Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Tech Travel Tools

The travel biz is still down in much of the world, but that's not holding back new travel tech, especially when it comes to travel update alerts and social networking.

Just this past week, several new initiatives came to my attention. Such as:

** Ever-active Lufthansa says it has "introduced additional features to My Sky, a social networking tool that automatically sends flight status updates to users' Facebook and Twitter accounts. A new e-mail option allows travelers to send updates via e-mail, including a personalized message and the ability to select who will receive the update and when.''

MySkyStatus, Lufthansa reminds customers, "tracks all carriers, so that travelers of any airline can share departure, in-flight location and arrival updates, no matter where they're flying.'' (

** Etihad Airways, the elegant national flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, is rolling out a new Apple iPhone aplication for members of Etihad Guest, "the first application of its kind to offer users real-time loyalty points redemption,'' the airline says.

The app is available free for downloading from the Apple Inc. iPhone store, which Etihad Guest members can use to: redeem points for more than 1,700 products at the Etihad Rewards shop; access exclusive promotions; view account information; and scroll through a directory of the airline's program partners.

** Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts, the Hong Kong luxury group, is offering a multilingual mobile Web site at that, the company says, will give users access to interactive maps and enhanced photos of Shangri-la properties around the world. This offering, in English, Chinese and Japanese, is designed for smart phones and optimised for the Apple iPhone. Shangri-la is probably the leading 5- and 4-star hotel company in China and is opening new hotels in Europe in the next several years. In 2009, Shangri-la opened a glistening highrise property in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Canada, as well.

Meanwhile, the travel biz is in many ways still sputtering. Air travel, in particular, is being bumped around, and business in the front of the cabin is especially bad. According to the authoritative numbers-crunchers at Geneva's International Air Transport Association, "The number of passengers traveling in first or business class in November was 6.7 percent lower than a year earlier.''

2008 was, as we remember, an awful year. So, we still have a ways to go before the travel biz - not to mention the rest of the world economy - is back where it should be. Nice to know, though, that innovation is not stopping, even in these challenging times.

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