Airlines, hotels, travel & tourism
The people at DayJet are set to launch their new air-taxi service, in a move that could change the face of domestic travel in the US. The past few years have seen growing anticipation over new jets that could make air-taxis affordable. The Eclipse 500, a six-seater jet costing US$1.5 million, is soon to be cleared for mass-production; Cessna has launched its own ‘very light jet’ (VLJ); and Honda has its own model set for release in 2010. But Ed Iacobucci, the brains behind Florida-based DayJet isn’t relying on the latest aircraft to make his business work. What sets DayJet apart is its software, and more specifically, the way it tackles scheduling problems. For air-taxi services to be successful, they must examine the ‘travelling salesman problem’ which asks for the shortest route to visit a collection of cities and return to the starting point. Using a discipline known as ‘complexity science’ Iacobucci has been using his reservation software to find the shortest, fastest and least expensive combination of routes, factoring in things like pilot availability, maintenance schedules and bad weather. Add another customer reservation to the equation and the whole day’s schedule must be recalculated. And to add to the problem, these calculations had to be done quickly. In order to compete in a world where customers are used to using Orbitz and Expedia, Iacobucco had to provide an answer and price in less than five seconds. For the past five years DayJet has been running this software, feeding in different possibilities, so that when they launch they will be ready for any given scenario. This certainly sets them apart from other domestic airlines, which generally don’t have contingency plans in the case of bad weather or scheduling problems. But it’s not all bad news for the other carriers, as it’s expected some customers take the air-taxi one way and a commercial flight on the return home. In fact DayJet’s strongest competition could come from auto dealerships, as 80% of its market will be made up of customers who would otherwise drive.
Ref: Fast Company (US), May 2007, ‘Flight Plan’, G. Lindsay, www.fastcompany.com
Searchwords: air-taxi, airlines, DayJet,
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Travelling on the dark side
The latest travel fad to pop up on the radar is what’s known as dark tourism – travel to places that have a gruesome, gory or tragic history. The term was coined in the mid-1990s by two Glaswegian professors, but in reality it’s not that new, people have long been attracted to places such as Pompeii, the Tower of London and the London Dungeon. At the lighter end of the scale you’ll find tourists trekking to the graves of rock stars or looking at mummies in a museum. At the other end you’ll find visits to gulags, extermination camps and sites of genocides – last year close to 700,000 people toured Auschwitz and about 200,000 walked the Cambodian killing fields. Some see it as an exercise in enlightenment and education, but others believe it’s an adrenaline rush that attracts people, the same thing that draws people to horror films. But is there really anything wrong with it? There can be if a site of tragedy is turned into one of tourism too quickly, while people are still grieving. But the upside is getting the tourist dollar into places such as New Orleans or Rwanda. This leads us to slum tourism, which many feel belongs in the dark tourism category. These increasingly popular tours visit the poorest parts of cities like Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai and Soweto, with the aim of educating the traveller and raising awareness of poverty. The tour, often run by adventure travel operators, injects some much-needed funds into these areas with profits going directly to local communities. Critics say that slum tourism is purely voyeuristic, exploitative and an invasion of privacy. Others claim the tours can be superficial, with travellers not really understanding the complexity of the problems in these areas.
Ref: The Sun Herald (Aus), 22 July 2007, ‘For richer, for poorer’, Genevieve Swart, www.sunherald.com.au
Search: tourism, slums, dark tourism
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Rites of passage
Another travel trend that’s appearing, or rather re-emerging, is the pilgrimage. This ancient tradition, especially popular in medieval times, saw pilgrims travelling often very great distances – such as taking the Way of St James in Spain or walking from Canterbury to Jerusalem. Nowadays the motivation behind these journeys may not be strictly religious – some people’s pilgrimages lead them to Gallipoli or even Graceland – but it is still a form of spiritual renewal. And it is this attitude and intent that sets a pilgrim apart from a tourist. Rather than sightseeing, a pilgrim seeks to connect in some way with the place. Physical difficulty can also be an important part of a pilgrimage – Muslims have long practised self-flagellation, and Irish Catholics climb stony hills on their knees in search of salvation. For modern day pilgrims, however, the difficulty is likely to come from being unfit or suffering blisters with all the walking involved or even simply living without their regular comforts. Regardless, it is pushing these physical and psychological boundaries that can make the journey worthwhile.
Ref: The Sydney Morning Herald (Aus), 30 July–1 August 2007, ‘Journeys of discovery’, Claire Scobie, www.smh.com.au
See also Sun-Herald (Aus), 22 July 2007, ‘For richer, for poorer’, G. Swart. www.news.com.au/heraldsun
Search words: pilgrims, religion, meaning rites of passage, tourism, travel
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Thinking outside of ‘the box’
A Dutch ‘no frills chic’ hotel chain known as Qbic has recently launched, offering a new hotel experience for both guests and investors. The innovation is in the design of the room. Central to each room is what’s known as the cubi, a 7 square metre cube containing everything the guest requires for their stay – a Swedish Hastens bed, designer bathroom elements, LCD television, entertainment system and customisable, coloured lighting. The rest of the room is left empty, save for a designer chair, making for a spacious and open environment. The other element key to the Qbic experience is the self-service policy – with the idea that no service is better than sub-standard or over-priced service. Customers check in at a self-service terminal, and have limited food and beverage options. There is no room service, instead a simple breakfast is available in the hotel’s lobby and vending machines supply everything from wine to USB drives. The limited overheads required for this means lower rates for guests, with early bird rates staring at just EUR 39, and prices rising based on demand. For the investor, low operating costs are not the only incentive to buy into Qbic Hotels. The cubi, apart from its designer touches, is manufactured in China, so once rooms have been prepped, the cubi can be installed in a matter of hours. This translates to a practically instant hotel, and a solution for transforming vacant real estate into profits.
Ref: Springwise (Neth), 3 July 2007, ‘High design, low touch hotel’, www.springwise.com ; Qbic Hotels, www.qbichotels.com
Search words: hotels, self-service, no frills chic
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Airlines and emissions
A recent Camp for Climate protest at Heathrow Airport has illustrated just how much concern there is over the aviation industry’s contribution to global warming. Although air travel is thought to be the cause of just 6.3% of greenhouse-gas emissions in Britain (compared with 20% for road transport and 37% for power generation), it has been suggested that carbon emissions released at high altitude have a more damaging effect than those released at ground level. With the demand for air travel expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, it is not just the protesters that are up in arms. Climate research outfit The Tyndall Centre has asked that ‘growth in aviation must be dramatically curtailed’ – though it is hard to say how this could be achieved when aviation does not come under the rule of national governments (instead it is governed by international agreements). And even if this were sorted out, there are other problems: it is impossible to assign emissions from international flights to any one country, and thus far, no one has really come up with a serious alternative to jet fuel. Consumer behaviour is another stumbling block, with Britons having little appetite for lifestyle change, regardless of their concern over the environment. Business for low-cost carrier EasyJet has risen by 200% in the past five years, and its competitors it seems are doing just as well. Both governments and protestors agree that economic growth is the key factor behind the demand for air travel, but putting an end to it could mean bad news for the climate campers. A survey for the Sunday Times showed 70% of people believed greening would no longer be a priority in the case of stalled economic growth.
Ref: The Economist (UK), 18 August 2007, ‘Flying and climate change’, www.economist.com
Searchwords: air travel, climate change, carbon emissions
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The future of airports
The Siemens Airport Facility in Furth, Germany, showcases some of the latest innovations in airport technology. And with some of these ideas already popping up around the world, it could be sooner rather than later that they become commonplace.
Check in – Queues are eliminated as your iPhone (or any other mobile device) becomes your boarding pass. Simply download your ticket’s barcode to your phone or print out the boarding pass directly from the phone. The idea is already being considered by Lufthansa, KLM and SAS.
Parking – No more driving around searching in vain for an empty spot. The parking lot’s 15,000 spaces are connected to a central database, so as you enter, LED screens will show you the shortest way to a free space. Airports in Kuala Lumpur, Oslo, Helsinki, Singapore and Shanghai have installed or are considering this system.
Luggage – Luggage transportation is quick and secure with RFID-enabled trays that hold bags as they speed along at 30 feet per second, automatically screened for explosives as they pass.
Biometrics – Siemens is developing security systems based on physical attributes such as fingerprints, iris scans and 3-D face digitisation. Already they are testing software that transfers fingerprint scans into a 2-D bar code on a boarding pass, which is then scanned at the gate.
Recently airlines worldwide have faced increased regulatory and security issues, changes in the way carriers compete, and major shifts in consumer behaviour. Low cost airlines within Europe have changed the economics of flying there, while carriers are trying to keep up with demand in Asia. Looking to the future, airlines will make use of technology to enhance and improve customer service – as passengers, especially in the US, become increasingly frustrated with delays and poor service. This could mean anything from personalised itineraries sent to your mobile phone to GPS used to navigate airports and destinations. Business and first class passengers are already starting to experience innovations in comfort and amenities. Customization is also an area that’s being explored, with airlines offering ‘a la carte’ services. Customers choose from a range of fare groups, then add or deduct things like premium seat selection or bonus mileage.
Ref: Fast Company (US), September 2007, ‘Airport of Tomorrow’, Michael Dumiak, www.fastcompany.com ; Fast Company (US), September 2007, ‘The Future of Air Travel’, S.Chaudhuri, www.fastcompany.com
Searchwords: airports, airline trends, barcodes, GPS, customer service, travel
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