Norwegian Air Shuttle is Breaking Down High Fare Barriers

Petteri Olsen, head of sales in Asia for Norwegian Air Shuttle.

Petteri Olsen, head of sales in Asia for Norwegian Air Shuttle.

Norwegian Air Shuttle has a few secrets. One of which is flying very new airplanes to the most in demand destinations and points on the market. I spoke with two Norwegian executives at the IPW show recently about how they do it.  Their answer surprised me.

It comes down to the fact that flying Boeing’s newest and most expensive jets, the Dreamliners 787,  and very new 737s means significantly less fuel burn. Couple that with non-union pilots crew and ground staff and you save so much money that you’re talking a $40 trip to Europe versus what some of airlines would charge thousands for.
My dream is to see Norwegian air shuttle servicing Hartford Springfield airport because that’s my home airport and when that happens I’m gonna be taking a lot of flights on that wonderful airline.
My daughter wanted to take a trip last January and she jumped on Google flights and discovered that Norwegian flies to Guadalupe. She never had planned on going to Guadalupe but the $99 round trip made it pretty darn irresistible. Score another one for the big red airline it’s taking over the world one cheap trip buy one cheap trip.  I am planning on trying to get over to London for World Travel Market in November. Guess where I’ll look first for my airline tickets–yep, Norwegian flies from New York to London.

Goodbye to Screens as the Family Heads to our Summer Retreat

This is one of those shoscreensrt weeks where I have so much to do that I probably won’t get that much done. It’s all crashing down as a result of being gone last week and this week, leaving Friday for a week vacation with family in an undisclosed Pennsylvania location.  I cherish that time, every July, where we gather the big family, from the littlest grandchild to my eldest sister Anne, to enjoy a week of mostly screen-free living. I’m looking forward to giving up on work for a week.

I am so aware of the presence of screens and its ubiquity depresses me some times. I wake up in my daughter’s house looking for little Sofie…there she is, nose inside the iPad, watching YouTube.  Never ever let’s grandpa see what she’s watching, a trick she learned from her older brother Nathan. We’ve made a pact that during this trip, neither adults nor teens nor pre-teens will have their noses in the phones. We will bring out our books, bring our boardgames, bring out our rusty conversational skills and share some quality time catching up in our undisclosed location near a lake in western Pennsylvania.

I will reserve a little bit of time in the evenings for some email but nothing more…I gotta walk this walk, right?

New Orleans Welcomes IPW with Zydeco, Paddle Wheelers and Beads

A former paddle wheel ship captain shares stories about the river aboard the Natchez in New Orleans.

A former paddle wheel ship captain shares stories about the river aboard the Natchez in New Orleans.

I arrived in New Orleans last night and it did not take long to feel very much at home. I settled into my somewhat ‘rustic’ AirBNB, located in a poor part of the city, and my next stop was the fabulous and legendary Broussard’s Restaurant. Here, in a delightful back garden, a party was beginning.

My hosts were the friendly people from Destination DC, who will be hosting next year’s IPW show. With some tasty appetizers and some schmoozing with travel bloggers from Toronto and Australia, it all began.

Sweet Crude, a Zydeco band, rocked the Orpheum at the opening brunch.

Sweet Crude, a Zydeco band, rocked the Orpheum at the opening brunch.

We dined on shrimp and grits and later, strolled down crowded Bourbon Street to a big party in a club that was filled only with people from the show. It’s always fun having the place and the bar to ourselves—no need to pay a big tab,  and no one but fellow travel peeps to hang out with. I met a friendly woman named Tara up on the balcony looking down at the crowded street, she told me about working for the Seminole Tribe, who own the Hard Rock Hotel chain.

We tossed some beads down and the women standing next to me took particular delight in the men who pulled up their shirts to earn their beads. No women did the same, it remained PG rated last night.

Tara, who works in sales for Hard Rock hotels, up on the balcony.

Tara, who works in sales for Hard Rock hotels, up on the balcony.

I watched an expert DJ spin a little turntable while she played digital music, she somehow affected the sound even though no vinyl was playing. The music grew louder and dancing ensued. I looked down at my phone and saw nine percent and knew it was time to Uber my way back to the tiny house where I was lodging.

This morning I woke up feeling good and joined a throng at a big welcoming brunch at the Orpheum Theater. There was a fantastic and authentic zydeco band playing called Sweet Crude, and then the Preservation Hall Jazz All Stars took a turn. We toured all four floors of the magnificent theater, at one area there were people offering a Tabasco sauce tasting–take a tiny bite of the hot peppers behind the acclaimed sauce and get a spoon to wear around your neck.

Broussards is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. Here we are in the back garden.

Broussards is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. Here we are in the back garden.

At 11, we boarded a bus and then embarked on a steamboat river cruise aboard the Natchez, a stern-drive paddlewheeler where one of the original captains spoke about how the English ships brought all the stones used in construction in the holds of their ships. “There are no stones from Baton Rouge down, the only stones you see are the ones that came in those ships, and we paid dearly for them. In Boston they used to throw them overboard.”

The beautiful Orpheum theater had treats, drinks and fun on four levels during the IPW opening brunch.

The beautiful Orpheum theater had treats, drinks and fun on four levels during the IPW opening brunch.

The muddy river has all sorts of interesting diversions—huge military transport ships, docked and used to house people during Hurricane Katrina, I was told by a Port of NOLA employee who lived there for four months in 2005.

We were told that New Orleans is an up and comer for cruise ships, more than one million passengers will visit the port in 2016, more and more cruise lines are adding the Crescent City to their rosters and a new terminal will be built where decrepit docks now sit empty.

New Orleans is Where Hundreds of Travel Writers Are Heading

New Orleans is all about the food!  I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

New Orleans is all about the food! I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

I’m waiting at the airport to fly to New Orleans, where I will attend my first IPW conference.  This is a meeting that’s called ‘Bringing America to the World,  that brings hundreds of foreign travel writers here to show them all of the great attractions, destinations and places in the United States they should write about.  It used to be called Powwow, but like so many native-American terms, this has fallen out of favor, so now it’s just IPW. It’s put on by BrandUSA, the people who promote the US as a travel destination to the whole world.

I’m checking into an AirBNB in the Garden District, about two miles from the convention center. I am happy that I’ve got an invitation to dinner tonight at Broussards, one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. They really know how to make you feel welcome.  Tonight’s dinner will be with the tourism people in Washington DC, it will be fun to learn about what’s new there for travelers.

Every other night of the four-day event is filled with parties, swell events and it will be hard to decide which ones to attend. So far, Visit Oregon,  Texas Tourism and San Francisco’s parties look like the highlights.  But it’s New Orleans, so no matter where I go, it will be fun and festive.  The last time I was here, two years ago, we met the owners of Antoine’s the oldest restaurant in the city. The food was fantastic.

I look forward to seeing my travel buddies Janis Turk, Spud Hilton, and Sue McCarthy as well as a bunch of people who I don’t yet know will be there. That’s one of the fun things about working in an industry for a long time–you just know a lot of people and so any event like this becomes a fun catch-up and reunion!

Loud Music Makes People Drink More, Leave Faster

I enjoy reading a newsletter sent out by Terry Braverman, an LA-based speaker and consultant. He provided some fascinating reasons why the music in bars and restaurants is so often do dreadfully loud…it makes economic sense, in a sick kind of way. Here is a snip from his report:

Restaurants are getting noisier. That, at least, is what the critics say. If the increase in noise levels is as widespread as has been suggested in the media, then the question that we have to ask ourselves is why this should be so. According to some commentators, it is nothing more than the result of a decision by certain influential North American chefs to play the same music in the dining room that they were fond of listening to in the kitchen. However, other commentators see an ulterior motive here, linked to restaurateurs’ attempts to increase their bottom line.

As one critic puts it, “….the Hard Rock Café had the practice down to a science, ever since its founders realized that by playing loud, fast music, patrons talked less, consumed more and left quickly, a technique documented in the International Directory of Company Histories.”

Both laboratory-based research and field studies converge on the conclusion that people drink more when exposed to loud music. So, for example, the participants in one laboratory study reported by McCarron and Tierney drank more of a soft drink, at a faster rate, when loud popular music was playing at 88 dB than when it was played at a more reasonable 72 dB instead.

Another group conducted a more ecologically valid study in a couple of bars, one located in a rural area and the other in an urban environment in France. The volume of the popular music that was normally played in the bars was varied. The 120 customers whose behavior was observed ordered significantly more to drink when the music was played at 88–91 dB than when it was played at its normal level of 72–75 dB.

Noise level Number of drinks consumed Time taken to finish drink (min)
Normal (72 dB)                   2.6                       14.5
High (88 dB)                        3.4                       11.5

Thus, there is good reason to believe that there might be a direct link between the loudness of the background music and the increased profitability for the owners of those establishments who choose to play loud music.

(Reprinted from an article by Charles Spence in Flavour Journal, November 20, 2014; edited by The Weekly Manager)

The Songbirds of the Morning Fight to Keep Their Turf

Every morning there is a cacaphony outside our windows, as the avian wonderland that is South Deerfield begins making itself heard again.  At 4:45, it will be a shrieking madhouse. I wondered about these songbirds and then found a lot to ponder.

It seems that the birds are singing to defend their turf. They are announcing that this is where they are, and it’s their territory.  The tiniest of birds make the most shrill and delicate songs. I listened to many songbirds where they posted clips. I found a very cool website that helps identify songbirds and other backyard avian critters, the ones in Massachusetts.

The motivations for the loud singing are usually that they are male birds, trying to attract mates.  They also are keeping their competition wary, threatening them with their trills that say, ‘don’t try to take away my turf.   Pictured is the bird with one of the nicest bird songs, the cardinal.