Travel Business News - North America.

 
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New York (AirGuideBusiness - Travel Business News North America) Feb 19, 2012

American Express Policies failing to keep up with technology. Travel policies are failing to keep up with new trends in mobile technology as well as not addressing issues such as the security of their travellers when on business trips. American Express Global Business Travel reviewed 100 corporate policies from companies around the world and found that less than one-third of them had updated their policies in the last year. The study also found that only 12% of policies addressed the security of their employees when travelling while none set out guidelines for the use of smartphones. The majority of policies - 80% - also did not set down criteria for reimbursing employees for the growing number of ancillary fees being charged by airlines as well as ground expenses such as car rentals. Christa Degnan Manning, director of Amex research arm Expert Insights, said that reviewing and revising travel policy Otends to get neglectedO by corporates. OYet a healthy travel policy can help companies achieve long-term success,O she added. OPolicies can support business-critical goals such as risk mitigation and employee engagement, as they touch on issues from traveler safety and security to corporate social responsibility.O The Amex study also found that 70% of companies did not have specific guidelines to travellers on when to book airfares through a non-preferred supplier if the ticket price was cheaper. The issue of updating policies to take into account the increasing use of smartphones by business travellers was a major talking point at last weekOs Business Travel Show. Feb 15, 2012

Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau Austin CVB Launches Mobile Discount Program Deals . The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, in partnership with Miles-Weaver and MeNetwork, launched a new mobile program called Mobile Austin that makes local deals accessible to visitors via iPhone, iPad, Android or other mobile devices. The free MeNetwork app offers exclusive discounts on live music, dining, shopping, spas and other attractions, products and activities. When launching the app, MeNetwork finds your location, then gives you a menu of options and tells you what's nearby and where you can find the deals. The information is also available by text message. The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing and sales organization for the City of Austin. Feb 15, 2012

Avis Budget Avis Budget Reports Fourth-Quarter Loss of $35 Million. Avis Budget reported a pretax loss of $35 million in the traditionally slower fourth quarter, excluding certain items, and a GAAP pretax loss of $200 million primarily due to acquisition-related charges. It acquired Avis Europe in the fourth quarter. For the full year 2011, it reported pretax net income of $324 million, more than double the preceding year. Revenue increased 33 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the fourth quarter 2010 primarily due to a 32 percent increase in rental day volume and a 2 percent decrease in pricing. Excluding Avis Europe, rental volume increased 5 percent and pricing declined 2 percent. Ancillary revenues, excluding gas and customer recoveries, increased 8 percent, excluding Avis Europe, driven by higher penetration of loss damage waivers, insurance products and emergency roadside protection. Fourth-quarter Adjusted EBITDA increased 19 percent to $64 million, excluding certain items. Increased revenues and benefits from process-improvement initiatives were offset by incremental marketing spending designed to support the companyOs brands. As expected, fleet costs normalized in the fourth quarter as gains on risk vehicles sold returned to levels experienced prior to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Full-year revenue increased 14 percent year-over-year to $5.9 billion. Excluding Avis Europe, full-year revenue increased 7 percent driven by a 6 percent increase in volume, partially offset by a 1 percent decrease in pricing. Full-year Adjusted EBITDA margin improved 240 basis points, excluding certain items. The increase in margin was primarily due to a 16 percent decline in per-unit fleet costs and incremental savings from cost-savings initiatives, partially offset by higher net gasoline expense, higher maintenance and damage expense and increased marketing spending to support the companyOs brands. Feb 15, 2012

Avis Budget Avis offers discount to AOPA members . Take a week off and save $35 on a weekly rental with Avis! Don't miss out on all of the discounts and special offers from leading aviation and non-aviation companies available through the AOPA Lifestyles Member Discounts Program. Feb 14, 2012

Baird/STR Hotel Baird/STR Reports 13 Percent Rise in U.S. Hotel Stock Index. The Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index ended January with a 13 percent increase to 2,288. The index ended 2011 at 2,025. STR partnered with Robert W. Baird & Company to create the Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index -- the first widely available U.S. hotel stock index in the hotel industry. The index combines BairdOs financial markets expertise, the data processing of STR and the up-to-the-minute distribution capabilities of HotelNewsNow.com, the industryOs leading news website. The Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index outperformed the S&P 500 and the MSCI REIT (RMZ) in January, which increased 4.4 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. OThe Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index started the year off strong, showing investors are confident in the hotel industry,O said Randy Smith, chairman and co-founder of STR. OThe industry is up against tough comparisons in 2012, and we hope to see performance growth that will further illustrate the strength of the industry.O OHotel stocks continued their strong upward trend in January as favorable supply-and-demand characteristics dispelled investorsO concerns that the lodging upcycle was slowing,O said David Loeb, senior hotel research analyst and managing director at Baird. OEarnings season is fast approaching and expectations, which are fairly high, are for management teams to give upbeat commentary regarding the 2012 outlook. Recent economic indicators continue to bolster investor confidence in the lodging cycleOs strength and duration.O As of Jan. 1, 2012, the composition of the Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index changed, with the addition of RLJ Lodging Trust (RLJ) and the removal of Orient-Express Hotels (OEH). Feb 13, 2012

Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Launches New Travel Agent Program. Celebrity Cruises is launching a new travel agent program called The Celebrity Commitment that it promises is Onot a gimmicky new program.O In a message to travel agents, Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president-sales, said the company spends $10 million a year on travel agent programs, including Owell overO $1 million in updating CruisingPower.com and CruiseMatch Online and $2 million in tools such as travel agent guides, brochures and advertising. The line also says it is boosting co-op marketing dollars in 2012. New this year, Celebrity will offer regular travel agent incentives and new tools to encourage your clients to book onboard, with the agency getting the credit. Also new is the OChat with the ChairmanO program, which will give agents a chance to talk to CEO Dan Hanrahan on a monthly basis. Feb 13, 2012

Costa Concordia Agents report strong cruise sales, pricing after Concordia accident. Cruise prices and bookings continue to improve for travel agents in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia tragedy, although lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corp. reported dips in sales immediately after the January accident. "It seemed like the news seemed to take time to penetrate people's minds and psyches, and then there was some hesitation on consumers' parts. But very quickly after that it came back to normal levels," said Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager at CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. Feb 17, 2012

Costa Concordia Carnival faces more complainants over Costa Concordia tragedy. The number of individuals seeking damages over the capsizing of the Costa Concordia last month has risen to 39 with a revised lawsuit filed in Miami. The initial lawsuit sought more than $460 million in damages for the grounding of the ship, which has left 17 dead and 15 missing. Feb 15, 2012

Costa Concordia Wave season shows strong bookings, travel agents say. Travel agents around the world are reporting strong reservations for cruises amid Wave season, with only a slight dip in bookings as a result of the Costa Concordia grounding. "We are busier than ever and have not had one cancellation in light of Concordia. ... People realize this was human error and that cruising is quite safe compared to all other forms of travel. ... I haven't been this busy in years," said Tom Baker, co-owner of CruiseCenter in Houston. Feb 14, 2012

Costa Cruises Costa Extends Deadline for Concordia Compensation. Costa Crociere has extended the deadline for acceptance of its compensation proposal for guests involved in the Costa Concordia incident to March 31. The decision was taken to offer passengers more time to evaluate the proposal and to exercise their claims with less urgency. While the date for acceptance of the proposal has been extended, the process to redeem the compensation package and its terms remain unchanged from when it was offered Jan. 27. The extension of the deadline will not impact the claim process, but is intended to satisfy the requests of some guests. The compensation package is available only to guests who have returned home. The families of deceased and missing victims and guests who were injured will be covered under a separate proposal based on their individual circumstances. The compensation package includes a lump sum payment of 11,000 euros per person (more than $14,000) as indemnification, covering what the company calls Oall patrimonial and non-patrimonial damages, including loss...

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