|An Aloft Hotels guest interacts with her new robot overlords.|
It’s the summer doldrums, and you’re probably either on vacation or sitting in your office wondering why you didn’t take that beach house share once again. In case you do happen upon one of your colleagues, here are the four things you need to know to sound like you have a handle on all things travel.
Robots are continuing their takeover of the hotel industry today with Aloft’s launch of voice-activated hotel rooms.
Dubbed a “Project Jetson” innovation, guests are able to control in-room functions like temperature, lighting, and more by saying “Hey, Siri” (apparently they didn’t decide to go for “Computer!”) Each voice-activated room will come equipped with an iPad running a custom app that allows for the voice control.
The move follows Aloft’s earlier “hiring” of a robotic butler, Boltr, who currently plots the further domination of the travel industry at Aloft Cupertino and Aloft Silicon Valley.
|Amatrice (pictured) was among the towns hardest-hit by the earthquake. // Photo by clodio/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images|
Italy Earthquake: The Recovery Begins
In more somber news, recovery efforts are underway following a massive earthquake in central Italy that damaged several popular tourist towns, including Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto.
The death toll as of press time stands at 241, according to the BBC, and rescue efforts to find survivors are still underway. Hundreds of aftershocks have hampered relief efforts and continued to damage buildings already affected by the earthquake.
The Hotel Roma in Amatrice, which was one of the hardest-hit towns, had as many as 70 tourists staying there when the earthquake struck, the BBC said. Rescuers have so far pulled five bodies from the rubble, and more are feared to be trapped inside.
According to BT.com, the Italian government has released new advice for travelers in the area, telling tourists in the affected area to follow the advice of local authorities. Civil Protection has set up a hotline at 800-840-840 for information.
As the recovery effort begins, many thoughts have turned to what can be learned from the tragedy. The New York Times has an opinion piece noting that Italy, which has been hit by 35 major earthquakes and 86 minor ones since its unification in 1861, is hard-pressed to maintain the safety of its historic architecture during a seismic event.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Italy on this tragic day,” said American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) President and CEO Zane Kerby in a written release. “We hope and pray that the families who have lost loved ones are comforted and that Italy will recover from this terrible natural disaster. ASTA stands ready to assist our 44 ASTA members who are based in Italy any way we can, and have also activated our network of Volunteer Responders who are ready provide logistical support for anyone affected by the earthquake.”
ASTA’s Volunteer Response Team consists of agents who are willing to immediately assist consumers with travel plans and emergency logistical support if they are affected by a crisis.
|Rendering of a Tin Hotels public area, with many spots for gathering.|
Meet Tin Hotels, GHM’s New Mid-Market Hotel Brand
Elsewhere in the travel industry, luxury hotel group GHM has decided to make the move into the mid-market with the launch of the new Tin Hotels brand, developed with van de Bunt Partners.
In a release announcing the decision GHM said the move was sparked by shifts in travel preferences in the dominant consumers’ demographics, with GHM Co-founder and President Hans R. Jenni promising hotels that function as “venues to connect: as social hubs, design spaces or simply, places to be seen at” — a philosophy that puts the new brand in the same wheelhouse as Millennial-friendly boutique hotel brands like Hilton’s Curio, Marriott’s Autograph, Moxy, and others.
Current plans call for a swift expansion, with the first hotels for the brand to launch in Dubai and Oman, growing in the Gulf region to reach a target of 35 properties by 2022.
National Parks Centennial: Today’s the Big Day
On a more upbeat note, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis is in Yellowstone National Park today, celebrating the official Centennial of the National Parks Service. Dubbed “An Evening at the Arch,” the event, which will include distinguished guests and performers from around the country, will be live streamed to the public here.
This week will also mark a host of other events celebrating the Centennial, such as a living arrowhead at the base of the Washington Monument this morning; naturalization ceremonies in seven national parks; a chance for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park to speak to actual Astronaut Kate Rubins, a crewmember onboard the International Space Station; digital ads lighting up Fremont Street in Las Vegas; and a weekend Founders Day celebration at the Grand Canyon. Best of all: free admission at all 413 national parks from August 25-28.
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