Airbnb Is Having a Media Moment

OuiShare Summit 2012
Flickr/Natalie Ortiz

Airbnb has been around for more than five years, but this week the media has been booking stories left and right about the “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.”

Monday, the New York Times looked at the legality of Airbnb in New York City. The article’s title, “The Airbnb Economy in New York: Lucrative but Often Illegal,” neatly sums up the situation (as good headers often do): many New Yorkers are earning needed income from Airbnb, but in doing so are depriving the state of needed tax revenue.BlackBook Magazine’s Harom Lea, who “loves all that is Airbnb,” nevertheless shares a few horror stories: like that of two women in Stockholm whose renters turned their home into a pop-up brothel.

If you can get past the possibility of your bathroom being converted into a meth lab though (another true story), there’s money to be made,as the business press points out.

Forbes’s delves into how owners of a second home can use Airbnb to profit from it. Likewise, in “Secrets of Running a Six-Figure Airbnb,” Fast Company explains how homeowners can earn extra income by putting up travelers.

Executive summary: to make money from Airbnb, it helps to own multiple properties.

Used Airbnb to either rent your home or book a room? Share your experience in the comments.

Who Are the Richest People in Travel?

Andrew Magill, Flickr

Skift took a look at the recent Forbes 400 list and pulled out all the people that had a connection to the travel industry. It found 30 people on the list who were in some way involved with travel.

It’s no news that there’s money to be had in travel. In fact, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2012, global tourism was responsible for $2.1 trillion to global GDP and 101 million jobs.

So who’s on the list? The top spot for the richest travel investor goes to Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent A Car, with a net worth of $11.4 billion, and who comes in at No. 36 on the overall list. But maybe more impressive is the Pritzker family, the owners of Hyatt; 10 members of the family are on the Forbes 400 list.Based upon the rankings, hotels, casinos and cruise lines seem to be the most lucrative areas of travel investment. But then again, so is online media: Barry Diller of Expedia has a net worth of $2.1 billion.

According to Skift’s list, here are the top five richest people in the travel industry, with their overall Forbes listing:

36 Jack Taylor and Family Enterprise Rent A Car $11.4 billion
61 John Malone Cable TV, Expedia $6.7 billion
61 Elon Musk Tesla Motors $6.7 billion
70 Micky Arison Carnival $5.9 billion
118 Barbara Carlson Gage hotels, restaurants $3.9 billion

Looks like it’s time to go and brainstorm a new travel app that rents cars in a luxury casino on a cruise.

Why We Really Don’t Want Travel Agents To Die

travel agents

Travel agents were once considered the dinosaurs of travel, something used before the Internet took over and eliminated the need for them. True, we can book airfare, hotels, car rentals, even cruise vacations online either directly with the supplier or through discount operations like Travelocity, Kayak and others. But should we? These days, the tide seems to be turning as individual and business travelers are turning to a new, relevant travel agent that is good to have around.

“There is no doubt that today’s travellers have more options than ever before; from destinations, packages and pricing to booking methods and itineraries,” Debra Maher, owner of Cruise Holidays said in a Northern Life report. “One of the most important decisions a traveller can make is selecting the right travel agent, to help them get started on the right foot.”

Case in point: American Airlines.
This week, American Airline pilots are expected to authorize their union to call a strike, effectively grounding the airline. In reality, a work stoppage would be weeks off and the White House can intervene to stop a strike, citing the interests of U.S. commerce. But these are the things that make travelers nervous and has those who use travel agents for something as simple as booking an airline ticket happy they did.

“Travel agents are there for their clients before, during and after the trip and when the unexpected happens,” added Maher. “We provide value, expertise, convenience and personal service to our customers and understand that travel planning isn’t just about places, it’s about people.”

It’s not all about handling emergency situations though. For example, the world of business travel is re-discovering the services of travel agents and the benefit of using them as we see in this new video from CNN released this week:



The decision to use a travel agent comes easy when concerned about traveling to places around the world where political unrest, riots or other security matters are of concern. In those situations, sure, we want that extra level of protection and guidance – someone to call to handle it for us.

More commonly, travel agents can offer value that travelers could not get on their own.
That value may translate to lower prices, complimentary upgrades, bonus amenities when traveling and other good things down the line, after booking. That “after booking” part is the unknown, difficult-to-measure factor that eludes many travelers.

“The bottom line is that they know more than you do, they are better connected than you,” said travel expert Larry Olmstead in Forbes, “they have access to benefits you can’t get otherwise, they can often beat any other prices available (even online, yes), and after you have planned everything, they provide a safety net during your trip that you simply won’t get by booking yourself or buying insurance.”

But how do you find a good travel agent?

The process is quite similar to finding a good real estate agent, insurance agent or even a accountant or investment specialist to handle personal finances. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends are a good place to start but the name of the game is building a long-term business relationship and that takes time.

Looking at a travel agent as the ‘person who handles travel’ like your accountant is the person who ‘handles your taxes’ is the way to go and with every success they have on your behalf, the more their stock goes up as a trusted personal advisor.

Checking with your local Better Business Bureau, a local chamber of commerce or other professional organization like the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) or American Society Of Travel Agents (ASTA) are also good places to begin, even with the recommendation of a friend.

Getting the thumbs up on a potential agent from multiple sources should head you in the right direction to finding one that can be of great value for life.

[Flickr photo by Dan Nguyen @ New York City]

US Airports Spend Billions On International Expansion

airportsThe American airports of tomorrow are being built today as ongoing projects take shape to handle an increasing number of fliers. Around the country, projects are being considered, underway or nearing completion as travelers from around the world make their way to the United States.

As reported by Aviation Pros, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s nearly $350 million comprehensive modernization project at Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal B is nearing completion with the final phase slated to start in May.

“When people from across the globe arrive at Newark, they should find an airport welcome second to none,” says Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “The Port Authority is fulfilling our commitment to making Newark Liberty Airport one of the world’s best.”

Improvements to the international arrivals area include consolidating lost baggage offices, relocating the ground transportation desk to a more convenient location and improving travelers’ aid and concession spaces. Additionally, there will be upgrades to the public address, signage, escalator, alarm and fire protection as well as the heating and air-conditioning systems.

Work is also underway on a $1.2 billion enhancement and expansion of Delta’s facilities at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport reports Travel Daily news. That expansion brings a new Delta Sky Club in Terminal C, due to open this summer, and the Delta Sky Club in Terminal D will undergo an expansion.Delta will also increase service at LaGuardia by 60 percent, adding 4 million seats into New York, with 100 new flights and 26 more new destinations coming on line by summer 2012. As reported by Forbes, when its full schedule is implemented by this summer, Delta will run more than 260 daily flights to over 60 cities, more than any other carrier.

“All together, with our expansion projects at JFK and LaGuardia, Delta is investing nearly $1.4 billion in our New York airport facilities,” said Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson. “No other airline is approaching that level of commitment to New York in the next 12 months.”

It’s big money and not just on the East Coast. Los Angeles International Airport marked a milestone in its modernization program late last month, dedicating the renovation of Terminal 6, a new home for Alaska Airlines. The $238-million project includes a variety of improvements to bag checking, ticketing, security screening, waiting areas at gates and more.

These new facilities might not be waiting for long to handle increased traffic and pay back those investments.

In Texas, two studies were done to evaluate the economic impact on the city from Southwest’s international flights. They found the potential for an additional 1.5 million passengers to, from and through Houston per year. The increase would create more than 10,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $1.6 billion.

Think US airports have high ambitions? Dubai International is already the world’s fourth busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, but wants more too.

Flying High: Dubai's Airport Ambitions



[Flickr photo via mastermaq]

Future Of Space Travel Is Here, Next Month Anyway

Tony stark space travelIf all goes according to plan, privately owned, space travel company SpaceX will send an unmanned capsule, launched from its own Falcon rocket, to dock with the International Space Station on April 30. It will be the first time a privately owned spaceship docks with a space station in orbit and it will mark a new era of private, manned space travel.

Under the watchful eye of NASA, the program might quickly get the United States back in space, while being mindful of budgetary concerns.

NASA‘s International Space Station program, along with our international partners, will take a look at the readiness of both the station and SpaceX for the mission,” NASA officials said, according to an article in Forbes. “If all is go, then SpaceX will be given a green light for an April 30 launch.”

Called the Commercial Crew Development Program, NASA’s goal in a round of grants last year was “to accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities and reduce the gap in American human spaceflight capability. Through this activity, NASA also may be able to spur economic growth as potential new space markets are created,” the space agency said in a press release at the time.The lion’s share of those grants, $92 million, went to Boeing for development of their front-runner CST-100 spacecraft that uses existing materials and technology that is safe and affordable. The CST-100 is planned to carry up to seven people or a combination of people and cargo and is to be compatible with a variety of existing expendable launch vehicles. That vehicle is slated to fly in 2015, following two test flights earlier that year.

SpaceX began work on that concept too. Their version, called Dragon, is slated to fly next month.

The seven-seat Dragon spaceship will be unmanned for April’s operation, but the next goal for SpaceX is to send a crew to the International Space Station so NASA does not have to rely on Russian technology, currently priced at about $400 million per ride. Dragon costs about $115 million.

“My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars – this is very important – so you don’t have to carry the return fuel when you go there,” SpaceX (and PayPal) founder Elon Musk told the BBC.


Flickr photo by mr.skeleton