The charm of Home stays can never go away!

airbnb cape-town-

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

Airbnb-Cleaning

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.

hotel

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.

AIRBNB

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.

jaipur

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

 

The COMEBACK PLAN

How the INDIAN TOURISM & HOSPITALITY Industry will open its doors post Covid-19

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The pandemic has crushed the global economy and shut down the tourism industry. Everything is falling like a ton of bricks. It’s like a torpedo has just hit the ship. It may take months or maybe even seasons to come back and stand on its feet if data is anything to go by.

While the entire tourism industry which includes Airlines, Hotels, Airports and all its partners are sending out their prayers and thoughts to the millions of people across the globe who have unfortunately suffered the wrath of the Virus, they are also gearing up and committing to making a difference in whatever way they can. Whether it is evacuating people from wherever they are stranded, to chartering flights in providing essential supplies and being an important link in the supply chain or even opening their doors to the community at large by providing food and shelter anywhere required.

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HOTELS are working hard in preparation of reopening their doors post the lockdown, ensuring that the facilities are safe, clean and ready, making sure that patrons feel secure in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors they know the hotels commitment to their health and safety is of paramount importance and a priority.

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Deep cleaning and sanitization procedures will be carried out according to the new stricter norms. Rooms may have minimalistic approach and amenities could include sanitizers and wipes.

Most hotels have already started virtual trainings for the teams on the new standards, be it the airport assistance, front of the house, in-room delivery, laundry or the kitchen and have come up with new seating plans for the meeting spaces, restaurants and staff cafeteria.

AirbnbRelief

AIRBNB distinguished itself with an inventory of mostly short-term rentals. It offered the hosts a steady income to cover up their mortgage payments etc and offered would-be travelers who couldn’t afford fancy hotels, a chance to rent a room or a home in a cool glitzy neighborhood for maybe half of the cost of a hotel stay.

What would have been a roaring public listing announcement this year has now flown out of the window so to speak. And even if things start limping back to ‘normalcy’ by the end of the year let’s not forget the underlying issue here: how will AIRBNB find customers willing to stay in other people’s homes after all this?

Unfortunately, no one knows how long the crisis will last or how it will change consumers’ behavior. As the world puts on surgical masks and latex gloves, the corporate sterility of a Sheraton or a Hyatt suddenly seems a lot more appealing than somebody else’s bed. So has the AIRBNB’s moment ended? Only time will tell.

airline 2

With unprecedented consequences, many AIRLINES have grounded all, or almost all of the planes in their fleet. Several airlines are now flying passenger aircraft as freighters. Unless the government provides a stimulus to the cash strapped airlines, the year 2020 will see a lot more airlines staying grounded rather than up there at 35000 feet flirting with the skies.

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An action-oriented, and digitally supported “flight plan” is imperative for airlines to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis. One of countless air-travel challenges will be on getting passengers off their plane and through passport control, baggage reclaim and arrivals without putting them in close proximity to each other.

Airlines will have to accelerate consumer confidence about the safety in flying again, making sure to enhancing the need for sanitization of the aircraft after each route.

Assigning the necessary space for people on flights won’t be any easier. Armrests, tray tables and seat-belt buckles will have to be disinfected after every journey; and in-flight magazines and all other reading material have been removed.

Of course the ground turnaround time will have to be re planned for all LCCs – for whom timing was of paramount importance in pre Covid-19 days.

Airlines will have to begin imposing specific limitations for passengers, including requirements before boarding and have stringent security measures put in place at  boarding , such as mandatory health screenings or certificates, carrying personal water bottles, wearing masks and gloves at all times during the duration of the flight, and limit or refrain from carrying cabin baggage .

airlines

Post COVID-19 AIRPORTS will have the gigantic task of maintaining social distancing through-out the terminal buildings inside as well as at the approach. What they will also need to work on is managing a contactless passenger process to avoid the risk of infection. E boarding cards, self -Check-in kiosk and Bag Tag printing, Self Service Bag Drop facility, Biometrics, will have to be implemented at airports across the country.

Each airport will be responsible to sanitize, maintain the hygiene and cleanliness of the passenger processing equipment units used at the airport, including boarding pass printing kiosks, bag tag printers, digital payment modes, card machines and scanners, security zones, trays to scan cabin bags, laptops etc.

airport

Sanitizers will have to be placed at all the locations that involve touching of the equipment before and after the process zone.

In the days and weeks following September 11 of 2001, the world changed. We all just felt it in our bones that nothing would ever be the same again. There was a pre-9/11 world and we are now looking at a post COVID-19 world.

Staff of food delivery companies sit on social distancing chairs due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as they wait for their costumers' orders at a department store in Bangkok

While the 2008 financial crisis changed the economy, 9/11 changed us; it bought out our worst fears into the open. It created a shift in thinking and our sense of self. It changed how we viewed the world. There was a “lost innocence.” And as the Coronavirus has rapidly unfolded in the past few months, we feel that way again, on a massive global scale.

From how we work, travel, and conduct our day-to-day lives, everything is going to be different. We can see that a change is coming.

Let’s hope this change is a positive one. And this change of a ‘new normal ‘offers us a clean slate to decide on and create a better and brighter future for each one of us and for all of humanity.

 

-Madhavi

 

“Adults Only” – Grown up Getaways

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Komandoo Maldives Island Resort

At first it seems like the sort of thing you would associate with the category of a movie rating, and not the hospitality industry.

Adult only holidays is definitely a thing. Popular worldwide, the concept, though a novelty in India, is becoming quite the rage.

The segment is not associated with licensed yet racy ‘good times’ for grown-ups unhampered by children in the background. Usually “Adults only” resorts and hotels might have different characteristics, but they all agree on one thing and that is kids below the age of 18 are not allowed.

Canny industry operators have showcased its appeal to the wealthier traveller on the lookout for some quality downtime, and to sub-sets of aspiring tourists, like women’s-only groups, sports fans or alternative therapy seekers.

The facilities, as well as all the small details and comforts, are designed considering the needs of this audience in depth. Some adults only hotels are livelier while others are more tranquil, relaxing and romantic. They offer an upscale and sophisticated vacation experience and take care of every last detail, guaranteeing that guests enjoy a blissfully relaxing holiday.

If you are looking for the answer to your quest of finding a child free environment some of these hotels/resorts may appeal to you

male
Komandoo Maldives
  • Komandoo Maldives Island Resort, Maldives.
  • Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay, Jamaica.
  • Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa, Grenada.
  • Excellence Playa Mujeres, Cancun.
  • Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji.
  • Excellence Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
  • Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua.
  • Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso, Playa Del Carmen.
playa
Hotel Senses Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Closer home The Park Hotel Goa Baga River which caters exclusively to couples and the honeymooners is a boutique hotel, with its ‘adults only’ tag.

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Although hoteliers are of the opinion that considering the fact that Indian families hardly travel without kids and such restrictions are generally looked down upon, The Park has taken a ‘bold move’. But nonetheless with having almost 60% occupancy, the hotel has been a trendsetter of sorts.

According to TripAdvisor, there is only one other hotel in the country with entry restrictions Ananda – In the Himalayas, in Rishikesh. But Ananda is not an ‘adults-only’ place, it simply doesn’t allow children below 14 in order to maintain its tranquility.

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Ananda in the Himalayas

Globally, however, the line between family and adults-only hotels is getting sharper. While package tours catering to family groups with a long checklist of things to do and see on vacations continue to be popular, the hospitality industry is discovering the benefits of nurturing a child-free, or more accurately, ‘adult-only’ clientele.

Secrets-Wild-Orchid-Master-Suite
Secret Wild Orchid Montego Bay 

But having said all of this do you think the “adult-only” tag will be considered discriminatory? I would like to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

-M

 

 

 

 

PC:Hotels own website

HOW TO? Travel Tips and tricks

bleisure

How to get more comfortable airline seats:

  1. Typically “low cost” carriers have some seats with extra legroom. Book those if you want some space.
  2. Look for the good seats in economy. The exit row and bulkhead seats typically have more room than a standard seat, if you can afford them. The worst seats are the ones in the rear of the aircraft, which don’t recline.
  3. “Premium” seats cost extra, however sometimes you can get an upgrade at the gate if you are lucky.

airline seat

How to find quiet when you travel:

  1. Book where there’s less noise. The front of the aircraft is less noisy and tends to have a quieter kind of passenger (read: business travellers). On a train, look for the quiet cars. 2. Block it. Noise cancelling headsets or ear plugs are a good idea to filter out unwanted noise.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to get much quiet if you’re in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or in London during the summer break, when every attraction has serpentine queues of students and adults alike.

 What you need to know about minimum connection times:

  1. Minimum connection times are initially set by a group of airlines or by an airport operating committee. The times are built into the airline reservation systems, and are specific to airports or flights.
  2. Times can change if a terminal is under construction or an airport train closes for repairs. It’s always a good idea to check your airline’s airport-specific page for any changes.
  3. They are not a guarantee that your connecting flight won’t leave without you. They are only guidelines that are meant to get you to your destination as quickly as possible

How to write an airline consumer complaint:

  1. Be precise. Include details such as your confirmation code, flight number and travel date.
  2. Explain precisely what you want. Don’t leave the airline guessing. Are you asking them to refund your checked bag fee? Or claiming a delayed baggage allowance?

 Three things airlines won’t tell you about vouchers:

  1. Most carriers will not offer cash for a delayed /cancelled flight. Instead it will try to offer to rebook the flight or give you a voucher.
  2. You may be unable to redeem the voucher on the blackout dates. Read the fine print on the voucher before you agree to it. If you don’t like the terms, ask for a better deal, or a refund.

hotel 3

How to book a hotel the smart way:

  1. Start with a thorough search. Check an Online travel agency like Expedia or Booking.com or call your travel agent. Check the rate against the price your preferred hotel would charge if you book direct.
  2. Review the restrictions. Hotels can impose restrictions for booking through their site, like making their rooms non-refundable, so read the conditions closely before deciding where to go. You might be better off working with a big agency that has negotiated better terms.
  3. Check the incentives. Ask yourself if you really need the points or the upgrade.

 How to spot a fake review:

  1. Check the reviewer’s record. Fake reviews are often posted by accounts with little or no additional review history.
  2. Do check out the photos of the property either through the hotel itself or through people who have stayed on the property.
  3. If you see a one-star or a five-star rating or a lot of superlatives in the description, chances are you’re looking at a fake.

 What you need to know about an apartment hotel:

  1. Amenities. Most apartment hotels have kitchenettes, but they may not have an oven, in-room laundry facilities or separate living room area. Check the property descriptions carefully.
  2. Services. While some of them offer room service, many clean their rooms only weekly.
  3. Policies. Most properties generally don’t charge mandatory “resort” fees. But it’s important to pay attention to their cancellation policies, which can vary.

hotel room 2

How to get a hotel room upgrade:

  1. A special event. Honeymoons rank high on the list. Hotels will try to make your special occasion more memorable if you ask.
  2. A special circumstance. If you’re thinking of coming back to the hotel and bringing a big group with you, mention it. If you’re planning to return again in a month or a year, say something. Anything that sets you apart as a more valued customer can sway a hotel to upgrade you.
  3. A special need. Some of the larger rooms are more disability-friendly. If you need extra room to accommodate a wheelchair, or walker, the only room that might fit you is a suite. Don’t be shy about asking.

car rental

Tips for getting a vehicle when they run out of rental cars:

  1. Confirm your reservation: Contact your car rental agency a day before you arrive. Always bring your reservation confirmation to show the rate you paid. Make a printout, just in case the battery on your phone dies.
  2. Arrive on time: Check in as close as possible to the time indicated on your reservation.

How to get a refund from a travel company:

  1. Patience. Give the company at least a week to respond to your refund request and two credit card billing cycles to pay you.
  2. Persistence. Don’t let months pass by without letting the company know that your money is still missing. If necessary, set a calendar reminder so that you don’t forget.
  3. Politeness. Angry demands for a refund and threats to take a company to court almost always backfire. The company may refer your case to its legal department, where it could linger for weeks or months. Be nice!

 How to select the right travel app for your next trip:

  1. Download from a trusted source. That would be iTunes or Google Play. 2. Read the stars – and the reviews. The best travel apps should have at least four stars. Pay attention to the reviews, more so if you need the app for a specific purpose, like translating a particular language.
  2. Test for any flaws, such as consumption of too much data or battery life or even if is accessible anywhere in the world, before you take it on the road.

bag

How to pack select the right kind of clothes:

  1. Does it match your trip? You definitely won’t need that jacket for your beach vacation, but you surely could use a light windcheater in case it rains. Bug repellents, sunscreens, lip balms, should be the staples if you’re going on an African safari. Simplify your choices of clothes, carrying the essentials rather than over packing the suitcase.

 How to avoid getting robbed on vacation:

  1. Don’t leave your valuables, passports, laptops, ipads, cameras, cash etc in your hotel room open to view. Lock them up in the safe or the suitcase in case you are not using them.
  2. Don’t flash your jewelry, cash etc

How to not look like a tourist (even if you are one):

  1. No maps! Don’t walk around with a giant map in your hands. Instead, keep the map on your phone – and stay cool.
  2. Slow down. Tourists try to do everything in a day. If you stop running, you won’t stand out.

tourist

 

 

 

PC:Getty images;Shutterstock

 

 

Technology Trends that facilitate Smart Travel Experiences

cockpit

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)

IOT

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

biometrics

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)

AI-in-Airport

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.

online

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.

 

How Hotels can be an Absolute Game Changer When Traveling with Children

legoland malaysia

Image :Legoland Hotel,Malaysia

Here’s the thing about children: They’re completely unpredictable. Situations constantly come up that are totally out of your control and when those situations happen far from home they threaten to ruin your hard-earned vacation.

Too much moving around on tours can literally make them cranky and fussy.

When I travelled with my young children I remember carrying a whole lot of paraphernalia to keep them occupied for the “in between times” of touring and other planned activities as the amenities for them at  hotels used to be relegated to cookies , uninspired children’s menus and maybe a colouring book or two.

Thankfully, young globetrotters today have much more to look forward to: luxury chains are now plying on them with perks like cooking classes with famous chefs, bird-watching expeditions, and other activities and creative gifts beyond the standard run of the mill -stuffed teddy bears.

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Image :Legoland Hotel, Malaysia

All this pampering by posh properties, other than  the full fledged resorts, are putting oomph in keeping this picky clientele entertained.

But having said that here what Hotels can do to go out of their way to accommodate and please the juniors and their parents by offering clever and meaningful amenities.

  • Providing kids with child-sized robes and slippers, and gifts throughout their visit like coloring books, Frisbees etc.
  • Parents with babies, should be able to and borrow strollers, diapers and wipes.
  • A collection of creative experiences inspired by the destination such as kid-friendly tour of the city’s museums complete with a treasure hunt
  • Elaborate arrangements such as children under five get to eat for free at the on-site restaurants.
  • Family-friendly movies in its theater room, popcorn machines and candy treats machine
  • Toddlers play area and activities for young children such as kite making, shell collecting, and painting.

When you’re taking a vacation with your family, you want it to be just that — a vacation!

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Image:Kids clubroom Four Seasons,Chicago

Before you leave make sure you have looked at a hotel that has a variety amenities suited for family travel.

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Image: Centara Karon Resort, Phuket

Resorts that offer golf-cart access to the beach, and other numerous family-friendly amenities such as kid pool, playground, on-site indoor and outdoor games, walking paths, mini golf, etc can help you enjoy the holiday for both you and your entire family.

Can you think of any other suggestion/ activities/ freebies that hotels can offer to our young voyagers? Do share in the comments section.

Madhavi

 

PC: Google Images