The charm of Home stays can never go away!

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Over the past decade, a booming demand of tourists had AirBnb connect fly-by-night tourists and short-term renters to “cozy” lofts and five-star “experiences” at homes in exotic locations.

But today if you could freely walk the world’s most famous city streets, you would see humanity stopped in its tracks. National lockdowns and global travel bans have emptied bustling hotspots like Sydney’s Opera House, Bangkok’s night markets, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Colosseum in Rome. Global tourism is slammed shut, and the ecosystem that sprang up around them has fallen flat.

Along with air travel, the hotel and AirBnb segment too witnessed a massive drop in numbers. Apartments -read AirBnb- once reserved for well-heeled tourists have seen bookings slump anywhere from 41% to 96%. Some of them are either on long-term rentals or recently offered to health workers in solidarity.

However as lockdown restrictions are eased in several countries, many in the travel industry are hoping that the businesses can resume in the coming months.

Although it is too soon in the day to have the same number of holiday makers as pre -COVID, the entire travel industry is pretty gung ho about the fact that by the end of the year, people would once again have the confidence to travel just as before December 2019

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Of course the onus to maintain sanitation and safety falls on all the stake-holders here, and with higher cleaning standards, hygiene and physical (and not ‘social’) distancing, business will once again continue in a new form, and of course as a new normal.

Throughout Europe where customer confidence is returning post the lifting of lockdown, domestic AirBnb reservations are seeing a glimmer of hope for the Hospitality industry that’s been the hardest hit.

Hotel data confirms that most properties almost everywhere in the world are operating at just 10-15 per cent occupancy. COVID-19 is having a more devastating and sudden impact on the travel business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.

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And to say that restoring customer trust in this global crisis is of utmost importance for returning customers, both in the air and on ground.

AirBnb had announced that a new cleaning protocol with expert-backed cleaning materials for hosts will include a learning and certification programme.

It is up to the host to maintain strict cleanliness and preventive measures. The protocol will also help to space out reservations to have 24 hours between people entering a room. . Alternatively, hosts can monitor physical distancing by instituting a 72-hour booking buffer in between stays.

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Hotels are instituting similarly stringent cleaning policies and protocols. Most hotels are using “enhanced cleaning standards” and a “reduction of touch points” such as tablets or remote controls. The famous ‘breakfast buffets’ are a thing of the past. Most of them are making sure that public space and guest room surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants and are also testing “electrostatic sprayers” to disinfect entire guest areas.

The major concern here is around rebuilding consumer confidence and trust. The tidal wave of cancellations that came along with COVID-19 suddenly made travelers aware of the wide range of terms in bookings — from no-penalty, last-minute cancellations to full liability even months in advance of a trip. Of course this trend will still continue.

Travel in this new world will look different, and feel different. Although it will be a long time before things go back to being anywhere near normal, I am sure along with other things, AirBnb will also evolve accordingly.

As travelers are more likely to skip big cities, staycations in domestic markets and home rentals in smaller townships will see a boom, which will also contribute to positive growth in other micro businesses such as local eateries and local crafts.

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People will want options that are closer to home, a lot safer, and more affordable. But people will also yearn for something that feels like it’s been taken away from them—human connect.  And they also want to go back -back to their roots, back to the basics, and back to what is truly special —everyday people who host in their homes and offer memorable experiences!

-Madhavi

OS: Theprint; Euronews; CNtraveller
PC:Skift;Tripoto;Airbnb;NBC15

 

Jet ….set….GO

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Up in the air- that’s where they are supposed to be….yes I am talking about planes here.  All those lean mean flying machines that have been grounded due to this disastrous pandemic.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, that manages the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.

The ICAO Council has adopted a new task force produced by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) and is aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery, post COVID 19 .

The ICAO along with CART has resolved to partner with its Member States, international and regional organizations, and industry to address the various challenges and to provide global guidance for a safe, secure and sustainable restart and recovery of the aviation sector, keeping the health, safety, and security of the travelling public of paramount concern.

This restart and recovery is best supported by an international approach and is based on 10 key principles:

  1. Protect people: harmonized but flexible measures;
  2. Work as one aviation team and show solidarity;
  3. Ensure essential connectivity;
  4. Actively manage safety-, security- and health-related risks;
  5. Make aviation public health measures work with aviation safety and security systems;
  6. Strengthen public confidence;
  7. Distinguish restart from recovery;
  8. Support financial relief strategies to help the aviation industry;
  9. Ensure sustainability;
  10. Learn lessons to improve resilience.

Globally- and regionally-harmonized, mutually-accepted measures are essential. The success of aviation’s recovery  and to reinforce the aviation ecosystem today and in the future will be best achieved with collective efforts among stakeholders across regions and sectors, with rigorous follow-up to the recommendations and measures outlined in the report across all levels, local, national and international.

The world needs aviation and aviation today is in great need of a thrust that will enable planes to be airborne once again. Solidarity among all countries and regions and industry sectors will be extremely critical going forward. Restoring public confidence in air travel is not only imperative but it has some broad benefits too.

It is not only about the operational and economic viability of the aviation sector that is important here. But also of having the faith , the economic livelihoods and the stability of the massive number of people working at the frontline and the back offices in this industry, restored.

For more detailed report check out the ICAO page here

 

Happy flying again

Madhavi

 

 

 

OS:ICAO

 

 

 

‘Surprise Me’ trips

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The days of walking into your local travel agent’s office or meticulously planning an epic vacation days in advance may be over.

Most of the travel agencies today want to specialize in planning specific types of vacations, including one of the industry’s biggest current trends: Surprise trips or Blind trips.

If you’re unfamiliar, a surprise trip is one where travelers provide some information to an agency, and the agency then books travel and accommodations without the travelers having any idea what destination they will soon be visiting.

It’s a perfect opportunity for spontaneous or indecisive people, or people who don’t want to do any of the work that goes into planning a grand adventure.

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This wild new travel trend has gained serious attention in the last several months especially with Insta followers who are up for all and any kind of adrenaline adventure, with searches for such agents having gone up by almost 200%.

Since then, buzz around surprise travel has continued to circulate, but those interested in this one-of-a-kind vacation experience may not know where to start.

There are quite a few such agents in India who can personalize your trip, with the destination remaining a secret until the journey begins. All you have to do is provide a brief or complete a short survey, where you can key in all your travel preferences, along with the budget, the accommodation you prefer, and the dates.

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Usually the itinerary, is kept flexible, in accordance with what the person wishes to do.

While most cross-India trips are relatively easier to plan, the challenge is in planning trips abroad. Visa requirements mean that the destination doesn’t remain a surprise. Which is why, most travel companies plan trips to countries such as Thailand, Bali, and Maldives that allow visa on arrival.

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To keep building on the surprise, these companies send emails and envelopes a week before the trip commences, with little hints as to what lies ahead: the weather at the destination, packing essentials and some go so far as to send people curated playlists, or books or movie recommendations based on the destination.

Half the fun of reaching a destination is playing the guessing game weeks before the vacation actually materializes. It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone

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Imagine this – a tempo traveller stops in front of you and asks you to get in. You have no idea where you’re headed to, but you have given your consent to being ‘taken’ beforehand.

Ultimately, there is an element of excitement in giving away control and being open to whatever surprises life — or the travel company, to be more accurate — throws at you. Would you like to be led on this way?

Do reply in the comments section.

-M

 

 

 

PC:- TNW;USAToday:Myturntotravel:WallstreetJournal

Qantas ‘Project Sunrise’

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There is a palpable excitement in the air. The clock is ticking on, following the announcement that Qantas has put out on for testing an extremely long haul flight from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

Both Boeing and Airbus are working on providing an aircraft with ultra-long-range capabilities. The chosen plane needs to be capable of flying 10,573 miles nonstop, a journey which is pegged to take in the range of 21 hours in total.

Qantas will select the aircraft by end of this year. Till then the global attention is on the airline and speculation about its choice of aircraft is mounting.

‘Project Sunrise’ is Qantas’ goal to operate long haul research flights to gather data about both passenger and crew health on flying such a long journey. Three flights will be conducted in October, November and December and the data gathered will be used to track the health and well-being of passengers and crew members on board the approximately 19-hour long flight.

The Australian airline will carry 40 passengers and crew on two flights from New York to Sydney and another from London to Sydney.

The test passengers on the flights will mainly be Qantas employees, as well as scientists. Passengers and crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices to monitor sleep patterns and food and drink consumption, and to see how lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment impact their health.

For passengers the key will be in minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight.

For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximize rest during these flights.

Long-haul travel takes its toll on the body. Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that can form particularly in the legs, is one peril. Nausea, Jet Lag and back pain from sitting for too long are another.   Airlines like Qantas will have to consider allowing more space for passengers to move if it goes ahead with its ambitious plan of across the world non- stop flight..

If all goes well, Qantas aims to operate regular, non-stop flights to London and New York from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as soon as 2022/23.

Frankly for business travellers this could be a time saver but I have my doubts whether any family with kids would be keen on taking this flight. It would be an absolute nightmare keeping the kids cooped up in such a long flight. The lack of space, boredom and sheer monotony of air travel would be such a bother even with business class seats –read flat beds.

What about you? Would you be sold to the idea of flying non- stop from Sydney to New York for 21 hours straight? Please share your views in the comments.

 

 

 

OS:SimpleFlying; AustralianAviation; Business Insider
PC: Qantas

 

 

Show them you care.

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After spending years training newbie entrants in Automated Ticketing, Tourism and Soft skills in the field of Aviation, Travel and Tourism, I can’t help but notice the customer service delivered to me everywhere I go, whether I am shopping, dining, or even travelling. I guess the trainer in me still has that ‘Hawk Eye’ when it comes to service.

Great customer service is the holy grail of any business. Competition in the marketplace has made it crucial for businesses to spruce up on not only their hardware but more importantly their software – aka employees.

Having said that, customer service training is and should always be the top priority in organizations having multiple customer touch-points.

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In fact service approach needs to be in the DNA of the organisation. Only if product, policies and strategies are designed keeping customer’s wellbeing in mind that a good service experience can truly be delivered by customer interfacing teams.

Today travellers are more demanding than ever. They have more power than they used to. They are smarter and have higher expectations than ever before. They are more up-to-date and better informed today, as technology has made it easier for them to do their homework.

Smart travellers – empowered travellers – know what options they want hence airlines, travel companies and hotels must be equipped to meet customers on their terms, when, where and how they want.

In the Aviation industry good customer experiences are of great significance. Customer demand is about meeting and exceeding expectations and making the customer feel special with a more personalized experience.

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For example; Emirates, provides the so called ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’, which enables cabin crew to operate with greater efficiency and provide a more heightened level of service to the airline’s customers. This technology enables the crew to know the customer’s preferences and issues that might have occurred during their previous travels thereby enabling the carrier to offer personalized service, unrivalled within the industry and for which the airline prides itself upon.

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Closer home, SpiceJet provides a host of offers like ‘Hot Meals’ on board which is a paradigm shift for Low Cost Airlines. It is a great delight to customers, and a differentiator for the airline. ‘SpiceBiz’ the new Business Class offering at affordable fares, and a premium product called SpiceMax which has spacious seats with extra leg space, complimentary meal, Priority Check In, Bags out first, etc. – all at a nominal charge.

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Eventually the best way to retain your customer is knowing what they need. Courteous staff, ease at checkin /boarding, inflight service, are just few of the ways you can keep your customers happy. Airline Loyalty programs and club memberships offer exclusive benefits such as a complimentary pick up service to the airport and also at the final destination, or a Lounge access card at departing airports to its First or Business class passengers.

Unfortunately, complaining passengers are on the rise. They have complaints, sometimes frivolous, about their journey. A delayed flight for instance has the twitterati in a twist. Passengers start abusing and condemning the airline not realising the reason could be genuine for such delays.

Aircrafts are not supposed to be standing on the tarmac forever. They are supposed to ferry passengers in the air. Most airlines have a tight turnaround time and if the aircraft is delayed from the originating airport for some reason such as inclement weather or offloading the baggage of a gate-no-show passenger, this cartwheels into delays at further sectors.

But people have no clue about the intricacies such as time slots, availability of runways, crew rest coming into effect, and many other factors involved. Passenger safety is of utmost importance to any carrier. And delays are as much a part of air travel as on time performance.

In the past, when customers had a complaint, they’d speak to a gate agent or call the airline. Today, they’re more likely to post about their problem on social media, including Twitter and Facebook — which means the world is watching to see how the airlines react.

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Furthermore today the impact of social media trolls influences the passenger’s choice a great deal. It has therefore become crucially important to have a knowledgeable team at the helm of all Social media platforms, to capture the Voice of the Customer and provide quick, helpful, understanding and encouraging response and support, in a timely manner.

Airlines always keep trying their best to keep their customers happy. For instance, incase of a delayed flight of more than 12 hours, most airlines would offer a hotel stay until the next flight becomes available or rebook/transfer passengers to another airline, space permitting.

Air travel can be a confusing experience for a first time traveler. The customer service team must be able to convey timely and useful information to the passengers through their Apps, emails, WhatsApp, SMS, and other social media channels.

Keeping all customers happy at all times is as elusive as finding a unicorn. Providing flawless service, however, is not always easy.No matter how many customer service surveys are conducted, much of the customer psyche will forever remain of ‘yeh dil mange more’ !.

All said and done, in today’s world of competitiveness, service industry must invoke technology to couple training and fine-tuned SoP’s to deliver top notch, proactive and personalised customer service to keep their customers loyal.

 

Madhavi

 

 

 

PC: Twitter;Bloomberg;SmartCitiesWorld;Emirates;Spicejet;Future Travel Experience;AfroMum

 

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

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The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

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The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

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What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

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Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

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Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

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Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

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A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

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The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

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There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

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For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

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Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

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Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

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The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;

 

 

 

Your place or mine?

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The first time I heard about Home swapping or Home exchange was via the Hollywood flick ‘The Holiday’ starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, the story about two lovelorn women from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, who arrange a home exchange to escape heartbreak during the Christmas and holiday season.

What a brilliant idea this was!

Swapping homes could be the perfect way to expand your horizons and holiday for free in exotic locations.

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Jetting off and arriving at your own ‘home away from home’ is an appealing thought. But since most of us can’t afford a foreign holiday home, the trend for house swapping, where holidaymakers move into one another’s homes – saving the expense of paying for commercial accommodation – is becoming increasingly popular. Home exchanges make an ideal base for one-day or weekend excursions.

People who have gone in for home swapping have made good friends along the way. You get to live as they live, shop where they shop since the exchange partner will often leave insider information about the area. What’s so fabulous about home swapping is it’s not just a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. And you get the most out of an intercultural experience.

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But home swapping is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some folks love to swap and do it several times a year because it allows them to experience new places without paying for hotels, restaurants or, in many cases, transportation (the use of the family car is included in many home exchanges). However, some travellers are turned off by having to cook and clean on their vacation, while others feel uneasy about having strangers living in their own homes.

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However there’s more than one way to do a home swap:

  • You can stay in your exchange-partner’s home while they stay in yours (a “simultaneous exchange”).
  • You can stay at a home-swapper’s second home or vacation home (a “non-simultaneous exchange”).
  • Or you can stay as a guest in a home-swapper’s abode while they’re also in the house (a “hospitality exchange”).

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There are various home-exchange sites online that cater to different types of exchanges. Usually with the companies listed on a home exchange program  buying a membership is mandatory.

A lot of footwork is necessary. Both the owner and the holiday maker have to do their homework well before getting into such agreement. Check references, find them on social media or /and ask your home-exchange company for more information about prospective home exchange partners.

Home swapping is more or less a safe way to arrange a stay, with none or few cases of reported theft or vandalism. In the end, when it’s a simultaneous exchange, mutual trust is fundamental.

Here’s some pointers on how home swapping works.

  • By joining a reputable company via an annual membership. You’ll be able to list your property on their website and make contact with other owners to arrange your exchange.
  • Most house-swap firms don’t visit properties, so it’s imperative to study photos carefully, and look at feedback and definitely ask the owner questions.
  • Most of the companies have a guest points system where you earn guest points when you host and spend guest points when you stay as a guest.

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For many travellers, a home exchange /home swapping is an economical, comfortable and fascinating way to vacation far from home. The possibilities for home exchanges could be endless.

Madhavi

 

 

 

OS: Daily Mail UK /  PC:Shespeaks;Readers Digest;Hitster;Froodee;TripSavvy;

Continue reading “Your place or mine?”

Technology Trends that facilitate Smart Travel Experiences

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Technology is much like the Joneses- always up to something new. Frankly you just can’t keep up with it however much you try.

But the usage of technology is not new to Aviation. Back in the late 20’s a variety of technological navigation aids such as rotating lights or radio navigation aids would help pilots achieve a smooth and safe landing. Then towards the 40’s Instrument landing systems (ILS) used the best features of both approach lighting and radio beacons with higher frequency transmissions. Over the past few years many airports/pilots are using global positioning system (GPS) in addition to ILS. The GPS has become a primary method for navigation between airports and is exceedingly precise.

It is critical for the aviation, travel and hospitality industry to keep up-to-date with the emerging technology trends so as to nail the (CSQ) customer satisfaction quotient. Nonetheless, with such major breakthroughs in technology, it is playing a very vital role with its capability to increase the effectiveness of business operations and improve the customer experience.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

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The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. (IoT) involves internet-based inter-connectivity between everyday devices, allowing them to both send and receive data.

To explain simply; Smart homes that are equipped with thermostats,  appliances, heating, lighting and other electronic devices can be controlled remotely via computers, Smart phones or other mobile devices, is a example of IoT.

Similarly IoT technology is being used in hotel rooms to provide customers with a device that connects to everything from the lights, to the heaters and air conditioning, allowing all to be controlled from one place. At airports, this may mean using sensors and sending information to passengers Smartphone’s, alerting them when their baggage is nearby and allowing them to locate it faster.

 Recognition Technology

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The technology includes finger print recognition, facial recognition, retina scanning and various other biometric identifiers. Such technology is already being used in some hotels to allow access to rooms via finger prints, or to allow for semi-contactless check-outs.

As the number of travellers grows, airports have started to turn to biometric technology. This speeds up various airport processes by allowing passengers to complete check-in and go through security or passport control without having to deal with a human agent.

 Robots

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One of the most exciting technological developments in recent years has been the increased prevalence of robots in hotels, right from text-based chatbots and robotic assistants, to security robots, being used on the front desk as customer information points. The main benefits are their ability to function 24/7, without needing breaks or motivation, providing greater consistency than humans would be capable of.

With a constant need to improve airport security, robots are being deployed in some locations to assist human security staff, for the purpose of detecting concealed weapons and other hidden items that are not permitted on flights.

Chatbots are used to guide customers through the online booking process, asking intelligent questions along the way for seamless travel bookings 24/7.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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Perhaps the most obvious use is with chatbots possessing the ability to deliver rapid response times to problems or queries.

In fact, one of its most popular and effective uses is for gathering and interpreting huge amounts of data quickly and accurately, in order to draw conclusions about pricing strategies, revenue management, customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, and even intelligently manage inventories, in order to build a clearer picture of current opinion, in real-time.

Blockchain

Blockchain

Although blockchain technology can sound confusing at first, it is actually pretty simple. Ultimately, it is a list of public records, where transactions between parties are listed or stored.

Despite automation, payments and settlements in the travel industry continue to be challenging and time-consuming. A complex distribution system, frequent cancellations and refunds, add to the operational challenges. Blockchain can bring in the seamless integration, agility and speed required between multiple players.

One of the most crucial aspects of blockchain technology is that data is decentralized and is more secure, traceable and transparent along with being resistant to modification and unwanted tampering. The decentralised nature of the blockchain means that information can never go ‘offline’ or be lost through accidental deletion or a malicious cyber attack, ensuring transactions are always traceable.

The travel industry relies upon different companies passing information between one another. For example, travel agents pass on customer details on to flight companies and hotels by way of overseas payment or loyalty programs. Blockchain makes accessing and storing important information securely and more reliably.

Airports use blockchain technology for tracking the movements of luggage, especially when dealing with international travel especially when the passenger uses multiple carriers and journeys to arrive at a destination. Using a decentralised database makes sharing tracking data between companies a lot easier.

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For companies operating in the travel industry, it is essential to keep up with the latest technology trends. Understanding and adopting the trends allows the businesses within the travel industry to provide a better experience for the customers as well as aid in optimizing revenue management and overall business performance.

 

-Madhavi

 

PC-Future Customer; Airport Show; Hotel Technology; Digital Trends.