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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer Travel Tips and Strategies


This week, I appeared on Great Day Washington to discuss summer travel strategies. Here's the recap from the Great Day Washington team.
Veteran travel journalist Laura Powell of The Daily Suitcase joined us with a brand-new series of summer vacation tips just in time for the first long weekend of the season.
Whether you’re leaving town for a Memorial Day cookout or preparing for that destination cruise in July, here are her strategies to ensure smooth sailing on all trips.
1. Plan together
Powell says all travelers should participate in the planning of their vacation time.  Couples, families and groups should pick the destination and plan the itinerary together. This way, uncomfortable feelings and conversations can occur well in advance.
2. Do a test run
If you’re planning an extensive getaway with a new friend or significant other, Powell encourages trying out a ‘test run’ before booking it. A quick weekend trip could provide some insights into your travel partner’s habits and preferences that you may find insufferable over longer stretches.
3. Save money
If you’re planning on flying this season, consider registering for an airline-branded credit card. These earn you rewards and points toward your flights with every purchase.  Powell says this can also shrink baggage fees and help you board earlier.
4. Pack practically
Instead of cramming all your clothes into one suitcase, Powell suggests distributing clothes among one or more bags to avoid an all-too-common disaster.  If you do this, losing your luggage won’t be nearly as consequential.
For more expert travel tips and news, check out Powell’s blog at dailysuitcase.blogspot.com or her luxury vacations coverage for Skift at skift.com.  Want more articles like this? Follow Great Day Washington on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for more! Watch everyday at 9am on WUSA9. 
 
© 2017 WUSA-TV  Hallie Miller

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Luxury Travel on Skift

Greetings, all. I haven't gone into hibernation. Rather, I have taken on a new gig covering luxury travel for Skift, the ultimate inside baseball publication for the tourism industry. Fear not, I will continue my other work, including the wacky travel gadget segments for Great Day Washington. 

For now, though, here are some links to the stories I've been reporting on during the past month. 

The Fundamentals of Luxury Travel Have Not Changed

Raffles Hotel, Singapore
Isolation is the Next Big Thing in Luxury Travel

Northern Norway
River Cruises Take Action

Aboard AmaWaterway's Ama Lotus
Travel Agents Rethinking the Brick and Mortar Experience

Check out Skift's New Luxury Newsletter every Tuesday for more coverage. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Crazy Travel Products

Looking for the newest crazy cool travel products? You can always depend on Great Day Washington's gadget guru and travel goddess (that's me) to deliver the goods. Watch the hilarious segment here and find product details below. 


Sound + Sleep MINI is a sound machine serving up a choice of 48 different tones, from whales jabbering to the hum of traffic (whatever floats your boat...and puts you to sleep). Why bring along a machine (albeit lightweight) an app will do? Well, for troubled sleepers, apps just might not do, according to the MINI's engineers. Apparently, its patented technology "has the ability to automatically listen to your background for disruptive ambient noise and the MINI responds by remixing sound and adjusting volume to neutralize outside sounds." Take that, apps!   Plus, with the MINI, you can leave your phone far from the bed, making those middle-of-the-night check-ins less likely. Plug it in or use AA batteries. $79.95 


They'll make you look a bit batty, but they work. Occles are designed to keep illumination out, whether you are trying to get shuteye on the airplane or a tan at the beach. The light, durable eye covers are padded with soft rubber, providing your peepers with their very own face pillows. The adjustable wraparound is helpful for sizing, but a little awkward to lean against.  Warning: Although Occles do keep UV rays out, you may end up with raccoon eyes if you sunbathe in them too long. A pair runs about $30.


Wouldn’t it be great to speed through an airport with your carry-on in tow? With a top speed of 12 miles per hour, you can now zoom past your fellow passengers on Villagio of Miami’s Transmover luggage scooter. The included carry-on bag is detachable, so you can throw on your own suitcase or dog carrier. The battery-powered version, with a TSA-approved rechargeable battery, costs around $500 (unless you want a pink one--that costs more). A manual scooter runs in the range of $250.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Plane Sense: How to Complain to Airlines

In light of this week's United incident of very involuntary bumping (and dragging), it's never a bad idea to remind consumers how best to resolve a complaint with an airline when the problem isn't captured on video.
While researching the nooks and crannies of official rules regarding bumping, I came across a great deal of informative information (and if nothing else, information should be informative) at Transportation.gov, the website of the Department of Transportation.
Below is an edited section from the DOT missive called Fly Rights. My comments in blue.
Like other businesses, airlines have a lot of discretion in how they respond to problems (preferably, those responses will not resemble that of Oscar Munoz).  While you do have certain rights as a passenger, your demands for compensation will probably be subject to negotiation and the kind of action you get often depends in large part on the way you go about complaining. 
Start with the airline. Before you contact DOT for help with an air travel problem, you should give the airline a chance to resolve it. As a rule, airlines have trouble-shooters at the airports (they're usually called "Customer Service Representatives") who can take care of many problems on the spot.
If you can't resolve the problem at the airport and want to file a complaint, it's best to write or email the airline's consumer office at its corporate headquarters (and then, if those channels don't work, take to Twitter. See my additional comments near the end of this post). 
DOT requires most U.S. airlines to state on their websites how and where complaints can be submitted. Take notes at the time the incident occurred and jot down the names of the carrier employees with whom you dealt. Keep all of your travel documents (ticket or confirmation, baggage check stubs, boarding pass, etc.). Here are some helpful tips should you choose to write.
  • If you send a letter, type it and, if at all possible, limit it to two pages.
  • Include your daytime telephone number (with area code).
  • No matter how angry you might be, keep your letter or email businesslike in tone and don't exaggerate what happened. If the complaint sounds very vehement or sarcastic, you might wait a day and then consider revising it.
  • Describe what happened, and give dates, cities, and flight numbers or flight times.
  • Where possible, include copies, never the originals, of tickets and receipts or other documents that can back up your claim.
  • Include the names of any employees who were rude or made things worse, as well as anyone who might have been especially helpful.
  • Don't clutter your complaint with a litany of petty gripes that can obscure what you're really angry about.
  • Let the airline know if you've suffered any special inconvenience or monetary losses.
  • Say just what you expect the carrier to do to make amends. The airline needs to know what you want before it can decide what action to take.
  • Be reasonable. If your demands are way out of line, you are rude or sarcastic, or you use vulgar language, at best your letter might earn you a polite apology and a place in the airline's crank files.
The DOT Fly Rights complaint section does not mention Twitter or other forms of social media, so it is a bit dated. That said, I still think it's best to go through private channels of complaint first. If there is not a satisfactory response, then tweet-shaming can sometimes do the trick. 
We all know that Twitter loves snark. But save the snark in complaining on Twitter as a last ditch effort....and only if the error on the part of the airline (or other travel provider for that matter) is egregious. As the DOT suggests, try to be nice and businesslike first, even in a tweet.
Sometimes, though, snark is deserved. Take the case of the Icelandic car rental company that pinned us with damage charges, despite the fact that the driver who hit our (parked) car claimed responsibility in writing. After months emailing with no success, a few well-placed tweets did the trick and we got the company to refund our money. In such a case, Twitter-shaming was justifiable (IMHO). However, I will note that this tactic may not work with U.S. airlines. After all, as we can see from the United incident, airlines can be rather shameless. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Light Bulb Moments: Light Festivals Around the World


Light art is a relatively new creative form that blurs the borders between design and technology. During the past decade, light festivals have started brightening up night skies around the world. In the United States, though, such festivals are still a rare phenomenon…for now.


Light City Baltimore 

House of Cards by OGE Group/Perry Mandelboym


That said, Light City Baltimore in Maryland takes the American spotlight. Now in its second year, Baltimore‘s “festival of light, music and innovation” is the first large-scale international light event held annually in the United States. Between March 31 and April 8, more than 50 light attractions, including illuminated visual art installations and video projections on buildings, will electrify the area around the city’s Inner Harbor. And what do festival-goers do during the day? Labs@LightCity brings together innovators and thought leaders to explore how society can become more equitable through innovation. 


 Vivid Sydney Light Festival 

Vivid Sydney light festival
Photo courtesy of Vivid Sydney
Vivid Sydney is Australia’s light bulb moment. Held between May 26 and June 17 (remember, that’s winter down under), an illuminated trail of installations will weave through Barangaroo, Sydney’s newest harborside precinct. There will also be displays at Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo and the Royal Botanic Garden. Of course, the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House will also be illuminated, this year with a projection of imaginary creatures inspired by insects, plants and the ocean. In addition to the light displays, Vivid Sydney features a diverse line-up of music plus an Ideas program. 


Prague Signal Festival 

Photo courtesy of Alexander Dobrovodsy 

Elsewhere in central Europe, the Prague Signal Festival is the largest cultural event in the Czech Republic. Held in the City of a Hundred Spires between October 12 and 15, the festival brings modern art and new technology to the streets and public squares of Prague. Famous historical landmarks and lesser-known nooks and crannies will be transformed under the spell of Czech and global masters in light art and design.

GLOW Eindhoven and The Amsterdam Light Festival



Photo Courtesy Amsterdam Light Festival
The Netherlands sports not one, but two different light festivals each winter. During GLOW Eindhoven, no place is safe from light artists. The facades and public spaces around the Dutch capital of design and technology glow between November 11 and 18. Meanwhile, the Amsterdam Light Festival takes place during December and early January. The Illuminade evening walk itinerary leads past a score of light installations, including projections on historical architecture, dynamic light installations in city parks and works to walk through. The canals are also illuminated and best seen via a Water Colors boat tour.

iLight Marina Bay 

Photo Courtesy iLight Marina Bay
Back down under in Singapore, iLight Marina Bay returns every March, setting the waterfront aglow with sustainable, environmentally-friendly light art installations. The festival also features a range of fringe activities, including creative workshops for children and adults and a colorful playground with giant inflatable animal structures. If a visit to Singapore doesn’t coincide with the festival, worry not: Nightly light shows are presented at both Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What's the Deal With These New Hotel Brands and Their Quirky Names?

 Hotel brands are popping up out of the woodwork. In aiming to appeal to the Millennial generation, companies from Best Western to Radisson are developing novel brands with crazy names. Here's a link to the original CNN story.

(CNN)   Milan has Moxy, while much of Europe is painted BluJaz in the City is playing in Amsterdam come September. EVEN increases the odds of a good night's sleep, while Tune is in harmony with scaled-down budgets. And then there's the vibrant Vib and a new venue, Venu, soon arriving in Dubai. These statements begin to make sense once you realize that they're all the names of modern hotel brands.

Part of the lobby of the first Hotel RL,
which opened in Baltimore this summer.
According to Chekitan S. Dev, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, hotels traditionally have been named after an owner or a place.But more recently, he says, "the naming process has evolved from an off-the-cuff process into something far more systematic."

Millennials driving the trend

So what's behind this influx of idiosyncratic hotel names, replete with misspellings and unexpected word usages? Look to millennials and psychographics -- the study of personality, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. Psychologists say the millennial psychographic is made up of independent-minded, adventurous individuals in search of new experiences. Hospitality brands are crafting their marketing strategies accordingly.


"Hotel companies are lasering in on consumer needs by using psychographic data in a big way," says Matthew Von Ertfelda, Marriott's vice president for insight, strategy and innovation. 
Prototype of a Moxy Lobby
The explosion of social media also has a starring role in the name game.
Brands of the 21st century need to have handles that resonate in the global, online world, say the pros. "Thanks to social media, millennials are the first global generation," says Dr. Donna Quadri-Felitti, director of the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State University.  "And since this generation is so enamored with texting and tweeting, hotels really have to think how names will play in the new media world."

In need of spell check?

Vib -- short for Vibrant -- is Best Western's attempt at a hip new offering.
For social media purposes, the number of characters in a name counts. Spelling is often sacrificed in the quest for brevity.

But another reason for purposeful misspellings may be legal. Spelling is often set into an uncommon form to retain meaning while being trademarkable.

"The odder the name, the less likely someone has already captured it," says Cornell professor Dev. "That's important in terms of intellectual property protection."

It may explain why Venu and Vib are missing an "e." Venu is a just-announced lifestyle brand, launching its first property in Dubai in 2017. According to parent company Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, it's designed to give travelers "the freedom to write their own story, their own narrative, to build their own scene."

Best Western's new hotel entry, called Vib, is pronounced "vibe." "We tried to come up with names that celebrated individuality, while also connoting a vibrant spirit," says Dick Lew, a partner at Houston-based Acumen Design, a branding firm brought in to hone the name and the image. Hence Vib, which is derived from "vibrant." Color also plays a big part in hotel branding. "We incorporated a bright persimmon red in the design and the logo, in order to reflect the (Vib) brand's bold personality," says Lew.


A rendering of a vibrant Vib exterior
Moxy, the new Marriott partnership with IKEA, is going after "a sassy, determined, individualistic consumer," according to Marriott's Von Ertfelda. The first Moxy opened at Milan's Malpensa Airport in September and more are coming in Europe this year.
"Naming Moxy was a four-month process involving a great deal of brainstorming," says Von Ertfelda. "Once we came up with it, we knew we had a name with emotional resonance that hit a global sweet spot. "At the same time, though, our lawyers noted the name had to be 'ownable and trademarkable.'" The change of spelling from moxie to Moxy achieved that.

According to Von Ertfelda, senior creative director Maria Rezende-Heiston selected hot pink for the Moxy logo to "appeal to those who aren't afraid to express themselves" while using a "curved font to convey a sense of rhythm, fluidity and independence."

Blu and Red

Radisson Blu was introduced in 2009. Instead of using blue or bleu, the company opted for a trademarkable spelling.
Color is also key to hotel operator Carlson Rezidor, which is hueing (sic) toward Red and BluBlu came about in 2009, after airline SAS withdrew from a partnership with Radisson. After the split, Radisson SAS, a collection of European design hotels, needed a new name.

"We wanted to replace SAS with an equally short name," says Rose Anderson, vice president of branding for the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. "We liked using blue from the old SAS logo, because it brought in the heritage of the former brand. "At the same time, we were looking for a word with positive worldwide connotations ... and blue is the world's favorite color."

So blue or bleu became Blu, a trademarkable spelling. Carlson Rezidor recently announced a new Red brand that will, according to Anderson, "build on the Blu concept and further leverage Radisson's brand awareness."

Pick a noun, any noun

There's a good reason those four vertical bars are off-kilter.
New brands are also being dubbed with what may seem to be random nouns. But there's nothing random about them.

Last year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) rolled out EVEN, a new brand cultivated for the growing wellness-minded audience, with two properties in the United States.EVEN expresses the desire for the balance travelers are seeking, says an IHG spokesperson.
In its logo, specific colors were chosen to represent elements of nature.

The four vertical bars of the logo are off-kilter, while the EVEN letters are composed on a flat horizontal line, representing the brand promise of helping guests stay in balance.

Malaysia-based Tune Hotels provides "five-star beds at a one-star price." The group has more than 40 properties worldwide, including five in London. Some in its management group were previously senior executives in the music business. It makes sense, then, that a travel company with a musical name would attempt to strike a global chord.

Adding to the medley of avant garde brands, Germany's Steigenberger Hotel Group's Amsterdam hotel Jaz in the City will open in September, with others scheduled to follow.
According to Steigenberger Hotel Group, coming Jaz in the City properties will be "hip and happening hotels" that "move to the rhythm of today's curious global traveler" who has a "desire to embrace authentic experiences in a city hotel."

The letter that started it all

You can't explore the hospitality industry's desire to appeal to the millennial mindset without nodding to W Hotels by Starwood. The brand now seems to have been ahead of its time with hotels that opened in pre-social media 1998.

"Starwood was the first hotel company to look directly at the customer as it evolved a new brand," says Paul James, global brand leader of W Hotels Worldwide, St. Regis and The Luxury Collection. W's target customer was a fashionable, high-energy individual -- someone who'd now likely be described as having a millennial psychographic. Starwood defined the brand by adding its "Whatever, Whenever" tagline to the simple W logo. Cornell's Dev says Starwood further imbued the brand with meaning by using words like witty, warm and welcoming in its advertising and marketing material. 

Original Publication Date: November, 2015


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Haute Couture Hotels in Europe

Boutique hotels have always incorporated an element of fashion. But noted European designers have been taking the concept to another level, patterning hotels with distinct touches of their luxury brands. Check out and into these couture lodgings:

Palazzo Versace: Australia
Widely considered the world’s first truly fashion-branded hotel, the 200 light-filled bedrooms and suites at the Palazzo are appointed with bespoke Versace Home furnishings and private Juliet balconies—very Italian indeed. The Versace Oz opened in 2000 and the brand has since expanded to Dubai.


Hotel du Petit Moulin: Paris
Christian Lacroix is the genius behind the flashy interiors of Hotel du Petit Moulin. The French designer created bespoke furniture, fabrics and bath products for the Marais residence located in a former 17th-century bakery.



Armani Hotel: Milan
The timeless elegance of the Armani brand is brought to bear in this Milano hotel (there’s also a property in Dubai). Coincidentally, both Armani hotels are in buildings shaped like a giant letter A.



Bulgari Hotel: London
The Bulgari Hotel London is a tribute to the brand’s silversmithing origins. Aside from the sleek silver architecture and the use of silver-patterned fabrics, there’s also a silver screen in the form of an intimate on-site cinema. Bulgari also has properties in Dubai and Bali.


Hotel Metropole: Monte Carlo
Karl Lagerfeld recently announced he’ll be starting his own hotel brand, with the first opening in Macau. The move follows on the footsteps of the Lagerfeld-designed outdoor swimming pool and restaurant area at the Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo.

Gallery Hotel Art, Florence, Italy
Lungarno Collection: Florence and Rome
The Lungarno Collection, owned by descendants of Salvatore Ferragamo, is a group of chic properties located in Florence and Rome. The hotels each have their own distinct styles, yet traces of the well-heeled Ferragamo fashion heritage are always on display.



This article originally appeared on Orbitz Blog.