Achievements great and small have been piling up across the travel landscape. It's time for praise; kudos to:
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• Azamara Cruises and Vacation.com, for adopting a new compensation model that attempts to recognize the value or quality of an agent's business as well as its amount. Modeled on Azamara's ground-breaking agreement with Virtuoso last year, the deal rewards agents with a higher commission level for high-value bookings that are more profitable for the line, such as high-end suites or bookings made far in advance.
It's an approach that makes sense on paper and that deserves a thorough vetting in the marketplace.
• Royal Caribbean International, for making the gutsy call to deploy what will be its biggest and newest ship, the Quantum of the Seas, in Shanghai next year. For anybody who needs a reminder of how important the China travel market has become, this is it. Ten years ago, China was barely on the cruise industry's map. A mere four years ago, Costa inaugurated Beijing's Tianjin cruise terminal with a 17-year-old ship.
China may still be a developing market, but we believe Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein adroitly summed up the new reality: "Consumers in China have grown to expect the best the world has to offer."
• Boeing, for delivering the 8,000th copy of its venerable 737 aircraft, some 47 years after the first aircraft were delivered to Lufthansa and United in 1967. It's a tribute to the original design that the aircraft could serve as the platform for so many variations over the years. We are now up to the 737-900ER, the version delivered to United, and we will soon be seeing the 737-Max.
The 737 saga is far from over. Based on Boeing's current order book, the 737 will easily surpass the 10,000 threshold and keep going.
• Marriott, for its acquisition of South Africa-based Protea Hospitality. The $186 million deal, which closed earlier this month, brought 116 hotels in seven African countries into the Marriott portfolio, including urban hotels, resorts and safari lodges. Marriott said the deal won't have a significant impact on its earnings this year, which says something about how big Marriott is, but the deal marks a milestone in any event.
Overnight it made Marriott the biggest hotel operator in Africa, sending a pretty clear signal about how one major mainstream brand feels about investing in African tourism.
• Hawaiian Airlines, for inaugurating nonstop Honolulu-Beijing service, fulfilling a long-held corporate goal of serving China. To our knowledge, this is the first U.S.-China airline route by a U.S. carrier designed at the outset to serve primarily the China-originating market. When the U.S.-China market first began to open up, the U.S. government's top priority was to assign the available routes to big carriers with big networks and big hubs at big U.S. gateways.
Hawaiian's operation will be a welcome addition to that pattern, given that visitor arrivals to its home state from China are expected to grow 37% this year.
• No list such as this is complete without a contrasting Bronx cheer for the undeserving, and that distinction falls equally on Anaheim, Calif., and Houston, whose 17% hotel occupancy tax rates are the highest among major U.S. cities, according to hospitality consulting firm HVS.
No kudos for you.