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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR NOVEMBER 18, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Plan now, shop later in London; the demographics of business travel; Kalamazoo and airfares, too; Thanksgiving weekend hotel deals; Stockholm gets its high-speed airport-to-city rail link; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Plan Now, Shop Later
It's only the start of the holiday season, so maybe you don't want to think about the January sales yet. But business travelers who plan ahead usually find themselves in London in January to take advantage of the clearance sales at Harrod's, Marks & Spencer and other major British shops. Fares to London and room rates are at yearly lows in January. And January, 2000, brings an additional perk for shopaholic frequent flyers: the Hilton Privilege Card, available to guests of seven Hiltons (800-HILTONS) in the British capital. The card is valid for 10 or 15 percent discounts at London stores such as Bally and Church's, the shoe shops; Burberry and Liberty, the fashion firms; Penhaligon's, the perfumery; and Hamley's, the world-famous toy shop. The card is also valid at London branches of worldwide chains such as Levi's, Estee Lauder, Filofax and Godiva. One last shopping note: the value-added tax (VAT) on purchases, currently about 15 percent in the United Kingdom, is refundable to international travelers and "VATback" forms are available in most shops.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Way We Are
Who is the business traveler? The answer to that nearly cosmic question is the subject of surveys recently completed by OAG Worldwide, the travel-information publishers, and the Travel Industry Association, a trade group. For starters, business travelers are well to do, earning an average of $76,100 in 1998. But we're beginning to age, averaging 42 years in 1998, compared to an average age of 40 in 1991. We're also more likely to be men (60 percent of business travelers) than women. We take an average of 5.4 business trips a year and took a total of 197 million trips in 1998. That number is actually down about 5 percent from the 207 million business trips recorded in 1997. The average business trip included 3.3 nights away from home in 1998. Two out of ten business travelers combined business and vacation on their last trip.

DOLLAR WATCH: Kalamazoo and Airfares, Too
If you think government officials aren't aware of the odd nature of airfares, then consider the comments of Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan), whose constituents rely on Northwest Airlines, which dominates 75 percent of the traffic at Detroit Metro Airport. Writing in the Detroit News, Dingell notes "the government rate between Washington National Airport and Chicago on United is $116.50. Chicago is father away from Washington than Detroit, yet the price of a ticket between Washington and Detroit is $512. The striking fare difference has a simple explanation: competition. Chicago has it; Detroit does not." Moreover, Dingell notes, "six major airlines offer service at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek Airport. A roundtrip government fare on Northwest from Washington to Kalamazoo is $215, less than half the cost of flying to Detroit, even though the passenger flies through Detroit to get to Kalamazoo."

IN THE LOBBY: Deals During Down Time
Thanksgiving is one of the few times virtually all business travelers are at home. That means hotels and resorts are mostly empty and willing to discount heavily. Among the available deals during the Thanksgiving down time: $169 a night at the Doral Park Avenue (877-99-DORAL) in New York from November 19 through November 25; $79 a night at the Westin San Francisco Airport (800-WESTIN-1) from November 21-28; and $138 a night at the Palm Coast Resort (800-654-6538) north of Daytona, Florida. The rate, valid November 24-28, includes breakfast, a round of golf, and unlimited tennis.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Internal Revenue Service has set the national business driving rate at 32.5 per mile for 2000. That is the standard that U.S. taxpayers can deduct for automobile expenses on Year 2000 tax returns. Sabena, the Belgian carrier controlled by Swissair, says it will upgrade its business-class cabins next year. Seat pitch will increase to 62 inches from the current 48. Seats will recline to 155 degrees. Arlanda Airport in Stockholm is scheduled to get a high-speed rail link to downtown effective November 24. The Arlanda Express [http://www.arlandaexpress.com] will connect the airport and Stockholm Central station four times an hour. The nonstop train journey is 20 minutes--a cab ride currently requires about twice as long--and one-way fares are about US$15. American Airlines has broken ground on a new terminal at New York's Kennedy Airport. The $1.3 billion facility will have four concourses, 56 gates and two American Admirals Clubs. The 2.2 million-square-foot terminal is scheduled for completion in 2006.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: The Early Bird Gets the Israel Discount
You've got until December 8th to get an "Early Bird" airfare to Israel from El Al (800-223-6700). Roundtrip fares are as low as $499 (from New York or Newark; $549 from Baltimore/Washington; $569 from Miami or Chicago; and $629 from Los Angeles. The fares are valid for travel until December 15 and again from January 10 through March 17.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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