Airlines, hotels, travel & tourism

We know where you’re going

In the so-called “war” against terrorism, scientists and bureaucrats are coming up with new methods for tracking travellers. Thanks to a new British system, all holidaymakers and business travellers, even so-called “booze cruisers” who go to France to stock up, will have to log their itineraries and passports to the government. Civil libertarians are of course wary.

They might be more concerned at new technologies designed to measure “behavioural intention” at international airports. Behavioural intent, otherwise called “brain-fingerprinting” is surprisingly well developed, thanks to a few Israeli-based tech companies. One firm, WeCU, uses subliminal images to check people’s reactions to them, by reading body temperature, heart rate and respiration and their footfall on the carpet. This might even speed up security checks.

Another firm, Nemesysco, uses layered voice analysis technology to detect how people are speaking, rather than what they say. The system captures the normal voice in 4-10 seconds, and then analyses any changes from the baseline. It has even been used on Big Brother, the TV show. It looks as though the old-fashioned system of metal detection and X-rays is on its way out, as it captures threat agents, rather than intentions to threat.

Ref: (US), 17 December 2008, Behavioral screening – the future of airport security?, Dana Rosenblatt.
The Weekly Telegraph (UK), 19-25 March 2009, Trips abroad to be logged in advance, David Millward.
Source integrity: various
Search words: government tracking, travel plans, aircraft, itineraries, border protection, behavioural screening, airports, sensing technology, layered voice analysis, emotion detector, terrorism.
Trend tags: -

Ice tourism

The days of going to the beach for holidays are long gone, at least for the more adventurous. While Antarctica used to be just one of the big white places on the map, 40,000 people went there last year, compared to only 6,700 in 1992. Ice is hot! Unfortunately, it potentially upsets the environmentalists, authorities that are responsible for rescuing holidaymakers in an emergency, and the 28 signatory countries to the Antarctic Treaty. The member countries want to restrict the number of visitors to Antarctica, including cruise ships with more than 500 passengers on board.

Probably the economic meltdown will restrict ice tourism better than any legislation can, since it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to go there. But in one of the paradoxes of modern tourism, if sufficient numbers of people can experience its pristine beauty, there will be more supporters for maintaining its present, unspoiled state. There is also the argument that, if 40,000 people had that defining experience last year, then why shouldn’t another 40,000 have the opportunity? The spread of tourism into previously unthought-of destinations continues to bring politics into holidaymaking.

Ref: The Press (NZ), 20 April 2009, Limits to ice tourism proposed. Mike Holahan.
Source integrity: ***
Search words: tourists, Antarctica, environment, emergencies, Antarctic Treaty, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition.
Trend tags: Climate change


No leave, no life

One of the biggest inhibitors to taking holidays is work. At least, that appears to be the conclusion of two surveys, one commissioned by Tourism Australia and one by Expedia, the international travel company. The Japanese are working hardest, with 92% failing to take almost half their holiday leave of 15 days. On the other hand, the French receive 38 days a year, and take nearly all of them (who’s surprised?). Australians are currently stockpiling 121 million days of leave – a burden for employers and worse for employees who forget there’s a life outside work. Annual leave accruers are more likely to be corporate males (the largest segment), women aged 39-45 with kids under 12, or people over 35.

Unfortunately, 40% of Australian responders said workplace issues stopped them from taking leave – finding someone to cover for them, and the increased workload before and after leave.The No Leave, No Life program in Australia is a worthy attempt to address the problem. Failure to take leave may knock the tourist industry, but it also interferes with family life. It could be the ones least likely to take their leave (women who work the double shift, or corporate men) who are most in need of a break. They are also sending a dangerous message to their kids.

Ref: Tourism Australia, 2009, Annual leave stockpiling. Anon.
NZNewsUK, 15 April 2009, NZers holiday-deprived – survey. Anon.
Source integrity: ***
Search words: workplace, accrued leave, age, corporate males, France, Japan, US, work commitments.
Trend tags: Work/life balance


Big holidays

Just over half of Australian respondents to a recent survey by thought obese people should have to buy two economy class tickets when they fly. This viewpoint is not supported by the Canadian courts, which recently ruled, after a six-year case, that an obese person may be considered disabled if he could not fit into an airline seat. No airline wants to be considered discriminatory and Virgin Blue, Qantas and Jetstar all claim to comply with anti-discrimination legislation and try to meet “special needs”.
It seems the problem is not so much the discomfort of fatter travellers, but the discomfort of those travelling beside them. People are always concerned with what seems fair, and they may consider it unfair that someone takes up more space without paying for it.

Meanwhile, United Airlines has decided to charge really fat people that want to fly extra.The idea is that if you can’t fit into one seat you have to buy two. Will the idea get off the ground? With 2/3 of Americans clinically overweight some people are calling this action discriminatory but some people can’t see what the fuss is about. Seeing that low-cost airlines are starting to charge people for baggage perhaps, in the future, they will start charging by body weight? But where will this end? Maybe sports stadiums will start doing the same. What about cinemas, automakers…the list goes on.

Ref: Sydney Morning Herald (Aus) 17 January 2009, When size matters: obese passengers and economy seating. C. Vedelago.
Source integrity: ****
Search words: obesity, economy, discrimination, human rights, disability.
Trend tags:Obesity


When your hotel is not your hotel

Frequent travellers to hotel chains will be reassured by the familiarity of the logo, uniforms, stationery, and even the smell, when they book a stay. But they might not realise that their hotel is owned by someone else. The franchising of hotels is nothing new, but in the scramble to return capital to shareholders, many owners of fine properties have sold them to franchisees and receive fees for their management skills. This means that, in recession, the owners suffer the loss of bookings more heavily than the franchisers.

When the good times return, there are two potential problems for franchisers. First, the profits from bookings go to the owners. Second, investors assess franchisers on the basis of how many franchises they sign up (their source of fees), and it is debatable how long they can continue at their present rate (eg, two a day for InterContinental). There is also a third problem. Visitors expect a certain experience when they go to a good hotel. With such a diversity of ownership, there is a danger of losing that consistency that visitors trust when they lay their heads on the pillow.

Ref: The Economist (UK), 21 February 2009, Outsourcing as you sleep. Anon.
Source integrity: *****
Search words: hotel chain, franchises, owners, virtual hotel, InterContinental, management fees, bookings.
Trend tags: Authenticity