The Idea of Travel and Leisure

It is a big treat to travel not for any business or work-related reasons but simply for leisure and pleasure. For those who are new to this kind of thrill, there are a thousand ways to plan an itinerary given that one has the right knowledge and the right financial budget. The main essence of travel and leisure is not to simply travel and see places but to bring the concept of traveling to new heights by allowing oneself leisurely experiences while exploring the sights and sounds of the entire area. To determine the right fitted itinerary for your specific needs, a great consideration should be placed on the questions that most travelers ask. Will I be traveling alone or with a companion? What do I need to know if I plan to take the whole family for a leisurely vacation?

Traveling Solo

Most of the practical neophytes opt to go for a pre-planned itinerary that contains a complete set of services including the two-way travel ticket, the accommodation, the course of trips and tours, and other add-on services and perks that some travel agency offers. Going for a cruise type of solitary vacation is getting popular nowadays especially that the romantic promises of an immense horizon and endless waterworld-type of environment is too much to resist for people who escapes from the busy buzz of the urban jungle. Try the Caribbean or Norwegian cruise that would certainly break the monotony of your cyclical and routine-based existence. When you travel alone, try to bring a book, an ipod, or maybe something that would keep your hands busy such as art and painting materials or a writing implement to preoccupy your mind. There are also hotels and resorts that have customized their accommodations for those who want to spend their time alone and relax without worries.

Traveling with a Loved One

The concept of leisure and travel especially for honeymooners requires a focused planning especially in the creation of an itinerary of activities. To make it easier for couples and lovers, there are resorts and hotels that provide holistic services from wellness activities to superbly executed food and dining services. For a leisurely experience, couples mostly engage in activities that are not usually possible when they are on their usual ground. Some of these activities are scuba diving, parasailing, skiing, island hopping, mountain trekking, and even game hunting. In sharing a leisurely but quiet togetherness, couples could simply pamper themselves by getting a spa massage with soothing music on the background or by engaging in yoga and tai chi sessions to maintain the harmony of mind and body.

Traveling with the whole family

This is a tricky vacation getaway especially if you are bringing a baby or a toddler on your trip. Some wealthy families think leisure and travel hiring a nanny to look after the baby but some believe that carefully planning the whole vacation spree will eliminate most of your headaches when the actual trip already begins. One advice is to only bring the things that are necessary to at least minimize the bulk of luggage that you will be dragging with you. There are hotels and even restaurants that cater for a bigger number of customers and clients. Make sure to check out these places before barking on a family journey.

Travel and Leisure Magazines to Inspire the Adventurer in You

Browse through the magazine racks of any bookstore and you’ll find the number of travel and leisure magazines offered endless. Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your next trip, wanting some top tips to plan a vacation or simply a new activity to keep you busy during time off at home, travel and leisure magazines are the perfect place to start your search. Here’s a round up of some of the best available:

Time Out Magazine
Fast becoming the leading authority on the world’s best cities, from LA to Buenos Aires, Cape Town to Copenhagen, Time Out now has 18 travel and 23 city magazines offering up to date information on the best places to stay, eat and be entertained in the world’s most fabulous cities. Even if you live in one of its featured cities, you can bet Time Out will come up with a new location or activity you never knew existed in your local area. Prepare to be amazed!

Outside
A travel and leisure magazine which has been keeping adventurers informed since 1977, Outside is for men and women who lead active lifestyles all year round. With glossy and colorful photography, prepare to be inspired to take to the outdoors and try something new, from rock-climbing to snowboarding, sailing to mountaineering.

National Geographic Adventure
The latest magazine in the National Geographic collection, this one is aimed at active men and women who seek new and exciting ways to explore and experience the globe. The photographs will inspire you to travel to destinations you would never have thought of visiting, alongside an excellent mix of features and articles, covering adventure stories, travel destinations, sports and outdoor activities.

Trailer Life
The writers of this travel and lifestyle magazine guarantee to provide you with information to “follow the road to adventure.” Aimed at owners of RVs, campers and motor homes who spend a few weeks a year or their whole life on the road, this glossy magazine is packed with information on national parks, camp sites, product tests, cooking tips and vehicle maintenance. Definitely one for RV owners who love life on the open road and are ingrained with a spirit of adventure.

Spa
For those of us who get our stress relief from relaxation rather than adrenaline packed adventures, Spa Magazine offers the secrets to the latest advances in beauty, healthy living and relaxation as well as a peek behind the doors of the most luxury and private retreats and information on the world’s best spas. If you’re planning a spa vacation, this is the place to find top tips on the most relaxing locations to unwind, detox and recharge your batteries without having to break the bank in the process!

Loyalty Programs in Travel and Hospitality Sector and Key Role of E-CRM

SECTION ONE: TRAVEL LOYALTY

INTRODUCTION

The travel sector offers quite a few loyalty programs – some of which are quite well-known, and successful as well. Within this sector, the sub-vertical that definitively takes the lead in loyalty program adoption and innovation is the Airlines sector.

Airlines were among the first businesses to introduce loyalty programs to their customers. Frequent-flyer programs date back to early 1980s when American Airlines started the now iconic American Advantage (AAdvantage) program. Through the Sabre computer reservations system, American Airlines had amassed a database of around 150,000 of its best customers.

SOME THE INDUSTRY’S BEST CONTEMPORARY LOYALTY PROGRAMS

The Star Alliance Network is a partnership where frequent flyers can accumulate and redeem miles on the following airlines: United Airlines; Lufthansa; Air Canada; SAS; British Midland; Varig; ANA; Singapore Airlines; Austrian Airlines; Thai Airways; Air New Zealand; and Mexicana.

VARIG’s Smiles Program is the most popular frequent flyer loyalty program in Latin America. With Smiles, passengers can earn miles on every VARIG flight, as well as regional, domestic and international flights on Rio Sul, Nordeste, Pluna, South African Airways, Spanair, Alitalia and participating airlines of the Star Alliance. Miles earned can be exchanged for free tickets, upgrades and other benefits.

US Airways offers its members greater privileges through additional offers by its Dividend Miles program on travel on US Airways and its partners. The features differ for its three membership types – Silver Preferred, Gold Preferred and Chairman’s Preferred.

SECTION TWO: HOSPITALITY LOYALTY
INTRODUCTION

In the days of inception, the hospitality industry offered loyalty programs together with the travel industry. With time, as the airlines stated their own Frequent Flier Programs, the hospitality industry launched independent frequent guest programs as well. Holiday Inn was amongst the first to launch its own loyalty program, in January 1983 followed by Marriott with its Honored Guest Awards program in the same year.

SOME THE INDUSTRY’S BEST CONTEMPORARY LOYALTY PROGRAMS

The recent launch of “Any hotel, Any where” card by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the world’s largest and most global hotel company, is one of the best initiatives in the context of new age loyalty programs in the hospitality industry. IHG has recently added a new feature to its customer loyalty program: Priority Club Rewards.

Starwood Preferred Guest is another of the best loyalty programs in the Industry. The program made headlines when it launched in 1999 with a breakthrough policy of no blackout dates and no capacity controls, meaning members can redeem free nights anytime, anywhere.

Park Hospitality, part of Minneapolis-based Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, consists of Park Plaza and Park Inn hotels in North America. The hospitality group primarily offers services to a range of guests in suburban and leisure destinations. Park Rewards, part of the Gold Points Rewards guest loyalty program, is based on a point system awarding 10 points for each U.S. dollar spent on accommodations at Park Plaza and Park Inn hotels in North America.

Radisson Hotels and Resorts’ channel-based Relationship Building Loyalty Program, called ‘Look To Book’, has been very successful as well. Radisson is the only hotel company to offer a patented on-line loyalty program for travel agents, which allows them to automatically earn points towards valuable merchandise and incentive awards in return for booking Radisson hotels.

Hyatt offers a global loyalty program – Hyatt Gold Passport. Hyatt Gold passport offers features like earning points towards free nights with no blackout dates, selecting in-hotel services and special offers, beginning with the very first stay. The benefits offered are based on the type of membership the guest holds. The three memberships offered by Hyatt Gold Passport are Gold, Platinum and Silver, based on the frequency/ number of visits.

Hospitality industry in developing economies such as in India are not left behind either The Welcom Award program recognises the needs of a business traveller and through its strategic alliances with travel partners, endeavors to build rewarding relationships.

SECTION THREE: COMMON PROBLEMS WITH LOYALTY PROGRAMS, AND THEIR MITIGATION BEST-PRACTICES

While the consumer awareness of loyalty programs as well as the business priority accorded to them are both growing in tandem, the effectiveness of such programs, and the consequent ROI that a business generates out of them continue to be significant challenges. Here below are a few key areas that deserve focused attention of enterprises that are implementing or running such programs:

“7 out of 10 loyalty card owners own more than one loyalty card,” avers a recent Frost & Sullivan research. The problem out of this rampant loyalty card and loyalty program proliferation, researchers say, is that surprisingly few consumers know which hotels are covered by their frequent-stay cards, thereby missing out on earning hundreds, even thousands, of points. Blame it on poor communication by the companies or the sheer numbers of brands, say the experts.

Traditionally, customer relationship management focus in hospitality has always began and ended in one phrase: “customer satisfaction.” The presumption is very simple: Customers will appreciate good service so much that they would not go to your competitor. In other words: Customer satisfaction plus quality of services equals customer loyalty.

The truth is that customer satisfaction does not always equal customer loyalty.

Research shows:
• 40% of satisfied customers switch hotels without hesitation (Forum Corp.)
• 65% to 85% of customers who choose a new hotel claim to be satisfied and very satisfied with the
former one (Harvard Business Review)
• 85% of customers claim to be satisfied, yet willing to switch to other hotels (University of Texas).

These are compelling numbers, clearly indicating that even for the best-of-class service provider hotels there is a crying need for focused and ongoing relationship building and relationship deepening exercises with their key clientele.

Electronic customer relationship management (e-CRM), in the context of the exploding Internet distribution and marketing in hospitality, is a business strategy supported by Web technologies allowing hoteliers to engage customers in strong, personalized and mutually beneficial interactive relationships, increase conversions and sell more efficiently.

This means that almost every time an Internet user lands on a hotel Web site a branding interaction occurs, thereby creating either an opportunity, or a threat, for the hotel. This branding interaction can be positive (brandbuilding) or negative (brand-eroding).

A. Customer Knowledge

Knowing your Web site visitors is an extremely important consideration when conceptualizing and designing your hotel Web site and your e-CRM strategy.

The 2004 RUSH Report shows:

• 56% of all visitors on hotel branded Web sites are leisure travelers and 32% are business travelers. Approximately 3% of hotel Web site visitors are involved in meeting or event planning.
• 34% of all visitors on hotel branded Web sites seek information about the hotel, while 30% of the visitors come to make or change a reservation.
• Business travelers look for directions and high speed Internet.
• Meeting planners look for function room floor plans and capacity charts.

The benefits:
• Identifies your most valuable customers with best lifetime value perspective (20:80 principle)
• Allows guest-centric data mining: Guest history, guest profiles, past bookings, preferences, etc.
• Enables informed decisions in real time
• Allows fast response times
• Offers real-time guest lifetime value
• Delivers business insight to executives, marketers, sales

B. Personalization
Personalizing the customer experience on the hotel Web site is a powerful conversion and retention tool. Customizing your interaction with your most valuable customers (those 20% who generate 80% of your business) will provide significant long-term rewards.
Personalization at the property level should start by:
• Identifying all “electronic touch points” with your customers (hotel guests, meeting planners, travel professionals, etc.) and creating an action plan.
• Personalize all electronic communications with your customers. Adopt a policy on how to address your guests via e-mail (first name only, Mr./Mrs. plus last name, etc.).

C. Customer Support

It is important to understand that customer service is only one aspect of e-CRM and is primarily a reactive function aiming to improve performance and efficiency, while e-CRM as a whole is a proactive long-term strategy.

Customer support in the Internet age relies on a wide range of tools and techniques. Here are some to consider:
• Web Self-Service Tools: Intelligent service channel management and natural language search engines; directing customer requests to most appropriate support information and services; FAQs; “Ask the experts” self-service chat rooms; interactive maps, directions and business locators.
• Live Service Tools: Push-to-talk functionality and real-time interaction with live agent; instant messaging and chat-room type assistance; Voice-over-Internet Protocols applications; and automation to pre-screen live support (selective approach).
• E-Mail Service Tools: Inbound e-mail management; and automated e-mail response systems capable of automating 80%-90% of e-mail volume with 98% accuracy, dramatically improving service and reducing support staff by up to 40%.

Travel and Leisure – The Best Combination

There is no better way to spend your leisure time than by traveling, for those bitten by the travel bug. In case you don’t remember the meaning of the word “leisure”, it means “free” as in free from domestic duty and “free” from that pesky all consuming thing called a job that a lot of us have, even if we are “free” just for a day or two.

Leisure and travel are two words that fit together quite well. It was like they were made for each other. One rarely goes anywhere without the other. Travel for fun is best done at a leisurely pace. A week of vacation jam packed with two weeks’ worth of activities usually require a vacation to recover from the vacation. If you plan your schedule well, your leisure and travel time will be time well spent and you will get the maximum of enjoyment out of your leisure time.

Travel allows us to experience other worlds and cultures as well as different events and activities that normally do not take place in our own personal sphere of existence. Leisure and travel gives us a different view and perspective and broadens the life lessons that enrich our lives. It also gives us a better appreciation of what we have.

How do you plan your leisure and travel time? First, decide the things you really want to do and the places you want to visit. Your list will most likely change as your travel experiences increase so don’t be afraid to change it up when the mood strikes. A visit to a desired destination might spark an idea to visit another place or it may serve to discourage a visit to a place on your list. Remember to be realistic with your wish list. It is always good to dream but if you dream big all the time you may find all you have time to do is dream. A destination and activity doesn’t have to be worlds away. It can be something in your home state, your home town or even your own neighborhood.

Once your list is in place, decide on how much time you will take for leisure and travel. Or you may decide which destination you want and decide how much time you need to make that trip a reality. Be realistic with your time off, however. You don’t’ want to spend all your vacation time all at once and have nothing left for the rest of your life. When planning your leisure and travel, don’t micro-manage your time but don’t leave your schedule wide open if you want to include certain activities in your plan. The ultimate objective is to see and do those things on your list.

Sometimes leisure and travel require a passport and perhaps a visa. Allow ample time to have those two things processed. Maybe look up the requirements and time frames for each anyways and have an idea what is involved – just in case you get the urge to travel out of the country. Depending on your destination, any exotic plans may have to include shots or some type of medical clearance. It is better to do your homework well in advance and be prepared than to be stopped at the border with just a note from mom.

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