March 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March 1999 Current Issue
March 1999 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel


Identity Protection...Easy Off...Speed Wiring

Passports go high-tech to thwart thieves

Tamper-proof passports. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 15,000 U.S. passports were stolen from Americans traveling abroad in 1997, many of which were altered and used to commit crimes. At the end of 1998, the National Passport Office began issuing documents with high-tech security features, hoping to cut down on a thief’s ability to alter the photograph and personal information. Pictures are now computer- generated, making it much more difficult for the photograph to be replaced by that of an impostor. Other anti-counterfeiting features on the data page include security film with multicolored images similar to a hologram, which covers the photo and the bearer’s personal information, as well as microline (wavy-line) printing behind the photo. The new passports are being phased in across the country; by the end of the year, all stateside passport agencies will be equipped to produce them.

Speedier exits. Travelers in California no longer wait long to deplane when they fly the United Shuttle. The airline has begun two-end deplaning in Los Angeles and San Francisco and will introduce it at several other Western airports by the summer. In the front, passengers get off as usual; from the back, they walk down a stairway and enter a covered, portable walkway called a Commute-a-Walk. Recent tests showed that passengers got into the terminal more quickly and the shuttle’s on-time performance improved.

Hotel Internet access update. Hilton Hotels Corp. has contracted with Washington, D.C.-based CAIS Internet to install OverVoice high-speed voice and data technology in guest and meeting rooms at properties owned, operated or franchised by Hilton in the United States, Canada and Mexico. In hotel rooms, guests will be able to speak on the phone while accessing the World Wide Web; both connections will be carried on the same line. Larger convention hotels will be wired with the technology first, followed by smaller properties in second-tier cities. The service will not be free: Guests will be charged a per-day rate of less than $10 for the service.

Wingate Inns International signed a similar agreement with LodgeNet Entertainment Corp. to put the technology company’s interactive guest-room program in every Wingate Inn. The system offers high-speed Internet access as well as on-demand movies and video games.

Fly or else. Officials of China’s central government have a novel way to ensure the Y2K bug is fixed at state-run airlines: They’re requiring the heads of the airlines to fly Jan. 1, 2000. London’s Financial Times reported China has a special problem because analysts estimate that 90 percent of software in use there is pirated, so technicians have to figure out how to fix Y2K problems without calling the software manufacturers for assistance. A report that executives at British Airways also would be flying that day turned out to be false.

Creative packaging. Holiday Inn is putting a new twist on the all-suite concept. The 800 suites in the $80 million Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the chain’s first all-suite resort, will be themed. Kidsuites will have separate rooms for the kids with their own TV and Nintendo; Sweet Heart Suites will entice with heart-shaped tubs; Cinemasuites will feature a theater room with a 60-inch TV and recliners, and Fitness Suites by Nautilus will offer a recumbent bike, bench and free weights. The property, which will open in phases from July to December, also will have standard residential, two-bedroom and business suites.

New for the travel library. Berkeley, Calif.-based Nolo Press, publishers of self-help law books and related software, may not sound like the place to find a terrific book on travel. On the other hand, who else but a lawyer would be able to explain your rights when trips go awry? Trouble-Free Travel...and What to Do When Things Go Wrong, by attorneys Stephen Colwell and Ann Shulman, gives strategies for handling travel nightmares and for avoiding problems in the first place. Particularly helpful are the sections on travel and rental car insurance and how to make your travel expenses tax deductible.

Those who love the land west of the Mississippi will enjoy Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: Wallace Stegner’s American West (Henry Holt & Company, New York City), a collection of essays by the late environmentalist, historian and novelist. Compiled by his son, Page, Stegner’s pieces are a window into North America in the 20th century, giving a bit of perspective as we head into the 21st.

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