Hot Off The Press
Constant innovation and developing new technology to keep its customers and partners ahead of the game is the strategy GDS provider Travelport focused on during its roadshow to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland last week.
Kaylene Shuttlewood, Travelport’s general manager Pacific says the new ‘game changing’ Smartpoint app has ben designed to make fare shopping is easier. ‘We have doubled the amount of flight returns from a request and fare rules are laid our clearly; ancillary services like extra baggage, premium bag arrival, blankets, inflight wifi, and special meals are easy to book (some carriers in Asia Pacific even offer a specific meal choice like hamburger or a hot dog); and enhanced seating plans and graphical seat maps with pictures of the actual seat that can be booked.
With Smartpoint agents can now compare low cost carriers with full service carriers in the same screen, which does not disrupt their workflow. ‘Everything in Smartpoint has been designed for ease of use and for the agent to be able to convert sales and upsell products,’ she adds.
Speaking at the Pullman Hotel Auckland last week, Shuttlewood also updated the trade with a new feature to the 600,000 plus hotels Travelport offers online. ‘Agents will see the latest five Trip Advisor reviews with every hotel. Nothing is censored or altered – it’s the same as if going to the website itself, and no screen jumping. Trip Advisor has over 170 million reviews, and we want to assist the agents and their clients in making the best possible decision.’
- Kaylene Shuttlewood speaking at the Pullman Hotel Kaylene Shuttlewood speaking at the Pullman Hotel
- Mark Reeder, World Aviation and Katharine Mason, LATAM Mark Reeder, World Aviation and Katharine Mason, LATAM
- Graeme Moore and Wendy van Lieshout, World Travellers Graeme Moore and Wendy van Lieshout, World Travellers
- Adrian Turner, HWT and Robert Clark, Travelport Adrian Turner, HWT and Robert Clark, Travelport
Interest in Club Med for conference and incentive travel out of New Zealand has doubled in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year. ‘In the last two or three years, the New Zealand market has picked up,’ says business development manager Australia and New Zealand, Joey Templin. A changing perception of the resorts and Kiwis being more open to what Club Med has to offer is credited with the increase in the number of requests for quotes.
Templin escorted six corporate and incentive travel managers to Club Med Bali this week where they were free to participate in as many or as few activities as they wished. They were also given a site inspection and update on Club Med developments globally.
Repositioned in 2004 to a more ‘upscale’ product, Club Med is increasing its focus on adult’s only areas as well as conferences, incentives and the ‘rent a resort’ concept.
There is an emphasis on ‘space’ with new properties requiring at least 10 hectares of land. This feeling of space is evident in Bali – the resort was at 100% occupancy yet beyond the main pool area guests would be forgiven for thinking occupancy was half that.
The Kiwi travel managers balanced yoga, exercise classes, golf and sight seeing with relaxation at the new Zen pool – an adult’s only area with sun loungers and three varieties of daybeds – and a traditional Bali massage at Mandara Spa.
Members of the group agreed that the few days spent at Club Med Bali had changed their perceptions of the brand.
‘I was sceptical whether Club Med could work for groups because of my perception of clientele – families, children, couples. My first impression when I arrived appeared to confirm this when I saw all the children in the pool,’ says Virginie Thomson, Orbit Travel Auckland whose experience has Club Med Bali has completely changed her opinion. ‘After Joey’s presentation and discussion with Q&A about what can and can’t be done, followed by a tour of the resort, I realise now that anything can be done. There is so much willingness to make it happen and to make the wow factor.’
Asia Summit 2015 will focus on how to capitalise on the Asian traveller’s desire to visit New Zealand by providing attendees with insights into developing premium seasonal offerings.
The free one day conference will see industry experts provide the latest research direct from Chinese consumers about what travellers are seeking when holidaying in New Zealand.
Dr Matthew McDougall, social media specialist and CEO of Digital Jungle, will also explain how to use social media to market New Zealand tourism products in Asia.
The event will showcase a number of prominent New Zealand tourism companies and provide examples of how they have tailored products for Asian travellers and successfully promoted these products in Asia.
This year’s event will be held on 17 May at Novotel Lakeside Hotel, Rotorua, with registration opening at 9:30am.
Register at www.asiasummit.co.nz
A one day event for ‘forward thinking travel industry professionals’ is coming to New Zealand for the first time this year.
TRAVELtech is an established annual happening in Australia, running since 1999, and director Martin Kelly says the time is right to bring it across the Tasman. It is being held at the Pullman Auckland on 25 June.
‘Based around the theme of innovation and inspiration, TRAVELtech NZ has a focus on online travel, e-commerce, distribution, digital marketing, mobile, social media, technology, web trends and other key issues,’ Kelly says.
Tickets for the event cost $449 and the day includes a number of networking opportunities, a small trade show and a strong line-up of speakers.
Confirmed presenters so far include Mike Ballantyne, co-founder, Online Republic; Keith Chilek, chief technology officer, Tourism Holdings Limited; Paula Maxwell, director of trade sales, Mantra Group; Dougal Mckenzie, industry head – travel, Google Australia and New Zealand; Nigel Taylor, country manager NZ, Sabre Pacific; and others.
Six years after the devastation of the February 2009 Black Saturday Fires, the tiny Victorian town of Marysville has celebrated the opening of a TFE (Toga Far East) Hotel that will help put the alpine tourist destination back on the map.
Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre replaces the two accommodation properties that were previously on the site and destroyed along with most of the other main street businesses and surrounding homes. The 101 room Vibe hotel brings the Marysville bed inventory to just over 1000 (down from 2500-3000 pre-fire).
In the two months since opening, Vibe Hotel Marysville has had 1300 people attend 12 events - these include day meetings, residential conferences and other events. Last week’s official opening saw locals, government, tourism and emergency services as well as national and international media attend. Nine hundred people are expected at conferences confirmed at Vibe Marysville over the next six months.
The 101 room hotel has welcomed 3970 guests since February and has provided much needed employment in the town. Staff numbers have already increased staff from 42 to 64 – 90% of whom are from the Marysville triangle region.
‘TFE has partnered with Tourism Victoria and others with an aim to play a significant role in revitalising Marysville after the Black Saturday bushfires,’ says TFE Hotels CEO, Rachel Argaman. ‘We hope to bring savvy travellers to Marysville to experience the hotel and the beauty of the surrounding area. We see ourselves as being very much part of the region and connected to the local community.’
Hotel manager Phil Wilmot says he has never seen so many people so excited to be working again. ‘Some people hadn’t worked for six years,’ says Wilmot. ‘We’ve even got three generations of one family working here.’
Vibe Hotel Marysville marks the start of the brand’s refresh and brand promise – ‘Your Local Connection’ – which encompasses the hotel’s eateries, Radius Café and Radius Bar & Grill. Executive chef Leigh Colville is a returning Yarra Valley resident who has strong personal relationships with many local producers, including Buxton Trout, Blackmore Wagyu beef and Buxton Ridge wine.
A media famil in and around Marysville this week has showcased the region’s tourism offerings - activities at Lake Mountain Ski Resort, whimsical art at Bruno’s Sculpture Garden, salmon fishing at Buxton Trout & Salmon Farm, wine tasting at The Innocent Bystander and Buxton Ridge wineries and a tour through the Phoenix Black Saturday Bushfire Museum.
Predominantly a weekend retreat and winter ski destination, Marysville is a 20 minute forest drive over the Black Spur from Victoria’s Yarra Valley, two hours from Melbourne Airport, or 90 minutes from the CBD. The town and surrounding region offer a relaxing add-on to a Melbourne leisure or business stay, as well as being a destination in its own right.
More on Marysville will appear in the June issue of TRAVELinc magazine.
Agents on Exotic Holidays' India incentive famil are adjusting to the 32° temperatures and getting a taste of traditional dishes. After arriving into Chennai on Malaysian Airlines service from Auckland via Kuala Lumpur, the group was immediatel immersed into the culture of the subcontinent. Peshawri, an Pakastani/Afghan inspired restaurant located at the ITC Chennai, offers a glimpse into a way of eating westerners are not quite comfortable with - no cutlery.
Donna Harrison from House of Travel, Hastings says the eating with your hands dining was a bit of a surprise, but fantastic. ‘The entrée of tandoori chicken and prawns to the slow cooked shredded lamb and coriander paste, was delicious. We mopped up the black lentil dahl, which was simmered for 20 hours in cream and spices, with warm naan bread. Heaven.’
On any Saturday evening, locals head to the beach for family time. Turned into a mini fun fair with kiddies rides, food stalls, horse rides and shooting galleries, the beach is considered a great way to for extended families to have a night out at a reasonable cost (an ice cream costs 15 rupee, or 35 cents).
The local children all wanted their photos taken, so there was no shortage of willing subjects. No one actually swims in the water. It has an undertow, according to the locals and the waves dump hard (only three percent of the population know how to swim and there are no lifeguards on duty).
Heading further inland into Southern India, agents on Exotic Holidays India incentive famil are trying their hand at preparing a fish curry, bargaining at the local bazaar and exploring one of the regions most sacred temples – Meenakshi.
Centrally located, the Hotel Sangam Madurai is a three star property offering large, quite rooms equipped with all modern amenities, including free wifi. Agents were treated to a surprise cooking demonstration at the hotel and are now dab hands at making a South Indian fish curry and mooda parathas (egg flat breads)
The Meenakshi temple consists of four tall towers, with each relief and adorning figures painted in vibrant colours. Inside the walled grounds, cameras are not permitted (cellphones ok), shoes and bags are left at the door and visitors must cover up – shoulders to ankles.
Next the group travelled to the mountain village of Munnar to sample freshly picked and brewed tea from the tea plantations; visit spice growers and maybe spot some wildlife in Periyar National Park.
Munnar in Southern India offered agents on Exotic Holidays India incentive a glimpse into tea production as well as the opportunity to overnight at Windemere Estate, a 60 acre working Cardamom plantation. The family owned and operated property has 18 rooms across three categories, each with garden or mountain views. Guests arrive by 4WD and are made to feel right at home by Dr Simon and his staff. ‘The view is your distraction,’ says Dr Simon, ‘which is why there are no TVs on the property. We are about the plantation experience.’
There is a library, dining room and a teahouse where free wifi is available. Tours of the plantation are available daily at 3pm and twice weekly a bonfire and welcome barbecue at dusk takes places in the shadow of a large rock face on the property.
At an elevation of 1700 metres, the temperature is noticeably cooler than the lowlands, sometimes with a five to 10 degrees variable and in winter, November to February it can get to zero during the night with snow capped mountains.
Mosaics on the landscape
Most of the agents on Exotic holidays Southern India famil were first visitors to the country and Steve Lawson from Travel Managers, Wellington, is hooked. ‘India is becoming more affordable for Kiwis and the famil was a great opportunity to get first hand knowledge of the distances to get from A to B and what there is to see in between; to check out the properties we will actually be sending our clients to and my favourite - the food.
‘For colour, you can’t go past the lush tea plantations n the highlands. They look like a mosaic on the landscape and I would compare them to the rice terraces of Asia. Most surprising for me was the way the locals have welcomed us and want to interact with the group. Always waving, saying hello and then coming up and asking to have their photo taken – never have I had that before.’
The strength of the New Zealand market and the new Air New Zealand connections to Buenos Aires are two contributing factors to Tucan Travel’s appointment of a New Zealand representative.
Penny Henderson is now business development manager with Tucan Travel and will be responsible for educating agents on both the company and its ‘core’ destinations of Central and South America. (The company does also operate in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia – particularly Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Japan.)
Todd Barry, general manager of Tucan, says the company has previously been represented out of Australia with a rep visiting regularly from across the Tasman.
‘We decided we needed someone on the ground here, someone who can go to agents and also be the South American expert for destination training.’
Henderson says a lot of agents still have not been to South America. ‘Some of the product knowledge can be a bit ragged and there is not a lot of South American presence here.’
Barry says the company operates adventure tours, overland tours and tailor made experiences.
‘Tailor made is definitely a growth area for us. It is for people who want to trave independently and choose what they want to do, but still have everything organised for them.’
Sally Pepermans is the in-market representative for New Caledonia Tourism New Zealand. The appointment follows New Caledonia Tourism’s decision to assign destination representation and marketing agency, GTI Tourism, to lead the promotion of the destination in this market.
Pepermans commences the fulltime sales and marketing account manager role, based in Auckland, from 27 May, 2015 after relocating from New Caledonia where she currently resides.
New Caledonia Tourism sales and marketing account director, Caroline Brunel, says that through Peperman’s previous position as sales manager for New Zealand and Australia markets with the Starwood Group, she has acquired extensive industry experience combined with in-depth destination and market knowledge.
‘New Caledonia is well placed to further expand on visitation in 2015, with new investment such as the Hilton and Sheraton brands in the destination, Aircalin’s improved access and, the strong NZ dollar, all opening up opportunities for future growth,’ Brunel says. She says ambitious targets have been set to ensure that tourism growth continues.
‘Following last year’s success, we will be pulling out all the stops this year, to keep the momentum going and ensure that 2015 is another strong year for New Caledonia out of New Zealand.’
Air New Zealand will fly to Houston, Texas, it was announced this morning. The airline will fly its refitted B777-200 aircraft between Auckland and Houston up to five times a week from December this year. Tickets will be on sale within the next month.
Air New Zealand CEO, Christopher Luxon says the service will not only open up the state of Texas but also popular nearby tourist states such as Louisiana and Florida. The new route is set become the fastest way for Kiwis to get to popular east coast and mid west destinations such as New York and Chicago.