Hotels & Car Rental News

Hotel and car rental press releases for
business travelers from American Express.

Here is the latest Hotel and car rental news on new room charges, wifi internet services and other fees. These include the latest news releases on hotel rates and new taxes that are being applied to the travel industry.

Hotels News Keeping Customers Happy

Hotels

Pool of Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen

Hotels Doing Better at Keeping Customers Happy
Hotels are doing better at keeping you happy, according to the latest Market Metrix Hospitality Index covering the first quarter. Guest satisfaction across all segments is up a bit, 1.1 points, to a score of 84, with luxury and economy hotels showing the most improvement, up 2.5 to 88.5 and 1.6 to 80.5 respectively.

Starwood’s The Luxury Collection had the highest satisfaction score, 93, up 6.3 points. Ritz-Carlton was a close second, 92.9, up 2.6 points. Overall, guests said that they felt more comfortable, welcome and respected. (Source: Market Metrix press release).

Hotels Test Virtual Room Keys That Let You Bypass the Front Desk
If you’ve ever waited in a lengthy line while checking in for a big meeting or at a large hotel will love the idea of using your phone as a virtual key to your room, enabling you to bypass the front desk and the line and go straight to your room.

On the day you’re scheduled to arrive at the hotel, the room number and the digital hotel room key is sent securely to your mobile phone, according to VingCard Elsafe, which is working on this kind of technology.

InterContinental Hotels Group conducted a pilot test on what it calls “mobile room key” and is evaluating the results to see if the practice can be rolled out to other hotels. (Source IHG public relations department, VingCardElsafe press release).

Room Rates Rise Moderately
Hotel room rates are rising moderately as demand for business travel increases, according to the latest Business Travel Monitor.

Average domestic hotel rates increased 3 percent to $150 in Q1 2011 over Q1 2010. Average international hotel rates increased 4 percent to $238 in Q1 2011 over Q1 2010. Cities showing the highest hotel rate increases in the first quarter of 2011 over 2010 were San Francisco, 16 percent; Seattle, 9 percent; Austin, 8 percent; Omaha, 8 percent and New York City, 8 percent. (Source: press release).

Air Traveler Sanctification

Airline passengers continue to say they’re discontented with the service they get, even as hotels, fast food joints and restaurants see customer satisfaction increase, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). One major culprit: baggage fees.

  • Dissatisfaction with airlines dropped 1.5 % to an ACSI score of 65--a very low score
  • Passengers cited poor service and fees for baggage and other services as major sources for their discontent
  • Passengers who had to pay for checked baggage were the least satisfied--their ACSI score was 58
  • Since more than half of airline passengers pay to check their bags, the negative impact of those fees is significant
  • Southwest Airlines, which does not charge to check bags, actually saw its ACSI rating rise to 81, scoring the highest, as it has for the past 18 years

Source: ACSI press release.

Hotel Occupancies and Rates Expecting to Go Up

Hotel Occupancies, Rates Expecting to Go Up
Increasing demand, lagging new construction and an economic recovery that should pick up for the second half of the year bodes well for hotels and means travelers will face slightly fuller hotels and modest price increases, according to consulting company PwC.

According to Macroeconomic Advisors, the economic growth that slowed somewhat for the first part of year should gain traction in the second half of the year. That, combined with still-subdued hotel development, means U.S. hotel occupancy should average 59.8% this year; rates should increase 3.7% this year and 5.5% in 2012. (Source: PwC press release).

Some Markets See Major Occupancy Increases
Among the top 25 hotel markets in the U.S., five are seeing year-over-year hotel occupancy increases in the double digits. Houston is up 14.8 % to 65.1%; Nashville is up 11.2% to 65.4%; Norfolk – Virginia Beach is up 10.8%to 59.2%; Orlando is up 10.8% to 76.4% and Minneapolis-St. Paul is up 10% to 64.1%, according to the hotel consulting company STR. (Source: STR press release).

Easter, World Events Cause Temporary Lull for Business Travel
The double-digit growth that business travel had seen earlier this year slowed in April, due primarily to the Easter holiday and world events. These included the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and simmering tensions in North Africa and the Middle East.

But Pegasus Solutions, the world’s biggest processor of hotel transactions, calls this just a temporary slowdown. “The fundamentals driving corporate travel recovery – overall economies, corporate earnings, business trips and meetings-conference travel are improving and increasing, while pent-up consumer demand and slow room supply growth portend a better summer travel season than last year´s,” said Mike Kistner, CEO of Pegasus. (Source: Pegasus press release).

Smartphones and handheld devices

Smartphones and similar handhelds have become so integral to their users’ lives that more than 60 percent of mobile workers sleep with their smartphone, according to a the quarterly Mobile Workforce Report produced by iPass, which provides enterprise mobility services. Ninety-one percent of mobile workers check their smartphones even during off hours, 30 percent check them every six to 12 minutes, even when they’re technically off duty. All of this takes its toll.

  • The average mobile worker works 240 hours a year longer than the general population
  • Thirty-eight percent of mobile workers wake up at night to check their smartphone
  • Thirty-five percent check email in the morning before getting dressed or eating breakfast.
  • Twenty-nine percent report that their mobile technology use causes friction with their spouse or partner.
(Source: iPass press release).

Hotel & Car Rental News May 2011

Hotels

Royal Sonesta in New Orleans

Summer Prospects Are Looking Up For U.S. Hotels
U.S. hotels should see occupancy and rates increase modestly this summer, according to STR, a major hotel consulting company. STR predicts that occupancies will increase 1.7 to 66.7% and average daily rates will increase 4.1% to $103.01.

Demand should recover in earnest this summer, according to STR, but rising fuel costs could dampen that. (Source: STR press release).

U.S Hotel Occupancies Up 6.1% in Spring
The U.S. hotel industry is building momentum. March occupancy and rate numbers were up 6.1% and 3.8% respectively, according to STR. That’s a sign of an ongoing recovery, according to the hospitality consulting company.

Major markets showing rate increases are San Francisco, up 12%, Oahu, up 9 concerns that there is enhanced potential for anti-American violence in the wake of bin Laden’s death are behind the State Department’s worldwide travel alert. percent, New Orleans, up 8.9% and Chicago, up 7% (Source: STR).

Car Rental

Hertz Repositions Fun Cars and Green Collection
Hertz has renamed two of its collections. The Fun Collection is now the Adrenaline Collection, which features muscle cars such as the Camaro SS, the Mustang GT Premium and the Challenger RT. All will come with free Sirius XM radio.

The Green Collection is now the Green Travel Collection and is made up entirely of hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs). By the end of the year, Hertz expects to have hundreds of EVs on the road. (Source: Hertz press release).

New High for Business Travel

Business travel hit a post-recession high at the end of the last quarter of 2010, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). The GBTA Business Travel Index (BTI) is at its highest level since the recession began in 2008.

This is good news for the economy, since GBTA Foundation research shows that increasing business travel spending is a leading indicator of future job growth. Stronger economic growth and the expectation of slightly higher prices drove the BTI higher.

  • The GBTA revised the index upward from 108 for Q4 2010 to 112, its highest since Q3 2008
  • That represent $1.9 billion more in business travel spending than originally forecast
  • For the year, total U.S. spending on business travel grew 3.2 percent
  • Business travel spending for 2011 is now expected to be up 6.9 percent for the year, up from the original 5% forecast
  • Travel costs are starting to increase, going up 2.5% in 2010 and projected to increase by 2 to 4% this year.
Source: GBTA press release.

Build travel business, Hotel Recovery

Hilton Garden Inn


Hotel Industry Appears to Start Recovery
If you’ve been enjoying low rates and easy availability at your favorite hotels, the market is beginning to tighten, but not by much. U.S. hotel occupancy and rates are starting to edge up. In year-over-year measurements, the industry’s occupancy was up 5.8% to 47.7%.

Average daily rates ended the month with a 2.8% increase to $96.64. Demand is strong and room rates are edging up slightly, with the higher end of the market outpacing moderately priced hotels, according to Smith Travel Research. The hotel research and consulting company expects this trend to continue over the next several months, (Source: STR press release).

Luxury Hotels Keep Their Customers Happiest
Value does not mean cheap when it comes to hotels. Even though economy guests say that price is the most important element in their choices, economy hotels received the lowest value scores (79.2) in the 2010 Market Metrix Hospitality Index released last month.

Luxury hotels received the top scores for delivering value (83.5). Hotel loyalty programs also played a bigger role for guests in choosing a hotel than in 2009. (Source: Market Metrix press release).

Car and Rail

Amtrak to Add More Free Wi-Fi to Trains This Year
Amtrak plans to expand its on-board free Wi-Fi this year. It plans to install AmtrakConnect on more trains in the Northeast Corridor and on more West Coast trains. It has also completed building a dedicated wireless network that improves connectivity and delivers a high-speed signal to trains traveling through New York City tunnels.

Amtrak also plans on upgrading its system to 4G to increase available bandwidth. Free Wi-Fi is already available on Acela Express trains between Washington, D.C. and Boston and on Amtrak Cascades trains. (Source: Amtrak press release).

How Travel Helps Build Your Business

Hitting the road is good for your company’s bottom line, according to an Global Business Travel Association study. The study found that companies overlook how travel can give them a competitive edge. Among its findings:

  • Every dollar strategically spent on business travel delivers $20 in additional gross profit.
  • To get that return requires spending an average of 4 percent more on travel—or about $70 per employee.
  • Industries that could benefit from more business travel spending: banking, finance, retail, and pharmaceuticals.

Source: Global Business Travel press release.

Hotel Recovery, WiFi on Amtrak, Hertz Add Volts, Business travel

Amtrak

Hotels

Slow Hotel Recovery Keeps Rates Flat in U.S.
The U.S. hotel industry ended 2010 with occupancy increasing, but with average daily rates staying flat, the latter being good news for budget-conscious business travelers.

While the number of people booking hotel rooms matched or sometimes even exceeded pre-recession levels, rates stayed flat because people were booking later and group business has yet to return. However, that probably will change in the second half of 2011, according to STR, a major hotel research company. (Source: STR press release).

Car Rental and Rail

Amtrak Offers Free Wi-Fi on Cascades Trains
Passengers on Amtrak Cascades routes traveling between Vancouver, B.C., and Eugene, Ore., can now use Amtrak Connect Wi-Fi Service. More than 838,000 travelers rode Amtrak Cascades in 2010.

Wi-Fi service on Amtrak Cascades trains is during the introductory period, after which the policy will be reviewed based on customer demand and system performance. Amtrak also offers free Wi-Fi on all Acela trains and is considering adding it on other routes. (Source: Amtrak press release).

Enterprise, Hertz Add Volts to Fleets
Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Hertz have added Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicles to their fleets. Hertz rented its first Volt in Manhattan; Enterprise rented its first Volt in southern California. Enterprise has been installing charger stations at select locations in Southern California. (Source: Enterprise, Hertz press releases).

Business Travel

Business travel spending, a key indicator for the overall health of the U.S. economy, is expected to grow this year, according to the latest Business Travel Quarterly Outlook - U.S., according to the National Business Travel Association Foundation.

  • Overall business travel spending should increase by 5% in 2011
  • It grew an estimated 2.3% in 2010, after plummeting 14.1% in 2009
  • International travel should surge by 16.9%, driven by exports
  • Group business spending, which is recovering slowly, should increase 3.2 percent
  • Total trips for 2011 are projected to be 109.9 million, 8.6 percent higher than in 2010.
Source: NBTA press release

Hotel room reports Hilton HHonors updates

Business travel

The Hotel Room of the Future: Using Your Smartphone to Customize Your Room
In the next decade, hoteliers may be using technology to tailor your room to your preferences right down to the lighting, air conditioning and perhaps even the color of the room.

According to the ITB World Trends Report, you´ll be able to enter your own profile, either via a PIN on your smartphone or by using biometric authentification, and the room will automatically adjust variables to suit your preferences.

The hotel room of the future will be designed to aid relaxation, according to the study, with curves instead of sharp edges, smart energy beds and wall displays whose screens let guests connect with different communications channels. Business travelers could work via these screens. (Source: ITB press release).

U.S. Hotels Report Rates, Occupancies Continue to Rise
The USA hotel industry saw occupancy increase 9% to 53.3% in November, according to STR, which provides global hotel performance data. Average daily rates rose 2.5% to $96.70.

And revenue per room rose 11.8%. Room rate growth accelerated across most hotel segments, with the luxury segment showing the greatest increase: 5.8%. PKF-HR´s Hotel Horizons industry forecast said that while ADR has grown, it will continue to lag the recovering. (Source: STR, PKF press releases).

Hilton HHonors Offers Up to Quadruple Points
Hilton HHonors guest loyalty program, which includes more than 3,600 hotels, is running a new global promotion: More Nights, More Points, through March 31. Members can receive up to quadruple points for stays in participating hotels. Stay two nights, earn double points. Stay three nights, earn triple points.

Stay four nights and earn quadruple points. Members can earn both HHonor points and airline miles for the same stay at participating hotels. (Source: Hilton press release).

Wyndham Baltimore Peabody Court Hotel, located in historic Mount Vernon Square, has opened a new chapter in its legacy. The 104-room hotel has become the city´s first hotel in five years to fly the Wyndham flag. Major upgrades to the rooms include the latest HD flat panel TVs and the upgraded Wyndham amenity package.

InterContinental Hotels Group, has roots in Venezuela tracing back to the early 1950´s, announces the opening of the InterContinental Maracaibo. It will be IHG's 21st InterContinental Hotels & Resorts property in Latin America and the Caribbean. The InterContinental Maracaibo has picturesque views of Venezuela´s famous Lake Maracaibo, and is located near the city´s newest commercial and residential districts, within walking distance of business centers, banks, corporate offices, shopping and recreation.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts announced the completion of the first phase of the 322-unit Koloa Landing at Poipu Beach Wyndham Grand Resort, the brand´s first new build project in Hawaii. Phase One includes the opening of 85 villas, lagoon pools, and fitness center.

When completed, the resort will feature a central pool with water slide, poolside bar and grill, sand bottom area, cascading waterfalls and swim-through grotto, lagoon-style pools, several hot tubs, fitness center, day spa, covered parking and semiprivate elevators to each front door.

Business Travel in the Spot Light

Business travel continues its rebound, according to the Business Travel’s 2010 third quarter Business Travel Monitor North America. Pricing power is shifting toward suppliers, leading toward higher prices for both air and hotel. Airlines have been especially successful in limiting capacity and increasing fares.

  • Year over year, average domestic fares are up six percent.
  • Average international fares are up eight percent.
  • Hotel rates are up three percent domestically.
  • U.S. cities with the highest year-over-year rate increases: New York, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and San Francisco.
Source: Business Travel press release.

Hotel business travel forecast

Riu Resort Cancun Mexico

U.S. Hotel Recovery Appears to Falter
The Hotel Industry Pulse Index, a sort of GDP indicator for the hotel industry, dropped in September by 2.2 % after inching up 1.6% in August, bringing the the index to a reading of 87.9.

The index was set to equal 100 in 2000.  This points to the uncertainty of the sustainability of the recovery of the U.S. hotel industry, according to Evangelos Simos, chief economist of e-forecasting.com, which produces the report with STR, a major hospitality consulting and forecasting company. (Source: STR).

Work and Personal Life Blend on the Road
Work and personal life meld both at home and on the road, according to a study by Homewood Suites. While 83 percent of extended-stay travelers interviewed for the study, 67 percent have either frequently or “sometimes combined a leisure vacation with a work trip in the past year. Half have done it three times or more. (Source: Homewood Suites).

Car Rental and Rail

Rent Twice From Avis, Get A Free Getaway
Until Jan. 31, Avis Rent A Car customers with an Avis Wizard number who rent twice from Avis Rent A Car will get a rental reward day through the new Avis Free to Get Away promotion.

Customers who complete two qualifying rentals of at least two days by Jan. 31 will receive rental certificate for one free day of time-and-mileage charges on an Avis rental. Issued electronically, Free to Get Away reward certificates can be used toward a weekday, weekend, weekly or monthly rental of a subcompact vehicle through a full-size, four-door car. You can get up to three reward certificates. (Source: Avis).

2011 Business Travel Cost Increases

The Global Business Travel Forecasts predicts that the improving economy will drive hotel rates and airfares up in 2011, while car rental costs will stay flat in most parts of the world. Here are some key findings:

  • Travel as a whole has not kept up with the rate of inflation in the U.S.
  • Base airfares are 16 percent less than they were in 2000.
  • Airlines are making up for that with ancillary fees.
  • Oil costs have increased at four times the rate of inflation in the past decade; this will affect travel.
  • Domestic economy airfares in North America will increase 2 to 6 percent.
  • International business class fares out of North American will increase 3 to 7 percent.
  • Midrange hotels will increase 1 to 5 percent, upper range hotels will increase 2 to 6 percent.
Source: press release

July Travel News for Hotels and Amtrak

Hotels

Marriott Hotel Bed

Hoteliers Keep Adding Rooms
Despite an uncertain economic recovery, hoteliers are building new hotels, with roughly 432,000 new rooms coming online globally, according to a report from the MKG Group.

Breaking it down regionally, that's adds up to170, 000 new rooms in North America and 138,000 in Europe, an increase of 3.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.

Asia-Pacific is adding 98,000 rooms, a growth of only 1.9 percent. Other regions also show development resilience during the global economic challenge, with Latin America registering 63,600 new rooms (+4.8%), Middle East and Africa 52,700 (+4.2%). (Source: MKG press release).

Hotel Industry Leading Indicator Is Up for Fourth Month in a Row
The U.S. Hotel Industry Leading indicator, or HIL, went up 1.5 percent during May for the fourth consecutive month. The HIL usually leads the industry's business activity four to five months in advance. The latest increase brought the index to a reading of 113.5.

The index was set to equal 100 in 2000. Eight major indicators were up, including weekly hours in hotels, hotel profitability, future demand for international visitors, housing activity and the National Vacation Barometer. Only one major component was down-tightness in the labor market. (Source: HIL press release).

Rail and Car Rental

Amtrak Dining Car

Amtrak to Expand Free wifi
Amtrak's three-month trial of free wifi was so successful that Amtrak is making it standard on all Acela trains running between Washington, D.C., and Boston.

It's planning to offer Wi Fi on its fleet nationwide, once it gets funding. This will begin this fall on Amtrak Routes in California, with Northeast regional service. (Source: Amtrak press release).

Rebounding Business Travel

Demand for business travel is on the upswing, according to data from Business Travel, which tracks corporate travel spending.

  • Business travelers are beginning to return to the front of the plane
  • The percentage of business class tickets booked in business rose from 36 percent to 41 percent in Q1
  • International airfares increased 3 percent year over year
  • Domestic fares increased 6 percent
  • Hotel recovery is still lagging, with international rates down .5 percent and domestic hotel rates down 5 percent

Source: press release.

Lodging Forecast and Car Rental

travel forecast

Hotels

Demand May Be Up, But Hotel Rates Stay Low
Hotels occupancy rates are improving, according to PKF Hospitality Research, which says rates will increase 3.4 percent this year. Despite the increase, PKF expects average daily room rates to drop 1.6 percent—on average, you’ll be spending less on your rooms.

When the hotel business emerges from a recession, price increases lag growth in demand, according to PKF. However, PricewatershouseCoopers projects that room rates will start to increase in 2011, after two years of declines. (Source: PKF Hotel Horizons, PCW Lodging Forecast).

Car Rental

Hertz, Avis Continue Vying to Acquire Dollar Thrifty
Hertz and Avis, who are vying with each other to buy Dollar Thrifty, are both seeking antitrust approval for their proposed deals. Avis said that acquiring Dollar Thrifty would help it compete more effectively against Enterprise, the biggest player in the industry.

Hertz saying that it should face fewer hurdles than rival Avis, because Avis’ low-cost brand, Budget Rent A Car, competes directly with Dollar Thrifty. Hertz has also filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the matter. (Source: Hertz and Avis).

Avis Promotes Its EPA Certified Green Fleet
Avis said that its 2010 line-up is 62 percent SmartWay Certified, that is, they meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental standards for air pollution and green house gas emission.

Nearly 100 percent of its subcompact, compact and intermediate vehicles are SmartWay certified. (Source: Avis press release).

Consumer satisfaction with hotels and car rental companies is up slightly, but down sharply for airlines, according to the quarterly Market Metrix Hospitality Index.

  • Guest satisfaction with hotels is up .4 to 83.3
  • Consumer satisfaction with car rental companies is up .8 to 79.2
  • Passenger satisfaction is down three points to 75.7, the biggest fall since 9/11.
  • Top companies were JetBlue, Enterprise, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt Place, Red Lion and Microtel

Source: Market Metrix press release

Hotel Industry Recovery Looks Stronger

Hilton Garden Inn Hotel

Volcano´s Impact on Hotels Balances Out
The Iceland volcano´s impact on European hotels wasn´t all bad, according to Trust International, a major hotel reservations company.

Cancellations increased to a peak on Monday, April 19, to reach more than 50 percent over normal levels. But new reservations also curved upward by more than 25 percent, suggesting travelers were postponing rather than canceling trips altogether.

Hotels witnessed increased levels of guests extending their stays and walk-in bookings as travelers booked hotels after their flights were cancelled, which helped mitigate the effect of the cancellations.

Richard Wiegmann, manager director of Trust International, said that the international hotel industry is in recovery and the outlook for the rest of the year remains promising. (Source Travel Trust press release).

U.S. Hotel Industry Recovery Looks Stronger Than expected
The U.S. hotel industry should do better than initially expected this year, with occupancy increasing by 1.9 percent to 55.8 percent, according to Smith Travel Research.

Next year, STR says occupancy will increase 1.9 percent to a still relatively low 56.8 percent and average daily rates will increase 3.5 percent. The industry won´t be back to levels of 2007 or 2008, but the industry should see 2 good years in a row, said Mark Lomanno, President of STR. (Source: STR press release).

Car & Rail

Avis Tries to Block Hertz-Thrifty Deal
A suitor may throw a wrench into Hertz´ plans to buy Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.

Avis Budget Group told the Dollar Thrifty board that it is prepared to make a substantially higher offer, saying that Avis had several times expressed interest in acquiring Thrifty.

Avis said that the heads of the two companies had had a date to discuss the matter, but Thrifty canceled it when it announced the Hertz deal.

Acquiring Thrifty would move up Hertz by about 300 domestic corporate locations and 1,250 international franchises. (Source: Hertz and Avis press releases).

Airline Security Vs. Privacy

A recent study found Americans are willing to put up with some loss of privacy in return for greater air security.

  • 93 percent said they are willing to sacrifice some privacy.
  • 65 percent said they would put with full electronic scans
  • 57 percent would go through biometric security checks such as iris scans or fingerprints
  • 72 percent said they would provide personal data in advance

Source: Unisys Security Index press release.