The Tactical Traveler

BRIEFING FOR MAY 11 - MAY 18, 2006
The Luxury Side of China's Hotel Boom
Not a day goes by now when a hotel chain doesn't announce a major building and branding effort in China. All of the big lodging players are ramping up initiatives in important Chinese business cities, the country's special economic regions and even suburban areas where new factories are popping up. But most notable among all the new projects may be the ones being planned by Ritz-Carlton, the luxury-lodging division of Marriott. It's expecting to manage as many as 10 Chinese hotels by 2009, an astonishing number since Ritz-Carlton worldwide now has only has 60 properties. It announced its latest China project on Monday (May 8), a 286-room property in Shanghai's Pudong district. Ritz already operates a Shanghai hotel, the 578-room Portman on Nanjing Road. The chain is also planning a second property for Hong Kong, in Kowloon, to complement its existing hotel in Central. It also has two hotels in the works in Beijing--the first location in the Chinese capital opens in the fall--and has announced properties for Guangzhou and Shenzhen. And a Ritz-Carlton beach resort in Sanya in Hainin Province is underway. "The demand in China's luxury segment is amazing," says Shanghai-based Mark DeCocinis, Ritz-Carlton's regional vice president for Asia and the Pacific. Surprisingly, however, DeCocinis says that only about two-thirds of the traffic at the Ritz-Carlton properties in China is expected to come from overseas. Up to a third of the guests will be domestic Chinese travelers. "The year-on-year growth of international traffic is 20 percent," he says, "but the domestic luxury market is booming, too."

Cat Fight! Cat Fight! Cat Fight!
The cat fight between JetBlue Airways, which is launching flights from New York/Kennedy to Charlotte, and Charlotte-hubbed US Airways is getting nastier. After first attacking JetBlue verbally and then cutting its Charlotte-New York fares to JetBlue levels, US Airways has decided to launch three daily 86-seat regional-jet flights on the JFK-Charlotte route. The service starts September 6. JetBlue launches four daily 100-seat EMB-190 flights between its Kennedy hub and Charlotte on July 12. Before JetBlue's announcement, which took a slap at US Airways high fares in Charlotte, US Airways only flew to New York/LaGuardia and Newark. … AirTran Airways is moving its Minneapolis gates next Thursday (May 18). It is relocating to Gates H9 and H10 in the Humphrey Terminal. … Canadian discount carrier Harmony Airways will fly from Vancouver to both New York and Oakland this summer. A daily Vancouver-JFK nonstop begins June 29. Twice-weekly flights to Oakland begin on June 22.

The Once-Almighty Dollar Plummets in Europe--Again
Bad news for all you frequent flyers heading to Europe: The dollar is plummeting against the euro again. The dollar fell to a one-year low of $1.29 versus the 12-nation combined currency today (May 11). The U.S. dollar is slumping against the British pound (£1=US$1.89) and the Japanese yen (US$1=¥110), too. … The fight between Air Canada and the major computer-reservation systems (CRS) is heating up. After Air Canada removed its lowest-priced Tango fares from the CRS computers used by travel agents and many third-party Web sites, the CRS companies responded by removing most Air Canada fares from their displays. … A warning to travelers who hold American AAdvantage and Hilton HHonors credit cards issued by Citibank. The credit-card giant has hiked the "default" interest rate to 31.49 percent. That's the rate you'll pay on outstanding credit-card balances if you are late with any payment to any Citigroup-related operation.

Pull Out Those Hotel Scorecards Again
You know the drill. New hotels are opening and many others are changing flags. Mark these down in your frequent-travel program scorecard. … The former Wyndham Metairie hotel, located about halfway between downtown New Orleans and New Orleans Airport, is becoming a Sheraton. … A new Hampton Inn has opened in downtown Manhattan. The 65-room property is located five blocks from Wall Street. … Crowne Plaza has planted its flag at the San Marco Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona. … Radisson has put its name on the Style Hotel in Vienna. … The first phase of the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar has opened in Jordan. All 114 rooms face the Dead Sea.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Hawaiian Airlines is planning a big expansion on its mainland routes this fall. There will be more flights from Maui to Seattle, San Diego and Portland, Oregon. The carrier will also increase service from Honolulu to Seattle and Sacramento. … Speaking of Sacramento, the airport operators have made the Wi-Fi Internet access free in all public areas. … Delta Air Lines apparently won't take no for an answer. After being slapped down by its bankruptcy judge last month for not negotiating fairly with flight attendants at its Comair commuter division, Delta is once again asking him for the right to void the existing contract. … TAM, the Brazilian carrier, is expanding its U.S. service. On May 30, it will begin a daily nonstop between Sγo Paulo and New York/Kennedy. Two days later it will launch daily nonstops between Manaus and Miami.

No Word If They Got First-Class Bonus Miles, Too…
Fourteen passengers on a Pakistan International Airlines flight last week from Islamabad were arrested on arrival at the airport in Manchester, England. The passengers' crime? After waiting out a four-hour delay on the tarmac of Islamabad Airport in the broiling afternoon sun, the coach passengers stormed the empty first-class cabin and upgraded themselves. Then they refused the flight attendants' demand that they return to coach. The pilot radioed ahead and said he was dealing with an in-flight "mutiny." Manchester police booked the travelers on suspicion of endangering a flight after searching them for the missing strawberries. (Just kidding about the last part…)

Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.