Friday, January 23, 2015

Expedia Acquires Travelocity for $280 Million!!

Expedia Inc. has acquired Travelocity from the Sabre Corporation in exchange for $280 million in cash, the two companies announced through a press release on Friday.

"Travelocity is one of the most recognized travel brands in North America, offering thousands of travel destinations to more than 20 million travelers per month," said Expedia Inc. president and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a statement.

"The strategic marketing agreement we've had in place has been a marriage of Travelocity's strong brand with our best-in-class booking platform, supply base, and customer service. Evolving this relationship strengthens the Expedia Inc. family's ability to continue to innovate and deliver the very best travel experiences to the widest set of travelers, all over the world," Khosrowshahi added.
Sabre president and CEO Tom Klein explained the decision to sell Travelocity:

"Our primary focus at Sabre is to provide mission-critical software solutions to our global airline, hospitality, and travel agency customers–and to help them support their customers every day. We have had a long and fruitful partnership with Expedia, most recently by partnering to strengthen the Travelocity business, so our decision to divest Travelocity is a logical next step for us both."

Friday's announcement comes on the heels of a 2013 marketing agreement between Expedia Inc. and Travelocity in which the former powered the platform for the latter's U.S. and Canadian websites while at the same time allowing access to its supply and customer service program.

While it hasn't yet been confirmed, the belief is that Expedia will retain the Travelocity brand.

Steele Luxury Travel
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On the Go // Into the Woods


As Chris Pine and Emily Blunt are finding out, all sorts of things lurk in the woods. Far away from ordered fields and lanes of humanity, “the forest” was the realm of the chaotic energies of creation and the denizens spawned from it: fairies, ogres, satyrs, centaurs… Some of those enchanted forests made it into the modern day. Here are a few, but be warned; just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Hercynian Forest
Tales of this one goes back to the Romans, who, when they invaded the wilds of Germania, reported an eerie, endless forest filled with unicorns and birds whose feathers glowed. Today, we know it as the Black Forest, and it is setting for several tales, from “Hansel and Gretel” to “Rapunzel.” It has been carved up over the years, but Germany and Switzerland have the biggest swaths. And yes, weird goings-on are reported there still.

The Ardennes
Reality hit big-time in World War I and II, when this forest in southern Belgium became the site of some of the bloodiest fights in history. But this wood was already famous as a setting of more otherworldly battlefields: As recorded in “The Song of Roland,” Charlemagne had a dream in the forest about one of his most crucial battles (which was also took place in the Ardennes). Another Charlemagne tale tells of Bayard, an enchanted horse that haunted the wood and could leap across rivers.

Brocéliande
Merlin’s Tomb? Check. Haunted springs? Check. Downright strange weather? Check. This forest in Brittany (northwestern France) is lousy with Arthurian lore, although medieval bards were just the latest myth-spinners to march through. Wander this wood and you’ll come across ancient standing stones — one of which is reported to be the real tomb of Merlin — and mysterious glades dominated by one HUGE tree surrounded by oddly much smaller ones. The Lady of the Fountain is said to inhabit the forest, as is Viviane, Merlin’s nemesis. Take water from a spring in Brocéliande and wet a nearby stone to summon rain, but don’t drink it! You could turn into a werewolf. Or so they say.

Wychwood Forest
If you see a cart with two crying children, run. Fast. They are just two of the dark company of spirits haunting this wood in England who hunger for the living. Most creepy is the tale of Amy Robsart, who died of a broken neck under mysterious circumstances amid the trees. Her shade confronted her husband, the Earl of Leicester, when he was hunting in the forest, vowing he would join her. Ten days later, he did — as does anyone else who meets her, for she lingers there still.

Steele Luxury Travel can take you into the woods, globally.  Visit www.SteeleTravel.com to start planning your next trip!

Barclays Report Projects Airbnb Bookings to Surpass Hotel Companies

By Patrick Clarke

Airbnb bookings are on pace to surpass even the largest hotel companies within the next few years, according to a Barclays reserach note published last week. But that same research suggests that the platform is unlikely to become a "major player" in business travel, according to BusinessTravelNews.com's Michael B. Baker.

Having seen its number of available rooms grow from roughly 300,000 to about one million over the past year, Airbnb has already overtaken the largest hotel companies in regard to size.

Barclays European leisure analyst Vicki Stern notes that Airbnb's listings could double over the next year, but also claims that, regardless, it will remain "mostly a leisure player" over that time.
Only about 10 percent of Airbnb bookings are currently related to business travel.

"There is currently no regulation applied to Airbnb hosts regarding fire safety, food hygiene and insurance," wrote Stern.

"This is a key difference to hotels, which are required to adopt strict health and safety regulations, and this is one key reason why we believe the majority of business[es] would be reluctant to send employees to Airbnb accommodation instead of a hotel."

It still remains to be seen what level of impact Airbnb's projected growth will have on hotel bookings moving forward, but Stern noted that the lack of a noticeable impact so far is not "reassuring."

Steele Luxury Travel
www.SteeleTravel.com

Monday, January 12, 2015

On The Go // Going Waaaaaaaay Down to South, South America


At Tierra del Fuego, the road ends. The very last gasp of terra firma in South America’s deepest south, there is nowhere to go but into the grim, gray waters of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica beyond. Sliced off the continental mainland by the Strait of Magellan, the island is split between Chile in the west and south, and Argentina in the east. Rugged and scoured, this is a place to get away from it all.

In Argentina:
Rio Grande (largest city) and Ushuaia (capital) are the places to go in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but keep in mind that in this remote part of the world, “large city” is a relative term. As cold as it is, skiing is beginning to pick up, particularly in the community of Cerro Castor, and Rio Grande has the odd epithet of being the fly-fishing capital of the world. Interestingly, Ushuaia has a lively — huh? — Irish bar scene, but ecotourism is the big draw now.

Seals, penguins, sea birds, and whales have a field day in the fertile waves offshore, which you may spot from one of the popular catamaran tours of Beagle Channel. Landlubbers will want to take a hike, literally. In summer, daylight lasts from 5 in the morning to past 10 at night, and reveals some of the more primordial landscapes Earth ever dished out. Rio Grande is also well known for its fall colors in one of the very few places in South America that has an autumn.

In Chile:
“Flat land” is a foreign concept to Chileans, and that goes for their portion of Tierra del Fuego, dominated by the last pinnacles of the Andes. If you thought the landscape in Argentine Tierra was impress, just you wait: Chile’s part of the island is downright otherworldly. Bring your camera, but have it set permanently on Panorama Mode.

However, because the territory is so mountainous, cities have a hard time taking root. Puerto Williams, across the way from Ushuaia on Navarino Island, is the capital of Chilean Antarctic Province, but that does not mean it is in any way big. However, the views, of glacier-carved valleys, soaring condors, wind-bent trees, and cattle ranches, will leave you with the impression that this place is HUGE.

Another stop is Porvenir, on the strategic Strait of Magellan. Across from the mainland and easily reached by ferry from Punta Arenas, Porvanir is a gold-rush town founded by — huh #2? — Croatians. But it is the native cultures, the Ona and Yaghan, that you’ll want to explore. The Yaghan gave us the word “Mamihlapinatapai,” which is that look you give someone else when you both want the other do something necessary but unpleasant, i.e., the “…After-You Look.”

Steele Luxury Travel will take care of your travel needs to South America! Visit www.SteeleTravel.com for more information.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Qantas Retains Title as World’s Safest Airline

Well, year over year, "Rain Man" continues to be right – Qantas Airways really is the world’s safest airline.

AirlineRatings.com announced its annual top ten safest airlines and top ten safest low cost airlines for 2015 today, and Qantas was again at the top of the list. The Australian-based carrier has never had a fatality in the history of the jet era.

AirlineRatings.com's rating system takes into account a variety of factors related to audits from aviation's governing bodies and lead associations as well as government audits and the airlines' fatality records. Its editorial team also examined airlines' operational histories, incident records and operational excellence to arrive at its top ten safest airlines.

And like the Dustin Hoffman character in ‘RainMan’ said, Qantas is the safest.

AirlineRatings.com editor Geoffrey Thomas said "our top ten safest airlines are always at the forefront of safety innovation and launching new planes."

"These airlines are a byword for excellence," he added. "There is no doubt that Qantas is a standout in safety enhancements and an industry benchmark for best practice. Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major advancement in airline safety over the past 60 years.”

Making up the remainder of the top ten in alphabetical order are: Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific Airways, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

Responding to public interest, the AirlineRatings.com editors also identified their top ten safest low cost airlines.

These are in alphabetical order: Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Icelandair, Jetstar, Jetblue, Kulula.com, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook, TUI Fly and Westjet.

"Unlike a number of low cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) audit and have excellent safety records," Thomas said. "Low cost does not mean low safety."

Of the 449 airlines surveyed 149 have the top seven-star safety ranking, but almost 50 have just three stars or less.

Five airlines only achieved one star for safety from AirlineRatings.com. These are: Agni Air, Kam Air, Nepal Airlines, Scat and Tara Air.

Steele Luxury Travel
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On the Go // Top of the Rock in St. Barths


What is French, less than 10 miles in size, and the Caribbean’s native habitat for beautiful people? Welcome to Saint-Barthélemy, a.k.a St. Barths.

About two and a half hours from Miami by air (day trip!), the ironic thing about this island is that it was a total dive until the 1980s. But how things change: what was once the runt of the litter of French possessions in the Caribbean, it is now synonymous with the rarified world of the 1%.

And St. Barths is dang proud of it, thankyouverymuch. Touching down in the capital of Gustavia — whose un-Gallic name is a throwback to 1784 when Sweden was the landlord — visitors will be on the serious outs if they don’t have a luxury wardrobe, luxury handbags, and luxury key card.

Key card?

The first hotel to be built on the island, Eden Rock has never let go of the hammerlock it has on headcount and cachet. Built on a rocky promontory overlooking the stained-glass window of blue waters in St. Jean Bay, this is address to impress. Butler service? Check. Endless culinary orgasms courtesy of world famous Master Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten? Check. A villa complete with a studio stocked with the equipment John Lennon used to record “Imagine?” Checkity-check-check.

In the hyper-competitive game of luxury, Eden Rock trends a little towards OCD, but this is one of those rare cases where the ends justify the means. The property has five types of accommodations, the beach rooms, legacy rooms (those not sea-side), suites, cottages, and the afore-mentioned villas. Personally, if I’m going to St. Barths, I am going to have the beach within eyeshot at all times no matter where I go, room included. That being said, you really aren’t going to lose wherever you end up. No two rooms are exactly alike — some are painted a marble white, giving the impression you are adrift in a cloud, others are all rich wood and billowing curtains — but all have the same meticulous adherence to pure decadence one would expect on an island paradise.

As good as they are, you won’t be spending the majority of your time in the rooms (although masseurs that come right to your door will do their best). Far from being a tourist-trap with euro sings, St. Barths is undisputedly one of the Caribbean’s natural gems. Eden Rock yachts are available to take you on an ocean tour of the sugar-white beaches et al. Beaches, I may say, you have exclusive access to; the original property was on the promontory, but has since expanded to include less rocky real estate. Attendants, called Beach Boys, cater to your every whim.

So long as they are G-rated whims. Hands off the staff, people.


For more information, go to saintbarth-tourisme.com/en and edenrockhotel.com.  Steele Luxury Travel provides VIP amenities and upgrades when booking at the Eden Rock Hotel and most luxury hotels worldwide.  Visit www.SteeleTravel.com for more details!

Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Go // The Cool Hot - Global Hot Springs


It’s a forgone conclusion that some like it hot. As winter winds blow (for some of us), we can forget we’re standing on a ball of molten lava with a thin, crispy crust. If “hot” does it for you, read on…

Heosimcheong, South Korea
Not all geothermal springs are near obvious sources like faults or volcanoes. This hot spring in Busan, South Korea’s second largest city, is one of the best least-known spas in Asia. Visitors have a choice of 40 pools, including the Longevity Bath, Cave Bath, Outdoor Bath, and Event Baths, which combine hot spring water with oriental medicinal elements.

Kusatsu Onsen, Japan
When you are in the most geologically active country on Earth, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to hot springs. In Japan, hot springs are called “onsen” and you cannot go wrong at the famous Kusatsu Onsen in the center of the country. A standout for its sheer scale, Kusatsu has a whole spa-culture unique to itself, along with a notoriously ribald party-like atmosphere.

Pools of Oheo, Hawai’i
Despite all the volcanic activity that literally made the island, this hot spring in Maui owes its temperatures to the Sun. The pools rest on jet-black lava rock that absorbs heat from the Sun that in turn heats up the water. Basically, the Pools are a solar oven. Throw in a step-like set of waterfalls bouncing down to the sea and you’ve got one more reason to love Hawai’i.

Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, California
Located in Napa Valley, this hot spring is a perfectly good example that water and wine go together. There are four pools to pick, and this property makes it a point to say that it is LGBTQ
friendly. I recommend the volcanic ash mud baths. Mud baths, so you know are a Calistoga specialty.

Banjar, Bali
Talk about presentation! Hot water gushes from the earth out through the mouths of eight carved naga, (think of a centaur, only switch out the horse part for a snake) into a large rectangular pool. On the northern end of the Indonesian island of Bali, Banjar neatly weaves mythology and the mysterious into the typical hot spring experience for a more exotic tale to tell.

Terme di Saturnia, Italy
This one supposedly came to be after the gods blasted the site with a lightning bolt. Divine wrath now prosaically flows through one of the most luxurious spas in Europe, in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world (Tuscany). This one isn’t a secret; people have been enjoying Saturnia for the last 3,000 years. There’s something to be said for tradition.

Steele Luxury Travel is pleased to assist you with your hot springs travel itinerary! Contact us at 646-688-2274 to start planning!

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