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RyanAir: Bye bye, checked bags & airport check-in. Hello, Gambling!

June 28, 2009

RyanAir this week announced that they will soon eliminate all airport check-in counters and require passengers to carry-on their luggage. Starting early next year, passengers will need to schlep their bags through airport security and drop them at the steps of the plane for checking into plane’s cargo hold. Once aboard though, there will be gambling!

A spokesman from the safety regulation group at the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority said that although there are no explicit rules that prohibit such practice, there were logistical and security issues. More luggage would lengthen security screening times while some baggage might not even fit through scanners, he said.

Under Ryanair’s proposed policy, passengers would not be allowed to pack liquids, razors and other items now prohibited in carry-on baggage, despite having the luggage stored in the aircraft’s cargo hold.

Ryanair did not specify whether personnel responsible for loading and unloading baggage would be Ryanair employees or members of an independent baggage-handling service.

The airline expects to debut their in-flight gambling service within five years, even though the U.K. Gambling Association says that “all forms of commercial betting and gaming are illegal on aircraft.” Whatever. Norms and rules are for other airlines, not RyanAir. No, they’ll never abandon their zealous mission to become the first successful airline with the motto: “Bring Your Own Plane!”

[Source: Consumerist]



Southwest starts services to LaGuardia

June 27, 2009
Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines

Starting tomorrow, Southwest will fly out of New York’s LaGuardia airport, which hopefully means that flying between New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington is about to get a whole lot cheaper.

The move is part of the airline’s attempt to cater more towards business customers, who don’t always want to fly into the second-tier airports Southwest usually favors.

CEO Gary C. Kelly has been fine-tuning the Southwest model since becoming CEO in 2004. In pursuit of business travelers, he bent the traditional “first come, first serve” seating rules with “Business Select.” Passengers pay a few bucks more to get a spot at the front of the boarding line, an extra frequent-flier award and a free drink. He also pushed Southwest into the kind of huge airports it once spurned. The strategy has worked in Denver and Philadelphia, where Southwest has grown rapidly.
Now it needs the big Eastern cities to buttress its service at Chicago’s Midway Airport, Southwest’s second-busiest hub, with more than 200 daily flights.

“If we’re holding ourselves out to Chicagoans saying, ‘We want to be your business airline,’ we’ve got to be able to take them” to New York, Boston and Minneapolis, Kelly said.

New Yorkers will be able to catch five flights daily to Chicago’s Midway airport, and three flights to Baltimore/Washington International. Starting in mid-August, the airline will also start flying from Boston’s Logan airport.

Though LaGuardia is notoriously congested, it’s still nice have another quality discount airline flying out of New York.

[Source: Consumerist]



Tips for trauma-free travel

June 26, 2009

Holidaying is one of our favourite pastimes, with Brits making almost 70,000 trips abroad alone each year. While we traditionally associate holidaying with seasonal health complaints such as travellers’ tummy, sunburn and insect bites, back pain is also a common holiday health hazard.

We all need a holiday to recharge our batteries, but with back pain affecting almost 80% of us at some time in our lives, occasionally a combination of hectic preparations, uncomfortable journeys and emotional stress can mean that travel takes its toll on the back.

Whether planning the holiday of a lifetime or just looking for a seasonal summer getaway, backadvice.info, has the following advice to help prevent and ease back pain on your travels:

Flying high – airplane travel can be restrictive and uncomfortable, even if you don’t have an existing back complaint. Try to request an aisle seat where you will have more leg room and can regularly get up and move around to ease any pressure on the back – if you are in a middle seat, use a toilet break as an opportunity to stretch your legs and back. To help maintain a good sitting posture, keep both feet flat on the floor at all times.

Keep moving – regular, gentle exercise helps ease stiffness and strengthens the back muscles. Ensure you keep mobile a little every day while you are away, particularly if you are used to a certain level of exercise, to avoid muscle seizure. Make the most of your hotel pool or a safe bathing area of the sea to keep you active – water can also help ease any niggles you may have.

Sightseeing – one of the best parts of any holiday is soaking up all of the glorious sights! However, constant craning of the neck to view beautiful buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, Sagrada Familia or Empire State Building may place a strain on the neck muscles. Rest the neck each evening by having a relaxing bath and use a pressure relieving travel pillow to support and help the muscles recover.

Travel light – while it is temping to pack for every eventuality, wherever possible, try to pack light. Lugging around heavy baggage can put a strain on the back, particularly if you are not used to carrying or lifting heavy loads. Invest in a wheeled suitcase, make use of luggage trolleys at airports and don’t be afraid to ask airport, coach or taxi staff for help. If you need to lift hand luggage into an overhead locker of a plane, bend your knees and hips – not your back – and try to prevent bending and twisting at the same time.

Treat yourself – holidays are all about relaxation and indulgence, but an added bonus is that if you have access to luxuries such as a jacuzzi, having a massage or using a steam room, these can also benefit your back as they manipulate and relax the muscles.

Comfort on-the-go – while you may need to sit in uncomfortable positions on your travels – especially if you are flying long-haul, have a long transfer to your destination, or are travelling a distance by train or car – it helps to be able to rest your head comfortably. While blow-up neck cushions might seem a good buy, often they only offer limited support and can deflate on long journeys.

Colder climes – if you’re planning a skiing or snowboarding trip, or are holidaying somewhere cool, remember that if the kidney area is exposed or cold, the lower back and pelvic muscles will tighten leaving the back vulnerable to injury. Even if you are active and feel warm, keep an extra layer of clothing on to ensure the back is warm as well. A hot bath at the end of the day should also help.

Spread the load – sun lotion, insect repellent, beach towels, bottled water… there are plenty of travel essentials that we all stock up on to accompany us on our holiday. Although important, the collective weight of these can add up. To ensure you even the load and reduce the strain on your back and neck, swap your beach bag for a small backpack which you can wear across both shoulders.

Sleeping sound – its important to get a good night’s sleep, not only to ensure you can make the most of your time on holiday, but also to help your body’s tired muscles recuperate. When you reach you destination, it is sometimes difficult to get comfortable on a new bed.

Keep hydrated – dehydration contributes to a surprising number of back pain cases, so its important to drink plenty of fluids particularly if you are in a hot country. Remember that some drinks, such as caffeinated tea and coffee, actually dehydrate the body – the best way to keep your levels topped up is to carry a bottle of water with you and sip it throughout the day.



Berlin launches special tourist deals to suit every budget

June 26, 2009
Berlin

Berlin

Visitors to the German capital this summer are faced with a number of choices when it comes to their holiday budget. They can choose between beginning a weekend break with a Champagne breakfast for $377 or ending it with a few glasses of wine for nothing at all.

Another option on offer is a rented limousine service for $637 or going on a salsa dancing course for free. They are just two of the activities that Berlin’s tourist authorities have come up with to attract more visitors to the city in these economically difficult times.

The campaign is called ‘The Berlin Calculator’ and it groups together a range of weekend programmes to suit every pocket. They include the ‘Berlin for Free’ deal, ‘Berlin for Party-Goers’ for $47 or ‘Berlin for Credit-Crunched Millionaires’ for $2,231.

As part of the ‘Credit-Crunched’ package you can ease into the weekend with a modestly priced visit to a delicatessen where for $35 you can buy the ‘finest truffles, truffle hams, truffle pecorino and truffle butter’ for a picnic at Berlin’s Wansee Lake.

Next on the programme is a ‘Botox to Go’ session at a clinic on the city’s famous shopping avenue, the Kurfuerstendamm, for $489. The tourist agency’s advertising blurb advises you ‘to do it like high society and refresh your complexion for the up-coming evening.’ The Botox to Go session also includes a two-for-less offer: ‘If you treat two areas of your face, you get a $210 discount.’

More information on all of the weekend programmes on offer can be found at www.visitberlin.de when you click on the English language version of the website.

The website includes a map pinpointing the locations for each step of the program, allowing you to decide if you will have enough time to cover the visit to a shopping gallery, a fish lunch for $165, a box at the opera for $165 or a visit to a casino by limousine. There is no limousine included in the ‘Berlin for Under 50 Euros’ deal. Instead, it includes a Berlin Welcome Card for $23 that gives you access to a number of discounts.

They include breakfast in Berlin’s trendy Prenzlauer Berg district beginning at $3.50, sightseeing on the number 100 bus route for free and Happy Hour Sushi in the Kreuzberg district for $10.

In the evening you can shake your stuff at a nightclub in Berlin’s party district of Friedrichshain for $7 including a discounted Mojito cocktail.

There are more low-cost tips to be found in the ‘Berlin for Free’ or the ‘Berlin for Party-Goers’ weekend deals. They include a free jazz session at a club in Charlottenburg district or a visit to a fashionable bar in Prenzlauer Berg called Weinerei. There you can enjoy an evening of fine wines and decide for yourself how much you want to pay. If you are on a really tight budget one or more glasses of wine may be for free.

The programme also includes a meal at an Indian restaurant for $3.50, a make-up session in a department store for free and free entry to a nightclub in Prenzlauer Berg. At 7.30 am the night finally draws to a close and you can go to bed for some priceless sleep.

For more, visit www.visitberlin.de



Eight tips for smooth air travel

June 26, 2009

There’s a lot to do before you take that flight and still make it to the airport two hours before your 11 a.m. flight. But what if you could cut that time in half and not miss your flight? Here are some tips to help you navigate more quickly.

1. Take public transportation
No car means you don’t have to spend time looking for a space and trekking over to the terminal. It usually costs less to take public transportation than to park.

2. Pack light
The fewer bags you have, the quicker you can get past security and on board the plane. Try to avoid checking bags, which will probably save you at least $15, cosidering most airlines charge extra for check-in bags.

3. Use self-service
Print your boarding pass online the night before your trip. Otherwise, check-in at a self-service kiosk at the airport.

4. Breeze through security
Have your ID and boarding pass in your hand as you walk through the security line. Separate liquids and remove your laptop from its bag. Remove all “metallic” things that you may have with you – belts, coins, phone, etc – and place them in that small bag you may have in your hand.

5. Eat later
Wait until you get through security or you may miss your flight. On the other side, you can grab some food and take it to the gate.

Some tips on saving your bucks:
a. Carry an empty water-bottle in your carry-on bag and after you pass security, fill water from the drinking-water-fountains.
b. Make some quick sandwiches and pack them in the hand-bag you have.

6. Upgrade to business class
It costs more, unless you use reward points or credits, but you’ll be the first to get on and the first to get off!

7. Consider an alternate airport
Flying out of secondary airports can save time, since lines can be shorter, the terminals less crowded and parking easier.

8. Know where you are going
If you are connecting, map out the location of cross-terminal transportation ahead of time.



Google City Tours builds itineraries for multi-day trips

June 26, 2009
Google City Tours

Google City Tours

Not one to be outdone by Microsoft’s Bing travel site or the myriad other net travel guides, Google today rolls out City Tours for planning and navigating itineraries.

Currently a Google Labs project, City Tours helps “identify points of interest and plan multi-day trips to most major-cities.” To build your tour, just enter the destination city, and City Tours automatically maps out a three-day plan with around 10 activity suggestions per day. The site also suggests how long to spend at each place and clocks the walking distance between destinations. You can then manually add and remove sights, and change the date and length of your visit (up to a maximum of five days).

Given its Labs status, City Tours is still very much a work-in-progress. For example, though the site is decent at finding locations for large cities like London, it has a more difficult time doing the same for smaller cities. Also, estimated walking times aren’t always accurate, which doesn’t help if, say, you’re trying to figure out whether to keep walking, pace yourself by grabbing a cab, or might actually need a rental car.

Test out City Tours for yourself, then let us know what else you’d like to see it (or any travel site) help you with.

[Source: Lifehacker]



Ryanair: Passengers As Baggage Handlers?

June 25, 2009

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary suggested today that passengers should ferry their own luggage from airport to airplane — but still pay £5 (about $8) per bag to place them in the hold. O’Leary said that getting rid of baggage handlers would help the budget airline save £26 million ($43 million) a year.

“What it means is no more waiting at the carousel, no more losing your bags, no more wasting your life in over-priced airport terminals,” O’Leary told The Telegraph.

It’s unknown how serious O’Leary is about the new proposal. Similar proposals, like creating pay toilets on planes, have yet to materialize because of their complete impracticality. Similarly, baggage handlers and their unions may have something to say about O’Leary’s proposal — and we haven’t even discussed lawsuits. How does one person carry four bags of luggage? And what if they’re disabled? I take O’Leary’s suggestion as a publicity stunt rather than a legitimate proposal.

[Source: BNet]



AirAsia drops admin fees

June 25, 2009

AirAsia has abolished its administrative fees from its fee structure.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said all bookings made for AirAsia and AirAsia X flights would now only display the fare plus airport tax throughout the booking process.

“We were the first airline to abolish our fuel surcharge and we are proud to lead again in removing our administration fee,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He added that the “No Admin Fee” initiative ensured transparency of the advertised price.

Fernandes said the effort, to stimulate travel and tourism in Malaysia and the region, was being held in conjunction with a regional promotional fare campaign that would run from June 24 to 28.

The bookings would be for travel dates between Oct 1 and April 30 next year.

Fernandes said the first quarter results showed that there was a 21% growth in passengers compared with the same period last year.



DiscoverAmerica.com’s deals for Summer 09

June 25, 2009

With more savvy Americans on the hunt for good values and summer travel deals, DiscoverAmerica.com – the Official Travel and Tourism Website of the United States – is now loaded with more than 300 money-saving offers from leading brands such as Best Western, Crowne Plaza, Marriott, Radisson, Gray Line, Hertz and Macy’s through its “Get a Deal” tool featured on every page.

Frugality is the trend in travel. Recent travelhorizons™ research revealed that almost two-thirds (62 percent) of U.S. adults intending to travel for leisure purposes between now and October are more likely than last year to comparison shop for deals and travel bargains – especially online.

Planning and booking horizons have narrowed and consumers are employing tactics to keep costs down, so the deals and offers available on DiscoverAmerica.com will help stretch vacation budgets for summer getaways.

DiscoverAmerica.com is the recently launched one-stop, online source for travel information on all 50 states, the five U.S. territories and more than 100 popular destinations. With the “Get a Deal” tool, users of this Website may view a complete listing of all specials and travel bargains, and refine their search by U.S. destinations, activities and dates.

Find these and other summer travel packages on DiscoverAmerica.com:

  • Free room nights and new premium Callaway Golf equipment from Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts.
  • Marriott’s “In Love in New Orleans” package, starting at $139 per night.
  • 20 percent off admission to Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock in New York from Trusted Tours & Attractions.
  • “Friday is Freeday” when you stay Thursday or Saturday night at participating Radisson Hotels & Resorts.
  • Savings on performances by Blue Man Group in Boston.
  • Weekly and weekend car rental specials from Hertz.
  • Savings on Golden Gate Bay Cruises, California Sunset Cruises and SF Explorer Cruises from Red and White Fleet.
  • VIP access to Galileo at The Franklin with Marriott Hotels of Philadelphia.
  • Savings for On Location Tours’ TV and movie site tours in New York and Washington, DC.

About DiscoverAmerica.com
Discover America, LLC is a wholly owned entity of the U.S. Travel Association and operates DiscoverAmerica.com, the Official Travel and Tourism Website of the United States, for U.S. resident travelers and for international travelers under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce in the five leading inbound markets to the United States. The website’s content is presently available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. For more information, visit www.DiscoverAmerica.com.

[Source: OpenPress]



Pay check-in baggage fees now

June 24, 2009

Fed up with airline fees? Well, brace for more. As if charging $15 to check a bag weren’t enough, US Airways and United beginning this summer are asking passengers for $5 more if they pay their baggage fees at the check-in counter. (You can avoid the $5 fee if you pay your baggage fee from home. The airlines call it the “online discount.”)

Rather than raise ticket fares in the middle of a recession, airlines are piling on fees to make money — fees for bags, fees to get through the line faster, even fees for certain seats.

United Airlines alone expects to rake in more than $1 billion this year in fees ranging from baggage to accelerated frequent-flier awards. That’s more than 5 percent of its revenue.

That revenue stream is causing airlines to become more creative, each watching the other to determine whether passengers accept the fees or revolt. As recently as last year, most fliers came across a fee only if they checked three bags or sent a minor child across the country. Most people, most of the time, traveled fee-free.

But that began to change last spring. Spiking jet fuel prices and passenger resistances to higher fares started airlines looking around the cabin for things they could charge extra for. Passengers are finding it’s a lot easier for the airlines to add the fees than to take them away.



Birqash Camel Market

June 23, 2009

 

Birqash Camel Market

Birqash Camel Market

Egypt’s largest camel market (souq al-gamaal; admission E£5; 6am-noon) is held at Birqash, a small village 35km northwest of Cairo. Until 1995 the market was held in Cairo’s western suburb of Imbaba, but when land became too precious for camels, one of Cairo’s age-old institutions was relocated to the edge of the Western Desert. Like all Egypt’s animal markets, the Birqash camel market is not for animal lovers, nor for the faint of heart. However, if you’ve got a strong stomach (and better yet a weak sense of smell), a visit to Birqash is an unforgettable day trip.

 

While admission to the market is E£5, beware of ticket officers who may try to get you to cough up £20 to enter. The market is an easy half-day trip (one to 1½ hours) from Cairo, and one hour in the hot and dusty market is usually enough for most travellers. Note that things are most lively between 7am and 10am on Fridays.

Hundreds of camels are sold here every day, most having been brought up the Forty Days Rd from western Sudan to just north of Abu Simbel by camel herders and from there to the market in Daraw. Unsold camels are then hobbled and crammed into trucks for the 24-hour drive to Birqash. By the time they arrive, many are emaciated, fit only for the knacker’s yard. Traders stand no nonsense and camels that get out of line are beaten relentlessly.

In addition to those from Sudan, there are camels from various parts of Egypt (including Sinai, the west and the south) and sometimes from as far away as Somalia. They are traded for cash or other livestock, such as goats, sheep and horses, and sold for farm work or slaughter. While at the market, watch out for pickpockets. Women should dress conservatively – the market is very much a man’s scene, with the only female presence other than the occasional traveller being the local tea lady. When you arrive, pick a strategic spot and settle in to watch the negotiations. The best area is around the middle of the lot; there are not as many camels at the entrance and at the very back, and it’s noticeably scruffier there.

If you’re interested in buying a camel (either for transportation or for meat – what you do with it is up to you), smaller ones cost about E£2000, while bigger beasts sometimes go for as much as E£5000. Negotiations tend to take place early in the day; by early afternoon, the market is quite subdued.

Getting There & Away
Using public transport, the cheapest way to get to Birqash involves getting yourself to the site of the old camel market at Imbaba, from where microbuses filled with traders and potential buyers shuttle back and forth to Birqash. To get to the old camel market, take a minibus from Midan Abdel Moniem Riad or Midan Ramses to Imbaba (E£1), or one to Midan Libnan (in Mohandiseen) from where you can catch a connecting microbus. Easier still, take a taxi from central Cairo all the way to the old site (about E£10); Imbaba airport (matar Imbaba) is the closest landmark. Once at Imbaba, ask a local to show you where to get the microbus (E£1) to Birqash. From Imbaba, the road winds through fields dotted with date palms, dusty villages, orange orchards and patches of encroaching urban sprawl before climbing the desert escarpment to the market. Microbuses from Birqash back to Imbaba leave when full: depending on the time of the day, you could wait up to two hours or so.

The easiest way to get to and from the market is to hire a private taxi for the morning. This will cost somewhere between E£70 and E£120, depending on your bargaining skills.

Video:

Directions from readers:
Option 1:
Take Cairo/Alex highway to Abu Rawash road. You take a right onto Abu Rawash road which is right before the Carrefour/Dandy mall parking lot. You take this until you reach the end of the road where it intersects with the Mansouriyya Canal road. Take a left onto the Mansouriyya Canal road. Keep going for a ways and start looking for signs, either the suk il gamaal sign or Nimos Farm sign, on the left-hand side of the road. Take left onto small canal road and go until the end where you hit a midaan/circle. There will be a sign pointing towards the suk and it’s only a little ways down the road from there. Leaving from downtown on an early Friday morning, this way can get you there in 45 minutes if you use the Mahwar.

Option 2:
The road that leads there is accessed from right next to the Giza Pyramids, but I can’t easily describe how to find it. (note: at the main circle take the road that goes to Kerdasa/ Mansoureyya) If you ask a couple people in the area, one should point you in the right direction. Once on this road, you end up following it straight about 20-25 min and then you make a left at the camel market sign (in Arabic) and drive about 1-2 kilometers to the market.



InsiderPerks.com offers free travel & tourism videos

June 23, 2009

Launched in March 2009, InsiderPerks.com is the first website to focus on professionally produced travel and tourism videos. The site offers over 400 videos showcasing the attractions and amenities of over 200 cities from around the world. InsiderPerks.com is an impartial service that chooses what attractions to film based on popularity and uniqueness. It also offers the possibility to book the travel related services through partnerships with the online travel agencies Expedia, or directly on the attraction’s websites.

InsiderPerks.com, the new travel site where travelers get to check out their destinations on video before they book them, announced today the next major step in its expansion. The site plans on adding local travel videos focusing on tourism attractions in each of its featured cities from around the world. The site will also cover additional destinations as it expands its video coverage on a state by state basis, beginning in the United States and then moving on to Europe.

Information at your fingertips
The site, which is free, features videos profiling over 200 destinations around the world. The site was developed for travelers to use unbiased, transparent videos and help them search for key attractions and things to see and do. The site also makes sure to include videos produced by local visitors bureaus, if available, to ensure visitors are always aware of everything each city has to offer. Each city can be viewed in approximately 1 minute, with easy access to a specific attraction with 1 more click. Each video featuring a tourism attraction, restaurant or hotel will include all the information needed to plan a visit including hours of operation, admission pricing if applicable and an overview of the attraction. The site will produce between 10-15 videos to start for each destination, and has already begun filming in Cleveland, OH. The videos will also be available on a wide variety of platforms to ensure maximum exposure for each attraction, including YouTube, TripAdvisor and as a podcast formatted for iPhone and iPod Touch users on iTunes.

Professional videos show it all
Insider Perks pays for and produces all of its videos, filmed and edited by professionals. The videos give users a complete picture of what the attraction has to offer in an informative, unbiased manner, in order to facilitate decision-making.

Useful, unbiased, fun and all in one place
In addition to travel videos, the site also provides map information, nearby sites of interest, weather forecasts, and local news. This information, along with the videos, helps facilitate the user’s search by putting all of the right information at their finger tips, without ever having to leave the site.

InsiderPerks.com was founded by Brian Searl, who is a former broadcast editor and videographer for WOIO-TV a CBS affiliate in Cleveland, OH.

[Source: PRWeb.com]

InsiderPerks.com

InsiderPerks.com



Opportunities in travel

June 22, 2009

Many types of online businesses come and go in the blink of an eye. But the trillion-dollar travel industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, creating a big demand for specialized services.

Here are a few of today’s hottest specialty travel opportunities:

Adventure Travel and Outdoor Excursions
Adventure means different things to different people. For some it might be sailing or snorkeling in the crystal indigo waters off the coast of Cancun, Mexico; others might get a thrill from petting a shark or climbing 4,000 feet in the cockpit of a Soviet jet trainer. It certainly means a lot of fun for a lot of people. Statistics provided by the Travel Industry Association (TIA) show that during the past five years, 98 million adults have taken an adventure trip–rock climbing, mountain hiking, whitewater rafting, spelunking, parasailing, skydiving and other activities. “Soft adventure” vacations are milder and may feature walking, bicycling, fishing, camping or horseback riding.

Many adventure and eco-tour operators have developed their niche because of a desire to share their passion and experience with others. Jennifer Sage, owner of Viva Travels, plans custom guided and self-guided bicycle tours in France and Italy.

Luxury Travel
Luxury traveling caters to a posh demographic and does not have any competition from the thousands of discount travel sites. Affluent customers are willing to spend more to get more, which means a luxury travel specialist will need to resonate with people who consider exotic travel to be a lifestyle.

Many upscale travelers are retaining agents who act as “travel concierges,” making all the arrangements from travel and lodging to dinner reservations and theater tickets, often for a flat fee of up to $1,000. Even more well-heeled clients might opt for a members-only travel concierge like a New York City firm that charges $250,000 just to join and another $10,000 in annual fees.

For Women Only
Recently, Road and Travel magazine reported that women influence 85 percent of all travel decisions and comprise 40 percent of all business travelers. “Girlfriends getaways” have become a booming trend in the travel industry, spurring new start-ups like Chick Vacations, owned by Heather Hills. When she created the site in 2007, Hills wanted to show women they don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy “raft the Amazon” or “climb the Himalayas” adventure travel.

Another female demographic to target is older women. According to the recent statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, mature women outnumber men by a ratio of 100 to 81 (55–64); 100 to 82 (65–74); 100 to 69 (75–84); and 100 to 49 (85+). The Travel Industry Association of America predicts older female travelers will be one of the driving forces behind senior traveling in the long term.

Although spas and cruises remain popular choices for women, dozens of other special interest trips are springing up: wine-tasting in Napa Valley, making handicrafts with the locals in Costa Rica or shopping in Versailles.

Mancations
“Mancation” is one of the latest buzzwords in the travel industry, a spin-off on the girlfriends’ getaway marketing phenomenon. Although the term is new, the concept isn’t–as evidenced by the dozens of guy-getaway themed movies that have been around for ages.

Last year when James Hills was helping his wife, Heather, launch Chick Vacations, he discovered the field of guys getaways was virtually nonexistent online. “A lot of buzz was starting to generate, and we knew this was going to be a good subject,” he says. “We took some of the same philosophy from Heather’s site and applied it to the Man Tripping site to show that guys’ getaways don’t need to be booze-soaked orgies. There is a lot more to being a guy than sex and drinking, so I am looking forward to exploring and promoting that angle.”

Mancations provide the opportunity for men to get together and bond with guys from work or old friends from college. Although golf outings, sports events and fishing trips are the mainstays of male bonding, some of the fellas are branching out with high-velocity adventures like skydiving and bungee jumping, while others opt to kick back with spa treatments and back waxes.

Honeymooners
Couples who are deeply immersed in wedding plans are often more than happy to turn over the reins of planning a honeymoon package to a travel professional. The couple generally knows where they want to go and may sometimes have a vague idea of what to do when they get there, but the rest may be up to you. Once you have a sense of their likes and dislikes you can then make some recommendations—whether it’s cruising in the Bahamas, kanoodling in Hawaii or camping in the Rockies. Upon their arrival, surprise them with a spa treatment basket, champagne on ice or tickets to a special attraction. Unique personal touches and attention to details will increase the odds you’ll be recommended to family and friends.

Grandtravel
“Grandtravel” is a specialized niche that is one of the fastest growing travel trends, representing more than 21 percent of all trips taken with children last year, according to the TIA. Grandparents today are not like grandparents of yesterday; greater numbers are more energetic, active, and adventurous. They don’t want to stay home and look after the grandkids. Instead, they want to pack the kids up and take them along on fun-filled vacations, while leaving the parents at home to take a breather. Because geography separates many families, special trips bring grandparents and grandchildren together to strengthen bonds and create lasting memories. As an added bonus, most of the time senior and children’s discounts can be factored into the package for added savings.

Disabled Travelers
Travelers with disabilities have more opportunities than ever to explore the world with the assistance of hi-tech support and creative planning. A study done by the Open Doors Organization, the TIA, and the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospital (SATH) indicates that disabled travelers currently spend approximately $3.3 million a year on travel. “Dialysis cruises” using portable dialysis equipment are planned for patients and their families; road trips are taken with wheelchair accessible vans and buses; and transportable nebulizers and oxygen cylinders are made available for travelers with respiratory problems.

When planning a tour for those with physical limitations, consider the accessibility of the facilities on your itinerary. Are there steps that will need to be navigated? Even one step could be a problem for someone in a wheelchair or using a walker. Does the museum have elevators large enough to accommodate wheelchairs? Are the restrooms in the basilica handicapped accessible? Are aisles and walkways at the quaint little antique village wide enough for wheelchairs and scooters? Are the sidewalks in the town rough and uneven?

As each country has its own standards, disabled clients traveling abroad may face additional challenges regarding transportation and accessibility. Advance research and planning are a necessity so your clients can have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Travelers with Pets
Traveling with pets is a very specialized niche that is growing quickly as demand increases and resources expand. According to TIA, more than 29 million Americans traveled with their favorite canines and kitties during the last three years. Pet lovers cross all economic spectrums, but luxury and business travelers are more likely to spend the extra cash and make the necessary arrangements to bring their beloved companions with them.

Loews Hotels was the first national hotel brand to welcome pets with their “Loews Loves Pets” program. Fido and FiFi even have their own room service menu with recipes prepared from scratch. Since then, many vacation resorts and hotels have added “pet-friendly” to their list of amenities because they realize animal lovers who travel with their pets usually have money to spend. Focusing on this particular trend has given them a distinctive edge over the competition that you can take advantage of.

There are many ways to segue into this niche. For example, you can be a pet travel concierge like Puppy Travel or a subscription-based site that provides up-to-date information for its members at Pets on the Go™. When planning trips for pet lovers you will want to map out dog-walking routes, pet-friendly restaurants, pet shops, groomers and find information about local veterinarians and other services for the discriminating pet owner.



Oyster offers virtual search for consumers, branding tie-ins for advertisers

June 22, 2009

Advertisers looking to connect with consumers at the moment they are ready to make a purchase might find it in a travel site debuting today. Oyster, a New York-based hotel review site, serves up details on about 500 hotels in Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Miami, New York and Las Vegas — but there are more destinations on the way. Visitors can search by hotel rating, price, location, amenities and more. The site’s search engine can find information on a variety of hotels, such as luxury, family, pet-friendly and romantic. Going to Miami? Topical searches range from nearby adventures to family services. Photos with captions paint a picture of each location, so consumers know what they agree to before plunking down the bucks for the business destination or the vacation spot of their dreams.

The unedited photographs provide details of lobbies, hallways, guestrooms and amenities, such as pools, restaurants and bars and spas. And while content provides consumers with the tool to find the perfect hotel, the possibilities for brands like Tommy Bahamas, Virgin America and Hyatt Hotels to tie in advertising are endless. That includes Crest, Colgate and Charmin because the site reviews bathrooms, too.

Visitors to Oyster won’t find advertising on the site today, but possibilities to generate revenue come from targeted paid advertising, as well as transactions, such as selling the room night to the site visitor, according to Eytan Seidman, who cofounded the site with brother Elie Seidman after leaving the Microsoft Live Search team, now Bing.com.

The product roadmap site visitors will find an engine to search and retrieve airline flight information to any hotel destination reviewed, Seidman says.

Oyster features 50,000 unedited photos and nearly a million words of copy that search engines can index and rank well over time. “That’s where our search expertise comes into play,” Seidman says. “The on-site search index is Google-fast. Queries load in less than one second.”

Seidman says the site runs on a custom index that supports information on tens of thousands of hotels, compared with most engines using off-the-shelf databases that can’t perform. He believes the site will rank well in search engines because it has great content to which other sites will link and was designed from the ground up to accommodate search engine crawlers from Bing, Google, Yahoo and others.

Oyster has nearly a dozen on-staff reporters who visit locations anonymously, take pictures and write reviews on everything from restaurants and spas, to the brand of toiletry and television in the rooms. Pearls, rather than stars — from one to five — rate the destinations. A space for comments gives hotel patrons a place to write about experiences, too. A view of the surrounding location on Google Maps offers information on nearby roadways, businesses and more.

Bain Capital Ventures and Oyster founders funded the company. 



Discover the $9 fare on Jet America

June 22, 2009

Jet America

Jet America

Start-up airlines aren’t the best bet for reliability, but at just $9 a ticket it might be worth taking a chance.

A new airline, Jet America, will begin service July 13 from Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport and Toledo Express Airport to Newark, N.J., and Melbourne, Fla.

On Aug. 14, the airline will add service between Toledo and Minneapolis. You can book online now at www.jetamerica.com.

If you are flexible on dates, you actually might find the $9 fare (with taxes, a round-trip ticket will cost $49.20). At press time, those fares were still available. So far, the new airline has only one plane that will fly all the routes.


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