Hotel Mints Contribute To Obesity Epidemic, Study Finds

Leaving chocolates on hotel bed pillows during the evening “turn down” service has long been standard practice among fine establishments in the hospitality industry, but a new report out today has slammed the tradition for contributing to the growing obesity epidemic.

According to the Society For Prevention Against A Portly Populace, the sweet treats are a primary contributor to “vacation belly” – the sudden and enduring weight gain experienced by travelers following their break. Mark Smith, President of the society, says travelers are particularly vulnerable when it comes to sweet temptations, and the repercussions of caving in to cravings are likely to be felt on the thighs and hips for a long time to come. “People tend to be more relaxed when they’re on vacation, so exerting the willpower necessary to stay away from chocolates is actually much harder,” says Smith. “They get back to their room after a pleasant day of sightseeing, notice the mint on the pillow, and think ‘Oh, what the heck, I’m on vacation, I might as well put the diet on vacation too.’”Unfortunately, most travelers don’t just stop at one mint. The International Organization of Hotel Sundries says a growing number of guests call down to reception claiming housekeeping “forgot” to leave them a mint. “Although we never argue with guests, we know they’re just fishing for extras,” says chairman Alex Flinch. “Just like we do with towels and bedding, we keep strict tabs on how many chocolates are left in each room.” Flinch says many hotels are forced to special order extra mints as supplies dwindle because of guests pinching chocolates from unattended housekeeping carts in hotel corridors.

The authors of the report estimate the hotel mints are costing the health industry around $12 billion dollars a year, mostly in the form of travelers needing liposuction before embarking on their next vacation where the costly mint-eating habit resumes. Experts say the best way of halting the vicious cycle is for hotels to stop the practice of leaving mints during turn down, or at the very least, reducing the size of the chocolates. In 1950, the average hotel mint was the size of a dime – or around 3 calories. Today’s mints are packed with nearly 26 times the amount of fat as their ancestors.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Dan Perry]

Hawaii Mulls Move To Other Side Of International Date Line

Ever since Samoa jumped to the future by moving to the western side of the International Date Line in 2011, tourism authorities in Hawaii have been closely monitoring the situation in Samoa to see what effect it’s had on the nation’s tourism.

In a tactic, which was described by renowned Gadling blogger Sean McLachlan as “a shrewd business move,” Samoa reasoned that by moving to the western side of the International Date Line (aka, “tomorrow”), it would attract more tourists from Australia and New Zealand who no longer had to deal with the inconvenience of adjusting their clocks nearly 23 hours backwards.

Now, nearly two years after the move by the Samoans, Hawaii tourism officials have cited the 3400% increase in tourism to Samoa as strong reasoning for making the jump to “the other side.”

“At first we were critical of the move by the Samoans” admitted Hawaiian tourism official Seth Forsyth. “But in the last 18 months the Samoans have exhibited such an astronomical influx of Australian and Kiwi tourists that there’s no denying they moved to the right neighborhood.”

Forsyth admits, however, that a move by Hawaii to the west side of the date line wouldn’t be aimed at Australian tourists, because, as he so eloquently puts it, “if you’ve ever tangled with an angry Samoan then you know what I’m talking about. We wouldn’t want to steal their visitors.”

Instead, Hawaii tourism officials are looking to draw visitors from other nations that sit just across the imaginary fence. Amongst those markets, which seem to exhibit the most potential are travelers from New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.

With word of the move already percolating through the Hawaiian business community, Hawaiian-themed knick-knacks that will cater to the new visitors are already in the works.

According to Jason Cantor, a forward-thinking souvenir trader from Lahaina, Maui, in order to get a jump on the shifting souvenir trade his company is in serious pre-production of “Aloha” vodka flasks and plumeria-scented penis sheaths. According to Cantor, he expects these items to be “the new tiki doll.”

While the move by Hawaii seems to be a foregone conclusion, geographic restructuring is similarly being considered by tourism boards across the western hemisphere.

“I’ve actually been in talks with officials from Nevada, Panama and even Rhode Island” admits Forsyth. “There are a few logistical issues to work out, of course, but in the end I really think it’s in everyone’s best interests.”

[Photo Credit: Heather Ellison]

Introducing A New Travel Blogger Community: The Travel Commune

Since the TBEX travel blogger conferences were acquired last year, I’ve been focusing on other projects and once again writing. But after transcendental meditation sessions during a few months spent in Woodstock on a creative retreat, I had an epiphany: there is no community without commun(e). I came to realize that being a travel community just isn’t quite enough – we need to be so tightly knit, that we actually all live together when not on the road. Therefore, I’ve recently opened The Travel Commune in the Hudson Valley, just 90 minutes north of New York City.

There are all sorts of travel related activities at the commune – in addition to gardening and wood-splitting – such as group therapy sessions, which help us talk through our issues about mileage reward programs, paid links, press trips and who has been more places (and who saw them most authentically).

I do not charge any commune members rent, but anticipate they will of course refer to me as H.H. Travel Guru, as well as braid my hair each day, among a few other odds and ends (a selection of male residents have their own special wing).

Though kitchen duties are shared and assigned in a Google Hangout, the menu is overseen by Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads.

Nomadic Matt and David Lee of GoBackpacking are at the helm of daily exercise routines, which include hikes around the property while wearing perfectly packed internal frame backpacks. Marriage counseling sessions are led by Dave and Deb, Canada’s Adventure Couple.In an effort to keep a true yin-yang balance, Wednesday afternoons feature a traditional high tea hosted by commune members who’ve joined from the ranks of traditional travel journalism. During this weekly gathering, they are able to share their feelings about the meritless blathering published by the blogging-only members. This is followed by a Wednesday evening dinner dedicated to the bloggers sharing their thoughts on why journalism is dead and storytelling needs no preparation, only a publish button. Though the same topics are rehashed each week, there are no plans to cancel the events, as the commune members never seem to come to a resolution, but find it important to endlessly express our viewpoints. Plus, the bottomless Colorado wine at dinner is sponsored by the kind folks at Visit Denver.

In an effort to make sure the commune is as ethical as possible, a member of the Federal Trade Commission stops in bi-weekly to check over our blogs and social media channels to be sure we’re in compliance with their latest guidelines. (Editor’s note: anyone tweeting a link to this article about The Travel Commune should include the hashtag #TravelAdvertisingLinkDisclosureStatement.)

As for non-commune community outreach, we’ve established the Travel Linkshare Processing Center, run by bloggers who’ve honed their linksharing skills to perfection with algorithms that determine which posts to share and when (no reading of the content necessary). This is in addition to the Authentic Travel & Broadening Your Horizons Emergency Task Force (ATBYHETF, for short), which is deployed worldwide via Facebook any time it is detected that someone needs to expand their worldview through travel.

In addition, Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler broadcasts a weekly podcast during which he introduces a topic that Michael Hodson of GoSeeWrite and I debate for 14 minutes without interruption. This is followed by a weekly travel Q&A on twitter under the hashtag #TTCChat (The Travel Commune Chat), during which all commune members can tell non-commune travel bloggers about their favorite travel experiences.

Everything we do at the commune is chronicled on Instagram using only the Hudson, Valencia and Nashville filters, as they are the most travel-related in name.

As Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere says, “When you’re not out exploring the world, The Travel Commune is the absolute best place to be, not because of the programs it runs, but because of the people you meet. I mean, I haven’t lived with so many hot chicks since my co-ed dorm in college.”

Visitors can take a non-guided tour of the commune between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, during which the residents are alert, sober and glued to their laptops.

Hope to see you at the commune. Namaste.

[Flickr image via Anonymous9000]

Social Trip Planning Site UBTripn Is Huge Success With Consumers

You may think the world isn’t big enough for yet another social trip planning site to catch on with travelers, but you’d be wrong.

UBTripn is a new website and app that lets travelers crowdsource recommendations from people in their social graph before they book their travel, and then share their experiences along the way.

The service first popped on to the scene at last year’s PhoCusWright conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, after the founders plunked down $10,000 to pitch their idea to travel tech’s brightest and best.

Since then, the pickup by consumers has happened just like founder Josh Travis expected.

“Everybody knew that trip planning was broken,” Travis tells Gadling. “They just didn’t know how to fix it.”

Travis was struck with the UBTripn idea while traveling constantly as a consultant for McKingley & Co.

“I was on the road three times a month and so were my friends, who also all happen to be consultants,” Travis recalls. “I couldn’t trust what TripAdvisor users said because they’re – well – not cool like consultants and other artists. And I can’t trust guidebooks because my mom used to read them.”

Fixing social trip planning, it turns out, begins by logging in via Facebook Connect, which users are required to do before they’re even told the company name or URL. The initial login address is received via a private Twitter account that must accept a user’s “follow” before sharing.

“We’ve committed ourselves to this product and the least users can do is commit their entire social graph and most intimate relationships in order to get a better hotel recommendation in Rome,” Travis says.

Travis says that the service caught on so quickly because people like the work involved in learning a new system before they can build itineraries for a two-day getaway. And users love getting recommendations about Burma from their high school friends who’ve never left Cleveland.

And luckily, everyone travels as frequently as a consultant, so UBTripn doesn’t have to worry about adopters only using the service once or twice a year.

What was the one thing that helped UBTripn rise above all the digital noise?

“Travel bloggers,” says Travis.

“We partnered with some of the most popular travel bloggers – sites like NomadUberAlles, 2Dads1Rollerboard, Vagbackers.com and dogwithatravelblog – to provide us with experiential content about destinations. They earn revenue from the sale of travel products from those cities in exchange for becoming UBTripn advocates. This gave us access to literally tens of users.”

What’s next on the horizon for UBTripn?

“Events and tours,” Travis responds quickly. “Everybody loves event listings, and they really want to book tours of popular places far in advance based upon the recommendation of an eighth-grade classmate who stalks them on Facebook.”

[Photo Credit: Flickr user HM Revenue and Customs]

Doug Parker Decides ‘Small is Beautiful’ – Doesn’t Want AA-US Merger After Livery Concerns

In a surprise turn of events, US Airways CEO Doug Parker announced that the airline’s planned merger with American Airlines had been called off shortly after receiving bankruptcy court approval.

Parker, one of the industry’s staunchest supporters of consolidation, explained that while there were tremendous financial synergies, the stress of determining how to paint the aircraft, often called the livery, was too much.

“Everyone knows that the most important part of any merger is how you paint the airplanes. This one was just too difficult for us to figure out,” sighed Parker.

American, which has long been associated with the polished, bare metal look on its aircraft, recently changed to a gray paint with a stylized American flag covering the tail. When the new look rolled out, American CEO Tom Horton described it with a simple, “‘Merica!”

The merger between the two airlines would have created the largest airline in the world with $1 billion in annual revenue synergies. Reaction to the announcement was mixed.

Horton expressed disappointment. “We at American really believed that this merger was the best plan. In fact, I suggested a merger between American and Allegheny when I was in my mother’s womb. I’m shocked and saddened that I will no longer get my $20 million severance, er, I mean, that two great companies will not be uniting as one.”

American’s unsecured creditors issued a joint statement.

“Though the US Airways merger would have been the best financial outcome for all creditors, we fully support the decision to not move forward. The livery really is so incredibly important.”

Some wondered whether there were other issues at play in this decision. One anonymous source questions, “I mean, would you want to live in Dallas?”

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Fly For Fun]