“Travelling has never been as hassle-free” says Klook COO, after highest-ever funding round

Posted by - August 21, 2018

After closing a USD 200 million Series D funding, Klook has become the most-funded company in the tours and activities sector. The new unicorn now has the ammunition to expand globally, following its rocket rise in APAC.
Inspired by their trip to Nepal where they encountered inconveniences of planning and booking in-destination activities, as well as the hassles of comparing prices, Ethan Lim and Eric Gnock Fah created an online platform that enables users to accomplish all of these.
“Seamless and convenient are two of the key values that we want to bring to our users,” Klook’s COO and cofounder Eric Gnock Fah said in a statement.
The latest funding round beats the previous record for investment in a tours and activities agency, namely GetYourGuide’s USD 75m round in October 2017. Investors in Klook this round include Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs, Boyu Capital, OurCrowd, Asia-based sovereign wealth fund TCV, and some family offices.
“Selecting investors is less about the dollar amount but more about forming strategic partnerships”
Sequoia China, Matrix Partners and Goldman Sachs also led the Series C in October 2017. The investment further strengthens Klook’s position as a global player in the travel sector and accelerates its expansion in the US and Europe, including product growth and technology innovation.
“Selecting investors is less about the dollar amount but more about forming strategic partnerships. Bringing TCV onboard to our investor line-up provides us an additional edge in our US expansion. We are in favour of investors that share similar values and vision with us, as well as give us the freedom we need to effectively run our operations,” Fah said.
US and Europe expansion Klook confirmed to TD that it will utilise its resources to add more US and Europe-based curated experiences and activities to the platform to fulfil the demand for more diverse and unique in-destination offerings.
In an exclusive interview, Fah tells me: “With the largest travel activities and services inventory in Asia, Klook is also looking to bring more travellers from Europe and the US to the region, which will support the company’s long-term vision of enabling travellers worldwide to easily discover popular and unique destinations.
“We will also be using the funding to innovate the technology in the travel industry and deepen our partnerships with merchants. Klook is committed to using innovative technologies to bridge the online and offline experiences in the tour and activities industry. We hope to bring a more seamless experience for all travellers.”
Fah also adds that the company will open an office in the US by the end of 2018 in addition to the offices in London and Amsterdam that were opened earlier this year.
Continuing rise of free, independent travellers Colossal sums of money are being pumped into the tours and activities market at the moment, with investments and partnerships happening left and right. Klook is doing what it does best, studying the travel trends that are relevant to the market and acting on it.
Millennials are a tour de force in travel industry. Research states that Millennials would rather collect experiences than souvenirs – and this is well-documented in their social media accounts. Connected to this, the rise of the free, independent traveller (FIT) has been fueling the experience market, as more tourists ignore one-size-fits-all tour packages and hack their own itinerary.
“Explore the destinations on their own and at their own pace”
Fah states in our interview: “With the rise of low-cost airlines, affordable accommodation options like shared apartments, and the like, these travellers tend to want to explore the destinations on their own and at their own pace, with an emphasis on enjoying the local must-eats and culture.
“The rapidly growing FIT segment led to a huge demand of in-destination travel activities and services, which is where Klook comes in to provide full-service and seamless experiences.”
He also mentions that a huge number of travellers rely on their smartphones and some travellers book activities spontaneously. Therefore, Klook invests a lot in technology to continuously improve their mobile experience.
“Another area that has undergone a great amount of growth in the travel sector is real-time booking, as nowadays travellers are looking for a complete mobile experience, from discovering, booking, to travelling. 70% of travel bookings on Klook are done through the mobile web and app,” Fah continues.
“With our technological innovation, we rolled out some cool features such as instant confirmation and QR code-enabled mobile passes. Travellers can then enjoy direct entry to numerous attractions worldwide, where they can skip the line at the counters to physically redeem a ticket. Travelling has never been as convenient and hassle-free as it can be today,” he adds.
IPO soon? As Klook graduates from humble Asian start-up to global unicorn, the travel industry is anticipating whether the company will go public. When asked whether the company is prepping for an initial public offering, Fah’s response is vague: “We are always preparing and are ready for a potential listing. What we are prioritising at this moment is optimising user experiences and continuing with our robust growth.”
Others claimed that Klook is now too big to be acquired. We have seen this happen, with Airbnb, so for Klook, it is safe to assume that no IPO is happening really soon.
A public offering may not be in the horizon, but Klook has bigger plans of becoming a household brand in the tours and activities sector in the next two years. There are now established names for flight and accommodations booking platforms, but one is still yet to win the activities sector. With Klook’s imminent expansion in the west and a huge injection of cash, Klook is well on the way to claiming the crown.

Air Astana signs agreement with Lufthansa for Ireland-Kazakhstan route

Posted by - August 21, 2018

Air Astana passengers originating in Dublin can now fly to Kazakhstan via Frankfurt on a single reservation, as a result of Air Astana’s interline agreement with Lufthansa.
Lufthansa operates multiple daily flights direct from Dublin to Frankfurt enabling passengers to connect with Air Astana‘s direct service from Frankfurt to Astana seven times per week, to Atyrau twice per week and to Uralsk once per week. Air Astana’s flights from Frankfurt will be served by both Boeing 767 and Boeing 757 aircraft.
Lead-in return Economy class fares from Dublin to Astana, including all taxes start at EUR 413 (USD 476) with Economy Sleeper starting at EUR 1083 and return Business class fares starting at EUR 1261. All interline tickets can be purchased from any IATA approved travel agent in Ireland.
In addition, Air Astana passengers holding Irish passports can travel visa-free to Kazakhstan for up to 30 days.

FCM broadens its footprint in the Middle East

Posted by - August 21, 2018

FCM Travel Solutions, the corporate travel division of the Flight Centre Travel Group, has announced new partnerships with GoFly in Algeria and Travel Club Travel & Tourism in Kuwait, raising the number of countries, in FCM’s Middle East & Africa network, from 20 to 22 countries.
Both organisations offer a strong pedigree for handling business and corporate travel clients. GoFly provides full travel management services such as flight, hotel and car hire booking options, account management, online booking technology, traveller safety consultation, VIP executive services as well as leisure travel products.
The partnership agreement with Travel Club Travel & Tourism, general sales agent for Indian OTA Makemytrip.com and partners with VisitBritain (aka the British Tourist Authority) – should prove particularly fruitful, with its range of corporate, MICE and leisure products and more than a decade of experience in the business travel and hospitality sector.
Newly promoted Ciarán Kelly (above), managing director for UAE at the Flight Centre Travel Group said: “I am extremely delighted to welcome Kuwait and Algeria to FCM’s network in the MEA region. Their addition to our region allows FCM to service new clients we have won in these countries and to extend our services to current clients looking for a local service in these growing key markets for us.”
Commenting on his new role, in light of the agreements, Kelly added: “I am also pleased to announce that, having worked closely alongside the current Flight Centre team for the last six years, I am assuming the role of Flight Centre’s MD in the UAE. However, I will still be responsible for FCM’s network in the MEA region ensuring continuity and growth in this key market for FCM.
I am looking forward to forging closer links with our fellow MEA FCM colleagues, suppliers and clients both regionally and globally to ensure we continue to be recognised as a leading player in the travel management arena in the region.”

Larry You: Westwin

Posted by - August 20, 2018

Recently Westwin, a digital marketing and consulting firm that focuses on cross-boarder business in and out of China, released a fascinating report on Chinese consumer cross-border purchasing behaviour. For this week’s podcast, I caught up with Larry You the marketing manager of Westwin for overseas businesses, to learn more.
The following is an abridged version of that conversation. You speaks:
Westwin’s background Westwin provides brand strategies and digital marketing solutions to help clients achieve success in China and globally, formerly known as MSN China until 2004. We help our clients with online marketing; in 2010 we launched Bing ads in China to help Chinese companies such as Alibaba and jd.com to it to achieve success abroad. In 2016 through a management buyout the company was renamed as Westwin.
Westwin;s collaboration with BingRight now we are partnering with Chinese search engines and social platforms to offer foreign brands China-dedicated marketing and advertising solutions.
On one hand we are helping national brands to come to China, helping them with brand exposure and presence; on the other hand, we are helping Chinese companies to go abroad to do the same thing.
The report A of foreign successful companies fail in China. 10 or 15 years ago, the early age of modern age of cross border businesses, foreign companies trying to come to China were making a lot of mistakes.
It became a huge lesson and learning experience – especially for companies nowadays. I think the real wave of countries companies going abroad started in the last two or three years; both global and Chinese companies are learning a lot from the mistakes made by the foreign companies.
Digital trends in China Chinese consumers are tech savvy and are using their mobile phone all the time. You have to keep up with trends then you have to know what’s going on in the ‘digital jungle’.
There are three key trends in outbound tourism; first, the numbers and growth. The number of outbound Chinese tourists has grown rapidly to 130 million. Keep in mind that this is not just about the travellers but the consumers: in 2017, China’s
outbound purchasing reached USD 115 billion – the highest number in the world. That’s a 5% increase from 2016.
[The report shows 7.5% growth – this is 7.5% growth on 130 million people; 10 million new outbound travellers are entering the space every year. We’ve never seen a growth curve like this in terms of outbound volume and I don’t think we will again.]
Travel type Second, type of travel. Now, more customers are choosing a self-guided tour or semi-self-guided tour compared to a travel agency tour, which was more popular 5 or 10 years ago. Semi-self-guided means a mix of self-guided and agency travel; for example, I book the air ticket and hotel by myself, but when I arrive at the hotel I sign up for a guided tour.
85% of the outbound traveller volume self-guided or semi self-guided. Only 15% is being reported as guided or managed tours.
Chinese tourists themselves are changing. Before, there were more senior citizens who had a language barrier so they were more reliant on the travel agencies. These days, Chinese tourists are younger and more educated so the language barrier has gone.
“A golden opportunity for tour operators”
Nowadays, Chinese people also have easy access to more information so they can do their homework and plan the trip themselves, for example via social media.
Scenic spots in Europe used to be famous for being filled with Chinese tourists but this stereotype is gone and replaced by individual Chinese travellers who are spending a lot of money on food, hotels and souvenirs – this is a golden opportunity for tour operators.
Capturing the market Japan, Korea, and the United States are the top key markets these days; plus Australia, United Kingdom Singapore, Canada are also drawing a lot of attention for outbound tourism.
The average traveller is no longer a senior citizen. From our research, they are aged 35 to 44 – they are younger than you might think. They are spending more, the average expenditure for an outbound tourists in the past 12 months is RMB 20000 or about USD 3000.
Tourists with children are spending more than those without children, so, if your brand is targeting families and young parents there are a lot of marketing opportunities.
Female travellers are spending more and the most popular items are cosmetics, apparel and footwear. Also, females make up the vast majority of frequent travellers. With the change of lifestyle, more females are embracing travel around the world.
However, men also buy a lot of cosmetics, perhaps for their families or loved ones.
If I am going abroad, my colleagues and my family will know and they will say, ‘Can buy me some souvenirs?’. I have a shopping list of gifts for my parents, for my girlfriend for my colleagues. I’m going there with a mission to shop.
Payment methods Before we always assumed Chinese outbound tourists were paying with cash or credit card. According to our report bank cards are still very important at 77%; however, mobile payment options Alipay and WeChat are very strong. 69% of tourists chose to use Alipay when abroad and WeChat Pay accounted for 46%.
These payment apps are easy and really popular, especially in first tier and second tier cities. These are widely accepted; you can go out in China and not need any cash – make sure you have battery on and you’re covered.
“Even though I have cash when I travel, it helps to use WeChat pay”
Furthermore, these apps are becoming very popular in foreign countries such as the famous cities for travelers, such as New York, Sydney, Bangkok and Singapore. In Bangkok every 7-Eleven accepts WeChat pay. Even though I have cash when I travel, it helps to use WeChat pay as it’s connected to my bank account at home.
The Singapore changi airport has covered wechat pay in every store so that’s good news for Chinese consumers and better news for the airport itself.
Payment tools as media providers ‘Scan the QR code and pay’ is the main function for these payment apps, but they can do more than that. Let’s say you want to go to New York City and you want to pay with Alipay. You open the app to pay and it also shows more information about the neighbourhood – a bit like TripAdvisor.
You can find great restaurants, shops and coffee houses around the area. Other users can share their experiences so you can not only pay but find information around you -which can trigger consumption.
The main source of information, for outbound travel, are the e-commerce platforms, search engines and social media. And they are all domestic platforms, for example Weibo and WeChat, which have become important to search for information overseas. You might assume that they would use local platforms like Yelp or TripAdvisor but ]we prefer to use] the Chinese platforms that we are used to. Indeed, TripAdvisor only has 5% of market share.
Crip is no doubt the number one for travel information and you can do this pre-booking so it operates more like an OTA. Fliggy is becoming more popular; it was launched by Alibaba and Alipay is of course helping their business. These channels are very effective if you want to look into a marketing campaign or advertising as the average Chinese tourist is very mobile-centric.
Denping-Meituan is also very popular. It started as a restaurant recommendation platform, similar to Yelp. As its popularity increased it grew from restaurants to hotels, to shops and bars, and now tourism.
“You are almost definitely going to use Denping”
If you go to a new city and you are looking for a famous place to visit, you are almost definitely going to use Denping. You can see other people’s comments, with pictures and videos, and now Denping is working with the merchants to provide Groupon-style deals. That was mainly in China but is now growing to foreign countries such as London Sydney, and New York.
You can find restaurant listings, recommendations and comments from similar Chinese tourists. This is a really smart channel for local businesses to market themselves to Chinese people digitally, and to convert them from just a viewer to a purchaser.
Converting to purchase The main drivers to purchase are opinion leaders – friends, relatives, colleagues, or KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) such as internet celebrities – who take 61% of market share.
The next is discounts at 54%; we had assumed that discounts was the key reason for outbound tourists to buy. Third is brand story or brand culture, at 42%. This is particularly attractive for cross-border tourists and overseas residents.
“If your brand has a great story or culture make sure that you translate it into Chinese”
This is also for individuals with a higher education who play attention to the cultural and creativity of a certain product. If your brand has a great story or culture make sure that you translate it into Chinese and make full use of it.
Social commerce Get your story out via Chinese social media platforms. The two giants, Weibo and WeChat, are not just social platforms for people to contact each other, but they are a great way to search for a product or brand information even for overseas companies. We check Weibo with a very high frequency so if you’re present there, there’s no way we can miss it.
Chinese consumers want to see real opinions and want to see how these places interact with people. Chinese people are still highly reliant on the word of mouth and the opinions of fellow Chinese tourists. Let’s say we go to a restaurant in London; even though it’s widely popular for London citizens, Chinese visitors feel like they have a link to other fellow Chinese tourists so we rely on their opinion.
Social commerce is simply e-commerce with a social flavour. If you see a brand talking about their product on WeChat, it’s just one click to the e-commerce platform, also within WeChat. It’s useful for brand presence and popularity but also you can change them from a follower to a consumer.
Conclusion The report has a lot of interesting themes if you are looking to target Chinese travellers; especially buying habits and age groups, and preferred advertising platforms.
“Find your tone and have the localisation mindset”
Above all, if you want to win this market, you have to keep up with digital trends including social advertising. Our company is trying to help with localisation which is very important for brands and Chinese travellers. Make sure you find your tone and have the localisation mindset; that will be the key for success.

Accor launches Novotel São Paulo; targets 500 hotels in South America by 2020

Posted by - August 20, 2018

With the goal of opening 500 hotels in South America by the end of 2020, AccorHotels has revealed its latest property in the region – Novotel São Paulo Morumbi.
The hotel is located in São Paulo’s business district of Morumbi and is aimed at catering to business and leisure travellers across all strata, with its choice of four different rooms – including standard (main picture), suite, superior and executive.
The rooms of the hotel are finished with clean lines and simple, yet stylish fittings and furnishings, including plenty of natural light through the large windows overlooking the city.
All rooms, including 21 rooms for people with reduced mobility come with air conditioning, automatic air control, safety deposit box, telephone, fibre optic WiFi, high speed transmission line work desk, extra baby bed and mini bar, as standard.
The Novotel São Paulo Berrini backs up its leisure facilities – fitness centre, sauna, and family play area not to mention the light-filled cool of the Gourmet Bar and Restaurant, with six function rooms. The Chafic Maluf (23 Sqm), Chucri Henri Dunant (87sqm), Chucri Zaidan (44sqm), Estaiada (22sqm) Henri Dunant (44sqm) and Roque Petroni (8sqm) are backed up with audio-visual conferencing tech, and support from the hotel’s events team.
The Chucri Henri Dunant roomAccorHotels has made South America its third most important biggest market and is now present in eight countries on the continent; Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
The group has opened 52 hotels in South America last year and now has more than 330 hotels and 52,000 rooms (including 289 hotels in Brazil with 45,000 rooms) as well as 175 hotels in the pipeline – including the Novotel Santiago and the Novotel Viña del Mar, both set to open by the end of this year.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises announces 2020-2021 itineraries

Posted by - August 20, 2018

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has revealed its 2020-2021 itineraries, which showcase 167 sailings including maiden calls to 11 new ports, four new Grand Voyages and new pre-and post-cruise land tours and accommodations. The company’s 2020-2021 season is now open for bookings.
New ports of call include La Rochelle, France; Stornoway (Hebrides), Scotland; Aalborg, Denmark; Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam; Lecce (Otranto), Italy; Crotone (Calabria), Italy; Siracusa (Sicily), Italy; Porto Empedocle (Sicily), Italy; Porto Torres (Sardinia), Italy; and Cabo Frio, Brazil.
Phu My, VietnamFree two-to-three night pre- or post-voyage land-based tour programmes are included on 21 select voyages in all suite categories in destinations including Buenos Aires, Lima, Cape Town, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bali and Auckland.
Four new Grand Voyages include a 91-Night Grand Arctic Discovery, 68-Night Grand Cape Horn Adventure, 76-Night Grand Spice Route Quest, and 61-Night Grand Asia Exploration. In total, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 2020-2021 season features its most overnight stays ever – 114 – and provides access to 352 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
“Remarkable destinations and local immersive activities”
Jason Montague, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ president and chief executive officer, said: “The best luxury voyages pair magnificent, intimate ships and gracious onboard hospitality with remarkable destinations and local immersive activities. That’s our approach in meticulously designing all 167 sailings in our 2020-2021 collection.
“This new season is about destinations and explorations that excite and inspire our guests. For example, our guests may experience the Tasmanian Wilderness out of Burnie in Australia, the Etruscan Necropolises in Tarquinia in Italy, the Nazca Lines in Peru via an overflight, and the Old City of Acre from Haifa, Israel.”
Seven Seas Splendor Seven Seas Splendor’s Inaugural Europe Collection features the Greek Isles, French Riviera, Iberian Peninsula, United Kingdom and more. As guests explore the intimate new ship, they can also discover up to 95 UNESCO World Heritage Sites off-ship including the City of Rhodes and the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region of Cyprus.
Seven Seas Splendor will then cross to the Caribbean for winter 2020-2021. Nine of her Caribbean voyages call on Havana, Cuba, three of which are overnights, allowing guests to immerse in the fascinating history of this unique island.
Seven Seas Explorer Seven Seas Explorer sails Northern Europe and the Mediterranean during summer 2020. The season includes two roundtrip Southampton voyages: one traditional circumnavigation of the United Kingdom and one calling on Spain and France, including an overnight in Bordeaux.
Her first-ever Asia voyages include a roundtrip Tokyo voyage on April 6, 2021 and the full collection includes overnight stays in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Osaka.
Seven Seas Explorer will then sail Alaska for the first time during summer 2021. New ports of call include La Rochelle, France; Stornoway (Hebrides), Scotland; Aalborg, Denmark, and Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.
Seven Seas Voyager Seven Seas Voyager will spend summer 2020 sailing the Mediterranean.
On her November 14, 2020 voyage, she returns to Africa calling on Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, Gambia; Abidjan, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana; Lomé, Togo; São Tomé; Walvis Bay, Namibia; and Cape Town, South Africa.
In early 2021, she returns to South America for the first time in almost a decade, visiting Chile, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, and the iconic coastal cities of Brazil.
New ports of call include Lecce (Otranto), Italy, Crotone (Calabria), Italy, Siracusa (Sicily), Italy, Porto Empedocle (Sicily), Italy, Porto Torres (Sardinia), Italy, and Cabo Frio, Brazil.
Seven Seas Mariner Seven Seas Mariner will sail Alaska during summer 2020. Two voyages are 10 or more nights and include calls on ports including Victoria, British Columbia and Wrangell, Alaska — ports not visited during shorter, seven-night voyages.
South American voyages include overnights in Lima (Callao), Peru; Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, Argentina; and Manaus (Amazon River), Brazil. Before sailing into the Amazon, she’ll call on a new port, Esmeraldas, Ecuador. She’ll then sail north to the Mexican Riviera and the Caribbean.
Seven Seas Mariner will sail 117 nights on her World Cruise from Miami to Barcelona departing on January 5, 2021. She visits six continents, 30 countries and 61 ports across South America, French Polynesia, Australia, Asia and the Mediterranean, including 11 overnight stays.
Seven Seas Navigator The voyages on May 22, June 5 and June 15, 2020, feature late spring/early summer calls on Canadian and New England ports. Seven Seas Navigator will then spend the summer sailing through Northern Europe including the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Russia and more.
Following a trans-Atlantic crossing, she’ll then call upon Bermuda, the Caribbean and the South Pacific in 2021.

Airbnb and Wego partner to offer ME travellers more accommodation options

Posted by - August 20, 2018

Wego co-founders Craig Hewett (L) and Ross Veitch (R)Airbnb has announced a partnership with Wego, the largest online travel marketplace in the Middle East and North Africa, to include properties listed on Airbnb in Wego search results.
With the addition of listings on Airbnb, travellers using the Wego metasearch apps and websites will have more access to local homes and accommodation in destinations worldwide. Wego users have to enter their destination city and dates of travel, and to follow the recommended filters to search for Airbnb vacation rentals.
As the leading travel metasearch player across the MENA region, Wego helps users to compare a marketplace of hotels, serviced apartments, homes and villas and to compare rates across OTAs, hotel direct websites and other merchants. Airbnb’s accommodation marketplace offers access to millions of places to stay in more than 191 countries, from apartments and villas to castles and treehouses.
“The lack of instantly bookable properties resulted in poor conversion rates”
Ross Veitch, CEO and cofounder of Wego, told us exclusively: “We’ve been interested in the alternative accommodation category for several years now and actually launched a holiday rentals metasearch product back in 2012. At that time we found that the lack of instantly bookable properties resulted in poor conversion rates and frankly it wasn’t a great user experience, so we took it offline and waited for the category to mature – which it clearly has.
“We’ve been talking to Airbnb about doing something together on and off for a couple of years – as the biggest player in the category it made sense to start with Airbnb and work closely with them to help define how the product would work.
“2018 is when our interest in augmenting our accommodation product dove-tailed with their interest in expanding into some new markets where we can help drive significant levels of demand for them.”
Hadi Moussa, general manager for MEA at Airbnb, said in a press release previously: “The high quality range of properties on Airbnb will be a great addition for Wego customers who are seeking new accommodation options and experiences, and want to live like a local. We are confident that this partnership will be welcomed by Wego users and will contribute to diversifying the hospitality business in the region.”
Wego users will be able to view Airbnb properties across all destinations worldwide, including in Dubai, Beirut, Istanbul, Amman, Marrakech, London, Paris and New York.
“Families from the GCC place a premium on privacy when travelling”
Anna Trushkina, director, hotels at Wego, added: “Analysis of search and booking data, from across the 60 countries worldwide that Wego operates, shows that users from GCC countries have the longest length of stay, highest spend per night and most frequent instance of multiple room bookings to accommodate family groups.
“We also know that many families from the GCC place a premium on privacy when travelling. Based on all of this we think that private homes, villas and apartments are a great fit for the needs of the market.”
Veitch concluded: “Wego users now have a lot more accommodation options plus the ability to compare hotels and private home stays side-by-side with just one search. We do intend to add additional alternative accommodation partners and will be making further partnership announcements in due course.”

G Adventures to add its fifth vessel in Galapagos islands

Posted by - August 20, 2018

Small group adventure tour operator G Adventures has added a fifth yacht to its fleet of chartered vessels for the Galapagos Islands. Beginning in January 2019, the 16-passenger Eden yacht will join G Adventures’ four other touring vessels in hosting small group trips around the 13 major and six smaller Galapagos islands.
Built in 1996 and refurbished in 2012, G Adventures plans to move the Eden into drydock this Autumn for upgrades and “G” branding. The Eden will offer three upper deck twin cabins with bunk beds, one main deck double bed cabin, and four lower deck twin-share cabins, as well as a two-level wrap-around deck with outdoor lounge area and sundeck.
The Eden will also house accommodation for nine crew members, including a chef and expert naturalist as well as an interior dining room and living room with television and DVD. It is available for booking now by travel agents and travellers alike.
With six different itineraries around the North, Central, West, East, and Southern islands, ranging from seven to 17 days in length, the Eden will enable G Adventures to meet the increasing traveller demand it’s seeing for Galapagos adventure: between 2016 and 2017, there was a 22% increase in global bookings of G Adventures’ marine-based tours through the Galapagos.
“An attractive destination for travellers seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience”
Brian Young, managing director at G Adventures said: “We are continuing to see increased demand from our travellers looking to experience the Galapagos Islands and the addition of the Eden marks an exciting development for us to be able to meet this demand.
“The wildlife, natural beauty and our offer of complimentary flights between Lima and Quito, makes the archipelago an attractive destination for travellers seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience”.
The addition of the Eden follows the recent announcement that G Adventures will be offering all travellers to the archipelago a complimentary, reusable water bottle in line with the Galapagos’ commitment to ban single-use plastic in 2019.

Indian airlines unite to provide special flights after Kerala floods

Posted by - August 20, 2018

Cochin International AirportAfter the closure of Cochin International Airport due to floods in Kerala, India, airlines have created extra flights and special considerations until its re-opening on 27 August 2018.
With heavy rains hitting Kerala for nearly two weeks, thousands of people were displaced and rescued in operations launched by its government. It was estimated that more than 20,000 people were rescued with many still left stranded in their homes with no food or clean water.
Due to this crisis, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has requested airlines operating in the state to provide special relief flights for those stranded and in need of help. The government asked all airlines, both domestic and foreign, to reschedule and operate extra flights, with tickets that are not over-priced.
Suresh Prabhu, minister of commerce and industry, Civil Aviation, Government of India, announced on Twitter:
We have asked all airlines, domestic and foreign, to reschedule their Cochin flights either from Trivandrum or from Calicut. For international flights, this will require special dispensation which has been granted considering the emergencyDGCA is coordinating.#KeralaFlood
— Suresh Prabhu (@sureshpprabhu) August 15, 2018
Vistara Airlines As a response to the request, Vistara is operating all its Kochi flights to and from Thiruvananthapuram (TRV) from Thursday, 16 August 2018 to 26 August 2018. These flights include those to/from Delhi and Chennai with economy class fares capped.
Vistara does not operate to TRV on a regular basis but made this special arrangement to help people travel into and outside of the state.
Jet Airways Jet Airways, the country’s second-largest airline, announced additional domestic flights to TRV from Mumbai, Bangalore, Dubai and Dammam from 19 August 2018 until 26 August 2018 for the convenience of its passengers. The airline has also waived off penalties for date/flight change, refund, no-show and fare difference if any, on all confirmed tickets to and from Kochi.
IndiGo The budget carrier IndiGo also announced additional flights due to the airport closure and the heavy floods. Flights include services to and from Kozhikode, Coimbatore and Trivandrum from 19 August 2018 to 25 August 2018.
Furthermore, a special customer support team has been designated to assist affected passengers and families.
Air India After a number of flights were shut down, India’s national carrier announced new schedules from 20 August 2018 to connect Kochi to other key Indian cities including Bengaluru and Coimbatore. A naval base in Kochi will be temporarily open for commercial operations, after deciding on a meeting with the National Disaster Management Committee.

LateRooms.com partners with Diners Club to launch payment solution

Posted by - August 20, 2018

As part of its growing expansion, booking platform LateRooms.com Business has announced its partnership with Diners Club for the launch of a new payment facility.
LateRooms.com is a UK-based online accommodation site, offering deals in more than 200,000 properties worldwide – from bed and breakfasts to five-star luxury hotels. The company was originally under the TUI Group, then acquired by Cox & Kings for GBP 8.5 million, before finally settling under Malvern Enterprises UK for GBP 20 million.
To provide a faster and more efficient payment solution, Laterooms.com Business, a business travel arm of booking portal Laterooms.com, partnered with credit card company Diners Club, to offer the statement account facility, creating a single online process for business travellers to book and pay.
Through the partnership, its customers can benefit from 52 days interest-free credit on bookings, real-time spend tracking, monthly reporting, a speedy sign-up process with no extra charges, plus 5% cash-back for new customers starting September 2018.
“A seamless accounts procedure”
Graeme Descoteaux, head of corporate at LateRooms.com Business, said: “We are delighted to be introducing this new Statement Account facility which guarantees business travellers a cost-effective and efficient method of payment.
“It has been many months in the planning but with the assistance of the Diners Club partnership, we now have a seamless accounts procedure that will bring ease and savings to both our valued corporate clients and new clients alike.”
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Additionally, the service provides an express hotel check-in even without company credit cards in possession. On the new system, all transactions can be viewed online, saving travellers time and money.
Lee Jackson, UK business development director at Diners Club, said: “We are delighted to be providing an interest-free credit programme so that businesses can benefit from the superb range of accommodation available through the Laterooms.com Business solution”.