Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Ideas

IDEAS: Red Sea Global Unveils a 3D Printed 5G Tower at Six Senses Resort

6 months ago

Red Sea Global and Zain KSA have unveiled the world’s first zero-carbon 5G network, which is powered by 100% renewable energy.

Credit: Red sea Global

The tower, which is located at Six Senses Southern Dunes resort at The Red Sea, will bring guests ‘the highest speeds for 5G connectivity in the region’ according to a release from Red Sea Global.

Utilizing 3D printing technology, the tower has been designed to seamlessly blend with the landscape by imitating rock formations, ensuring the tower has a minimal visual impact on the surrounding environment.

The network is also set to powered by over 760,000 solar panels, which have been built by Red Sea Global to power the entire 28,000km2 destination. 

“We aspire to be global pioneers of regenerative tourism development, adopting 100% renewable energy at our flagship destination, The Red Sea, and working towards the achievement of a 30% net conservation benefit by 2040. These ambitious goals demand ambitious partners, and our collaboration with Zain KSA transcends telecommunications, extending into sustainability and environmental protection,” said John Pagano, group CEO at Red Sea Global. 


Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Travel Technology

Travel Tech at JetBlue, Avis, Hilton and Avianca Still Seems Archaic

1 year ago

There’s been well-deserved excitement in travel tech circles in recent years about everything from the New Distribution Capability to chatbots and the arrival of generative AI, but the reality is that much of what passes for travel technology is still backwards these days.

An elevator at the Phoenix Airport car rental center on January 10, 2020. Source: Flickr.com/Tony Webster

Here are a few recent examples:

Avis: Rental Counter Can Be Unavoidable

Avis informed me a few days ago that I couldn’t modify an upcoming reservation at Newark Airport to add electronic toll charges because I made the reservation using points. In a chat, the Avis agent assured me I could add E-ZPass at the counter — although there are often elongated wait times there.

In November at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as an Avis Preferred member, I was supposed to be able to view the app and go directly to the parking lot to retrieve my rental car, but that didn’t happen. Eventually, an Avis agent at the car rental counter told me I hadn’t been able to go directly to the car in the parking garage because I arrived during an employee shift change, and the cars were not in place and ready. The wait for the cars was at least 45 minutes at the rental counter.

JetBlue Ticket Modifications: You Need to Cancel and Rebook

In early January, I tried to modify a JetBlue flight booking at JetBlue.com, but wasn’t able to. During a text chat, JetBlue told me in what I think was an automated answer that since I booked the flight with points, I’d have to cancel and rebook it to make the change. “TrueBlue point bookings are managed online,” JetBlue stated. “Changes require you to cancel and rebook. Points are returned to the TrueBlue account. Bags/seats are refunded to the original payment.”

If I had booked the original flights with dollars instead of TrueBlue points, I probably would have been able to easily modify the booking online. But don’t airlines want their customers to join their loyalty programs, and redeem those points? Instead, there is a disincentive when points functionality lags.

Avianca Blames the ‘System’ on Multi-City Booking Issue

About a week ago, I wanted to book a multi-city itinerary on Avianca.com, but there was no option to do so. I was looking to book Punta Cana-Cartagena-Medellin-Punta Cana. I complained on Twitter in frustration, and Avianca kindly messaged me within minutes of my tweet that its customer service agents would reach out, which they did. But after a back and forth with one of the agents over a couple of days, he informed me that the Avianca “system” wouldn’t allow him to make the multi-city booking, either. The agent said I should try booking the tickets separately.

I did book the flights separately — but with another airline. 

Can’t Bypass the Front Desk at a Hilton Property

In November, I reserved a room for a few nights at a Hilton Garden Inn in New Jersey. A Hilton email informed me I could use the Hilton Honors app for a contactless arrival. The idea was to skip the front desk, head to my assigned room, and unlock the door with my phone.

When I arrived at the property, a very nice front desk employee informed me that for security purposes I would have to show her an ID so it turns out at this particular property, at least, there would be no bypassing the front desk. She then handed me a couple of card keys for my room door.

Moral of the Story?

Despite all the boasts from airlines, hotels, and car rental companies about seamless this or frictionless that, the reality is often more traditional and clunky. The travel industry still finds itself plagued by outdated, legacy technology or more modern applications that sometimes aren’t well thought out.

Online Travel

Google Will No Longer Be a Place to Book Travel as Fewer Travelers Were Using It

1 year ago

Google announced it will shut Book on Google for flights for users outside the U.S. at the end of September, and told Skift it will likewise end the feature in the U.S. sometime after March 31.

It turns out, a declining number of users were booking their flights on Google, which acknowledged that travelers would rather book their flights with online travel agencies or directly with airlines.

Google Flights will end doing its own airline bookings. Source: Sean O’Neill

To be clear, Google Flights is not shutting down, but will continue to enable travelers to click on airline and online travel agency links to book their flights, as they have done for years for the vast majority of flights. What changes is that Google will no longer take a small share of bookings on Google channels, but will refer all users to partners for bookings.

Eliminating the feature likewise doesn’t hurt Google’s case to beat back regulatory efforts to diminish its power on antitrust grounds.

With the Book on Google feature for flights, travelers can book on Google, but Google was just facilitating the booking for that airline or online travel agency, and the latter provided the customer service function. Google wasn’t charging airlines for the feature.

“Over the next 12 months, we plan to phase out the Book on Google feature for Flights,” Google stated. “We originally offered this functionality to give people a simpler way to buy their tickets and to help our partner airlines and OTAs receive more bookings. However, we’ve found over time that people actually want to book directly on partner websites, and we always strive to meet user preferences whenever possible.”

Some pundits saw Book on Google as the company creeping toward becoming an online travel agency, but that never appeared to be the intent. Google makes too much money on travel advertising to want to directly compete with its biggest partners. Google also has no interest in dealing with flight changes and cancellations, or in providing customer service to stranded travelers.

Google ended Book on Google for hotels earlier in 2022.

Google launched Book on Google in 2015 as a way to facilitate bookings for airlines and online travel agencies in an era when many of their mobile websites weren’t particularly sophisticated.

But partners’ mobile capabilities have improved in the interim, and Google said it saw a declining share of flight bookings coming from the Book on Google feature.

Many metasearch sites over the years have tried these types of facilitated bookings for partner airlines and hotels, but with a few exceptions, such as HomeToGo in Germany, this type of feature has been waning for years.

Travel Technology

Travel Hacks Galore to Ease the Pain of Hassled Travel

2 years ago

The New York Times published a story a few days ago headlined, Tech Hacks to Make Traveling Right Now Less of a Headache.

The famous Racoon Stealer malware is back ☠️ And it brought new updates that you should know. Source: SurfShark

In the story, the author recommended:

  • Book direct with the airline or hotel instead of gong through a middleman like an online travel agency.
  • Consult JoinSherpa.com to keep abreast of ever-changing Covid lockdown rules and destination entry requirements and use itinerary organizing tools like TripIt. If you are a Gmail user, Google Travel likewise organizes your travel bookings, although it can be glitchy.
  • Track wayward luggage with products such as Apple AirTag.
  • Download the hotel’s app to access functions such as earlier check-in as soon as your room is ready.

Additional Tech Hacks

We’ll add a few favorite tech hacks of our own.

  • Use FlightAware to see the location of the plane that’s hopefully en route for your departure. Some airline apps have this feature. A couple of weeks ago FlightAware informed me that the plane that was scheduled to take me from Puerto Rico to New Jersey would be arriving in New Jersey around 5:20 a.m. while United Airlines misinformed me that flight would be taking off more than an hour earlier. The flight actually took off around 15 hours later.
  • Speaking of United, you can now pre-order beverages and food on some U.S. domestic flights, although it too can be clunky.
  • Sign up for a virtual private network such as Surfshark so that once you arrive at your foreign destination you’ll still able to view apps such as Sling.tv, which wouldn’t otherwise be unavailable.
  • When shopping for deals, make sure to consult mobile apps for companies such as Tripadvisor, Expedia, or Booking.com because sometimes mobile deals will be lower than desktop prices.
  • Download lots of movies to your phone before your flight in case there are slim pickings on board.
  • Contact your cellphone company to see if it will give you a discounted rate for mobile calls in a foreign destination. T-Mobile has such a program, for example.

There are tons of other travel hacks available. Send us your favorites.