April 30, 2012
How Are UK Hotels Preparing for Olympics?
As the 2012 Olympics draw closer, hotels around the UK (and especially throughout London) are entering the homestretch to make the most of the visitors that will descend upon the country.
Several hotels are scheduled to open just before the Games, like The Bulgari Hotel in June, ME by Melia London and Ampersand in July, and Hilton London Wembley in September (in time for the Paralympic Games).
"10,000 rooms opened over the last year in London," London & Partners representative Jo Geneen told Travel Agent. "Not just hotels, but B&Bs and self-catered apartments as well. There's a broad spectrum of accomodation—more than enough for everybody."
But not everything is perfect: A few weeks ago, Hotels in Cardiff, Wales were reported to be raising prices in advance of events held in that city, while, conversely, London hotels are cutting prices as rooms go unbooked for the Games. Other brands are offering special deals to make sure the last of their rooms are taken: Accor Hotels in London have released a new block of rooms for July through September, with rates starting at $129.
Of course, we won't know how the Games will impact the UK's hotel scene until after the events are over and the numbers are tallied up, but while it seems logical to raise prices to meet increased demand (and, conversely, to lower prices to spark demand), the recent rush in development may turn out to be premature if rooms are going unbooked. “There will be over 120,000 rooms in London by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and there are still deals to be found both inside Central London and a short train ride away (approximately 1 hour) in places such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Brighton," Meredith Pearson of Visit Britain said. "We know from past Olympic Games that there are always more accommodation options available than people think." She adds that the company expects the lower-priced options to go quickly as the games draw nearer.
Do you think the recent increase in development will end up helping or hurting the country's overall hotel industry during and after the Games? Sound off in the comments below!
November 09, 2010
World Travel Market in London: Day Three (Part Two--Hotels)
With regrets, I left the Egerton House Hotel this morning. I'll miss the place--it has a wonderfully homey vibe (probably helps that it's built from two converted townhouses) that makes it very comfortable and a nice retreat from business meetings. (I'll especially miss those fireplaces, and the amazingly multi-lingual staff. I couldn't keep track of all the languages I heard going back and forth.)
I caught a taxi over to Mayfair (and got taken for a ride in more ways than one by the cabbie...be sure to check the meter before setting off on a trip and make sure it's not already pre-set to some ridiculous rate) and dropped off my bags at the Athenaeum, which I've always wanted to see. The hotel has a green wall of living plants designed by Patrick Blanc, a French botanist, and it makes for a very striking facade. At the door, I was met by Jim Burns, the hotel's wonderfully outgoing and informative doorman and greeter, who remembered my name when I returned in the evening and offered a very friendly "Welcome home!" Sweet.
I'm staying in one of the hotel's suites on the top floor, which has views over Green Park (the sun was setting when I got in, so no pictures yet), and a four-poster bed with post-modern plastic posts. The room is very spacious (lots of chairs--good for casual entertaining), and has nice perks like free drinks (of the non-alcoholic variety, alas) from the mini-bar and a walk-in closet that can double as a changing room. The bathroom is very large and has two sinks (great for couples getting ready in a rush).
Even better: The hotel's spa has just reopened after some renovations. On the downside, I won't have time to use it. Woe.
Tomorrow: Puttin' on The Ritz!
June 18, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: June 15-18
I was semi-watching the United States tie Slovenia 2-2 in our team's second match in the 2010 FIFA World Cup today (semi-watching because half of the screen time was spent on my laptop working and, for the record, there were other employees with me— who will remain nameless unless I need to take them down with me), and could not miss the confusion and outrage over the referee's disqualification of a go-ahead goal in the final minutes that would have put our guys up 3-2. Not only was his call vilified by the ESPN commentators (one of which can be considered objective when, in his natural English accent, he said that even as an England fan he felt the U.S. was robbed), but there appeared to be no explanation or citation of what foul was committed.
Fortunately for that referee, the game wasn't taking place in Philadelphia, McAfee Coliseum (where the dreaded Black Hole of Oakland Raiders fans await) or even in Madison Square Garden when Bowe and Golotta are fighting. There are probably hundreds in South Africa right now, and hundreds of thousands across the planet, that want his head. This takes place just after the recent tainting of a perfect game by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga when umpire Jim Joyce made, clearly, an incorrect call at first base (he later admitted his error).
Needless to say, it has not been the best of times for sports referees as of late. Hence, I'm a little on edge this week when it comes to making calls on what readers of TravelAgentCentral.com have been saying as of late. I'd like to think that, over the course of the Weekly Wrap, I've been fair enough and have admitted when incorrect calls have been made. But that could always change. Let's see what happens this week.
Yellow Card of the Week
Mistakes happen and fouls are sometimes committed without any malicious intention. But they still happen. Last week, I had to remind someone that we are not Pet Airways but instead are a media outlet reporting about the airline. A similar instance took place this week when a reader commented on our report about Le Sereno in St. Barts naming a new general manager. Maroussia Nassief Reid apparently believes new GM Javier Vila works with us, writing:
Hello Mr. Vila,
Remember me? Maroussia from the Mayfair......my dad was going to spain so i looked you up and found you close to my caribbean home!!! Please email me so we can keep in touch! My email is email@example.com
Come on, Maroussia. The property's website is right there at the end of the story(here it is again: www.lesereno.com). We enjoy sharing the news with everyone but we can't do all of the following up and networking on our own. Have to call a foul on that one.
Red Card of the Week
As I said, mistakes sometimes happen without any ill will. But then there are those that are not only blatanly malicious, but sloppy as well. Take for instance Jonh London who, when commenting on our new full-timer Meagan Drillinger's report on adrenaline junky travel suggestions, posted:
You call this "for travellers on a budget" ? ($19999 for 1 week)....For that kind of money I can go 2 weeks to New-Zealand, and climb the vulcano's there!
Jonh, or somehow I bet you meant to add your name as "John," there is no package for $19,999. Yes, there is one for $1,999 if you want to go tornado chasing. However, not only are the rest of the packages low-cost (one as low as $96 per night) but the story says the source of the list is one that targets budget-minded. There's no line that deliberately says "these are all highly affordable" or something of the sort. Plus, I am pretty sure New Zealand is not supposed to have a hyphen in it and it's "volcano," not vulcano (Spock plays no role in magma production). You're always welcome to share your two cents, but that doesn't mean your free from penalty if you are not careful.
I enjoy seeing the passion that readers have when it comes to multilevel marketing companies like YTB, but sometimes it's exhausting and could use a break. Such is the case with a recent report by George Dooley analyzing a cheeky column written by Peter Stilphen about whether travel professionals should join an MLM or not. I shared most of the exchanges last week, and there are now more to read. The latest is a call-and-response pattern between denyse and Laura. It began with denyse's initial comment:
I'm a former YTB member and once I learned that there are definitely alternatives for me to sell MORE travel WITHOUT paying $50 per month, I jumped. I needed to sell RCCL and NCL because that's what my clients wanted. I also get much more training and support. My business has increased by 3000% since leaving and I pay $0 per month.
I had talked and talked to various YTB people to get them to see the light. I've come to understand that no matter what I say, unless you see the light for yourself you'll stay there. I don't have the time to keep saying the same things over and over again.
I wish everyone in YTB well who's looking to sell travel. But there ARE better alternatives. Think about your clients. SOME of them HAVE heard about YTB. And your business will not be as successful as it could be while with YTB.
Laura then chimed in:
Just because you WISH that MLMs didn't have a legitimate (and successful) business model doesn't mean they don't. No, YTB is not my host. There are a lot of businesses that sell their products through the MLM model...Avon, Stella and Dot, Discovery Toys, etc. Traditional travel agents have my respect...I was one myself...but they do not OWN the product of travel. It is not their decision who gets to sell travel and who doesn't. Sorry.
To which denyse responded:
Laura, I don't think this article is talking about ANY MLM outside of travel. Yes, Avon, Mary Kay, Discovery Toys, etc are successful MLM business models.
The issue with TRAVEL MLMs is that the profit margin in travel is not large enough to support a MLM business model. Therefore, you HAVE to recruit in order to make money. Those other businesses promote products. Travel MLMs promote travel websites - that's not a product. That's a marketing tool.
There is not one SUCCESSFUL travel MLM. All of them have issues. Even the ones who "claim" success have added additional products to their company so the reps can earn money.
Time out. I'm taking a break from this one on calls. But I'd enjoy to read what others have to say.
There's been some major stories taking place about air travel— only during the past few days, weeks, months and years— from airline mergers to added fees, and they are obviously of concern to agents. Two recent developments that have caught the attention of some readers are the proposed merger between Continental Airlines and United Airlines as well as American Airlines latest unbundling of fees. The former is the larger story, and Bradley is taking it quite seriously, stating:
This merger needs blocked. Ultimately, it will force airlines to keep merging until there are only one or two mega-airlines left. What this is doing is creating a position where domestic flights will cost far more than international flights. This hurts the airlines and the consumer, with us travel agents stuck in the middle.
Sounds like a good point. Does anyone out there disagree? I don't, but perhaps I'm making a bad call here.
Meanwhile, Alex appears to be on the fence regarding the issue with American Airlines, writing:
I'm a bit torn on this issue - specifically on the idea of paying a fee to reduce another fee you may or may not incurr. Also, can we file this as another fee related to baggage? With assigned seats, the only real reason to be first on board is to grab overhead bin space for your luggage - space which has become far more precious since baggage fees have driven passengers to bring more and more baggage as carry-ons. Bin space was never meant to handle the influx of passengers trying to avoid fees - if more of these bags were capable of being checked without a fee, would this kind of pre-boarding even be considered to be a perk?
I think you are on the right track, Alex. Whether it's been for business or leisure, I've tried my hardest to pack carry-on luggage only to save time and money. In the end, it seems travelers will have to decide whether to spend more on convenience or being well-equipped. This doesn't seem like a winning situation for anyone besides the airlines, those bastards.
Note to the Peanut Gallery
I am no stranger to sarcasm and Darrell Turner apparently isn't, either. From the sidelines, he makes an interesting point this week about the UK Culture Secretary's new tourism plan but I can't help but sense some heckling in his tone when he comments:
This is a great strategy, for the UK. But let me think about it a minute. Gee, if the USA did the same, and if Germany and Thailand and Spain and Italy did the same, we could collectively choke off 10 or 15% of international travel. The British can vacation at home. We'll vacation at home. Germans can vacation at home. International Airlines can reduce their routes, and all will be happy. Right??
We can and may. Or, maybe we can hear colorful tales from the Brits and Germans, among others, about some enriching and/or exciting journeys that they've taken within their homeland and become inspired to make that journey ourselves? That seems plausible to me.
Moment of Silence
No matter what's taking place on the playing field, the sidelines or elsewhere, there are some instances when all teams and fans take an appropriate moment to honor something important. This week, the travel industry lost a friend in John Shands, executive vice president of Leisure Alliance, who passed away after a battle with cancer. Christopher Flores of the Airlines Reporting Corporation's (ARC) Verified Travel Consultant (VTC) program immediately took a moment to honor Shands, saying:
You will be missed, John.
I am sure he will be. We here at Travel Agent are keeping Shands' family, friends and colleagues in our prayers.
As always, the conversation never ends here. Keep sharing your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you by posting comments below or one other articles. Write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag). Of course, you can always discuss topics in real time at AgentNation. We want to hear from you. Until next week...
By: Kirk Cassels
August 17, 2009
Conflict in London's Transportation Industries
As London prepares to host the 2012 Summer Olympic games, its transportation industry seems to be undergoing a sea change that may have reverberating consequences. Last week, the government announced that it would support replacing short-haul flights with high-speed rail, prompting an outcry from several British airlines, especially Ryanair. (For the record, several other European countries have begun to switch from air to rail, and Air France dealt with the potential problem by creating their own high-speed train line. I’m just saying, there are solutions here…)
(And while we're getting parenthetical, the government also pledged significant funds for Airbus to create new planes, so maybe their five-year plan isn't exclusively land-focused...)
This past week, Ryanair made headlines again when it announced that due to a £3 per passenger fee at Manchester Airport (that’s about $5), it would be dropping all but one of its flights from that base. (The company also announced that it would be opening a new hub at Leeds Bradford, so maybe it isn’t all bad.) While no business wants to pay an extra tax or see its interests threatened, the recent fuss over the high-speed trains and canceling flights can’t be doing much good for Ryanair’s image. The UK will be filled with tourists from around the world in a mere three years, and many of them will probably want to see more of the country than just London. The various transportation industries will need to work together—and with the government—to handle the crowds, and to move into the future.
July 20, 2009
A Glimmer of Hope for Britain's Tourism Industry?
There was some bright news today for Britons and visitors to the UK today: The terror threat was lowered to levels not seen since the terrorist bombings of 2005, indicating a renewed sense of safety and security in Britain.
It’s welcome news, and not a moment too soon: London is gearing up for the 2012 Olympics, and will have all the eyes of the world upon it in just a few years. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the attacks that elevated the terror threat level occurred mere days after London was chosen as the Olympic host city.)
With luck, this lowered threat level will encourage more people to travel across the pond. Britain’s beleaguered tourism industry could certainly use the boost after a rough news week: Both inbound and outbound tourism numbers have plummeted (as they have for airlines throughout Europe— Lufthansa AG, Europe's biggest airline, posted a 6.6 percent drop in passenger numbers from a year ago). A proposed tax increase on air passengers leaving the UK was met with an angry response from Virgin Atlantic, claiming that the tax would not only keep people from coming to the UK, but would keep them from visiting other nations that depend on tourism. Meanwhile, Britain's flag carrier British Airways, which has also been struggling with the loss of passengers, got a multi-million bailout from the trustees of its pension fund, but is still struggling to raise the funds it needs to stay airborne.
But perhaps most promising of all is the news that the largest hotel to open in London in a generation is still in the works. When the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge opens, it may well attract a whole new generation of luxury travelers to the UK, and by 2012, it could be the hot place to stay for the Olympics.
April 08, 2009
Glasgow Media Luncheon Highlights New Era for City
Artist's rendering of the Jumeriah Glasgow
When I sat down at the Glasgow Media Luncheon this afternoon, the gentleman next to me began to describe what the city was like 30 years ago. Its primary economy of shipping had suffered, and the city was getting a negative reputation that was not unlike New York’s at the same time, he said.
But just as New York in 2009 is nothing like New York in 1979 or even 1989, Glasgow has reinvented itself to become a beacon of culture and art in Scotland. About 30,000 people in a city of 1.2 million (including the suburbs) are employed in the tourism industry. Museums and luxury hotels are opening throughout the city (at least 2,500 new hotel rooms are expected to debut within the next five years; 160 of these will be in the Jumeriah Glasgow and 85 in the Blythswood Hotel) and a new National Arena will open in 2012 or 2013, just in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Arts and culture festivals take place throughout the year, and 2009 has become a yearlong celebration called “Homecoming Scotland,” honoring the 250th birthday of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns.
As hosts Scott Taylor, chief executive of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, and Nancy McLardie, head of PR for the same company, explained, Glasgow is growing its own culture rather than “poaching” from other destinations in the UK. The effort has paid off: Last August, the city was named the UNESCO City of Music, and Taylor and McLardie estimate that 127 music events happen in Glasgow every week.
April 01, 2009
Rough Week for UK Tourism...
It's been a rather grim week for the tourism industry in the UK. Passengers blasted Heathrowairport in a survey by Which Holiday? magazine, calling it the “worst place to travel from.” Industry analysts Plimsoll warned that almost 10 percent of UK tour operators could be taken over, after losing over half their value in the past year. And riots broke out today as Londoners fiercely protested the G20 summit, with demonstrators smashing the windows of a Royal Bank of Scotland branch. Nineteen people were arrested in the melee.
But in spite of all the tension, there are glimmers of hope. Later this month, a new marketing campaign called “Only in London” will focus on the many unique experiences London offers. New hotels are still going up, and deals on tours and hotels abound in some surprising areas. Your clients can visit the homes of the Brontë sisters, or explore out-of-the-way destinations on Channel Islands.
Beyond that, by the very act of going to the UK, your clients can prove their confidence in its enduring popularity as a destination. Heathrow may not be the best airport, but London will always be a happening city, and your clients will always find something exciting to see and do there.
January 29, 2009
Selling the Scottish Homecoming: Gathering of the Clans
Scotland this month kicks off a year-long celebration of 100 events and festivals commemorating its rich heritage, which includes “Robert Burns, Whisky, Golf, and Great Minds & Innovation.” Here, Maureen Jones, owner of All Horizons Travel, provides insight on how to sell this wonderful cultural opportunity.
Scotland is a land of five million people who are passionate about their country and its rich, noble heritage. For every single Scot in their native land, there are thought to be at least five more overseas who can claim Scottish ancestry. There are at least 20 million spread throughout the world.
2009 is the 250th birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns. This celebration has been 10 years in the planning and for the first time in history, 200 Clan Chiefs will meet in Edinburgh on July 25th to march from the castle to Holyrood Palace, together with 20,000 pipers in massed bands. Since so many clan members were deported in the l9th century, the clearings was a sad time in our history, many of the titles were passed to ancestors living in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia so this will be indeed a world gathering of Scottish families.
There will a hospitality tent for each clan at the parade grounds, and you can get help on tracing your family roots. The web site which is the official source of genealogical data for Scotland is Scotlandspeople.gov.uk, or look at bookingscotland.com. Ancestralscotland.com now includes the world’s largest clan search, free credits for use on Scotlandspeople.gov.uk for people signing up to receive the Ancestral newsletter. If you are a Scotsmaster (Scottish specialist) like I am, go on Scotsagent.com for information.
There are 20 suggested clan itineraries, such as the Clan Campbell, Macregor, etc., which can be used to plan your clients holiday to trace the part of the land that their family came from. I work with Abercrombie & Kent for custom tours, or use Rabbie’s in Edinburgh for small group tours.
I am a MacDonald from the Isle of Skye, in the Western Hebrides and wore my kilt when giving a presentation on Scotland at the Luxury Travel Expo in Las Vegas this year. I have lost my brogue after living in California for 40 years, but it comes back either time I go home which is several times a year.
I would fly your clients into Glasgow, only an hour from Edinburgh. I love Cameron House on Loch Lomond, Or fly them into London and put them on the train up to Edinburgh. Hotels I use are the Balmoral, or the Scotsman for upmarket clients. Send them to a Gaelic evening at Prestonfield House so they can see highland dancing and have a haggis dinner. The whisky trail covering a tour of central Scotland is enjoyable, or the castle trail visiting lots of ancient monuments and gorgeous gardens. If you want an island experience, visit Islay, which has nine whisky distillers, Skye for the MacDonald and McLeod clans, and something very different and unusual are the Orkneys, and the Shetlands which is more Scandinavian than Scottish.
Visit a woolen mill, and buy cashmere sweaters at a great price. I shop at Jenners department store on Princes Street in Edinburgh, and buy gifts at Gregory’s, downstairs in their store on the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle. A great experience is a visit to Rosslyn chapel, about an hour out of town, to follow the trail of the Da Vinci Code.
I would strongly recommend you book clients for an evening performance of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place the first three weeks of August on the castle courtyard. There are bands from all the Commonwealth countries and the Royal family attends.
You must book clients to stay in a castle for one night. There are several I use, Borthwick, Glenapp, Glengarry, Airth, Inverlochy and Stonefield just to name a few.
Try to visit a Highland Games, which take place in many parts of the highlands in July and August. Braemar and Inverness are two good ones. A big part of Scottish life, and fun to see. I won several medals for highland dancing. My father made me practice with two brooms instead of swords when I was learning.
My favorite restaurant in Edinburgh is the Witchery near Edinburgh Castle and I always go to the Duncan Brodie pub on the royal mile. Stirling Castle is worth a visit, and Glamis Castle, great shopping and lunch. Cawdor Castle has a great tour and lovely gardens. Great golf courses, get tee times for the golfers and send the ladies shopping.
I suggest you book early. Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh; that’s Gaelic for Good Health and every good blessing to you for the New Year.
Visit www.cometoscotland.com for more information
By: Maureen Jones
July 11, 2008
Carnival Splendor Receives Unconventional Christening
Myleene Klass and Royal Navy diver Christian Rumming at the christening of Carnival Splendor
DOVER, England—In one of the most unusual ship christenings ever, British actress and pianist, Myleene Klass played light classical music while Royal Navy diver Christian Rumming emerged from beneath the ocean and, in full scuba gear, shinned 60 feet up the side of the new Carnival Splendor to break the traditional bottle on the ship's side.
After this one-of-a-kind ship christening in Dover, England, the 113,000-ton vessel then set sail on a three-day cruise to Amsterdam and back to Dover with worldwide media and UK travel agents onboard.
Carnival Splendor fields such features as new spa cabins, a redesigned configuration for the large aft lounge, a new magradome over the main pool and repositioning of the Supper Club, to name a few. The ship will sail in Northern Europe this summer before repositioning to the U.S., where it will sail this coming winter from Port Everglades, FL. Visit www.carnival.com.
By: Susan Young
June 29, 2008
Aboard Holland America’s Eurodam
Flying into London's Heathrow Airport only to be whisked away south to the port city of Southampton, is a lot like flying into New York's LaGuardia Airport and spending a week in Staten Island. Not that I have anything against the borough, but--well--you get my point.
I wouldn't be in Southampton long. The port was the jump-off point for Holland America Line's new Signature-class ship, the 2,104-passenger Eurodam. Though the ship was in England, we were soon on a course for Rotterdam in The Netherlands, all in anticipation of the ship's July 1 christening by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. (Fast fact: Eight Holland America ships have had godmothers who were part of the Dutch royal family.)
Arriving in Rotterdam, early Sunday morning, I opened my curtains to see hordes of people staring at me on the river banks below. Shaking out the cobwebs, I quickly realized they weren't there welcoming me, but the ship. My feelings weren't hurt and it occurred to me how interested people are when a brand new ship comes to town.
Eurodam is Holland America's 14th operating ship (80th ship in the long history of the company) and first in its Signature class, though the ship itself is not that far a departure from the line's previous Vista class.
"The ship fits in perfectly with the line, but does have some twists," said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America. (By the way, could he have a better last name for a cruise CEO?)
One of the twists is Tamarind, a 144-guest Pan-Asian restaurant, which offers Dim-Sum in the afternoon and a full menu for dinner. Our party had a wonderful tasting menu for dinner, which included fresh and tasty sushi and beef tenderloin dish that, no joking, was one of the best beef dishes I have ever had, on land or sea. Dinner at Tamarind carries a $15 charge.
Other new twists include Silk Den, a lounge adjacent to Tamarind and perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail, and SLICE, the ship's 24-hour pizza joint.
Jet lag knocked me out the first night onboard, so I haven't yet had a full spin of the ship. I have had a complete look at my stateroom, an outside room with a verandah. The room is very comfortable, and I appreciate the color scheme, muted tones that give it a boutique hotel feel. Suites look even better. I was able to sneak a peek as one was being cleaned and the decor was very modern, with reds that popped off of surrounding darker colors– very chic and a bit of a departure from past Holland America ships.
The sky today in Rotterdam is a bit overcast, though I am told this is typical for Northern Europe. If the sun does creep out, I will hit up one of the 22 private cabanas that reside on Lido deck or at The Retreat adult area. Cabanas can be rented out daily for $30 and up and offer such amenities as butler service, champagne, strawberries and chocolate.
By: David Eisen