Thursday, May 27, 2010

As Oil in the Gulf Flows, so do the Hotel Discounts

As Oil in the Gulf Flows so do Hotel Discounts

Tourists are making fewer reservations at some hotels on Florida's west coast and in the Keys, as travelers wait to see whether oil leaking in the Gulf of Mexico will make its way to Sunshine State shores.

The state's tourism marketing agency is spreading the word that Florida beaches are clean, using a $2.5 million campaign that is to run through June 22. New TV ads introduced Thursday show families enjoying the shore and direct viewers to a Visit Florida Live site with real-time video of the coasts.

The new ads target travelers in cities from Dallas to Raleigh, where many residents start their drives to northwest Florida. Panhandle beach towns rely on summer for the bulk of their tourism.

Since BP's oil leak began April 20, some hotels on the Gulf Coast and in the Keys have had scattered cancellations by vacationers worried that beaches might be sullied. News reports now track oil flows more closely, but some hotels see reservations weakening for July and August.

"People are waiting until the last minute to see what is going to happen with the spill," said Bob Pfeffer, director of sales and marketing for the 727-room Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.

He estimated the volume of calls at the hotel reservation center is down 16 percent this month from last year.

In Broward and Palm Beach counties, hoteliers report no effect on business so far, except for a few travelers who have shifted trips away from Gulf towns.

The travel fallout is greater along Florida's Gulf Coast and the Keys, because their shores lie in the path of the loop current that could carry BP oil to the state.

Key West had a scare last week when tar balls were found on a local beach, but the tar balls were unrelated to the BP spill. The volume of reservations made fell by half compared to the same week last year at the island's Waldorf Astoria Collection resorts, the 311-room Casa Marina and 150-room Reach, said general manager Kevin Speidel.

The two luxury resorts are sold out for Memorial Day weekend, with their beaches free of oil, but they're taking no chances for the future. Like many Florida hotels, both have relaxed their cancellation policies, should BP oil wash up on shore. The duo offer guests who cancel up to a week before their stay a full refund if the government needs to clean beaches or close them for safety reasons.

"We've seen no cancellations but a tremendous amount of inquiries," Speidel said. "People are monitoring the situation and, hopefully, will be booking. Right now, there are a lot of good deals to be had for the summer."

Farther up Florida's east coast, travel executives remain vigilant. Concerns are especially high about visitors from afar, who might not distinguish between Florida coasts and stay clear of the whole state. Summer is a favorite time for Europeans to vacation.

AAT Travel of Hollywood, which mainly offers U.S. vacation packages for Europeans, said some of its groups already have canceled their plans to extend their Florida trips after taking cruises. Others are waiting to see where the spill goes, while expressing resentment and concern over damage to the environment in the Gulf of Mexico area, said owner Suely Auerbach.

BP delivered $25 million to Florida late Tuesday to fund a more extensive tourism marketing campaign set to start soon. It will include TV ads in New York, Toronto and other cities where significant air travel originates to the Sunshine State, said Kathy Torian, a spokeswoman for Visit Florida.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who is running for governor, criticized BP for delays in delivering the money and called on Visit Florida to produce more ads specific to the Panhandle.

Florida had asked BP for almost $35 million for tourism-related marketing, including almost $10 million for counties hit hardest by a tourism slowdown. The agency continues to seek additional money from the oil company. But a key concern now, Torian said, is "the phones not ringing."

Andy Newman, a spokesman for Monroe County's Tourism Development Council, summarized the challenge for Florida summer tourism this way: "People really want to see BP put a cork in that hole."

While the potential clean up & preservation of wildlife in the area of containment is of concern to the tourism industry, stay tuned to WhataHotel ! and return to the site frequently to see hotel specials .

This aritcle was copied from the Sun Sentinel & written by Doreen Hemlock. Greg Guityeras of contributed in relation to mentions.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celebrities you may not recognize without make-up Pick the one you think makeup helps the most.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Neighbors "hitting the roof" over parties in the sky. Any comments from those who have been or know someone who has.

Monday, May 24, 2010

63rd Cannes Film Festival done. Now you CAN go to Cannes & stay @ 1 of the best

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Already up after hours of partying at The Guiteras Family, Cuba Libre Block Bash.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Grande Dame & Landmark on the Rive Gauche, Lutetia Hotel Celebrates Its 100th
AAA-more than 32 million Americans will travel Memorial Day weekend, up 5.4%. Need ideas?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Visit Disney. Stay in luxury nearby:
The RITZ Paris-one of the most prestigious hotels in the world. YOU- Get an Insiders Access by Booking it with Us!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hot Tip- Travel to Europe with Empty Suitcases

"The savings you'll get are incredible and because of the stronger dollar, you'll have a lot more day-to-day cash to play with while you're there," said Vassilis Comitis, commercial director at Fantasy Travel, a travel agency based in Athens.

Getting there: While plane tickets right now are significantly more expensive than last year's recession-era fares, that doesn't mean you can't find a good deal on a ticket this summer, said Rick Seaney, co-founder and CEO of

Seaney said he expects ticket fares to edge lower over the next few weeks and recommends buying a ticket no later than mid-June, since that's the time of year that ticket prices tend to jump.

And if you're looking for a real steal, tickets to Ireland and Portugal are the best deals right now with below average prices, said Jennifer Gaines, contributing editor of Travelocity.

Plus, the strong dollar will make your trip to Europe well worth the higher fare, said Seaney.

"If you look at all the costs for everything and for doing activities once you get there, it's probably even more optimal a bargain than it was last year when airline tickets were so low," said Seaney. "Most people get bogged down with airfare but should be looking at total trip costs."

Sleep tight: While you may have to fork over more than you would like for a plane ticket, you'll be able to find steeply discounted European lodging as hotels lower their prices to attract tourists, said Gaines.

"Relatively low hotel rates coupled with a stronger U.S. dollar helps to make Europe more affordable than in years past," she said. "While airline capacity cuts and higher fuel costs have driven the cost of airfare up, hotel rates have been slower to recover because, unlike the airlines, they do not have the option to cut capacity, and they still need to fill rooms."

As travelers worry about the euro zone's economic stability and pull back on discretionary spending, hotels need to cut prices to attract guests.

Numerous luxury hotels across Europe are offering terrific deals across the luxury hotel site . Pcik your favorite from a line-up of the best hotels in Europe.

The stronger dollar will also bring rates down significantly, said Lien of Global Forex Trading.

If you traveled to Europe six months ago, a 5-night stay in a hotel room at a rate of 100 euros per night would cost 500 euros or about $750. But if you travel there now, that same stay would cost you only $620.

Bargain shopping: Though some travel destinations in Europe are known for expensive department stores and gourmet food and wine, unexpected bargains are now seeping into even the most upscale stores. The troubled euro zone is being eyed by Americans as this summer's hot spot.

Rioting in Greece and a looming debt crisis in much of Europe are leading to a weaker currency and steep discounts designed to lure in more dollars

In the past six months alone, the euro has dropped nearly 17% against the buck, making travel more affordable for visitors with U.S. dollars.

"This is a rare chance for U.S. travelers to take advantage of a weak euro and a weak economy," said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at Global Forex Trading.

Not only will you get more for your buck, but now is a great time to book hotels, buy plane tickets and find shopping bargains because of the euro zone's down economy

In addition to the stronger dollar buying more, the weak economies of many European nations have forced store owners to stay competitive by steeply discounting their products and services.

For example, George Zarifopoulos, owner of jewelry shop Byzantino Jewelry in Athens, will offer a 20% discount from June to September in the hope of bringing in summer travelers.

And as more deals arise, Americans are heading to Europe just to splurge on luxury items that would have broken the bank only a couple years ago.

"For a while, people from Europe were bringing over empty suitcases to fill up with cheap things once they got to the U.S.," said Seaney of, "but now it's Americans' turn to go over there and fill their suitcases with bargains."

Reproduced from an article written by Blake Elias, Staff Reporter/ CNN Money and contributions by Greg Guiteras / Blogger.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gold to Go from a Vending Machine

Abu Dhabi's top hotel is upping the ante in the race for Gulf glitz: adding a gold-dispensing machine.

The ATM-style kiosk in the Emirates Palace Hotel monitors the daily gold price and offers small bars up to 10 grams or coins with customized designs.

It's the idea of a German entrepreneur, Thomas Geissler, who began testing the cash-for-gold machines in his native country in 2009. The Abu Dhabi debut on Wednesday is billed as the first international foray for Geissler's "Gold to Go" brand.

Geissler says he picked Abu Dhabi because of its high-rolling atmosphere and the region's traditional ties to gold in commerce.

The unveiling was timed well. Gold hit a record high Wednesday of more than $1,245 an ounce.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guard Yourself During a Trip for only $37

Plane tickets, check. Passport, check. Medical evacuation insurance? It's probably not something most people think about when packing for a vacation.

But Louise Robbins says she'd probably be bankrupt without it. The University of Wisconsin library educator and her husband, Robby, were in southwest China last summer when Robby slipped and fell backward on a hotel walkway made of the region's famed red marble.

Their regular health insurance covered many expenses, but not flying him home on a jet specially equipped for transporting critically ill patients and medical equipment. The cost exceeded $100,000.

"We would have been lost" if not for the medical evacuation insurance, Louise Robbins said.

With summer vacation season approaching, experts say there are several ways international travelers can protect themselves against medical emergencies — from registering in advance with the State Department, which can help locate doctors abroad and arrange emergency medical flights, to buying supplemental insurance or stand-alone medical evacuation policies.

And the interesting thing is that one can purchase this supplemental insurance coverage rather cheaply - or for $37 per person, per trip. The idea being that you do not necessarily insure against "cancellation penalties" which is what most people want to guard against, BUT you purchase the coverage (for only 0-$500) at the lowest premium ($37)to get all of the other benefits like Emergency Evacuation in case you ever need it.

Thousands of American travelers each year are flown home with medical assistance because of health emergencies. Car accidents and heart attacks are among the most common reasons.

"Americans have the concept that when they travel, their health insurance travels with them," said Dan McGinnity, vice president for North America for Travel Guard, which sells travel insurance.

But most regular health insurance plans don't cover costly evacuations. And finding that out after an emergency can be catastrophic.

A 21-year-old California woman died last year after her insurance company initially said its emergency coverage wouldn't pay to fly her home from China when she developed a blood disorder, according to her family's lawsuit. The suit, claiming wrongful death and breach of contract, says the company relented too late. Anthem Blue Cross, the insurer, disputes the claims.

Travelers should check their policies to see what kind of expenses are covered, said Susan Pisano of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade association. Most will pay for emergency care outside the United States — but for leisure travelers that often doesn't include medical evacuation.

"Just make sure you know very clearly" what your policy says, she advised.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends considering supplemental health insurance, including medical evacuation, if your existing policy is lacking.

According to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, another trade group, Americans increasingly have been buying travel insurance; more than $1 billion was spent in 2008. Most covered things like unexpected trip cancellations — disruptions caused by the erupting Iceland volcano have prompted a flurry of recent business. But growth also has been strong in policies covering medical emergencies and evacuation, the group says.

The travel insurance trade group has a list of member companies on its website, where it also offers tips. The State Department's website also has a link to medical evacuation companies.

Louise and Robby Robbins, longtime travelers, had paid about $250 for a supplemental insurance policy before their China trip.

Robby, a 79-year-old retired college professor, slipped on the rain-slicked marble tile in China on July 21. His head hit the ground, but he got up and seemed OK, so they boarded a tour bus heading into the mountains. Robby quickly became ill, vomiting and complaining of sinus-like pain. No one knew yet that his brain was bleeding.

The nightmare that followed included a trip down the mountain in a makeshift van-ambulance to a hospital where no one spoke English. Doctors drilled holes into Robby's skull and removed a huge blood clot. He was flown by air ambulance to Hong Kong for more surgery; then back to the United States.

The supplemental insurance ended up covering Robby's multi-leg trip home, including arranging for several flights with medical experts on board. Robby never recovered, however, and died Dec. 9.

Lynda Bruner's medical emergency last summer almost ended the same way. The sales executive from Bel Air, Md., fell ill with what she thought was heat exhaustion on the last day of a Dominican Republic vacation with friends to celebrate milestone birthdays, including her 60th.

Soon she developed breathing problems and went into cardiac arrest. Doctors revived her, but she remained in a coma for three days. Bruner awoke at a hospital in Florida, where she had arrived via a medical flight arranged by Medex, the same company that handled Robby Robbins' flights. The company arranged for Bruner's flight with a nurse to Maryland and helped her husband, who doesn't speak Spanish, deal with Dominican doctors.

The expenses totaled more than $15,000, but were covered by health insurance her employer provides — a benefit she didn't know about in advance. Bruner had also bought extra travelers' insurance.

U.S. doctors found and removed a tongue cyst they thought might have contributed to the breathing problems, and Bruner is doing fine.

"Once they saw my experience, everybody says they will not go out of the U.S. again without" traveler's health insurance, Bruner said. Even if you never need it, she said, "just that sense of security" is worth it.

One can purchase this supplemental coverage from Travel Guard in minutes online through us by clicking here .

This is ideal for people who book luxury hotels abroad across our site since the cancellation penalties are rarely significant since most luxury hotels permit one to cancel without penalty up to 24 hours prior to the reserved arrival date. So there is little reason to insure against cancellation penalties on most luxury hotel bookings. But what you do want are all the other benefits of protection from a supplemental travel insurance policy in case you ever need them to guard yourself.

This article, written by LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner, AP Medical Writer – Sun May 9, was copied for the blog by Greg Guiteras/Lorraine Travel who also added information about purchasing insurance.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our clients DNA does not contain these markers !

Raise your right hand if have ever had a problem client, the type of individual that made you reconsider your entire career as a travel professional. Keep your hands raised. Now, raise your left hand if you currently have a problem client. Even at this distance, I can see most of you have both hands in the air. Go ahead and lower your hands, you are going to need them to assist some of these clients to the door.

Problem clients eat away at vital and scarce resources. Throwing time and effort into a bad travel consulting exercise drains your ability to more carefully tend to your other clients. Chronically dissatisfied clients sap your energy and represent the single most discouraging aspect of the travel profession for many travel consultants. Beyond the loss of precious time, clients who are difficult to manage will inevitably complain loudly and often to anyone willing to listen, a problem all of us can do without.

You must be rid of them. You will work, play and sleep better when freed of the unnecessary aggravations these clients are imposing on you.

Nightmare clients seldom sneak up on travel agents. More typically, they march onto the field flying full colors, with plenty of observable indicators that your professional life is about to become far more difficult than it was only moments before. It’s often not easy to think objectively about prospective business, to evaluate the true potential of any prospective client only moments into the first meeting. But the ability to do so is important to the vitality of your business.

Here are a few indicators that you should pass on prospective client. No single one is a deal-killer, but the presence of two or more in any single or consecutive conversations should have you looking for the exit, even at 40,000 feet.

1. “Beat this” – If a client initiates the relationship with a price challenge, decline the opportunity. What is obvious from the outset is this prospect does not understand what you do. Hopefully, it is not your advertising or marketing collateral that has led him astray. Try to reform this type if you like, but chances are your time is more valuable to you than it will ever be to him.

2. “Quick Question” – This client has a “quick” question or an “easy” assignment for you. Remember, that’s their lay evaluation of the situation, not your professional assessment. This client is telling you up-front that quality is of minimal importance to him. This character is looking to avoid your fees and is undervaluing your time. This is nature’s way of telling you not to touch.

3. Unrealistic Time Frames – this is the last minute client, the one who wants to go to London over New Years and tells you on Christmas Eve. OK, there may be a very valid reason for the request, but most other businesses charge an expediting fee. It’s likely this client is expecting a “last minute deal.” Again, proceed with caution.

4. Promising Future Business – This is the client who begins their unreasonable series of requests with promises of how much travel they will do with you in the future. Maybe they will – but they won’t.

5. Questioning Your Fees – If you are brave enough to have instituted a fee – and I hope you are – stick to your guns. You will earn every fee you ever charge. One of the reasons you decided to charge a fee was to eliminate this type of client from your life. This prospect is just about to tell you how proficient he is on the internet. Tell him to Google himself.

6. Bad History – You are the 4th travel consultant this client has had, and he’s ready to relate to you the reasons why all of the others were not up to his standards. Stop for a moment and consider the common denominator in each of those four previous relationships. Next?

7. The Disappearing Client – this client asks you to research a trip and then disappears only to show up months later with a new assignment for you. Fooled you once – but only if you don’t charge a fee.

8. The Confused Client – You know this one – doesn’t know what they want to do or when they want to do it. They can’t tell you what they like to do when they travel or even what they have done in the past. This client “just wants to get away”. These types are disorganized at the beginning of your relationship and will soon having you forgetting your own name. If a client cannot fill in the blanks, send them home with some brochures – that’s what they really wanted in any event. This one might actually someday travel, but they need to be put back in the oven until no longer half-baked.

9. The Grump – He’s not happy when you meet him, he’s not happy when you speak on the phone, he questions your every suggestion and strives to prove you wrong at every opportunity. This is why 50% of all marriages end in divorce and there is absolutely no good reason to give this fellow a seat at your table. You can send him along to a competitor, but only if you don’t believe in karma.

10. Your Intuition – something creeps you out about the client. Trust your gut. Don’t forget everything you know about human nature just because you really want the booking. If you don’t feel good about the transaction then you won’t feel good entering into a long-term relationship. Explain that you are not accepting new clients at this time.

Relationships have to work for both parties. Both you and the client must be mutually happy and respectful of the other. If you start catching the bad ones earlier in the day, there will be more time for you to lavish on the relationships that add real quality to your professional life. Don’t think of it as turning away business – consider it a tactical move in shaping the travel practice you really want to have.

This article was reprinted from Travel Ressearch Online with credit to Richard Earls who wrote it .