business travel

Cities strive to out-sanitize each other in a bid for tourist dollars

(This is an ever so slightly different version of my story that posted on NBC News).

Would a “clean city” pledge get you to plan a trip?

We’re into what by all rights should be a busy summer travel season. But many states are hitting the breaks on reopening plans due to record spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Yet in many parts of the country, beaches and bars are filling up, hotel occupancy rates are rising and attractions such as zoos, aquariums and museums are welcoming back visitors.

Disney World Resort’s phased opening plans in Florida are on track, even though Disneyland’s plans in California are delayed.  

The push to reopen is being fueled in part by businesses starving for customers and cash flow. But also by a cooped up public cautiously optimistic about making travel plans and hoping for a slowdown in the spread of COVID-19.

Communities that for months have been asking guests to stay away are now scrambling for ways to get business and leisure travelers to come back.

Campaigns to get tourists back

Now, branded campaigns declaring a destination clean, safe, and sanitized are trending.

“Tourism has taken a serious blow and destinations are doing whatever they can to restore consumer confidence,” says Misty Belles, a managing director with the Virtuoso travel agency network. “We know that concerns over contracting the virus are one of the key barriers to getting people comfortable with traveling again, so cities across the country are touting their enhanced cleaning protocols to quell those fears,” she adds.

In Ohio, window decals and website badges in Columbus are a sign that businesses have signed the “Live Forward” pledge to make the health and safety of patrons a priority.

“To meet this obligation, we’ve established additional protection measures and trained our team in enhanced best practices for safety and sanitation,” says David Miller, President and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.

Cleveland’s Clean Committed campaign provides participating businesses with safety kits, guidelines, and materials to help make sure the city is ready for the return of visitors.

In Rochester, Minnesota (home of the Mayo Clinic), businesses in the Rochester Ready program are also implementing protocols in physical distancing, masking, cleaning, sanitizing and building ventilation.

Nashville’s Good to Go program is one of many with searchable databases of businesses that have vowed to adhere to coronavirus guidelines.

States are getting into the act as well. For example, Indiana has a Hoosier Hospitality Promise and the Count on Me NC public health initiative program stretches across North Carolina.

The list of vacation spots with clean campaigns is long and getting longer.

It is not only because cities are taking the health concerns of citizens and visitors seriously. Lodging industry consultant Bjorn Hanson says it also because “no destination manager or government entity wants to be viewed as doing less than others to attract and protect travelers.”

Will travelers trust a city’s seal of cleanliness?

Megan Tenney, whose family of six has been traveling full time since September 2018, now monitors COVID requirements and the health news in places the family is considering visiting.

“We’re focusing on places that seem to be doing better or were less affected to begin with,” said Tenney, “And I think a ‘clean campaign’ would give us the confidence to travel to a location.”

But while Brian DeRoy of Charleston, South Carolina feels that “whoever can market best in the game of being clean is going to have an advantage,” Seattle-based frequent traveler Rob Grabarek would not feel reassured by a city’s program alone.

“I’d have to examine the extent of a local government’s policies to see if I felt there were sufficient,” said Grabarek, “And while I applaud the idea of identifying businesses that are in compliance, I wouldn’t feel safe unless the entire community were adhering to the same stringent practices.”

Given that there is no single organization or government entity to oversee and assure that all these cleaning campaigns are effective, the emphasis on cleanliness as a destination marketing tool may not last long.

“Our travel advisors tell us there are really two traveler mindsets right now,” said Virtuoso’s Belles, “Those who want to pull back the curtain and know how everything they potentially come in contact with is being sterilized and those who just want to trust that it’s happening. Too much focus on cleanliness may actually backfire on those looking for the escapism in their vacation.”

What do you think? Would a city’s pledge of cleanliness be reassuring enough to get you to plan a trip?

Frivolous fountains as entertainment, attraction and investment

Those over the top fountains, waterfalls and other grand features found at hotels, malls and parks are quite snazzy – and expensive. But are they making natural attractions seem boring? Here’s our story that appeared first on CNBC.

If you visit Las Vegas and make your way to the Fountains of Bellagio, the Mirage volcano or any of the five curious and creative water features at City Center, you’ll see great examples of natural elements being used to create over-the-top entertainment.

Each experience is part of a portfolio of more than 200 unique installations around the world created by LA-based WET, a design firm that has been perfecting its techniques and pushing the boundaries of art, technology and attraction for more than 35 years.

Courtesy WET Design

“We do one-off features with new and unusual stuff that no one’s ever seen or done before,” said Jim Doyle, WET’s director of Design Technology. And like the cauldron it created for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and the showpiece it created for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014, many of WET’s project are big and boutique projects that people talk about, take pictures of and share on Instagram and Facebook, said Doyle.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

The 130-foot-tall Rain Vortex is the newest example of WET’s work. Now the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex serves as the centerpiece of the Jewel shopping, dining and entertainment complex designed by Moshe Safde’s architecture firm for Singapore’s Changi Airport.

For Jewel, WET figured out how to create and build a circular waterfall that drops seven stories from the roof of the building.  

“It’s the first time something like this has appeared in the middle of a building,” said Doyle, “There’s nothing in there that is standard.”

Impressive enough during the day, at night the rain vortex, plus some man-made fog, creates a canvas for a first-of-its kind, 360-degree projected light-and-sound-show.

WET’s water features aren’t just meant to be pretty, said Doyle, “They become works of art, but they are also serious investments put where they’ll capture attention. You’re not going to spend money on a water feature no one will see or that doesn’t have a reason for being there.”

Courtesy WET Design

In Dubai, where bigger is always better, WET created the Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest choreographed fountain.

Located next to the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest malls, and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, the $240 million fountain project has jets that launch water a record-setting 50 stories high, with more than 1,000 individually programmable elements.

“They needed something to give people a reason to come back to the building and to the shops and the restaurants in the mall time and time again,” said Doyle, “That required a very large performance feature we could continually update so that people could walk out of the building, watch a show or two, sit down for dinner, watch another show and then go back into the mall and spend more money.”

Do high-tech attractions with natural elements make “real” attractions seem boring?

While millions of travelers may flock to high-tech attractions such as the dancing light and water fountains in Dubai and Las Vegas, travel experts don’t seem to be worried that much-loved low-tech and natural attractions will seem boring by comparison and become overlooked.

“There is manmade and then there is manmade magnificent,” said Jean Newman Glock, managing director of Signature Travel Network, “The pyramids of Giza are and will always be a destination that Las Vegas could replicate but not replace. It’s the in-situ aspect – the desert that fills all your senses with the heat and arid sands of the nearby Sahara – that the Luxor [hotel] just can’t get quite right.”

Lynn Minnaert, a clinical associate professor with the Tisch Center of Hospitality at New York University who visited both Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon last year, agrees.

“A lot of things we treasure as tourists, like Rome’s Trevi Fountain, are low-tech and man-made,  said Minnaert, “And while sometimes people travel purely for entertainment, those technologically-enhanced features that may be spectacular and nice to look can sometimes turn people off because they’re easily duplicated.”

High-tech attractions can add flair and a sense of place to casinos, malls, hotels and spaces that weren’t built to be authentic, said Minnaert. But natural attractions, such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, don’t need anything added. Those places will never be boring, said Minnaert “And are beautiful as is.”

Get work done at DFW

If you fly a lot you sit a lot. If you work at a desk, you likely sit a lot too.

And if you sit a lot you increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, back pain and other things that are bad for your health.

That’s why standing – and moving around – whenever you can during a travel day is a good thing.

And that’s why the new business center in Terminal C at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is a such a welcome amenity.

Sponsored by Varidesk, the stand-up desk company, the business center is a co-working space that has standing desks, meeting tables, power hubs, and a small conference space. 

Many airports now have tall tables with power ports in many gate areas. And there are areas in many airport cafes where you can set yourself up to work, or just catch up on email, while standing. But this Varidesk co-working space just makes it look very cool.

So long, Sydney: take-aways from IATA’s meeting of world’s airline execs

The Vivid Sydney festival – which lights up iconic buildings and structures around the city – was a great backdrop for this week’s meeting of the world’s airline executives at the World Air Transport Summit (WATS) and the annual general meeting of IATA – the International Air Transport Association.

All sorts of briefings, reports, discussions, debates and newsy announcements take place at this event each year and will generate stories that will spool out over the course of the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here are just some of the highlights from the past few days:

Courtesy IATA

In his annual report, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said that airlines are expected to achieve a collective net profit of $33.8 billion. That’s an average profit per passenger of $7.76 for the airlines, he explained, “A thin 4.1% net margin” in 2018.

Read his full report that also touched on safety, security, environmental issues and other topics here.

 

 

A bundle of 20-minute on-stage interviews were offered, on topics ranging from alternative fuels, gender equality in aviation, airport privatization and the benefits and risks of travel and tourism. Follow the links for more details from those sessions and videos of the interviews.

 

CNN’s gregarious Richard Quest was on stage with a panel of airline CEOs, including Calin Rovinsecu of Air Canada, Tim Clark of Emirates Airlines, Rupert Hogg of Cathay Pacific Airways, Pieter Elbers of KLM and Christoper Luxon of Air New Zealand.

 

Among the notable moments was when the all-male panel was asked to address gender equality (or the lack of it) at the top echelons of aviation:

Other sessions addressed everything from some creative ways getting passengers to and from airports more efficiently to the role airlines play in human trafficking.

For media attendees, the meeting wrapped up with a final debriefing session with IATA CEO and Director General Alexandre de Juniac, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, who will serve as chairman of the IATA Board of Governors for the next year, and Alan Joyce, CEO of the Qantas Group, which hosted the IATA AGM in Sydney.

The Qatar Airways CEO is well-known for his bravado and controversial comments, but at an event in which other CEOs expressed a committment to increasing the role of women in the upper ranks of their companies, Akbar Al Baker’s comment that of course his airline had to be run by a man, “Because it is a very challenging position” was met with disbelief.

His comment may have been a ‘joke,’ – and he did go on to mention that Qatar has women serving as pilots, as senior vice presidents and in other top-level positions – but the comment did not sit well with the group assembled (I literally jumped out of my seat!) and just underscores the fact that this sector of industry has some real homework to do.

Happy with all that business travel? Most say they are.

There’s no shortage of surveys out there slicing and dicing the habits and experiences of business travelers.

I read them all in search of trends, ideas and occasional surprising statistics and found examples of each in the new National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey.

Happy Travelers?

In general, most business travelers surveyed (92 percent) said they were satisfied with their quality of life when traveling for business. Eighty-nine percent said they were also comfortable with amount of business travel they do.

That’s a good thing, because 90 percent of business travelers reported that they planned to travel at least the same amount or more in 2018.

What gets done on the road? 

I could identify with some of the survey stats about how much productive work, sleep and quality “me” time takes place during business trips. Perhaps you will, too.

According to the survey, just a smidge over half of business travelers (51 percent) reported that they were calmer when traveling for business compared to their everyday lives, but they also reported exercising less, sleeping less and eating less healthy when away from home on a business trip.

Most business travelers surveyed (57 percent) also claimed to work more hours and to be able to focus better (48 percent) when on the road.

What about down time during business trips?

Your co-workers, and family members at home, might think your business trip is – or should be – all business. But everyone needs some down time, and here the results of the survey were somewhat surprising.

While most (80 percent) of business travelers said they take time for fun/personal activities while on a business trip, 38 percent said telling their bosses about that down time was a “no go”; 40 percent said they avoided telling co-workers about any fun they had on a business trip and 31 percent advised against telling spouses or significant others about any non-work fun during a business trip.

Mixing business and fun

I’m confident folks at home, co-workers and even bosses wouldn’t begrudge business travelers a bit of time exploring a new city and I’m surprised at the “no go” and “don’t tell” statistics in the survey.

It’s possible to squeeze in some fun on a business trip – and here are a few ways to make that happen:

Commit

Become a tourist while traveling on business by adding an extra day to the front or back of your trip to explore a new city. Make sure you use that time wisely by buying a ticket to a play, museum exhibition or city tour before your business trip starts.

Dip into a neighborhood

If you don’t have official extra time in a city, try to take at least one meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant recommended by a local. Walk or drive to that meeting by taking the long (but safe) route around.

Don’t return that rental car too early 

If, like some respondents to State of Business Travel Survey claim, you can focus well on a business trip and you get your work done early, don’t head straight for the airport.

Use the extra hours on your car rental and the “Drop & Go” perk you get from being a member of loyalty programs such as National Car Rental’s Emerald Club to visit an attraction nearby the airport. For some ideas, see my previous post, “Heading to the airport? Hold onto that rental car.”

Have some tips balancing work and fun on a business trip? Please share those in the comments section below.

FYI:The National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey was conducted from December 4-11, 2017, among 1,000 U.S. frequent business travelers in Research Now’s Business Travelers’ database.

While I was compensated by National Car Rental for this post, all thoughts and opinions shared here are totally my own.