Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Home2 Suites introduced

Hilton rolled out a brand-new hotel brand yesterday called “Home2 Suites by Hilton.” The new brand is a lower-priced extension of the company’s Homewood Suites brand, focusing on younger travelers seeking budget extended-stay lodging. Home2 Suites locations will charge about $100 a night (compared to $120 at Homewood Suites) for suites that are smaller than the Homewood layout. They will offer amenities such as free Continental breakfasts, outdoor grills, indoor pools, a pantry, and an activity room with fitness equipment, video games, and washers and dryers. The new brand will compete against similar chains such as Candlewood Suites and TownePlace Suites.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Record day for Princess

While unemployment has risen above 6 percent, I read an article recently that reminded me that that means that 94 percent of us are still working - and still making plans to travel in 2009.

For Princess Cruise Lines, that translated into the company's biggest booking day in history. On Monday, Jan. 12, the line booked 17 percent more than it had on its previous best day.

“Travel agents have been working hard to deliver the value message in these challenging times, and there’s no more exciting outcome of their efforts than to have a record-breaking reservations day,” said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for the line. “The volume of bookings we received on Monday is a testament to the strength of our brand, and also to the success of our many promotional efforts during wave period, most notably our ‘Balcony Bonanza’ program.”

The Balcony Bonanza enables agents to provide a free upgrade to a balcony stateroom for the price of a standard oceanview stateroom, representing a savings of up to $1,200 per cabin. It applies to most 2009 summer sailings to Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

U.S Visa Waiver Program

If you're expecting guests from another country, now would be a good time to remind them about a new U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security policy that has taken effect.

Travelers from all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries are now required to obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States. This requirement applies to all eligible citizens or nationals traveling under the VWP. ESTA is a web-based system, initially launched in August 2008, which determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the VWP prior to boarding a carrier to the United States. To date, more than 1.2 million ESTA applications have been received, and more than 99.6 percent of applicants have been approved, most within seconds.

DHS will take a reasonable approach to travelers who have not obtained an approved travel authorization via ESTA, and will continue an aggressive advertising and outreach campaign throughout 2009. Travelers without an approved ESTA are advised, however, that they may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry. Visitors may apply for travel authorization via the ESTA website at

The VWP is administered by the department and enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. To be admitted to the VWP, a country must meet various statutory requirements, such as more enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the U.S. and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports. VWP members are also required to maintain high counter-terrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.

The citizens or nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Eight of these countries joined the VWP in 2008, and their citizens and nationals have been required to comply with an ESTA since their designation as VWP participants: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Malta.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Airfare sales

January is typically a month when airlines put airfares on sale to combat the post-Christmas travel lull. Generally, the discounted fares are only valid for travel during the first couple of months of the year. This year, however, many airlines are discounting fares all the way into June. Coupled with the great deals available from other travel suppliers, now is a great time to plan and book spring and early summer travel.

A quick check this evening found June fares from Indianapolis to Honolulu for less than $700 - about $200 cheaper than July fares. Tickets in June for Indianapolis to Orlando are as low as $160.