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Surfer Beware!

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Have you ever had that feeling that you forgot something?  Maybe it was on that to-do list you left behind…or maybe it was from leaving home in such a hurry that you just aren’t sure that you closed the garage door. Remember the scene from the classic movie Home Alone, when Kevin’s parents realize that they left him behind in the rush to make their family flight to Paris?  We’ve all had moments like that and it ain’t pretty.  Sometimes is an irrational thought process…but sometimes, like Kevin, something very important gets left behind.

If you are a traveler, you have many important things to remember.  One thing that can easily be cast aside as an innocent act is to go into the business center of a hotel or a public internet café to check emails, pay bills, stalk facebook or see what your stocks are doing.  Well….Surfer Beware!!!

Do not…I repeat DO NOT walk away from any shared computers without logging off. If you just close your window or browser, you never know who is lurking around the corner, ready to belly up to that computer to have a look around the last user’s mailbox for log-in credentials and other sensitive information.

There are other ways travelers may unwittingly put their online security at risk while using shared hotel or internet café computers, and getting a virus in more ways than one is just the beginning. A business center computer that you have no administrative rights over can easily have spyware that records your information as you surf the web and type. That means malware can easily snap screen-shots and record your usernames and passwords.

We leave boxes checked to ‘remember me’ on this computer, which results in a cookie installed that keeps your log-in information going. Beyond spyware and malware, there’s nothing from stopping a criminal from plugging an external keycatcher into the public machine that will later be retrieved with all of your and every other business traveler’s information on it. The biggest online security risk is our own stupidity because we are in a hurry or just clueless.

So, what is the smartest alternative to this at-risk scenario? It’s simple; just follow any one of these simple pieces of advice:

-Use your own mobile device for whatever internet usage you need that would require passwords, social security numbers, or any kind of personal information

-Use a removable flash-drive

– Look at overviews rather than specifics (check out the stock market, but don’t visit your e-trade accounts),

-Get your ducks in a row before you go: Pay your bills in advance (or set up autopay)… wait until you get home to make that purchase on ebay, amazon, or ticketmaster… have copies of your important travel documents (your flight itinerary, hotel confirmation) stored with you in a safe place…. call your credit card companies if you are traveling internationally to alert them of possible charges and avoid potential fraud alerts being implemented.

-If you must use a public computer for personal means, remember Mister Miyagi: “wax on, wax off”….log in, log off!

Just a bed to place your head

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Sure, luxury accommodations take headlines, but what about us regular folk who want just a decent bed to place our head before our big day in the city?  Big hotel chains such as InterContinental, Swiss-Belhotel International and Accor have recently announced plans to build hundreds of economy and express hotels around the world by the end of 2012.

Don’t call the new breed budget hotels or hostels, which are usually in cheaper areas. High-end hotel companies that have “economy” brands are often higher quality, cleaner, chicer and closer to city centers. Post-recession travelers are being more responsible with their money and hoteliers say they are demanding high-quality hotels with fewer trimmings like business centers or rooftop pools.  Consumers are looking, more than ever, for a quality vacation but without exhorbitant costs.  If you are such a vacationer-one who wakes up and hits the highlights not to return to your hotel until the end of the day-why pay for resort or convention facilities if you’re not going to use them?

These days there’s a louder cry than ever for tourists who can enjoy two- to three-star facilities because it’s convenient, clean and comfortable.  They don’t want to waste money on facilities like convention rooms, pools and restaurants they won’t use.

Global business travel spending is projected to grow 34 percent in four years, from $896 billion in 2010 to $1.2 trillion by 2014, with Asia, Latin America and the Middle East expected to grow faster than the current recovering economies of the United States and Europe, according to Ernst & Young’s report.

Much of the growth will be driven by the increased demand for economy hotels, which cost less than full-service hotels because guests pay only for basic amenities. Fewer frills means more savings;  express hotels are everything you need and nothing you don’t.

And the strategy for no-frills, but decent, rooms is working. Revenue per room grew 15 percent in Asia-Pacific during 2010, while the United States saw about 7 percent growth, as reported by Ernst & Young.

For the regular non-business folk who just want to hit the beach on a nearby island over a weekend, this means more economy chains located in downtown cores.

So while the roach-infested hotels with views over the sewer will still be there for those who like to slum it, there are now cheap places in good areas to toss your luggage and explore the city — without forcing yourself to use the pool or gym you didn’t ask for.