Πέμπτη, 29 Αυγούστου 2013

Windstar Cruises to Renovate Staterooms

Seattle, August 29, 2013 — Windstar Cruises, the leader in small ship cruising, continues to evolve its fleet with three million dollars of stateroom upgrades scheduled for Wind Star and Wind Spirit, the two smallest sister yachts of the fleet. Wind Star’s 72 guest staterooms will be renovated in a dry dock this November (one stateroom was already completed as a model showcase room). Wind Spirit is scheduled to have its 73 staterooms completed in April of 2015.
“We have a company-wide commitment to ensuring our yachts are constantly evolving to give our guests the best luxury experience possible,” said Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer and president of Windstar Cruises. “These latest enhancements, along with the renovations done in early 2012, will make our staterooms some of the best in the luxury market.”
The current layout will be transformed with a sofa where guests can relax, watch TV or catch a cat-nap to replace the previous desk and vanity set-up. When room service is ordered, or if guests want a place to write, the middle section of the sofa converts into a table, with seats at each end. Additionally, the center dresser located next to the bed will be exchanged for a chic new dresser that will give guests more open room. Before and after pictures of the mock-up stateroom can be viewed on Windstar’s blog.
Staterooms on both yachts were previously enhanced as part of Windstar’s $18 million fleet-wide renovation project in 2012. Across the fleet, staterooms were updated with leather headboards, stately arm chairs, linen wall coverings, new lighting features, elegant window coverings, plush wool carpeting, art work, and stylish bed cushions. Corridors were completely renovated from floor to ceiling with new wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, lighting, and art work.
“Guests are staying in our model showcase stateroom on Wind Star, and the reviews so far have been outstanding,” said Birkholz. “The new layout really exemplifies yacht-style cruising.”
While Windstar’s sailing yachts continue to evolve with the latest trends in the luxury market, Windstar Cruises is also preparing for Star Pride, the first of the company’s three new power yachts, to enter it’s month-long dry-dock in April 2014, before sailing the Mediterranean in May of 2014.

To learn more about Windstar Cruises, please visit www.windstarcruises.com.

Festiva Hospitality Group expands into Alabama, Arkansas

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Festiva Hospitality Group acquired six new vacation destinations for its resort portfolio from Arkansas-based Escapes!, Inc., including properties in Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri. The expansion is second only in size to the Peppertree Resorts acquisition of 2007, when Festiva added 10 resorts to its property mix. This latest transaction also adds approximately 9,000 vacation owners and club members plus nearly 4,000 intervals to the company.

The expansion increases Festiva's offering in Branson, Mo. to five resorts and gives it a presence in Arkansas and Alabama, two key areas the company has been eyeing for sometime.

"We have been looking for high-quality and well-maintained properties in the Mid-South and Gulf Coast to add to our resort offering," said Festiva Hospitality Group Senior Vice President Rich Hartnett. "A good number of Festiva members live in these areas as well as the Midwest, and they have asked for vacation options closer to home. This transaction not only gives our members what they have been waiting for, it also gives these Escapes! owners the ability to gain access to the Festiva Adventure Club, its privileges and 34 destinations."

Property Overview
The Shores, Orange Beach, Ala.
This oceanfront Gulf Coast property is Festiva's first location in Alabama. Amenities include oceanfront balconies, indoor and outdoor pools, steam room, sauna, fitness center, and beach access.

Los Lagos at Hot Springs Village, Hot Springs Village, Ark.
One of Festiva's three additions in Arkansas, Los Lagos at Hot Springs Village is located 20 minutes from Hot Springs National Park and close to area theme parks. The 26,000-acre property has nine golf courses, 39 miles of trails, a performing art center, two marinas, lakefront access, fitness center, indoor pool and outdoor pools.

The Greens at Bella Vista Village, Bella Vista, Ark.
The second Arkansas property for Festiva, The Greens at Bella Vista Village provides guests access to eight pristine golf courses and seven lakes. Resort amenities include on-site clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts.

Cherokee Village, Cherokee Village Ark.
The third Arkansas property for Festiva is located on Lake Thunderbird in an area acclaimed for its natural beauty. The resort gives members access to fishing and boating on the lake, 36 holes of on-site golf, swimming pools, tennis courts, and a recreational center.

Branson Yacht Club, Branson, Mo.
Festiva adds its fourth Branson property with the Branson Yacht Club, located on Table Rock Lake with a half mile of private shoreline. Resort amenities include two swimming pools, boat launch and marina, tennis courts, and water-sports rentals.

Stonebridge Village, Branson, Mo.
Located on 3,200 wooded acres and 10 minutes from downtown Branson, Stonebridge Village rounds out Festiva's five Branson properties. The resort includes an 18-hole golf course; country club; fitness center; swimming pool; and lake access for boating, fishing and swimming.

Based in Asheville, N.C., Festiva Hospitality Group manages and operates a collection of hotels and resorts in sought-after destinations throughout the Midwest, Mid-South, Southeast, Northeast and Caribbean. Festiva Sailing Vacations, a Festiva company that operates the Festiva Cruise Club, charters all-inclusive luxury catamaran yachts in the Caribbean.


Festiva is one of the largest privately held vacation ownership companies in the United States. The company currently has more than 95,000 owners and members among 34 vacation ownership destinations, the Festiva Cruise Club and Festiva Adventure Club.

The world's best and worst airports for connecting on time

MARLBOROUGH, MASS. - Which are the best and worst airports for making connecting flights and why? Wayne Chen, president of Mo'Zippity Apps, discovered the answers while creating Connect On Time – the mobile app that provides specific gate-to-gate connect times for many of the world's top destination airports. His picks are based upon the number of barriers and amount of time needed at each airport to get between its furthest gates once security and passport control lines have been cleared.

10 Best
1. Zurich Airport (ZRH) 10 min.
2. Salt Lake City International (SLC) 11 min.
3. Tampa International (TPA) 12 min.
4. Orlando International (MCO) 15 min.
5. Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) 16 min.
6. Denver International (DEN) 18 min.
7. London Stansted (STN) 19 min.
8. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) 20 min.
9. Dubai International (DXB) 21 min.
10. Hong Kong International (HKG) 22 min.

The Best airports have better than 70 percent on-time departure and arrival records, logical layouts, efficient security and passport control checkpoints, connected airsides, and gates that are no more than a half an hour apart.

10 Worst
1. Beijing Capital International (PEK) 1 hr. 27 min.
2. London Heathrow (LHR) 1 hr. 25 min.
3. Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) 1 hr. 23 min.
4. Shanghai Pudong International (PVG) 1 hr. 18 min.
5. Los Angeles International (LAX) 1 hr. 10 min.
6. Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD) 1 hr. 9 min.
7. Tokyo Narita International (NRT) 1 hr. 3 min.
8. Boston Logan International (BOS) 1 hr. 2 min.
9. Frankfurt International (FRA) 1 hr. 1 min.
10. Chicago O'Hare International (ORD) 59 min.

The Worst airports are the polar opposite of the Best.  Beijing Capital tops the list with a dismal 30 percent on-time record and stressed-out passengers constantly struggling to reach their connecting gates on time.

Plan Ahead

So while considering which connecting flight to book, allot at least an hour between flights to account for unexpected delays and wait times at the Best airports, and three hours at the Worst. "Give yourself the gifts of time and peace of mind," suggests Chen, "because no one else will." 

Today's brides want honeymoon babies more than sex toys

According to the 2013 Honeymoon Survey by Turquoise Holidays, the most popular honeymoon destinations are The Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, with only 7% choosing Africa. The Indian Ocean and Caribbean were also considered to be the most romantic destinations, in that order, followed by the South Pacific. In total the three destinations make up over 70% of all Turquoise Holidays' honeymoon bookings. Unsurprisingly therefore, almost 80% opt for a beach honeymoon with adventure and island hopping being selected for second and third favourite styles of honeymoon.

When it comes to packing, eighteen per cent of brides plan to take a sex toy, but a quarter of those surveyed admit to hoping for a honeymoon baby. On average the bride packs no fewer than five bikinis/swimming costumes. Over 80% buy new lingerie for their honeymoon, with lace being the favoured new knicker of choice by far.  

Food poisoning was considered to be the worst thing to happen on honeymoon, with, perhaps worryingly, only 14% choosing 'no sex' as the worst case scenario. However hand holding is still a popular public display of affection - just over half plan to do it all through their honeymoon and almost a third says they will hold hands on the plane.

The survey was promoted online to users of bridesmagazine.co.uk and to all Turquoise Holidays' forthcoming honeymoon couples. The average ages of couples were 29 (bride) and 31 (groom) with a combined average income of just over £61,000. Here are some further insights into today's honeymooning trends:

Who chooses and pays for the honeymoon?
Gone are the days when the honeymoon destination was chosen and paid for by the groom and kept a secret until the moment of departure. Only 4% of men choose the holiday, and 92% claim it is a joint decision. In 75% of honeymoons, the cost was covered jointly by the couple.

When do they travel?
After-wedding celebrations with friends and family appear to be delaying the honeymoon departure day. None of those surveyed planned to depart on their actual wedding day and half delay departure by up to a week. 

How to get a Honeymoon Upgrade:
Some 86 per cent of brides chose an upgrade on the plane as the best thing that could happen on their honeymoon, and in a shameless attempt to secure one, 24% of brides claim to wear their wedding dress for the flight, despite none leaving on the actual wedding day itself, while 28% of newly marrieds admit to flirting with check in staff, and 17% bursting into tears.

When asked which one item would they want in their hand luggage if their suitcase got lost...

In the disastrous event of the suitcase getting lost en route, brides-to-be named - in order of importance - the following items as essential inclusions in their hand luggage:
1) cosmetics/toiletries, 2) swimwear, and 3) clothes; equal fourth were camera and mobile to record those special moments, along with the new lace lingerie. A bad hair day on honeymoon is clearly not an option for today's brides, with even her hair straighteners making it into the top five essential items for hand luggage!

James Bell of Turquoise Holidays, for which honeymoon travel now makes up over 70% of its turnover, says: "At Turquoise we still believe that the old fashioned glamour of travel is a huge part of the honeymoon, and experiences like picnicking on a desert island and flying in business class make the difference between a holiday and a honeymoon.


We spend hours chatting with our clients about exactly what their vision of a dream honeymoon is, but commissioning our annual Honeymoon Survey is a fantastic way to see into the mind of a present day bride and make sure we are up with the latest trends. The results are great fun to read as well as being learning experiences for all our team. One bride-to-be has even said she wants to arrange lap dancing lessons on their honeymoon - you can be sure that will be added to our Honeymoon Gift List!" 

Melia Hotels International renews partnership with ReviewPro

 BARCELONA – ReviewPro, the leading provider of online reputation and social media analytics for the hotel industry, has renewed its strategic partnership with Melia Hotels International. Following this multi-year agreement, Melia Hotels will continue to benefit from ReviewPro’s solution to effectively listen and respond to online guest feedback.

Melia Hotels International has been one of the biggest and most successful hotel groups to embrace and respond to the growing impact of online reviews and social media mentions for hoteliers both at a brand and corporate level. The group not only pioneered this revolution in the industry, but also effectively incorporated the data and analysis provided by ReviewPro across multiple areas of the organization. Today, hundreds of its general managers have performance goals based on theevolution of ReviewPro’s Global Review Index, which is rapidly becoming the industry-standard benchmark for online guest satisfaction.

RJ Friedlander, CEO of ReviewPro, said, “Melia Hotels International was one of our first partners when we launched ReviewPro, and thanks to their commitment and involvement we have evolved together through a sensational partnership. We are thrilled to continue working with them for the coming years and have worked closely to develop our latest tool, the Revenue Optimizer, which benefited from Melia’s pioneering use of online guest feedback analysis in the area of revenue optimization”.

According to Sara Ranghi, Brand Integrity Director at Melia Hotels International, “We are delighted to continue working with ReviewPro after 3 years of close collaboration and to keep benefiting from their world-class solution. They also offer highly responsive engagement and education services thatmeet the demanding needs of a large, global hotel group like ours”. “The Revenue Optimizer’s integration with STR has provided an unparalleled opportunity to help improve our decision-making process in yield management and to maximize revenue”, added Ranghi.

Melia Hotels International is among the leading hotel groups worldwide and operates 350 hotels in 39 countries under well-known brands such as Gran Melia, Innside, Tryp by Wyndham, Paradisus or the designer-driven ME by Melia. Under the renewal agreement, ReviewPro will continue to provide Melia’s impressive international portfolio withits web-based analytical tool, which aggregates millions of mentionsfrom the most relevant online travel agencies, review websites and social media platforms

Retail and travel site visitation aligns as consumers plan and book vacation packages

BELLEVUE, WASH. - A new study from Expedia Media Solutions, the advertising sales division of global online travel leader Expedia, Inc., revealed that internet usage and online content consumption spike during the vacation package planning and booking phases. The findings also identified a unique correlation between the frequency of visits to retail and travel sites.

The Traveler's Path to Purchase study, commissioned by Expedia Media Solutions and conducted by Compete, examined the 45-day period leading up to a vacation package booking to determine what the US consumer's path to purchase looks like. It identified online consumption habits of the average vacation package booker who had visited an online travel agency (OTA) and a destination marketing organization (DMO). Key trends identified by the report include:
OTA's Pertinent to All Phases of Booking Process: The study found that OTAs were used for more than just last minute price comparisons. Only 35 percent of all OTA visits the week of a package booking occurred the same day as the booking, implying that additional research was conducted during that time period.
General and Travel Content Consumption Spike During Purchase Path: The study revealed that as consumers got closer to booking a vacation package, overall internet usage increased, with travel content showing the biggest jump.  Consumers made 38 visits to travel sites in the 45 days leading up to a package booking, but consumption of travel content more than doubled during the week of booking. On average, they made over 16 website visits on the day of booking, 30 percent of which were to travel sites, which includes everything from OTAs to hotel, airline and review sites.
Retail and Travel Site Consumption Patterns Align: In the 45 days leading up to a package booking, retail sites were visited almost as frequently as travel sites. Vacation bookers visited retail websites 36.6 times in the 45-day path to purchase period, while travel sites were visited 38 times. During the week of booking, however, retail site visitation dropped while travel site visitation peaked. By leveraging a travel site partnership, a retail brand could potentially remain top of mind for consumers throughout the entire 45-day period.
DMO Visitation Patterns and the Billboard Effect: While OTAs dominated the pre-booking research landscape in the travel category, with over 47 percent of site visits, DMO visits grew to over six percent – a 30 percent increase since 2010. Travelers checking DMO sites prior to visiting an OTA site converted 32 percent higher nine to 24 days ahead of booking. Alternatively, outside of that select time period, travelers visiting DMO sites did not convert as well, illustrating that a partnership between OTAs and DMOs has the potential to drive conversions and be mutually beneficial for both parties.

"Through this study we're able to better understand what the overall purchase path looks like – from the initial research phase through to the booking process – and how we can develop dynamic products and solutions that will help our partners stay top-of-mind with consumers," said Noah Tratt, global vice president, Expedia Media Solutions. "We're continuously sharing knowledge with our partners with the goal of creating a synergistic relationship that also delivers a relevant and dynamic user experience." 

Global corporate bookings surge in July


DALLAS – Global corporate bookings grew +5.5% over 2012’s level in July, according to Pegasus Solutions, the world’s largest processor of electronic hotel transactions. The promising uptick in business travel was accompanied by substantial leisure demand that paled in comparison to strong gains achieved last year.

The mid-season growth spurt in business reservations came after the corporate channel leveled out at prior year volumes at the end of the second quarter. Rates paid through the global distribution systems (GDS) also pushed past second quarter levels that had ebbed slightly in June. By month-end, average daily rates (ADR) for corporate bookings surpassed prior year by +0.3%, setting a year-to-date growth pace of +0.7% over 2012.

“The corporate channel has the tendency to set the overall mood about how the hotel industry is performing,” said David Millili, chief executive officer of Pegasus Solutions. “This summer’s solid leisure travel season, which has been healthy, has now been complemented by an unusual but welcome boost in corporate travel bookings. Even better, the demand and rates are expected to continue through the end of summer and into autumn, and length of stay may even grow by almost +2% this month.”

Globally, the leisure channel came shy of 2012 levels by -3.0%. However, last year’s levels were +10.4% over 2011, which suggests July 2013 still enjoyed a strong and steady holiday volume. ADR increased by +4.9% over prior year, exceeding the year-to-date pace of +2.5%, and nearly repeating June’s record +5.1% growth. Ultimately, the channel will conclude summer with consumers having driven more revenue to hotels overall than last year. September will bring less reservation growth before the channel rallies one more time in October to nearly +7% beyond last year’s levels.


Data reported by Pegasus Solutions comes from billions of transactions processed monthly for nearly 100,000 hotel clients, facilitating more than $16 billion a year. The Pegasus View, produced quarterly, is the only industry report to reflect data drawn from both GDS and ADS transactions, representing the business and leisure markets respectively. Pegasus’ PegasusView Market Performance business intelligence is a monthly reporting product augmenting the global data provided quarterly in The Pegasus View. 

International tourism demand exceeds expectations in the first half of 2013

International tourist arrivals grew by 5% during the first half of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012, reaching almost 500 million, according to data just released by UNWTO. Growth was above the projection made at the beginning of the year (+3% to +4%) and is also exceeding the trend of the UNWTO long-term outlook Tourism Towards 2030 (+3.8% a year).

Destinations around the world welcomed an estimated 494 million overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013, according to the Advance Edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer released on the occasion of the UNWTO 20th General Assembly. This represents an increase of 5% or an additional 25 million international tourists compared to the same period of 2012. Growth was stronger in emerging economy destinations (+6%) than in advanced economies (+4%), a trend which has marked the sector for many years now.

“The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs.”

In a still uneven global economic environment, results were positive in all regions and subregions, though the overall picture was mixed. Europe (+5%) performed surprisingly stronger than expected, driven by Central and Eastern Europe (+10%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%). Asia and the Pacific (+6%) also exceeded expectations, boosted by South-East Asia (+12%) and South Asia (+7%). On the other hand, results were weaker than anticipated in the Americas (+2%), as South America and the Caribbean lagged behind.

The first semester normally accounts for some 45% of the total arrivals count of the year (the Northern hemisphere high season months of July and August fall into the second semester). Growth is expected to continue in the second half of 2013 but at a gradually slower pace. UNWTO forecasts 2013 to end at 4% or slightly above, thus exceeding the initial estimate for the year.

Asia and the Pacific and Europe lead
Asia and the Pacific (+6%) saw robust growth boosted by the increase in arrivals to South-East Asia (+12%), a subregion which is maintaining the extraordinary momentum of recent years, and South Asia (+7%).

In Europe, international tourist arrivals were up 5% despite the lingering economic difficulties. Growth was led by Central and Eastern Europe (+10%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%).

The Americas (+2%) reported a rather weaker first half of 2013 compared to the strong growth of previous years. Central America (+4%) performed above the region’s average, while arrival numbers were flat in the Caribbean and in South America.

In Africa (+4%), the growth of recent years was sustained during the first half of 2013 due to the continued recovery of North Africa (+4%) and the positive results of Sub-Saharan destinations (+4%).

The Middle East rebounded after two years of negative growth with an estimated increase in international arrivals of 13%. Yet, results should be taken with caution as growth is rather uneven across destinations and this assessment is based on still limited available data and reflects data up to June only.

Tourism expenditure growth driven by emerging economies
Emerging economy outbound markets continue to drive growth both to emerging and advanced economy destinations.

China (+31%) and Russia (+22%) led the growth in expenditure on travel abroad among the top ten most important source markets in the world during the first half of 2013. Outside the top ten, Brazil is back with a 15% increase after a more moderate 2012.


Expenditure from traditional markets, on the other hand, was more modest. Canada (+3%) and France (+2%) led the group, followed by the flat results of the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, and negative figures from Japan, Australia and Italy. 

Fairmont properties of the US West help local communities flourish

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - This September, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will reach out and support local charitable organizations during the luxury hotel brand's Community Connections Month. As part of Fairmont's new Sustainability Partnership program and the brand’s ongoing commitment to proactively engage with its local communities, hotel colleagues in participating locations will be rolling up their sleeves and pitching in, whether it be volunteering at a shelter, highlighting the preservation of a threatened species like bees, raising funds for at-risk children or lending a helping hand (or hammer!) to improve facilities for the elderly. Hotel guests can also get involved from donating money or purchasing special menu offerings to participating in a beach clean-up.

“At Fairmont, we are continually seeking out innovative ways to support and give back to our local communities; a pledge that our hotel colleagues value and actively play a part in,” At Fairmont, we are continually seeking out innovative ways to support and give back to our local communities; a pledge that our hotel colleagues value and actively play a part in,” said the brand’s president Jennifer Fox. “It's simply part of our ongoing commitment to good corporate citizenship.”


Tens of thousands of Californians, including a pledge of 1,000 California Fairmont Hotels & Resorts colleagues, friends and family members will again gather along the beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways of the state on Saturday, September 21, 2013, to clear away the debris that has been deposited over the past year. Lending strength and stability to the Coastal Cleanup Day Program, Fairmont has for the past several years provided promotional support and committed volunteers, which has allowed Coastal Cleanup Day to gain tremendous momentum. Regional VP and Fairmont San Francisco GM, Tom Klein shares “Energizing our commitment to 'think globally and act locally', we are proud to support hotel-based environmental initiatives that encourage partnerships and learning while addressing a universal environmental issue in a way that hits close to home.” 

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa celebrates 20th anniversary, $35m expansion and renovation

SAN ANTONIO - State and local elected officials and tourism industry leaders gathered to celebrate the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa's 20th anniversary and the emergence of San Antonio as a world-class resort destination. When the resort opened in 1993, it was the first new hotel built in Texas in five years and established the "destination resort" market in San Antonio.

"Hyatt Hill Country was immediately successful," said Gino Caliendo, General Manager. "We've averaged more than 200,000 guests every year since, bringing millions of visitors to San Antonio from all 50 states across the U.S. and 55 different countries across the world. In addition, the resort has provided employment for more than 4,000 area residents over the 20 years – currently employing 719 local residents."

The celebration coincided with the resort's completion of a $35-million expansion and renovation, essentially doubling the indoor function space to 70,000 square feet, including the addition of a 20,000-square-foot ballroom (see time lapse construction.) Exterior function space added with the expansion includes a 7,260-square-foot landscaped courtyard, complete with a Texas-sized, stacked limestone working fireplace and a 5,000-square-foot event lawn connected to the new ballroom. Woodbine managed the project, with WATG and Wimberly Interiors providing interior design services; HKS Hill Glazier Studio as architect of record; Rialto Studio, Inc., managing landscape improvements; and Hardin Construction Company, L.L.C., as general contractor.

In late 2013, the resort ownership refinanced Hyatt Hill Country with loans from Morgan Stanley and Prudential Real Estate Investors. These loans repaid the then existing loan held by USAA and, in combination with additional ownership funding, facilitated the resort's expansion and renovation.

A FlowRider wave machine and a tower slide were added to the resort's onsite water park, expanding it to 5 acres. The heated wave machine can be enjoyed year-round and provides resort guests the options of body boarding, knee boarding or stand-up boarding – the only location in Texas with a stand-up boarding option.

A message from Governor Rick Perry delivered by Texas Tourism Director Brad Smyth kicked off the event, acknowledging San Antonio as a top leisure destination and speaking to the major role San Antonio plays in keeping Texas in the forefront of national tourism.

"Having corporations like Woodbine and Hyatt recognize San Antonio as a location for the first luxury destination resort in Texas was big," said Nelson W. Wolff, Bexar County Judge, who was the mayor of San Antonio when the resort opened in 1993. "What followed were more resorts and more visitors and, ultimately, it has had a very positive impact on our local economy."

In a re-creation of the original opening ceremonies, participating VIPs arrived via a Wells Fargo stagecoach for a "Hill Country Housewarming" celebration. Dr. Charles Wiseman, Partner, Rogers-Wiseman Family Interests, cut the barbed-wire ribbon to unveil the 20th anniversary expansion and renovation. The Rogers-Wiseman family owned the resort site and thousands of acres of surrounding ranchland for more than 100 years and is celebrating a 25-year relationship with Woodbine that continues today.


Guests enjoyed a Texas Hill Country Tastings strolling lunch as they looked over the new expansion in an open house following the ceremonies. 

Green Girls In Africa, a new division from Serendipity Africa

Cape Town based responsible tourism company, Serendipity Africa, announced that it has launched a new division, which aims to make the journey to sustainability easier for the travel industry. 'Green Girls in Africa' came about as a result of Serendipity Africa's founder, Helen Turnbull, also Atta's responsible tourism advisor, encountering the same questions while promoting responsible tourism and ethical products to the trade.

Many travel companies and product owners want to be doing something positive to contribute to social and environmental issues, but don't know where to start, or don't have the resources to get the process started. Often it is a lack of staff as well as lack of insight that hinders the tourism industry achieving more when it comes to establishing policies and communicating responsible tourism messages, and this was the catalyst that motivated 'Green Girls in Africa'.

All of the 'girls' are well versed in responsible tourism planning, implementation, trust creation and social media. The idea is that companies can choose from a 'pick and mix' list of affordable services that offer a long or a short term support system and can be completely tailor made to the individual situation.

The current economic worries mean that resources for companies to appoint their own 'green team' are just not possible, and this is the sort of situation that the Green Girls can step in and manage where needed.

'Green Girls in Africa' consists of three well-known travel professionals with many years of experience in the travel industry between them, and they understand the challenges that businesses face on a day-to-day basis to make money. The truth of the matter however is that responsible business does not mean losing money. On the contrary, responsible tourism makes good business sense, not just in terms of improving the bottom line, but also in terms of improving staff morale and the customer experience you deliver.


Green Girls in Africa offers the travel industry a flexible set of practical tools, from the smallest to the largest assignment, making it easy for companies to incorporate responsible tourism practices. The goal of 'Green Girls in Africa' is to create a constructive environment that will enable us to work collaboratively as an industry towards making South Africa the best responsible tourism destination in the world and helping businesses achieve that. 

Americans use ingenuity to get more vacation time

ROCKVILLE, MD. - Heading into the long Labor Day weekend, most Americans (66 percent) report they plan to take a leisure trip for the end of the summer or fall this year, according to a nationwide survey conducted this month by Choice Hotels International, Inc.

As the peak summer travel season draws to a close, nearly two-thirds of Americans polled (63 percent) said they could use more vacation time. The top things they would do with their extra time off: just relax (58 percent), see family and friends (49 percent), visit a city (42 percent), hit the beach (37 percent) and enjoy nature (31%).

"With the economy continuing to grow, people are feeling more confident about their jobs and looking to travel more," said Steve Joyce, president and chief executive officer, Choice Hotels International. "Still, value remains a priority, which makes late summer and fall great times to get away. The crowds have thinned out, the weather is still beautiful, and travel is typically less expensive."

But what about those unfortunate souls who have used up all their vacation days for the year? Nearly one in five respondents (11 percent) said they would come up with an excuse to get additional time off. Their excuses ran the gamut, from trend-inspired (pop-up wedding, zombie apocalypse) to tried-and-true (car trouble, cancelled flight, family emergency). Choice Hotels has sifted through the data. Following is the company's List of 25 Creative Excuses for Getting More Vacation Days, as revealed by its 2013 End-of-Summer/Fall Travel Survey.

25 Creative Excuses for taking time off
Out-Of-This World
I had to stay home to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.
Martians kidnapped my boyfriend, and I must rescue him.
I was ambushed by zombies.
(Un) Natural Disasters
My aquarium busted, and I must save my fish.
A garbage truck is on fire at the end of my driveway.
There's a snake on my porch.
What We Do For Love
I had to attend a pop-up wedding.
My mother's car broke down on a cross-country trip, and I had to go and assist her.
My child came home with a really contagious eye infection. I should stay away from the office until its safe.
My husband will be out sick today, Friday and Monday.
My sister got kidnapped, and I must go find her.
Bad Hair Days
My wife got a terrible hair-coloring job, and I must stay home to provide moral support.
I'm having a hair malfunction.
My hair dye turned out to be orange, and I cannot be seen in public.
Health & Wellness
I'm under the weather due to a sympathetic pregnancy.
I got mercury poisoning from a busted thermometer.
I had an out-of-town dental appointment.
I gave up my seat on the plane to an elderly person and couldn't get back for a few days.
Pet Peeves
My dog did not wake me.
My dog ate my shoes.
My dog hid my car keys.
My bird is sick.
Busted
My grandmother died (twice in one year).
I'm having trouble with my prostrate (reported by a woman).

I am meeting on a project with a co-worker (who was actually in a meeting at the time with the caller's boss).

Taleb Rifai reelected as UNWTO Secretary-General

Taleb Rifai was reelected for a second term as UNWTO Secretary-General (2014-2017). The announcement was made at the 20th Session of the General Assembly in Livingstone, Victoria Falls. The confirmation follows the decision by the 95th session of the UNWTO Executive Council (Belgrade; Serbia, 28 May) to recommend Mr. Rifai as a nominee for the Secretary-General post for the period 2014-2017. In accordance with UNWTO statutes, his candidature was presented by Jordan, of which Mr Rifai is a national.

Mr. Rifai is Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) based in Madrid, Spain. He holds this position since 1 January 2010. He was unanimously elected at the 18th session of UNWTO General Assembly (October 2009), following the recommendation of the UNWTO Executive Council made in May 2009.

Mr. Rifai began his career as Professor of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design at the University of Jordan from 1973-1993. He received his Ph.D. in Urban Design and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaUSA (1983); and a MSc. in Engineering and Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago – USA (1979). He also attained a B.Sc. in Architectural Engineering from the University of Cairo in 1973.

From 1993 to 1995, Mr. Rifai headed Jordan’s first Economic Mission to Washington DC, promoting trade, investments, and economic relations between Jordan and the USA..

Mr. Rifai was also actively involved in policy making and developing investment strategies in his capacity as Director General of the Investment Promotion Corporation (IPC) in Jordan (1995-1997). From 1997 to 2000, he was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jordan Cement Company, one of the largest public shareholding companies in Jordan; and directed the first large-scale privatization and restructuring scheme in Jordan. During his term as Minister of Tourism, Mr. Rifai served as Chairman of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

From March to December 2009 he was UNWTO Secretary-General ad interim. From February 2006 to February 2009 he was Deputy Secretary-General. From January 2003 to February 2006, Mr. Rifai was the Assistant Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Prior to this appointment, Mr. Rifai served in several ministerial portfolios in the Government of Jordan as Minister of Tourism and Antiquities; Minister of Information; and, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

Τετάρτη, 28 Αυγούστου 2013

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and EC3 Global, formally renewed and enhanced its long-standing relationship today in a pledge to collaborate to improve the awareness of and promote sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility (CSR) to PATA members. 

“We salute EC3 Global's enthusiasm to join forces with PATA in building sustainability awareness and better benchmarking inside the complete visitor economy, ”said Martin Craigs, PATA Chief Executive Officer. “We are certain that our members will benefit greatly from our joint educational initiatives and online tools. I am delighted to announce this from the side-lines of a very productive Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Tourism Working Group (TWG), which was fittingly focused on low carbon growth in tourism on the first day of meetings.”

Under the agreement, EC3 Global became a PATA Preferred Partner. Together, the two organizations will endeavour to raise awareness of environmental and social responsibility good practices amongst our shared stakeholders and the global visitor economy. EC3 Global has agreed to provide access to products and practical tools to assist PATA members in adopting and implementing sustainable operational outcomes, including a carbon, waste and water benchmarking report for PATAmPOWER, a data service platform. 

“As a PATA Preferred Partner, we are delighted to support to PATA and provide sustainability tools to the PATA membership,” said Stewart Moore, EC3 Global's CEO. “We look forward to making great gains in the sustainable development of tourism in the Asia Pacific region and are excited to be a part of PATA's commitment to the cause.” 

Of note is EC3 Global's contribution to accredit PATA Headquarters. Having PATA certified under the EC3 Global's EarthCheck Standard will help promote the understanding of the EarthCheck program, as well as the Association' s sustainability initiatives across the board. 

EC3 Global has already donated a tourism carbon calculator that is housed on the PATA website, and will continue to provide access to a wide range of building and education resources on climate change, risk management, sustainable tourism and workforce development.

Best Western Arrives at Crossroads of ASEAN

Best Western International (BWI) has arrived in one of the most exciting and rapidly-expanding regions in the world - eastern Thailand. 

The signing of the BEST WESTERN Royal Hotel in Buriram, 395km east of Bangkok, not only expands the company’s large portfolio in Thailand, but also extends its reach into a key part of the ASEAN region - and at a crucial time. Glenn de Souza, BWI’s Vice President International Operations – Asia & the Middle East, explained:

“With the onset of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, eastern Thailand sits at the crossroads of one of the world’s biggest growth zones,” said Mr. de Souza.

“Located close to the border with Cambodia and on the key route between Bangkok, Laos and Vietnam, Buriram is at the heart of ASEAN. The relaxing of visa policies, along with the development of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, means both business and leisure travelers will soon be able to travel across the ASEAN region faster, and in greater numbers.

“With our hotels in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, as well as our recently-announced properties in Myanmar, BWI is delighted to be able to offer international-standard accommodation to travelers across the region,” Mr. de Souza added.

The Best Western Royal Hotel in Buriram will offer 81 contemporary rooms and suites, all featuring modern facilities such as free Wi-Fi and TVs with international satellite channels. The hotel will also feature a restaurant serving both Asian and international cuisine, an internet corner and an outdoor swimming pool.

In short, the new hotel is ideal for all types of visitor. For business travelers, the hotel’s excellent location, international amenities and high level of connectivity make it the perfect option. For leisure travelers, Buriram is the gateway to a wealth of incredible attractions, including the stunning Angkor-style temples of Phanom Rung Historical Park.

The BEST WESTERN Royal Hotel will become BWI’s 17th hotel in Thailand when it opens later this year, while Buriram will become its ninth destination in the Kingdom. BWI is also present in Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket, Khao Lak, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Krabi.

Port Everglades to Kick Off Cruise Season with Royal Princess

Cruise guests will have more options when sailing from Port Everglades in 2014 with more choices in summer sailings and new shorter itineraries. 
In addition, Princess Cruises’ new Royal Princess will call Port Everglades her U.S. winter home when she arrives in late October 2013 after debuting in Europe.

“We are honored that Princess Cruises has once again selected Port Everglades to homeport the line’s newest and most sophisticated cruise ship, Royal Princess,” said Port Everglades Chief Executive & Port Director Steven Cernak. “Princess has a long, successful history at Port Everglades and we look forward to welcoming Royal Princess in grand style.” 

The new 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Royal Princess will be berthed at Cruise Terminal 2; one of four cruise terminals renovated last year to allow for a seamless “curbside-to-ship” guest experience with expanded check-in and baggage claim areas, covered walkways, streamlined transportation routing and bright interiors. 

As Caribbean cruising becomes more popular during the summer, Port Everglades will be more active in 2014 with a total of five cruise ships sailing from the South Florida cruise port. Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess and Royal Caribbean International’s Vision of the Seas will join the Port’s year-round fleet of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom, and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas and sail through the summer. 

Port Everglades is one of the three busiest cruise ports in the world serving more than 3.7 million passengers annually and more homeported cruise ships than any other cruise port worldwide. The top cruise lines and their ships sail from the South Florida seaport including: Balearia’s Bahamas Express, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn. The Port's wide-ranging fleet of cruise ships provides guests with an array of cruise vacation choices from the sunny Greater Fort Lauderdale area. Port Everglades, where the best cruise ships launch and the greatest getaways begin.

Men know how to better relax than women

Princess Cruises released results from its fourth annual Relaxation Report, conducted in celebration of National Relaxation Day on Aug. 15. 
The Princess Cruises Vacation Relaxation survey was conducted by ORC International among 1,008 American adults, ages 18 and older, between Aug. 1 and Aug. 4, 2013, using the CARAVAN landline-cell phone combined sample methodology.

The national survey revealed that men and women have different notions of what makes a vacation truly relaxing. In fact, maybe there is validity to the idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, because almost one in four women would rather read more, whereas 34 percent of men would rather have more sex on vacation than at home.

The survey also revealed that men might know how to better relax than women. In fact, 45 percent of men feel relaxed when they return home from vacation as opposed to 43 percent of women who feel tired and need a vacation from their vacation.

"It's definitely interesting, although not all too surprising, to see a distinction between how men and women like to relax while on vacation," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "The good news is, male or female, whatever the preferred method of relaxation, Princess Cruises offers a wide variety of restful and relaxing options for any traveler looking to unplug and escape."

Princess Cruises, which annually helps more than 1.7 million passengers “escape completely” aboard its worldwide fleet of ships and exotic destinations, commissioned the annual report in an effort to uncover consumer attitudes towards vacation and relaxation habits and behaviors to better ensure their customers have a fully relaxing trip.

Go Big or Go Home!

The majority of Americans aged 35 and older report that it typically takes them two or more days to settle into their vacation, perhaps needing extra time to unplug from the office. In fact, nearly two out of three Americans surveyed prefer at least a full week away on vacation, as opposed to a day off here and there, to completely check out and feel relaxed.

Celebrity Vacation Date

Men and women also seem to be at odds when asked which female celebrity they’d like to relax with – 40 percent of women would rather laugh with comedian Ellen DeGeneres, whereas 42 percent of men lean toward girl-next-door Taylor Swift and on-screen siren Scarlett Johansson. When asked which male celebrity Americans would want to vacation alongside, men and women came together and agreed collectively (22 percent) that leading hunk Hugh Jackman is their man of choice.

When it comes to a musical companion, Justin Timberlake wins hands down in a showdown with Rihanna, with 18 percent of men and women preferring to get their sexy back versus 13 percent who would rather shine bright like a diamond.

In analyzing generational preferences, Millenials (approximately 18-31 years of age) tend to prefer younger celebrity companions with almost one quarter choosing Scarlett Johansson (22 percent) and nearly one third choosing Ashton Kutcher (31 percent), while Boomers would rather spend a vacation relaxing with folks closer to their own age, Ellen DeGeneres (25 percent) and Anderson Cooper (22 percent).

No Wake Up Calls, Please!

Nothing says relaxation like burying yourself in white, crisp clean sheets with no alarm clock set. Millennials agree, with one in four choosing sleep as the activity they most enjoy doing more of on a relaxing vacation than when they are at home. On the other hand, only 14 percent of Americans 65 and older are eager to sleep on vacation.

Not surprising, while it may be challenging to achieve with children along for the ride, nearly one in four parents prefer sleeping more on vacation than non-parents. In fact, for parents, getting more sleep on vacation is more of a priority than having sex (23 percent and 20 percent respectively).

Ascott continues strong growth in China

The Ascott Limited (Ascott), has secured contracts to manage three more properties, adding 567 apartment units in China, including its first serviced residence in Hefei. 
The 250-unit Somerset Swan Lake Hefei is slated to open in 2017 while the 150-unit Ascott Nanbin Chongqing and 167-unit Somerset Software Park Xiamen are both slated to open in 2015. 

The three new properties will further strengthen Ascott’s leadership position as the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in China with more than 9,000 apartment units in 51 properties across 20 cities.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “China is our key market and we are growing rapidly through management contracts, investments and strategic alliances. We are on track to achieve our target of 12,000 apartment units in China by 2015. Ascott is the first international serviced residence operator in Hefei. Ascott has so far entered six cities in 2013 – Hefei, Nanjing and Wuxi in China, Gurgaon in India, and Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Our global portfolio has expanded to over 32,000 apartment units in 81 cities.”

Bangkok Hotel Room Supply Up 12.1%

The number of hotel rooms in Bangkok grew 12.1% year-on-year with the completion of six new hotels in the first half of 2013, lifting the total to 37,500 in downtown Bangkok, according to the latest survey by CBRE Thailand, a leading international property consultant. 

CBRE estimated the would be an 4,400 additional keys by the end of 2015, bringing the total to almost 42,000. This projection represents an 11.9% increase on current figures.

Almost all of the new hotels are high-rise buildings. The most popular area for hotel development remains the Ploenchit/Sukhumvit area with 65% of the total hotel supply and four out of six new hotels opened in this area. The Silom/Sathorn area accounted for 21% of the total hotel stock while the Riverside area accounted for 14%.

Approximately 2,250 new rooms at various levels of accommodation will be completed in the second half of 2013.

CBRE said the level of competition due to new openings is still high, although the supply trend this year is certainly encouraging for the industry with the number of construction permits declining significant over the past two years.

“The big challenge for hotel owners is to raise the room rates which have not grown significantly for the last five years. The second half of 2013 may finally see the growth in visitor arrivals outpacing new supply allowing owners to raise rates,” said James Pitchon, head of CBRE Research & Consulting, Thailand.

He said there is a significant opportunity for economy hotels in Thailand as many more visitors want consistency in quality as well as value for money but currently there are a limited number of players with branded product in this market.

Several hotel operators have announced plans to open budget hotels in Bangkok. Central Plaza Hotel (CENTEL), who are known as a high-end hotel operator in Thailand under the brand “Centara”, has jumped into this segment and introduced their new economy brand ”COSI”. The Erawan Group (ERW), a listed hotel developer, has also introduced their new budget hotel brand “Hop Inn”, targeting to open 30 Hop Inn hotels in Thailand.
Source: Bangkok Post

Cornelia Diamond to host World Travel Awards Europe Gala Ceremony

Leading travel brands and organisations are set to go head to head later this month in what promises to be a thrilling World Travel Awards Europe Gala Ceremony. 

The event will be hosted by the Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort & Spa in Antalya, Turkey on August 31st 2013, with the show returning from the second time in three years.

Hailed as ‘the Oscars of the travel industry’, World Travel Awards is acknowledged across the globe as the ultimate travel accolade, and celebrates those brands that are pushing the boundaries of industry excellence.

Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort & Spa provides the perfect setting for the event, exemplifying the spirit of World Travel Awards to push the boundaries of excellence in travel and tourism. 

Since opening, the resort has rapidly established itself as the ultimate place for golf and luxury, amidst an idyllic Mediterranean setting.

More than 500 organisations from across Europe, spanning dozens of categories, have been nominated for the competition for the most influential accolade in travel.

WTA president Graham Cooke said: “During times of economic uncertainty world-class brands come into their own, continuing to grow market share whilst competitors flounder.

Turkey in particular has showed its credentials as a world-class tourism brand, demonstrated in the number of top honours won by the nation’s top hotels and travel organisations.

Antalya in particular represents brand Turkey at its finest.

“Its winning mix of heritage, sun-kissed beaches, state-of-the-art facilities and superb value has propelled it into the league of one of the world’s great destination cities.”

Over 57 countries will compete for the accolades across 76 categories which include ‘Europe’s Leading Airline’, ‘Europe’s Leading Car Hire’, ‘Europe’s Leading Hotel’, ‘Europe’s Leading Hotel Brand’ and ‘Europe’s Leading Resort’.