Agent alert: Earn 1,000 reward points with Celebrity

Posted by - May 31, 2018

Celebrity Cruises has announced its latest brochure with great fanfare, by giving travel agents the chance to grab up to “1,000 celebrity rewards on celebrity cruises until the end of August”.
The offer will guarantee TAs 500 points on stateroom reservations up to and including Concierge class — as well as an impressive 1,000 points for booking Aquaclass staterooms and above in June, July and August 2018.
The company will also provide a “dedicated campaign guide” to help agents choose the right marketing materials, print advertisement outlines, as well as digital banners they can put to good use in their campaigns.
“We have created our summer campaign to give them the tools and added extras they need to secure their bookings”
By booking a Celebrity Cruises holiday between 1 June 2018 and 31 August 2018 agents can also boost the client experience on board (on participating trips) with a free classic drinks package for two, up to a value of USD1,820; unlimited WiFi access for two, up to a value of USD590 and a non-alcoholic drinks deal worth up to USD595.
Related Posts Claire Stirrup, director of sales, UK and Ireland, Celebrity Cruises, said: “We have had the privilege of welcoming more and more guests on board our ships thanks to the incredible job that agents do day-in, day-out.
“After listening to our partners and gaining their feedback, we have created our summer campaign to give them the tools and added extras they need to secure their bookings. We want to thank them in the process with Celebrity Rewards that they can spend on themselves.”
To earn the fixed Celebrity Rewards, agents need to make a booking on any Celebrity Cruises sailing between 1 June and 31 August. Group bookings are not included in the promotion. Agents will receive their Celebrity Rewards points after the relevant sailing has been completed.
For more information about Celebrity Cruises, visit cruisingpower.co.uk

New partnership to help Indian agents avoid the “onslaught” of OTAs

Posted by - May 31, 2018

After signing a deal earlier this month, Advantage Travel Partnership UK and India’s Pricol Travel created Advantage Asia, India’s very first first leisure travel consortium.
Intrigued, I spoke to A Dharmaraj, COO of Advantage Asia Travel Partnership, to find out how the consortium came into being and the company’s new Empowerment Programme.
In your own words what are the main reasons for an India-based travel consortium?
Holiday agency entrepreneurs need a complete business support system that can enable them to discover out from the surge of the online players and make progress. The end goal is to address these issues as our Empowerment Programme stretches out the following services such as technology, marketing, training, preferred suppliers, networking opportunities and overall business management.
Why now?
Now is the right time to choose the right partners for support due to the evolution in technology, user experience and services to stand out of the competition.

How did your relationship with Pricol Travel begin and what do you expect from the partnership?
Looking at the high competition in the Indian holiday travel market, and the cost involved for an Individual entrepreneur to overcome them by investing in technology and resources, it seemed impossible for a small to mid-sized holiday agency to overcome the threat from the online big fishes.
We learned this from other matured markets, which are already a part of a similar partnership and thus we launched the Advantage Asia Travel Partnership in India. It not only gives these agencies the edge to compete with others but at the same time it is convenient and affordable to avail these services.
Related Posts “We expect everyone to benefit from this programme and grow rapidly”
The Advantage Asia Travel Partnership Consortium provides the necessary edge to smaller or mid-sized holiday travel agencies in Asia and Middle East through its Empowerment Programme. The programme is not only affordable but also consists of all necessary aspects like technology, marketing, training, business consulting, supplier negotiations, networking and assistance in designing holiday products. This will enable them to offer the best blend of travel products and services. We expect everyone to benefit from this programme and grow rapidly.
Can you explain exactly how the Empowerment Programme works?
We work closely with our member partners to boost their business by implementing the right technological solutions and offering their customers the most inspirational, yet affordable range of travel products – thereby having access to the world’s best tourism product suppliers. We are looking forward to associate with over hundred agencies within the next three years.
“We strongly believe that the holiday agency entrepreneur needs a complete business support system”
Can you outline the functionality of your business model?
Though there are various travel associations or franchise models that exist in the Indian travel fraternity, however at present it is hard to find a consortium supporting the holiday travel business.
We strongly believe that the holiday agency entrepreneur needs a complete business support system that can help them find their way out from the onslaught of the online players and achieve success.
What are your plans for the future?
First, get the best fit agencies as members within the programme, which we have already achieved. Second, we need to reach the right size to continually deliver value, and third, build on our current strength and deliver not just what is existing in the programme but also strive for a continued upgrade of the aforementioned solutions — marketing, technology, suppliers and training.
To learn more visit www.advantageasia.in

How to drive efficiency and value with a business-focussed hotel brand

Posted by - May 31, 2018

IBIS Delhi airport Ibis Hotels offer smart technology and high quality products at competitive price points along with brand proliferation. As a group, InterGlobe Hotels drive brand value. J.B. Singh, President & CEO, InterGlobe Hotels feels that a lot of effort has been spent in getting the right acoustics when it comes to building the brand.
“Since we largely cater to the business segment, we ensure that our guests feel comfortable. That’s why we have worked on sleep comfort with the best combination of mattresses and pillows to give our guests a complete sleep that dovetails with our acoustics,” he said.
Having worked as the President & CEO for InterGlobe Technology Quotient (ITQ), and an experience spanning over 29 years in strategic roles across various travel organisations, Singh feels that Interglobe’s partnership with Accor is quite relative in India.
“There is no other brand other than Accor that has proven success record in the budget space. With the confidence to come to a new country like India and invest in such a large setup, the brand really wants to see growth in India and that too in the top space.
Related Posts “So as a brand, IGH really wanted to grow in this space. With every hotel, we are becoming efficient and improving brand value,” he said.
While most of the ibis hotels are built in the business districts, some properties are catering to the leisure side as well. Ibis new Delhi Aerocity has introduced new elements in the hotel – the specially-curated ‘MyRoom’ concept – where each room narrates a unique story of its employees designed by them.
For instance, a room designed like a Rajasthani haveli with a heritage setup or a specially curated Bollywood style room, even better, a sporty look in the basketball room or a beach-side setup to beat your Monday morning blues.
Not only this, celebrating 10 years of ibis journey in India, last month the group launched, ibism, a new campaign to reach out to a larger and more diverse audiences, who are looking for quirky and distinguished travel experiences. ibism promises the most friendly experiences for the guests. The campaign is designed to place people (employees and customers) at the heart of everything, it is all about making guests feel welcomed, heart-warmed, incredible and like they belong.
Ibis is also looking at the renovated look and feel of some of the properties in a few months, starting in Kolkata and Mumbai offering a warm and residential feel to its guests. Talking about the investment, Singh said, “We have committed investments of up to Rs 2,600 crore in the business and have brought our costs down by over 30 percent by relooking at every component of building the project.”
2018 looks promising for InterGlobe Hotels. The opening of Ibis Kolkata will commence operations in Q4, 2018 (189 rooms), seven hotels are under development in 2018 and total portfolio of 23 hotels with approximately 4,000 rooms by 2022.

Indian CBI announce date for Tony Fernandes questioning

Posted by - May 31, 2018

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes Following raids on AirAsia’s India offices in Mumbai on 29 May, investigating allegations of corruption and bribery, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation has summoned CEO Tony Fernandes for questioning on 6 June, according to an article in the Financial Express
The CBI case, also against AirAsia India’s non-executive director R Venkataramanan and CEO of operations Bo Lingam, concerns accusations that the flamboyant CEO is guilty of violating Indian direct investment laws and alleged bribery of government officials to ease legislation and provide a license to operate within the country.
The article also states “A total of 14 people, including some former and current employees of AirAsia, have been named in the charge sheet. This includes the airline’s former CEO Mittu Chandilya, his secretary, and the current and the former CFO of the airline, Deepak Mahendra and Vijay Gopalan.”
Commenting on its investigations the CBI said the airline and its CEO “chose to beat the legal frameworks and policies of the aviation sector of India” and improperly courted government administrators “to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through non-transparent means”.
AirAsia India has said in an official statement that it denies all charges and that will work with officials agencies “to present the correct facts”.
Related Posts However, the airline’s stance on the matter has been undermined by Fernandes’ apparently unconnected comments via his Twitter account, where he declared: “Sometimes wonder about certain media. Who just wrote anything without checking any facts. Seriously wild stuff which are just plain wrong and inaccurate.”
My own requests to AirAsia India for comment on the situation have so far been met with silence.
It has been four years since the AirAsia first entered the Indian domestic market with a view to quickly establish its international services in the country. However these plans were hindered by aviation laws stating an airline must operate on a domestic basis for at least five years – with a minimum fleet size of 20 planes) before scaling up to international services.
Subsequently, in 2017, the five year probation period has been removed, but it is these rules which are at the heart of the charges. With the CBI believing the airline and its leadership sought to operate as an international carrier from the moment it began to operating in India.
Another eye catching name in the case is R Venkataramanan, who, in addition to his role for the airline, is the managing trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust an organisation responsible for AirAsia’s majority owners Tata Group.
“I have been wrongly named as an accused”
Commenting on his involvement in the scandal Venkataramanan said: “In my capacity as non-executive director of AirAsia India Limited, I have been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI on operational matters where I had little or no role to play.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Associated Press

Airbnb donate €1.25 million to Community Tourism Programme

Posted by - May 31, 2018

Airbnb has released details concerning the first recipients of its its €5 million Community Tourism Programme. More than €1.25 million has been awarded to 24 community projects from London to Lisbon, Barcelona to Bologna, that use innovation to help promote local customs, preserve unique landmarks, and encourage healthy tourism that makes communities stronger.
Speaking at the OECD Conference in Paris, Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer, said: “I’m excited to see our community and partners continue Airbnb’s tradition of using travel and innovation to make communities stronger.
“We’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the response to the Community Tourism Programme, and by the positive actions underway across the continent to retain the cultures, traditions and landmarks that make Europe’s diverse communities unique. To these innovators, I say that we are proud to support and invest in the valuable work you do.”
Highlights from the first round of funding allocations include:
Putting An Outer Borough on the Map: Airbnb help support cultural and hospitality training in Waltham Forest, as part of the London Borough of Culture award.
Celebrating Centenary Year of Women Votes: A collaboration between Airbnb and charity Artichoke which will feature a series of processions and festivals across the UK to celebrate 100 years since women gained the right to vote.
Community Events in Matera, Italy: Matera has been selected as the European Capital of Culture 2019; as part of the city’s preparations for the year ahead Airbnb will join with regional event organisers to help fund Project Fondazione Matera — a range of events and activities for locals and tourists to prepare for the year ahead.
Related Posts Bringing Start-ups to Berlin: Here Airbnb partner with Berlin Partners’ Start Alliance programme to help bring start-ups from across Europe to Berlin.
“Airbnb has a long history of supporting progressive local initiatives that boost communities and bring people together”
Created in 2017 as a way to support different social projects, across Europe, which use tourism in fresh and innovative ways to help build, develop and strengthen community ties, empower community members and preserve regional culture and heritage.
Speaking at the launch of the scheme, which has received more than 300 requests for support, Chris Lehane, Airbnb global head of public affairs and public policy said:
“We have had a lot of success doing one-off projects in Europe and we want to put this in place and take it to the next level. Airbnb has a long history of supporting progressive local initiatives that boost communities and bring people together, and we’re excited to continue that tradition here in Europe.”
Learn more about the Community Tourism Programme here

andBeyond: From African safaris to the lake district of Chile

Posted by - May 31, 2018

andBeyond Vira Vira, the company’s first lodge outside Africa Luxury experiential travel group, andBeyond, has announced its first managed lodge in South America and its first outside Africa, called andBeyond Vira Vira.
Catering to jetset travellers and adventurers, andBeyond is a company that aims to hook you up with one-of-a-kind vacations. From adventure treks to the Serengeti to the best of Cape Town, it offers some pretty interesting trips in Africa. But now set to open in September, andBeyond is ready to introduce its cornerstone lodge in Chile’s Lake District. The move is ‘just the beginning’ for the company, as it is planning on a series of lodges in South America.
“We started the process of exporting our high impact model into South America three years ago when we first set up touring capabilities in Chile and Argentina,” said andBeyond CEO, Joss Kent.
The company first stepped foot in South America by introducing a tour operating platform in Chile and Argentina, followed by Ecuador and Peru. While doing this, it continued to look for potential properties, as well as opportunities that fit their company’s model. The new property will be a rebirth of Hacienda Hotel Vira Vira and will soon be rebranded as andBeyond Vira Vira.
Related Posts “It took us 27 years to get to the point where we felt we had really started to deliver”
“This is an important step forward in achieving our goal of replicating our African integrated lodge model on another continent,” explained Kent. “It took us 27 years to get to the point where we felt we had really started to deliver consistently on our ethos of Care of the Land, Care of the People, and Care of the Wildlife in Africa.”
According to Kent, the new location is the ideal match for its portfolio. The elegant property is set on a working farm, where its owners take the farm-to-table concept seriously. All the food on the lodge will be sourced on-site. But I’m sure people go there not just for the food. So in addition, guests staying at the lodge can enjoy scenic helicopter flights, white water rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, skiing, and all the unique experiences Chile has to offer.
An outdoor dining area with food from the lodge’s farm With a wide variety of adventure activities, andBeyond plans to bring its trademark interpretive guiding experience to the new lodge. Just as it did in Africa, the lodge also works with the local people – incorporating their know-how in the land, respect for the natural world, and way of life – allowing travellers the opportunity to experience their traditions.
“In line with the ethos developed at our African lodges, andBeyond Vira Vira goes beyond luxury, offering an experience that delves deep into the heart of the destination and touches travellers, changing their perspective on life,” concluded Kent.
“In time, it will form the cornerstone of a larger portfolio of lodges and conservation and community projects that we are pursuing across the South American continent.”

Why would anyone want to become a durian master?

Posted by - May 31, 2018

DURIAN: you either love it or hate it.
Known as the “king of fruits”, the pungent, plump Southeast Asian delicacy is almost otherworldly in appearance and taste.
Said to be native to Malaysia (it takes its name from the Malay word “duri” meaning “thorns”), Indonesia and Brunei, the fruit is also cultivated in other countries of similar climate, and exported to Western markets, including to countries like the UK and Australia.
#TRAVEL TECH
Are you ready to get a taste of GrabFood? It is often the subject of polarizing debates; as we mentioned earlier, you either love it or hate it.
To those who love it, the fruit’s aggressive-looking appearance isn’t enough to deter them from prising open its husk to savour the yellow, soft, fleshy fruit inside.
For others, even with the husk still intact, the smell of the durian alone is a major put-off; once whiffed, it can never be forgotten.
Chef-turned-food writer Anthony Bourdain describes eating durian as, “…Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”
And food writer Richard Sterling doesn’t have a cheery description either, “its odor is best described as… turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.”
A post shared by Khunn_JJang (@khunn_jjang) on May 30, 2018 at 8:16am PDT
It is commonly banned on public transport around Southeast Asia and has been known to trigger mass evacuations on suspicion of it being a gas leak.
Are you getting the durian picture now?
Despite the rotten press it receives, in Malaysia, the durian export trade brings in around US$18 million (RM70.68 million) to the economy each year.
But who is eating this stinky delicacy?
Although the durian is native to Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, a report recognizes Singapore to be the biggest consumer of durian per capita.
Fitting then that durian-lovers can indulge their infatuation even further on June 23, at Serangoon’s Durian Appreciation Workshop.
Ironically, the workshop won’t be held at the Esplanade building, nicknamed “The Durian” after it’s appearance, but instead at The Durian Story on Upper Paya Lebar Road.
For US$38 (SG$50), participants can taste every significant variety of durian and learn the history of the controversial fruit.
#PLACES TO EAT
Do you know where your food comes from? Guests will also learn how to properly open and dissect a durian as well as spot the tastiest one in a pile.
If this workshop interests you, have a think about how you’ll get home from a day of durian-delights as the fruit is banned on public transport in Singapore.
Date & Time: 23 June 2018, 3pm – 4.30pm
Location: The Durian Story, 151 Serangoon North Avenue 2, #01-11, Singapore 550151
The post Why would anyone want to become a durian master? appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Westin Hotels & Resorts to debut in the UK along London’s River Thames

Posted by - May 31, 2018

Westin Hotels & Resorts, a brand under Marriott International, has announced its plans of debuting in the UK with a hotel on the bank of the Thames scheduled for 2020.
Marriott International has already got more than a handful of properties in London. One of them is the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, which is probably the most famous of all, given that it’s right in front of the London Eye on the banks of River Thames. Now on the famous riverfront will stand another property under the Marriott brand. The hotel chain announced the debut of The Westin London City this week – the first property of its brand in the UK.
Owned by 4C Hotel Group and managed by RBH, an independent management company, The Westin London City will occupy a prime riverfront location in the heart of London. The signing shows Westin’s growth around the world with recent openings in Australia and upcoming debuts in Malaysia and the Maldives.
London Marriott Hotel County Hall Related Posts Brian Povinelli, SVP and global brand leader at Westin Hotels & Resorts, said: “We are thrilled to not only debut the brand in London but also to open this marquee hotel on the iconic River Thames, where travellers and locals alike are staying active every day.”
The hotel’s site stretches from Queenhithe Dock, the oldest in London, and will bridge across Upper Thames Street. It will have a prominent position along a primary route in London. Highly visible from the South Bank, The Westin London City will have panoramic views of the River Thames and will be a key part of the area’s redevelopment.
The Westin London City – Lobby Led by British architects Dexter Moren Associates, the hotel will house 220 guest rooms including 29 suites and a presidential suite. In addition, there will be 830 square metres of meetings and events space, including a junior ballroom, as well as a 24-hour business centre. Furthermore, aside from its strategic location, it also has an excellent airport, train and underground links.
“A commanding riverfront location in the commercial and historic heart”
“This is an exciting chapter for the Westin brand,” said John Licence, vice president, premium & select brands, Marriott International Europe. “With its commanding riverfront location in the commercial and historic heart of the City of London, The Westin London City is sure to offer a reviving and memorable stay for guests in one of the world’s most dynamic cities.”

Mövenpick to raise its fourth flag in Tunisia with upscale takeover

Posted by - May 31, 2018

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has signed an agreement to manage an existing property in the Mediterranean coastal city of Sfax, relaunching it under the brand later this year.
After the opening of Mövenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis earlier this year, as well as Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa Sousse and Mövenpick Hotel Gammarth Tunis, the Swiss hospitality firm looks to further cement its stronghold in Tunisia.
The hotel will launch as Mövenpick Hotel Sfax later this year and will mark the firm’s fourth property in Tunisia. The brand currently operates three destinations in two cities of Tunisia.
“This upcoming addition to our Tunisia portfolio will expand our regional footprint, solidifying our presence in a new destination with high growth potential,” explained Andrew Langdon, chief development officer at Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.
Mövenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has signed an agreement with Société Touristique du Sud to manage the Plaza Sfax & Spa Hotel. It’s an upscale property in a city centre location, close to the historic Medina, a short walk from the town’s convention centre, and about six miles from Sfax-Thyna Airport.
Related Posts “A unique opportunity for a hospitality specialist”
“This attractive property occupies a prime area of real estate in the heart of Sfax and presents a unique opportunity for a hospitality specialist with regional and international expertise to create a business and leisure destination with a difference,” said Mourad Jallali, president & CEO at Société Touristique du Sud.
“With its strong track record managing a portfolio of properties in North Africa region, we are confident Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts will make a huge success of this landmark project.”
Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa Sousse The 89-room hotel features contemporary architecture and a modern interior design with a concept inspired by nature. It consists of nine floors in total and will provide a number of open spaces.
Facility highlights include an expansive spa centre, swimming pool and gym, as well as a ballroom and six meeting rooms for events. In addition, there will be three dining options – an all-day dining venue, a speciality rooftop restaurant with city and coastal views and a lobby lounge.
“Sfax is not only a historic city… but an up-and-coming business and trading centre”
Langdon concluded: “Sfax is not only a historic city with Mediterranean charm but an up-and-coming business and trading centre where upscale hotel supply is relatively limited and corporate demand is strong. Operating a property in a central location and with a raft of high-quality facilities will enable us to capitalise on these favourable market conditions.”

The US just imposed new visa limits for some Chinese applicants

Posted by - May 31, 2018

THE Trump administration just made it a little harder for some Chinese citizens looking to work or study in the US to obtain visas.
According to a White House official, the changes will mean shorter visa validity for certain types of visa applicants, specifically students majoring in areas such as robotics, aviation and high-tech manufacturing.
Apart from students, Chinese visa applicants with backgrounds in similar areas of technology will also be subject to stringent checks.
When the policy comes into effect June 11, persons subject to such checks can expect to be issued only one-year visas, and even then, may have to wait months for clearance.
Currently, Chinese graduate students are typically issued visas valid for multiple entries for the maximum validity of five years. Under the new policy, however, the maximum validity period remains five years but an applicant of this category will no longer enjoy such ease of access.
The change, according to an Associated Press (AP) report, is part of a plan set out by President Donald Trump’s administration to reduce intellectual property theft, which they believe is being taken by the Chinese.
#AIRLINES
Why is it a big deal for Taiwan to be listed under China? But why specifically those areas? China has declared technology as an area of focus for its “Made in China” 2025 manufacturing plan.
While the actual application process won’t change, study and specific work visas are expected to take months to process.
#TRAVEL FAILS
Chinese tourists behaving badly: What is being done? What’s the good news? Thankfully, it appears the terms and conditions for Chinse tourists visas in the US haven’t changed… hooray!
A foreigner heading to the US for temporary stay currently has to apply for a nonimmigrant visa; category B-1 for those traveling for work; category B-2 for those on holiday; or a combination of both visas for those on ‘bleisure’ trips.
Over three million Chinese tourists visited the US last year, with that figure expected to rise this year.
Chinese people are the sixth most frequent visitors to the US, and one of the world’s most crucial tourist source markets.
They also spent more in the US in 2016 than tourists from any other country, a whopping US$33 billion to be precise.
Source: Shutterstock
It proves the Chinese pay attention to their ancient proverbs, such as “traveling thousands of miles is better than reading thousands of books.”
With the boom of Chinese visitors to the US expected to increase even more in the future, states are investing in infrastructure to keep tourists happy.
Ceasers Palace casino in Las Vegas, for example, has just installed WeChat pay, a popular mobile payment platform in China.
Although only 5 percent of Chinese citizens currently own a passport, the head of China’s most established online travel service, Ctrip predicts this number will double by 2020.
The post The US just imposed new visa limits for some Chinese applicants appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.