It Doesn’t Always Pay to Book Direct and 6 Other Digital Trends This Week

Anick Jesdanun  / Associated Press

Sean Askay, right, engineering manager with Google Earth, demonstrates features on Google Earth, displayed in background, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in New York. Google is testing if travelers would like to use it to search and book vacation rentals. Anick Jesdanun / Associated Press

Skift Take: This week in digital news, direct booking may not save travelers money. Google and leading online travel agencies like Priceline are trying to up their market share.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines digital trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>A focus on restaurant marketing can take a business to the next level, but according to this survey, most restaurants don’t have the time — though they wish they did. One solution: building paid tools for restaurants to take best advantage of your platform in the least time possible: Chefs+Tech: TripAdvisor Says Restaurants Don’t Have Time to Market Like They Want

>>Maybe it really is better to keep clicking around if you’re hoping to save money (and you don’t want to be a member of a hotel loyalty program): New Research Suggests It Doesn’t Always Pay to Book Direct for a Hotel

>>DerbySoft has thrived as a vendor that helps global hotel groups with distribution partly because its top boss Ted Zhang called the rise of early on. Zhang’s latest predictions about what’s next for the industry may ruffle some feathers: Travel Tech CEO Series: DerbySoft Prepares for a Hotel Distribution Free-for-All

>>Priceline CEO Glenn Fogel says he wants travelers to think of’s name first when they start thinking about reserving homes and apartments for rental. He says a marketing effort is in the works to achieve that: Priceline CEO: Hotels Secretly Love Us Despite Accusations of Monopoly

>>In tests involving about 7,000 property listings in Europe, Google is checking if travelers would like to use it to search and book vacation rentals. Online travel rivals should be on the alert: Google Is Testing Vacation Rental Search in Its Hotel Price-Comparison Tool

>>A new white paper critiques today’s industry mania for mergers, which is driven by a fear of rising digital gatekeepers such as Airbnb, Google, and Expedia. The contrarian take is refreshing but begs questions: Smart Travel Companies Leverage Tech Giants Rather Than Fear Them

>>Dosh says it has 55 people working on letting travelers earn cash back on the money they spend on business trips, while Hoperator has debuted to bring AI tools to hotel chat. Each has promise: Cash-Back Biz Travel App Raises $7 Million: Travel Startup Funding This Week

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Small Luxury Ships Give Passengers a Close-Up View in Alaska

Madeleine Deaton  / Flickr

Seabourn, a luxury cruise line in the Carnival Corp. portfolio, has returned to Alaska for the first time in 15 years. Pictured here is a kayaker near Aialik Glacier, a popular spot for cruise itineraries to include. Madeleine Deaton / Flickr

Skift Take: Several luxury lines already sail in Alaska, but Seabourn’s return means passengers who want a high-end cruise experience mixed with adventure have even more choices in the popular summer destination.

— Hannah Sampson

If you think of Alaska as the Last Frontier, you might be surprised to find it overrun by fanny-packing cruisers, all scurrying from one Disneyfied shore excursion to the next. After all, tiny towns such as Ketchikan, Hoonah, and Valdez are welcoming upwards of a million passengers a year—despite having as few as 760 local residents.

Take Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas: It started sailing to Alaska last summer, with a shipboard population that, at 3,835 guests, is about one and a half times the entire population of Seward, one of the state’s largest ports.

The crowd-averse will look at numbers like those and cross an Alaska cruise off their bucket lists. But they’d be overlooking a stunning, intimate new option that’s geared toward luxury travelers with a thirst for adventure.

Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd., the small-ship cruise company whose restaurants are run in partnership with legendary chef Thomas Keller, is sailing to Alaska this summer for the first time in 15 years. Its itineraries, which start at 11 days and $5,800 per person, put a premium on active exploration: kayaking through fjords, hiking on glacier faces, trekking into ice caves, and paddling to waterfalls. And they’re capped at 458 passengers.

“I think Seabourn saw an opening in the Alaska market for cruises for those who want a luxury-meets-expedition experience,” said cruise expert Fran Golden, writing from Alaska, where she’s currently updating Frommer’s EasyGuide to Alaska Cruises and Ports of Call. “They are targeting the same crowd that might go glamping or on a luxury safari. You can get in a skiff and follow a pod of whales, while back on the ship you can hang out in your big suite, get a great massage, and eat some of the best cuisine at sea.”

Small Ship, Big Adventures

“Other cruise ships are ticking boxes,” said Robin West, director of expedition operations at Seabourn. And who can blame them? “Alaska sells extremely well for many companies, so there’s probably no need for them to deviate from an itinerary that sells,” he explained.

Seabourn’s Encore, which made its debut in 2016, was purpose-built for adventure—and for itineraries that vary from the norm. It doesn’t have all the high-tech, icebreaking bells and whistles of an expedition ship, but its back deck includes a marina-inspired dry dock for tons of zodiacs, kayaks, and catamarans. Combine that with the ship’s slender proportions—at 92 feet, the Encore is almost half the width of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas—and you get access to remote places that are ripe for high-octane thrills. [Editor’s note: The Seabourn ship currently sailing in Alaska is Sojourn, built in 2010 with a slightly smaller width of 84 feet.]

Some of these places aren’t even that far out of the way from Alaska’s most populous ports. Aialik Glacier, said West, is a stone’s throw from Seward and includes a mile-long glacier face that’s among the largest such formations visible on any cruise itinerary. In the summertime, when harbor seals give birth, the area is populated with tiny pups and their whiskered parents, all lying on ice flows and sunbathing. You can see them up close from your kayak. Then it’s just 4 miles onward to the even lesser-known Holgate Glacier, where you paddle along calving ice formations until you stumble upon colonies of puffins and sea otters.

Much of the adventure is on the water, whether you’re in a kayak or a catamaran—this is Alaska, after all. But some of the biggest thrills are reserved for not-so-dry land. In often-overlooked Haines, you can strap on crampons and walk across the Davidson Glacier with local mountain guides; near Juneau, you can hike through the ice caves of Mendenhall. The full-day adventure gets you wading through rocky river paths that run beneath glacial arches, each as blue as the clear summer sky.

Rethinking the Classics

Unlike expedition craft, Seabourn offers a five-star experience back on deck—with all the creature comforts and amenities of a full-scale ship. (Think multiple restaurants, a theater with productions by Broadway lyricist Sir Tim Rice, a casino, and onboard lecturers with Ph.D.s in the local ecology.)

“They go to many of the same towns other lines do so but with a new twist,” said Golden. “For instance, in Sitka, you go by catamaran to get up close to St. Lazaria Island, a protected wildlife refuge, so you can spot puffins and other birds through your binoculars. Then you have lunch at Dove Island Lodge, which has a 2016 Wine Spectator award.”

And while Misty Fjords is a popular scenic spot that cruisers can visit, they often have to do so by float plane from Ketchikan—which means half of their excursion is wasted on transit to and from the fjord itself. Seabourn sails directly into the fjord and coordinates float planes to meet them shipside at a floating dock, so passengers can spend more time hovering over the dramatic sights.

“We’re not only cutting out some of the tedious logistics, we’re also offering a really cool experience,” said West. “When you sail straight to Misty Fjords, you pass through high walls of ice and waterfalls, and you have a high chance at seeing bears. It’s very dramatic, very out-of-the-box.”

“We needed to expand our portfolio,” he said, “and Ventures was a natural option in Alaska—it really is a branding differentiator for us, and nobody else is doing it like we do.” Golden agrees. “For repeat cruisers, you’ve cruised to the Caribbean and Europe, and now you want to go to Alaska,” she said. “For newbies it’s a bucket list place, and a cruise is the best way to see the glaciers and other highlights of the Inside Passage. Doing that on a ship that serves caviar on deck as you look at a glacier? It’s a nice perk.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.


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Language App Competition Is Growing But the Best Features Aren’t Free


Language apps let tourists do homework before reaching their destination, but all apps are not created equal. Pictured here is a promotional image for Mondly. Mondly

Skift Take: It’s easier than ever to pick up some key phrases (or more) before a foreign trip, but travelers should do some research to figure out which option is best for their needs — and how much it will cost.

— Hannah Sampson

If you’re not careful about your pronunciation, it’s pretty easy to tell someone in France that you’re pregnant instead of saying you’re full. In Israel, you might ask someone to buy their daughter instead of buying a slice of bread. Saying you’re cold in German? It sounds a lot like saying you’re dead.

Even those poor conjugation skills make all the difference between trying to say “Let’s get on with it” and “Let’s get it on!”

Living like a local is all the rage for travelers, but speaking the local language is not always so easy.

Even having a few basic phrases can go a long way, depending on where you are. Last winter, when I found myself in rural Thailand, I had few words in my repertoire other than hello (“sa-wa-dee-kah”) and thank you (“kap koon kah”). Despite that paltry showing, I was surprised at how genuinely locals seemed to appreciate the effort. On a solo trip in Brazil, I managed a half-hour conversation with a cab driver using nothing more than my fluent Spanish. With middling Hebrew (which has much in common with Arabic), I was able to learn about ongoing Eid Al-Adha traditions when I arrived in Morocco last September.

Thanks to a rise in Rosetta Stone-style mobile apps, it’s easier than ever to pick up a new language—or at least get a grasp on the basics before your next trip. And thanks to push notifications that keep you coming back, gamified motivational techniques, and bots that help you practice without imposing judgment, they’re likely to get you speaking conversationally—and gaffe free—before you hop on the plane.

Here, the best ones to consider, depending on your personal learning style and ongoing goals.

For Short Attention Spans: Drops

Why we like it: No reading. No typing. Just five minutes a day. That’s how Drops promises to get you to learn one of 19 languages—spanning from French and Spanish to Korean and Arabic. (Esperanto, comically, is also included.) Lessons walk you through 120 word buckets covering food, drinks, numbers, and hotel terms. And instead of showing you flash cards with cheesy stock photos, the app focuses on clean illustrations, all in white, set against solid-colored backdrops. Whether you’re matching pictures to their translations, unscrambling letters to practice spelling, or swiping across a grid of letters to unearth the word that matches the picture, the exercises feel like quick games rather than classroom worksheets.

The caveat: Drops places a heavy emphasis on building vocabulary through nouns, which means you won’t get much in the way of grammar, usage, and conjugations. You won’t be quizzed on speaking or pronunciation, either. And though you can purchase unlimited time for as little as $48 per year, five-minute blocks mean that you learn at a relatively slow pace. That’s great if that’s all the time you have to spare, anyway—not so great if you’re actively trying to cram before a trip.

To Sound Like a Local: Busuu

Why we like it: Busuu offers the language-learning equivalent of pen pals—if you’re studying French, you can have your speaking exercises evaluated by Busuu students in France, so long as you return the favor and grade someone else’s homework in your native tongue. (With 70 million users around the world, it’s not a stretch to find a study partner you’ll love.) To extend the theme, lessons in 12 languages include insightful tips on local usage: For instance, this is the only app I tried that told me that French natives are more likely to use the plural “ons” instead of “nous” when conjugating “we” verbs.

The caveat: Most of the app’s best features, including unlimited exchanges with foreign students, are behind a paywall. But the plans are highly affordable: one month costs $8 and a year goes for $45, less than a dollar per week.

For a Long-Term Commitment: Duolingo

Why we like it: While all of these apps are free to download, Duolingo is the only one without a premium subscription model, which means you’re free to learn 23 languages at your own pace—even if that means spending several hours a day on your Italian. It’s also holistic in its teaching style: You learn vocabulary, grammar, and usage simultaneously, with illustrated flashcards and fill-in-the-blank exercises that really make you think. A new feature are chat bots, which stretch your skills. They might walk you through a conversation with a chef who’s deciding what to eat, or a model who wants help picking an outfit. Whether you need to refer to word cues at the bottom of the screen or not, they force you to use contextual clues to learn new words.

Elsewhere in the app, game-like elements are a valuable motivator. You lose points for wrong answers and gain them back by practicing your rustiest words. And sliding scales indicate whether you’ve fully mastered a lesson or are due for a refresh.

The caveat: If learning to speak is your priority, you’ll find the spelling exercises tedious. (They’re especially frustrating with romance languages that require lots of accent marks.) Pronunciation exercises are also too forgiving—you can be marked correct even if you completely botch your answers. And for travelers, vocabulary doesn’t skew towards the practical—you’re likely to learn how to conjugate “I read, you read, she reads” or “the cat is black” before learning to say “please” and “thank you.”

For a Quick Fix: Memrise

Why we like it: Beneath a kitschy narrative concept about unlocking the outer cosmos, Memrise shows a real concern for both fun and practicality. A highly customizable format lets you decide how many words you can absorb in a single lesson and positive reinforcement abounds; as you progress in your learning, you earn points for correct answers, graduate through a silly rank system, collect badges, and watch your skills grow from seedlings to flowers. Plus, the app favors everyday conversational skills over technical exercises—my very first lesson in French covered the phrase “bottoms up!” Also fun: Lessons in 18 languages include endearing video clips from native speakers so you can hear different voices and attune your ear to the way real people (not overly articulate teachers) speak on a day-to-day basis.

The caveat: The app offers little opportunity to practice your pronunciation, and it constantly nags you to upgrade to the “pro” version, which includes “speed review” games and extended lessons—at a cost of $60 per year.

The Closest Thing to a Classroom Education: Mondly

Why we like it: It’s not beautifully designed. And it’s not gamified. But what Mondly lacks in charm, it makes up for in comprehensiveness and rigor. Basic lessons walk you through the nuts and bolts of conversational language (“How are you?” and “My name is …”); they get progressively difficult and more involved, spending roughly two hours of instruction on each of 20 topics (animals, travel, shopping, for instance). As in school, you get as much out of Mondly as you’re willing to put into it: New words come with conjugation charts you can study, and daily lessons cover bonus materials and unlock weekly quizzes. It adds up to the most fulsome app-learning experience, if not the most riveting one.

The caveat: Like some other apps, Mondly keeps the majority of its lessons behind a paywall. (Plans start from $3.99 per month.) And its uninspired interface can sometimes feel like a chore. But with 32 languages to choose among—including such hard-to-find options as Persian and Afrikaans—it may be worth it.

©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

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Red Lion Sues Hard Rock and 4 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

Ali Eminov  / Flickr

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, Iowa. Red Lion is suing Hard Rock Hotels for infringement. Ali Eminov / Flickr

Skift Take: This week’s hospitality news was a bit contentious. Red Lion sues Hard Rock, Chipotle makes customers sick, and Marriott and Hilton crack down on guest cancellations.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines hospitality.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>There are literally only so many ways you can appeal to Millennials in hotel design, and copycats are inevitable. That’s why hospitality really can be a “me too” industry, as hotelier Ian Schrager so often laments: Red Lion Sues Hard Rock Hotels for Infringement in Race to Win Over Millennials

>>Maybe it really is better to keep clicking around if you’re hoping to save money (and you don’t want to be a member of a hotel loyalty program): New Research Suggests It Doesn’t Always Pay to Book Direct for a Hotel

>>Wyndham’s version of a great American idea? Buying AmericInn. (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.): Wyndham Buys AmericInn Hotel Chain for $170 Million

>>The illness reports, consistent with symptoms of norovirus, come from one Chipotle location that has since reopened. Chipotle will likely be haunted by its past as long as it’s around: Chefs+Tech: Chipotle Haunted by News of Store Closure Due to Illness

>>Forty-eight hours isn’t too bad, but things might be tougher for everyone, corporate and leisure travelers alike, if the policy stretches to 72 hours down the line: Marriott and Hilton’s New Cancellation Policies Won’t Impact Corporate Travel as Much as You Think

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Vacation Rental Managers and Owners: HomeAway Chaos – Round 3

“What is next?”  This is the burning question we get from clients who are frustrated with the continued policy changes that are negatively impacting our industry. If you have not visited your HomeAway listing lately, do so, it is an eye opener.  We always urge our new clients to take a moment to review one […]

The post Vacation Rental Managers and Owners: HomeAway Chaos – Round 3 appeared first on VRM Intel.

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The Future of Corporate Travel and 12 Other Tourism Trends This Week


iCars and at GBTA 2017. Corporate travel still struggles to innovate. Skift

Skift Take: This week in tourism, conventions were top of mind: cities leverage their innovation economies to drive convention growth and at GBTA, corporate travel appears stagnant.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines tourism.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>One lucky fan will win a trip to New York City to attend Skift Global Forum! Will it be you? Feeling Lucky? Enter Our Skift Global Forum Giveaway

>>Beyond limiting company spending, there are financial reasons why business travelers feel so constrained by corporate travel-booking policies. It’s time for everyone to be honest about them: The Real Reasons Business Travelers Don’t Get What They Want

>>Many U.S. travelers don’t want to be labeled as racists or bigots, and publicly oppose discriminatory legislation. But that doesn’t mean they won’t take a trip they’ve been planning all year, especially if the legislation doesn’t involve them: Discriminatory Bathroom Bills Won’t Keep Most Travelers Out of Affected States

>>Is affordable luxury an oxymoron? Do luxury products risk diluting their images by brand extensions? How to Create a Better Brand Extension for Luxury Travel Consumers

>>Focusing on current micro-trends will allow prescient travel businesses to get a leg up on the competition. The key, though, is distinguishing between a micro-trend and a fad: How Trends Evolve and Shape Consumer Travel Habits

>>Environmental sustainability will be the mark of luxury as we move into the future with discerning customers demanding that the businesses they patronize do everything possible to mitigate their impact: Environmental Sustainability Is the Next Frontier in Luxury Travel

>>Duffey’s departure is mysterious, but the new (and old) CEO knows the company and headed it for several years. There shouldn’t be too much upheaval or shift in strategy, even if the unexpected change proves distracting for awhile: Six Flags Just Unexpectedly Replaced Its CEO With Its Previous CEO

>>In theory, the merger of iCars and promises a thriving black car service for corporate travelers. In practice, there is circumstantial evidence this investment vehicle hasn’t yet left the repair shop: iCars Denies That It Is Spinning Its Wheels in Corporate Ground Transport

>>Another year, another GBTA. It seems like corporate travel is heading in the direction of offering more options to business travelers, but progress remains slow: GBTA Notebook: The Future of Corporate Travel Is Basically the Same as the Past

>>There’s a growing conversation in the U.S. about how city governments and convention bureaus can better pool their resources to promote their local startup and research communities to convention organizers: Cities Want to Leverage Conventions Better to Drive Growth — Meetings Innovation Report

>>Many travel brands had said last year was tough as full-year international visits to the U.S. decreased in 2016 for the first time since 2009: International Tourism to the United States Dropped in 2016

>>New tools streamlining booking and expenses are here from big travel management companies, but they still lag behind consumer products in many ways: The Future of Business Travel — Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report

>>While growth prospects for business travel spending look strong for next year into 2020, there is still enough uncertainty that experts are adding lots of caveats to their forecast: Business Travel Spending Is Expected to Gain Steam Globally by 2018

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Tips From a Road Warrior: Never Eat on Planes and Always Carry Pepto-Bismol

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines serves high-quality food, but as on many carriers, its meals have more salt than the average restaurant dish, so some travelers skip the catering completely. Singapore Airlines

Skift Take: You will almost certainly feel better when you arrive if you don’t eat the airline food. But what fun is that? Eating two or three meals on a long-haul flight is part of the experience, right?

— Brian Sumers

At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.

Melissa Biggs Bradley is the founder of luxury travel firm Indagare. The membership-based travel club is the secret weapon of 1 Percenters, known for planning and arranging near-impossible trips from chartering planes and yachts to overnights at billionaires’ private islands.

When not planning others’ jaunts, Biggs Bradley herself spends between 3½ and 4 months on the road each year, flying around 200,000 miles. “I’m not really loyal to any airline—to me the most important thing is the convenience of the time,” she says, though she recommends Delta domestically and the premium cabins of Air France and Cathay Pacific.

She lives in New York City with her husband and two teenage children.

The cabin crew’s secret to avoiding jet lag.

I eat nothing on flights. I’ve talked to a lot of stewardesses about it, and it’s a stewardess secret. Ten years ago, it was [a cabin crew member] on Singapore Airlines on what was, at the time, the longest flight in the world (17 hours from Singapore to New York). She told me that her tried-and-true trick was not eating in-flight. Basically, at superhigh altitude, your digestive system shuts down completely. Someone said to me it’s like being under anesthesia. So when you get off the plane, everything restarts and [your digestive system] has so much more work to do and so it makes you more tired.

Most people overeat because it’s a diversion, or a way to pass the time; but even the best plane food is oversalted and preserved so it can be microwaved. So I have something to eat a couple hours before getting on the plane, but otherwise it’s nothing but lots and lots of water. Really and truly, I live by it and I feel so much better. I flew to Paris last week, for example, and I got off the plane at maybe 10 a.m., and when I landed I went for a fabulous lunch, which I didn’t feel guilty about in the slightest.

How to find a local recommendation in a city where you know no one.

To me, so much about travel is not about where you go but who you meet when you’re there. When you go to another city, you always want to have the name of somebody [to ask for recommendations]. A friend of mine told me one of his tips is always to go and seek out a restaurant with a communal table in any place he’s going where he doesn’t have the name of somebody to look up. It’s an instant way to interact with local people.

Travel insurance is vital—but so is stomach insurance.

A number of years ago, I was in Delhi and I went out to dinner, and immediately started to feel that I was getting food poisoning, which was the first time for me in India. So a friend of mine gave me a jar of probiotics; I popped two or three pills, and the queasy feeling was instantly cured. It was the craziest thing. Ever since then, I take them daily whenever I’m traveling anyplace—I carry Pro-15. I also take Pepto-Bismol pills. The probiotics build up healthy bacteria in your gut and the Pepto-Bismol acts as a prophylactic that coats your digestive track like a protective sleeve and can help filter out organisms in contaminated water or food.

Sometimes it’s smarter not to stay in a five-star hotel.

In some [very popular] cities, you’re better off taking an amazing suite in a four-star hotel instead of the lowest-category room in a five-star. In Rome, for example, you can get something really amazing at the Portrait Suites, or in Barcelona, the Hotel Arts vs. the Majestic Hotel.

How to manage your family during vacation—and how to make the most of it afterward.

If you’re on a multigenerational family trip, announce there are three roles: instructor, documenter, and note taker. Every day, someone has to document everything—they’re the cameraperson. Someone else is taking notes, and someone else is in the position of trip leader, so they have to brush up and give a few minutes’ talk on what you’re seeing today. Every day, rotate those roles, and then at the end of the trip, you have a wonderful record. You can also assign one family member the role of editor, who will compile a book of everyone’s photographs and print it for everyone.

How to get a billionaire to subsidize your vacation.

Many of the most incredible hotel properties in the world today are owned by successful business leaders who fell in love with a place and decided to spend time there but also to share it with paying guests—there’s Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull who turned Malcolm Forbes’s private island in Fiji into the sustainable luxury resort Laucala, or Paul Tudor Jones, who leases a 350,000-acre concession in the northern Serengeti in Tanzania and has lodges like Singita Sasakwa and Sabora.

They’ve not built it to monetize it, or as a profit center—they’re just very successful people who fell in love with a place and bought it for their own personal pleasure, investing enormous amounts of money to extremely high standards [for themselves]. As soon as you’re there, you recognize it: You’re paying $3,000 per night, perhaps, to be at one of Paul Tudor Jones’s places, but the value of the food, the activities, the comfort? You think, ‘He’s subsidizing me.’ On Laucala, it’s maybe $4,000 per night for two people, all-inclusive, but you literally can be on that island, with the whole place to yourself, and have 400 staff taking care of you.

How to never lose service for just 10 bucks per day.

A friend gave me a Skyroam, the mobile hotspot, a few years ago. You pay $10 per day and it doesn’t matter how much data you use in those 24 hours, whether your kids download three movies or use Instagram, which takes up so much data. Even in a lot of lounges at airports, I use it, as so many people will be on the lounge Wi-Fi it’s too slow, and in a hotel, when there’s a usage charge per device, I can use Skyroam instead—I’ve got five people on the same connection, and I’m not paying the Wi-Fi fee either. The only way you get into trouble with it is if you don’t check the coverage before you go—it doesn’t work in every country, but it’s never failed me. There’s a long list on the website, and it works beautifully in Mexico and Italy and Japan.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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JetBlue Seeks Investors for Proposed New York JFK Terminal

Doug Letterman  / Flickr

JetBlue opened a new Terminal 5 at New York JFK in 2008. Now, it wants to expand again, and it is looking for investors. Doug Letterman / Flickr

Skift Take: After failing to acquire Northern California-based Virgin America last year, JetBlue remains an East Coast-focused airline. It makes sense that the airline may need more real estate in New York.

— Brian Sumers

JetBlue Airways Corp. is looking for investors and developers to help build a new Terminal 6 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, with possible expansion to include a second facility.

JetBlue holds exclusive rights to develop the site of JFK’s previous Terminal 6, which was torn down. The project also may involve the replacement of Terminal 7, which was built in 1972, the New York-based airline said in a statement Friday.

“It’s prime real estate in a very congested airport,” Chief Financial Officer Steve Priest said in an interview. “It’s got the potential to have great value for JetBlue, our customers and our shareholders.”

The carrier, which opened a new Terminal 5 at the airport in 2008, would lead the project, fitting in with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $10 billion plan to expand or redevelop JFK’s facilities, add new security technology and improve road and rail access to the airport. Last year, a public-private partnership started rebuilding the central terminal at LaGuardia Airport, also in New York.

JFK is the busiest airport in the New York City area and ranks fifth in North America, with more than 56.8 million passengers a year, according to Airports Council International. JetBlue’s overseas destinations from New York include cities in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

It’s too early to discuss details including the cost, the size of the terminal and the number of gates or how many JetBlue might occupy, Priest said. He expects to issue a request for project proposals before year’s end, and for the new terminal to be open by the mid-2020s. Because of the partnership format, JetBlue doesn’t expect to devote “an expansive amount of capital” to the project, he said.

Possible Expansion

JetBlue hasn’t decided whether it might expand to flights across the Atlantic, Priest said. The airline has said it sees Europe “as a great opportunity” and holds the right to switch some planes ordered from Airbus Group SE to a version that would make such service possible.

“The one thing JetBlue is doing here is securing our future for the long term and making sure we have an avenue to grow,” Priest said. “This enables us to think about long-term growth.”

JetBlue added an international extension to Terminal 5 in 2014, and the new development would include international gates for the carrier and its 38 foreign-based partners. JetBlue’s busiest airport operation is at JFK, with as many as 175 of its 925 daily departures.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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U.S. Issues Egypt Travel Warning Following Attack on Tourists

Lee Horrocks  / Flickr

The U.S. has issued a new warning for travelers to Egypt. Tourists in South Sinai, Egypt. Lee Horrocks / Flickr

Skift Take: Egypt has been trying for years to counter the evidence that travel to the country is unsafe, and this travel warning from the U.S. concerning ISIS attacks represents yet another blow to Egypt’s flagging tourism sector.

— Andrew Sheivachman

Egypt has expressed “discontent” over the latest U.S. travel warning to the Mideast country, saying the notice makes a false distinction between terrorist groups and violent political organizations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said on Thursday that the wording of the travel advisory was dissatisfactory.

He says it is “unacceptable” to distinguish between violent political and militants since any group that uses violence is a terrorist one — a reference to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

The U.S. advisory on Wednesday urges Americans to consider the risks of travel to Egypt.

It came just days after a series of militant attacks, including a blitz in Sinai that killed 23 Egyptian soldiers and a stabbing attack on foreign tourists that killed two German women at a Red Sea resort.

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The IRS May Crack Down on Airbnb and Uber Income and Unpaid Taxes

Ben Brody  / Bloomberg

Sharing economy companies and the backwards nature of the IRS have led to an underreporting of taxable income, the IRS says. Ben Brody / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income go unreported every year by Airbnb hosts, Uber drivers, and similar sharing-economy workers. As the federal budget gets pressured, expect tax authorities to come calling.

— Sean O’Neill

Airbnb Inc. hosts and Etsy Inc. vendors who have avoided taxes on income from the sharing economy might have to start sharing more with the Internal Revenue Service.

Federal rules don’t require such companies to withhold any income taxes on the payments they route to people who provide services or sell items via their online platforms. The companies do have to notify the IRS about some participants’ earnings — but only if they exceed $20,000 and conduct more than 200 transactions a year.

A proposal last week from Republican Senator John Thune would lower that threshold to $1,000, providing a potential new source of billions of dollars in revenue as Congress mulls major cuts to business and individual tax rates.

“That’s going to raise a ton of money,” said Caroline Bruckner, managing director of American University’s Kogod Tax Policy Center in Washington. Billions of dollars in taxable income are probably going unreported every year, Bruckner wrote in a report last year. Those uncollected taxes will probably only increase as the number of so-called platform economy workers is expected to double by 2020 to about 7 million, the study warned. “This is easily a multibillion-dollar bill,” Bruckner said.

To be sure, that’s only a fraction of the multitrillion-dollar tax cuts that congressional leaders and Trump administration officials are considering. Still, as lawmakers seek to avoid adding to the deficit, every little bit helps.

JCT Examination

Thune’s proposal is under serious consideration and has received a detailed examination from the Joint Committee on Taxation, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. The JCT, which is responsible for evaluating the cost of tax legislation, is eager to tackle issues related to independent contractors, one of the people said.

“It’s a small piece but something that could very well fit nicely in a tax reform package,” said Dean Zerbe, a former senior counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, who hasn’t been involved in the discussions.

Companies in the sharing economy — such as firms that provide home repairs and food deliveries — link buyers with workers who the companies label as independent contractors rather than formal employees. Because the companies process payments, IRS rules say they only need to report revenue exceeding the $20,000 threshold. The rule applies only to companies that get paid by credit card.

“My legislation would provide clear rules so these freelance-style workers can work as independent contractors with the peace of mind that their tax status will be respected by the IRS,” Thune said in a statement. His office declined to comment further.

Airbnb Hosts

Uber Technologies Inc. reports drivers’ income to the IRS and the drivers themselves, regardless of the amount earned. Lyft Inc. does so when gross income exceeds $600 annually. Uber didn’t respond to requests for comment. Spokeswomen for Lyft and Etsy declined to comment on Thune’s proposal.

“While we’re evaluating this proposal, we have always made it clear to every Airbnb host that they must pay taxes,” said Nick Papas, a spokesman for the home-rental company. “We regularly communicate with our hosts to remind them about tax rules and have a dedicated section on our website where hosts can get all the information they need to meet their obligations.”

Contractors are generally responsible for paying taxes out of their own pockets, but Thune’s bill would also require sharing economy companies to withhold 5 percent of contractors’ payments — up to $20,000 — and deposit those payments with the IRS. The funds would be treated like an estimated tax payment by the company.

Adapting to the bill’s requirements would not “be a significant issue at all” for the companies, said Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Sharing Economy.”

‘Tax Price’

About 60 percent of 518 sharing economy workers surveyed in 2016 said they didn’t receive the forms that would notify the IRS of their earnings, according to Bruckner’s report.

“It’s arbitrary and inefficient to legislate that a guy who drives a taxi for a taxi company faces different rules, different benefit requirements, has taxes on wages withheld than a guy who does an identical job but whose employer gets to claim that he’s a contractor,” said Adam Looney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Another provision in Thune’s proposal would ease the reporting requirements for more traditional independent-contractor relationships. Businesses that hire those workers directly — such as FedEx Corp. — would only have to report payments that total more than $1,000 a year, instead of $600 as the current rule requires. That change could reduce some of the revenue generated by the lower threshold for independent contractors in the sharing economy, Zerbe said.

“FedEx supports legislative efforts that bring greater certainty to businesses large and small and that encourage entrepreneurial pursuits — such as small business ownership — that have proven to be the growth engine of the economy,” Jack Pfeiffer, a FedEx spokesman, said in an email.

Companies “want clarity without paying too much of a tax price,” said George Yin, a former Senate Finance Committee tax counsel. “That’s part of the balance of the bill.”

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