Hotels and Casinos Will Be Packed for Macau’s Upcoming Golden Week

Kin Cheung  / Associated Press

In this photo taken Nov. 23, 2014, visitors walk across the road in front of the Venetian Macao casino resorts in Macau. Kin Cheung / Associated Press

Skift Take: More money from gamblers and less attention being paid to corruption is very good news for the city.

— Jason Clampet

The forecast for Macau’s upcoming holiday week looks pretty golden.

Junkets flush with high rollers, full hotels charging five times their usual prices and brand-new entertainment options have the potential to make Golden Week the most lucrative in at least the past decade for the world’s biggest gaming hub, analysts and industry officials said. The calendar also helps: this year’s holiday period lasts eight days instead of seven, making it a “Super Golden Week.”

The expected rush is more good news for Macau, currently riding a streak of 13 straight months with gaming revenue growth. The territory is benefiting from economic expansion in China that’s outpacing the official 6.5 percent target, pent-up demand after last month’s typhoons and the Chinese government’s decision not to restrict visas before the upcoming Communist Party leadership gathering in Beijing.

“Macau’s gaming business will be strong during the Golden Week,” said Lawrence Ho, chairman and chief executive officer of Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd. “China’s economy is improving, there’s more visitation to Macau, and the city has better infrastructure now.”

Junket operators, who provide credit to their big gamblers, concur. Suncity Group, the largest such operator in Macau, expects its October betting volume to surge between 30 and 35 percent from last year to about HK$150 billion ($19.2 billion), boosted by Golden Week, said Andrew Lo, executive director of the group’s listed vehicle, Suncity Group Holdings Ltd.

That’s about the same level as before the corruption crackdown started by President Xi Jinping in 2014 — a campaign that spotlighted government officials’ spending in Macau and triggered a two-year slump in revenue growth.

Eighty percent of the territory’s three- to five-star hotels are fully booked during the Oct. 1-8 holiday, and more reservations are expected in the coming days, the Macau Tourism Office said in an emailed statement Friday. It expects the number of tourists during the holiday week to increase by as much as 5 percent from about 1.2 million visitors last year.

Those still accepting bookings mostly have suites costing as much as about HK$10,000 ($1,281) a night, according to a check of hotel booking websites Expedia and Booking.com. Just two weeks later in October, those same rooms can be reserved for about HK$2,000.

“Hotel rooms booked by Suncity have been fully taken by clients during the Golden Week holiday,” Lo said. “Suncity expects it may need to pay for extra rooms at high room rates to meet the solid holiday demand.”

And there are new sights for some Golden Week visitors to see. Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s new $2.9 billion Parisian, which opened in September 2016, helped bolster the group’s better-than-expected revenue in the second quarter. The Parisian opened a month after Steve Wynn’s $4.2 billion Wynn Palace.

The expected boost will come after casino revenue growth slowed in August because of typhoons that killed 10 people and disrupted power and water supplies at some resorts, according to government-owned broadcaster Teledifusao de Macau.

The natural disasters and suppressed August receipts were among the few blips this year for the only Chinese territory where gambling is legal. Revenue growth accelerated during the three months prior because of more spending by high rollers and an increase in overnight visitors.

The city is expected to post its 14th straight month of gaming revenue growth in September, with receipts increasing 14 percent from a year earlier, according to the median estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

“This Golden Week will be the best in recent years,” said Versiglia Chong, a sales director at Macau-based VT Travel Agency Co. “We’ll see a sea of people at the ferry terminals, in Golden Lotus Square and along the Cotai Strip.”

Last year, the number of visitors from China rose 6.9 percent to 970,000 during the week, officially known as the National Day holiday. That’s the most tourists from the country in at least 10 years.

Wynn Macau Ltd. expects a “very strong Golden Week” as its two properties, Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace, are fully booked through the period, the company said in a statement. Its Hong Kong-traded shares have risen 71 percent this year, compared with a 25 percent increase in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

What’s feeding this beast is a Chinese economy that expanded by 6.9 percent in both the first and second quarters of this year. Also, the number of mainland Chinese visitors to Macau surpassed 2 million in both July and August, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Golden Week could be the busiest holiday in Macau of any holiday during the past four years, Karen Tang, a research analyst with Deutsche Bank AG, said in a Sept. 20 report. That assessment was based on hotel bookings.

Revenue from high rollers has grown by more than 30 percent in the past four months, even as China tried to curtail capital outflows that topped $816 billion last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

China’s government said last month it would prohibit or restrict domestic companies from making overseas investments in sectors including the gaming industry, real estate, hotels and entertainment.

Still, that’s not fazing Macau legislator Jose Coutinho.

“No policies can hurt Macau in the long term,” he said. “Demand is there, Chinese customers love gambling, and the casino industry can eventually figure out ways to avoid the impact of the regulations, including restrictions on capital outflow.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Cuba Trips Still Getting Green Light From Tour Operators, Airlines and Cruise Lines

Associated Press

Many U.S. citizens will keep traveling to Cuba despite a travel warning. Pictured is a tour bus in Havana. Associated Press

Skift Take: Because there is no concrete evidence that American travelers would be endangered in Cuba, the vast majority of U.S. travel companies are maintaining their schedules to Cuba. Many companies are getting used to ill-conceived policies emanating from Washington, and are sticking with business as usual.

— Dennis Schaal

Tour companies, airlines, cruises and others in the travel industry say they will continue taking Americans to Cuba despite a dramatic safety warning issued Friday by the U.S. State Department.

“We continue to believe that Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers, and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes,” said Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours. “There has long been significant political tension between the U.S. and Cuban governments, but the experience that our travelers have had on the ground with the Cuban people has been nothing short of amazing. We have no reason to expect that these experiences will not continue.”

Travel providers point out that there are no reports of American travelers having been harmed by the mysterious sonic attacks against U.S. diplomats and other officials, and that travel to Cuba by Americans remains legal under existing regulations.

Collin Laverty of Cuba Educational Travel noted that the U.S. State Department has issued numerous alerts and advisories against travel by Americans to places like Mexico and Europe because of crime, terrorism and other dangers. In contrast, in Cuba, “they have no evidence to indicate that U.S. travelers at risk during their visits to Cuba.” He also called the warning “absolutely unnecessary and counterproductive.”

The Trump Administration said earlier this year that it planned to issue new rules limiting travel by Americans to Cuba but it has not yet done so.

U.S. airlines continue to offer regular flights to Cuba, cruises continue to make stops there, Airbnb has a thriving rental business in Cuba and tour companies are still offering trips.

American Airlines is among a number of carriers declining to refund or waive change fees for Cuba flights despite the warning Friday. Travelers with tickets to Cuba are being treated like any travelers wishing to make changes: They must call the airline’s reservations line to see what the options are, based on whether they bought a refundable or non-refundable ticket, said American spokesman Matt Miller.

“It is still legal to travel to Cuba,” reiterated Greg Buzulencia, CEO of ViaHero, which creates personal itineraries for Americans visiting Cuba. “I don’t have any insight on the claimed attacks on U.S. diplomats, but there have been no such attacks on US travelers.” He said they’d had no cancellations from travelers.

John West made plans months ago to go to Cuba next week with a group of 12 friends from Washington D.C. and New York. Now they want to cancel. West said as of midday Friday, they couldn’t get refunds on their United flights or the Airbnb house they rented in Havana. “We’re kind of stuck in a pickle,” West said. “We sent them articles stating that diplomats are getting attacked by this sonic whatever it is. … All these issues arising from the hurricane and the attacks on the diplomats — it’s just not safe for us to go.”

Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said that “consistent with U.S. law, our operations in Cuba will continue. … Guests from the United States who have previously booked a trip to Cuba and wish to cancel their travel to Cuba can contact Airbnb to have their Airbnb reservation cost refunded under our extenuating circumstances policy.”

United spokesman Frank Benenati said the airline’s Cuba flights are operating “normally.”

In Friday’s travel warning, the State Department said some of the unexplained physical effects have occurred in Cuban hotels, and that while American tourists aren’t known to have been hurt they could be exposed if they travel to Cuba. Tourism is a critical component of Cuba’s economy.

Carlos Valderrama, owner of Cuba Travel Group, a Miami-based agency that sells trips for cultural tours and eco-tourism, said he’s already booked a third fewer trips this year than last because of President Donald Trump’s June announcement that restrictions were forthcoming on travel to Cuba. As for Friday’s warning, Valderrama said, “It was already very difficult to explain to Americans who want to travel to Cuba the ways in which they can do it correctly. This will only scare them more. But it’s doesn’t reflect the reality of (what it’s) like to travel to Cuba.”

Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said that because the incidents referenced in the warning took place in hotels and diplomatic residences, “we do not feel that they pose a risk to our cruise passengers.” A Carnival cruise spokeswoman said it was “evaluating” the warning.

___

Beth Harpaz reported from New York. Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.

This article was written by Beth Harpaz and Adriana Gomez Licon from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Eastern Libya Issues Retaliatory Travel Ban Against U.S. Travelers

Libya Tourism

Old Roman ruins stand in the ancient archaeological site of Sabratha on Libya’s Mediterranean coast. The ancient Roman city of Sabratha used to attract more than 20,000 foreign visitors annually before the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. Now the temples and mosaics overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean are usually deserted. Libya Tourism

Skift Take: While we generally dislike travel bans, it’s better safe than sorry in this case. Tripoli and other cities have seen fighting between armed groups and government forces, catching hotels in the crossfire.

— Sean O’Neill

The Libyan government based in the east of the country will bar American citizens from entering Libya in retaliation for the latest U.S. travel ban.

The eastern government said in a statement Wednesday that the latest version of the U.S. ban, set to take effect Oct. 18, is a “dangerous escalation.”

Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, and is now split between two rival governments, each backed by an array of militias.

President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban includes the suspension of all immigrant visas for nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, and the suspension of non-immigrant visas, such as for business and tourism, to nationals of Chad, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen.

 

Copyright (2017) Associated Press. All rights reserved.

 

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

American Airlines Teams With Casper for In-Flight Bedding and a Hipper Appeal

Casper

American Airlines’ Casper-branded in-flight bedding may appeal to a younger set of passengers. Casper

Skift Take: American and Casper will soon be working together to bring custom-designed bedding to the airline’s long-haul flights. A hipper brand such as Casper may resonate better with younger flyers than legacy brands such as Westin or Saks.

— Grant Martin

As the gulf between premium and economy cabins continues to grow, airlines are increasingly turning to onboard amenities to create unique distinctions between products.

Early in 2013, Delta started working closely with Westin to promote the airline’s “Sleep Experience” initiative, which took advantage of pillows and comforters developed in collaboration with the hotel chain. A big part of United’s Polaris launch, as well, took advantage of a Saks Fifth Avenue collaboration on the bedding design.

Now, American Airlines is launching a partnership with Casper, the upstart bedding company, to develop a mattress pad, duvet, pillow, day blanket, lumbar pillow, pajamas, and slippers for some of American’s premium cabins.

Casper’s mattresses, around which the company was arguably built, are ironically not part of the collaboration. Instead, Casper engineers worked together with American to develop a series of materials and products that better suit in-flight consumers.

That the company’s game-changing mattresses aren’t part of the equation may also be secondary to the true nature of the partnership. As a brand, Casper has fared well among younger audiences interested in simple, digital-first design (Casper’s mattresses initially only shipped direct from online purchases). As that same audience considers which airline to book from New York to Los Angeles, a younger, hipper brand may resonate better than a legacy brand such as Westin or Saks.

American plans to employ the Casper bedding on select transcontinental flights operated by the A321T, its three-class premium aircraft with lie-flat beds in first and business. Long- haul international flights will also get the updated amenities.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Uber’s Path to $70 Billion Won’t Be Kind and Gentle

Bloomberg

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has apologized for the company’s behavior in London. Bloomberg

Skift Take: It will be a challenge for Uber to repair its image and conduct damage control while continuing to grow globally with an eye on going public.

— Andrew Sheivachman

The new chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc. is on a crusade to repair a corporate reputation that’s been badly damaged by scandals over its treatment of women and broader corporate culture. Dara Khosrowshahi even apologized after London’s transport regulator revoked Uber’s local license because of failures to run proper background checks on drivers and report alleged crimes.

All this stokes hopes for a kinder, gentler Uber; one ready to seek a public listing to capitalize on a monster paper valuation of up to $70 billion.

It’s going to take more than nice words to get to that point, though. Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the stand-off with London mayor Sadiq Khan looks solvable. What is less clear is how the new boss fixes a thornier, and much more expensive, problem: how Uber categorizes its drivers.

No one really knows yet whether Uber’s new boss, as well as the deeply divided board that oversees him, is really prepared to change the company’s way of doing business. Under bombastic founder Travis Kalanick, it expanded rapidly by arguing that its status as a mere piece of software to connect drivers with riders meant the old rules on everything from tax to permits didn’t apply.

That approach can’t be sustained, at least in places like Europe where labor and social protections are stronger.

Case in point: Uber is in front of an employment tribunal in London this week to appeal a decision that would make it give U.K. drivers more rights like overtime, holiday and sick pay. The judges decided last year that Uber drivers weren’t self-employed and deserved so-called “worker” status, an in-between category in Britain. In another U.K. legal case, Uber’s tax arrangements are being challenged, namely a structure by which it allegedly uses a Dutch entity to minimize value-added tax.

Will the new warm and fuzzy Uber be willing to revamp practices that actually affect the bottom line? Net revenue grew by double digits to reach $6.5 billion last year, but losses totaled a massive $2.8 billion, in part because of expanding operating costs and subsidies paid to drivers. Uber’s costs are simply not covered by the commissions they charge drivers.

Helping Uber reach sustainable profit means thinking carefully about where and how it operates. It has already exited China and Russia,where it was losing out to competitors. But Khosrowshahi needs to stop skirting regulatory obligations in the places where it does want to be, even if that adds cost at first.

On employment, I’ve argued previously that Uber could adopt a model in some countries where it offers drivers the choice of being self-employed or traditional employees. While this would certainly add to expenses, it would be a more sustainable legal basis in countries where social welfare is based on state-funded healthcare and retirement. It’s unrealistic to think that Uber can side-step these deeply entrenched systems forever.

Some might argue that adding yet more cost to Uber would raise fundamental questions about its business model. But it only has to beef up its worker protections in markets that demand it. Not everywhere is like Europe. Besides, many drivers don’t want to be Uber employees anyway since they want to be flexible.

Khosrowshahi has a lot on his plate at the perpetual crisis machine that is Uber. But it would be a mistake to focus only on changing the company culture, as horrible as that has been. Tackling worker rights would no doubt mean a more realistic assessment of its value. If the new guy really wants to extend the hand of friendship, he shouldn’t forget his drivers.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Florida Keys Tourism Launches $1 Million Emergency Campaign

Andy Newman  / Florida Keys News Bureau via MCT

The Overseas Highway crosses the Florida Keys. The highway is a central component of the new tourism campaign. Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau via MCT

Skift Take: The Florida Keys needs to get the cash flowing back into its economy even though it is far from fully recovered from Hurricane Irma. The campaign may seem insensitive to some but things could get worse if the tourists don’t show up this winter.

— Dennis Schaal

The tourism promotion agency for the Florida Keys is initiating a $1 million emergency ad campaign to attract visitors back to the island chain following Hurricane Irma.

Keys tourism officials released details Friday.

The ad campaign promotes the theme “We Are 1,” referring to U.S. Highway 1, the Florida Keys Overseas Highway that runs throughout the Keys. It’s being supplemented by sales and public relations efforts to protect the winter tourism season.

Officials say they recognize not all Keys tourism offerings have recovered but added the industry employs about half the Keys’ workforce, and it’s important to have cash flow in the economy.

The campaign includes television, radio, digital, print and travel trade media in domestic markets. International markets include the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Ousted Uber CEO Fills 2 Board Seats and Wants Everyone to Know He’s Still a Force

Bloomberg

Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick, who resigned in June, is asserting his power by filling two vacant board seats. Bloomberg

Skift Take: We hope there will be security guards sitting in during Uber’s next board meeting because this is going to be rough. To borrow a phrase, former CEO Travis Kalanick is not going gentle into that good night. At all.

— Dennis Schaal

Travis Kalanick, former Uber Technologies Inc. chief executive officer, said he appointed Ursula Burns, Xerox Corp.’s former CEO, and John Thain, the ex-Merrill Lynch chief, to the startup’s board.

Kalanick is defending himself against a civil lawsuit brought by Uber’s largest shareholder, Benchmark, over his authority to appoint the two board seats. Kalanick says he controls three of the company’s eleven board seats. Benchmark is suing Kalanick for fraud and has asked him to relinquish control of those board positions. The suit is in private arbitration.

[Update: Recode published a statement from Uber about the board appointments. “The appointments of Ms. Burns and Mr. Thain to Uber’s Board of Directors came as a complete surprise to Uber and its Board,” Uber stated. “That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of.”]

Kalanick resigned as CEO on June 20 after Benchmark and a group of early investors asked him to step down. Uber’s board has been rife with infighting and underwent a contentious process to select former Expedia Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as its new chief. It was not immediately clear Friday afternoon if Khosrowshahi supports Kalanick’s decision to fill the two board seats.

“I am appointing these seats now in light of a recent board proposal to dramatically restructure the Board and significantly alter the company’s voting rights,” Kalanick said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. “It is therefore essential that the full Board be in place for proper deliberation to occur, especially with such experienced board members as Ursula and John.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Travel Brands React to New U.S. Travel Warning for Cuba

Royal Caribbean

Pictured is Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas. The cruise line feels its passengers are safe in Cuba — despite a U.S. government travel warning for the Caribbean island. Royal Caribbean

Skift Take: It’s hard to see how other airlines, hotels and cruise lines don’t follow JetBlue’s lead in issuing waivers on change fees and cancellations for itineraries to Cuba given the U.S. government’s ill-conceived warning for travel to the Caribbean island. The warning looks like it will help reverse the Obama administration’s loosening of restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba.

— Dennis Schaal

Reactions from the U.S. travel industry to the U.S. State Department’s warning that U.S. citizens should not travel to Cuba ranged from immediate to wait-and see.

Among them, JetBlue immediately offered to waive change and cancellation fees on its flights to Cuba while Royal Caribbean Cruises insisted that the reported sonic attacks on U.S. embassy personnel in Havana do not pose a risk to the cruise line’s passengers in Cuba.

American Airlines stated that there would be no changes in its Cuba policies for now, and that even includes its pending application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for more flights to the Caribbean island.

JETBLUE

JetBlue immediately changed its approach to Cuba — at least temporarily.

“Due to the travel warning issued by the U.S. Department of State for travel to Cuba, JetBlue will waive change/cancel fees for customers with reservations booked on or before September 29, 2017,” the airline announced. “Changes may be made through November 1, 2017. Full details here.

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES

Royal Caribbean Cruises had this to say about the U.S. warning on Cuba travel: “We are aware that U.S. Embassy has published a travel warning for Cuba. Since the warning is due to the events that occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens, we do not feel they pose a risk to our cruise passengers. Our guests explore Havana on escorted tours and do not visit hotels. We will continue to monitor the situation and will review any additional information that may be released.”

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

Vanessa Picariello, a spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line said the line’s “cruises to Havana continue to operate as scheduled. The safety and security of our guests and crew is always our first priority and we continue to maintain the highest security standards as we do in all ports of call.

“There have been no reported incidents involving tourists or other cruise ship passengers. Reported incidents have been isolated to diplomats and government officials residing on the island. Our shore excursions and tour locations have been thoroughly evaluated and none are military owned or operated. The visa issuing process for our guests remains unchanged.”

Norwegian Cruise Line made the argument that cruising to Cuba is the best way to go. In June, the Trump administration put limits on hotel stays in Cuba, pending the U.S. Department of Treasury Office on Foreign Asset Control issue new travel-to-Cuba rules, which are overdue.

“We continue to believe that the best way to travel to Cuba is via cruise ship and look forward to continuing to offer our guests the opportunity to explore Cuba’s beauty, culture and friendly people,” Picariello said.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said there has been “no adjustment to our Cuba service on account of developments today.”

American currently flies nine daily flights to five destinations in Cuba, including four from Miami to Havana, one from Charlotte to Havana, and one each from Miami to Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero.

Miller said several weeks ago American applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for additional frequencies from Miami to Cuba. He added that Miami is best-suited to capture travel demand from the U.S. to Cuba because more than 50 percent of Cuban-Americans reside in Miami-Dade County.

American’s application to the Department of Transportation is unaffected by Friday’s State Department announcement, he said.

AIRBNB

Asked to react to the State Department travel warning to Cuba, Nick Papas, director of public affairs public relations at Airbnb stated:

“We always advise our hosts and guests to check for any travel warnings or travel advisories that may apply to their plans. We encourage Americans with plans to travel to Cuba to review the latest updates from the State Department. Consistent with US law, our operations in Cuba will continue — hosts will continue to have the chance to offer their homes and experiences to guests visiting the island. Additional safety tips can be found here.

TripAdvisor, meanwhile, declined to comment on the new U.S. government warning on travel to Cuba.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

New App Offers Yacht-Sharing for $120 a Day

Float

A still from a Float promotional video, highlighting the speed and ease of using the app. Float

Skift Take: Cruising is already one of the cheapest ways to travel, but this yacht rental startup could be giving cruises a run for their money.

— Sarah Enelow

Yachting the French Riviera carries connotations of Champagne-fueled deck parties, zipping around the turquoise sea on jet skis, and having a crew to spray your sun-dappled face with Evian mist — all for the bare-minimum price of $10,000 per week.

Until now, those without five- and six-figure budgets have had a hard time living the yacht life. Either you “know a guy” who can rent you a boat for the day, or you go through official channels with a charter agency. A few hours on a small catamaran in Cannes? It can run upwards of $1,000 after rounds of contract negotiations, commissions, and carbon-copied forms.

Or you can bypass the system and live out your booze-fueled seafaring dreams for a mere €99 ($117) per day.

That’s the promise behind Float, a disruptor that launched this past June in Monaco and St. Tropez — and that’s quickly expanding to other major seafaring markets. Think of it a bit like Airbnb. The accommodation site lets you rent a room in an apartment or the full apartment, depending on how much you’d like to splurge or save. So too does Float: It lets you book just one “seat” if you don’t have seven friends to defray the cost of a yacht charter, or you can gather a group of friends and buy out a sleek little cruiser. Take the former approach, though, and you may end up making new friends when you drop anchor for a swim.

How It Works

“We’re more like NetJets than a water taxi,” says Float co-founder Jean-Jacques Boude, drawing a comparison between his startup and the Berkshire Hathaway Inc.-owned pioneer for fractional private jet ownership, which took a hit during the recession but is stable and growing after 53 years of operation. Airbnb and Uber, he says, have also inspired his approach. “We sell day charters by the seat or by the cabins for a few days on board, all through a fully digital app,” he says. (The model compares best to NetJets’ jet card program, which lets you buy “flight hours” on an a la carte basis.)

Indeed, the service is more experiential than a water taxi. Though Float will shuttle you to a buzzy beach club in Pampelonne or La Mala for the day, the appeal is more about being on the water than getting from Point A to Point B. You sail, you clink glasses, you swim in the Med, maybe even go fishing or take out some jet skis. Eventually you make your way to the destination port for a few hours before turning back around to the place where you first started.

Booking takes two to three minutes, tops: You sign up on the app or website, pick your origin and destination, select the number of seats you want to book, and input your credit card. Moments later a boarding pass is sent to your Apple Wallet. No contracts, no surcharges, and no hidden costs. (That’s a distinguishing factor, says Boude, noting that traditional charter companies liberally pile on fuel and food charges during rounds of contract negotiations.)

The Experience

Despite the slimmed-down cost — which mostly cuts out overhead — you don’t get a particularly slimmed-down service. Ruinart Champagne and canapés are included, as well as a full crew. A concierge service will also book you dinner at the hot new restaurant of your choice, or help you bring a DJ on board for private dance parties.

But Float is still a small company, and its fleet follows suit. These aren’t megayachts in the vein of Azzam, the record-setting 591-footer owned by the Emir of Abu Dhabi. Currently, Float’s two vessels are of much humbler proportions — one clocks in at 49 feet (15 meters); the other at 59 feet (18 meters) — but the company is investing in larger motor yachts as it readies to launch in other global destinations. If all goes according to plan, Boude says, Float will be operating three ships in Miami by November; next year, he told Bloomberg, he’ll launch in Ibiza, Mykonos, and Corfu. By then, he expects to secure at least one 104-foot superyacht, which will offer overnight trips from Miami to the Bimini islands for $1,000 per person per night.

A Reasonable Ride

Sort of like Bolt Bus or MegaBus, Float is built on the principle of dynamic pricing: If demand is high, the €99 rates might climb. (Boude expects the prices to max out at €199, or $235.)

And that price point does imply certain limitations. While there’s hot food to go with those fabulous drinks, it’s preprepared and then heated by a basic onboard crew — you’re not splurging on a private chef. If you want to add an experience like jet skiing or fishing, that’s an extra cost.

“Most of our clients, about 90 percent, never eat on board anyway — they go to restaurants instead,” says Boude, adding that thus far the service has been especially popular with Formula One drivers such as Max Verstappen.

What remains to be seen is the size of Float’s margins, which may be the point of scrutiny as the startup enters its second round of funding. “This is a demanding business in terms of cash flow — we may be doing fundraising every three months,” Boude jokes. But he says the company’s wide appeal has investors knocking. “For people who have never been on a yacht or could never afford it, it will allow them to do that.”

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

All-Encompassing Cuba Travel Warning Issued by Trump Administration

Yander Zamora  / Reuters

The U.S. flag flies at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, August 14, 2015. The U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens on September 29, 2017 not to visit Cuba. Yander Zamora / Reuters

Skift Take: The U.S. warning might have been limited to visiting hotels in Cuba, where U.S. embassy employees have allegedly been targeted. But instead the Trump administration would prefer to close the door on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba. As Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said at the Skift Global Forum this week, U.S. policy toward Cuba has accomplished nothing over the last few decades.

— Dennis Schaal

The U.S. State Department issued a categorical travel warning about Cuba: Americans shouldn’t visit.

“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba,” the warning begins. [See the full text of the travel warning for Cuba below.]

Published news articles earlier Friday indicated that a warning would be tied to U.S. embassy employees in Havana reportedly being subjected to attacks of an unspecified nature in Cuban hotels and at diplomatic facilities.

But the actual warning issued today says isn’t limited to hotels but cautions U.S. citizens to avoid the island altogether.  This will be a blow, in particular, to cruise lines and U.S. airlines that have upped their itineraries on the island since the Obama administration opened things up.

The warning also announced that nonemergency U.S. Embassy employees and their families will be leaving Cuba.

The Trump administration had announced in June that it would leave airline and cruise travel to Cuba mostly intact, but it would clamp down on travel companies, such as U.S.-based hotel companies, doing business with the Cuban military. Many tourism enterprises in Cuba, particularly hotels, have ties to the Cuban military.

It’s up to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control to specify how the Trump administration plans to restrict U.S. travel to Cuba, reversing some of the Obama administration’s policies to open up Cuba travel to U.S. citizens, but the new regulations have not materialized yet despite missing a 90-day deadline.

All bets are off now that the State Department has warned Americans to avoid traveling to Cuba. Perhaps the new Treasury Department regulations will be more far-reaching than many observers envisioned.

Airbnb

Asked to react to the State Department travel warning to Cuba, Airbnb stated:

“We always advise our hosts and guests to check for any travel warnings or travel advisories that may apply to their plans. We encourage Americans with plans to travel to Cuba to review the latest updates from the State Department. Consistent with US law, our operations in Cuba will continue — hosts will continue to have the chance to offer their homes and experiences to guests visiting the island. Additional safety tips can be found here.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Here’s the full text of the warning, which was issued Friday:

“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba. Over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks. These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks. Affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.

“The Governments of the United States and Cuba have not yet identified the responsible party, but the Government of Cuba is responsible for taking all appropriate steps to prevent attacks on our diplomatic personnel and U.S. citizens in Cuba. Because our personnel’s safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba. Attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens. On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees and their family members to protect the safety of our personnel.

“Due to the drawdown in staff, the U.S. Embassy in Havana has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens. The Embassy will provide only emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of emergency assistance should contact the Embassy by telephone at +(53)(7) 839-4100 or the Department of State at 1-202-501-4444. U.S. citizens should not attempt to go to the U.S. Embassy as it suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Irma.

“Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their travel agency and hotel staff.

“For further information:

“Visit the Embassy Havana website for the latest messages to U.S. citizens and other information related to Embassy operations.

“See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Cuba.

“Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest security updates and make it easier for the nearest U.S. Embassy to locate you in an emergency.

“Follow the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Twitter @USEmbCuba and Facebook and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.”

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico