As the 2018 Winter Olympics approach, the South Korean government is cracking down on price-gouging hotels facing heavy criticism here for ripping off customers.
South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety announced it is running an intensive pricing clampdown from Dec. 26 through Jan. 31 ahead of the Pyeongchang Games, which start on Feb. 9.
The average rate for hotel accommodations recently spiked to over $460 per night, more than triple the normal peak-season prices, according to a report in South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. The government said it will also punish businesses canceling reservations and failing to meet hygiene and construction standards.
Call centers have been set up to receive customer complaints in multiple languages. The moves come as part of the government’s effort to boost ticket sales for the Pyeongchang Games, which have been sluggish overall but have picked up in recent weeks. Local hotel trade groups and the provincial government in Gangwon Province, where the event sites of Pyeongchang and Gangneung are located, are also pressing to get hotels to clean up their acts.
Olympic organizers are expecting more than 100,000 daily visitors to the Games, with around 60,000 staying overnight in facilities within one hour of the event venues.
Hilton has announced sweeping changes to its loyalty program, letting members combine points with family and friends and use those points to shop at Amazon.com. The program will also get a rebrand. It will now be known as Hilton Honors vs. HHonors.
In fact, the entire company is getting a new identity and logo. Once known as Hilton Worldwide, it will just be Hilton from now on.
Hilton says the rebranding is evidence that the company has become more “simplified and streamlined.” The company recently spun-off its real estate and timeshare businesses. But the changes that affect consumers the most come in the form of a revamped loyalty program. The program has 60 million members.
The highlights of the new program are:
• Hilton will launch Shop with Points at Amazon.com this summer.
• Starting in April, Hilton Honors members will be able to combine their points with up to 10 friends or family members for free. That means that 11 members could pool their points for award nights for group trips.
• Beginning late February, members will be able to use a combination of points and money for an award night. The Hilton Honors Points & Money slider will let members decide how many points they want to use for a stay, and there will be no blackout dates.
• In March, those members who have reached elite Diamond status and cannot travel for an extended period of time for whatever reason will be able to receive a one-time, one-year extension of their status. Typically, they would lose their status if they don’t log any stays in a year.
Hilton has 14 brands and more than 4,800 properties around the world.
Larger and fancier cruise ships will begin visiting Alaska ports starting this summer. The so-called “megaships” are part of a trend that’s sending more and more tourists to Alaska by sea. The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss starts making port calls in June. The 5,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas shows up the following year. Add 1,200 to 1,500 crew members and either will exceed the population of all but three Southeast cities.
The Bliss and Ovation will carry up to twice as many passengers as some ships already sailing here. The Ovation is leaving its China and Australia routes due to a drop in demand. The Norwegian Bliss is a new ship that adds to the overall number sailing Inside Passage waters. Binkley said the Ovation of the Seas will replace a smaller ship.
The Bliss will sail week-long round-trips out of Seattle, stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. It will also sail to Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm Fjord, south of the capital city. The Ovation will be based in Seattle, too. Its Alaska itinerary hasn’t been posted yet. But it’s likely to follow a similar route. The Ovation of the Seas advertises skydiving and surf simulators, as well as robotic bartenders. But it’ll give the Bliss a run for its money in terms of scenery. The Bliss is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. The Ovation is owned by Royal Caribbean International. Both sail other ships to Alaska.