Super (Duper) Market Hits NYC With Artisanal Food From Both Coasts

There are supermarkets and then there are Super (Duper) Markets – in other words, what happens when big names like PAPER Magazine, Target and American Express team up to create a culinary experience. Kicking off Friday, the event will bring together food innovators from across the country for a three-day pop-up supermarket in a raw Chelsea warehouse space in New York City.

The Super (Duper) Market will feature a selection of West Coast imports, like Boulette’s Larder, Humphrey Slocombe, Tartine Bakery and Miette Candy, along with East Coast favorites like Red Rooster and The Spotted Pig. And then there are the wild cards, like organic eggs raised on hotelier Andre Balazs’ Locust Farm and olive oil produced by designer Norma Kamali. There will also be cooking workshops for children and exclusive private dinners in the evenings.

So wait – why are PAPER, Target and AmEx entering the pop-up artisanal food market arena again?

“Instead of starting bands or making art so many young, creative people are baking, cooking, butchering and growing or raising food naturally, sustainably and responsibly,” said PAPER editor and publisher Kim Hastreiter in a release. “Everyone from farmers to cheese makers, organic winemakers to foragers, spice mix masters to amazing innovative chefs. There are even those who are innovating off the grid – baking divine nettles and peach pizza over wood on the back of a pickup truck; or adding truffle and foie gras to ice cream! It is to these idealistic innovators and to this spirit that I tip my hat and dedicate the Super (Duper) Market.”

My curiosity and appetite are sufficiently piqued.

Super (Duper) Market will take place Friday, July 13, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, July 14, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, July 15, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 410 West 16th Street in New York City.

Book a custom-made mystery trip with American Express’s ‘Nextpedition’

Are you itching to take a trip but not exactly sure where you want to go? Have you ever wished you could take part in an adventure, such as the Amazing Race, in which details of your journey are revealed one segment at a time? You may be an ideal candidate for American Express’s Nextpedition.

Here’s how it works:

First, you’ll need to fill out your Traveler Profile, 15 questions to reveal whether you’re a Histocrat, Poshaholic, Gastronaut, Trengineer, Blisstorian, or one of 20 trendily-named travel personality composites. Once you get your Traveler Profile, Nextpedition will ask you to enter a a few personal details so that an AMEX travel consultant can contact you about your Nextpedition. After setting your budget and travel time and booking your trip, you need only wait for your dossier and vouchers to arrive at your doorstep – approximately one week prior to the start of your trip.One of the coolest components of the Nextpedition package is the Travel Console, a smartphone device that reveals your destinations and mystery activities over the course of the journey. The wi-fi equipped Travel Console also gives travelers the chance to create a Travel Log, which is shareable with your friends and family on Facebook.

As long as you’re willing to give up micromanagement of your itinerary, the idea behind AMEX’s Nextpedition is very appealing. Indeed, the experience hearkens back to the good old days, when you let travel agents worry about open jaw tickets and trip activities while all you had to do was pack. What’s more, the dose of mystery that AMEX infuses into the whole Nextpedition process lends it a hip, reality-show-type feel. What happens if you find out you’re traveling to a place you don’t really like? That’s not addressed in the Nextpedition FAQs. But given that Nextpeditions are limited to destinations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe and trips range from $1,000 to $3,500 per person for a 7-day getaway, you can be the intrepid traveler you always wanted to be without losing any creature comforts.

Does this sound like the kind of trip you’d like to take? Would you be interested in seeing other travel companies offer this type of package? Leave your comments below.

Business travelers poised to take fun out of social media tools

Where are you looking for the latest travel information? Well, if you’re a business traveler, especially with a mid-sized company, you’re probably turning to social media tools. And, that makes more than a little sense, given the reach of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (the former of which pierced the 500 million-user mark this week).

According to the latest research by American Express Business Travel, the white collar crowd is turning to social media more and more to stay in touch with other travelers and keep up with travel industry developments. This is just the beginning, however. Down the road, many expect to use these online utilities to engage more directly in business, particularly through webcasts, forums and online video.

Basically, businesses will figure out how to put to work what kids have been doing for years. The good news? Since social media tools will become synonymous with work for this population, wasting time on Twitter won’t be fun any more, and the boss will recapture some productivity.
According to Christa Degnan Manning, director, eXpert insights, American Express Business Travel, “As businesses around the globe alter the way they communicate and receive information from clients and prospects, social media has also proven to be a useful and effective tool to share pertinent information with employees and drive change in organizations.”

Half of the respondents to the American Express Business Travel survey indicated that “they use social media to some extent to support travel management today,” and the proportion went up to 59 percent for mid-sized companies (defined as $3 million to $10 million in air volume).

So, why do they use social media tools? Forty-four percent say they want to stay up on the latest travel information, with 43 percent reporting that they can “learn and communicate best practices and reduce business travel costs”. Other priorities include finding preferred vendors and services (42 percent), hunting for travel patters that could result in improved rates or services (34 percent) and encouraging networking among travelers (26 percent).

What’s most horrifying about this research? Well, it’s that social media tools are becoming useful …time to kill that FarmVille account, right?

Delta offers free luggage for branded credit card holders

A thin, thin silver lining on the dark cloud of checked baggage fees by Delta Airlines was announced today. According to the airline and American Express, the sponsor of their branded credit card, premium holders of the Delta Gold, Platinum, or Reserve SkyMiles Credit Card will soon be allowed to check one bag for free, a savings of $25 per direction of travel.

Travelers will still need to pay the annual fee on each respective card, however, as well as any incurred interest over the course of the year. So in the end, Delta still lines their pockets with a great deal of money.

It’s worth noting that those with elite status are completely exempt from baggage fees, so if you don’t want to spend the time impacting your credit score (and conversely want to spend the time and money earning status) there’s a way.

Needless to say, our preferred method remains to not check any luggage at all.

A gloomy travel market for 2010 will follow an ugly 2009

Everybody seems to want the travel market to recover next year, but it looks like more time will be spent in yards, instead. According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, only 16 percent of us are going to hit the skies or crash in hotels more than we did in what will go down in history as a dismal 2009. Close to a third said they are going to spend less time in guestrooms and cramped plane seats. The main reason, of course, continues to be the state of the economy.

Slow improvements to the economy, according to some industry analysts, should push demand for tickets and hotel rooms higher – not to mention services related to the convention and meetings business. But, the baseline is set pretty low, with 2009 having been so weak. American Express, the largest travel agency in the world, doesn’t see a recovery coming anytime soon.

The bar has been reset, and it’s low. It will stay low for a while.

The big beast to be tamed in the travel market, doubtless, is business travel. Until the corporations start to send people on the road more liberally, the airlines, hotels and other businesses involved in travel will continue to feel the squeeze.

What’s going to happen by sector? See below.

Airlines: Industry analysts see hints that the market is turning, with demand for seats up year-over-year (by month) since May. United Airlines sees “a very encouraging trend line,” and US Airways notes a steady improvement. But, the latter continues that a decline of 30 percent to 35 percent in corporate spending has been a drag, and November was the first month in which it was up year-over-year. And, November 2008 wasn’t a tough month to beat.

Analysts believe that “even a modest rise in the USA’s gross domestic product,” says USA Today, will kick the airlines back into profitability. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, isn’t that optimistic, telling the newspaper, “Business travel still lags, and I don’t know that I’m comfortable in reporting that we’ve seen any improvement in that market.” He doesn’t expect business travel to bounce back next year.

Hotels: What can I say that Melanie Nayer hasn’t? Not much, really. The past year has been miserable, with PricewaterhouseCoopers reporting occupancy plunging to 55.2 percent this year, from a 2006 peak of 63.3 percent. Next year, it’s expected to tick up only to 55.8 percent.

Room rates fell precipitously in 2009 relative to 2008, causing an average decline of 16.4 percent in the industry’s average revenue per available room-night. PwC expects 2010 to be worse than 2009, conflicting with the Business Travel Monitor report from American Express. But, there’s room for both views. Leisure travelers will have to spend a bit more, but hotels in business-heavy markets will still win some favorable pricing.

Conventions: Look for a slight increase next year – again, relative to a brutal 2009. For the good news about the conventions, you’ll have to wait until 2011 and 2012, says Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association. Through the end of 2010, approximately 40 percent of corporate and association meeting planners, reports USA Today, are likely to postpone or sink off-site meetings for the next year.