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Weekly News Roundup

Here are some top travel news stories from the past week.

Choice Hotels International, which has long had family-friendly brands, has announced that it will turn its focus on corporate travel.

The Rockville, Md.-based company will launch a nationwide advertising campaign June 17 to capture a greater share of corporate travel after years of making strategic investments to its brands and technology infrastructure.

“We’re proud of our history as the hotel company families turn to for vacations and road-trip stays—and that won’t change,” said Pat Pacious, president and CEO of Choice Hotels. “The company is ready to build on our success by demonstrating to business travelers that we’ve invested in everything they want and need—especially in our flagship Comfort brand and upscale Cambria brand. Our upcoming ad campaign will be the capstone to these investments and signal that we’re open for business, whether that ‘business’ is meeting with clients or attending a family reunion.”

Choice, along with its franchisees, have made a $2.5 billion investment in its midscale Comfort Hotels brand. Many properties were renovated last year, resulting in more than doubling their business travel growth in the first quarter of 2019.

The company has also committed about $725 million to its upscale Cambria Hotels brand, which was designed for the modern business traveler.

One of Choice’s fastest-growing brands is WoodSpring Suites, which appeals to extended-day guests. There are plans for more than 300 WoodSpring properties to open around the country by the end of next year.

The company is positioning its midscale Sleep Inn brand as an affordable and stylish option for corporate travelers and travel managers.

Choice has also invested heavily in its technology infrastructure. It offers a Virtual Pay option on its website, which lets corporate travel managers book reservations and eliminates the need for each traveler to have a corporate card.

The Group Management Platform makes it easier to book group travel, allowing guests to make reservations for groups, select from various payment options, manage reservations, and send customized emails inviting guests to book.

Choice Hotels has more than 7,000 hotels in at least 40 countries.

China warns its citizens about traveling to the United States

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week warned Chinese citizens and companies about traveling to the U.S., saying that U.S. law enforcement agencies have harassed Chinese citizens.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism also issued an alert fort for Chinese citizens traveling to the U.S., citing recent shootings, thefts and robberies.

The warnings come amidst an intensifying trade war between the U.S. and China. The alerts are expected to be in place for the rest of the year.

In recent years, Chinese travelers have been visiting the U.S. in healthy numbers and spending money at luxury retailers. Chinese visitors spend an average of $6,700 per trip, about 50 percent more than the average international visitor.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, as of 2017, China was the third-largest source of overseas travel to the U.S., with 3.2 million visitors in 2017.

But that is starting to slow down because of the trade tensions and travel warnings.

In January, the U.S. State Department also warned U.S. travelers to China to “exercise increased caution.”

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said at the group’s annual IPW convention in Anaheim, that it’s too early to know the impact the warnings will have on inbound travel from China but that “announcements such as this can have a chilling effect.”

“As we have before, we continue to urge both governments not to politicize travel for the reasons I have stated often: travel is incredibly valuable for both countries in terms of direct commercial activity and business relationships that have a broad downstream economic impact,” Dow said.

There has been concern in general that inbound international travel to the U.S. could drop because of the perception that the U.S. is no longer welcoming.

Overall travel to and within the U.S. grew in April, including a 5.6 percent surge in year-over-year international travel due to the Easter holiday, the U.S. Travel Association said last week in Anaheim.

But the Leading Travel Index—considered an accurate forecast of official U.S. government arrivals data—warns that growth of the inbound market will slow to 0.8 percent through October.

“Long-haul visitors to the U.S. are solid economic gold, spending more than $4,000 per person, per trip while consuming virtually no public services,” said U.S. Travel Association Senior Vice President for Research David Huether. “Those valuable travelers are taking trips in the strongest numbers ever, but there is more the U.S. should be doing to compete for their business.”

Uber to launch helicopter service between Manhattan and JFK

Starting July 9, travelers to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City will be able to avoid getting stuck in Manhattan traffic and take a helicopter through Uber.

Uber Copter will take travelers from Lower Manhattan to the airport in Queens, The New York Times reports.

Only Platinum and Diamond members of the Uber Rewards program will be eligible to use the service, which will cost between $200 and $225 per person and come with a car service to a heliport in downtown Manhattan. Another car will pick up passengers where they land near Terminal 8 and take them to their departure terminals. Uber said the whole trip could take 30 minutes, according to The Points Guy.

Passengers can either order the ride on demand or up to five days in advance. The helicopter rides will be available Monday to Friday in the afternoons.

An Uber official told the Times that the service could be rolled out to other cities.