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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR AUGUST 31, 1998


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Short-term gain when you travel with dollars; a Web site with vision; how will fares move before and after a Northwest Airlines flight; a package with tennis for the U.S. open; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Short-Term Gain, Long-Term Pain?
Buried by last week's big financial headlines--the collapse of the Russian economy and the global stock-market correction--was the news that the U.S. dollar continues an astounding run-up in value. More than a year after the Asian Contagion began, big gains in Asia aren't surprising, but now the greenback is surging elsewhere, too. The Canadian dollar, for example, has lost more than 10 percent of its value in the last 52 weeks. After settling in around 72 Canadian cents, it plummeted to 63 cents last week. The Mexican peso, which had stabilized at 8 to the dollar, is now trading at about 10; a dollar bought just 3.5 pesos as recently as 1994. The Australian and New Zealand dollars are also in the financial tank. Last week, one U.S dollar bought A$1.80 (compared to A$1.34 last June) and about NZ$2.02 (compared to NZ$1.47 last June). What's it all mean to business travelers? An immediate and substantial decline in travel and entertainment costs in those countries. One example: a hotel in Sydney priced at A$250 a night cost U.S. travelers $186.50 last year. Now the same room is just $138.90. But enjoy this short-term gain while you can. There's long-term pain just around the corner; after all, countries whose currencies have collapsed won't have the wherewithal to buy U.S. goods.

CYBERTRAVELER: A Hotel Site With Vision
One of the great joys of surfing the Internet is blindly entering a word you might think is a web site address. Of course, half the time you'll end up at a porn site. Sometimes, though, you'll stumble onto amazing gems like Travelvision (www.travelvision.com). Travelvision has quirky, intensely personal, funny, insightful and profusely illustrated reviews of about 1,800 hotels and resorts around the world. Some reviews are outdated and some rave about once-fabulous places that have gone to seed, but most are dead on target and excellent guideposts for sophisticated travelers. Weirdest of all, however, is the fact that Travelvision is also the personal web site of Edward (Ted) Carter, international bon vivant and business wiz who these days just happens to be editor-in-chief of Biztraveler. He's never mentioned Travelvision around here, though, and I think I know why. If you go to the Carter on Carter feature of Travelvision, you'll come across Carter's putative bio. In fact, however, it's an illustrated diary of how business travel used to be: elegant, fun, a lifestyle worth pursuing. For those of us children of deregulation who have never experienced business travel as anything but a dreary chore, reading about how life on the road used to be is really depressing.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Sell Short in the Fare Market
This report was written hours before the 30-day cooling off period ended at Northwest Airlines and the carrier's pilots were legally free to strike. Regardless of whether a strike is averted or is now is progress, sell short in the fare market. Fares are about to tumble thanks to this crisis. In the weeks before the strike deadline, Northwest flights were comparatively empty as travelers booked away from the troubled carrier. Northwest flights in September and into October are also massively underbooked. If the airline and its pilots agree to terms without a strike, Northwest will immediately launch a gigantic fare sale to fill planes fast. Most other carriers will have no choice but to match. If Northwest is struck, the airline will be forced to launch a fare sale to revive traffic when the strike ends. Competitors will match that fare initiative, too. Either way, fares will be dropping in the next few weeks.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Tennis, Anyone?
If none of your clients invited you to the upcoming U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Spectacular Sports Specials (800-451-5772) has bundled hard-to-get tickets with accommodations at the Waldorf-Astoria hotels. A Labor Day package (September 4-7) includes seats for the 10th, 11th and 13th sessions at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow. The Finals package (September 11-14) includes tickets to the men's and women's semi-final and final matches. Prices start at $1,675 a person and include three nights of lodgings, Open tickets, daily breakfast, round-trip transportation to Flushing Meadow and taxes.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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