Category Archives: Business Travel

Plug in at America’s techiest cities

Seattle earns renown not only for its java, but for being a high-tech metropolis as well.

Walking around San Francisco, public relations exec Christina Farr regularly sees people on the street she knows — from Twitter, that is. Just how plugged-in is the city? “Everyone I know has an idea for a tech start-up,” she observes, “even my mom.”

That pervasive digital culture sent San Francisco to the top three of America’s Techiest Cities. As part of the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, Travel + Leisure readers ranked 35 major cities on qualities such as microbrews, live music and street food. Readers also judged how tech-savvy the locals seem, and the reliability of wireless coverage; we combined the two sets of results to come up with our list of the techiest cities.

Slideshow: America’s techiest cities

Scanning the top 20, one sees a clear correlation between brainy locals — another survey category — and those cities’ tech communities. The Seattle and San Francisco areas, for instance, support heavyweights such as Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. Boston, Providence, R.I., and Austin, Texas, meanwhile, enjoy the benefits of academia and an atmosphere that spurs innovation.

Savoir faire doesn’t always equate with good phone signals, however. Salt Lake City came in second place for its wireless coverage, but only 20th when it came to tech-savvy. And while New York City has plenty of brainpower, its spotty signals dragged it down to No. 17. “Any call I make from inside my office has to be for less than 30 seconds, or it’s a goner,” says Pete Meyers, co-owner of travel site EuroCheapo.com. He found the opposite in Austin: “The sheer mass of cafés, bars and even food trucks that offer Wi-Fi made getting a signal a breeze.”

While you wouldn’t plan a visit just based on speedy downloads or lack of dropped calls, some cities foster a tech culture that creates its own attractions. According to a Cornell University study, the glass-cube-fronted Apple Store in midtown is now New York City’s fifth-most-photographed landmark. In Portland, Ore., you can shop for used gear at an all-tech thrift shop, and in San Diego, a popular app will help you find the city’s hottest new microbrews.

These pervasive tech opportunities can become almost all-consuming. “In San Francisco, we are surrounded by breathtaking natural landscape and architecture, which we rarely stop to enjoy,” says Farr. “But we regularly capture it on our iPhones.”

What city do you think is the most connected — technically speaking? Tell us on Facebook.

Surrounded by water and mountains, Seattle’s a trend-setting, high tech, artsy city that glows year-round.

Launch slideshow

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Hotels ditch the housekeeping carts

The hotel industry is adapting to shifting travel habits. NBC’s Chris Clackum reports.

All the bulky, rolling housekeeping carts are missing from the hallways at the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte.

The hotel managers aren’t worrying about it and, they say, neither should you.  

“Actually, we’ve been cartless since opening day in 2007,” said Kris Horasek, general manager of the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.

The Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel has eliminated the traditional maid cart in favor of smaller, more portable caddies.

At the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark, each floor has a linen chute and a fully stocked linen closet. After guests depart, housekeeping aides strip the beds and remove towels and trash. Then the hotel’s “room stylists” arrive. Instead of the traditional cart filled with toiletries, towels and linens, they enter a room with a vacuum cleaner and a compact, wheeled caddy filled with products and cleaning supplies to clean and re-stock the room.

“We started with a knapsack,” said Horasek, “but that didn’t work. Then our senior rooms manager showed us a rolling bag with drawers that her husband uses for his collection of remote control cars. Now we get the caddies from a hotel supplier.”

For guests, the benefits include hallways free of bulky carts laden with dirty linens and the need to maneuver around them. And because housekeepers carry the caddies into the rooms, guests don’t see carts parked outside propped open doors of other rooms being cleaned.

Live Poll

Do you pilfer items from the hotel houskeeping cart?

“Housekeepers close the door and put key cards in the lock to signal that they’re in the rooms,” said Horasek. “The housekeepers are safer. Guests’ belongings are safer. And with no carts in the hallways, it looks like the rooms are done by magic.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte has been cartless since opening day in 2009. General manager David Rothwell said compact housekeeping caddies benefit not just guests, but the staff and the building as well. “Our housekeeping professionals no longer have to push 100-pound carts around all day, and the beautiful wood millwork and doorways on our guest floors are no longer subject to the dings, scrapes and scratches that carts used to leave behind.”

The Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott in New Jersey and the Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel Spa in Foxborough, Mass., are some of the other hotels that have gone cartless. Debbie Howarth, an associate professor in the International Hotel School at Johnson Wales University, expects the concept will spread.

“The cost of doing business decreases if you do not have people walking by the housekeeping carts stealing items off of them,” she said.

What item are you most likely to raid off a hotel housekeeping cart? Tell us on Facebook.

More on Overhead Bin

 

Study: Obligation traveling crowds out leisure trips

Weddings, reunions, graduations, new babies, business trips — are you taking fewer leisure vacations because of the time and money you devote to obligation travel?

According to a recent survey commissioned by Hotwire.com, 41 percent of traveling U.S. adults spend the majority of their vacation budget on obligation travel. And 89 percent of respondents said they would take more leisure trips if they had the time and the money to do so.

For its American Travel Behavior Survey, Hotwire commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey of 2,127 U.S. adults from July 27-29, 2011.

According to the survey, 94 percent of respondents said that they would take one more trip than they already had planned if they could afford it.

The solution, suggests Hotwire, is combining the obligation travel with leisure time. Work sending you to a conference in Orlando? Bring the spouse and kids so they can enjoy some time at the local theme parks.

Family reunion back home? Try to tack on a weekend getaway for some time away from everything — and everyone. 

Live Poll

Do you mix business with pleasure when traveling?

 

But there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. If it’s a personal trip, a family event or gathering, travelers still have to find the time and money to get there, and any extra time spent away is just that, more time and money.

That said, if you’re already paying for a flight somewhere, it might be more economical to just add on some extra time rather than book an entirely separate flight and vacation elsewhere.

If there is a business trip element, there are potential savings to be had on at least one person’s transportation costs and possibly the accommodations, depending on the business trip. But then, the person working might be unavailable for part or all of the trip.

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Clogged Southeast Asia airports hinder airlines

It’s a scene repeated endlessly at most of Southeast Asia’s main airports — planes forced to circle overhead or idle on the tarmac and travelers stuck in long lines at immigration desks, security checkpoints and baggage carousels.


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And it’s likely to get worse in capitals like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila in years to come as overcrowded airports and outdated infrastructure are twinned with a huge spike in the number of aircraft in the region.

Southeast Asian carriers have ordered $47 billion worth of aircraft for the coming decade but the deals could be under threat because of the inability of airports to keep pace. That could be a blow to manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus.

“You can buy as many aircraft as you like but if the infrastructure does not keep up then you are going to see a degraded service that may prevent you from executing plans to grow the airline,” Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, told Reuters.

The problem could force low-cost carriers such as Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd and Indonesia’s privately held Lion Air — the world’s biggest buyers of passenger jets — to delay or even cancel some orders from Airbus and Boeing.

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport now serves more than 51 million passengers a year, more than twice its design capacity when it was built in the mid-1980s.

Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi Airport is often beset by two-hour immigration queues and is running over capacity less than six years after it opened, which led Thailand’s government to encourage low-cost carriers to move to the old Don Muang Airport to help ease congestion.

Passengers can wait for hours at Kuala Lumpur’s overcrowded budget terminal, the hub for AirAsia. After clearing immigration lines that can be at least 50 people long, the walk to the plane at the tarmac can be hundreds of meters with only a strip of corrugated steel overhead as cover against the elements.

With pressure from AirAsia and scenes of chaotic check-ins, government-linked operator Malaysia Airports is rushing to complete another budget terminal that is due to be up and running by April 2013.

Projected construction costs have nearly doubled to 3.9 billion ringgit ($1.27 billion) as the planned capacity of the new airport has been expanded to 45 million passengers a year from an initial plan of 30 million.

Time is money

Jakarta’s airport is infamous for planes sitting for nearly an hour on the tarmac before take-off or circling overhead as they await their turn to land. One-hour flights between Singapore and the Indonesian capital can easily drag to two hours or more because of the overcrowded runway.

The hundreds of bankers and executives who fly regularly from Jakarta to Singapore on Monday mornings need to leave home in the dark to catch a 6 a.m. flight and often they still get caught in traffic jams on the toll road to the airport.

That has led to tense times for airline executives dealing with what they politely refer to as “influential” passengers who get to the airport late or get stuck in traffic.

Airline sources said these passengers do not hesitate to call them or even the chief executive on their mobile phones to ask for the plane to wait for them.

“It is a common problem,” one of the sources said. “We could never entertain these kinds of requests unless they are the president or the vice president of Indonesia. But some customers can be quite impolite and scream at us.”

The number of low-cost carriers (LCC) and their routes have expanded rapidly in Southeast Asia over the last 10 years. Analysts and industry executives see more growth ahead due to a lack of reliable alternatives and strong economic growth.

“Ten years ago, the airports in this region would probably not have foreseen that LCC demand could be as strong as it is today,” Chin Yau Seng, chief executive officer of Singapore-based budget carrier Tiger Airways, told Reuters.

Airport congestion makes it tougher for carriers to keep their on-time performance and pushes up operating costs as planes waste fuel waiting to take off or land.

“If this problem persists for the long run, airlines in general will have to take into account all the additional costs that they have to incur and pass them on to customers,” Edward Sirait, a director at Lion Air, told Reuters.

“If customers cannot accept those additional costs then airlines, whoever they are, will have to rethink their investment decisions and spending.”

Lion recently firmed up an order for 230 Boeing 737s worth $22.4 billion, eclipsing the record for the world’s biggest commercial aircraft deal set by AirAsia when it signed up to buy 200 Airbus A320neo jets for $18 billion.

Despite the growth and big orders, Southeast Asia remains a market that has been under served by carriers.

Con Korfiatis, vice president of Garuda Indonesia’s budget carrier Citilink, said only 300 single-aisle jets serve the country’s population of 230 million, compared with 3,000 in the United States, which has 310 million people.

Boeing sees Asia-Pacific carriers as the biggest buyers of planes over the 20-year period to 2030 as they are expected to acquire 11,450 passenger jets valued at $1.5 trillion — more than a third of global demand.

Racing against the clock

A number of airports in Southeast Asia are expanding but some industry watchers say the efforts may not be enough to keep up with additional capacity and demand.

Premium Economy a wise way to fly

Courtesy of Qantas Airways

Premium economy on a Qantas A380 provides more elbow room and more room to kick back.

The advent of lie-flat seating in business class is probably the top airline development of recent years, but another trend is quickly rising in popularity: premium economy.

Many international carriers now offer a dedicated cabin more luxurious than economy and at a price significantly more affordable than business class. It’s a great option to consider when traveling overseas, as the relative comfort the cabins provide can mean the difference between arriving jetlagged and sour to passing through immigration and customs refreshed and ready to start your day.

Each airline offering a premium economy cabin provides similar amenities, including:

  • A dedicated check-in line and priority boarding.
  • Free checked baggage allowances.
  • Larger, more comfortable seats with enhanced legroom and adjustable headrests.
  • An amenity kit with earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks and an eye mask.
  • Complimentary newspapers and bar service.
  • Enhanced meal choices often served on fine china.
  • On-demand personal video entertainment featuring television programming, movies, games, audio books and music.
  • Power outlets for laptops and mobile devices.

 Among the airlines offering a separate premium economy cabin internationally are:

  • Air New Zealand
  • British Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Air France
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas
  • Thai Airways
  • Virgin Australia

Here’s what you can expect to pay for premium economy on a sampling of carriers for a weeklong trip in May 2012 (fares are roundtrip, include all taxes, and were current as of the date researched):

CNBC

This article, “Business class out of reach? Try Premium Economy,” first appeared on CNBC.com.

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