Electronic Kiosks Herald The Death Of The Travel Brochure

Couple travelling by car, man driving, woman reading map
Getty Images, Flickr

Remember when you would walk into a tourist information center or a hotel lobby and collect armfuls of glossy brochures advertising everything from theme parks to wax museums to dinner-and-a-show venues? For a lot of travelers, those brochures are already a thing of the past, thanks to iPads, smart phones and the ease of searching for whatever you need online. But a new electronic kiosk is set to put the final nail in the coffin of the good old travel brochure.

The kiosks, which were developed by tech company City Corridor and are popping up in hotels and businesses across the country, are outfitted with large touch screens. Travelers can view information about attractions, see restaurant menus, print out maps and even make reservations through the kiosks. Some kiosks also are programmed to print out information in several different languages to cater to foreign visitors.The machines also feature a slot for credit cards so you can buy tickets to attractions on the spot. That’s great news for businesses who say they’ve seen their sales increase as a result. Unlike a travel brochure, which a tourist might pick up and then forget about, the kiosks (much like the Internet) let them click the buy now button while their interest in the attraction is still hot.

The creators of the kiosk say the machines also will be helpful for advertisers, who will be able to get feedback about the number of visitors clicking on their ads or downloading their discount coupons. The electronic kiosks will be fitted out with cameras so businesses and advertisers can track the types of people using the machines.

New Aviation Technology Brings Safer Travel Today, Looks To Future

aviation technology

Commercial aviation technology has come a long way since its first flight in 1914, a 23-minute flight between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. Along the way, a great amount of the technology in today’s aircraft, enabling travelers to fly around the world, was developed right here in the United States. That tradition continues with some recent advances, in use right now or on their way, that address current needs and future concerns.

In Alaska, landing a commercial aircraft has its unique challenges. Mountains surround the airport in Juneau; Sitka’s small runway or Kodiak’s strip that ends at the side of a mountain have first officers watching the captains-only landings.

“The weather around here can be unpredictable,” said Clarissa Conley, the F.A.A. manager for Juneau International Airport in a New York Times report. “You name it, we’ve got it. And the terrain can make flying here pretty challenging, particularly when visibility is low.”

Addressing that specific issue of today, Alaska Airlines developed satellite guidance, a navigation technique that made landing at Alaska’s airports far safer and is a big part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to modernize the nation’s air traffic system.Meanwhile, looking to the future, NASA is about to wrap up a three-week flight test of biofuels that began on February 28. Called the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions (ACCESS) research, NASA is flying a DC-8 “flying laboratory” out of its Dryden facility, doing tests on biofuel that promise to collect data on emissions, engine performance and contrails. NASA does that by flying one of their Falcon jets as close as 300 feet behind the DC-8, mostly over restricted airspace.

But an AVWeb post notes NASA saying that “if weather conditions permit, the Falcon jet will trail commercial aircraft flying in the Southern California region, in coordination with air traffic controllers.” NASA does say that if following a commercial airliner, the distance will be ten miles between aircraft.

The NASA study and similar investigations by the European community hope to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and, in turn, reduce emissions by the commercial airline industry.




[Photo credit - Flickr user Niels van Eck]


Hotel News We Noted: March 8, 2013

the jefferson boardroomWelcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.

The hotel world has been buzzing this winter with new and planned openings, extreme amenities and packages galore. Here’s our take on what you need to know this week:

Shangri-La Goes After Saudi Princess Who Skipped Out on $7.5 Million Hotel Bill
The Shangri-La hotel in Paris is going after the Saudi princess who left in the dead of the night and skipped out on her $7.5 million hotel bill, Business Insider reports. The princess spent six months on the 41st floor of the hotel, and her father, the King, has refused to pay her debts. The king has since confined the princess to a palace in Saudi Arabia after she left a trail of unpaid debts across Europe. Nothing quite says “princess” like palace confinement, hmm?

Hotel Openings: ME London
The first ME by Melia hotel in the UK and the fifth in the brand opened last week in one of the world’s hottest cities for hotel growth – London. ME London is located in the heart of the West End, on the site formerly inhabited by the famous Gaiety Theatre. The 157-room property will feature a rooftop bar, Radio, offering panoramic views of the city, as well as the brand trademark penthouse, SuiteME – a two-level superlative experience offering a fire-pit warmed private terrace, a private lounge, separate dining room, three 3-D televisions, a pillow menu and much more. (Remember the crazy Cancun penthouse from the Real World Cancun?) NYC-based The ONE Group is the hotel’s official F&B provider, with two of its iconic brands opening venues within the property – STK London and Cucina Asellina.

Luxury Hotels Coming Your Way: Four Seasons Madrid, An Aman In Venice and Multi-Billion Dollar Las Vegas
While much of our hotel news is often focused on newly opened or revamped properties, this week seemed to have much to offer in the way of “soon-to-come” luxury hotels. Four Seasons announced their first property in Spain, Four Seasons Madrid, in the next four years, Aman is coming to the Grand Canal with a new ultra-luxury property opening on this summer boasting 24 suite-style rooms, and a Malaysian investment firm has paid $350 million for a multi-billion dollar hotel complex to come in the former Echelon site in Las Vegas, USA Today reported.Tech Tips: Eventi Offers Hi-Tech Amenities For Travelers
Sick of traveling with tons of gadgets? Eventi, a New York City Kimpton property, now has a “Business Bar” where travelers can rent gadgets ranging from iPads and MacBook Pros to Kindles, Nooks and even digital cameras. This free service is geared to help travelers who like to pack light, but who would love to sample some of these gadgets as a trial before buying, particularly the cameras!

Sleep Better: Accor’s Ibis Offers a Sleep App
We’ve certainly written about hotels with great sleep programs before, but this is the first time we’ve seen a hotel brand unveil their own sleep app. ibis Styles and ibis budget are transforming your restful night into a digital work of art. Every morning, it allows iPhone users to see how their night’s sleep has been transformed into an original digital work of art. Once the Sleep Art app has been programed, the iPhone becomes a sensor that captures movements and sounds. This data is converted real-time into a virtual “work of art” as the user sleeps. Every night is different. These virtual works of art are stored in the gallery and users can therefore compare each night’s sleep and share results by email or on Facebook, so that as many people as possible can also find out about this unique digital experience.

The President Dines at The Jefferson in Washington, DC
Much buzz has been heard in the news this week about President Obama’s dining with 12 republican leaders. But we’ve got the inside scoop on where he dined – most outlets only called it a “discreet” Washington hotel. The property was, in fact, The Jefferson, a Preferred Boutique property in downtown Washington. The congressmen and President dined on everything from Blue Crab Risotto to Lobster “Thermidor” to Peanut Butter Crumble. We hear that the president picked up the tab!

[Image Credit: The Jefferson Washington, DC]

‘Road Warriors’ Stay Connected While Traveling

business travel - laptopsToday’s business traveler carries between three and four mobile devices with them while on the road, states data from a new survey from Four Points by Sheraton. This Starwood Hotels and resorts brand surveyed 6,000 global business travelers to find what devices they are most likely to use while traveling – and what hotels can best do to help these tech-savvy travelers.

Business travelers are “connecting” to friends and colleagues while on the road more than ever, with 55% saying that they travel with three to four devices. Brazilian travelers are the heaviest packers, with 27% saying they travel with more than five devices at one time. We’re not even sure how one gets to that many tech items, unless you’re traveling with multiple telephones. Germans were the least device-dependent, with 33% reporting they travel with only one or two items.

Smartphones #1
Not surprisingly, smartphones (74%) are the number-one device used by travelers, although tablets (65%), music players (43%) and laptops (32%) are also popular. Chinese respondents were the only group to bump laptops out of the top four, in favor of cameras (30%).

Business travelers are also glued to those smartphones. After landing, the majority (54%) turn on their smartphone while the plane is still taxiing on the tarmac, while 12% admit to never turning it off in the first place. The remaining respondents wait until they’re in the terminal or settle into their taxi/car (17% each).

Given our tech-obsessed society, some of these stats may seem mainstream, but checking their smartphone is also the first thing respondents do when they wake up in their hotel (36%). Only 19% turn on the TV first and 18% take a shower. Checking Facebook (12%) ranks fourth, while checking Twitter and calling home share a distant fifth (7%).Business Travelers Prefer Tablets
Tablets are quickly gaining market share among business travelers, with 68% of respondents saying they use their tablet more often than their laptop, and accordingly a similar number (69%), if told they could take only one of the two on the road, would choose to travel with their tablet.

This is in line with the business goals of travelers – many use mobile devices to keep up with email (90%), although many use devices for Internet browsing and social media (75%). Keeping up with the office is important too, but less so – only 73% of respondents cited this as important. Either these travelers still prefer books or they aren’t reading for pleasure – only 43% use mobile devices to read.

Business Centers Still Rule
In addition to all their hand-held technology, the majority of respondents report that they have visited a hotel business center (66%). They mostly do so to print business items (93%). They are also inclined to use the business center to print personal items (87%), check social networking (87%) and check email (86%).

What do you think? How many devices do you travel with, and which do you use most frequently?

[Flickr via magerleagues]

The Future Of Hotels: Cyber Butlers

room service It seems like every service nowadays is going mobile. Apparently, that includes hotel hospitality, as well.

The Stamford Hotels and Resorts chain in Australia and New Zealand is giving guests the opportunity to customize their entire stay – from what food and drinks are waiting in their room to what time they will be woken up – via their smartphone. Designed based on customer feedback, the app tries to save guests time while enhancing their experience.

According to news.com.au, by utilizing their new iGuest app, travelers can:

  • Listen to messages
  • Track bills
  • Set a “Do Not Disturb” option
  • Gain instant access to flight information
  • View contact numbers for airlines and embassies
  • Create travel itineraries including local attractions, restaurants and transportation options
  • Order chocolates, wine and other gifts to be waiting in the room before you arrive
  • Request restaurant vouchers

The program will soon be featured in all eight Stamford Hotels and Resorts properties.

Would you use a cyber butler service?

[Image via Big Stock]