Hotel Wi-Fi Woes


hotel guestThese days, a hotel room serves as my “virtual office” while traveling.  I’m always pleasantly surprised when I walk into the room and see a modern desk with plenty of power outlets, and a comfortable, adjustable office chair.  Occasionally, my mood sours when I attempt to connect to the Internet.

Like me, you’ve probably experienced buyer’s remorse after forking out hefty hotel Wi-Fi charges.  So, rather than enduring bandwidth speeds that seem to move at a glacial pace, followed by the hassle of requesting a Wi-Fi charge refund, wouldn’t it be great to know a hotel’s Wi-Fi speed before committing to a reservation?

Services like Hotel Wi-Fi Test are starting to gain a lot of attention for obvious reasons.  They collect, analyze and distribute hotel Wi-Fi data from around the world.  That data is then made available to travelers during the shopping experience, giving them the ability to factor “bandwidth” into their booking criteria.

Personally, if I have a choice of several travel policy-compliant hotels, I would gravitate towards those with guaranteed high speed Wi-Fi.

Please enter your thoughts, comments and experiences in the comments section below.  What’s your take on the subject?

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100 Years of Passenger Aviation


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Air travel is so routine and common-place for us these days – especially for those road warriors among us.  We often take air travel for granted.   The reality is that commercial aviation is a miraculous industry that in just 100 years has changed how almost all of us interact with each other and the world.

With that said, I thought this interactive visualization published by The Guardian in January of 2014 can provide all of us perspective and reflection on the industry that has shaped our lives over the last 100 years.

Enjoy!

~Jim

The Guardian –  In flight: see the planes in the sky right now

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Star Trek Technology Here Today! The “Universal Translator” really exists.


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As a follow up to my post back in 2011 about voice translation technology, Microsoft announced and demoed yesterday at the inaugural Re/Code Code Conference game changing voice translation technology that will be integrated into Skype this year.

This technology makes the world that much smaller by further breaking down language barriers and enabling Skype users to speak to people in other languages – in real-time. This is technology that we only first dreamed of when we watched episodes of Star Trek where Kirk and Spock would use the Universal Translator to communicate with alien civilizations. This technology is now a reality and enables you to speak with a person directly while the Skype translation system translate your words to the native language of that person, and vice versa.

Here is a demonstration:

This is exciting technology that will change the way we conduct business and communicate with friends and loved ones. Integrating this technology in Skype not only allows for verbal communication but through the video conferencing feature allows you communicate face-to-face whether you are in the next cube, city, or country.

What are your thoughts on this technology and do you seeing it change the way you conduct business or travel?

~ Jim

 

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Business Travelers Embracing Electronic Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions


zinio-newsstand-app-9to5ipadHaving been a fan of Zinio (an online magazine subscription service) for several years now, I can’t remember the last time I thumbed through a physical magazine. The same applies to newspapers – which is a good thing, since the black ink usually made its way to my shirt cuff. A growing number of hotels and airlines have started giving their customers access to digital magazine and newspaper subscriptions while either on-premise or in-flight. Using geo-fencing technology, a traveler can access a wide array of publications via their mobile devices, provided they remain within a virtual perimeter.

Personally, I enjoy the interactive experience associated with online publications – whether it’s an embedded video, a hyperlink or the ability to download an iPad app directly from my Apple e-Magazine. Before I board my flight, I simply download the latest editions onto my iPad and I’m good to go at 35,000 feet. Even my public library has a partnership with Zinio, which gives me access to dozens of free publications in addition to the ones I pay for.

seatpocketAre in-flight and airport lounge magazines soon to be a thing of the past? As media empires increasingly favor e-publications, it’s certainly plausible. Perhaps the only item sitting outside my hotel room door in the morning will be a room service tray. Please share your thoughts and predictions in the comments box below.

~ Theo Szymanski

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Are TMCs ready for a David and Goliath story?


goliath-vs_-davidIn 2014 – Goodbye Goliaths, Hello Davids
Self-professed nerd and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell extolls the virtues of the non-behemoths in his latest work, David and Goliath. Business leaders often reference his books, Blink and Tipping Point. David and Goliath promises to be no exception.
The buzz in travel management for years has been dictated by the Goliath’s. Armed with marketing dollars, they anointed themselves the industry’s “thought leaders”. Their message has been largely accepted and echoed by TMC’s despite the direct threat it poses to their livelihood.
If Gladwell were to look at the travel industry, he would say that the TMC’s need to find some David’s. Lower profile suppliers in our industry are better focused on the needs of their customers and partners. As private companies, they aren’t always preparing for the next earnings call.
TMC’s are discovering the increasing costs of their allegiance to Goliath’s, but they are concerned that Goliath might be the only game in town. Fact is, there are David’s out there who are consistently out-performing Goliath, winning deals and satisfying customers. How? Great, dependable support, fair prices, and solutions that meet the specific needs of customers.
This year, send Goliath packing—Want to hear more about Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath? Check out his interview on 60 Minutes: http://tinyurl.com/mde7a3f

By: Michael Jacques, DATABASICS

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Keep The Noise Down on Open Bookings and Travel Eco-Systems


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There’s been plenty of noise recently wrapped around “open bookings” and “travel eco-systems”. The fact is, open or rogue bookings for air, hotel and car rentals outside managed or unmanaged programs and so-called travel eco-systems have been around for decades. This is not new and the trend is very likely to continue. The question should be, if anything, what should organizations with business travelers and their service providers be doing?

Organizations with travelers have some basic decisions to make: Do we want a managed or unmanaged travel environment? Where should we book? Should we have a formal travel policy and if so, how do we develop one that makes sense for us? Traditionally, the best answers have been found with travel agencies, or a leading regional or large TMC (Travel Management Company). A popular alternative are the ITMCs (Internet Travel Management Companies) like Egencia, Orbitz or the former TBiz. Travelers may or may not book all trip elements through established channels particularly in today’s fast-paced, mobile, always connected, and 24/7 business climate. However, when travelers step outside channels, it does become difficult for organizations to track or report comprehensively on business travel booking patterns and actual costs.

Now, let’s consider the providers. These include the independent travel companies who work hard and strive to differentiate themselves. Unfortunately for them, they have become dependent on technology providers to stand out, and the technology companies themselves have consolidated to the point that agencies’ options are limited. Of course, there are also the direct-providers. These are the airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other travel service companies. They are also are fighting commoditization, along with rising costs, new channel development and disruptions to their strategies for attracting business.

So do you need an out-of-the box solution or travel eco-system? The simple answer for the both the organizations with travelers and the providers is, “No!” More choice, not less is what they need. This is what personalization and mobile travel functionality are all about.

Why is it then, organizations accept that they will have only imperfect visibility into their travel spend? Not in the least; it can be all there in the expense reporting system, if the system has the required capabilities. Expense reporting has the real data and never mind how it got there or where it got booked.

Beware of those providers who try to put you in a one-size fits all, single end-to-end solution. The leading and successful TMCs and ITMCs, as well as the service providers, airlines, hotels and car rental companies will want to continue to offer organizations choice on booking, and flexible and competitive pricing for services delivered.

Please, help keep the noise down on “open bookings” and travel-eco-systems. Let’s move ahead with a robust expense solution that will work with any travel agency, any credit card, any service provider and will deliver the support and pricing to fit your needs. Don’t get put into the box.

By Michael Jacques December 3rd, 2013

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Gamifying The Car Rental Experience to Optimize Traveler Safety


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Courtesy of Drivewise.ly

I predict that we’ll start seeing gamification enter the corporate car rental space very soon. These days, there are smartphone apps like Drivewise.ly and Drivesafe.ly that actually grade your driving skills in terms of speed, braking, turning, acceleration, etc. You even have the ability to challenge your friends, family and business associates to achieve safe driving goals.

When you consider how important safe driving habits are to a company’s travel department and risk management team, doesn’t it make sense to equip road warriors with these types of safe driver apps that could ultimately earn them a reward for safely driving a rental car?  For example, achieve three consecutive 80% + safe driver ratings and, on your next trip, receive a complimentary car/hotel room upgrade.

Also, as the father of two boys who are rapidly approaching driving age, I have a personal vested interest in promoting safe driving habits.

~ Theo Szymanski

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This a great piece on the challenges of the connected on-demand workforce that exists today. As business travelers we constantly review and comment on the goods and services we consume. Never before have we been at a time when instantaneous commentary and review can be provided on things, services and even people. Something to think about when we click on the review/rate button in our browsers or mobile phones…

~Jim

Gigaom

A year ago, I hosted a small conclave of fellow (early) explorers of the post-html Internet. And while we are not of the SnapChat generation, most of us grew up connected. There were some who helped build the gear that runs the post-1999 Internet, and some who built the space ships. A neuroscientists who studies mobile and online behaviors, a digital musican and a music enterprenuer; data nerds, visual designers and an infrastructure wizard  who streams happiness  one stream at a time. And then there was me, who starts the day connected and ends it connected.

Connectendess — which is state of always being connected to the Internet and thus to people, things, life, work, commerce, love, hate and anger – is the single thought that dominates my mind, and it defines how I view everything, how I evaluate everything. It is my telescope and it is my microscope. I don’t see the world in…

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Expense Management for the Masses


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In business travel, expenses are a necessary evil and from my personal experience (and I am sure the vast majority of you) the process of completing an expense report is tedious and time consuming.  Some of our readers I am sure work for large organizations and may benefit by having the use of enterprise-grade expense management systems such as Concur Expense, IBM GERS, Oracle, SAP or other tools.  That said, I suspect that the vast majority of you out there use a spreadsheet of some sort  to record expenses.  Regardless of which tool you use, the process of completing an expense report sucks. Depending on which tool, some of you may encounter more or less suckage, but ultimately it is never a pleasant experience.

In my career I started completing expense reports the old fashioned way, collecting receipts and filling out a spreadsheet.  Over the span of my career I worked for other companies and used other tools, and to be quite honest, the experiences was no more pleasant than the the use of a spreadsheet (YMMV).  Recently I came back to having to use a spreadsheet for expenses and after a spurt of travel and a collection of receipts that had to be collected, organized, cataloged and submitted.  I said to myself there has to be a better way to complete expenses on the go.  Since I often find there is a mobile app for just about anything, a few seconds on the iTunes App Store lead me to Expensify whose tag line is “Expense Reports that don’t Suck.”  Who can resist not trying an app out with such a spot-on message.

After a quick download and a little light reading about the product, I found that Expensify is a cloud service available on the Web and just about every major mobile platform.  Best of all, the core service is free with additional premium service starting at a very minimal cost of $5.00 per user.  In my use, I am using the free service and it is great.  In short, you can add you credit card accounts to the system and Expensify will capture charge activity which you can easily add to an expense report.  Additionally, you can use the mobile app to take pictures of receipts (both credit card and cash transactions) and the system exposes them to you.  So, with just a few clicks, you can create an expense report.  What is really cool is even if your company does not formally support Expensify, when you submit your report they will generate a nicely formatted PDF report with all support receipts nicely organized.

Demo (excuse the rough embedded link) :

http://www.expensify.com/expensify_demo.swf

This not a review by any means, but rather me wanting to share a very cool service with all of you.  So, if you are still using a spreadsheet to submit expenses versus using a corporate sponsored expense management solution, I encourage to you to try out Expensify.  It really is the expense solution for the masses (at least those who use spreadsheets) .  For a very detailed overview of the service and how to use it, please view their video tutorial below:

Safe Travels!

~Jim

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Corporate Online Booking Tools Now Taking Us “Door-to-Door”


I need to plan a trip from my Chicago-area office to a meeting with Amex in New York. Normally, I would fire up my online booking tool (OBT) and search for available options from ORD to LGA. The problem is… my office isn’t at ORD… and my meeting isn’t at LGA. Ultimately, I’m specifically interested in available options to get me from 1300 S Grove Ave. Barrington IL to 200 Vesey St. New York NY… door-to-door.

Courtesy of KDS

Courtesy of KDS

Personalizing the end-to-end traveler experience, a rapidly evolving trend that we’ve blogged about before, is now starting to enter the mainstream.  KDS, at their conference in Paris a few weeks ago, introduced KDS Neo, a revolutionary door-to-door travel booking solution.  Not only does the PC/smartphone/tablet-based app clearly map out the multiple steps required to get you from A to B, it also provides you with the most logical, cost-effective, policy-compliant options.  Check out this on-stage KDS Neo demonstration presented by KDS CEO, Dean Forbes. I particularly like the integrated Google “street view” feature, giving me the ability to actually see my meeting location during the booking process.

Considering how much success Amazon.com has had developing intuitive online shopping technologies, it stands to reason that corporate travel booking systems will follow suit.

~ Theo Szymanski

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