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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR DECEMBER 9, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Finding the best search engine for business travel; the Skytrain opens in Bangkok; are high-tech tools eroding our inter-personal skills?; Delta launches a New York-Venice nonstop; bargain business-class fares in a package from British Airways; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Searching for Business Travel
Choosing a search engine is a very personal decision, but also a frustrating one, since no search engine seems to deliver quality and quantity first time, every time. That raises the obvious question: Which is the best search engine for finding business-travel information. I recently tested ten of them with a simple formula: enter the words "business travel" with no quote marks, Boolean terms or other fancy techniques and then judge the relevance of the fist 50 links returned. What did I learn? Google [http://www.google.com] performed best, returning 15 links I considered relevant for business travelers within its first 20 results. Alta Vista [http://www.altavista.com] also performed well, especially since its "related search" feature offered excellent alternative search paths. Lycos [http://www.lycos.com] and Yahoo! [http://www.yahoo.com] did well enough--if you are familiar with their category-matching formats. The poorest performers were Excite [http://www.excite.com], which returned just one relevant business-travel result in its first 50 links, and Snap [http://www.snap.com] and Microsoft [http://www.msn.com], each of which batted just two for 50.

AIRPORT REPORT: Malpensa Skates on Flight Delays
Malpensa Airport in Milan has apparently abandoned all hope of reducing the flight delays that have made it Europe's worst on-time performer. Instead, it seems to be concentrating on entertaining delayed flyers. The airport authority managing Malpensa opened an ice-skating rink outside Terminal One last week and travelers have free use of the facility. Travelers "can pass the time while waiting for flights," said a spokesperson. Bangkok has opened its long-delayed Skytrain, an elevated-rail system that operates for 16 miles above the traffic-choked city street. The one-way fare for the longest ride is less than US$1. Everything you need to know about saving time and money on airport transportation is included in Salk International's Airport Transit Guide. This 144-page, pocket-sized gem is an exhaustive summary of terminal-to-city transit options at more than 440 airports around the world. It covers car rentals, helicopters, airport-parking rates, taxi rates and every available type of public and private transit scheme. The price of the little white book of facts? Just $9.95 postpaid for the just-released 19th edition. Get your copy directly from Magellan's (800-962-4943).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Virtual Meetings and Virtual Manners
Video teleconferencing first arrived in the 1960s with the promise of replacing business travel and departed in the late 1980s without ever impacting our itineraries. Now comes Internet-based "web conferencing," which also promises "travel displacement" using a rich mix of cheap audio, visual and data content. Can Web conferencing really replace some business travel? Absolutely, says International Data Corp., which recently surveyed 200 business travelers. About two of three said the increased hassles of travel has impacted their job performance and more than half believed the Internet would enable them to reduce their reliance on business travel.. "One in ten business trips could be replaced by Web conferencing," said Mike Comiskey, IDC's senior analyst." As the accelerating pace of business increases the demands on the typical executive, Web conferencing will become a very real alternative for face-to-face meetings." But the business community's heavy reliance on the Internet is already causing a social problem, according to a roundtable sponsored by Successful Meetings magazine. Heavy computer users seem to have stunted inter-personal skills, participants concluded. Young executives "spend a lot of time on their computers and they've lost a lot of their in-person communications skills," said Jacy Hanson, director of meetings and travel services for the American Diabetes Association. Young executives "sit in meetings and we don't get any feedback or interaction from them."

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Hyatt Gold Passport members can now check award availability and book award stays at the Gold Passport website [http://www.goldpassport.com]. Delta Air Lines will become the first airline to operate nonstop between the United States and Venice when the carrier launches daily flights from New York/Kennedy airport on May 9. Laptop Lane, which rents computer-equipped cubicles by the minute, has opened branches at Detroit Metro and Philadelphia International airports. There are also Laptop Lane facilities in seven other U.S. airports. Cubicles rent for $2 for the first 5 minutes and 38 cents for each additional minute.

WEEKLY WONDER: More Bang for Your Business-Class Buck
A roundtrip business-class ticket between New York and London now costs around $5,400. But for about the same money you can get a business-class roundtrip to London on British Airways and guided, chauffeur-driven tours of Britain and a week's accommodation in privately-owned mansions, castles and manor houses. The special packages are available from Country Cottages, which is offering the program in conjunction with BA through the Year 2000. Including business-class airfare, accommodations, chauffeur and breakfast, prices start at $4,998 a week from New York, Newark or Boston; departures from other cities are $200-400 additional per person. For more information, itinerary details and restrictions, call 800-674-8883.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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