TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY

Launchtrip Unveils First Travel Platform Designed for Group Trips

Launchtrip | September 30, 2021

Launchtrip Unveils First Travel Platform Designed for Group Trips
Launchtrip the world's first Together-Travel company, today releases its group-centric travel booking app. Available on iOS now, Launchtrip removes the roadblocks historically associated with group-travel by allowing users to plan and book travel based on destination city or event, and the ability to divide costs and pay separately, taking the awkwardness out of invites and chasing down money - all within the native platform's ecosystem.

Launchtrip is the first application to address a longstanding challenge for consumers and the hospitality industry: the need to facilitate group bookings in one application including payment processing and soon, with an industry first: fair and transparent pricing. From today, users will be able to:
  • Search by city or event to book accommodation and restaurants close to major sports, music, and entertainment events across the country, with more events being added regularly
  • Book hotel accommodations from a curated selection of 3 - 5 star properties across the country. From independent boutique hotels to 5-star luxury properties and everything in between, Launchtrip offers thousands of hotels across 8 major US cities to start (including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Austin, Phoenix and Las Vegas), with more becoming available every month
  • Review thousands of highly recommended restaurants and book right in the app using Resy as Launchtrip's official restaurant booking partner
  • Split and manage payments of your group trips (available for group trips of 3 or more people)
  • Receive scaling group discounts with partnered hotels
  • Take advantage of Launchtrip's signature 24/7 concierge service - online and with text-driven customer support, powered by humans
  • Ground transportation and travel insurance will be available by the end of the year
  • Google Play store availability will launch in Winter 2021

Customers will also benefit from Launchtrip's 'My Trip' feature, where users can manage all of their group reservations and guest list, meaning they won't be stuck with reservation emails from multiple vendors. Within this feature, users can name their trip, check the trip's guest list and whether they've paid or not, and send reminders to anyone who hasn't yet paid.

Launchtrip recently surveyed 1,000 US adults to find that for 25% of Americans, dealing with payment is the most painful part of planning any group trip. A third (34%) of respondents even said they spend hours figuring out how to split costs. To reward these Group Trip 'Heroes' who've had to deal with organizing woes for far too long, Launchtrip is giving away an all-expenses paid vacation (including accomodation at select luxury hotel properties across the country) to one lucky 'Hero' plus three friends.

Launchtrip CEO and Founder Julian Ing is dedicated to providing a better travel experience for groups  a category that he believes has experienced little innovation in nearly 25 years. 

"Launchtrip is a new kind of travel booking company and one that we believe will transform the travel and hospitality space. From group travel to complete transparency for consumers and partners, we are committed to creating the best experience possible for our users and are thrilled to open to the public today."

Said Julian Ing, Launchtrip CEO and Founder

Looking ahead, Launchtrip will roll out additional features dedicated to creating a seamless travel experience, including curated trip recommendations, an AI-driven rewards system and more

About Launchtrip
Launchtrip is the Together-Travel company that makes booking group trips easy and rewarding. Founded by entrepreneur Julian Ing, Launchtrip's ethos is to make every experience outstanding, from end to end. Launchtrip's team of advisors include some of the industry's top experts with previous leadership roles within HomeAway (Expedia), MealPal and Tripping.com to name a few. This includes Traci Mercer, Taleeb Noormohamed, Michael Drever, Kathleen Reaume, Terry McBride and Mark Spencer.

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INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

Consumers’ Shifting Behavior Continues Reshaping Travel Industry's Future

Travel Pulse | December 14, 2021

Data intelligence company Morning Consult has released its ‘State of Travel and Hospitality’ report for 2021’s fourth quarter. The objective of its analysis was to discover how consumers are changing the sector’s future amid the ongoing pandemic by surveying over 9,000 adults across the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The firm found that that the travel industry is, indeed, rebounding, although slowly. Especially given the recent rise of fast-spreading strains, like the Omicron and Delta variants, COVID-related health concerns remain a factor for potential travelers; as do vaccination, testing and quarantine requirement at their intended destination, including confusion about what the actual regulations are at any given time.Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults said they’d traveled within the past year, more than 25 percent in the past month alone. It was discovered that younger generations—Millennials and Gen Zers—and high-income consumers were found to be more likely to travel than their older and poorer counterparts. One of the trends it examined is the pandemic-fueled increase in air rage. COVID-related airline (and federal) mandates, specifically when it comes to mask-wearing, prompted a steep rise in incidents of passengers refusing to follow the rules aboard their flights. From verbal rants and offensive language to physically assaulting crew members and fellow flyers, “unruly passengers” have become an all-too-common problem. According to Morning Consult’s survey, 41 percent of Americans have actually avoided domestic travel during the pandemic, due to concerns about how their fellow passengers might act aboard the plane. And, 63 percent are at least slightly concerned that an “air rage” incident will occur on their next flight, and 21 percent said they’re either “very” or “extremely” concerned.Just as with face masks, COVID-19 vaccines quickly became a highly politicized issue, with an already-polarized America split in their perceptions about COVID-related precautions and the virus itself. Consumer support for vaccination mandates, while polarized across party lines, is actually rather high when it comes to air travel. Sixty-three percent of Americans believe vaccination should be required when flying internationally, while 60 percent also said they should be required of passengers flying domestically. Travelers are also approaching travel planning differently and reorganizing some of their priorities. Leisure travelers have become accustomed to the idea that their plans may need to change at a moment’s notice. From consumers, the industry is seeing shorter booking windows, higher importance placed on flexibility and even a willingness to spend more money to ensure their plans are reschedulable. Price still remains the primary concern in booking travel, followed by brands’ safety measures.Then, there’s the business travel segment, which everyone foresaw would start rebounding only after the return of leisure travel. The fast rise and widespread adoption of remote-working and virtual-meeting technology prompted by the pandemic seem to have permanently displaced a portion of the business travel market. Now, 39 percent of regular U.S. business travelers say they’ll never go on another work trip again. Those who do travel for business are likely to do so closer to home, bound by tighter corporate policies and smaller budgets. The data actually revealed that one in every five business trips taken over the next year will just be day trips.

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FEATURES AND ADVICE

Creating a Contactless Travel Experience: Ottonomy Launches First Fully Autonomous Delivery Robots at CVG Airport

Ottonomy Inc. | December 17, 2021

Ottonomy announces that Ottobots, a fleet of fully autonomous delivery robots for food and retail, are now available at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). This is the first autonomous robotic delivery of food, beverage and lifestyle products in an airport environment.Officially launched for the holiday travel season, passengers are now able to order contactless delivery directly to their location in Concourse B of the airport, delivered by an autonomous robot. Customers can select grab and go, beverage and travel items sold at select retail stores operated by Paradies Lagardere via orderatcvg.com on mobile devices. Customers receive status updates on their phone and a unique QR code, which can be scanned by the robot's top camera to open the secure compartment and retrieve their items. The entire delivery experience is contactless and fully autonomous, a first in the industry. "At CVG, we are redefining the travel experience by combining talent and tech to deliver innovative solutions,We've built a culture of innovation at the airport and are excited to partner with Ottonomy to test and advance this technology in a live, airport environment." -Candace McGraw, chief executive officer, CVG Airport The original pilot of Ottobots at CVG started running in late 2020. The partners gathered feedback from participating passengers including details on the experience, cost and desire to have autonomous delivery in airports. These live robot deliveries will gather additional research to further develop the program and user experience. Ritukar Vijay, Co-Founder and CEO of Ottonomy Inc, said, This launch is a testament to CVG's commitment to innovation and customer experience. We are able to provide a safe and secure experience through our Ottobots, executing automated contactless deliveries of food and beverage and retail products. COVID-19 has changed the way we all interact and relate to travel, making contactless delivery even more relevant and essential. Ottobots navigate autonomously through crowds and unpredictable environments using Ottonomy's proprietary Contextual Mobility navigation tech. The overall system is highly scalable and flexible utilizing a comprehensive suite of cloud tools that manages a fleet of robots deployed throughout different areas of an airport. To learn more about Ottonomy's Ottobots you can visit the website: https://ottonomy.io/ or download assets from the Ottonomy Press Kit. About Ottonomy Inc: Ottonomy is a deep tech startup, providing contactless deliveries using fully autonomous robots. Its primary focus is on helping retailers and restaurants automate indoor and outdoor contactless deliveries. Ottonomy was recognized as among the top 50 robotics companies worldwide in 2021 by Robotics Business Review and has won the Mobility Startup Award given by Plug & Play Accelerator and the Sustainability Product of the Year Award given by the Business Intelligence Group. The company is backed by Connetic Ventures and angel investors. For more information on Ottonomy, please visit ottonomy.io. About CVG Airport: CVG Airport welcomed more than 9.1 million passengers in 2019, serving a record number of local passengers. As the airport recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it still offers the most nonstop destinations and the lowest average airfares in the Cincinnati region. CVG is diversified in both passenger and cargo operations with an annual economic impact of $6.8 billion. It is the 7th largest cargo airport in North America – home to Amazon Air's primary U.S. Hub and DHL Express Global Superhub. Learn more at CVGairport.com.

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HOSPITALITY TRENDS

BitNile Holdings, through Its Subsidiary Ault Alliance, Acquires a Portfolio of Four Marriott and Hilton Hotels for $69 Million

BitNile Holdings, Inc. | December 27, 2021

(NYSE American: NILE), a diversified holding company (“BitNile” or the “Company”), announced that its subsidiary, Ault Alliance, Inc. (“Ault Alliance”) has, through its subsidiary Ault Global Real Estate Equities, Inc. (“AGREE”), acquired three hotels located in Middleton, WI, a suburb of Madison, and one hotel in Rockford, IL. Consisting of an aggregate of 526 rooms, the acquisition includes two Marriott hotels (a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn by Marriott) and two Hilton Garden Inn hotels (collectively, the “Hotels”). Ault Alliance formed AGREE earlier in 2021 to invest in commercial real estate, including hospitality and multi-family housing properties, with a concentration in the middle-market segment. Christopher Wu is the President of Ault Alliance and the Chief Executive Officer of AGREE. This acquisition constitutes AGREE’s first commercial real estate investment, consisting of a 136-room Courtyard by Marriott, a 133-room Hilton Garden Inn and a 122-room Residence Inn by Marriott in Middleton, WI, as well as a 135-room Hilton Garden Inn in Rockford, IL. The Company paid $69 million for the Hotels, with $23.9 million paid by the Company at closing in cash; the balance of the purchase price was financed through construction loan agreements. Over the next 18 months, AGREE plans to renovate the Hotels through a $13.7 million property improvement plan. The Hotels will be managed by GF Hotels & Resorts, a leading hotel management company with a national footprint. AGREE has partnered with Joshua Caspi of Caspi Development, a real estate developer based in New York with expertise investing in hospitality, office, and multi-family experience developments. The Company has previously co-invested with Caspi Development in the Hotel Barrière Le Fouquet’s New York at 456 Greenwich Street, New York, NY. Mr. Wu stated, We are extremely pleased to acquire this premium-branded and stabilized portfolio of assets in an attractive and growing region of the country, set in a state capital and anchored by a major state university, as our first acquisition through AGREE. We believe these assets will provide AGREE and thereby the Company with attractive yields and potentially serve as a model for other commercial real estate transactions. We are also excited to partner with Joshua Caspi, a real estate developer and investor who brings considerable expertise, to help us manage and grow our real estate portfolio. “Bringing a team together like this has been my vision for 20 years and I am enthused and proud to say we have made this a reality today. We have a team of professionals to execute and bring these four hotels to their peak performance. We look forward to growing our hotel portfolio.” -The Company’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Milton “Todd” Ault, III The Company previously announced a plan to split into two public companies by distributing the equity of Ault Alliance to its stockholders. Following the spin-off of Ault Alliance, the Company, through its BitNile, Inc. subsidiary, will be a pure-play provider of Bitcoin mining and data center operations, pursuing DeFi-related initiatives. Ault Alliance will maintain its focus on the Company’s legacy businesses and more recently initiated operations, including lending and investing in the real estate and distressed asset spaces as well as, among others, defense, and power solutions, including electric vehicle charging products. For more information on BitNile Holdings and its subsidiaries, the Company recommends that stockholders, investors, and any other interested parties read the Company’s public filings and press releases available under the Investor Relations section at www.BitNile.com or available at www.sec.gov. About BitNile Holdings, Inc. BitNile Holdings, Inc. is a diversified holding company pursuing growth by acquiring undervalued businesses and disruptive technologies with a global impact. Through its wholly and majority-owned subsidiaries and strategic investments, the Company owns and operates a data center at which it mines Bitcoin and provides mission-critical products that support a diverse range of industries, including defense/aerospace, industrial, automotive, telecommunications, medical/biopharma, and textiles. In addition, the Company extends credit to select entrepreneurial businesses through a licensed lending subsidiary. BitNile Holdings’ headquarters are located at 11411 Southern Highlands Parkway, Suite 240, Las Vegas, NV 89141; www.BitNile.com.

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HOSPITALITY TRENDS

Hyatt Announces Plans for Two New UK Hotels With Hyatt Regency London Stratford & Hyatt House London Stratford

Hyatt | January 21, 2022

announced that a Hyatt affiliate has entered into management agreements with Stratford City Hotels Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of M&L Hospitality, for Hyatt Regency London Stratford and Hyatt House London Stratford. The 225-room Hyatt Regency London Stratford and the 127-room Hyatt House London Stratford are expected to open in Q2 2022 following an extensive refurbishment. Both hotels will be conveniently located within one of Europe’s largest urban shopping and entertainment complexes, Westfield Stratford City, and a short walk to Stratford Station.The addition of these two hotels will be another exciting step in growing Hyatt’s brand presence in the United Kingdom and in creating a network of hotels across the key commercial and leisure markets in the country,” said Felicity Black Roberts, vice president of development Europe, Hyatt. “We worked closely with M&L Hospitality to choose the right brands for the location and are pleased to be continuing our relationship with them following the successful openings of Hyatt Regency Manchester and Hyatt House Manchester in 2019. Designed with productivity in mind, Hyatt Regency London Stratford will offer business and leisure travelers alike a stress-free and seamless environment to stay connected. Guests can enjoy 6,673 square feet (628 square meters) of meeting space, along with a spacious restaurant, bar and an open-air terrace. Hyatt House London Stratford will provide guests with modern, apartment-style suites with fully equipped kitchens and flexible workspaces, designed to make them feel at home, especially during extended stays. The hotels are located close to Stratford Station, one of the UK’s busiest train stations, giving guests swift access to Central London in only seven minutes. Stratford International Station connects guests to St Pancras International Station and transfers to the Eurostar train, which provides services to Paris, Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The properties will also be easily accessible to Heathrow International Airport via the new Queen Elizabeth Crossrail line due to open mid 2022, which will offer services to Stratford in approximately 45 minutes. Furthermore, London City Airport is only 20 minutes from Stratford on the Docklands Light Railway, making it an ideal location for business and leisure guests. Guests can enjoy easy access to local events at the nearby O2 and ExCel London convention center, home to many concerts, exhibitions, and corporate events. The burgeoning Stratford City is also fast becoming the most exciting cultural region in the UK with major new developments at Queen Elizabeth Park currently underway including the proposed new future home of BBC studios, along with the exciting new museum project, V&A East. Further, nearby universities include the new world-class East campus of the University College of London and the new College of Fashion. “We are pleased to be able to continue our work with Hyatt in the United Kingdom, Our strategy focuses on identifying key gateway cities with strong economic growth. Stratford is experiencing a real boom and our plans to introduce these Hyatt House and Hyatt Regency hotels to London will capitalize on this.” -Neil Maxwell, chief executive officer of M&L Hospitality The announcement of Hyatt Regency London Stratford and Hyatt House London Stratford marks Hyatt’s continued growth in the UK market. The hotels will join M&L Hospitality’s existing Hyatt properties including Hyatt Regency Manchester and Hyatt House Manchester, Hyatt Place London Heathrow Airport. Other Hyatt properties in the UK include Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, Hyatt Regency Birmingham, Great Scotland Yard Hotel, Andaz London Liverpool Street, Hyatt Place West London Hayes, Hyatt Centric Cambridge and Hyatt Place London City East. About Hyatt Hotels Corporation Hyatt Hotels Corporation, headquartered in Chicago, is a leading global hospitality company guided by its purpose – to care for people so they can be their best. As of September 30, 2021, Hyatt’s portfolio included more than 1,000 hotel and all-inclusive properties in 69 countries across six continents, and the acquisition of Apple Leisure Group added 96 properties in 10 countries as of November 1, 2021. Hyatt’s offerings include the Park Hyatt®, Miraval®, Grand Hyatt®, Alila®, Andaz®, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt®, Destination by Hyatt™, Hyatt Regency®, Hyatt®, Hyatt Ziva™, Hyatt Zilara™, Thompson Hotels®, Hyatt Centric®, Caption by Hyatt, JdV by Hyatt™, Hyatt House®, Hyatt Place®, UrCove, and Hyatt Residence Club® brands, as well as resort and hotel brands under the AMR™ Collection, including Secrets® Resorts & Spas, Dreams® Resorts & Spas, Breathless® Resorts & Spas, Zoëtry® Wellness & Spa Resorts, Alua® Hotels & Resorts, and Sunscape® Resorts & Spas. Hyatt’s subsidiaries operate the World of Hyatt® loyalty program, ALG Vacations®, Unlimited Vacation Club®, Amstar DMC destination management services, and the Trisept Solutions® travel technology platform. For more information, please visit www.hyatt.com. About M&L Hospitality M&L Hospitality is a Singapore-based real estate investment platform with an international portfolio of best-in-class hotels. Since 2009 M&L Hospitality’s portfolio has grown to 20 hotel properties across the Asia-Pacific, UK and European regions. Its hotels are in prime, central locations in international gateway cities. They are operated by the most recognisable international brands, including Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Radisson Hotel Group.

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Spotlight

Fans have asked us how we decide where to travel to. Well, it is a combination of three things that help us decide where to visit next. Where are our friends and family? If we can visit friends we will go there to see them and get to know the culture with locals.

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