year-over-year results, the U.S. hotel industry’s occupancy was up 2.3% to 75.3%; its average daily rate rose 5.9% to US$124.32; and its revenue per available room increased 8.3% to US$93.61.
Etihad’s latest pricing structure
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will implement a new fare structure from September 14th to provide more choice and clarity when booking flights.
A total of eight new ‘Fare Choices’ will be introduced, allowing travellers to tailor their bookings to their individual needs.
The ‘Fare Choices’ are transparent and differ in baggage allowance, flexibility and included benefits that otherwise need to be purchased separately. The new flexible fare structure will be available through all of Etihad Airways’ booking channels, including its website (etihad.com), retail outlets and global contact centre, as well as travel agencies.
All tickets booked from September 14th will be split into these distinct fare choices.
The structure for Economy Class includes Economy Breaking Deals, Economy Saver, Economy Value and Economy Freedom.
Business Class includes Business Breaking Deals, Business Saver and Business Freedom, while in First Class there will only be one fare family – Freedom.
Additionally, an adapted baggage policy will provide guests with a more standardised baggage allowance structure across the Etihad Airways Partner network, while also reducing the price for excess baggage charges on most routes. The new baggage policy has also been announced to more flexibly respond to individual customer needs and to better align Etihad Airways with other Etihad Airways Partner airlines.
As part of the policy change, the cost of excess baggage will be dramatically cut on the majority of fares. On some routes the cost of buying an additional 23kg piece of baggage will be reduced by up to 90 per cent, with a further reduction of up to 30 per cent if pre-purchased directly with Etihad Airways up to 24 hours before travel.
Starwood introduces Sheraton Grand
Starwood Hotels & Resorts is introducing Sheraton Grand, a new premier tier which will offer amenities, including renowned chefs, superior gyms, unique Sheraton Club lounges, and an array of idyllic spa options and state-of-the-art space for events, meetings, and conferences.
Starwood revealed the first ten Sheraton Grand properties, which span from Bangalore to Beijing, Dubai to Edinburgh, Miyazaki to Seoul, Taipei to Bangkok, and Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro.
By year end, Starwood expects to have 50 newly-designated Sheraton Grand hotels around the world with plans for 100 by early 2017. Sheraton Grand is one of many initiatives currently underway for Sheraton 2020, a comprehensive plan designed to solidify Sheraton as a leading global hotel brand of choice, everywhere.
As Sheraton Grand gets formally launched worldwide, the tier will also encompass a number of existing properties that historically list Grand or Grande in their title and also demonstrate the best of the brand.