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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR MARCH 9, 2000


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Continental is adding mid-cabin lavatories on its long-haul Boeing 737s; How to fine the equivalent of airport clubs in the city; the government per diems are now on the web; top-notch lodging for less in South America; the bag man by the bay; rare lodging deals in Bew York; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Finding Office Space on the Road
Regus operates 250 office suites worldwide where travelers can rent office space, conference rooms, and interview rooms on a short-term basis. Unlike its "instant office" competitors, however, Regus allows members of its "Touchdown" club to rent space by the hour for prices as low as $25 a hour. Touchdown club members call a toll-free number, make a reservation for the space they need and the amount of time they need, then pay an itemized bill on departure. Touchdown membership usually costs $75 a year, but Regus is currently running a promotion: Join online at the website [http://www.regus.com/products/td_register.asp] and Touchdown membership is free.

CYBERTRAVELER: Statistics Seen While Surfing
The Transportation Department has posted its quarterly airfare report. The survey [http://ostpxweb.dot.gov/aviation/domfares/domfares.htm] covers the top 1,000 city pairs in the continental U.S. and offers average one-way fares, the number of passengers per day, and other details. The problem? The reporting period is for the second quarter of 1999, meaning it's a fare snapshot that is nine months old. Meanwhile. the State Department has released its per diem allowances for official travel in foreign areas. The report [http://www.state.gov/www/perdiems/] offers U.S. Government-approved maximums for lodgings, dining and incidentals around the world.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Lodging for Less in Latin America
Paul Sistare, a long-time hotel executive, made a startling discovery when he started traveling in Latin America. "Fly into South America and you have no choice in lodging. You have the high-priced, so-called 5-star properties and the no-star properties. There is nothing in between." So Sistare and his partners--including former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady--set out to remedy the situation with Choice Atlantica Hotels. The company has already converted 11 existing properties and has 39 more hotels under construction throughout South America. "My best clients have been the folks who used 5-star hotels," says Sistare, Choice Atlantica's president. "Our properties are selling for about a third of the price of the five stars." Choice Atlantica hotels are marketed under the Choice brand names--Sleep Inn, Clarion and others--but Sistare insists all of them are far above the quality of Choice hotels in the United States. "We're in total control of the standards because we're the master franchisee and manage all the properties," he says. Every Choice Atlantica room, regardless of the brand name, has work areas equipped with ergonomic desk chairs, telephones with dataports, and desk-level power receptacles. All properties also have full-service business centers and fully-equipped fitness centers.

JOE SENT ME: The Bag Man by The Bay
Every frequent flyer I know is a luggage freak. They search endlessly and fruitlessly for the perfect bag. Mass-market cases sold in luggage shops and department stores are cheap and badly made. Designer bags are overpriced and created by fashion moguls who know nothing about business travel. A better luggage source for business travelers is Glaser Designs (800-234-1075 or 415-552-3188) in San Francisco. Founder Myron Glaser is charmingly obsessed with luggage and with his customers. In fact, while Glaser maintains a website, he really won’t sell one of his garment bags, computer cases, brief cases or other pieces until he consults with you about your needs, travel patterns and packing preferences. Prices start at about $500 for bags made from durable leathers and high-strength nylon. Don’t forget to tell him "Joe Sent Me."

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
An ugly dispute between a senior pilot and Horizon Air, the commuter division of Alaska Airlines, was the topic last week of a story in the daily Oregonian. The pilot, Captain Richard Stewart, refused to fly a specific Fokker F-28. He claimed the plane was unsafe; the airline insisted his action was related to union activity. … Continental says it will spend $36 million to install mid-cabin bathrooms on its long-range B-737s. The planes are increasingly used on long-haul routes, but they only have lavatories at the back of the aircraft. … A Canadian aviation consultant is hoping to launch Hamilton Airlines, which would offer service from Hamilton, Ontario, to Calgary and Vancouver. The plan is to raise $5 million of working capital on the Internet. … Speaking of Canada, don't be confused if you're tuned to a National Basketball Association game and hear Air Canada over and over. The announcers are not referring to the airline, but to Toronto Raptor Vince Carter, the superlative second-year player. His new nickname is "Air Canada," a homage to both his on-the-court skills and the NBA's hope that Carter is the marketing heir apparent to Michael Jordan.

WEEKLY WONDER: More Rooms in New York
Room-starved New York has two new hotels. The 73-room Hotel Giraffe (877-296-0009) is located on Park Avenue and 26th Street, near the city's burgeoning "Silicon Alley" high-tech district and major advertising agencies. Prices start at $325, a bargain in a city where a half a dozen hotels routinely charge more than $500 a night. Downtown, the 144-room Regent Wall Street (212-845-8600) has opened in the historic building at 55 Wall Street that once housed the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Customs House. Regular rates begin at $545 a night, but introductory prices through March 31 are $425 for rooms and $525 for suites.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright © 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.