Category Archives: Business Travel

More hotels opening in airports

 

Sheraton Hotels Resorts

In March, Sheraton Hotels Resorts opened the Sheraton Malpensa, which is attached to Terminal One of the Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy. The Sheraton has plans to build another four hotels adjacent to airports by the end of 2012.

The days of snoozing upright in an airport terminal chair during that long layover may soon be over. At some of the world’s busiest airports, travelers can book a hotel room to catch a nap or take a warm shower — all just minutes from the runway.

“We sell our cabins literally by the hour. You book only what you need,” said Jo Berrington, marketing manager for Yotel, a no-frills hotel chain now in London’s Heathrow airport, London’s Gatwick airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Yotel’s rooms are a mere 75 square feet, with just enough room for a bed, desk and shower.

Travelers can check in and out of the capsule-like rooms at any time of the day. A four-hour block of time costs about $45, and an overnight stay costs about $90. The U.K.-based Yotel expects to have five more in-airport hotels in the works within the next year, including a proposal for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Airport lodging has been around for years, offering a bed to travelers with late-night arrivals or early departures — or stranded due to bad weather. There’s the Hyatt Regency inside the Orlando airport, the Marriott in the Tampa airport and The Sheraton in the Bradley airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.

But things are starting to change, as airports continue to evolve into centers of commerce with bars, restaurants and shopping, said Scott Berman, the U.S. leader of hospitality and leisure at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “There has been a rapid expansion of hotel development in and around the busiest airports,” said Berman.

It’s not limited to no-frills. New luxury hotels are popping up at airports, complete with spa services, cigar bars and exercise rooms.

Last year, Hilton Hotels Resorts opened a 320-room hotel inside Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital Airport in China. The hotel has seven restaurants and bars, two ballrooms, 21 meeting rooms and spa services, a cigar bar and fitness center.

The Hilton chain expects to open hotels at JFK airport in New York and the Frankfurt airport in Germany in December and three more hotels inside airports in Nigeria, in Ghana and in Alberta, Canada, by 2014.

Last spring, Sheraton Hotels Resorts opened a hotel inside the Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy and by the end of next year, Sheraton will add more hotels adjacent to airports internationally in Azerbaijan and Moscow and domestically in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Meeting and conference rooms will be included. “You will have business travelers fly in, do business and never venture into the city,” said Hoyt Harper, Sheraton’s global brand leader. “Convenience is very important.” 

More on Overhead Bin

Jennifer Alsever is an msnbc.com contributor.

6 hotel trends from disappearing tubs to new fees

Pump bottle on the shower wall or individual shampoos and lotions you can take home? Luxurious tub for a self-indulgent bath or no tub at all? A friendly greeting from a well-informed local or a code transmitted electronically that will open your hotel room door with no human interaction at check-in whatsoever?

Here are some details on six hotel trends bubbling up in the industry right now, and how they affect your stay.

Increasing fees: Your hotel bill may include some unpleasant surprises. Not just the usual $20-a-day resort and amenity fee, which you pay whether or not you use the tennis courts and pool complex, but how about a required $12 housekeeping surcharge or a fee for storing your luggage in the lobby?

Total fees and surcharges collected by U.S. hotels are increasing from $1.7 billion in 2010 to a record $1.8 billion in 2011, according to new research from Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Sports Management. Hanson recommends that consumers ask when getting a rate for a hotel what if any requisite fees will be added to the bill. If you’re booking online, you may have to hunt around the listing to see what might be added to the quoted rate in addition to taxes.

Lobbies as social hubs: Colorful seating, free Internet service and trendy cocktail and coffee bars are helping to turn once-sterile hotel lobbies into social hubs. Hanson says while baby boomers might see the lobby as a place to meet at 6 p.m. sharp before heading to a prearranged restaurant location, younger travelers may prefer to gather more informally in the lobby, hang out for a while, socialize and take their time choosing where they’ll spend the evening. They might check email, go online using a cell phone or iPad to look for dining recommendations, or try whatever snacks or drinks are readily available from the lobby market or bar.

Hilton’s new Home2 Suites extended stay brand designed their lobbies with an eye toward bringing business travelers out of their rooms. Tables and colorful couches offer space for informal meetings as well as areas where anyone can plop down with a laptop and a drink rather than sitting alone in a room watching TV.

Disappearing tubs: Unless you’re booking a suite, your next stay in a hotel room may not offer the luxury of a bath. Many newly built hotels are offering showers only. Marriott, for example, is “advising our newly built hotels to put showers in 75 percent of the rooms and bathtubs in 25 percent of the rooms,” according to Marriott spokeswoman Laurie Goldstein. “Our research shows that business travelers prefer showers to baths but families like the flexibility of a bathtub as well as a shower.”

So if you’re traveling with a small child who’s going to need a bath before bedtime, call ahead to make sure your room has a tub.

Pump dispensers: The advent of pump dispensers in hotel bathrooms is good and bad news for those guests obsessed with the tiny bottles of shampoo and individually wrapped soaps that have been a beloved amenity for decades.

The good news: If you need more shampoo than what may be as little as a half-ounce in those small plastic containers, you can pump as much as you want from the dispenser. No more fighting with your roommate over that tiny bottle or running to the front desk before your 6 a.m. shower to get another one.

You can also feel greener if you use the pump. No more adding plastic throwaways to the waste stream.


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The bad news: What if you simply love those little bottles? The hand lotion is the perfect size to slip in your purse; and if you have leftover shampoo, the container is small enough to get through airport security. Or what if you find the pump dispensers unappealing? Some guests think they’re unsanitary and prefer to use an unopened individual soap or shampoo.

Fortunately, Hanson says, hotels that have switched to pump dispensers often have complimentary bottles or wrapped soaps upon request at the front desk.

Checking in electronically: Who needs to wait in line at the front desk to check in? Some of Starwood’s Aloft hotels are offering “Smart Check-In” to Starwood Preferred Guest program members. Members are sent a keycard with radio-frequency identification technology, and on the day of a planned stay, a text message is sent to the guest’s mobile device with a room number. Upon arrival, the guest proceeds to that room, and the keycard will open the door.

The technology is in place at Alofts in Brooklyn and Harlem in New York City, Lexington, Mass., Dallas, Jacksonville, Fla., and London.

Hanson says fully electronic check-in technology is being adapted by the hotel industry very slowly, but even as it becomes more widespread, he expects most hotels will still want staff in the lobbies to welcome guests and provide other services — if only to cater to an older generation that prefers human interaction to a touchscreen.

Locavore options: The locavore and hyperlocal trend that has taken over the food world is fast becoming de rigueur in the hotel industry, particularly at high-end and boutique properties where chefs are growing their own herbs and even hosting their own beehives. The W in San Francisco in September had a local beekeeper, Jack Ip, install hives on a rooftop with a goal of eventually producing honey for use in the hotel menu.

In New York City, the Andaz Wall Street hotel in Lower Manhattan sponsors a farmers market May through November in an arcade next to the hotel where produce, bread and other goods are sold by farmers and other vendors. The Andaz also sells fresh-squeezed juices and sandwiches in the market, and customers include hotel guests and neighborhood residents.

“Guests will come down and mingle with residents,” said Andaz spokeswoman Rachel Harrison. “It allows them to feel they’re really a part of the neighborhood. We want guests to feel like locals.”

Hotel Indigo, which has 30 properties in the U.S. and another eight worldwide, also partners with local vendors and purveyors to showcase local seasonal fare, like a barbeque pork sandwich on the menu at the Hotel Indigo in Asheville, N.C., and a local craft beer called SweetWater served at the Hotel Indigo in Atlanta.

Hotel Indigo is also working with celeb chef Curtis Stone on a contest called “Locals Know Best — Dish on the Dish,” in which the public is invited to nominate favorite dishes from neighborhood eateries. The contest runs through Oct. 15 and nominations can be submitted via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hotelindigo. You can meet Stone Sept. 30 and give him your recommendation in person at an event at the Hotel Indigo in Chelsea, 127 W. 28th St., from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Futuristic pods whisk travelers around airport

Laser-guided travel pods that work without drivers or timetables were officially unveiled at London’s Heathrow airport on Friday.

The system, which was featured in an exhibition on the future of transport at London’s Science Museum in 2009, has become a reality, reducing the time it takes business passengers to move from terminal to car park by 60 percent.

Traveling at speeds up to 25 mph, after an average wait of just 34 seconds, the system looks like something straight from a science fiction film.

The pods, which run along tracks and allow passengers to select their destinations, use laser sensors to ferry business passengers and their luggage along a two-mile route.

According to ULTra, the company behind the technology, the 30 million pound ($47 million) development could transport up to 500,000 passengers each year and replace 50,000 shuttle bus journeys.

The British invention, which has been on trial at Heathrow since April, is the culmination of over 60 years of development. First dreamed up in the 1950s, it has now become a working reality under ULTra PRT president and former NASA engineer, Martin Lowson, who championed the idea while lecturing at Bristol University in the 1990s.

The company, now part-owned by Ferrovial’s British airports division BAA, is confident that the technology will prove popular. India recently announced it will pilot the system around Delhi and Amritsar and feasibility studies are currently in progress in Raleigh, N.C., in the United States.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Southwest hikes fares for business travelers

Southwest Airlines Co. said Friday it matched other airlines in raising prices on tickets favored by business travelers.


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Southwest’s action virtually ensured that the increase of $6 to $10 per round trip will stick. The increase applies to last-minute tickets often purchased by corporate travelers.

The airlines left prices unchanged on advance-purchase tickets used more often by leisure travelers.

Jaime Baker, an analyst with J.P. Morgan who tracks fares, said Southwest was the last and most important major airline to go along with the increase on business travelers. If Southwest — the nation’s largest discount airline and a price-setter on many routes — had balked, it could have forced other airlines to roll back the increase.

US Airways, Delta, United and Continental confirmed that they raised prices this week, indicating that the airlines are confident about business-travel demand heading into the fall.

This week, United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and Southwest reported that an important revenue ratio rose between 6 to 11 percent last month compared with August 2010. That was thanks to full planes and about 10 broad price increases this year.

Baker said the August revenue numbers indicate that demand for corporate travel hasn’t slowed down despite the weak economy. But he predicted that business travel will weaken in the fourth quarter.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

9 tips for insanely busy travelers

Many frequent and hardcore travelers are extremely busy people.

One type of traveler crams business and pleasure trips into single junkets. Another type corrals an entire family through an itinerary that would kill a hardy donkey, let alone an exhausted working parent. Another type micromanages their trip down to the minute such that they’re setting alarms at all times of day to keep themselves on schedule. And then there are those who are so busy they can barely find enough time to take their vacations, much less do all the nuts-and-bolts tasks of planning those vacations.


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We’ve compiled nine tips to make your trips more efficient and to meet the ultimate goal of any busy traveler: to get there on time and with minimal hassle.

Slow down, you move too fast

Before we get started here, let’s take a step back and think about slowing down. I appreciate that to do both of those (step back and slow down) at the same time might be tough for some of us, so grab the arms of your chair and take a deep breath first.

Okay.

In some cases, folks just need to slow the heck down. It wasn’t so long ago that you’d take a boat to Europe. (Imagine Joe Linecutter dealing with that kind of pace.) Travelers in less hyper-developed countries will continue to experience maddening slowdowns and complete shutdowns; in the nation of the all-night CVS and the 24-hour ATM, some folks are shocked to hear “I’m sorry, sir, we’re closed.”

Time isn’t always going to bend to your will; for your own sanity, you’d better get used to it.

Okay, that’s enough deep breathing and slowing down for a weekday. Let’s put the hammer down and get back up to speed. Here come the tips:

1. Travel WAY light.

This is the one key thing you can do to guarantee easier passage through security, tight connections, terminal shutdowns, backtracking planes and other serious and mundane hazards of post-9/11 travel. It’s also the best way to avoid the many baggage fees that the airlines are now heaping on travelers who dare to bring more than a carry-on.

2. Dress for success at security.

Your favorite traveling clothes and accessories could cause slowdowns at security. Leave the jewelry at home, remove your piercings (if possible) and wear clothing that won’t hold you up in the security line — like slip-on shoes, belts with plastic buckles instead of metal, and simple clothing that doesn’t require elaborate searching.


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3. Expect delays.

A truly busy person has learned how to move projects around, make doctor’s appointments from the train platform, walk the dog while the coffee’s brewing. If you’re this kind of person, you’re probably only truly put out if you can’t get anything done at all. Thus, some traveling items to help you cope with those all-too-frequent delays at the airport:

Program the phone numbers of your airline, car rental company, shuttle service and hotel into your cell phone. If you’ve got time to kill during a flight delay, you can make a few calls and provide your new ETA to anyone waiting for you at your destination. (For even more efficiency, check to see which other airlines also fly your itinerary and program their phone numbers in as well — that way if your original flight is delayed, you can start calling around for alternatives.)

Have a to-do list of productive things you can work on during delays. This might be a good time to read that chapter in your guidebook on the history of the place you’re visiting, or to sketch out a detailed itinerary for the first few days of your trip.

4. Have other folks do some of the work.

Some examples: Ask the front desk at the hotel to call you a cab, make a dinner reservation, or organize a tour or day trip. Book your airfare, hotel and car rental at a single Web site — or, if you don’t mind a little less customization, book an organized vacation package that includes accommodations, transportation, meals and sightseeing.

5. Use a travel agent.

Following on from the previous tip, why not leave all the heavy lifting to someone else? Investing some time in finding a travel agent you can trust and communicate with will save you time (and maybe some money) in the long haul. Consider the difference between scouring countless Web sites for the best deal and itinerary, then making a purchase, then putting together your own travel itinerary versus placing one phone call or e-mail to your travel agent — this could add up to hours of your life on every trip.

6. Ask for seats near the front of the plane.

You’ll get on last, granting you time to get more things done before boarding lockdown, and you’ll get off first. Many airlines now allow you to select your seat online at the time of booking or check-in (sometimes for a fee) — this is the best way to guarantee yourself the seat you want.

7. Know where the airport gas station is.

If you are responsible for returning your rental car with a full tank of gas, ask where the closest gas station is when you rent your car. This way you won’t be driving around looking and hoping for a gas station to fill your tank just before returning.

8. Reuse your packing list.

If you’re the type of traveler that scribbles down a hasty packing list before every trip (and inevitably forgets some vital item each time), get organized by creating a single comprehensive packing list and saving it on your computer. Before each trip, customize the list as necessary and then print out a copy to refer to as you pack. Need help getting started? Use our interactive packing list.

9. Use these time-tested tactics.

I lump these together because we’ve gone over them endlessly at IndependentTraveler.com, but they’re always worth repeating:

Fly direct. Connections cost time; missed connections cost lots of time. Avoid layovers where you can.

Fly early in the day; there are fewer delays, cancellations and people in the airport.

Consider alternate airports. They’re less crowded and often better located, and they have fewer flights going in and out — all common sources of delays.