How many people does it take to run a hotel’s front desk? Soon enough, the answer will be zero. Just last month, Marriott Hotels debuted a new app that lets guests check in from their smart phone starting at 4PM the day before their arrival. As it stands, these guests still need the help of a front desk clerk—if only to pick up their room key.
But Marriott isn’t alone. InterContinental Hotels Group (which owns the flagship InterContinental brand as well as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn) has recently debuted a similar technology, letting guests at select properties check in via a mobile app. With theirs, a machine in the lobby can dispense your room key upon arrival, so long as you can supply some basic identifying information. (Can you hear the collective weeping of receptionists around the globe?) We’re also hearing rumblings that some clever hoteliers are attempting to take mobile check-in to a whole new level—perhaps even eliminating the need for a room key overall.
Everyone's heard of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, (see video) a tradition made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises. I've run with the bulls too—not in Pamplona, but in Tecate, Mexico, in 1980, in a makeshift recreation of the Pamplona encierro. What a disaster. The bulls were small yearlings, far too young for such an event. It looked to me as if the tips of their horns had been purposely blunted. The runners were mainly drunk and rowdy college kids who yanked the animals' tails, knocked their legs out from under them, and piled on top of them as if it were a rugby scrum. And now, a group calling itself the Great Bull Run is bringing this extreme activity to a city near you. But hold the olés just yet.
Their new names will be ‘The Mayflower Grace’ and ‘The White Barn Grace.’
The boutique hotel group makes no secret of its plans to expand, opening beach resorts, residences, and city center properties in such diverse locales as Beijing, Santorini, and Cafayete, Argentina. And now, it also has the corner on New England. The Mayflower and White Barn will join the Vanderbilt, in Newport, Rhode Island, giving the Grace family the reins of three of the region’s most prestigious hotels.
The global travel alertthat the U.S. Department of State issued at the end of last week has been met with a fair amount of criticism and head scratching. It’s vague. It’s frightening. And it’s not very clear what a traveler should do with this information.
The alert, which is valid through August 31, warns U.S. citizens about “the continued potential for terrorism attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.” It was prompted, according to news reports, by intercepted communications between al Qaeda operatives—chatter that Senator Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee characterized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.” Though Yemen is obviously a major area of concern right now (the U.S. has not only evacuated the embassy there, but urged all Americans to leave the country), the State Department’s alert is not restricted to any particular region. It even goes so far as to remind travelers of the possibility of attacks on “public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure,” including subway, rail, and aviation services. (A threat that is underscored by a recent ABC News story about terrorists working to develop an as-yet-undetectable explosive liquid.)
Travel to East Africa came to a halt this morning as fire raged for several hours at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, suspending international arrivals traffic on Wednesday. Most international flights were diverted to the coastal city of Mombasa.
Flames and a massive cloud of dark smoke could be seen from the center of Kenya’s capital city, as part of the airport—the region’s largest—became a blackened shell. Emergency vehicles were immediately dispatched only to be caught in rush hour traffic on the main road to the airport. Fire trucks were faced with low water supplies at the site of the blaze.
This is only the latest twist in what has been a decidedly rollercoaster couple of years for guidebooks. After Google bought, for $23 million, the stalwart Frommer’s brand of travel guides and then bled the books for content (see the new and improved Google Maps), it sold the brand back to Arthur Frommer himself in April. The 83-year-old recently announced that he would begin publishing guides again in October, introducing a short EasyGuides series aimed at attention-deprived audiences. As reported in the New York Times, he hopes to have roughly 80 titles published by the end of 2014. To call this plan ambitious is an understatement.
Starting today, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Lines—which represent nearly 90 percent of the cruise business in North America—will begin posting allegations of ship-board crimes on their websites, all in an effort to address concerns related to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). T+L reached out to Cruise Lines International Association for comment. Their take?
Cruising is one of the safest, most enjoyable vacation experiences for millions of people every year, and the crime rate on cruise ships is a small fraction of corresponding rates on land.
This morning’s news of a possible norovirus outbreak on a Qantas flight from Santiago, Chile to Sydney, Australia, has us all on edge. Known for wreaking havoc on cruise ships, the norovirus is not a typical worry for fliers. Should it be?