Hotels Lend a Helping Hand

*Playing a 'Game of Chicken'
*Passport Requirements Delayed Until ’08
*Suite Disney

While travelers have relinquished everything from toothpaste to hair gel from their carry-on bags to comply with the tighter airport security measures banning most liquid substances in aircraft cabins, hotel chains have stepped up to replenish guests’ personal care items.

On Aug. 11, Omni hotels across the country began offering an array of complimentary items. Guests who need them are provided with facial skin-care products, women’s cosmetics, hair-care products, contact lens solution and toothpaste.

“Taking care of our guests is fundamental,” said Mike Deitemeyer, president of Omni Hotels in a statement. “We know our guests will be inconvenienced by today’s unexpected security changes, and we want to do whatever it takes to make their travel experiences less stressful.”

Omni said it would also provide guests with a list of nearby pharmacies, their telephone numbers and hours of operation to refill prescriptions or other over-the-counter medications.

In addition, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts expanded its We Remember What You Forgot program, whereby the hotel chain began supplying travelers on Aug. 13 with an array of sundry items, such as bottled water, contact lens solution, hair spray, hair gel, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant and other products.

“No one knows better than Wyndham hotels how to respond to travelers’ needs,” said Peter Strebel, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts president. “We pioneered the concept with our Wyndham ByRequest program, which welcomes frequent travelers with the amenities, services and refreshments they specify.”

The new airline restrictions, prohibiting passengers from carrying on most liquid substances, were put in place on Aug. 10, after British law enforcement authorities arrested at least 24 people in an alleged terrorist plot to use liquid explosives to blow up aircraft on flights from the U.K. to the U.S.

As a result, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert warning for the aviation sector in the U.S. to orange (or high) for all commercial aviation operating in or heading for the U.S., and placed new security restrictions at airports. In addition, the terror alert warning for the aviation sector in the U.S. was raised to red (or severe) for all flights to the U.S. originating in the U.K. The terror alert warning for the rest of the U.S. remains at yellow (or elevated) as of press time.

Playing ‘A Game of Chicken’

Many agencies were consulting lawyers and accountants as GDS vendors circulated contract amendments, conducted negotiating sessions and conference calls with agencies and pressed them to decide about participation in optional programs to access “full content.”

Walter Gay, of Travel Automation Consultants, characterized the interaction as “a game of chicken.”

“Nobody is signing anything at this point,” said Gay, who has Apollo- and Sabre-using clients. “The GDSs are all getting nervous that they are going to have an influx of agencies signing up at the last minute. We’ll see if they extend the Sept. 1 deadline. I hope they do.”

The discussions about optional programs were taking place as major questions still loomed about GDS program implementation, airline content in non-preferred channels and lack of new inventory agreements between American and Sabre, as well as between Delta and Worldspan.

In a switch of positioning, Sabre came around to Galileo’s way of thinking, offering contract amendments for participation in its Efficient Access Solution (EAS) that calls for a “program fee” instead of an incentive reduction. However, the economics remain the same regardless of terminology. Agencies in EAS and this varies from agency to agency agree to pay Sabre a program fee of up to 80 cents per segment.

EAS still takes a huge chunk out of agency incentives, although agencies will receive a minimum 20 cent incentive per segment.

Galileo’s Content Continuity Program (CCP) employs similar economics, although apparently there is no 20-cent floor.

Sabre apparently is taking more of a hardball approach to participation in EAS, informing agencies that if they are non-participants on Sept. 1, then entry into EAS will be at Sabre’s discretion.

Travelport’s David Falter, president of Galileo in the Americas, said the CCP was “not related to the incentives we pay our customers” and was instead about content and protecting agencies from airline service fees.

Galileo was telling some agencies that a program fee would appear as a line item in monthly invoices and that the fee would be reflected when agencies received their incentive checks. Some agencies were “appalled” at the prospect that they would have to send Galileo checks instead of the converse because of the incentive hit.

The Worldspan Super Access Product, meanwhile, is believed to come with zero incentives as a base, although the company negotiates the program’s terms individually with agencies.

Worldspan recently requested that its agency customers decide by Aug. 18 although this isn’t a fixed deadline if they want to participate in the Super Access Product or Subscription Access Product.

Passport Requirements Delayed Until ’08
The U.S. Homeland Security Office recently announced that international ferry routes will be included with land border crossings with respect to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The rule requires citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda to present a passport to enter the U.S., effective Jan. 1, 2008. Originally, passengers traveling by sea had been designated for implementation of this new rule by January 2007.

Suite Disney
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom resort area has changed 400 of its guestrooms into 214 suites, becoming the first value-category property at Walt Disney World Resort to offer two-bedroom suite accommodations. The new lodging option sleeps up to six and includes amenities, like a master bedroom, kitchenette, two full baths, two flat-screen TVs, lounge chairs, pack-and-play cribs, high-speed Internet, Extra Magic Hours and Disney’s Magical Express and Central Billing an ID card that automatically charges food and beverage purchases to a guest resort account. The initial phase of the makeover is open to guests, and final completion of all suites should be completed by late fall.

Dollars From Dollar
Dollar Rent A Car is offering a new Dollar Dividends program that’s free to join. Agents earn points based on bookings; each point equals $1. An American Express rewards card, which can be used anywhere American Express is accepted, will be issued after an agent earns 25 points.

America’s Vacation Center Expands
America’s Vacation Center (AVC), an American Express Travel Representative and leading host agency, recently announced that they have more than twice as many independent contractors as they did at the beginning of the year. “At AVC, we’ve grown 100 percent in just over six months, while still signing agents who make much more than the national average,” said Brad Anderson, co-president of AVC. In addition, AVC has grown its support staff and is expanding their headquarters into another building.