Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ski Pass Insurance - Creative fees on the slopes

Ed Silver here -- guest blogging again -- This morning I received an email from Vail Resorts, owners of some of the best ski resorts in the world, including Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Heavenly. It included an offer to insure my ski season pass. I've seen plenty of insurance offerings in the past, but this latest one just amazes me.

As an avid skier with an office in the Rocky Mountains (as well as NYC) several of us have season passes to the great CO ski resorts. And yes, I do buy the full EPIC pass each year to maximize my skiing season, hey - that is why I live out in Colorado!

But never before have I thought of the idea of insuring my ski pass. The site says:

"What if you get sick or injured and are unable to use your ski pass?"

Indeed - those things would for sure ruin my ski season, and make my $600 pass useless. With ski resort traffic down last year the resorts are now turning to the same type of merchandising and marketing that the airlines are using, selling extras in any way they can.

Of course read the fine print before buying any insurance, this one is provided by Travel Guard, a well respected insurer of travel. I'm sure the details are tricky - but still for $20 you can protect your pass investment this year. Very innovative thinking on behalf of Vail and Travel Guard.

ps. The first resort opens on November 6th. Let it Snow! and TripIt Partner Up

This morning, Hotwire and TripIt announced a new partnership that allows Hotwire customers to fire their Hotwire itineraries directly over to TripIt using a button right on the confirmation page ===>

This development is significant not just because the guys working at TripIt used to work at Hotwire (oh, so did I!) but because it is the first OTA that has agreed to partner with TripIt. In many ways, TripIt is the antithesis of an OTA. TripIt allows for disparate travel reservations booked from multiple sources to be easily organized in one place. The OTAs have the goal of keeping and retaining a user to book all those reservations in one place, the OTA.

We see this as smart thinking on Hotwire's part in realizing that the "walled garden" approach to selling travel has seen its day. This isn't the first step in this direction for Hotwire, they were one of the first OTAs to actually allow searching link-off to other OTAs - realizing that consumers are going to leave and check other sites so they might as well facilitate it and maybe even get paid for it.

TripIt is perfect positioned to capture this new openness and transparency - we expect other forward thinking suppliers and OTAs will follow suit. They should, anyway.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Want to Fly on the Air France Inaugural A380 Flight? Oui Oui!

Air France has just announced details of their plans to offer seats on the inaugural A380 flight from Paris to JFK and, a day later, JFK back to CDG. The 1st flight (which is really the inaugural flight) leaves Paris CDG on November 20th with the return from JFK (after some crew rest and photo ops, no doubt) on November 21st.

They are auctioning 380 seats - unclear what will happen to the other 158 seats but one would assume that press, dignitaries and other various hangers-on will fill them.

Pick your seat and get out your wallet!

All details can be found here.

Goodbye US Helicopter:

US Helicopter (USH)which had flown back and forth between JFK/Newark and the Wall Street and E34th Street Heliports abruptly ceased service today. USH had codeshare agreements in place with Delta and Continental for their respective hub airports. USH has service has already been dwindling over the last few months - frequencies have been cut and some flights were scheduled to make stops at one or the other of the two heliports before heading out to JFK or EWR.

The USH website says the suspension is "temporary" while they add new aircraft and routes.

Huh? If you are going to expand, it really doesn't do a lot for the brand (or your customers) to halt service while you "regroup" which is probably code for "try to raise some funds." Sadly, we predict US Helicopter will be joining the ranks of Eastern, Braniff and NY Helicopter in bankruptcy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flu Shots: Airports Offer Something Healthy Besides Cinnibons

I just landed in Atlanta and while walking down the concourse, spotted a kiosk offering, not boarding passes, but flu shots. Filled out a few quick questions, slapped $35 on a credit card and (ouch!) I had a needle in my arm in under two minutes start to finish. So we are taking a quick breather from our usual travel commentary to offer this public service message: Go get a shot next time you are changing planes. You really can't beat it for convenience.

We found a nice list over on Harriet Baska's USAToday blog offering a nationwide list of locations.

Fly well, be well.....

Inoqo: Twitter Meets Last Minute Hotel Rooms

Last week, we took a look at Gilt's new entry into travel, This week, we've come across another start-up looking to sell empty high-end hotel rooms (seeing a pattern here?) with willing consumers. aims to pair up excess luxury hotel rooms with consumers using the power of Twitter. Deals are Tweeted out and then are only available for check-in the next 48 hours - Inoqo takes to a new level. Jetsetter allows for a short booking period but a long window in which to use the deal you just scored - Inoqo's restriction obviously limits appeal to the truly spontaneous. Also worth noting is that Jetsetter is a closed audience as opposed to Inoqo which, if it takes flight, will obviously thrive on "RT".

An obvious risk is that it appeals to business travelers who start snapping up rooms at low prices for last minute trips - but most of the hotels are highly leisure focused to date.

Inoqo is still in beta so inventory is a bit patchy but given the current state of the high end hospitality market, we bet it will improve quickly. Inoqo may be a boon for last minute weekend getaways.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gilliland: What Airlines Need is a Chief Merchandising Officer

Sabre Holdings Chairman and CEO Sam Gilliland, speaking at the Beat Live in Austin this morning, suggested that airlines need to appoint a Chief Merchandising Officer in order to manage the continued onslaught of new fees (or revenues depending on your perspective) that the airlines themselves are developing.

We agree and think this is a great idea. To date, while airlines have been highly inventive in coming up with new fees (e.g. Delta's fee for redeeming miles on Skymiles partner airlines - even when completed online - which is thankfully going away on October 1st) there has been limited creativity in actually marketing many of these fees and add-on services online or on board. Most efforts have centered around in-seat materials or website messaging.

I believe a truly integrated (pan-airline i.e. during the booking process, after booking, at the airport, on board and maybe even after the flight) and creative (mobile anyone?) effort by the major carriers could not only take some of the sting out of these fees but could also result in further growing these revenue streams...

We'll see if the airlines can innovate beyond asking consumers for their wallets...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Live from The Beat Live - 2 New Words we Love: Fansumerism & Tripiting

We are down in Austin this week at live conference - a great event focused on the corporate travel market. This morning we heard BCD Travel senior VP April Bridgeman talk about challenges that corporate travel managers are facing with the continued explosion of social media and other tools that road warriors are using in their everyday lives to enhance their travel experience.

April may have coined a new term in the process: "Fansumerism." Fansumerism is a version of consumerism in which new applications are adopted and utilized by fans in their everyday life, often outside of "official" corporate policy. Great examples she sited were and, one of our personal favorites,

And speaking of Tripit, April dropped another great new term: Tripiting. I'm not sure it is quite in the league as "googling" but like where she is heading...

Our big take away is that the traditional "walled garden" in corporate travel is starting to fall, just as it has on the leisure side where you now have OTAs referring consumers to direct competitors. The logic (some) OTAs have adopted is that consumers are going to shop around anyway so they might as well get paid when a consumer does what they know a consumer will do anyway. The role of the corporate travel manager may be starting to morph from controller to influencer....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Glam Trips From Gilt, the travel off-shoot of invitation-only fashion website launched in beta mode last night. has taken the fashion world by a storm by offering very high end, exclusive merchandise to an small group of subscribers for a limited period of time - usually just an afternoon. The result is incredible deals on very high end merchandise from the worlds most famous designers at amazing prices. It works for both consumers/fashinistas (who get great deals) and designers (who get to unload excess product and introduce their brand to new consumers without destroying their brand value in other channels - sounds a little like Priceline's pitch!) aims to the same for luxury travel. And from the looks of the initial offering, they are off to a great start. The first sale includes deals at the new Banyan Tree in Mexico, SoHo House here in NYC, The Raleigh in South Beach and a killer villa in Tuscany, all at prices far below retail and only for a limited time - in this case Friday at 3AM EST.

Jetsetter has also created some great content around each hotel - true insider information that really gives you a feel for the hotel. Combined with great photo images, jetsetter delivers a really unique user experience that will undoubtedly drive impulse buys - especially with great pricing.

Talk about launching the right product at the right time. Plenty of hotel inventory, especially from trendy new independent hotels looking for new customers. Combine great inventory with consumers' current penchant for deals and you have a really great model. Strong leadership won't hurt either - CEO and Founder Drew Patterson (ex Starwood and Kayak) and co-Founder Amy Ziff (ex Site59 and Travelocity) bring deep travel experience and perspective along with serious street smarts.

Look for this to take off! Jet - set!