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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR OCTOBER 5, 1998


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: The Brussels bonanza; the travel danger zone; travel by the numbers; the new Metro hotel in Milwaukee; venting by a usually unflappable journalist; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: The Brussels Bonanza
The new Eurostarter fall and winter deals on Sabena Belgian World Airlines (877-BRUSSELS) are so good that you should consider flying into Brussels and using the Belgian capital as your European hub. Sometimes you needn't even take another flight. For example, you can hop the Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel and arrive in London about three hours later. Or, take high-speed Thalys trains from Brussels to Paris (about 90 minutes), Amsterdam and several other European business centers. As for those Sabena prices: the "Eurostay" package includes roundtrip airfare and two nights at the Brussels Hilton (starting at $409 a person); the "Eurotrain" package includes roundtrip airfare to Brussels and onward transportation to several other European cities (starting at $399 a person); the "Eurocar" deal features roundtrip airfare and an Avis subcompact for three days (starting at $369 a person); and the "Euroweekend" deal includes weekend airfare, two nights accommodations, one dinner, a lunch and two breakfasts (as little as $379 a person). Prices are based on double occupancy and the deals are valid from November 1 through March 31

CYBERTRAVELER: The Danger Zone
If the speed at which the U.S. Department of State is churning out public announcements and travel alerts is any indication, life on the road overseas is getting more dangerous every day. Keep up with the safety buzz by pointing your web browser to the State Department's Travel Advisory pages (http://travel.state.gov). They list all the special safety and security announcements and offer a complete archive of Consular Information Sheets, the nation-by-nation briefing guides prepared by the State Department's worldwide network of bureaucrats. The information isn't totally free of political bias--State seems to find more fault with our enemies than with some of our allies--but the sheets are must reading whenever you visit an international destination for the first time or return there after a long absence.

DOLLAR WATCH: Travel by the Numbers
Where does our business-travel dollar go? Even if you assume the flip answer (down the drain), you should know down which particular drains our money goes. According to a survey conducted by the enlightening bean counters over at Runzheimer International, airfares now account for 47 percent of our total travel spending. Based on Runzheimer's polling of 227 corporate travel managers, lodging consumed the next biggest chunk of our travel budget (23 percent), followed by meals (11 percent) and car rental (7 percent). And tell this to your desk-bound compatriots the next time they suggest your business travel is an endless orgy of partying: Runzheimer says just 5 percent of our total travel spending goes to entertainment.

IN THE LOBBY: The Metro in Milwaukee
The revival of Milwaukee in recent years has included a string of interesting restaurants, restoration of the city's charmingly Midwestern architecture, and transformation of the "Third Ward" into a cute little shopping and entertainment district. Distinctly missing from the equation, however, was an interesting new hotel to rival The Pfister, Milwaukee's lumbering grand dame. But now comes the Hotel Metro (414-272-1937), a 65-suite boutique property carved from the vintage 1937 Eschweiler & Eschweiler building. Located a few paces from The Pfister, the Metro has retained the building's original Art Deco look and added an Art Moderne interior. The suites are extremely spacious and configured in a number of unique ways. The street-level restaurant is already a trendy weekend hangout for the hip, local crowd. The service is solicitous and genuinely friendly, if a little unpolished. Open since June, the Metro isn't perfect, but it is a fun alternative to the fusty Pfister and a relief from the cookie-cutter lodgings at Milwaukee's incumbent Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham hotels. Suite rates start at $165 a night.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Venting
The calmest, least flappable travel journalist I know is Jim Glab, who spent years as editor of travel management daily, co-authored a book on airline deregulation, and now writes for the American Express Skyguide and Frequent Flyer magazine. I pay attention when he vents on the subject of the little inequalities of life on the road. Writing in the September issue of Travel and Leisure, Glab scores car-rental firms that "give you only a one-hour grace period before charging you absurdly high hourly rates--or even hitting you up for an extra day. Why not prorate, at a fair percentage? How hard could it be?" While he's at it, Glab wonders, "Shouldn't your bags come out before anyone else's...if you're flying first or business class? At current fares, luggage should be delivered to you on a platter."

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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