January 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January 2000 Current Issue
January 2000 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


Surveys reveal top travel troubles and Internet buying (or browsing) habits

Travel headaches. In a survey conducted by M&C’s sister publication, Travel Weekly, flight delays and cancellations are the most frequently reported travel inconveniences. Nearly 62 percent of the 306 people questioned in the publication’s Travel Adversity study blame these events for their travel troubles.

Coming in second and third were lost or delayed luggage (14 percent) and damaged luggage (9 percent). Registering minor complaints from 1 to 7 percent of the respondents were disappointing accommodations, cruises or package tours; lost hotel or car rental reservations; and delayed or canceled cruises. The TW study found 59 percent of travel problems eventually are resolved.

Another study, conducted by Sherman, Conn.-based PhoCusWright, an independent strategy and research company for the online travel market, shows travelers are buying into the e-commerce process of planning a trip. The second annual PhoCusWright Travel eCommerce Survey found that among travelers who shop online, 80 percent have looked at Internet travel sites, and 58 percent have checked prices, but only 18 percent have booked travel online.

Of the 500 people questioned, 68 percent look online to research and plan their personal travel. Most still are guarding their credit card numbers, though: The majority of those doing research online do not purchase tickets electronically. Of the nonbuyers, 75 percent say they are not likely to buy anything online in the near future. Their reasons are credit card security (82 percent), personal privacy (79 percent) and the desire to speak with a knowledgeable salesperson before buying (77 percent).

Just in case.Chances are (knock on wood) you will never need emergency medical attention while traveling, but if you do, WorldClinic has the expertise you need. Just ask the solo sailboat racer who successfully operated on his own elbow in the middle of nowhere using WorldClinic’s e-mailed instructions. Such extremes of location and situation are not the norm for the service, but doctors are on hand 24 hours a day to take care of whatever ails you, whether it’s translating directions from a local doctor or arranging an emergency evacuation.

“We essentially built a medical practice for people who live outside the United States,” says founding physician Daniel Carlin. For a fixed annual fee $3,000 to $4,000 for full-time expatriates, $2,000 for travelers who are overseas more than 21 days a year and $1,000 for infrequent travelers Burlington, Mass.-based WorldClinic (800-636-9186) stores clients’ complete medical histories, sends travelers off with customized prescription medical kits and provides unlimited access to the doctors via phone, e-mail and videoconference.

Need a pen, stat? The Staples chain of office-supply superstores has opened its first airport location, at the Philadelphia International Airport, offering travelers three ways to buy supplies: in the store, through a kiosk linked to and over a direct phone line to a catalog representative. A spokesperson for the Framingham, Mass.-based company says the Internet link has proved particularly useful, enabling travelers to order materials for delivery to their destination. Staples plans to announce two more airport locations soon.

Noise blockers. Travelers in first and business class on select American Airlines international flights now can put on their earphones and drown out the whine of the engines. The new Acoustic Noise Cancelling headsets, made by Bose Corp., are modeled after the Framingham, Mass.-based speaker company’s award-winning aviation headsets. The new passenger sets dramatically reduce engine and wind noise while cranking out high-quality audio.

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