08 December 2006

Christmas Traditions around the World

Christmas wishes from IXeoDid you know that the Swiss 'Santa' is not a big jolly man, but an Angel with a white veil and a golden crown?

How about the fact that Australians enjoy a baking-hot Christmas on the beach eating mince pies and singing carols in 100 degrees Fahrenheit?

The holiday spirit seems to have infected IXeo, the global travel and hospitality gateway with plenty of IX-Mas thoughts. The travel portal has introduced a feature with information regarding seasonal traditions across all continents.

Click on the image to read about more weird and wonderful Christmas traditions around the globe.


03 November 2006

Jetstar lands deal in Singapore

Jetstar airlineJetstar Airways commenced operations at Changi Airport and was welcomed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. The Australia-based carrier, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qantas Airways, operates daily flights between Singapore and Cairns via Darwin. Jetstar Airways’ operations increases the number of flights between Singapore and Darwin by 22% and between Singapore and Cairns by 40%. These flights also mark the airline’s first international operations from the two Australian cities.

A welcome ceremony was held by CAAS to celebrate the launch of Jetstar Airways’ flights to Singapore. Passengers on board the airline’s flight were warmly welcomed by officials from the Civil Aviation and Jetstar Group representatives.

22 October 2006

Travelling to the Baltic States

You might be suprised to hear of the popularity of the Baltic countries in tourism in late years. Fast developing with plenty of luxury packages these countries are offering more value for your money than most destinations in the world.

So is Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia the new Monte Carlo?
Well, not just yet. However people are flocking in masses to take advantage of the developing economies, great service and an appreciative workforce.

You can find many different packages from various providers but might want to check out Baltic Travel Company that specialise in the area.
Best packages to try are for Latvia, St Petersburg or Lithuania as well as some general Baltic tours for the more adventurous travellers.

Baltic Travel Company

17 October 2006

Uber-cool Aviationados

Business Class Airline SilverjetHighly hyped low fare business class airline Silverjet has been making headlines for the past 2 months. Aquisitions, buying of aircraft, hiring staff and now a brand new website have made this airline's launch a badly kept secret.

Simplicity is the key. Added value business class service, catering for the most demanding of travellers with an affordable fare for flights between London and New York.

The offering combines flat beds for every passenger on board the spacious Boeing 767, a promised 30 minute check-in (excluding shoe search) and private terminals. The extras feature chauffeur drive, valet parking and station pick-up services with Silverjet going even further offering helicopter transfer if you are suffering from road rage or are allergic to rush hour.

16 October 2006

Hawaii earthquake affects travel

Hawaii travelReports on the web about Sunday's earthquake in Hawaii state that life is difficult for travelers trying to get home.

Hawaii officials said airports were functioning on Monday morning but most flights are still being canceled.

There are few departures out of Honolulu International Airport, where passengers and bags are being screened manually due to the difficulties experienced.

Sunday night, flights from the Hawaii to Lindbergh Field were delayed, and those passengers that did get out were often re-routed to LAX.

Luckily, no one was killed in the quake, and only minor injuries were reported so this is not expected to have a negative impact on the renowned islands tourism.

04 September 2006

US airline industry bounces back at a cost

The Associated Press in a new article claims that the US airline inustry is recovering after the loss of 150,000 positions, the bankrupcy of 10 companies and total losses of up to $40 billion after the September 11 attacks.

But according to the AP reporter this was a much needed disaster for the troubled industry.
He claims that as airlines jam-pack their planes (due to fleet reductions) and do not give out any free food, blankets or pillows as they are heading back to profitability.

The same source quotes "Carriers also used force majeure clauses and the threat of bankruptcy as powerful tools to lay off workers, rewrite labor contracts, cancel aircraft orders and outsource maintenance, catering and other services".

Strangely all this seems like a backward trend and not forward step for the aviation industry.

Safe business travel

Any business traveler who has logged on to a wireless network at the airport, printed a document at a hotel business center or checked e-mail messages at a public terminal has probably wondered, at least fleetingly, "Is this safe?"

Although obsessing about computer security is a bit like worrying about a toddler - hazards lurk everywhere and you can drive yourself crazy trying to avoid them - the fact is, business travelers take certain risks with the things they do on most trips.

"If you go into the average hotel and sit down in the business center and have a look at their computer, I'm sure you'll find some interesting things that people shouldn't have left behind," said Paul Stamp, a security analyst with Forrester Research.

"The first step companies need to take is to educate people about how valuable the data is and also how small the circles are in which they travel," he said, noting how loudly many people discuss business on cell phones without a thought for who may be nearby.

So next time you are at an airport and think about revealing sensitive business information to an unprotected wireless LAN set-up...think again.

09 August 2006

Record profits for Swiss hotels

Swissinfo reports that Swiss hotels recorded a 5.7 per cent increase in overnight stays over the first six months of the year, beating tourist industry expectations.
Traditional holiday destinations, including the mountain resorts of Davos and Zermatt, as well as cities were among the main winners of the upswing.

Figures released by the Federal Statistics Office on Wednesday show a total of 17 million overnight stays in Swiss hotels and sanatoriums.
Foreign tourists accounted for a 6.7 per cent increase, while there was a 4.4 per cent rise in the number of Swiss tourists between January and June.
Statistically the most successful period was June, which was exceptionally warm this year.

Switzerland Tourism spokesman Oliver Kerstholt said that "the good results reflect the general economic recovery in our main markets, notably Germany and the United States".
He added that "at the same time the emerging markets in Asia, such as China, and eastern Europe did well".
Mr Kerstholt said that tourists from the US were no longer afraid to travel abroad following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the start of the conflict in Iraq.

More here.

10 July 2006

Pilot strike to hit Spain

Iberia plane in flightReports over the weekend state that despite talks the strike called by the union for pilots in Iberia has started today, and will continue until midnight on Saturday 16th.

Hundreds of flights are affected and the Spanish company is making a last minute call to the pilots to take the travellers into consideration.

SEPLA (Spanish pilots union) insists that their last offer to the company did not demand any monetary guarantee but has been overlooked.

This is understood to consist in a demand by the union for a serious guarantee from the company for the protection of the pilots’ jobs.

Earlier Iberia started legal action to try and get the pilots’ strike called by the SEPLA union as illegal. They claim the strike goes against the freedom of the company, in this case to set up a low-cost subsidiary in Spain.

The SEPLA union met with the Spanish Ministry for Development to try and find a solution to the problem, but without success.

The pilots are worried that the creation by Iberia of the new low cost airline, Catair, to be based in Barcelona, will threaten their jobs.

An Iberia pilot earns 187,000 € a year, double the wage of a Government Minister in Spain.

Minimum services as set by the Spanish Ministry for Development guarantee all national flights to the Canary and Balearic Islands, as well as flights to Africa and the Middle East.

Most long haul routes are covered, as are about half of European services. 77% of the flights on the Madrid to Barcelona link are to fly.

Travellers are advised to get information from wherever they purchased their ticket. They can get their money back or change the flight to another date. Meanwhile Spanish accommodation is getting overbooked as tourists are not sure if they will be able to fly back in time or not.

15 June 2006

Discover Tanzania

Tanzania safaris and holidaysSometimes a website can be a real eye opener and that is what happened to me when I first visited DiscoverTanzania.org

I never knew how beautiful the country is (you can really tell from the great pictures) and got all the information needed about the climate, medical advice, visa information and even what to wear!

Needless to say that there is a separate section for pretty much every location including safari destinations and packaged holidays. There is also comprehensive information on accommodation and tours across Tanzania.

Strongly suggest you to have a look at Tanzania and Zanzibar but also visit the Mikumi National Park and Stone Town in the Zanzibar section.

Discover Tanzania

30 May 2006

BAA turns down Ferrovial...again

Airport operator BAA has rejected an improved takeover offer from Ferrovial of 900 pence per share, the Spanish construction firm has revealed.

Ferrovial is heading up the consortium that is aiming to acquire BAA and expressed its disappointment that the offer, which the Spanish company described as "extremely attractive" and values the operator at £9.732 billion, was rejected without "further discussion".

Having previously offered £8.75 billion for BAA, the consortium has pledged to push ahead with its takeover bid despite this latest setback.

BAA and Ferrovial are currently locked in a battle to win shareholders over, with the airport group pledging to invest £9.5 billion in airport infrastructure over the decade and return £750 million to investors if they reject the consortium's advances.

The company operates seven airports in the UK and handles two-thirds of passenger traffic, but any prospective takeover by Ferrovial has already been approved in theory by the European Commission after it decided that the "proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition".

More here.

15 May 2006

IXEO - Interactive travel portal

IXEO travel portalIt's not often you stumble across high quality travel websites on the web. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty on offer out there, but IXEO has somewhat managed to make a difference by creating the largest flights and hotel bookings database on the web. All this wrapped up in a unique website which is not only easy on the eye but great to navigate around too.

You can book flights, hotels, cars, and additional local elements such as excursions (safaris/wild life tours/trekking), sport activities (fitness/hiking, golf) as well as tickets and events to make your trip a unique and complete experience. On top of that there is plently travel information giving you useful information and great tips for every destination.

It is all made very simple using the innovative IX-concierge function that allows you to custom-build travel packages from scratch, to suit all your travel needs.

Highly recommended, specially if you are bored with the usual travel portals and looking for something new and refreshing.


Other interesting sections include:
  • Ancient cultures
  • Dive sites
  • Golf courses
  • Great cities
  • Safaris
  • Cultural heritage
  • Natural heritage

12 May 2006

Expedia profits slide

Expedia said net income in the three months to the end of March was $23.3m, or 6 cents per share, down 51 per cent, or 8 cents per share, on the same period a year ago.

Total revenue for the first quarter rose 1.8 per cent to $493.9m, while gross bookings increased 14 per cent.

The company blamed the slump on rising marketing costs, which rose by $21.4m during the quarter.

"While we anticipated negative growth in the first half of 2006, our performance this quarter was far below those expectations," said Expedia chairman and senior executive Barry Diller.

"We increased costs in many sectors - necessarily we believe for our long term growth - but didn't generate the revenues to offset the increased expenses.

"We believe little has changed fundamentally - Expedia remains the largest and most profitable online travel agent in the world, and while 2006 is going to be a challenging year, we don't think long-term shareholder value and returns are in question."

First-quarter domestic revenue fell 4 per cent but international revenue grew 24 per cent.

Expedia, the largest US Internet travel agency, is facing growing competition from hotels and airlines, which use their own websites to sell directly to the consumer.

From 999Today.

03 May 2006

EasyJet prospects improve despite costs

Reuters reports that budget airline easyJet said on Wednesday prospects were improving, helped by cost cuts and sales of in-flight drinks and online insurance, lifting its shares despite a hefty fuel bill and a wider first-half loss.

EasyJet, Europe's second-largest budget carrier after Ryanair, said it now expects pretax profit growth of between 10 and 15 percent for the year compared with a previous outlook for mid to high single digit percentage profit growth.

Analysts said this would suggest a full year pretax profit of between 90 and 95 million pounds.

EasyJet posted a pretax loss of 40 million pounds for the six months to the end of March compared with a 22 million-pound loss previously.

Analysts were forecasting a pretax loss of 42 million pounds, according to the mean of forecast in Reuters Estimates. EasyJet had tipped a 45 million-pound loss in February.

EasyJet's fuel costs rose 68 percent year-on-year to 166 million pounds, equivalent to 9.14 pounds per seat. The total included 12.5 million pounds from more flights.

More here.

10 April 2006

Healthy hotel revenue from electronic channels

TravelCLICK's eMonitor results for the fourth quarter of 2005 show that worldwide electronic hotel revenue from the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and key Internet sites combined was up 10.9%.

Electronic room nights year-to-date through the fourth quarter increased by 5.4% from the same time last year, while ADR increased by 5.5% contributing to a revenue growth of 11.2%. The average length of stay for the 2005 year-to-date period was 2.17 nights, slightly higher than last year's 2.11 nights.

"Fourth quarter electronic channel performance continues the positive trend," said Robert Post, President and CEO for TravelCLICK. "Over the past year, there has become a new found awareness in the hotel community of the need to maintain strong presence within the GDS channel. There are several new marketing and yield management strategies that optimize point of sale presence to travel agents. Hotels taking full advantage of these techniques are experiencing significant increases in travel agent bookings."

In 2006, TravelCLICK projects a steady single digit growth of the GDS channel coupled with strong growth of the Internet channel, driven by hotel website bookings. According to leading industry consultant PhoCusWright, 2006 will be the year that supplier or brand sites overtake third party sites in terms of percentage of online hotel bookings(i).
eMonitor results are compiled from TravelCLICK's comprehensive database, which is the exclusive source of hotel industry electronic distribution data from the Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre and Worldspan GDS. TravelCLICK's eMonitor also includes hotel bookings made through third-party travel Internet websites powered by Pegasus Solutions.

More here.

04 April 2006

Travel industry take advantage of E-commerce

The travel industry needs to take better advantage of the Internet and e-commerce principles. This is among the suggestions that a new report on the travel sector issued by Industry Canada. A Guide for the Canadian Retail Travel Services Industry New Strategies and Business Models looks how the sector can navigate its current transition phase and move forward.

"This report could not be more timely as travel agencies are adapting to a totally new environment," said Marc-André Charlebois, President and CEO of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA). "It provides concrete examples of ways that agencies can improve and enhance their business operations and open up new sources of revenue."

Along with exploring e-commerce the report also recommended that travel agencies look at setting up partnerships with related business to provide one-stop services for customers. Currency exchange, insurance, and cargo/freight forwarding options were listed as a few examples.

The report also called on businesses within the industry to promote Canada as an attractive tourist destination. This promotion is believed to strengthen the country’s overall economy while providing travelers with cheaper vacation options.

03 April 2006

Private rocket flight pioneer

Adnan al-Maimani insists he isn't looking to be a pioneer - he just dreams of looking down on Earth. So the 40-year-old entrepreneur is paying more than $100,000 to go on the first flight traveling to the edge of space from a Mideast nation.

The flight, which will travel about 62 miles toward space and give its passengers up to five minutes of weightlessness, is part of an American company's plan to establish a spaceport in the northern tip of the United Arab Emirates.

Virginia-based Space Adventures - the only company to have successfully sent private citizens into space - won't say when the flight will take place, only that it will be within a few years.

But al-Maimani, 40, already thinks the project will be a boost to his homeland, which has seen a boom in construction and finance the past decade.

"It's a great social and economic opportunity for the United Arab Emirates. It will create jobs and open up the economy even further," he told The Associated Press.

Al-Maimani, who owns a technology development firm, will ride a Russian-designed suborbital craft called the Explorer to the edge of space, experience weightlessness and return. The craft, capable of carrying five people, is carried first on an airplane, from which it launches on rocket power for the remainder of the journey.

"I'm not in it for the adventure. My point of view is exploration. To become richer with experience, look back at Earth and realize the potential," said al-Maimani, who will pay $102,000 for the one-hour flight.

The suborbital mission would be the first to be launched from the Middle East. Space Adventures has not announced who else will be on the Explorer's flight.

More here.

24 March 2006

Commercial Space Travel?

Riding Space Mountain at Disneyland? Bah! Tourists will now travel to the final frontier for real thrills.

Two years after the first privately financed spaceflight jump-started a sleepy industry, more than a dozen companies are developing rocket planes to ferry ordinary rich people out of the atmosphere.

Several private companies will begin building their prototype vehicles this summer with plans to test-fly them as early as next year. If all goes well, the first tourist could hitch a galactic joy ride late next year or 2008 — pending approval by federal regulators.

Unlike the Cold War space race between the United States and Soviet Union that sent satellites into orbit and astronauts to the moon, this competition is bankrolled by entrepreneurs whose competition could one day make a blast into space cheap enough for the average Joe.

Over the past few years, three tourists have paid a reported $20 million each to ride aboard a Russian rocket to the orbiting international space station.

Prospective prices for the next round of personal spaceflights aren't quite so astronomical — a seat aboard one of the yet-to-be-built commercial spaceships will fetch between $100,000 to $250,000. Space entrepreneurs expect the price tag to drop once the market matures.

Instead of days in space, the commercial spaceships under development will only reach suborbital space, a region about 60 miles up that is generally considered the beginning of the rest of the universe.

Since the private spaceships lack the speed to go into orbit around Earth, the flights are essentially up and down experiences — lasting about two hours with up to five minutes of weightlessness.

Read more.

10 March 2006

Etihad Airways announces more routes

Etihad will launch six flights a week to Terminal 2A at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport from 1 June. The new service will offer a total weekly capacity of 1296 seats, and will further boost the cargo capacity into the European market.

The Abu Dhabi-based international airline will operate some of the world's most technologically advanced aircraft to Paris, including the modern Airbus A330-200, in a three Zone configuration, designed to offer high standards of comfort, luxury and style. The A330-200 can accommodate 216 Guests in the 3 Zones, 12 seats in Diamond, 24 in Pearl and 180 seats in Coral. - and offers a cargo capacity of 15 tons each way.

The new Dhaka route also follows Etihad Airways' ambitious plans to link Abu Dhabi to the world's most important commercial and cultural centres, and will provide a major service to the 350,000 Bangladeshi nationals based in the UAE.

Etihad will launch four flights a week to Dhaka from 3 May 2006, increasing to five per week from 5 June 2006. The new service will offer a total weekly capacity of 1,465 seats, and 15 tons of cargo, in each direction.

The new Casablanca route will start on 1 July 2006 and will operate four times a week. Guests will be able to enjoy the luxury of the Etihad Airways A330-200, configured to carry 22 Guests in Pearl Zone and 240 Guests in the Coral Zone.

Etihad's continued route expansion in 2006 means that by mid-2006 the Abu Dhabi-based carrier will be flying to 30 international routes. With Etihad's ambitions to fly to 70 destinations by 2010, these latest announcements show the luxury carrier well on schedule to meet that target.

New Travel Search Engine

Travelgrove announced their new breed of travel meta-search called "ultimatesearch", which allows customers to search for airline tickets from multiple vendors at once. The user sits back and waits a few seconds until Travelgrove's travel search engine spits out the best travel deals sorted by price. While this is just a beta test for airline tickets, Travelgrove has already announced to do this for all major travel products, car rentals, hotels, vacations and cruises.

The company believes in a one-stop solution for travellers, allowing for the best possible shopping experience online. Interestingly enough, there has been only little focus on search within the travel industry. Most bargain hunters have been checking the large consolidators such as Expedia and Travelocity. With travel search engines like Travelgrove hitting the market, the travel industry is bound to become much more transparent to the benefit of the consumers and the merchants that are willing and able to remain competitive.

23 February 2006

Travel e-commerce findings

E-commerce’s ACSI score experienced a 1.3 percent boost from Q4 2004’s 78.6, to Q4 2005’s 79.6. ForeSee Results uses the University of Michigan’s ACSI methodology, which includes site users’ likelihood of using a site again or recommending it to other users, to determine rankings based on a 100-point scale.

The report segments e-commerce into four subcategories: e-retail, online auction, e-brokerage, and online travel companies.

The industry score for travel web sites improved one percent to 79, with Expedia coming in at 79, Travelocity 75 and Orbitz 74. A year ago, the big three were within a point of each other. But Expedia differentiated itself last year with new products such as cruises and packages from popular resorts, as per the information available.

“Online retail is figuring out ways to compensate for being a virtual experience by providing a lot more information than you’d be able to find in-store,” said Larry Freed, president/chief executive officer, ForeSee Results. “Many online stores offer extensive product information, side-by-side specification comparisons, customer reviews and 360-degree views, all from the convenience of your computer.”

16 February 2006

InterContinental expanding in China

InterContinental Hotels today furthered its expansion in China by signing an agreement to manage six hotels in the second most-populated province.

The group, which owns the Holiday Inn chain, will oversee 4,500 rooms in Sichuan, south-west China, a region with more than 90 million residents and a growing tourism trade.

The move supports the group’s target of 125 hotels in the country by 2008. It currently has 50, adding as many 60,000 rooms to its total portfolio of 539,000.

InterContinental has had a presence in China since 1984 and is one of the largest hotel operators there.

The six hotels are owned by Chengdu International Exhibition & Convention Group, a company with an array of interests including travel agencies and real estate.

It entered into the contract to increase the attraction of its hotels by adopting well-known brands, an InterContinental spokesman said.

Three of the hotels will become Holiday Inn – the group’s mid-market operation - two will be upper market InterContinentals and one will be a Holiday Inn Express, which targets the convenience sector.

The buildings are located across Chengdu City, the business hub of Sichuan, and Jiuzhaigou, a mountainous tourist resort.

Hilton.com drives online bookings

Hotel companies have gained control of online sales despite fears years ago that independent Web sites would take the majority of business.

Hilton Hotels and Marriott International executives, speaking this week at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos Summit held in Los Angeles, said they are not dependent on travel agencies for sales but find such outlets helpful to unload last-minute bookings that otherwise would have gone unsold.

Hilton in particular takes pride in its Web site, claiming that 90 percent of its total online sales are made there.

Third-party travel sites led by Expedia Inc‘s Hotels.com were powerful forces in the travel industry a few years ago as hoteliers in the midst of a downturn struggled to attract guests, and Web sites delivered.

But as the industry‘s fortunes have improved, hotel companies have wrested back control of inventory and room pricing and focused on building their own Web sites.

Consumer perceptions of supplier direct sites operated by hotels, airlines and car rental companies have improved, especially among customers who prefer to avoid the booking fees charged by third-party travel agencies.

More here.

Expedia quarterly profit falls

Expedia Inc. said on Wednesday its quarterly profit fell 43 percent, missing analysts’ expectations and sending its shares down 15 percent in after-market trading.

Expedia, which was spun off from IAC/InteractiveCorp in August, said international growth slowed from earlier in the year due to competition in Europe, and revenue per room night declined in Expedia’s hotel business.

Revenue as a percentage of bookings, essentially Expedia’s cut of a sale, fell for both domestic hotels and domestic airlines.

Domestic hotels have been doing well, while airlines have seen fuller planes and thus may have less need to depend on third-party travel sites. Higher operating expenses, including marketing costs, also cut into profits.

Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said on a conference call that worldwide competition from suppliers as well as travel agencies intensified in 2005. In Europe, he said Expedia had also seen an aggressive push into the online space by the traditional offline travel agencies.

Aaron Kessler, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said increase in competition was not a new trend, and added that third-party travel sites needed to differentiate themselves in the market.

14 February 2006

Travel Just a Drop

Just a Drop - the international water-aid charity for the travel industry - expects to double or even triple the amount of good work it carries out throughout the world, thanks to the generosity of .travel.

The new internet domain has committed to donate $1 (US) to the charity for every .travel domain registered. Just a Drop trustees estimate that the new initiative means they can save the lives of thousands more children.

The first donation of $16,162 was presented in New York by Ron Andruff, president of Tralliance Corporation, the .travel Registry responsible for administering the domain, to Fiona Jeffery, Founder and Chairman of Just a Drop.

Unveiled in at World Travel Market 2005 in London, the Tralliance philanthropic initiative has the potential to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in the decades to come and is the largest funding pledge for Just a Drop in its young history.

In addition to the .travel Registry’s donation, Tralliance will continue to encourage all entities that hold those names to match the company’s contribution. The goal is to provide Just a Drop with $2 (US) per domain name as that amount can provide a child with clean drinking water for ten years.

Current number of .travel registered domains after only 16 weeks almost tops that of all other Sponsored Top Level Domains combined, including those that have been in existence more than five years.

More here.

13 February 2006

Asia Pacific travel predictions

Don Birch, President and CEO of Abacus International, one of Asia Pacific’s travel facilitator, recently shared his key predictions for Asia Pacific travel in the year ahead.

“The growing number of travellers is fast changing the travel landscape in Asia. Their needs are becoming more complex and demanding. For example, mass travellers prefer the traditional travel agent service, competitive pricing and travel more often; while on the other end, the elite travellers seek authentic experiences and customized itineraries,” Mr Birch predicted.

“Travel is no longer a luxury for most people throughout Asia, it is a necessity. This demand from travel is for both business and leisure travellers, and although airlines continue to be affected by higher fuel prices, the increase in ticket prices and added fuel surcharges have yet to deter the Asia Pacific traveller,” he said.

Not only are habits changing, but according to a recent MasterCard survey, Asia’s aging population is also producing a new group of wealthy frequent flyers with more leisure time. Household incomes are rising with the number above US$100,000 per annum set to increase by 13% to 17 million by 2014. Similarly, their travel spend is predicted to double in 10 years, reaching US$17.6 billion.

Female travellers are becoming the fastest-growing sector in Asia Pacific. The survey claims that by 2010, an estimated US$13.4 billion will be spent by women in four leading Asia Pacific destinations – Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

Moreover, women are not only shaping travel demand patterns by travelling independently, they are also the travel organisers and decision makers for the entire family, making around 70% of all travel decisions, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Mr Birch predicted that although 2005 was a golden year for LCCs in Asia, 2006 will see new LCC players as well as further consolidation of LCCs in other markets.

“The low cost carrier (LCC) in Asia has begun to mature and expand. This expansion is good for the entire travel industry, stimulating demand for travel across the board, driving the development of tourism infrastructure, creating jobs and delivering choice and convenience for travellers. Airports such as the new Budget Terminal at Changi Airport in Singapore opening in March this year will attract more visitors and expand the market for both LCCs and network carriers,” he said.

“With the need to operate under tighter costs and offering increased discount fares, LCCs will increasingly see the benefits of working with Travel Agents and GDS’s. As LCCs find their place in Asia, more will adopt GDS distribution, particularly in markets where the effectiveness of direct distribution is limited by the availability of the Internet.

“Full service airlines will look at new ways to incentivise travel and provide good deals for their customers on both their long-haul and short haul routes. It is anticipated that the business traveller will remain one of the key customers of full service traveller, retaining loyalty for their reliability in service, flight times and added membership and alliance benefits,” Mr Birch predicted.

Abacus believes the Internet will perhaps be the single-most important factor in the future and growth of the travel agent industry.

Airlines to Streamline In-Flight Ops

Gulf Air and TAP are targeting savings in their on-board service costs. The two carriers have signed up to use Sabre Airline Solutions' AirServ In-Flight Solutions, allowing them to integrate their entire range of catering and cabin services and drive savings of up to 15 percent from their total catering budgets.

The product is enabling e-business collaboration between the airlines' caterers, suppliers and warehouse operations across the globe. It streamlines the entire range of in-flight operations across each carrier's network of business partners, transferring real-time information to caterers and vendors.

Tariq Sultan, vice president of Gulf Air, said: "The AirServ solutions give us the ability to automate all our catering and cabin services, from menu planning and scheduling, beverage services and duty free to entertainment, reading materials, cleaning services and more. The software will deliver an immediate increase in operational efficiency and a significant return on investment."

Murray Smyth, Sabre Airline Solutions' senior vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said, "The decision by these two very different airlines to use this one product demonstrates the flexibility of our entire range and our ability to help any carrier, regardless of size, improve efficiency and decrease costs."

Users of the AirServ solutions have seen particularly significant savings through automation of invoice auditing, resulting in reduced mis-payments. Inventory costs are cut through better order visibility, forecasting and control, while meal wastage is reduced through accurate, automated passenger forecasting. The products also help the carriers reduce distribution costs, decrease catering spend, and increase 'multiple provisioned' or 'back-catered' flights.

06 February 2006

Galileo news for travel agents

Galileo is to announce a new surcharge guarantee to protect travel agents from fuel and security charges often imposed after bookings have been made.

According to media reports, the current situation means agents’ commission is often reduced once the additional charges have been deducted.

“From now on, agents have the simple guarantee that the surcharges they see are the surcharges they pay,” said Patrick Lukan, County Manager for Galileo UK reportedly said. “There will be no surprises after they have issued the ticket.”

In another development, Galileo has introduced its Clickpoint facility making searching for flights, hotels and car-hire faster for travel agents. Lukan reportedly said: “We're trying to bring the rich content to the desktop so agents don't have to go through traditional GDS data. Agents can determine which they use. It also reduces training time for new agents.”

Using Clickpoint agents click on the required element and the booking information is automatically shown on their Galileo Desktop screen, according to travelmole.com. It was added that the technology also means agents do not have to wade through a series of screens to make the booking and Clickpoint also provides them with access to additional information such as airport terminal details and hotel photographs and maps.

03 February 2006

Denmark, Finland, United States free to travel without visas

Citizens of Denmark, Finland and the United States enjoy the greatest freedom to travel without needing visa, according to a study published Thursday. The report, compiled by the Zurich-based firm Henley & Partners AG, found that Danes, Finns and Americans can travel to 130 countries or territories a visa.

These three are followed by mainly European countries, including Germany, Ireland and Sweden whose citizens can visit 129 countries without a visa then Britain, France, Italy and Japan on 128.

"In today's globalized world, visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders," said Henley & Partners, which advises private and business clients on international tax and real estate issues. "Almost all countries now require visas from certain non-nationals who wish to enter their territory."

At the end of the list, Afghanistan came in last place, with its citizens allowed free travel to just 12 countries. Internationally isolated Iran was next at 14, followed by Iraq, Myanmar and Somalia at 15. "Not surprisingly, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan score lowest," the company added.

Henley & Partners which compiled the results by assessing some 40,000 combinations of countries and territories said it was the first global ranking showing international freedom of travel.

"Visa requirements are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community," the company added, reports the AP.

Planning for cheap travel

When it comes to traveling on a shoestring budget, a little bit of planning can help your hard-earned dollars go a long way.

Keeping accommodation costs down, researching the cost of living in your destination, taking a sensible mix of travel money and keeping a daily budget should result in an enjoyable and economical trip.

Jessa Boanas-Dewes from Lonely Planet's talk2us team, which gives free travel advice, said the first thing to do when planning a trip is to work out the money you'll have to lay out on pre-departure costs such as flights, visas, immunisations, insurance and equipment.

"Depending on where you are going, picking up on accommodation specials in advance can save a bundle," she said.

Another way to keep costs down was to exploit your contacts - look up old friends and long lost relatives and ask if you could stay with them.

"Cutting down even a few days of accommodation costs - especially in expensive countries - can save a significant amount of money," she said.

Travellers should also have investigated the cost of living in the places they are headed.

Check these details out and work out roughly how much you should spend each day of your trip so you can make your money last steadily through your journey," Ms Boanas-Dewes said.

"Then add at least 20 per cent. Allow for the occasional luxury, and have a little 'emergency fund' somewhere in case of emergency."

It's also worth finding out from your bank how much they charge for ATM withdrawals overseas.

"These days ATMs are mushrooming and the most cost-effective way to access your money we've heard of is putting your credit card in credit and withdrawing funds as you need," Ms Boanas-Dewes said.

"But make sure you tell your credit card company you are travelling, otherwise they might block your card if they see charges suddenly coming in from overseas to combat potential fraud."

American Express head of travellers cheques Barry Fletcher said people should take a mix of travel money - a card of some type, a small amount of cash and the balance of their funds in travellers cheques.

"We recommend that they do carry a card of some description, use it when they do want to make a large purchase but they don't want to eat a hole into their available cash funds," he said.

"`If they do take cash, we suggest only to take a relatively small amount in the local currency where they will be landing so they can cover off any initial purchases, whether it's a cab from the airport or whether they just want a coffee when they land."

Travellers cheques provided an excellent budgeting tool because you always know what you have spent and how much you have remaining, Mr Fletcher said.

02 February 2006

Free Bus travel for over 60's in the UK

Over-60s look set to get free travel throughout the county in a deal being negotiated between councils and bus companies.

A new Government scheme due to come into operation in April will ensure that all over 60s will have free bus passes to travel within their own district.

But councils across Herts are now hoping to introduce a county-wide scheme.

Cllr Chris Oxley, St Albans District Council's resources portfolio holder, said: "Bus companies and councils are all agreed that a single county-wide scheme would be the most efficient than individual district-wide schemes."

The county-wide scheme would cost significantly less than individual district ones because it would be more efficient to administer.

St Albans spends £690,000 on its present bus-passes which provide half-price travel for over 60s in the district as well as free travel for over 70s, the blind and some disabled people who pay an annual fee. The pass also covers journeys to local hospitals.

The Government has added a further £490,000 for the district to introduce the new free travel scheme, but Cllr Oxley said the bus companies were asking for large increases.

Visitors spend more on travel than lodging

Iowa State officials say visitors to Iowa's welcome centers spent more money on travel than lodging last year -- a possible effect of high gas prices.

The average welcome center visitor spent about 208 dollars a day while visiting Iowa, according to a survey conducted last year by the state's welcome centers. That's up about one-point-four percent from the previous year.Transportation spending, which includes gasoline, was up six dollars and 57 cents per day, while spending for overnight lodging fell by two dollars and 79 cents per day.

The majority of travelers came from within Iowa and surrounding states. Trips averaged four days, about the same as last year. Vacationers made up 47 percent of the travelers surveyed -- the largest traveler segment.The Davis City Welcome Center, near the Missouri border south of Des Moines, was the busiest, with more than 34 thousand travel parties visiting.

New travel domains on the internet

The .travel internet domain name has firmly established itself worldwide, as the necessary Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) limited launch phase came to a close this week.

Speaking at a gathering of travel industry leaders in New York, Ron Andruff, president of Tralliance Corporation, which administers the name, revealed that 16,162 companies had signed up in the name's first 16 weeks of operation.

These include such big names as British Airways, Marriott, Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney.

Unlike the generic .com name, companies registered as .travel will have to be verified operations that fall under the banner of travel and tourism, and as such will help to give the industry a unified presence on the web, edging out time-wasting "cyber-squatters".

Consumers should therefore find it easier to research and purchase a wide range of travel-related products, from package deals and cruises, to hotel bookings and flights.

"The .travel registry is now open and we are inviting all the world's travel-related businesses to claim their space on the internet," said Mr Andruff.

"Averaging 1,000 domain names per week at this stage clearly indicates a high level of enthusiasm throughout the industry. And while no one expects this pace to continue, it certainly demonstrates that the .travel space will continue to populate in a robust fashion over the next decade."

31 January 2006

Holiday offers for Oman

Gulf Air Holidays (GFH), the holiday division of Gulf Air, has come up with some exciting holiday offers, which will be unveiled at the Oman Travel Market show being held from 31 January to 2 February at the Oman International Exhibition Centre, Seeb, Sultanate of Oman.

At the exhibition, GFH will be specially promoting the one-day packages to the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2006 being held on 12 March.

Oman Travel Market 2006 is organised under the auspices of Oman's Ministry of Tourism and is Oman's premium event for promotion and marketing of inbound, outbound, intra-regional and international tourism.

27 January 2006

Singapore Funbreaks deal

Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Airlines have launched a joint promotion, titled 'Uniquely Singapore Funbreaks'.

This offer was valid for travel from February 1 to April 15 from Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. Indian travellers could avail a special return fare of Rs 12799 to Singapore. Singapore offered exotic experiences like the chocolate spa and massage, the adrenaline pumping reverse bungee of 60 metres upto a speed of 200 kmh, designer retail therapy, gourmet sky dining in a cable car or a candlelight dinner at the new Jewel Box with breathtaking views of the city. For the very first time in Asia, visitors could see dance, music and spectacular lighting at the Parisian Crazy Horse Show or visit the newly revamped Clarke Quay with white cap sunshades by the Singapore River. Siew-Kheng Kang, regional director, South Asia, Middle East and Africa, Singapore Tourism Board, said, "For the urban sophisticates in India, there is a growing desire and even need to take short breaks from their busy routines with their friends and loved ones to re-connect, rejuvenate, and pamper themselves. What better place to do this than in Singapore?

Many people think they know Singapore, but look a bit closer and they will find there is always something new and interesting for discerning visitors to experience and talk about long after their break is over. Plus, with more cities being connected and greater flight frequencies to Singapore, Indians can get to Singapore within just four to five hours flying time at very competitive rates. We are excited to announce Singapore Airlines' offer to Indian travellers for an unbeatable fare of Rs.12,799/- only and hope every Indian traveller will take this opportunity to customise their itinerary with interesting lifestyle experiences and enjoy their funbreaks in Singapore.
Indeed, Singapore offers Indian urbanites unlimited excuses to swing by for quick getaways.”

25 January 2006

Optimism about business travel growth

Whether you are a business traveller from New York City, London, Mumbai or Beijing, you have more in common than not with your flying brethren across the globe.

Security lines and flight delays top the list as the events that most negatively affect travel. And the majority of business travellers do not want cell phone use allowed in-flight. As for travel managers, they say expectations from top management are cost savings and globalisation of the travel programme.

06 January 2006

Trump joins the online travel bandwagon

GoTrump.com, powered by Travelocity and associated with Donald J. Trump, has been launched. It will feature over 60,000 hotels worldwide.

The site will guide travelers towards finding the best deals across the globe to fit any budget and providing access to high quality hotels, flights, private jets, rental cars and vacation packages- all at low prices.

“I love to travel and I invite everyone to experience GoTrump.com,” said Donald Trump. “I will find you the great travel deals, whether you are looking to book a luxury getaway or just want the best rate on airlines and hotels worldwide. We are already working with an esteemed group of partners including Travelocity, American Airlines, American Express, Blue Star Jets and Joonbug.”