How travel and tourism has innovated over the past decade

For an industry that is all about movement, travel changes at a glacial pace.

At your local airport, the experience today will be much the same as it was in January 2010 – with the possible exception of carrying your boarding pass on your smartphone.

You will need to follow the same rules to go through the same security. The odds are you will board an Airbus or Boeing jet that was designed decades ago; the giant United Airlines has just announced an order for 50 Airbus A321 aircraft, a jet launched as something of an afterthought by the European planemaker in 1993. And your pilots will follow much the same tortuous course through the skies to your destination.

On the railways of the UK, ironically, the most innovative train operator of recent times, Virgin Trains, is about to be dumped by the Department for Transport (DfT) in favour of Avanti to run trains on the West Coast main line.

And few hoteliers seem yet to have woken up to the realisation that this is the second decade of the 21st century and the traditional accommodation model really needs to be updated to make life smoother for travellers.

These are my choices, and I would like to hear your nominations.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the endless battle between Airbus and Boeing was characterised as a conceptual dual between the giant Airbus A380 and the smaller Boeing 787. Both went through severe birth pains, with the “SuperJumbo” delayed two years before it entered service in October 2007.

The “Dreamliner” was even further behind schedule – flying for the first time in December 2009 and enduring a three-month grounding while self-combusting lithium batteries were sorted out. And Airbus is ending production of the A380. Partly it was because the concept of a 500 to 600-seat plane with four engines was an evolutionary cul-de-sac. But it was also because the A350 is a far better aircraft from the airlines’ viewpoint: easier to fill and hyper-efficient.

The A350 has two engines, a carbon fibre fuselage and wings, and capacity to fly 300-400 passengers comfortably and profitably – making it an “XL”-sized plane compared with the “L”-sized 787 and the “XXL” A380. 

The plane has been granted “370-minute Etops,” meaning it is certified to fly for over six hours on a single engine. So it can serve almost any route on the planet, including straight over the north pole from Heathrow to Hawaii or Edinburgh to Tahiti. There is just a tiny patch of the Antarctic that is beyond its capabilities.

Passenger benefits range from bigger windows and more headroom to higher cabin pressure and humidity, making long flights more bearable. On a Qatar Airways trip I flew outbound to Doha aboard a 787 (with intermediate flights on the dated A330) and back on a A350. The new Airbus won easily.

D-Train (entered service 2019)

Extensive and expensive fleets of new trains have been deployed in Britain over the past decade, predominantly on lines to, from or through London. The new Japanese-designed Intercity Express Trains on the Great Western lines are enabling faster journeys between the capital and Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. But the passenger jury is out about whether they are actually any more comfortable than the old High Speed Trains.

Meanwhile a company called Vivarail is doing something much more sustainable: bringing back to life old London Underground trains, reinventing the 40-year-old stock to run on branch lines around Britain. The perfectly serviceable aluminium bodies are retained, as are the steel wheels, but the interior is far more comfortable and spacious – with options for electric, diesel or battery power.

You can find them shuttling between Bletchley and Bedford, and soon the railway on the Isle of Wight (currently served by Underground trains from 1938) will get an upgrade.

Incidentally, this year’s glorious technological revolution in Scotland involves refreshing 40-year-old diesel trains that have been “cascaded” (the railway term for hand-me-downs) from the Great Western network for service from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness.

Eurostar to Rotterdam and Amsterdam (2018)

The Channel Tunnel train operator has the vast majority of passengers travelling from London to Brussels and Paris. Achieving dominance was easy, since the Eurostar network was designed to do just that. What has been disappointingly slow has been extending beyond the two cities – a summer-only link to the Mediterranean and a weekend winter service to the Alps are hardly revolutionary.

Finally in 2018 Eurostar launched a service to Amsterdam via Rotterdam, which has proved so successful that that 12-a-week link has been stepped up to 21 weekly departures. The main beneficiary is the traveller to Rotterdam, just three hours from St Pancras and previously poorly connected to Britain. Amsterdam, which is exceedingly well connected by air from the UK, is 40 minutes’ further.

Unfortunately, bureaucratic hold-ups mean that the service is one way only – coming back from the Netherlands, you have to change trains in Brussels. But the word on the platform is that direct inbound services should be with us by April 2020.

Gobbins Cliff Path (2015)

To see the “mist rolling in from the sea” to Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre, an excellent place to be is in Northern Ireland. Almost anywhere along the coast of Antrim will do, but the Gobbins Cliffs are particularly good; you can also look across at the anvil of land guarding the harbour at Stranraer in southwest Scotland. But this is just an overture for a fabulous reinvention of a Victorian adventure: clambering along the undercliff, on a network of walkways and bridges.

The Gobbins Cliff Path first opened in 1902 but was closed in the 1950s. Today, a guided tour makes an excellent day out from Belfast, or stepping stone to the Giant’s Causeway.

Hertz Ultimate Choice (2016)

The best rental car experience I have had all decade was earlier this year in Tampa airport. Forget lining up wearily after a long flight and going through the documents kerfuffle, carefully declining all the tedious and expensive extras. Instead, as Hertz instructed me by email: ”Go directly to the Gold zone, where you can choose any vehicle in that zone and go.” And that was that, choosing the roomiest (I was with an annoying film crew) and finding the keys already in the car. All I had done to deserve it was to sign up free with the rental firm’s Gold Plus frequent-renter scheme. Even though I am a very infrequent renter, I appear to qualify.

MS Roald Amundsen (2018)

“Flight-shaming” is an increasingly popular cause. “Cruise-shaming” isn’t. Yet in time the immense carbon footprint of cruising will be understood. Which means that the Roald Amundsen, the newest member of Norway’s Hurtigruten fleet, will be a relatively shining example of innovation – emitting one-fifth less CO2 than conventional vessels thanks to its hybrid propulsion system. Other vessels in the Hurtigruten fleet are being converted to run on liquified bio gas, made from organic waste such as fish.

Qantas from London to Perth (2018)

The daily Boeing 787 trip on the journey of 9,000-plus miles between Heathrow and Western Australia is now routine. While the environmental impact of ultra-long-haul flights is coming in for increased scrutiny, the passengers aboard the Dreamliner are loving the ability to reach Australia in a single hop. Families, passengers with reduced mobility and business people in a hurry are filling almost every seat on the 17-hour Qantas flights known as QF9 and 10. London-Sydney nonstops, likely to take three hours longer, may begin in the next decade.

Silk Road Express, Tashkent to Samarkand, Uzbekistan (2011)

The actual name of the train service on Uzbekistan’s high-speed railway is Afrosiyob, but I prefer Silk Road Express.

The 7.30am departure from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent speeds across the central Asia steppe at over 140mph, reducing the parched, crumpled foreground to a blur. The Spanish built train arrives in Samarkand, a city of minarets and mausoleums (as well, it must be said, of quite of a lot of Soviet detritus), after just two hours – unheard-of pace for terrestrial transport in this part of the world.

I paid about £12 for the trip, and few pence for onboard tea and biscuits. The line – a mix of new build and upgraded tracks – extends to Bukhara and will soon reach the mystical, medieval city of Khiva near the Turkmenistan border. Which, as it happens, is the most beautiful and beguiling place I have visited this decade.

And an honourable mention for Morocco’s Al Boraq line, which is Africa’s first high-speed railway – connecting Tangier, the capital Rabat and Casablanca in just over two hours.

High-altitude London (2013 and 2015)

Whether or not you invest £25 in a visit to (near) the top, the Shard has transformed the capital’s skyline – just as the London Eye did a decade earlier. London’s highest visitor platform was an integral part of the skyscraper’s design, and from 800 feet up you can see on a clear day for 40 miles (on a really unclear day, you will get a ticket for a return visit).

Yet this 2013 attraction has been mirrored by the Sky Garden – the amazing green and pleasant space that opened in 2015, facing the Shard across the Thames. It comprises the top of the building known as the Walkie Talkie for its strange shape, protruding from the City of London. The main purpose is as a posh and commensurately expensive bar and restaurant. But a certain number of people are let in free every day; book in advance online. (If your day isn’t available, then the 20th-century Oxo Tower on the South Bank has a viewing platform on the 8th floor.)

Titanic Belfast (2012)

On a quayside overlooking Belfast Lough, a structure as monumental as the ship it commemorates took shape in the early years of the decade. The visitor attraction occupies part of the old Harland and Wolff shipyard, which in the early 20th century was one of the most productive places on the planet.

If Ikea sold flatpack ships, and someone had made a muddle of the instructions, it would resemble Titanic Belfast. For once, the term “of Titanic proportions” applies literally. The top of the five-storey building is exactly as high as the tip of Titanic when the transatlantic liner was completed.

The vessel left Belfast on 2 April 1912. Twelve days later, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, Titanic struck an iceberg. She sank, with the loss of 1,517 lives, at 2.20am the next morning.

Titanic Belfast launched a century later. Inside this startling shell, the most familiar tragedy in maritime history is placed with sensitivity in its social context.

The high-risk project cost the city council and the Northern Ireland Executive almost £100m, but it succeeded in “doing a Bilbao”: transforming a post-shipbuilding city with bold, fresh architecture and a compelling story.

The visitor numbers, around twice as high as anticpated, tell their own story.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/travel-tourism-innovation-airbus-eurostar-qantas-shard-titanic-belfast-a9230826.html

WTTC aims for ‘climate neutral’ tourism sector by 2050

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has reiterated its commitment to the global fight against climate change following the UN’s Climate Change Conference, Cop 25, in Madrid this week.

The WTTC aims to tackle the climate crisis through its Climate & Environment Action Plan and called on the tourism sector to become climate neutral by 2050. 

Its plan sets out targets, energy efficiency measures and renewable energy initiatives to reduce the use of plastics, food waste and others. 

The WTTC has also helped in the creation of a Sustainable Travel & Tourism Partner programme, to recognise companies that are taking action on this area and will share industry best practices via a Sustainability Knowledge Hub.

The travel and tourism sector supports one-in-10 jobs around the world and contributes 10.4% of global GDP, figures the WTTC said emphasised the need for the industry to commit to tackling climate change.

The meeting was the second time the tourism sector has been formally represented during a Cop summit and follows the WTTC hosting the first global Climate & Environment Action Forum during UN Climate Week in September.

The gathering featured presentations and discussions on leading by example through sustainable business practices to move the travel sector to climate neutrality by 2050 as well as delegates debating what is still needed to be done to create a more sustainable industry. 

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and chief executive, said: “We are excited to be moving forward with our Climate & Environment Action Plan, as the leaders within the travel and tourism industry, we have the power to drive real change and are committed to this issue.

“Many of our members are already champions in sustainable business practice, and WTTC has the opportunity to convene the industry so we can move faster, contribute, and address the significant environmental and sustainability challenges facing our world.”

Source: https://www.ttgmedia.com/news/news/wttc-aims-for-climate-neutral-tourism-sector-by-2050-20349

Tourism Task Force tries to get handle on tourist overload

In packed Assembly chambers at City Hall, the city’s Visitor Industry Task Force tried to get a handle on the ever-growing tourism industry.

The issue at hand was how the city will manage the influx of tourism expected to arrive in the coming years.

“There are a lot of ships on order,” said City Manager Rorie Watt, “and they are large.”

In its third meeting ever, and only the second substantial meeting according to Task Force Chair Carole Triem, the group looked at how the city had managed tourism in the past and how that might serve as a guide for the future.

“Past efforts show that we’ve been at a point where we thought mitigation was insufficient before,” said Michele Elfers, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation for the City and Borough of Juneau. Elfers walked the Task Force through portions of the city’s Long Range Waterfront Plan, a technical document which gives an overview at how the city has approach tourism management in the past.

“It seems that we’re at that point again where we need to look at tourism more seriously,” Elfers said.

One of the words that is used repeatedly in the plan, Elfers said, was the word “balance.”

“The word balances comes out a lot, it’s a reoccurring theme,” Elfers said. “It also talks a lot about unifying the waterfront, about connectivity between the waterfront and downtown.”

Elfers told the task force to think of the Waterfront Plan as an infrastructure guide. However, she said, the plan did not discuss things like management, policy or maintenance issues.

Task force members talked about how to enhance the quality of life for Juneau residents while still accommodating the needs of the tourist industry, which is a major economic driver.

Meilani Schijvens of Rain Coast Data said she had worked on a number of studies related to the tourism industry, and that building infrastructure with locals in mind was a key element of achieving that balance.

“If you build for the tourists, the tourists are going to hate it,” Schijvens said. She said amenities built specifically for tourists often feel unauthentic and are usually disliked by visitors.

“But if you build for the locals, everyone is going to like it,” she said. “Sometimes if you go down to the waterfront, it’s all locals. We’re building a tourist industry that is for the locals and for the visitors.”

Yet there was still concern about the growth of the industry and the number of people coming to the city each year.

Paula Terrel, a community organizer and tourism industry critic, said the number of tourists was affect quality of life in Juneau.

“The ships are getting bigger, we’re getting more. If we don’t do something, it’ll just grow and grow,” she said. “There’s nothing to stop the cruise ship companies from coming with any volume they want.”

Assembly member Wade Bryson was wary of putting a cap on the number of tourists.

“There’s no way for us to pick a number, there’s nothing we can do to say this is the line (where no more tourists can come),” Bryson said. He was concerned that caps or other limitations on the tourism industry might disincentivize cruise ship companies from choosing Juneau as a destination.

“We also have to look at how much money is at stake,” Bryson said. “Every business in Juneau is tied to tourism.”

At the end of the meeting, Triem said she wanted to schedule additional meetings where members of the public could give comment.

“What I would want to hear is specific concerns,” Triem said. “The more specific, the more it helps with policy. I find it helpful when people have their specific points of friction.”

Two meetings were scheduled for public comment. On on Saturday, Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. and the other on Thursday Jan. 16, at 5:30 p.m. Both meetings will take place in Assembly chambers at Juneau City Hall.

Source: https://www.juneauempire.com/news/tourism-task-force-tries-to-get-handle-on-tourist-overload/

Local leaders brainstorm on future economic development

KEY members of the TCI’s public and private sectors met to discuss the future of the financial services industry during the second annual Economic Conference last week.

The one-day national conference coordinated by InvestTCI brought scores of interested people to Beaches Resort and Spa in Providenciales. The seminar was held on Friday, November 8, and hosted under the theme, ‘Financial services – Building block of a strong, diversified economy’. During sessions, members of the private sector including bankers, lawyers, company managers, accountants, and Government officials debated various topics, ideas and strategies focused on the growth of the financial services sector.

The keynote address of the conference was delivered by international speaker Lorna Smith, former executive director of BVI Finance and founder and chief executive officer of LGS and Associates. Premier and Minister of Finance Sharlene Cartwright Robinson also brought remarks at the conference and zeroed-in on the Government’s role in fostering a successful industry.

She outlined ongoing initiatives and commitments already made by the Government to strengthen the sector.

“We see the financial services sector as an integral part of the country’s economic advancement,” she said, “where businesses and industries continually feed off of one another, growing larger and larger as the economy grows.

“It is a critical component of a diversified economy; creating a sustainable cycle of overall economic activity.” She stressed that an effective and efficient partnership between the financial services sector, public and private sector entities is vital to the expansion of the TCI’s economy. “The TCI has experienced a real GDP growth rate of 2.5 percent in 2018 and is expected to see a 3.2 percent growth rate in 2019.

“These targets are being achieved in the wake of two major storms in 2017. “Economic growth, for the most part, has been carried by the tourism and hospitality sector for the past 30 plus years.”

Cartwright Robinson underscored the importance of a diverse financial system. She said: “We are ever mindful that a country’s economic health should never be tied to a single industry or market sector. “This conference is an important platform that gathered leading industry players in the financial services sector, the Government and its ministries, departments and agencies, as well as other service providers in the various sectors of the economy.

“We are able to share, learn and collaborate toward the enhancement and advancement of the financial services ecosystem of the TCI, and to ensure that it is one that engenders growth,” the premier added.

In 2018, a Government report prepared by an international consultancy team concluded that the TCI needed to diversify its economy and create more good quality professional employment opportunities for its citizens.
The report also recommended a need for substantial investment in the TCI’s financial services industry, and highlighted how easily the territory could lose what little it has. Following the report, the Government took several steps in keeping with the recommendations of the study.

Source: https://tcweeklynews.com/local-leaders-brainstorm-on-future-economic-development-p10138-127.htm

Investing in the Guest Experience

Many will recall the 2017 brand crisis, which cost United Airlines $1.4 billion in value practically overnight after a passenger incident where injured while being forcibly removed from a fully boarded, sold-out flight went viral. This situation showcased the enormous impact of customer experience, and arguably there is no industry in which the experience holds more weight than hospitality. So, it comes as no surprise that the recent Hospitality Technology Sentiment Surveyrevealed an increase in IT investments into “Guest Experience” products, with 46.63% of respondents naming this category as the primary focus.

Hoteliers are in the business of curating exceptional experiences for a diverse portfolio of guests, across varied travel segments. Everything a hotelier does, from the aesthetic of a hotel property, the customer service standards, the amenities offered to guests, on-property experiences, room decor and upgrades, helps to piece together the guest experience. Modern guests crave a more intuitive experience, which not only lends itself to a deeper connection with their hotel of choice, but also provides a faster, more intelligent and convenient service model. Fortunately, with the use of cutting-edge, guest-centric technology, seamlessly personalizing the guest experience from pre to post-stay is entirely possible.

According to Kevin King, COO of Shiji, there is an industry-wide shift in focus to digital transformation which centers on continuously enhancing the guest experience, interactions, and converting guests into returning visitors and ambassadors to increase their lifetime value. Connie Rheams, Global Vice President, Global Accounts Sales at Oracle, echoed this opinion during a HITEC interview conducted by the Hospitality Net team, explaining that the technological investments which deliver the biggest ROI are always built around people.

As hoteliers actively seek out new technology and vendors who promise to deliver on enhanced guest engagement, what will act as the key differentiator? How can hoteliers remain ahead of emerging demands for personalization and knowing the guest on a deeper level?

Delving into the subject of the guest experience, Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey respondents were asked to name the top technology-enabled features they will always use when staying at a hotel. Wi-Fi (80.51%), climate control (43.75%), and USB plugs (33.82%) were the most popular choices for this segment. When asked to detail the one technology that causes the most frustration when booking or staying at a hotel, respondents named slow booking process, poor Wi-Fi connection, non-functioning door-lock key cards, repeating details at check-in, and more.

Hoteliers should strive to provide guests with enhanced convenience, in tandem with technology that allows them to control their journey. Fortunately, mobile technologies and social media have introduced more options for customers to interact, creating new opportunities and challenges. When guests do not have the freedom to choose their preferred communication channel, it causes additional friction. With the utilization of self-service functionality across mobile devices and kiosks, guests can use technology to shape their unique journey across every touchpoint of their stay. Many guests are opting to bypass the front desk to check in and to access their room via smartphones. Others prefer texting with a virtual concierge to get the answers they need quickly while others enjoy the one-to-one interaction with hotel staff.

The survey also queried organizations about the allocation of budgets for IT projects, which are purely serving innovation or research without any immediate expectations in ROI or guest experience. There was a noticeable divide between suppliers and hoteliers. 61.98% of hoteliers said “no,” whereas 73.42% of suppliers said “yes”. This seems to imply that suppliers may be missing the mark when it comes to technology development and priorities. This also sometimes holds true for top management and IT, who are two independent divisions within hotel companies. They should be aligned, on both the business and IT side, for their guest experience vision. Both the teams should choose the technology solutions together, keeping in mind the end goal.

These insights and trends make it clear that the guest experience revolution is just beginning. More and more, hotel organizations rely on technology to understand guests, provide quicker resolutions, empower personalized interactions, and proactive engagement before, during and after the stay. Technology and open API connectivity between systems are critical components that should drive technology strategies. When asked if APIs are expected to gain greater traction versus standards organizations such as HTNG or OTA, 78.51% of hoteliers said yes, while 65.82% of suppliers said yes. From a vendor perspective, 67.09% indicated that they currently have an API available for their solution.

As far as 2020 and beyond? The world is changing, and the way hotels connect with their guests also needs to change. By improving the guest experience and empowering hotel staff with technology advancements that drive engagement instead of transactions, hotels will increase both loyalty and revenue. The trends point to seamless integrations, predictive analytics, personalization, robotics, automation, self-serve tools, digital applications and artificial intelligence as the technology priorities that will revolutionize guest experience in the hospitality industry for years to come. In the end, the hotels that show a deep understanding of their guests and are proactive in responding to their frustrations are set to win the guest experience race.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4095865.html

The Micro-Habits Of Natural Leaders

Organizations are transitioning from a hierarchy to a network; a shift from a formal command-and-control structure to self-organized networks. What does this mean for leadership?

In a network-based organization, leadership is personal leadership. Leading oneself gives one the ability to lead others. I refer to this progression as natural leadership, as opposed to the formal or titled leadership.

Groups form and dissolve continuously and spontaneously around natural leaders working on themes that are relevant to the organization. The CEO establishes the themes and sets the constraints while teams self-organize around natural leaders. Purpose is centralized while power and influence is decentralized.

All leadership is evolving to become personal leadership, which carries both credibility and influence. Leaders at the center of social change have always shown these traits, from Gandhi and Martin Luther King to Mother Teresa and Mohammed Yunus. People drawn to such leaders say: I believe you because I see that you have walked the path you are asking me to take. I am willing to put myself in the path of difficulty because I resonate with your vision and your authenticity.

The essential question is: How does one evolve into a natural leader?

My answer lies in what I call the micro-habits of natural leadership: small, simple actions done consistently over long periods of time, which create significant positive change in you and also have a positive impact on others.

While I am guilty of not having done this all the time, I have learned what truly inspires others about your leadership is the grit and consistency to conquer your own instincts. Here are a few simple micro-habits I follow:

Walk for ONE hour every day: Sitting is the new smoking. The more you sit, the faster you age. Today the second-most common reason for visiting a doctor (the common cold comes first) is lower back pain. If you sit for six hours every day for 10-20 years, you lose seven years of healthy life. I aim for work-life integration rather than work-life balance. While I do not go to the gym, I build in an hour of walking into my schedules by having walking meetings, especially right after lunch. 

Drink ONE glass of water (with lemon) first thing in the morning: One of the simple habits is to drink one glass of warm water first thing in the morning, with a squeeze of lemon. Science tells us that although the lemon water is acidic by nature, by the time it hits the stomach it turns the environment of the stomach alkaline, which reduces acidity and heartburn.

ONE act of kindness every day: People are healed by gratitude. Whether it is helping someone cross the road or stopping to ask someone how they are and genuinely listening, research shows that giving helps the giver more than the receiver. The phenomenon termed ‘the helper’s high’ has mysterious healing powers as well.  Go-getter is good, go-giver is better. 

Make ONE introduction a week: Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, talks about making introductions – the simplest but most powerful form of giving. I have tried to maintain the habit of making one meaningful introduction a week. The art is to think about two people who should meet but have not, connect them, and get out of the way without expecting anything in return. 

Write ONE hand-written card every week: In a digital world, the power of the written word has increasing value. There is a capture and transfer of human energy that only happens when you write. I keep a stack of blank cards with me all the time, so that I am able to spontaneously write a short note of appreciation.

Mentor ONE person: Find one person in more difficult circumstances than you are and offer help with your experience rather than money. You will be surprised by how much the act of mentoring changes you. Just one act may not be helpful but doing one small act for a long period to the same person can change a life. 

Read ONE book a week; write ONE blog a month; teach ONE class a year: This is three micro-habits put together, but start where it makes sense for you. Reading even 20 minutes a day allows you to read around 20 books a year. Writing a blog is an excellent way to refine your own thinking about a topic that interests you. Teaching not only helps you improve your own thinking and learning but exposes you to your own biases. 

Sleep is sacred: It is important to sleep the same eight hours every night; if you cut it to six, the effect is same as two days of non-sleep. We can actually increase our performance by 29% just by sleeping well. 

Start with a micro habit so small that it cannot fail, and then do it for 66 days (it takes anywhere between 21 to 66 days, depending on the person, for an action to become a habit). 

Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen. So, do small things repeatedly and leave the rest to the universe. You will be surprised by the change.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2019/11/15/the-micro-habits-of-natural-leaders/#119055f4da3a

The importance of encouraging young people into Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry

Young people in Northern Ireland should be encouraged into hospitality or the industry could face a major shortage, an expert has said.

Caitriona Lennox, Business Development Manager for Mount Charles, has spoken of the importance of showing young people that a wide range of varying and viable career paths exist within the industry.

She explained: “There’s a serious shortage. The hospitality sector at the moment sustains 60,000 jobs across Northern Ireland. There are shortages in the industry and we need to address this. 

“We need to be seriously thinking how we can attract people into the industry.”

Recent research shows that there will be 30,000 vacancies to fill by 2025, with a need to recruit an extra 2000 chefs. 

Mount Charles, a catering and services company, employs over 2500 people.

Their annual Big School Cook Off Competition, in association with SuperValu, is a project aimed at encouraging the next generation of chefs and hospitality figures. 
Now in its fourth year, it is open to all post primary school pupils across Northern Ireland and Donegal, aged between 11 and 14. 

In teams of two, they are challenged to submit a main course recipe idea that feeds two, focusing on locally sourced ingredients that can be bought on a budget of a tenner, or euro equivalent. 

The recipes will be shortlisted on Friday, November 22, one per county, and the winning team from each county will progress to cook their recipe for an esteemed panel of judges at the grand finale of the competition next March, in Belfast Met’s Titanic Quarter Campus. 

County finalists will also be invited to perform a cookery demonstration of their dish, at their local SuperValu store in January, ahead of the final.

Caitriona explained there a wide range of opportunities available in the industry. 
She said: “I think in years gone by there was a perception the hospitality industry meant long hours, working at weekends, low rates of pay and no work-life balance. 

“That may have been the case years ago. But because that may have been the case a lot of employers are now saying: ‘Come and work for us, we do offer a work-life balance, we can give you four days a week, we can give you high rates of pay and we realise you’ve got families at home and we can accommodate that’. 

“The industry is getting much better at realising that people have more in their life than just work.

“In terms of attracting young people into the industry, the reason why the Big School Cook Off attracts students from 11-14 is because that’s the age group we need to be ‘tapping into’.

“There’s no point going to students when they’re already in colleges and universities because they’ve already made their choices on where they’re going.

“We want to get them early and plant the seed about what the opportunities are. There is an endless amount of opportunity in the industry.” 

Head of Marketing for SuperValu, Brendan Gallen, told Belfast Live that the competition fits in with their overall vision. 

He explained: “At Supervalu we have a focus on Real Food and Real People. What that’s about is wholesome, tasty food, provided by the passionate families and colleagues that operate SuperValu stores across the province. We want to make food inspiring for customers, ensuring that they can get great quality food at great value and all under one roof, where we’re making it easier to eat well. 

“So for us, being part of the Big School Cook Off allows us to encourage young people and their families to get into cooking, develop their interest in cooking and really look at their food and their ingredients. How do they use it, where does it come from and how do I create wholesome food from it?

“The locality of food is really important to us. We’ve put so much focus on local suppliers and local ingredients so we supported the Big School Cook Off because it really encourages young people to learn about where their food is coming from. 

“We see ourselves as foodies so we like the idea that we’re helping inspire the next generation of foodies.” 

Brendan added that shopping habits have also changed, with a focus on local and fresh produce. 

He said: “We’ve seen the focus change. The ability to buy fresh fruit and veg and meat is such a big driver for the shopper. We really focus our efforts on that as shopping habits have now changed so that people are now shopping little and often. What’s driving that is that they want to buy food when it’s fresh, they want to cut down on food waste and they want to shop in a way that is convenient to them, supporting their community in the process.”

Source: https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/importance-encouraging-young-people-nis-17151764

Sustainable tourism: how Scotland is changing with the times, and the environment

It is a way of travelling without leaving a carbon footprint, where the journey is just as important as the destination.

And now VisitScotland believes that sustainable tourism will be the way of the future with many of those who come to experience the country’s sights and sounds intent on ensuring they tread as lightly on our country as they possibly can.

Fresh research has found that Generation Z – today’s twentysomethings – recognise the damage mass travel can do to the environment, having seen first-hand the overcrowding which plagues tourist hotspots.

What’s more, the growing importance of green issues, and the pollution that comes with long-haul air and road journeys, has convinced them to take things slowly, either on foot, by bike, or by using public transport.

Now the challenge for tourist bosses is to ensure that visitors to the country are greeted with a joined-up network which allows them to see the sights without impacting on their surroundings, and taking nothing but time.

A recent insight paper prepared for the national tourist body states: “A developing trend among the traveller has been the desire for transformational tourism, diverging from the historically consumer based transactional tourism.

“This aspiration to attain self-fulfilment through travel is in many markets around the world having an impact on the type of destinations visited and the activities engaged in.

“Scotland is well placed with its inspiring elements of landscape, heritage and culture to capitalise on this phenomenon, but needs to be aware of maintaining a sustainable approach to tourism to preserve the essence of what visitors look for when they come here.”

Chris Greenwood, insight manager at Visit Scotland, explains: “Younger travellers understand about sustainable mobility, as it’s called, where you lower your personal impact on the environment.

“That comes naturally to them and they want to travel, but they do not want to have a high environmental footprint.

“They look for places where they can travel slowly, or visit throughout the year rather than at peak times when there is less of a problem of overcrowding.”

Having visited places such as Barcelona, Paris, Venice or Amsterdam, where the degradations of mass tourism are all too apparent, visitors are instead seeking out the unspoilt and taking pains to ensure it stays that way.

And this market will become more important in the future as today’s carefree 20-year-olds become the family holiday-seekers of tomorrow.

Mr Greenwood added: “There has been a change in attitude between the generations. Before, where people would arrive by plane and then want to drive off in their own hire car, travellers in their 20s are aware of the impact they have on the environment and don’t want it to be negative.

“To them it comes naturally, and of course as they get older and become an even larger part of the consumer economy that ethos is going to become ever more prominent.

“So tourism is going to have to adapt to service that mindset.”

To cater for this growing market, and to help the Scottish Government achieve its stated goal of becoming of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045, changes to infrastructure will be required.

The VisitScotland report highlights some positive examples.

“Cairngorms Connected” is an EU-funded project with the aim of reorganising transport to provide a viable alternative to using a car in the Highlands. It is looking at ticketing, existing services and systems with the potential to offer a single means of travelling around the region, potentially reducing people’s reliance on cars and self-transport.

Further south, Glasgow is one of the primary points of entry for both domestic and international visitors and the scheduled bus or train journey to the “Outdoor Capital of the UK” in Fort William is just one example of encouraging visitors to travel more sustainably. And from there, tourists can get on to the water and take on the Great Glen Canoe Trail, a 96km stretch of Caledonian Canal from Fort William to Inverness which can be enjoyed as a long-distance canoeing challenge or done in sections as a relaxing day paddle.

There is also the option to experience the country at walking pace on one of the many hiking paths around Scotland, such as Fife’s newly-reopened Pilgrim’s Trail or the Annandale Way Long Distance Trail, which stretches from Moffat to the Solway Firth.

And if that’s too slow, bike-packing is the way to tour the country on two wheels, carrying the minimum of equipment and camping along the way. Scotland has some world-beating long-distance cycling routes in remote areas, as well as 2,371 miles of National Cycle Network routes.

But to make sure sustainable tourism can actually be sustained, more will need to be done. Mr Greenwood said that it is about ensuring the little things are done right, such as visitors being guided through the oft-confusing ordeal of trying to negotiate public transport in a foreign country and a language they may not be familiar with, or making sure there are charging points for electric cars along popular routes.

He said: “From VisitScotland’s perspective, we want to ensure the information gets out to tourists. For example, how to navigate the bus system can be daunting if it’s in a foreign language so we have to make sure people coming here know how to do that.

“There has to be a co-ordinated approach. If you take a ferry out to the islands you should be able to know there’s going to be a bus waiting for you and know where it’s going to take you.”

He added: “What we want to do is recognise the role that transport can have. How can we disperse tourism around Scotland so that the benefits can be spread out to different communities?

“Can we engage people to use public transport and travel in a sustainable way while making the tourist experience better?

“A dramatic train journey can enhance a trip, but people also have to know that at the end of their journey they can still access the attractions and reach their accommodation. It all has to fit together.”

Sustainable tourism initiatives

The ScotRail Highland Rover

The Highland Rover ticket provides unlimited rail travel for any four days in an eight-day period which starts with your first journey. Visitors can travel any time, hopping on and off the route, which has almost 100 stops and takes in the west and north regions.

The Highland Rover provides free coach travel from Oban and Fort William to Inverness, and from Thurso to Scrabster. The ticket also includes ferries also, so visitors can travel to Mull and Skye with CalMAc free, or get a discount on Northlink services to Orkney and Shetland.

With bike storage available on ScotRail trans, this offers flexibility to sustainable tour of Scotland for hikers, bikers, as well as eco-conscious visitors.

Fort William bus link

Glasgow is one of the primary entry points for both domestic and international visitors who arrive in Scotland by air travel or public transport from elsewhere in the UK. One of the low-cost and environmentally friendly excursions providing access to outdoor activities and unique places to stay in the three-hour scheduled bus journey to Fort William, dubbed the outdoor capital of the UK.

Cairngorms Connected

An EU -funded project sponsored by HITRANS supports an emerging strategy to reorganise transport in order to tackle mobility and sustainable challenges by offering alternatives to car use in sparsely populated areas. The project’s first phase is Cairngorms Connected. Potential solutions may emerge as, for instance, combining mobility and societal services as part of a single ticket offering made available to users via app subscriptions.

Active travel

Another large part of sustainable tourism is active travel – when journeys are made by walking or cycling – promoting areas which emphasise physical activity as destinations for visitors. Wild camping and bothy experiences can become part of the overall experience which Scotland could excel at, with the likes of rural Dark Skies, regional food and drink delicacies and the wealth of cultural heritage making it attractive to active travellers.

The Annandale Way Long Distance Trail: A 56-mile long distance walking route starting in the hills above Moffat, following the River Annan down to the Solway Estuary at Annan. It can be walked in four of five days in either direction. A dedicated website offers information on public transport starting points, accommodation recommendations, luggage transport and heritage and natural history to look out for during the journey.

Isle of Cumbrae eBike Touring: Active travel doesn’t have to involve epic feats of physical exertion. With over 60 years of trading, Mapes of Millport hire bicycles and eBikes to visitors to explore the island of Cumbrae. A loop of the island is 10 miles but shorter routes are available.

The Great Glen Canoe Trail: This 96km stretch of the Caledonian Canal was one of the first trails of its kind in Scotland. From Fort William to Inverness, the Caledonian Canal offers options for paddlers of all abilities and can be enjoyed as a long-distance challenge or relaxing day paddle.

The West Island Bikepacking Trail: Developed in partnership with BikepackingScotland.com and the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association, this is a 332km loop connecting hostels in Oban, Lochranza on Arran, and Port Charlotte on Islay.

Factfile:

International visitors

1.8million – or 27% of domestic overnight holiday trips to Scotland were to rural areas – this contributed £442million to the rural Scottish economy.

● 44% go to the countryside

● 28% visit a national park

● 43% visit the coast

● 40% use public transport

The value of our natural assets

Scotland’s mountains and moorlands was calculated at £5.2billion and £11.3billion from Coastal Regions, Lochs and Reservoirs and Rivers and Canals. These sectors represent around 50% of the total recreational asset value of Scotland’s Natural Capital.

Rural Scotland

● 98% of Scotland is defined as rural

● About 20% of Scots live in rural areas

● Rural Scotland is defined as settlements with a population of less than 3,000

Scotland has 11 train stations and 12,599 bus stops in areas defined as mountain, moorland and heath; there are 66 train stations and 6,219 bus stops within 1km of a long-distance path. This accounts for 11,174km of path accessible by public transport.

Source: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18041850.sustainable-tourism-scotland-changing-times-environment/

Hoteliers and Technology: Why Hospitality Expertise Doesn’t Stop at Hospitality

In any industry, standards of education help to ensure brands have access to the talent they need to continue moving the needle and growing their product or offering. Within hospitality, we realize a similar need — as the landscape continues to evolve, hotel brands and vendors alike rely on having access to qualified talent, especially in the realm of IT.  The hospitality industry, as we know, is enormous and subject to continued growth. Within our sector exists a wide variety of exciting careers and rewarding management positions that cover the full spectrum of the guest experience. However, as hospitality technology continues to advance and standards of guest care are increasingly influenced by digital mediums, we arrive at the question: Are hospitality programs offering enough of an IT education component?

The recent Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey presented by HospitalityNet™ and HFTP addressed this topic specifically when it asked hoteliers if they are concerned about access to the talent they need to achieve current IT goals while innovating and enhancing guest service. According to the survey results from hoteliers, 26.45% are ‘somewhat concerned’ while 24.79% are ‘very concerned’. Suppliers, on the other hand, have a different take with 22.87% saying they are concerned and more than twice as many ‘somewhat concerned’ (57.85%). Only 25.32% cited they are ‘not concerned.’ This not only encourages us to consider the need for up-and-coming talent while continuing on the path to innovation but also speaks to the need for dedicated IT emphasis within the education system.

To dig into this topic further, I asked Lyle Worthington, Technology Executive and Consultant & Past President of HFTP Global, to elaborate on what he believes to be the potential role of hospitality schools and university programs in the field of IT education.

“I think a comprehensive technology track should be a core component of any Hospitality business degree,” explains Lyle. “Mind you, I don’t simply mean a one-week intensive course, or a few tech-focused lessons crammed into the middle of a Microsoft Office class. Rather, I think you need at least two full semester-long classes covering the many important concepts and theories of technology which are applicable to our industry. If you want to be a leader in any area of hospitality operations or management, you have to realize that the technology you use is absolutely critical to your success,” continued Lyle. “Almost every point in our customer’s journey is impacted in some way by technology, and each day they become less tolerant of even the slightest technical issue. The key is not to become an IT expert, per se, but to exhibit a baseline level of knowledge that allows you to make intelligent technology business decisions. You should understand IT architecture and feel comfortable working side-by-side with IT professionals and consultants. You must be able to cut through industry buzz words and hype to make informed decisions on what new technology to implement and, more importantly, why. Moreover, hoteliers should be able to properly manage their relationships with technology vendors, whilst contributing their operational expertise to their brand’s big-picture IT strategy.”

The survey also indicated that the majority of respondents (43.14%) are working with increased IT budgets for 2020, while only 21.57% are working with the same IT budget as last year. Further, when asked to compare the importance of their IT budget to the perceived importance of other departmental budgets, 65% said it is awarded equal or greater importance. Of course, with this increased capacity for technology, comes a subsequent increased demand for individuals who know what to do with it.

Lyle added, “It’s far too easy for hoteliers to claim, “But I’m not an IT person!” Well, you’re not a plumber either, but you understand the concept of a toilet well enough to make sure it is installed correctly and functioning. Technology is a part of our business that we can’t function without, so it is time to recognize that, at the end of the day, we are in the IT business.”

Ultimately, the role of any hospitality expert is two-fold. Whether a hotelier or a vendor, in order to provide the highest level of service while ensuring an effective operational model, you simply must have a thorough grasp of modern technology implications and priorities.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4095734.html

Virgin Galactic’s IPO launches a pivotal phase for space tourism

Richard Branson rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on October 28 as Virgin Galactic became the first commercial spaceflight company to list on the stock market. It was valued at more than $1 billion following its merger with publicly-listed holding firm Social Capital Hedosophia, then experienced a 20% drop in its share price after a week of trading. It is now worth around $800m.

The route to success in the space tourism industry is bound to be a wild ride and Branson is hoping his first mover advantage will bring healthy returns in the long run. Indeed, this high-risk venture could well pay off–it’s just a question of when.

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 to offer paying customers a trip into suborbital space. For $250,000, anyone can take a 90-minute flight into the upper reaches of the atmosphere where they will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth’s surface. According to Virgin, 600 people from some 60 countries have already made their reservations, while a further 3,700 people have registered for the opportunity to buy flights once ticket sales are back on offer. This suggests that the combination of Branson’s marketing prowess and the allure of space for humans are a plausible value proposition for investors.

Virgin is also offering a much cheaper route to experiencing space than its competitors. There have only been seven space tourists to date and none since 2009. All travelled on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) at a reported price tag of tens of millions of dollars.

NASA announced in June that it would offer trips to the ISS at a cost of $35,000 per night, not including the cost of a taxi ride there from SpaceX and Boeing. The cost of these rides is likely to be at least $60m, which is what NASA pays to take its astronauts to the ISS, and these visits are due to start in 2020. In September 2018, SpaceX unveiled its 2023 lunar passenger flight that would take Japanese billionaire businessman Yusaku Maezawa and six of his guests on a space flight around the moon using its Big Falcon Rocket for an undisclosed, but certainly a very substantial, price.

Substantial progress

Although it has yet to fly any paying passengers and is currently loss making, Virgin Galactic aims to be profitable by 2021, based on completing 115 flights that generate $210m in revenue. By 2023, it is forecasting revenues of $590m and expects to have flown more than 3,000 passengers. Since that number is a tiny portion of the target market of high net-worth individuals with assets of at least $10m, its projections could well be achievable. And, currently, Virgin Galactic appears to be ahead of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in fulfilling the vision of space tourism.

While Virgin Galactic has failed to deliver on expectations in the past–it missed its own targets for flights commencing and experienced a catastrophic accident in 2014–it has more recently made substantial progress. In December 2018 it achieved its first suborbital space flight. Given that achievement and subsequent progress, it seems likely that commercial flights could commence within the next 18 months.

It is also diversifying its offering as it gears up for launch. In collaboration with the sportswear maker Under Armour, Virgin Galactic has developed a line of high-tech clothing that its passengers will wear on their flights. At the same time, it is moving into its new facilities at Spaceport America in the desert lands of New Mexico.

Spaceport America, where Virgin’s flights will take off from and return to, has a $220m investment by the New Mexico government. It is also here that passengers will undergo three days of training to prepare for the G-forces and weightlessness that they will experience on flights.

The business of space tourism is only just beginning. Air travel similarly started small with a limited target market, but grew to become a mass market with many commercial air carriers and millions traveling every month, served by airports that over time became large commercial hubs. The trajectory for space tourism travel in the decades to come has the potential to be similar. From a highly niche market, it can become one that has much broader appeal when costs reduce.

At the same time, spaceports can, like airports before them, become large concentrated centers of commercial activity. Should Virgin Galactic maintain its first mover advantage in space tourism in the years ahead, there is the prospect for healthy returns to investors in this high risk venture.

Source: https://qz.com/1742978/virgin-galactics-ipo-is-a-step-toward-mass-market-space-tourism/