. PRINT YOUR OWN...VALET PARK AND FLY | Meetings & Conventions


Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September 2000 Current Issue
September 2000 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


New technology will allow travelers to print out tickets and boarding passes from the Web

Tickets in hand. Two Web sites that deal primarily in the printing of postage off the Internet are getting into the airline-ticketing business. When E-Stamp (www.estamp.com) and Stamps.com (www.stamps.com) work out the technology, travelers will be able to print ticketing information from their own printers, or send the information to such devices as smart cards, PDAs and cell phones.

E-Stamp is working with Atraxis Group, a technology subsidiary of SAirGroup, which owns Swissair; plans are to conduct a trial of the service at the end of this year.

Stamps.com has created its own subsidiary, EncrypTix, with investments from such powerhouses as The Walt Disney Company, Sabre Holdings, American Express Travel Related Services Co. and GetThere. Consumers will not go directly to the EncrypTix site. EncrypTix, whose launch also is targeted for the end of this year, will provide the secure documents through its partners.

Curbside key drop. Valet parking at the airport might sound extravagant, but you will never miss the long-term parking excursion. Those who use AviStar (www.avistarparking.com) drive to an off-site area where the car is parked; a shuttle takes flyers to the terminal. On the return, they are picked up at the terminal and taken to AviStar, where their car is waiting.

This saves travelers the trouble of driving aimlessly around a lot, looking for a space, and then searching for the car a few days later, dragging bags off the bus and lugging them up and down the aisles. Also, valet parking is safer: You never have to be alone in the lot at night.

The service is available at Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, Bradley (Hartford, Conn.), Philadelphia and Chicago. AviStar also has alliances with similar services at 10 other U.S. airports. Prices vary by region; at press time, day rates were $7.33 in Philadelphia, $14.88 at LaGuardia, $12.08 at JFK and $12.95 at Newark. This is compared to long-term parking costs of $14 at Philadelphia, $12 at Newark and $8 at JFK. Avistar has packages available for both corporate and leisure travelers.

Big brother in the icebox. To help hotels monitor minibar sales, France-based Bartech is offering a wired refrigerator. The E-Fridge is hooked up to a central computer that records guest consumption, automatically posting purchases to the room bill. Upon check-in, the computer unlocks the minibar, locking it again at check-out.

Each item is controlled by such sensors as magnets, infrared beams and microswitches. A 20- to 45-second billing delay allows a guest to put that Snickers bar back in the refrigerator if he changes his mind. After that, the charge is automatic, so guests can no longer eat the candy bar then replace it with a new one purchased for a fraction of the price. The E-Fridge currently monitors inventory in such properties as the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, and Florida’s Boca Raton Club and Resort.

Log on in the lobby. Hilton Hotels Corp. and eKiosk.com are deploying Internet kiosks in the lobbies of all Hilton and Doubletree hotels in North America. The use of the high-speed stations, which are connected via either T-1 or DSL lines, will be free for the first 10 minutes, 25 cents per minute after that.

Doctor, doctor. Need to find an English-speaking physician while abroad? Contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy for a list of recommended doctors, as well as hospitals, pharmacies and medical evacuation services. Several organizations such as the following offer emergency coverage for travelers: International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (www.sentex.net/~iamat), International SOS (www.internationalsos.com) and Worldwide Assistance Services Inc. (www.worldwideassistance.com).

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