Laptop Ban on European Flights Might Not Happen, Report Says

Fraport

Passengers go through security screening at Frankfurt Airport. Politico reported that the United States may not implement an electronics ban on planes, at least not soon. Fraport

Skift Take: It’s starting to look like an electronics ban on flights from Europe to the United States may not be imminent. But no one outside of government knows for sure — not even airlines.

— Brian Sumers

Will the United States ban all laptops, tablets and e-readers from more incoming international flights?

This has a hot topic for several weeks, with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly saying repeatedly he was considering a restriction because of terrorism concerns. At first, Kelly suggested a ban might only apply to flights from Europe, but in recent days he has said it might be implemented on more flights. For now, the U.S. has only banned large electronics on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa, including Istanbul and Dubai. No U.S. airlines are affected by that ban.

While a global ban would be troublesome for airlines, Europe is the focus now, in part because because the stakes are so high. There are more than 400 daily flights between the U.S. and Europe and many are packed with business travelers. U.S. and European airlines don’t want a ban because they fear it will dissuade passengers — especially customers who pay high fares in premium cabins — from flying.

On Tuesday, Politico reported travelers had earned a reprieve. It quoted a European Commission official saying, “No ban.” The United States and EU, Politico said, would work toward finding another solution to keep aircraft safe.

But after the report, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement confirming Kelly had spoken to European Home Affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Transport commissioner Violeta Bulc, but denying the group had reached a long-term, no-ban solution.

“While a much-discussed expansion of the ban on large electronic devices in the cabin on flights to the United States was not announced today, the Secretary made it clear that the an expansion is still on the table,” it said in a statement.

The statement said Kelly would implement a ban, “if the intelligence and threat level warrant it.”

Airlines not aware of change

An official at one major U.S. airline told Skift the Politico report came as a surprise, with the carrier unaware the U.S. position had changed. The airline, the source said, was still preparing for the ban, though executives at the carrier did not know when, or if, it would be implemented. An official at another major U.S. airline also said the government had not notified airlines it had changed its position.

Airlines have been trying to persuade authorities to implement other, less restrictive security measures. One option might be to test all or most devices for traces of explosives. It’s a labor intensive plan that might lead to flight delays, but it would allow passengers to have their laptops, tablets and e-readers in the cabin.

“I think every airline would prefer that there not be a ban,” Thomas Ramdahl, Norwegian Air’s chief commericial officer, said Tuesday in an interview. “It will make things more difficult for both airlines and customers, I would say.”

In May, the CEO of IATA, a trade group representing airlines, pleaded with regulators not to implement a ban. Instead, it asked governments to increase spending on security, add more screening for traces of explosives, hire more behavioral detection officers, and recognize trusted traveler programs, such as Global Entry in the United States, to identify low-risk passengers.

In its statement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it and the EU would cooperate on “seen and unseen enhancements” in airport security.

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How San Antonio’s Downtown is Evolving as an Integrated Convention Experience

Kovatch

Henry B. González Convention Center, San Antonio. Kovatch

Skift Take: San Antonio is re-positioning itself in the meetings industry as a 21st-century, highly connected, cosmopolitan city that champions global innovation and local urban dynamism, while embracing its pioneering past and iconic American spirit.

— Greg Oates

The City of San Antonio and the region’s private sector have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the downtown core during the last decade to modernize America’s seventh largest city.

In the heart of that new development and civic energy, the Henry B. González Convention Center completed a $325 million expansion in February 2016, elevating San Antonio’s stature as a first-tier meetings destination.

Adjacent to the convention center, more than $80 million of public investment is reimagining Hemisfair Park, which was the site of the 1968 World’s Fair, to create an entirely new indoor/outdoor meetings and events ecosystem in central Texas.

Together, the updated convention center and park — overlooking the central juncture of the city’s famed River Walk, not far from the Alamo — represents more than a new building and enhanced landscaping.

It signals an aggressive re-positioning of San Antonio in the meetings industry as a 21st-century, highly connected, cosmopolitan city that champions global innovation and local urban dynamism, while embracing its pioneering past and iconic American spirit.

THE FUTURE OF CONVENTIONS

The future of conventions requires the convergence of a city’s assets to provide a richer attendee experience, combining its primary meeting facilities, public spaces, knowledge industries, and urban social fabric. The meetings destination of tomorrow, in effect, is evolving as an integrated city-wide venue where companies and attendees can plug into different environments that best align with a specific event’s purpose.

San Antonio’s walkable downtown district provides myriad arteries to support the connectivity and mobility required for today’s holistic, urbanized convention design. That’s been enhanced in recent years with the extensions of the River Walk to the creative Pearl district, and the region’s numerous UNESCO World Heritage-designated Spanish Missions, which includes the Alamo.

The Henry B. González Convention Center and Hemisfair Park redevelopments are the new hub of that urban neural network for meeting planners. Upcoming developments to support that include a renovation of the nearby Alamodome, the launch of the San Antonio Tech District, and several mixed-use projects inspired by the success of the Pearl district, such as the new San Pedro Creek Project and Lone Star Brewery District.

“We’re getting ready for our Tricentennial in 2018, and while of course we’ll celebrate the 300 years that got our destination to where it is today, it’s also going to focus on what the future looks like,” says Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio. “One thing that San Antonio does really well is we preserve our past, but we’re also now looking much more at how that merges with our future.”

The blueprint for that vision is the City of San Antonio’s “SA Tomorrow” urban and economic development plan. The Henry B. González Convention Center, which is the city’s largest ever capital improvement investment, is the keystone of the plan.

Michael J. Sawaya, executive director of convention and sports facilities for the City of San Antonio, says the convention center is the front door for a new downtown San Antonio.

“There’s not many opportunities to take something like this and redo it and re-introduce it to the world,” he says. “We have this opportunity to re-launch something that only once in your lifetime you get to be involved in. Really, it’s about how we want to represent San Antonio to the world.”

THE CONVENTION CENTER OF THE FUTURE

The expansion of the Henry B. González Convention Center increased the facility’s total size to 1.6 million square feet. The signature function spaces include the new 87,000-square-foot, column-free Exhibit Hall 1, and the new 54,000-square-foot Stars At Night Ballroom — the largest in Texas.

There’s also the new Cantilever Room spanning over two lanes of Market Street. Conceptualized as “The Meeting Room of the Future” by the Populous architecture firm, which specializes in large general assembly facilities, the Cantilever Room was designed as a configurable group innovation lab. It features the latest innovations in mobile furniture, a fully integrated video wall and flexible audio-visual technology, easily portable room dividers, huge natural light, and great views of downtown San Antonio.

“Populous has a conference where they gather together a brain trust of people from around the country called ‘Imagine That,’” says Sawaya. “They bring in meeting planners, convention and visitor bureau directors, and folks like myself who operate buildings. They bring them together and ask, ‘What should the convention center design of the future be?’”

Sawaya got inspired. He said he wanted a convention center like that, delivering a next-generation environment that supports crowd-sourced learning.

“Meeting planners of the future believe that the exchange of ideas is different when they’re more relaxed and comfortable, and where they can be more creative,” he says. “We developed the convention center for the meeting planner who understands that.”

Architect Michael Lockwood, senior principle of Populous, adds that the Henry B. González Convention Center provides a flexible, efficient attendee experience that exudes the character, spirit and vibrant culture of San Antonio and its community.

“It was really important to the project team to align our design with the goals for downtown San Antonio,” he says. “We feel this project is part of a bigger plan. It helps maximize visitors, brings life to the street level, and transforms the urban experience in San Antonio now and for the future.”

GREAT CITIES HAVE GREAT DOWNTOWNS

Explaining that great cities have great downtowns, both Matej and Sawaya emphasize that the overall user experience for the convention center needed to be connected more organically to San Antonio’s outside environs.

The goal was to create a more seamless and cohesive union between the convention attendee and the downtown experience, encompassing the River Walk and Hemisfair Park, because they connect to more urban pathways extending deeper into the city.

“Our plan in San Antonio speaks to how a destination can show its unique sense of place within the meeting and event venues,” says Matej. “You can walk by our convention center through a historic artisan village called La Villita, which is one of the original villages of downtown San Antonio. It also serves as a unique and wonderful venue for a small reception or large event.”

Matej points out that meeting and event organizers are utilizing a broader spectrum of the destination to host their programs. For example, one of the first uses of Hemisfair Park will be for the NCAA Men’s Final Four college basketball championships in 2018, where the host organization will be using the park for the March Madness Music Festival.

The demand from both meeting planners and attendees for that local immersion will continue to drive new development in the eclectic neighborhoods surrounding San Antonio’s downtown core. The city is no longer just a city, so to speak. It’s a network of neighborhood experiences that planners can customize to deliver creative event experiences and specific business outcomes, imbued with local color and culture.

“One of the things about our success in the convention industry here is that you reach a point where you need to spread the crowd out a little bit, because we have grown so much,” sums up Sawaya. “Those opportunities actually create new attractions for the event attendees. Folks who come from around the country want to feel like they’re a part of the fabric here. That’s a big consideration for how meeting and event planners make their decisions today.”

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Turkey Tourism Makes Slight Turnaround After Year of Russian Tensions

Let Ideas Compete  / Flickr

Turkey-Russia relations have recently improved and so has tourism between both countries but problems remain. Pictured are tourists in the gardens of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Let Ideas Compete / Flickr

Skift Take: Turkey’s tourism troubles extend far beyond its issues with Russia and average daily rates for hotels are still very low.

— Dan Peltier

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey rose for the first time since a row with Russia deepened a crisis in the nation’s tourism industry.

Tourist arrivals rose 18 percent from a year ago to just over two million in April, ending a losing streak that began in August 2015 and worsened after Turkey shot down a Russian jet near its border with Syria — bringing ties with Moscow to a near-collapse. Russia, then the second-biggest source of visitors, responded by banning travel to Turkey for tourism.

A tourism recovery is crucial for Turkey, which relies on the foreign-exchange revenue to plug part of a current-account gap predicted to reach 4.7 percent of gross domestic product this year, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Nearly a year after Turkey apologized to Russia for the jet incident, the April data is the first sign of a possible turnaround, according to Muammer Komurcuoglu, an economist at IS Investment in Istanbul.

Tourism revenue may jump more than expected this year if the trend continues, Komurcuoglu said in an emailed note on Tuesday, adding that he had predicted a 10 percent increase. “This will have a positive impact on the current-account gap and growth,” he said. Gross travel income was about $18.7 billion last year, according to central bank data.

Even so, the data illustrate just how much ground the tourism industry needs to make up. Excluding the 2016 comparison, visitor numbers in April were still the lowest for that month since 2010.

The improved figures also came at a cost, according to the Turkish Touristic Hotels and Investors Association. While average hotel occupancy rose to 61.2 percent last month from 52.9 percent a year earlier, the average daily rate in the key Istanbul market fell from 111.9 euros to 78.5 euros in the same period, it said on Tuesday.

This article was written by Onur Ant from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Free eBook: 22 Creative Destination Marketing Campaigns

Skift Take: They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and we’re not saying destination marketers should imitate these campaigns — but it’s certainly worth having a look.

— Jeremy Vargas

Destination marketers tend to be curious about what other organizations are doing. As active members of the destination marketing community, Skift’s partner CrowdRiff believes there are a multitude of benefits from learning how different organizations are attracting an inspiring travelers. From video, to social media, websites, and out-of-the-box campaigns, this guide showcases 22 creative tourism marketing campaigns from the past year.

In this eBook, you’ll find 22 inventive destination marketing campaigns, from organizations large and small, designed to attract and inspire travelers, including:

● Visit Seattle’s video channel, VISITSEATTLE.tv
● Stockton’s “text a local” initiative
● South African Tourism’s 24 Hours of Wow
● And many more campaigns

Get Your free copy today!

This content was created collaboratively by CrowdRiff and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Interview: Swire Group Brings Its Brand of Luxury to the U.S.

Swire Group

The pool at East, Miami hotel by the Hong Kong-based Swire Group. Swire Group

Skift Take: Swire is an interesting hospitality brand that not enough people know outside of Hong Kong. That is set to change.

— Colin Nagy

Swire isn’t a household name for most of the world. But for those in the know, they own Cathay Pacific, and also some of the most remarkable hotel properties around.

It’s no secret I am a huge fan of their flagship property, Upper House, in Hong Kong, and also Opposite House in Beijing and Temple House in Chengdu. The brand is also known for a series of high-end real estate developments around Hong Kong, notably Pacific Place near Star Street.

I’ve been watching their first foray into the United States with interest: Swire is the developer behind City Center in Brickell, the business district in downtown Miami. There’s residential, a well curated retail experience, as well as commercial space. Their aspiration is to give a proper, urban city center to Miami, replete with rail-link to the airport.

The first Swire hotel brand opening in the U.S. is East, a brand that fits firmly in the lifestyle category but would also appeal to a style-oriented business traveller.

The experience on a recent stay was considered. It didn’t feel like a large chain and there was character and interesting partnerships. With service, overall, they got the details right, from the coffee in the lobby to the musical selections. I left thinking the hotel was a well-priced balance to Swire’s more luxurious portfolio offerings with the “House” family of hotels.

Since the brand, and Swire, aren’t hugely known in the U.S., I caught up with Giovanni Beretta, Vice President of Swire Hotels U.S. and GM at East, Miami to unpack both the hotel’s strategic purpose as well as Swire’s ambitions in the U.S. The interview is lightly edited for clarity and length.

Skift: What is East and where does it fit in the portfolio?

Giovanni Beretta: East, Miami is the first hotel from Swire Hotels in the United States, and the third under the lifestyle business hotel brand, following the openings of East, Hong Kong in 2010 and Beijing in 2012. We want to create distinctive hotels with a sense of place that break away from convention.

Skift: The property feels unique for the price point, and differentiated at that tier. What is the underlying philosophy of East and why was it an interesting fit for Miami?

Beretta: East is for the business traveler looking for a relaxed, convenient and modern environment. It’s distinguished by its natural vitality, its sense of place and purpose. We want to provide a business hotel that is unpretentious and down-to-earth, yet still provides luxury service.

Skift: Describe Swire’s approach to hospitality— what makes them interesting? What has the hotel learned from Upper House, etc. that they are applying to the portfolio?

Beretta: A distinguishing facet of every Swire Hotels property is an exceptional focus on guest services. East, Miami has employed hundreds of residents, and has transferred select highly trained personnel from their properties in Hong Kong as well as restaurant staff from Uruguay for the hotel’s signature restaurant, Quinto La Huella.

Skift: What role does tech play in the experience?

Beretta: Miami-based Unified Technologies has partnered up with East, Miami to support high IT demands throughout the property. There’s an integrated mobile app, 4K Samsung Smart TV platform for guest rooms and meeting spaces including state of the art video-walls, and ultra-reliable extreme-high-speed beacon ready Wi-Fi. Also, in every guestroom and residence suite, cables, and charging docks have been sourced from Native Union, a Hong Kong-based company that specializes in creating design accessories of exceptional quality.

Skift: Why is Brickell important in Miami?

Beretta: Brickell has become the center of Miami. What was once primarily a business district, is now one of the hottest places to live, work and play. Swire Hotels recognized this when it began to invest in South Florida years ago.

Colin Nagy is the travel and innovation columnist for Skift. Reach him at cjn@skift.com

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What Wealthy Travelers Look for in Their Vacation Rentals

Inspirato

A luxury rental from Inspirato. Inspirato

Skift Take: When it comes to short-term vacation rentals, a guaranteed level of service is goal of luxury and non-luxury travelers alike.

— Laura Powell

Whether the wealthy are looking for multi-million dollar beachfront villas or penthouses soaring into the Manhattan skyline, the options for finding such ritzy accommodations are increasing in number.

But it’s not just home sweet home that the luxury market is seeking, according to Jeff Hartman, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Inspirato. The wealthy want their rental homes to come with “seamless service, certainty, and a guarantee of excellence.”

Inspirato is a private home rental membership club started by Brian Corbett, Martin Pucher, and Brent and Brad Handler. The Handler brothers previously founded Exclusive Resorts in 2002. Exclusive, indeed: to be a member of that club, initiation fees start at $85,000 and the lowest annual fee is around $20,000 (for 15 nights of lodging).

Leaving Exclusive Resorts in 2010, the brothers started Inspirato the following year. The new membership club model has initiation fees ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 and annual dues of $3,400 (lodging is additional). Among the investors are Institutional Investor Partners, W Capital Partners, and Steve Case of AOL and Revolution fame. Inspirato currently has more than 14,000 members. According to Hartman, the bulk of the membership is in the 40 to 60 age range, with a minimum net worth of $3 million.

The idea, according to Hartman, is to combine the luxury residential vacation experience with the consistency and branded excellence of a five-star resort. The cornerstone is the company’s portfolio of Inspirato Residences, luxury homes under exclusive lease. This allows the company to come in, upgrade furnishings, and keep the rental pool limited to Inspirato members.

“We are not a broker,” Hartman stresses. “We take control of our home inventory and furnish them so they are consistent in quality.” Additionally, each home rental comes complete with a dedicated concierge to attend to individual needs.

Inspirato has added other options to its portfolio, including residences located on resort properties, which are rented out long-term. Inspirato also has an inventory of luxury hotel rooms made available to members with special packaging. In total, between hotels and homes, Inspirato operates in more than 175 locations around the world.

During the past couple of years, the company has also been hosting special members (and potential members)-only events in North America. Examples include exclusive fashion shows and cooking classes with James Beard Award-nominated chefs.

Oasis Collections is another home rental concept that sticks its toes into the luxury space, but is not exclusive to it. The collection of properties ranges from three-star to five-star, and is marketed to both the luxury-aspirational market and the DIY tiers of the luxury sector. Oasis has properties in 23 cities in the United States, Europe, and South America.

Chief Marketing Officer David Fudge notes, “Oasis is not a peer-to-peer platform and we are not property managers.” All listed properties are personally curated, having to meet standards outlined in a 50-point checklist,” according to Fudge. Furthermore, “properties are generally second homes. They have to be available at least six months a year and we ask that no personal items are in the home.” Oasis stocks the bathroom with toiletries and towels and guarantees guests free wifi. There is also a concierge on hand to help guests check in and check out a city.

The company was launched in Buenos Aires in 2009. In 2016,  AccorHotels bought into its “Home Meets Hotel” concept, and now owns 30 percent of the brand. Perhaps not coincidentally, AccorHotels bought luxury rental curator OneFineStay last year, which operates with a similar ethos

In starting Oasis, CEO Parker Stanberry sought to disrupt the traditional hospitality model by deconstructing the hotel experience, decentralizing its elements and then assembling lifestyle elements “off-property” in the areas of food, fitness and fun.

For example, Oasis guests have access to private clubs. In essence, according to Fudge, this “moves the hotel lobby and social spaces outside of the rental property.” In Buenos Aires, where the company was founded, the social club (complete with event space, restaurant, bar and pool) is owned by Oasis. In other cities, Oasis has alliances with private member clubs like 41 Ocean in Los Angeles and The Spoke in Toronto. In addition, Oasis offers restaurant and shopping discounts, along with spa and gym credits. Partners are selected keeping the customer demographic in mind. That demographic–the 30-something young urban professional. The average age of an Oasis customer is 38, with a minimum household income of $150,000.

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Men Are Spending More in the Luxury Sector Than Women, Research Shows

Eric Thayer  / Reuters

A sign is seen for high-end retail store Versace along 5th Avenue in New York May 19, 2013. Eric Thayer / Reuters

Skift Take: Females are considered the primary purchases in travel, but a more holistic view of the luxury sectors suggests that men are an equally, if not more, important target for marketers.

— Samantha Shankman

Women are commonly considered the decision makers in the travel industry, however, a recent report from the Shullman Research Center (link opens PDF) shows that men spent more, more frequently, and for other people more often than women.

Based on reported purchases of 1,690 participants across the United States, an estimated 67 million adults bought one or more luxury item last year. The majority, 58 percent or 39 million, are men while 42 percent or 28 million, are women. The median number of luxury purchases was about the same – 2.9 for men and 2.8 for women – suggesting that men spend more than women per purchase.

The median cost of the most recent luxury item that men purchased, $1,150, was more than four times greater than women’s most recent luxury purchase of $250 suggesting men make higher priced purchases than women.

The majority of luxury purchases, 83 percent, are individual purchases for oneself. When it comes to purchase for others, men are slightly more likely than women to report that they’ve purchased something for a family member or as a gift.

It is also important to look at the motivations and considerations behind luxury purchases for each gender.

In the Shullman report specifically, researchers posed the prompt, “What you read, see or hear the word luxury, please describe briefly what you think about…”

Twenty themes emerged from the analysis of responses and there was a distinct difference in those that appeared only in the men or women’s responses.

Only men used the words, “best, rich, ease and exclusive” while only women used the words, “craftsmanship, fine, premium, style and unique.”

Recognizing the different incentives of each gender helps brands and destinations better market to each gender. An airline might focus on male customers when pushing the benefits of business class while a car rental company would be wise to women when pushing luxury vehicles based on their style and status.

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British Airways Cost-Cutting Zeal Might Have Come Back to Haunt It

Nick Morrish  / British Airways

A British Airways A318 takes off from London City airport. The carrier suffered a major IT failure resulting in hundreds of canceled flights. Nick Morrish / British Airways

Skift Take: Since Alex Cruz took over as Chief Executive, British Airways has been acting increasingly like a low-cost carrier. And while the IT debacle isn’t necessarily a direct result, it will fuel the impression among consumers that they aren’t now the priority.

— Patrick Whyte

One of British Airways boss Alex Cruz’s first acts was to commission a new feature in the staff magazine: “Mistake of the Month.” The airline’s employees, Cruz complained, were reluctant to admit their errors.

Finding material for the magazine’s next issue won’t be hard. A computer failure forced BA to cancel hundreds of flights at the weekend. Thousands of passengers were stranded, struggling to find alternative flights or reasonably-priced accommodation.

Regardless of what caused BA’s computer to break — Cruz insists it had nothing to do with the airline’s recent decision to outsource key IT functions to India — the airline’s back-up systems and crisis-management were shown to be woefully lacking.

It rounds off the picture of an airline that’s prioritizing cost-cuts over customer service. BA has already abolished free food for short-haul passengers in economy and crammed in more seats. Meanwhile BA pays new cabin crew far less than long-serving employees.

In most industries, treating staff and customers well is a prerequisite for success. Like other airlines, BA has learned there’s another way — one that involves avoiding competition, scrimping on service while ensnaring passengers who might otherwise be tempted to take their business elsewhere.

The cancellations may deprive BA’s parent, International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, of a low single digit percentage of operating profit this year, according to analysts. But IAG will live to fight another day. Even after Tuesday’s 3 percent fall, IAG’s share price is close to a record high.

Management seems to think decent returns are locked in: thanks to costs-cutting, the company expects operating profit margins to consistently exceed 12 percent until 2020. In February, it announced a 500 million-euro ($557 million) buyback.

Underscoring the impression that investors, not customers, are IAG’s top priority, the company used an expletive-laden slide at the company’s capital markets day last year to discuss its returns to shareholders.

How can investor and customer satisfaction be so misaligned? Ryanair has always treated customers like pondlife — but customers kept coming back due to its low fares.

The operating margins of airline groups. (Bloomberg)

Legacy carriers like BA once tried to be nicer, but Cruz, who made his name at IAG’s budget carrier Vueling, believes the economy cabin has become a commodity product. He’s probably right: economy customers will put up with a lot so long as the fare is competitive.

Another reason why passengers don’t simply shun IAG is its loyalty program. BA’s Avios loyalty points generate repeat business, even if the passenger has had a poor experience or the fare isn’t the lowest. Berenberg analysts estimate loyalty programs account for more than one quarter of operating profit at U.S. airlines.

And, crucially, competition is lacking. U.S. airline margins have been fattened by mergers which have left just four carriers controlling two-thirds of domestic routes. No wonder IAG champions consolidation.

Though Europe’s aviation market is more fragmented, that’s not true everywhere. IAG controls 55 percent of Heathrow’s slots (where new capacity is severely constrained) and 37 percent of all high-margin London to New York traffic, according to Exane.

IAG’s shareholders might not always be so fat and happy, though. Low-cost operators like Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA are beginning to make inroads into the transatlantic market. Though passengers have to fork out for meals, they seem to like the brand and its fancy new 787 planes.

In contrast, BA still flies a lot of aging 747s. IAG has responded with its own low-cost long haul airline called Level.

Secondly, Heathrow should one day get a third runway, which could increase competition there. And there’s Brexit, which could upset European air regulation, to the detriment of BA.

Stranded passengers can at least console themselves that IAG shares trade on just 7.5 times estimated earnings, less than half of the multiple investors apply to Ryanair, the airline Cruz denies trying to copy.

That discount may be justified. Though it’s protected now, BA may yet come to rue not being nicer to passengers. Rather than picking on his employees for mistake of the month, Cruz needs to look in the mirror.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Chris Bryant from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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American Airlines Launches Flagship Airport Dining for Top-Tier Fliers

American’s Flagship Dining experience started running at JFK in late May.

Skift Take: American Airlines has a new lounge for ultra-premium passengers at JFK. Good luck getting in though.

— Grant Martin

Flying on American Airlines for the 1% just got a little bit nicer.

Last week, American Airlines launched a new airport dining experience at New York JFK for its international first class customers. The so-called “Flagship Dining experience is built as a free, in-airport, sit down dining service for premium travelers to supplement the onboard experience. Attached to the airline’s Flagship lounges, which are effectively supercharged Admiral’s Clubs, it effectively delivers free restaurant service to passengers who can avoid the headache of the crowded terminal — or in some cases, the often-middling airplane food.

In opening the lounge, American became the first U.S. carrier to launch an in-airport dining service in its premium lounges. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, among other international carriers, offers similar service both domestically and overseas.

The airline announced the new service on a release on its site.

Only those who are traveling in international first class will be allowed access to Flagship dining, though in international business class can still visit the general Flagship lounges.

Additionally, those who have ultra-elite, revenue-based Concierge Key status in American’s AAdvantage loyalty program will be allowed to visit Flagship dining (while similarly, top-tier Executive Platinum members will only be able to visit the general lounge) — even while flying on domestic routes. That perk provides a significant benefit for American’s Concierge Key members, though they have to spend an unpublished yet significant stack of cash each year in order to qualify for that status.

Last week’s opening at JFK also coincided with the opening of the general Flagship Lounge at the airport. According to Travel + Leisure, that new lounge features “white-gloved treatment” a DIY cocktail bar and a healthy selection of premium food and drink.

JFK’s Flagship Dining experience was the first to open for American and started operating on May 25. The airline plans to launch similar service at Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort-Worth, London Heathrow, Los Angeles International, Miami International, and Philadelphia International through the year.

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Smart CMOs Are Seeing the Value of In-Person Brand Experiences and Events

Freeman/Omega Watches

In China, Omega worked with Freeman to host immersive brand experiences at its boutiques, incorporating virtual reality. Freeman/Omega Watches

Skift Take: The results of this study seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised to see how this is part of an evolving conversation about the true importance of face-to-face meetings and events.

— Deanna Ting

Today’s chief marketing officers, brand managers, and event organizers are focusing more on in-person brand experiences to engage more with customers and clients to build loyalty, according to a new global study.

The survey of nearly 1,000 consumer-oriented and business-to-business marketing professionals in North America, Asia, and Western Europe was conducted by global meetings and events specialist Freeman along with SSI, a data solutions provider for market researchers.

According to the results of the survey, 59 percent of chief marketing officers recognize brand experience “for its ability to create ongoing relationships with key audiences.” They also said they are spending more on live events, with more than one in three of these executives saying they expect to allocate 21 to 50 percent of their budgets to brand- experience marketing over the next three to five years.

“Marketers see brand experience, or live experience, as essential in the marketing mix [more so] than in the past,” Chris Cavanaugh, executive vice president and CMO of Freeman told Skift.

He cited a recent Ad Age report that found brand experiences are No. 2 in terms of growth in marketing, behind digital.

“Our research says CMOs, through the meeting planners, are putting more emphasis on it,” Cavanaugh said. “They see it as a way of building relationships with customers who are hard to reach. It allows them to break through the clutter. It allows them to sort of connect the brands and build relationships and all those things we sort of instinctually knew that live experiences do that other media don’t do, but now the research bears that.”

Mass Personalization

While marketers are realizing the increasing importance of organizing live events to engage customers and clients in brand experiences, Cavanaugh said the Freeman survey also found that there’s opportunity for them to create more immersive experiences.

“Some of the research also showed that the more personalized the event or experience, the more effective it could be and that personalization was something that audiences were seeking out — integrating technology and data in order to make the real-life experiences more highly personable and immersive,” Cavanaugh said. “And creating a show within a show, making sure that even if it’s an 80,000-person event or a 20,000-person event, that my experience within the event was somehow curated, was a trend as well.

“So, personalization — mass personalization and technology — helped to create a personalized experience in a larger context of an event for sure.”

Another growing events trend aimed at personalizing the experience is the “festivalization of meetings,” something Cavanaugh described as the “merging of special events, entertainment, content, and learning.”

“The three- to four-day experience is not just necessarily in a ballroom or an expo floor,” he said. “[Planners] need to think about it holistically — that people want to be entertained, they want to be engaged, they want to learn, they want all those things. And those programs that are doing that and are integrative are definitely more successful.”

Cavanaugh said two Freeman clients he’s worked with — Marketo and the American Society of Hematology (ASH) — have successfully incorporated this type of event style into their respective meetings to grow their audiences and increase engagement.

“What we’ve done with ASH is we’ve brought second screen technology into their event, which has 30,000 attendees,” he noted. “We managed about 3,000 pieces of content across all the sessions which allows us to sort of make them more interactive and the audience seemed to be responding to that and second-screen technology on their devices which means you’re watching your presentation and interacting with it and behind the scenes we can see who’s engaged in what type of content, when, and sort of change the content focus in the show.”

With Marketo’s recent Marketing Nation event for more than 6,500 attendees, Freeman’s digital team developed an application for Amazon Echo so they could place the devices throughout the show to answer questions from attendees about where the sessions are, and how to get to the hotel, for example.

“It was this voice-activated, interactive way of getting people around the show basically,” Cavanaugh said. “And answering questions about sessions and content and logistics and all the other things. It was our first time we’ve ever done it. I don’t think anybody’s ever done it before actually in the business, and it was highly engaging and they’ll probably want us to continue the program.”

In Asia, as well, business-to-consumer events are incorporating more interactive technologies, such as virtual reality, gamification, and location mapping. According to the survey, 42 percent of marketers in Asia are using some type of sensory interaction to personalize brand experiences, while only 28 percent of North American marketers and 13 percent of Western European marketers are doing so.

Thirty-one percent of Asian companies are also using virtual reality, compared to just 7 to 9 percent in other regions of the world.

“We work with Omega on these consumer activations around their products and we go to all their boutiques throughout China and create the sort of interactive, virtual, and real-life experiences,” Cavanaugh said. “They’re real-life experiences where you can see, touch, and feel the product, but then there are also VR experiences to sort of augment reality and take yourself further into those interactions.”

A Disconnect Between Planners and the C-Suite

One surprising piece of data from the survey was that C-suite level executives seemed to see more value and were willing to spend more on brand experience than event planners.

“There was a bit of a disconnect in the research between the C-suite (more than 58 percent), which saw increasing value in brand experiences, and was expecting to spend more money in brand experience anywhere from 21 to 50 percent of their budget. They really want to strategize marketing, overall, around live experiences. But with the event- manager level folks, we didn’t see as much; the percentages weren’t as high (13 percent for brand managers and 18 percent for event planners).

He added, “I don’t know if we have the answers to why, in effect, those that are defining the strategy see a higher value and a higher relevance in the future, than those actually delivering the programs. And I don’t know if that’s just because the program folks have their heads down so they have this very logistically complex, hard business mentality, or whether there’s some sort of disconnect between the C-suite and the doers, if you will. But it is an opportunity to get everyone together around the common strategy.”

At Marketo's recent Marketing Nation event, attendees could ask strategically deployed Amazon Echo units questions about the event. Source: Freeman

At Marketo’s recent Marketing Nation event, attendees could ask strategically deployed Amazon Echo units questions about the event. Source: Freeman

What Makes a Successful Brand Experience or Live Event

Whether for a specific brand experience or any type of meeting or event, Cavanaugh said that the key to organizing a successful program is planning everything around the attendees.

“We’re big advocates for putting the audience or the attendee at the center of the proposition, because the audiences are changing,” he said. “It’s harder to reach them, it’s harder to engage them, and they are more sophisticated. Do audience segmentation first; don’t treat everybody the same. Understand that you have different personas within your attendee base and look at them each independently. Do the research up front.

“Do the audience alignment up front, understand who they are, and which audiences you have, and how you want to move them, or which audiences you want to bring into the event that you may be missing. This is especially the case with younger audiences who may not opt in or may not have as much money to travel or do things. How do you get them into the funnel?”

After understanding the audience, planners should also be focused on content.

“People can get content online now, so you want people to continue to come to these live experiences and they do want to come, they do want to interact with each other. But they have to be able to get access content that you can’t get anywhere else, right? And you need to publish things that can’t be published anywhere else.

“You need to get content and thought leaders together like South By Southwest does — they’re so popular, partly now, because of the content. It’s just so darn good. And that’s because they have thought leaders that come there, that you can’t really see in other places, and they’re very strict about the topics so that they’re incredibly unique, and incredibly special. They’re takes on marketing, communications and digital that you haven’t gotten in other places, and that’s sort of the secret sauce.”

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

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