business travel

Travel Tidbits from Here and There

As another month of being grounded kicks in, here are some travel tidbits that got our attention.

Delta Air Lines’ “No Mask- No Fly” list is growing

If the rule is “Wear a mask when you’re on the plan,” then we’re all for passengers being put on no-fly lists if they don’t comply.

Delta Air Lines says it now has about 130 people on its “no mask – no-fly” list.

Miss airline food? This company will sell you some

Tamam Kitchen, which provides in-flight meals for Israel’s El Al airlines, Turkish Airlines and some other international carriers that fly out of Tel Aviv, is selling its meals to people on the ground.

The Future of Business Travel

We found some interesting insights about what business travel might look like in the future in a new global survey from SAP Concur, a company that tracks business expenses for companies.

96% of business travelers surveyed expect their employer to make critical changes when travel resumes.

Those changes include mandatory personal health screenings for traveling employees (39%), limiting business travel to only the most business-critical trips (39%), and easier access to PPE like gloves or facemasks (33%).

What is the plan if employers do not make changes?

65% of respondents intend to act if their employer does not make these changes:

Nearly one in five (18%) plan to look for a new role inside or outside the company that does not require travel. That number is higher in the U.S., where nearly one in four (23%) plan to consider new roles that do not require travel if their concerns are not addressed.

Where do you stand on these questions?

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?

Extra time in Seattle? Where to go, what to do.

This is an ever-so-slightly version of the Seattle guide for business travelers we put together for CNBC.

Courtesy Visit Seattle,

Starbucks, Amazon, Costco Wholesale, Microsoft and many other major companies call the greater Seattle-area home.

So it’s no surprise that Visit Seattle reports that at times 25% of the city’s more than 14,000 downtown hotel rooms are filled with business travelers in town to take meetings and make deals.

If you’re in the Emerald City with a few spare hours after a meeting, these tips and ideas might help you make the most of your time in a city well-known for its caffeine-fueled culture, its seafood and its green spaces.

Downtown Seattle

Take a pre-meeting walk or run through the Seattle Art Museum’s 9-acre waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park (Admission: free; adjacent to Myrtle Edwards Park) and be rewarded with views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound while passing artwork by Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder and many others.

Or show up early at the historic Pike Place Market to stroll by fruit, vegetable, seafood and craft vendors setting up before the crowds arrive; especially during cruise season, which runs May through September. Guided tours and downloadable Market walking guides are available.

Starbucks’ first store opened in the Market in 1971 and you can grab a coffee, get a souvenir, and take a selfie at the 1st & Pike store that recreates the ground(s)-breaking first branch.

Better yet, skip the Starbucks (you can drink that at home) and pop into one of Seattle’s many independent coffee shops. Seattle Coffee Works (108 Pine Street), Victrola (3rd and Pine) and Storyville Coffee (1st & Pike; Top floor of the Corner Market bldg.) are all nearby.

For breakfast, grab a pastry at Le Panier, the Market’s French bakery. Or order a Dungeness Crab Omelet or Hangtown Fry with oysters at Lowell’s, a casual Market mainstay ($$) with a waterfront view that’s been “Almost Classy since 1957.”

Tip: Don’t miss the MarketFront public plaza, overlooking the newly revitalized downtown waterfront area. And be sure to bring along some quarters to view the odd and outsize shoes displayed behind sideshow-style curtains at the Giant Shoe Museum in the Market’s “down under” shopping area, next to Old Seattle Paperworks.

From the Market, head downhill (use the Pike Street HillClimb or take the elevators from the parking garage) to the Seattle waterfront, which is lined with restaurants, shops and attractions that include the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Great Wheel and the flying ride Wings Over Washington. An underground tunnel recently replaced a noisy double-decker freeway running along and above the waterfront and new park and public spaces are being developed in what is already a much quieter and far more pleasant part of the city to visit.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop – photo Harriet Baskas

Tip: Tucked in among the waterfront shops selling mugs, magnets and Sleepless in Seattle nightshirts (still!) is the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Pier 54, which dates back to1899. Part souvenir store/part cabinet of wonder, the shop’s displays include natural history oddities and can’t-look-away objects that include shrunken heads, mummies and a four-legged chicken.

Want to see more traditional art?

Courtesy Visit Seattle

More than 200 works of public art dot Seattle’s downtown neighborhoods. This guide will lead you to them. The Seattle Public Library system’s 11-story glass and steel Central Library building (between 4th and 5th Avenues and Madison & Spring Streets) is a must-see stop for fans of architecture and, of course, books. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and LMN Architects, the building has a multi-floor “Book Spiral,” one all-red floor and great viewing spots from the 10th-floor reading room.

The Seattle Art Museum (Admission: $29.99, including all exhibits) has a permanent collection of more than 25,000 works of art. SAM is free the first Thursday of each month and many downtown hotels offer packages that include museum passes for special exhibitions.

Tip: Save your SAM ticket. Should you have extra time, your Seattle Art Museum ticket is good for entry (within a week) to the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The museum reopens February 8 after a $56 million renovation.

Fun at the former fairgrounds

Courtesy Space Needle LLC

The site of the 1962 World’s Fair is now a 74-acre urban park known as Seattle Center. You can walk there from the downtown core, but it’s faster and more fun to take the 2-minute ride on the Seattle Center Monorail, another souvenir of the fair. Board at Westlake Center Mall (5th Avenue and Pine St.)

In addition to free attractions, such as the International Fountain, Seattle Center offers time-pressed visitors a cluster of worthy activities to choose from, including the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which will appeal to fans of music and science fiction, and the Pacific Science Center, which is ideal if your family is in tow. Artist Dale Chihuly’s creations and collections fill eight color-filled galleries at Chihuly Garden and Glass and spill into the adjacent Collections Café, which has Dungeness crab cakes and other Northwest fare on the menu and is a charming and convenient place to stop for lunch ($$).

Seattle’s 605-foot-tall Space Needle, another, now iconic space-age souvenir of the 1962 World’s Fair, is at Seattle Center too. The Space Needle has two recently renovated observation decks, including one with the world’s only revolving glass floor.

Tips:Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle are often crowded, but both offer discounts for visits during less crowded off-hours. The 902-foot-tall downtown Sky View Observatory is a less expensive, less crowded alternative to the Space Needle.

Courtesy State Hotel

Where to Stay:

Many business travelers land at Seattle’s large convention-friendly properties such as the Hyatt Regency (1260 guestrooms) and the Sheraton Grand Seattle (1236 guestrooms). Seattle also has a growing list of hip, boutique properties such as the 90-room State Hotel, with a rooftop terrace, wall of doorknobs and colorful multi-story mural and the Hotel Theodore where rooms and hallways are decorated with artifacts and images curated by Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.

Where to eat

Seattle has an exciting and evolving dining and drinking scene, with many nationally known venues and chefs. Here are just a few to check out.

Start – or end – the evening with a cocktail at restaurateur Renee Erickson’s below-ground, curio-filled Deep Dive in the Amazon Spheres. The menu at this speakeasy-style bar includes upscale classic cocktails, rare spirits and creative concoctions with names such as Mixtape, Hans Solo, Curiosity Killed and Love through Space and Time.

There are excellent breweries. brewpubs and distilleries in many Seattle’s neighborhoods and a good selection right downtown, including Pike Place Brewing’s Pike Pub, Old Stove Brewing and Copperworks Distilling Co.

Move on to a downtown dinner at Loulay Kitchen & Bar in the Sheraton Grand Seattle (6th and Pike). The creation of Thierry Rautureau, “The Chef in The Hat,” Loulay’s menu favorites include French cuisine classics, crab fritters, seafood stew, sturgeon and cheeseburgers topped with duck egg or foie gras. ($$$).

Tip: If you haven’t quite mastered the art of dining out alone, make a reservation for Loulay’s balcony level table for one, which overlooks the busy restaurant and the kitchen.

To impress visitors, Brian McGowan, CEO of Greater Seattle Partners books dinner at “the legendary Canlis, whose view, cuisine and service are equally amazing.” The iconic fine-dining destination has views of Seattle, Lake Union and the Cascade mountain range and four course dinners for $135/person.

And what about the rain?

Yes, Seattle has a well-deserved reputation for being gray and drizzly. But the city’s annual average precipitation of 38.17” is less than Boston (43.13”), Houston (51.12”), Miami (59.61”) and New York (45.73”). More drizzles than downpours just give Seattle more days of moist and cloudy weather. 

Tip: You won’t see many locals carrying umbrellas. To blend in, pack a rain jacket, a cap and wear water-resistant shoes.

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.

 

Tips on dealing with the electronics ban on planes

 

 

Travelers are trying to figure out how to deal with new government rules placing an indefinite ban on electronic devices larger than smartphones from the cabins of commercial aircraft flying to both the United States and the United Kingdom from certain countries.

Canada is also considering joining the electronics ban for flights.

Here are some tips and things to consider if you’re booked on one of these flights, taken from my story on this topic for NBC News Travel.

 

In the United States, the ban covers nine airlines (Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabia Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates Air and Etihad Airways) and direct flights to the U.S. from 10 specific airports listed here.

In the United Kingdom, the ban covers inbound flights from six countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

“The ban means there is probably intelligence indicating a terrorist group or individual has been planning to detonate a device on board a commercial airplane, using an electronic to either hide an explosive, or as a triggering device for an explosive,” said aviation safety and security expert Jeff Price.

The ban also means that, for the foreseeable future, travelers booked on more than 125 affected flights a day to the US and UK will have to put devices such as tablets, e-readers, cameras, laptops, portable DVD players, portable printers and scanners and video games in checked baggage.

Travelers are concerned not only about how they will spend their time during flights, but the fate of the devices checked in airplane holds.

“Am I seriously going to check a $3-5K dollar camera? Not a chance,” said Washington, D.C. –based writer and photographer Emily Troutman, via Twitter.

As the bans begin to go into effect, experts are sharing advice and tips for those currently booked – or about to be booked – on the affected flights.

“Back up all your data and save it to the cloud, arrive at the airport early, bring your phone charger or buy one at the airport, and bring some good material,” suggests travel pro Johnny Jet in a web post and try switching to connecting instead of a direct flight from one of the affected airports. “If you’re booked on the Emirate non-stop from Dubai to the U.S., you can also see if they’ll move you to one of their one-stops through Milan or Athens,” he said.

Other travel experts suggest loading work files, books, games and other entertainment onto phones and purchasing or bringing along an external keyboard to make typing and accessing the information easier.

“Upgrading to a larger memory phone might be in order,” said Farecompare CEO Rick Seaney, whose research shows the ban will initially affect approximately 126 flights a day to the US and UK, with over 40,000 potentially inconvenienced fliers.

Families traveling with children, who have come to rely on movie and game-filled tablets for entertainment, should make sure to pack “some good old-fashioned unplugged entertainment, such as books, puzzle books, and coloring pads,” said Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, family travel expert at About.com.

And this may be a good time to explore the offerings on the affected airlines’ in-flight entertainment, some of which is quite extensive.

Not long after the ban was announced, Middle East carrier Emirates posted a “Who Needs Tablet and Laptops Anyway?” Tweet with a reminder that the airline offers “Over 2500 channels of the latest, movies, box sets, live sport and kids TV.”

While in-flight entertainment on a long flight is helpful, it won’t replace laptops for many travelers.

The ban “is simply unworkable for most business travelers. They need to be productive during their trips,” said the Business Travel Coalition in a statement, “Many business travelers do not check luggage, even on long flights as it slows them down upon arrival at baggage claim. Now they will have to check their electronics with many paying for the privilege.”

For those concerned about gear getting lost or stolen, insurance coverage from the airlines, travel insurance providers and certain credit cards may be helpful, “But the primary concern for most business travelers regarding the theft of electronic devices isn’t the value of the device itself, it’s the value/sensitivity of the data stored on the device,” said Max Leitschuh, iJET International Airline Safety Analyst.

Another option? Not checking electronic devices at all. “My recommendation is to ship your electronics to your destination,” said aviation security and safety expert Jeff Price, “There’s no way I’d put my laptop in checked baggage. And those little locks they sell can be defeated in about 15 seconds with a good paperclip.”

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