“Aloha” to be heard at JFK come June, 2012

We have just received word that Hawaiian Airlines will launch non-stop service between Honolulu’s International Airport and New York’s JFK Airport next June. While there is current non-stop service from Newark Liberty to Honolulu on United-Continental Holdings, this new service is a vote of confidence in the travel industry’s growth particularly to such a heavily tourism dependent state.

This is not just another airline starting a new route – here’s where the impact begins: The battered tourism industry in Hawaii will be receiving over 100,000 new seats annually. This translates into millions of dollars in tax revenue for Hawaii, and over $156 million in additional consumer spending (these figures courtesy of Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority). And yes, New York will obviously gain from the new connection in terms of visitor spending, taxes, etc.

Now onto the best part – the brand! Hawaiian Airlines is in the midst of an aggressive fleet renewal which includes brand new wide-body Airbus A330 equipment (which will be featured on flights to/from JFK), new seating designed to increase legroom throughout, extensive on-demand seatback entertainment in all classes of service, and free hot meals for all passengers on these long-haul flights.

Very special rates are available now and for a limited time; please visit the official press release at:


Hotel 1000 in Seattle showed the key is Customer Service

Many of us first think about a product or service in terms of cost and functionality. A very important component would be the level of customer service. Profit margins in the travel industry are very tight so each vendor needs to provide the best experience possible for their guests. Recently I had the chance to test a hotel’s willingness to help me in preparing details for my sister’s wedding in very short notice.

The Hotel 1000 in Seattle, part of Benchmark’s Northwest Collection, is as dynamite as the staff they employ. Since I had previously stayed there and knew I would be in town for number of upcoming nights, I started interacting with the Social Media Marketing Manager via Facebook. With short notice of the event, he promptly returned my requests and helped me through the process of hiring premium transportation, providing additional rooms, and connecting me with other key staff that I needed to make my sister’s special day as relaxed and elegant as possible. The service I received was amazing! It still makes me reflect about how strong customer service impacts repeat business and the bottom line.

In many cases it is not just the interaction of the guest and employee that shine. It is also how staff interact with each other both at the front and back of the house. The Hotel 1000’s Social Media Marketing Manager helped me adjust room needs, confirm services, and worked as a liason between me and the Sales Manager at BOKA bar & kitchen to design a custom wedding cake. On the day of the event the restaurant Sales Manager and General Manager both came to introduce themselves, confirm everything was as wonderful as expected, and offered further assistance. The flow of communication was seamless which was equally as “wow-ing” as the luxurious accommodations and gourmet food we enjoyed.

For a luxurious experience in Seattle, visit http://www.hotel1000seattle.com

Going too far in travel advertising ? A micro-study…

To begin this piece, I must mention the recent ad campaign that Spirit Airlines launched over the use of the Anthony Weiner. If you have not seen it, go to http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2011/06/08/spirit-airlines-spoofs-weiner-scandal-in-new-ad-1211051249/

What do you think? A very interesting angle used by Spirit. An airline that seems to be known for it’s media splashes (see $1.00 fares from LA to Vegas), Spirit Airlines has done it again. For a few years now, Spirit Airlines has built a reputation for pushing boundaries in advertising. But have they gone too far this time?

By branding themselves as an airline that uses current events to promote it’s services, Spirit reminds companies that targeting an event is risky business. While web traffic will definitely rise, it is influx of revenue that needs to be carefully calculated in advance. Keep one eye on the suggestive and entertaining ads to follow and think about if the buzz could lead you to purchasing travel related services.

American Airlines and the departure from Traditional Advertising

Both consumers and travel industry insiders have seen all sorts of advertising methods evolve. While social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare are in the midst of becoming traditional, still newer forms keep evolving especially in the guerilla marketing segment of advertising. Enter a recent trend: Flash Mobs! I just watched a YouTube video (watch below) of American Airlines using a flash mob to create buzz about adding 10 new destinations from Los Angeles.

Yes, I think it is a cleaver way to generate brand buzz, especially if the flash mob performs in multiple locations of high traffic in a particular city or region. Not only are people talking to others about witnessing the experience, but they are recording and posting videos of it onto social media. The actual exposure is not just the 30 people who witnessed it live but potentially thousands more.

The cost of hiring a few actors for a day –or longer– is much more cost effective than buying air time on major TV networks. And since these highly organized flash mobs come and go so fast in public places, there is a quick impact on the public. Expect to see more creative flash mobs popping-up around you in the near future at rail stations, public parks, and malls.

Hotel Lifestyle Brands and Marriott’s EDITION

Lifestyle hotel brands are experiencing a resurgence as the global economy continues to repair itself. Generally known as brands which target a specific demographic with design, amenities, and services, lifestyle hotels are now wildly popular. For decades most leisure travelers in the US expected their hotel to have a bed, telephone, clean bathroom, and television. Maybe a view if it was next to the ocean. Now? Themed fitness programs, high-end toiletries, bathrooms having glass walls, 400 thread count cotton bed linens, and the list goes on.

One of the first lifestyle brand hotels was Ian Schrager’s Morgans Hotel in New York City. It debuted in 1984 with the concept of low lighting, modern design, and a lobby bar that doubled as a party lounge in the evenings. At that time hotel rooms were about as exciting as your basic blue shirt. Fast forward to 2011. Now, large and well established brands such as Marriott and Starwood have created their own line of lifestyle brands.

Ian Schrager recently teamed up with Marriott International to develop a new brand known as EDITION Hotels. With funky design and modern art, the Waikiki EDITION offers unique luxury such as thire Honolulu Surf and Bikini Boot Camp and an outdoor movie theater showing first-run films under the stars. What makes this and all lifestyle brands attractive are the features that set them apart from the competition. They form an environment and experience the guest is looking for in each location.

New Brand in Airport Lounges with Access for All!

The first airport lounge opened in 1939 at New York’s LaGuardia Airport with American Airlines “Admirals Club Lounge”. Since that time, many large airlines have opened lounges at focus or hub airports to cater to their own premium passengers and allow them a place to relax away from crowded gates. Access to these lounges typically requires a paid membership with passenger ticketing in business or first class cabins. Now a new brand of lounges is ready to hit the US with future expansion plans.

AirSpace Lounge, a start-up in the airport facilities industry, is getting ready to open their first lounge at Baltimore’s BWI Airport. Their concept involves creating lounges that are open to anyone who wishes to pay the entrance fee. With passes starting at just $17.50 per visit, AirSpace intends to use yield-based pricing to make the venture a success. As the lounges fill up to capacity, the pass pricing continues to rise. Lounges are slated to have power outlets at each seat, wifi, complimentary meals, and alcoholic beverages available for sale.

I am confident this new brand will certainly make an impact on the marketplace, especially where some of the largest airlines — like JetBlue and Southwest Airlines — do not offer airport lounges. Also, over the last 10 years airlines have downsized or closed lounges making space easily available for AirSpace Lounge to lease. Targeting all passengers regardless of ticketed cabin further increases exposure and allows AirSpace to create a loyal following.

How will the airlines react? Space at each individual airport will dictate who can expand and how much. If AirSpace Lounge is a wild success, I predict airlines will either try to match the inclusivity and pricing concepts or buy interest in the venture.

Look for the first AirSpace Lounge to debut at Baltimore BWI this May! If you have a long layover or arrive at the airport early, consider this option for comfort, relaxation, and connectivity!

Spirit Airlines: Buzzing from L.A. to Vegas for a Buck

The airlines have discovered a nifty way to really get the attention of consumers and competitors. Just yesterday, Spirit Airlines announced service from Los Angeles International (LAX) to Las Vegas McCarron (LAS) with introductory one-way fares of just $1.00 per seat, plus applicable taxes. While this bargain fare is heavily restricted to travel on certain days and flights, it is creating quite a buzz.

Spirit Airlines is one of few airlines that focus on leisure travel. By this, I mean they fly to very leisure oriented destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Atlantic City. They have also been part of the pioneering group of airlines that started charging for everything from pillows to advance seating assignments. So why has Spirit Airlines not already targeted LAX to Vegas? So many competitors – both low cost and legacy carriers – already serve the market. They needed a bold way to introduce their brand and get attention in order to make the five daily flights a success.

The industry impact has been interesting. Some airlines like jetBlue and Allegiant Air did engage in a “fare war” while much larger Delta Air Lines and United Airlines did not. My guess is that much of the passenger traffic on Delta and United is connecting through LAX and therefore they feel the discounted fares would not help to gain market share.

While the $1.00 fare seems ridiculous, it is a proven sales tactic that generates traffic to Spirit’s website, talk in the industry, and gets the seats filled.

“The Ride” – a new sightseeing brand in NYC!

Ever heard the term “only in New York”? Well a new company has taken sightseeing in New York City to a whole new perspective! “The Ride” is a new moving attraction which allows the city to become a canvas while the passengers’ eyes soak the streets and timely placed performers.

Creators of The Ride took a Prevost touring motorcoach and transformed the interior to include long, theater-style seating rows facing toward the street. As the vehicle moves around notable NYC landmarks, passengers are immersed with high tech video, audio, and staged performances to make this an amazing moving attraction with quite the the passenger impact! The roof is even glass, allowing for uncompromised views of the moving skyline.

In years past, the travel & tourism industry has seen many new and successful attractions help to deliver new experiences. We have seen amphibious vehicles roams streets and waterways (think *quack quack*), and new speedboats providing a thrill to both Boston and New York Harbors. This new brand in tourism promises to allow the streets to tell the story along with a little help of technology.

For information and tickets, visit http://www.experiencetheride.com/

LV Air’s Brilliant Branding for new Las Vegas to NYC service

Since 2008, nearly 20,000 daily seats have been eliminated from the greater New York City to Las Vegas air travel market. The Northeastern US also has a growing number of casinos popping up from Atlantic City to Southeastern Connecticut. As the economy begins to repair itself, Las Vegas has noticed that gamers are opting to stay local. Vegas needs a new and unique way to get their high profile casino gamblers back to the Nevada desert. Enter LV Air!

Yesterday it was reported that a new airline called LV Air intends to charter wide-body Boeing 767 aircraft to provide new passenger service between Las Vegas McCarron and New York’s JFK International Airport. The twist is that the brand’s aircraft are slated to have nightclub inspired mood lighting, club music played while boarding, flatbed seating for 18 passengers in it’s premium cabin, and onboard iPads available. Other features include holograms of celebrities providing the pre-flight safety announcements, meals catered from notable Las Vegas restaurants, and luggage transfer service direct from the aircraft to hotel room eliminating waits at the baggage claim carousel.

LV Air is talking to multiple casinos in Las Vegas to create partnerships for transportation of the casinos’ best “high rollers”. The agreements are said to include allowing those casinos to have first rights over seats to transport their clients. It is widely known that many casinos operate or lease private jets to transport their biggest players to the casinos. This concept would allow the casinos to provide a luxurious and unique air travel experience while avoiding the cost of leasing or operating their own jets.

Brilliant branding, multiple sales channels, and providing a unique experience from the big apple to the desert oasis is coming this year. Keep your eye out for developments at LV Air!